Group Members

Principal Investigator:

West Jennifer highresJennifer L. West, PhD


Technical Staff:

Maude Cuchiara

Maude Cuchiara, PhD, Lab Manager and Research Scientist

My graduate work focused on the development of biomimetic hydrogels for the expansion of hematopoietic stem cells (HSCs). In my role as research scientist, I am helping to develop a tissue-engineered heart valve.  As lab manager, I train students and oversee day to day lab operations.




Post-Doctoral Researchers:

Ryan SchwellerRyan Schweller, PhD

Research Interests: My current research focuses on understanding how cells remodel their extracellular matrix in three dimensions and using this information to create new materials capable of inducing desired cellular phenotypes. I am building upon the two photon laser scanning lithography technique to pattern multiple ligands simultaneously into poly(ethylene glycol) hydrogels to localize and track remodeling events.



Graduate Students:

Saniya AliSaniya Ali

Research Interests: Biomimetic Hydrogels, angiogenesis, vasculogenesis, two-photon laser scanning lithography, protein gradients




Laila Roudsari

Laila Roudsari

Research Interests:

Tumor angiogenesis and metastasis, biomaterials, lung adenocarcinoma, ECM influences on cancer cells, vascularization, functionalization of synthetic polymers



Yan Wu

Yan Wu

Research interests: My research focuses on designing biomimetic poly(ethylene glycol)-based hydrogels that support and direct valve interstitial cells growth and differentiation in a three-dimensional microenvironment. Also, I’d like to probe the mechanisms of extracellular matrix remodeling underlying aortic valve disease in order to construct tissue engineered heart valves in vitro. 




Dan PuperiDan

Research Interests: Biomechanics, tissue engineering scaffolds, heart valves, natural and synthetic polymer biomaterials

I am interested in designed a scaffold for tissue engineered heart valves by recapitulating the unique mechanical properties of each of the layers of the aortic valve into a polymer scaffold.



Nicole Virdone

Nicole Virdone

Research Interests: tissue engineering, vasculogenesis







Jeffrey AshtonJeffrey Ashton

Research Interests: Gold Nanoparticles for CT Functional and Molecular Imaging




Erika Moore

Erika Moore

Research Interests: biomaterials, manipulation and control of the immune response, angiogenesis, and tissue engineering scaffolds



Josh Hammer

Josh Hammer

Research Interests: I am interested in enhancing the functionality of our biomimetic poly(ethylene glycol) (PEG) hydrogel tissue culture platform to promote tissue generation in vitro. As such, my work focuses on modulating cell functions such as MMP expression through cell-material interactions, as well as incorporating novel chemistries for the reversible introduction of physical and chemical cell signals within 3D PEG hydrogels.



Kasie CollinsKasie Collins

Research Interests: Biomaterials, ECM mimetics, metastasis, ECM influences on the forces generated by cancer cells, mechanobiology, and mechanotransduction.

My research is focused on the creation of a force-reporting poly(ethylene glycol)-based hydrogel to enable improved study and quantitation of cell-generated forces in a tunable microenvironment  that recapitulates physiologically relevant conditions. With this novel system, I hope to probe the molecular mechanism relating cell contractility and force generation to metastasis in a breast cancer model.



Stacey Kuo

Stacey Kuo

Stacey is a current Master's of Science student in Biomedical Engineering. Research Interests: development of protease sensitive MRI contrast agents.






Undergraduate Students:

Sydney JeffsSydney Jeffs

Recent Lab Members:

Laura StrongLaura Strong, PhD

Research Interests: Drug delivery technologies, controlled release systems, stimuli-responsive materials, nanotechnology for biomedical applications, cancer biology and management.




Hanin BearatHanin Bearat, PhD

Research Interests: My current research focuses on using creating liver-mimicking tissue constructs by guiding tubulogenesis in a biologically-inspired hydrogel. This is done by using two photon laser scanning lithography to recreate the liver microvasculature patterns in 3D in the hydrogel and by encapsulating liver-specific cells. I am using components specific to the liver tissue microenvironment (biofunctionalized hydrogel, liver specific cells, liver vasculature patterns), in the hope of improving the design and functionality of liver tissue constructs. In my PhD research, I synthesized, characterized and tested thermosensitive and chemically reactive polymer hydrogels for use as embolic agents in the treatment of brain aneurysms.