Degree: Bachelor of Science in Engineering

Current Title and Department: Undergraduate Research Assistant in Gottardi Bioengineering and Biomaterials Lab

Current Employer: Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and University of Pennsylvania

Undergraduate Degree, University: Bachelor of Science in Engineering in Bioengineering, University of Pennsylvania

Graduate Degree, University: To be determined.

Post-doctoral Position: NA Past Employers: NA

Mentors: Riccardo Gottardi

Could you describe the path you’ve taken in meniscus research? How did it evolve?
My introduction to the meniscus was developing decellularized meniscus scaffolds (MEND) for cartilage tissue engineering in the upper airway. In this work, I saw the potential of our material to produce robust cartilage, and as such Dr. Gottardi and I began to wonder whether our scaffolds -produced from red zone meniscus- could be used for partial meniscal repair of both major meniscal regions.

When you started in meniscus research, what was your biggest question? Do you think its answered?
When I began my work, I was interested in whether I could create a cartilage construct that could mimic the white zone of the meniscus. Although at this point my work has produced cartilage with similar bulk modulus, GAG content, and collagen content to the white zone I still have many questions regarding whether I can recapitulate meniscal extracellular matrix architecture and allow for significant integration with native meniscal tissue in vivo. I hope to tackle these questions in the coming months and as I continue to graduate school.

What collaboration was the most unexpected of your career? How did it impact your work today?
Although I have not yet formed formal collaborations with other scientists, learning from Dr. Jennifer Robinson and Dr. Jennifer Puetzer over the last few months has greatly influenced how I understand meniscus microarchitecture. From our discussions about collagen crimping and its disappearance following meniscal decellularization, I have started to think more about hierarchical collagen organization and its role in meniscus mechanics.

In your opinion, what is the current open question in the meniscus field right now?
One question I’m particularly interested in is whether we can better characterize cartilage-resident progenitor cells and identify unique surface markers or cellular properties. Although we have identified that these cells tend to be more migratory than meniscal chondrocytes, a better understanding of how to leverage the regenerative properties of these cells could improve tissue-engineered solutions for meniscal injuries.

What advice would you give investigators who are just starting out in the field?
Although I am very new to the meniscus community, I have been overwhelmed by the way other researchers have been so willing to share their expertise and experiences. In that vein, I would urge others to create time for conversations with other meniscus researchers and prioritize creating an open dialogue within the community, especially at the onset of a project.

When you’re not in the lab, what do you like to do for fun?
I am a major matcha enthusiast! On the weekends I spend my time meeting friends and exploring cafés in Philadelphia for new matcha lattes.

What is the most unusual/unexpected item sitting on your desk right now?
I have a small quartz-like rock that I picked up after a particularly good day in the lab during my sophomore year. I keep the rock as a reminder to hang on to good times and celebrate little wins!