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Scientist Spotlight

Get to know our research team! A look into the scientists in and around the Tissue Engineering Resource Center.

Margaretha Morsink
Margaretha Morsink

Ph.D. Candidate

What is your background & how did you get into science/tissue engineering? 

I am originally from the Netherlands. My passion for engineering stems from my childhood, where I would build birdhouses and circuits with my dad as well as going to science museums. I pursued an undergraduate degree in Biomedical Engineering because advancing healthcare using engineering excited me. This is where I first learned about Tissue Engineering and I was immediately in love with working with cells.

What are you working on now?

I'm working on cardiac fibroblast BAG3 to treat dilated cardiomyopathy.

Favorite scientific innovation of the 21st century? 

Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells

Fun fact about yourself? 

I can name all the countries in the world

What are you most excited about for the future?

I’m excited to see the shift towards non-myocyte research for heart disease.

Maria Hudock
Maria Hudock

Ph.D. Candidate

Twitter: @MariaHudock

What is your background & how did you get into science/tissue engineering? 

As a little kid who got warned a lot about climbing too high and falling out of trees, I wondered about things like, "Well, why can't doctors fix a broken spinal cord? Then maybe Mom would stop hounding me...." Growing up in a rural area, I did not have a concept of who was solving these problems or where, but I did know I wanted to be a part of it someday. On applying to college, I learned that biomedical engineers were the people who solved the kinds of problems that I wanted to solve. I got involved in undergraduate research early, eventually completing a thesis on polymer-based long bone regeneration scaffolds. It is with great excitement that I've now joined the GVN Lab, where I am working on regenerative medicine technologies for the lung.

What are you working on now?

Lung tissue engineering/lung regenerative medicine.

Favorite scientific innovation of the 21st century? 

CRISPR/Cas -- I know, basic, but the scientists, the story, and the technology are truly amazing.

Fun fact about yourself? 

In 7th grade, I won the state archery championship. Wish my data was also that accurate ;)

What are you most excited about for the future?

I am VERY excitedly watching the developments in the field of xenotransplantation, following the successful transplants of a porcine kidney and a porcine heart into human patients. Imagine a world where no one has to die waiting for a transplant....

Vanessa YiRan Li
Vanessa YiRan Li

Masters Student

Twitter: @liyiranvanessa

What is your background & how did you get into science/tissue engineering? 

In high school, I took a summer college course on 3D bioprinting and was taken aback by the ability to engineer different pieces of the human body. The idea of culturing beating heart cells in the lab fascinated me. Since then, I have engaged in courseworks and research opportunities that allowed me to explore a variety of topics within biomedical engineering such as synthetic biology and microfluidics. Right now, my main interest lies in cardiovascular tissue engineering because of the heart's significance as a modulator of the human body as well as its symbolism as a bridge that connects people. Moving forward, I hope to continue to engage in research that redefines what is possible in cardiovascular care and to equalize global access to healthcare along the way.

What are you working on now?

I am a member of the GVN cardiac team. I use engineered cardiac tissues to understand myocarditis in lupus patients. In addition, I am also working on the market analysis for a restrictive cardiomyopathy therapy using a small inhibiting molecule.

Favorite scientific innovation of the 21st century? 

3D Bioprinting of Living Tissues

Fun fact about yourself? 

I have a very chubby chihuahua back in Shanghai named Luffy.

What are you most excited about for the future?

I am most excited about having the research we do in the laboratory come to fruition in the market and/or clinical settings and seeing the impact that it has on medical care.

Youngbin Kim
Youngbin Kim

Ph.D. Candidate

Twitter: @Youngbinkim0

What is your background & how did you get into science/tissue engineering? 

I studied Bioengineering at UC Berkeley. There I studied the viscoelastic properties of single cells using a microfluidic platform coupled with electrical resistance sensing under Dr. Lydia Sohn. After doing a summer Amgen scholars research program in Dr. Gordana Vunjak-Novakovic lab the summer after my junior year, I was fascinated by tissue engineering and joined the lab in 2019 to begin my PhD training.

What are you working on now?

I work with our engineered cardiac platforms and leverage computational methods to better understand the changes in function in genetic cardiomyopathies.

Favorite scientific innovation of the 21st century? 

Deep learning, iPSCs, CRISPR

Fun fact about yourself? 

I spend a lot of time singing. I probably spent as much time in college singing as going to class.

What are you most excited about for the future?

I'm excited to see tissue engineering techniques being applied in the clinic. I'm also excited to see how computational methods can improve healthcare and medicine.

Alexandra Grossbarth
Alexandra Grossbarth

Lab Manager

What is your background & how did you get into science/tissue engineering? 

I graduated with a Bachelor's in Biology from Johns Hopkins University and knew I wanted to focus on laboratory research. I spent time in several academic and industry research labs executing pre-clinical studies, working with mouse models and at the bench. Specifically, I worked for Mount Sinai and Pfizer separately managing animal colonies and performing drug testing experiments, which taught me a lot of bench science and how to work in a laboratory environment.
By 2020 I realized I wanted to take my career in a different direction and focus on research support and administration, and applied to the GVN lab as a Lab Manager. I have been learning all about tissue engineering and BME in my time here, and have used my background as a researcher and skills for planning and organizing to the current role.

What are you working on now?

My responsibilities include making sure the GVN lab has all the supplies they need to conduct their experiments, placing orders and reconciling payments, and supervising the laboratory equipment and chemical safety. I work with vendors and suppliers to order pieces that span medical, laboratory, and engineering work. I’m currently working on tasks as diverse as ordering a high-powered laser, shipping cardiomyocyte samples, and cataloging our liquid nitrogen inventory.

Favorite scientific innovation of the 21st century? 

The developments from the human microbiome project using the advancements of the human genome project. My interest is in food and nutrition research and would love to learn more about the gut microbiome and how we can influence that genetically and in the lab.

Fun fact about yourself? 

I played Quidditch in college - first as a Beater then a Chaser.

What are you most excited about for the future?

I am relocating to Washington DC, and am looking to move on to the next opportunity in my career as a lab manager. I would love to do similar work for another lab, and get the opportunity to learn and dive into even more facets of research administration!

Sharon Fleischer, Ph.D.
Sharon Fleischer, Ph.D.

Associate Research Scientist

Twitter: @fleisharon

What is your background & how did you get into science/tissue engineering? 

I was born and raised in Israel and lived there until I moved to NYC for my postdoc at Columbia University. During my childhood, my father was an enthusiastic chemistry graduate student who constantly devised “kid-friendly” scientific experiments for my sisters and me. That experience paved my way to choose a scientific career, and many years after, I earned my B.Sc from Tel-Aviv University in Biotechnology. Immediately after, I started my Graduate studies under the mentorship of Dr. Tal Dvir at Tel-Aviv University, in which I developed engineered cardiac tissues for regenerative medicine applications.

What are you working on now?

I am engineering miniature models of the human heart to study cardiac diseases. I believe that these models have the potential to shed new light on cardiac disease mechanisms and advance precision medicine and drug development.

Favorite scientific innovation of the 21st century? 

Induced pluripotent stem cells! I believe that we are just at the beginning of an exciting new era in science, and I’m looking forward to seeing how it will evolve in the upcoming years

Fun fact about yourself? 

My most significant tissue engineering projects are my 2 kids. It took only 18 months and they both got accepted immediately!

What are you most excited about for the future?

Seeing how knowledge and methodologies developed in the field of tissue engineering will be exploited to advance women’s healthcare and lab-grown meat.

Roberta Lock
Roberta Lock

Ph.D. Candidate

What is your background & how did you get into science/tissue engineering? 

My initial interest in BME began when I was 12 and happened to meet a veteran who had a prosthetic leg. I remember thinking that the artificial limb was the coolest thing I had ever seen, and I decided right then that I wanted to be able to help people and improve their lives by making devices like that prosthesis. Since then, I’ve discovered that BME is a very diverse field, and have shifted from my initial interests in biomechanics over to a focus in tissue engineering, but the underlying motivation remains the same. I’m drawn to BME because it sits at the intersection of engineering and medicine, and aims to improve human health at all levels.

What are you working on now?

I have a few projects I’m working on at the moment. Primarily, I’m looking to investigate the incorporation of macrophages into our engineered heart tissue models, as the immune component of the heart is greatly contributes to heart function in both health and disease. Additionally, I’m working to investigate the effects of sex on cardiac function using our engineered heart models, as sex is a biological variable that was largely ignored in the majority of scientific research until relatively recently. Both of these areas are very exciting, novel areas of research that I’m proud to be involved in.

Favorite scientific innovation of the 21st century? 

3D printing! Although it was technically invented in the 80's, 3D printing really only started to become widespread in the last few years. I just love that it has so many diverse applications, from printing plastic tools and toys, to printing cells in bioinks for creating biological tissues.

Fun fact about yourself? 

I love to dance! I do competitive ballroom dancing, and I can be found practicing at the local dance studio most days after I finish my lab work.

What are you most excited about for the future?

I would probably say that I'm most excited about how rapidly sequencing technologies are developing and becoming accessible. I think there is so much more we can learn about how our cells and tissues function with the ability to investigate DNA, RNA, and proteins at the individual cell level, and I look forward to seeing how that influences science in the future.

Maria Samaritano
Maria Samaritano

Research Assistant

Twitter: @mariaSamaritano

What is your background & how did you get into science/tissue engineering? 

I grew up in Huntington, NY and remember wanting to join my high school's science research program after being amazed by the use of CRISPR-Cas9 for genome editing. My senior project investigating platinum-based chemoresistance in ovarian cancer then prompted me to study Biomedical Engineering at the University of Virginia. There, I learned both about the fascinating field of organs-on-chip (OOC) engineering and about the historical negligence of women's health in biomedicine. Thus, for my capstone project, I decided to apply OOC methods towards studying this underserved area and created the first design for a 'vagina-on-chip' model. All this led me to become a research assistant at the GVN lab, where I get to work on the most incredible, cutting-edge OOC development!

What are you working on now?

In the GVN lab, I am on the organs-on-chip team, where we use a multi-tissue platform to study cancer metastasis. I am currently working on how to use this platform to study patient-specific metastasis and evaluate different treatments in a high throughput manner.

Favorite scientific innovation of the 21st century? 

The first tissue-engineered, 3-D human ovary!

Fun fact about yourself? 

In my free time I love exploring NYC, reading, and trying out new plant-based cooking recipes :)

What are you most excited about for the future?

I hope to pursue a PhD where I can continue working at the intersection of organs-on-chip engineering and women's health research.

Panpan Chen, M.D.
Panpan Chen, M.D.

Postdoctoral Research Fellow

What is your background & how did you get into science/tissue engineering? 

In 2013, I received by BA in Biology from the University of Pennsylvania. I earned my medical degree at Albany Medical College in 2018. I joined the lab in July 2021 after completing three years of General Surgery residency at NYP-Weill Cornell and am currently taking time off for research prior to returning to residency for the final two years of training.

What are you working on now?

I joined the lab to study whole lung tissue engineering and induction of immunotolerance in kidney transplantation and also in a xenotransplantation model. On the lung team, I am currently working on ex-vivo lung regeneration utilizing the cross-circulation platform developed in the lab.

Favorite scientific innovation of the 21st century? 

3D printing

Fun fact about yourself? 

I enjoy backcountry ski mountaineering in my spare time.

What are you most excited about for the future?

I am interested in vascular surgery, and am looking forward to seeing how advances in tissue engineering can translate into potential therapies for vascular patients.

Hagar Kenawy
Hagar Kenawy

Ph.D. Candidate

What is your background & how did you get into science/tissue engineering? 

As a child, I had wanted to be a pediatrician. However, during my college years, I realized that I'd rather help with inventing new medical solutions. I ended up majoring in Chemical Engineering, International Studies, and Spanish at Lafayette College. My first experience in tissue engineering was my summer internship at Virginia Tech with Dr. Aaron Goldstein attempting to create a novel biomaterial for ACL repair. I then joined the Clark Hung and Nadeen Chahine labs to pursue my PhD at Columbia University.

What are you working on now?

In the Hung Lab, I am helping with a canine tissue engineering study in which we are assessing if there are any differences in donor sex when it comes to tissue-engineered cartilage constructs.

Favorite scientific innovation of the 21st century? 

Air pods!

Fun fact about yourself? 

I love anything mango related.

What are you most excited about for the future?

Making a beneficial contribution in the tissue engineering and medical fields.

Camilla Predella
Camilla Predella

Ph.D. Candidate

What is your background & how did you get into science/tissue engineering? 

Since I was a child I wished to “build” legs for someone who needs them. I was an active and athletic teenager and I was fascinated by paraplegic sportsmen, nevertheless appearing strong and successful. Growing up, I found my way to be part of a project focused on design prostheses. This became my area of expertise during my Bachelor’s years at Politecnico of Milan. What I learned on the engineering of prosthesis became my bachelor’s thesis on silicone implants. And from there, to Master and PhD.

What are you working on now?

My work focused on lung epithelium regeneration and in specific on the development of targeted therapies for genetic diseases of alveolar type (AT) II cells in the lung, using a mouse model for in vivo validation. I just started my Ph.D. program under Dr. Dorrello’s supervision and there is still so much to look into and brainstorm!

Favorite scientific innovation of the 21st century? 

First tracheal transplant, Mount Sinai, NY, April 2021!

Fun fact about yourself? 

I learned how to embroider when I was a kid, and I like to design my own t-shirts to relax in the evenings.

What are you most excited about for the future?

Helping understand how to bridge advances in stem cells to regenerate the lung – to give patients with lung injury and disease a higher quality of life.

Onur Hastürk
Onur Hastürk

Ph.D. Candidate

What is your background & how did you get into science/tissue engineering? 

I have bachelor's degrees in Molecular Biology and Genetics and in Chemistry, and MSc degree in Biotechnology. My analytical chemistry instructor during my bachelor's was studying biomaterials and tissue engineering, and I was introduced to the field during a presentation he gave, later joining his lab for my MSc degree.

What are you working on now?

I am currently working on micro- and nanoencapsulation of mammalian cells within silk-based shielding layers in the forms of hydrogel microbeads or layer-by-layer film coatings for cytoprotection against harsh processing conditions. Our primary goal is to bring a bionic state to the cells to toughen them against environmental stress, particularly extensional and shear forces that the cells are exposed during injection-based cell delivery or 3D bioprinting of cell-laden scaffolds.

Favorite scientific innovation of the 21st century? 

CRISPR gene editing and 3D printing of tissues and organs for sure!

Fun fact about yourself? 

I end up just sitting on the beach and watching my friends swimming since I suffer from galeophobia (the fear of sharks), even though I am really fascinated by sharks...

What are you most excited about for the future?

The bioengineering advances in the biomimicry of silk spinning by silkworms and spiders for large-scale production excites me the most for the near future. I dream of witnessing biofibers and textiles with extraordinary strength being commonly used in biomedical, sports and military fields.

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