Dr. Anseth and her research group pioneered the development of biomaterials to serve as synthetic analogs to the extracellular matrix (ECM), a network of macromolecules that surround cells and thus define key features of the biochemical and biophysical aspects of a cell’s niche—an environment that is not only tissue specific but can be strikingly heterogeneous and dynamic. Unique to her approach is the ability to create cell-laden matrices in three-dimensional space in which the matrix properties can be changed on demand—so-called 4D biology. Ultimately, Anseth’s research seeks to understand how cells sense, store and exchange information with the ECM. This knowledge can then be used to engineer biomaterial niches as cell delivery vehicles for tissue regeneration, in vitro models of disease and physiologically relevant models for drug discovery and screening. Her materials-first approach provides tools to perform unique cell biology experiments and address major hurdles in regenerative medicine.