Nikhith Kalkunte

B.S. Biomedical Engineering, 2019
University of Virginia

Project: My goal is to elucidate the extracellular factors involved in human cardiac development. I subject human induced pluripotent stem cells (hiPSCS) to aligned fibrous substrates while differentiating them into cardiomyocytes (CM). This incorporation, during the process of CM differentiation, allows me to tease apart the impacts of topology, stiffness, and alignment on hiPSC-CM development and maturation. My immediate goal is to synthesize a bioactive, aligned substrate that more closely mimics the stiffness of healthy cardiac tissue.

Fun Fact: I’ve played the French Horn for over 11 years!

Brett Stern

B.S. Bioengineering, 2019
Rice University

Project: My goal is to cure peripheral artery disease.

Fun Fact: I’m on the planning committee for an annual board and card game convention.

Sogu Sohn

B.S. Materials Science Engineering, 2019

M.S. Biomedical Engineering, 2020

Carnegie Mellon University

Project: My work involves using cell barcoding to investigate cardiac differentiation of human induced pluripotent stem cells and improve the consistency and number of cardiomyocytes yielded. Also, I am using bioprinting to co-culture hiPSC-derived cardiomyocytes and vascular cells in 3D tissue constructs to improve maturity of hiPSC-cardiomyocytes and produce engineered cardiac tissue that better recapitulates native heart function.

Fun Fact: I like reading comics. Invincible’s my favorite series I’ve read so far and, as of whenever this is posted, I’m into one called “Once & Future” from Boom Studios. 

Anna McClain

B.S. Biochemical Engineering, 2018

University of Georgia

Project:  I am investigating fatty acid delivery mechanisms and their impact on the metabolic maturation of hiPSC-derived cardiomyocytes. Specifically, I am interested in harnessing microfluidics to develop an efficient method for delivering key fatty acids to hiPSCs, which we hypothesize will drive a metabolic switch towards oxidative phosphorylation. My ultimate goal is to establish a scalable, reproducible method for generating homogeneous and metabolically mature hiPSC-derived cardiomyocyte populations.

Fun Fact: I’m a big fan of sustainable fashion—especially Austin’s vintage clothing scene!

Bryce Larsen

B.S. Biomedical Engineering, 2021 University of Utah

Project: I am working on improving and understanding blood vessel formation using endothelial progenitor cells (EPs) derived from human induced pluripotent stem cells.  Angiogenesis is influenced by several factors, including the mechanical properties of the surrounding environment. My project is focused on understanding how a mechanically tunable hydrogel impacts the degradation done by EPs during angiogenesis. The overall goal is to understand how to improve blood vessel formation for use in ischemic tissues.

Fun Fact: Ever wondered what the cells in the lab taste like? I have tried cell-grown meat so I could tell you.