Benjamin Yellen

Associate Professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science

Yellen's group is interested in developing highly parallel mechanisms for controlling the transport and assembly of ensembles of objects ranging from micron-sized colloidal particles to single cells.  As of 2013, Professor Yellen is active in two main areas of research:
1) Development of single cell analysis tools using magnetic circuits. The goal of this project is to develop an automated single cell analysis platform that allows for highly flexible and highly parallel manipulation of single cells. Our approach draws inspiration from electronic circuit theory through the development highly flexible methods for transporting particles above magnetic thin film patterns either reversibly (conductor) or irreversibly (rectifier), storing cells in well-defined regions of space either temporarily (capacitor) or permanently (data storage), switching current pathways at selected junctions (transistor) and coordinating a large set of electronic functions with few input wires (multiplexer). When combined with microfluidic systems that allow for repeated doses of pharmaceuticals, we will have a developed a platform that is ripe to have a major impact on the field of HIV eradication and cancer suppression.
2) Multiparticle assembly of colloidal crystals. The goal of this project is to understand the formation and phase transitions occuring inside single crystals composed of alloys of colloidal particles.  Here, we are interested in observing crystals forming from magnetic and non-magnetic colloidal particles dispersed inside ferrofluid.  We are just beginning to solve the questions of how to grow large single crystals, and how to transform these crystals by tilting of an external magnetic field.  The results of this project will serve as useful models for understanding how crystals form and transform in the corollary atomic scale materials in nature.

Appointments and Affiliations

  • Associate Professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science

Contact Information

  • Office Location: 4304 Chesterfield Building, Box 90300, Durham, NC 27708
  • Office Phone: (919) 660-8261
  • Email Address:
  • Websites:


  • Ph.D. Drexel University, 2004

Research Interests

Development of single cell analysis tools using magnetic circuits, and multiparticle assembly of colloidal crystals

Courses Taught

  • ECE 494: Projects in Electrical and Computer Engineering

In the News

Representative Publications

  • Yellen, Benjamin B., Jon S. Zawistowski, Eric A. Czech, Caleb I. Sanford, Elliott D. SoRelle, Micah A. Luftig, Zachary G. Forbes, Kris C. Wood, and Jeff Hammerbacher. “Massively parallel quantification of phenotypic heterogeneity in single-cell drug responses.” Sci Adv 7, no. 38 (September 17, 2021): eabf9840.
  • Li, Linying, C Wyatt Shields, Jin Huang, Yiqun Zhang, Korine A. Ohiri, Benjamin B. Yellen, Ashutosh Chilkoti, and Gabriel P. López. “Rapid capture of biomolecules from blood via stimuli-responsive elastomeric particles for acoustofluidic separation.” The Analyst 145, no. 24 (January 2021): 8087–96.
  • Li, Ying, Jeffrey D. Motschman, Sean T. Kelly, and Benjamin B. Yellen. “Injection Molded Microfluidics for Establishing High-Density Single Cell Arrays in an Open Hydrogel Format.” Analytical Chemistry 92, no. 3 (February 2020): 2794–2801.
  • Ohiri, Korine A., Sean T. Kelly, Jeffrey D. Motschman, Kevin H. Lin, Kris C. Wood, and Benjamin B. Yellen. “An acoustofluidic trap and transfer approach for organizing a high density single cell array.” Lab Chip 18, no. 14 (July 10, 2018): 2124–33.
  • Pham, An T., Yuan Zhuang, Paige Detwiler, Joshua E. S. Socolar, Patrick Charbonneau, and Benjamin B. Yellen. “Phase diagram and aggregation dynamics of a monolayer of paramagnetic colloids.” Physical Review. E 95, no. 5–1 (May 2017): 052607.