About Me

Biography Experience Teaching Mentoring Skills Honors

Biography

I earned my Biomedical Engineering PhD at Georgia Tech and Emory University. My research is focused on using computational methods to tease apart complex enzyme-on-enzyme interactions in complex proteolytic networks upregulated in tissue destructive diseases. Proteases are enzymes that degrade proteins and play a major role in cellular homeostasis. One such class, cysteine cathepsins, contain the most powerful mammalian collagenase and elastase. When studied in combination, there are protease-on-protease interactions, “cathepsin cannibalism” interactions, that ultimately reduce the pool of active protease in a system. Part of my thesis work has focused on using computational techniques to tease apart these cathepsin cannibalism interactions as well as design and test mutant cathepsins to resist these interactions. Furthermore, my research also evaluated what role proteases play in locomoting biological machine stability. Our findings have shown that cysteine cathepsins are secreted by these machines and can degrade the fibrin matrix and destabilizing the machine. The culmination of this work is in developing a computational model to predict the lifespan of these biological machines and design interventions using inhibitors and mutant cathepsins to control the lifespan of these machines. Outside of my formal training, I also have five years of interdisciplinary experience as part of multi-institutional National Science Foundation Science and Technology Center, EBICS (Emergent Behavior of Integrated Cellular Systems). I have been exposed to cutting-edge scientific discoveries at conferences and EBICS research exchanges, as well as participated in wide variety of non-curricular experiences in outreach, mentoring, and professional development. I received my B.S. magna cum laude in Mechanical Engineering with a minor in Biomechanics from the University of Florida (Go Gators!) in 2012. In July 2017, I earned my PhD in Biomedical Engineering PhD at Georgia Tech and Emory University. My PhD research focused on using computational methods to tease apart complex enzyme-on-enzyme interactions in complex proteolytic networks upregulated in tissue destructive diseases. In additional to my formal training, I also had five years of interdisciplinary experience as part of multi-institutional National Science Foundation Science and Technology Center, EBICS (Emergent Behavior of Integrated Cellular Systems). I have been exposed to cutting-edge scientific discoveries at conferences and EBICS research exchanges, as well as participated in wide variety of non-curricular experiences in outreach, mentoring, and professional development. In August 2017, I started a Postdoctoral Fellow position in Integrated Mathematical Oncology at Moffitt Cancer Center, where my research has focused on using mathematical model to single cell study heterogeneity and clonal hematopoiesis in myelodysplastic syndromes (MDS), chronic myelomonocytic leukemia (CMML), and acute myeloid leukemia (AML).

Experience

Post Doctoral Researcher, Integrated Mathematical Oncology Department, Moffitt Cancer Center and Research Institute, Tampa FL (Aug 2017 - Present)

Research Advisor: Dr. Philipp Altrock

Graduate Research Assistant, Georgia Institute of Technology, Atlanta GA (Sept 2012 - Aug 2017)

Research Advisor: Dr. Manu O. Platt

  • Used computational modeling techniques to tease apart complex protease-on-protease interactions in the cathepsin proteolytic network
  • Verified protease-on-protease interactions through recombinant mutant protein design, development, purification, and co-incubation experiments
  • Trainee in the National Science Foundation Science and Technology Center (NSF STC), Emergent Behavior of Integrated Cellular Systems (EBICS), involved in the Computational Modeling Working Group and Motile Bots Working Group; participated and presented in monthly working group meetings and annual retreats and site visits
  • Characterized the productions of cysteine cathepsins and matrix metalloproteinases in locomoting biological machines and how they contribute to machine failure
  • Used computational modeling to predict the lifespan of locomoting biological machines

Biomedical Informatics Research Intern, Moffitt Cancer Center and Research Institute, Tampa FL (May 2012 - Aug 2012)

Research Advisor: Dr. Steven Eschrich

  • Worked in Biomedical Informatics, examined gene and protein expression data in lung cancer cell lines to determine cellular signaling and possible drug targets for lung cancer
  • Analyzed principal component data to postulate relationships in the data
  • Analyzed tree clustering data of lung adenocarcinoma data to postulate relationships among clusters
  • Analyzed lung cell line and tumor gene expression data to develop immune gene signatures for clinical diagnostic and prognostic problems
  • Conducted analysis with bioinformatics software: GeneGo MetaCore, Archaeopteryx, Matlab

Space, Automation, and Manufacturing Mechanisms Researcher, University of Florida, Gainesville FL (Nov 2010 - May 2012)

Research Advisor: Dr. Gloria Wiens

  • Collaborated with the Inter-American University of Puerto Rico (IAUPR), Air Force Research Lab (AFRL), and Royal Institute of Technology (KTH, Sweden) on a CubeSat project to measure space weather using ion spectrometers and magnetometers (SWIM)
  • Worked on development and analysis of the magnetometer boom, including how it interfaces with CubeSat and finite element analysis of stowed and fully deployed boom configurations
  • Served as undergraduate liaison with IAUPR – oversaw redesign of a boom subsystem
  • Worked on developing integration interfaces between the boom and the satellite chassis
  • Attended formal Preliminary Design Review in San Juan, PR; met with all collaborating partners and representatives from NASA-Marshall Space Flight Center, Honeywell, and the University of Michigan
  • Experienced with Subsystems Requirements Document (SRD), Experimental Research Plan (ERP), Interface Control Document (ICD), and Preliminary Design Review (PDR)
  • Honors Thesis Research: Failure Analysis of Large Strain Joints in Solar Panel Deployment of Picosatellies
  • Redesigned a large-strain mechanism used to deploy solar panels on a 6U CubeSat
  • Based on research of previous student, worked to optimize design to minimize force needed to deploy solar panels and prevent failure

Summer Program for the Advancement of Research Knowledge (SPARK) Intern, Moffitt Cancer Center and Research Institute, Tampa FL (Summer 2010, Summer 2011)

SPARK Program Research Advisor: Dr. Steven Eschrich

  • Worked in Biomedical Informatics, examined gene and protein expression in lung cancer cell lines treated with tyrosine kinase inhibitors erlotinib and dasatinib to determine cellular signaling in these cases of lung cancer
  • Investigated both baseline and treated cases to look for possible clinical applications of results
  • Carried out principal component analysis to postulate relationships in the data
  • Conducted analysis with bioinformatics software: GeneGo MetaCore, Affymetrix, BLAST, Octave, UmBio AB Evince
  • Presented research to faculty, parents, and other research interns at the end of each summer

OSU 2009 Summer Program in Mathematical Biology for Undergraduates, The Ohio State University, Columbus OH (Summer 2009)

MBI Program

  • Attended introductory lectures on Statistical Phylogenetics, Mathematical Neuroscience, Chemogenomics, Environmental Statistics, and Bioinformatics
  • Worked on a bioinformatics project examining gene co-expression network in cancers using multiple microarray datasets for identifying new cancer biomarkers to predict prognosis
  • Presented findings to program faculty and participants

Teaching

I have been a Teaching Assistant for the following courses:

Biomedical Systems and Modeling, BMED3510 (Georgia Tech), Spring 2014

  • Course Instructors: Eberhard Voit, Peng Qui, Luis Lopes da Fonseca
  • Course introduced juniors in BME to the field of computational systems biology. It covered all typical aspects of biomathematical modeling, including: the choice of a modeling framework from among alternative approaches; the design of interaction diagrams; the identification of variables and processes; the design of systems models; standard methods of parameter estimation; the analysis of steady states, stability, sensitivity, and gains; numerical evaluation of transients; phase-plane analysis; and the simulation of representative biomedical scenarios
  • Course was implemented in a half-flipped design, with weekly overview lectures, a problem-solving session, and a homework discussion and recitation session
  • Facilitated Homework Discussion/Recitation Sessions and assisted in the Problem-Solving Sessions for 41 students
  • Overall TA evaluation by students: 4.88 of 5

Projects in Biomedical Engineering II, BMED2300 (Georgia Tech), Fall 2013

  • Course Instructors: James Rains, Martin Jacobson, and Raja Schaar
  • Course emphasized learning engineering design processes as applied to medical products and systems. This course required higher-level use of modeling, both mathematical and physical, in problem-solving strategies
  • Supervised group projects with three main projects: Project 1, Analyze It, where students choose a medical device and write a report fully describing the device; Project 2, Redesign It, where students re-purposed their device and define a new use/user group; finally, Project 3, Build It, where students take feedback from their Project 2 presentation and prototype the device
  • Facilitated the Sophomore Design Projects for 31 students
  • Overall TA evaluation by students: 4.58 of 5

Mentoring

  • Blake Bridges – Summer high school student in the High School Internship Program (HIP) 2017
  • Dan Whitfield – West Point Cadet – July 2017
  • Tyler Wan – Georgia Tech BME Undergraduate – 2016-2017
  • Marc Shuler – EBICS Research Exchange for Undergraduates (REU) (from Penn State) – Summer 2015 & Summer 2016
    • Presented a Poster at BMES Annual Meeting in 2015 & 2016
    • Poster won 3rd place at the 2016 EBICS Retreat
    • Poster won 3rd place at Georgia Tech Summer Undergraduate Research Experience (SURE) REU 2016 Poster Competition
    • Presented a Poster at ABRCMS Conference in 2015
  • Nick Arce – Georgia Tech BME Undergraduate – 2015-2016
    • Now: Finishing up his undergraduate degree in biomedical engineering
  • Kamir Hiam – Kennesaw State Biochemistry Undergraduate – 2015-2016
    • Now: Graduate Student at University of California, San Francisco
  • David McKellar – Georgia Tech BME Undergraduate – 2015-2016
    • Presented a Poster at the undergraduate Spring Symposium 2016
    • Awarded Spring 2016 President’s Undergraduate Research Award (PURA) to fund his research
    • Now: Working with Dr. Paul Liu at NIH in disease modeling
  • Derrick Baines – EBICS REU (from Georgia Gwinnett College) – Summer 2015
  • Esmarline J De Leon Peralta – EBICS REU (from University of Puerto Rico at Mayaguez) – Summer 2014

Honors

  • Selected to attend Paths Afforded by the Research Enterprise National Science Foundation (NSF) Professional Development Workshop, Aug. 2016
    • Interdisciplinary Team Grant (DuraCoast: The Future of Coastal Resilience), judged by Dragana Brzakovic & John Cozzens from NSF, tied for first place
  • 2015 Georgia Tech Faces of Inclusive Excellence, Sept. 2015
    • Nominated for this competitive selection based on work leading the STARs Science Club
    • Awarded by the Georgia Tech Institute Diversity Office, the Faces of Inclusive Excellence spotlights deserving faculty, staff, and students who distinguish themselves in their research, teaching, and/or service by received special awards or recognition for their work
  • Tau Beta Pi Fellow, 2013-2014
    • Competitive award, based on high scholarship, campus leadership and service, and promise of future contribution to the engineering profession
  • National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship Program Honorable Mention, 2013
  • Trainee, NSF STC: Emergent Behaviors of Integrated Cellular Systems (EBICS), 2012 – Present
  • Dean’s List, University of Florida, Spring 2009 – Fall 2011 (6 consecutive semesters)
  • Pi Tau Sigma, the Mechanical Engineering Honor Society, Fall 2010
  • Tau Beta Pi, the Engineering Honor Society, Fall 2009
  • President’s Honor Roll, University of Florida, Fall 2008
  • Florida Academic Scholars, 2008 – 2012
  • Awarded for academic achievement covering four years of tuition

Professional Affiliations

  • American Association of Cancer Researchers (AACR)
  • GenerationM(offitt) (GenM)
  • Moffitt Postdoctoral Association (MPDA)
  • National Postdoctoral Association (NPA)
  • Society of Women Engineers (SWE)
  • Biomedical Engineering (BME) Society Student Member 2012 – Present
  • Society of Mathematical Biology Student Member, 2015-2016
  • Pi Tau Sigma, Mechanical Engineering Honor Society, Member, initiated Dec 2010
  • Tau Beta Pi, Engineering Honor Society, Member, initiated Dec 2009

Skills

Programming

Julia, R, MATLAB, Mathematica, COPASI, Adobe Photoshop, ImageJ, Linux Cluster, some experience with bash and shell scripting

Laboratory Techniques

Protein Extraction, Recombinant DNA, Mammalian Tissue Culture, Bacterial Culture, Running and Making SDS-PAGE Gels, Making Solutions, Centrifuge, PCR, Western Blot, Zymography