Biomaterials can be designed to mimic the extracellular matrix (ECM) that surrounds cells to improve tissue regeneration in the body. The ECM is composed of many different biomolecules with concentrations that vary depending on the tissue or organ type. In addition, the ECM is a dynamic environment that is constantly changing under normal conditions and due to injury or disease. Glycosaminoglycans (GAGs) are one important class of ECM molecules that play a major role in numerous biological processes. We recently developed strategies to modify GAGs with self-assembling peptides to create a dynamic GAG-peptide hydrogels. This BDSI project will focus on characterizing hydrogel properties and investigating how cells behave inside the hydrogel. The interdisciplinary team will work on three key objectives: (1) synthesizing self-assembling GAG-peptide hybrid molecules; (2) characterizing the properties of the GAG-peptide hydrogels; and (3) investigating how hydrogel composition and properties affect human mesenchymal stem cell (hMSC) behavior. Students will learn a wide range of techniques across disciplines such as chemistry, materials science and engineering, bioengineering, and biological sciences. The results from this BDSI project will help guide the design of future ECM-like hydrogels to drive desired cell behavior.