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Meet the TERC Team

Gordana Vunjak-Novakovic

Principle Investigator

Gordana Vunjak-Novakovic, Ph.D. is a University Professor, the highest academic rank at Columbia University and the first ever engineer at Columbia to receive this distinction. The focus of her lab is on engineering functional human tissues for use in regenerative medicine and in patient-specific “organs-on-a-chip” for studies of human pathophysiology. She is well published and highly cited (425 journal articles, h=131), and has had over 150 trainees. Her lab has launched four biotech companies. She is serving on the Council of the NIBIB, the HHMI Scientific Review Board, and on numerous editorial and scientific advisory boards. She was inducted into the Women in Technology International Hall of Fame, received the Clemson Award of the Biomaterials Society, Pritzker Award of the Biomedical Engineering Society, Shu Chien Award of the AIChE, Pierre Galletti award of the AIMBE, and was elected Fellow of several professional societies. She was decorated by the Order of Karadjordje Star - Serbia’s highest honor, and elected to the Academia Europaea, Serbian Academy of Arts and Sciences, the National Academy of Engineering, National Academy of Medicine, National Academy of Inventors, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the International Academy for Medical and Biological Engineering.

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David Kaplan


David Kaplan, Ph.D. holds an Endowed Chair, the Stern Family Professor of Engineering, at Tufts University. He is Professor and Chair of the Department of Biomedical Engineering and also holds faculty appointments in the School of Medicine, the School of Dental Medicine, Department of Chemistry and Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering. His research focus is on biopolymer engineering towards understanding the structure-function relationships in the context of protein self-assembly, biomaterials engineering, functional tissue engineering and regenerative medicine. He has published over 600 peer- reviewed papers and edited eight books. He serves on the editorial boards of numerous journals and is Editor- in-Chief for the ACS Biomaterials Science and Engineering. He has received numerous awards for teaching and research, is a Fellow of the American Institute of Medical and Biological Engineering, and received the Columbus Discovery Medal and Society for Biomaterials Clemson Award for contributions to the literature. A highly regarded scientist, an experienced PI of numerous projects and a serial entrepreneur, Dr. Kaplan brings to the Center exceptional expertise and skills. 

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Clark Hung


Clark Hung, Ph.D. pursues multidisciplinary research using state-of-the-art biological and engineering tools to perform studies to investigate physical effects (e.g., cell deformation, fluid flow effects, osmotic pressure) on cells and tissues and the incorporation of these forces in strategies to develop functional cartilage substitutes. An understanding of the effects of physical forces on cells is important in the development of effective tissue replacements that mimic or restore normal tissue structure-function in orthopaedic and other load-bearing tissues of the body. Such studies may lead to strategies aimed at alleviating the most prevalent and chronic problems afflicting the musculoskeletal system such as arthritis and problems related to sports and occupational injuries.  His research has been funded by agencies including the National Institutes of Health, National Science Foundation, Department of Defense, and The Musculoskeletal Transplant Foundation. His work has been published in 166 full-length publications and 15 book chapters. 

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Barry Fine


Barry Fine, M.D., Ph.D. is an Assistant Professor of Medicine in Cardiology at Columbia University Medical Center, College of Physicians and Surgeons and attending cardiologist at New York Presbyterian Hospital. As a physician scientist Dr. Fine’s lab focuses stem cells and engineered human cardiac microtissues to model cardiac disease and develop novel translational therapies. The goal of his research is to leverage advances in biomedical engineering and genetic manipulation to improve modeling cardiac diseases. His current laboratory focuses on utilizing human cardiomyocytes derived from induced pluripotent stem cells to three aspects of cardiac biology and disease: 1) understanding metabolic determinants of human cardiomyocyte survival and contractility utilizing engineered human tissues, 2) modeling congenital heart disease using programmed differentiation of stem cells to cardiomyocytes and CRISPR to mimic inherited mutations found in a specific disease called heterotaxy and 3) identifying determinants and biomarkers of graft failure after heart transplant using exosome proteomics and machine learning. 

Nicolino Valerio Dorrello


Nicolino Valerio Dorrello, M.D., Ph.D. is an Assistant Professor in the Division of Pediatric Critical Care Medicine, Department of Pediatrics, Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons since 2015. In his clinical duties in the pediatric critical care unit, one of the most devastating and common injuries he comes across is severe, progressive lung injury. Despite current medical treatments, many of his young patients progress to chronic respiratory failure, leaving lung transplantation as the only definitive treatment. What represents a daily clinical challenge – making these patients better – has become his research passion: to find a therapeutic strategy to repair lungs early, before irreversible changes occur. He has recently succeeded in developing an airway-specific method to efficiently remove only the lung epithelium (de-epithelialization) while preserving lung vasculature and architecture in an ex vivo rodent model. This new functional, vascularized lung graft then enabled the attachment and engraftment of lung epithelial progenitors. The overriding goal of Dr. Dorrello’s laboratory is to develop novel strategies to target and replace only the injured or transformed epithelial cells of the lung to promote lung repair and regeneration, while keeping the surrounding lung scaffold and vasculature intact.

Samuel Sia


Samuel Sia, Ph.D., a Professor of Biomedical Engineering at Columbia University, has developed novel technologies for point-of-care blood tests, both in an academic and industry setting. He is co-founder of Claros Diagnostics, whose prostate-cancer blood test for doctor’s offices has garnered FDA approval and is being commercialized by OPKO Health. Dr. Sia’s work in global health diagnostics has garnered coverage from Nature, Science, JAMA, Washington Post, BBC, NPR, and Voice of America. His lab-on-a-chip device has been tested in Rwanda to collect and analyze blood tests at a patient’s bedside to diagnose infectious diseases. He was named by MIT Technology Review as one of the world's top young innovators in 2010, and is an inducted fellow of the American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering. He is founder of Harlem Biospace, a biotech incubator facility in New York City  that has hosted over 50 biotech companies.  He currently directs the entrepreneurship initiative for Columbia School of Engineering and Applied Sciences. Dr. Sia has a B.Sc. in Biochemistry from the University of Alberta, and a Ph.D. in Biophysics (with a HHMI predoctoral fellowship) from Harvard University. Dr. Sia completed a postdoctoral fellowship in Chemistry and Chemical Biology at Harvard University. 

Lauren Black


Lauren Black, Ph.D.'s research centers on understanding the biophysical signaling mechanisms responsible for the development of healthy and diseased myocardium. Using an array of approaches, his team is designing new approaches to repair diseased or damaged myocardium. We are using whole organ decellularization to study the role that the local extracellular environment (matrix stiffness, morphology and composition) plays in the progression of myocardial disease and how it relates to the potential effectiveness of cell therapy based methods of cardiac repair. His team is also studying physicochemical signaling mechanisms responsible for the development of healthy myocardium from cardiac precursor or stem/ progenitor cells. Lastly, his team is working on design, development and evaluation of new methods for cardiac repair following myocardial infarction and heart failure, including the use of tissue engineered ventricular myocardium created in vitro for implantation in vivo.

Irene Georgakoudi


Irene Georgakoudi, Ph.D. has been working on the use of lasers for therapeutic and diagnostic applications since her undergraduate years. She started as a physicist at Dartmouth College and continued her graduate studies in biophysics at the University of Rochester. Her interests in spectroscopy and spectroscopic imaging using endogenous sources of contrast were founded during her postdoctoral years at the MIT Spectroscopy Lab. After working on the development of fluorescence-based in vivo flow cytometry while an instructor at the Wellman Laboratories for Photomedicine at Massachusetts General Hospital/Harvard Medical School, Georgakoudi joined Tufts in 2004. She is the author of several patents on the development and use of spectroscopy and imaging to characterize tissues or to detect specific populations of cells, and has published numerous peer-reviewed manuscripts, review articles, and book chapters on these topics. She is the recipient of a Claflin Distinguished Scholar, an NSF Career Award, and an American Cancer Society Research Scholar award. She has served on the Board of Directors of the Optical Society of America.

Brian Timko


Brian Timko, Ph.D. graduated from Lehigh University with B.S. degrees in Chemistry and Chemical Engineering, and from Harvard University with a Ph.D. in Chemistry. He completed his graduate studies in the laboratory of Professor Charles Lieber at Harvard, where he studied semiconductor nanowires and how they could be stably interfaced with living cells and tissue. He completed postdoctoral studies with Professor Robert Langer at MIT and Professor Daniel Kohane at Boston Children's Hospital. During that time, Timko studied nanocomposite materials for cardiac tissue engineering and remotely-triggered drug delivery, and subsequently, he was an instructor in anaesthesiology at Boston Children's Hospital. In 2016, he joined Tufts School of Engineering as an assistant professor in the Department of Biomedical Engineering. Brian Timko's research interests lie at the intersection of materials science, chemistry, and biology, with a major focus on nanotechnology and nanoscale interfaces between solid-state and biological systems.

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