Current Title, Department, Employer:
PhD Candidate, Andarawis-Puri Lab
Meinig School of Biomedical Engineering
Cornell University

Brief Bio (Past Education, Research Positions, Etc.):
I was born and raised in Dallas, Texas where I also completed my bachelor’s degree. As an undergraduate, I was fortunate to participate in several research experiences spanning materials science, biophysics, biomechanics, and orthopaedic biomaterials through my home institution and different summer Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) programs. The summer after my freshman year, I was introduced to musculoskeletal research as a NREIP Intern at the Naval Medical Research Unit in San Antonio, where I worked under Dr. Mauris DeSilva to design an antibiotic-loaded cranial implant for warfighters suffering from traumatic brain injuries. I later conducted research as an Amgen Scholar at UC Berkeley, where I worked under Prof. Grace O’Connell to validate a mechanical loading protocol to assess the effect of ionizing radiation on the fatigue life of rat vertebrae. Lastly, I spent two years as an undergraduate researcher in the Biomaterials for Osseointegration and Novel Engineering (BONE) Lab at UT-Dallas, where I worked under Prof. Danieli Rodrigues to assess the biocompatibility of antibiotic-loaded bone cements and commercial dental cements used in medical implants.

After graduating from UT-Dallas, I started my PhD at Cornell University under Prof. Nelly Andarawis-Puri. My research broadly focuses on elucidating the biological mechanisms underlying mammalian scarless tendon healing using the regenerative Murphy Roth’s Large (MRL/MpJ) mouse model. I am defending my dissertation next spring and plan to pursue a postdoctoral position with the long-term goal of becoming a tenure-track faculty member.

Who have been your mentors?
I almost declined my first REU experience because there were no public options available in the host city. My supervisor, Dr. Mauris DeSilva (now deceased), refused to let the commute be a barrier to this opportunity and personally drove me to and from work that summer, including those long nights where I stayed late running experiments. His selflessness and relentless commitment to fostering scientific excellence in my training convinced me to consider the possibility of graduate school. To this day, I aspire to embody a fraction of his mentorship and charisma.

My undergraduate research advisor at UT-Dallas, Prof. Danieli Rodrigues, cultivated an inclusive work environment and treated me as if I were one of her graduate students. She actively included me in meetings with clinical collaborators and later a European company that I conducted an independent project and senior thesis with. She taught me to step out of my academic comfort zone and secured funding to pay me extensive wages for the entirety of my senior thesis. She also became one of my fiercest advocates and instilled in me the same values to uplift those around me. Her support and mentorship have been integral to my career and significantly shape how I approach my science, advocacy, and interactions with my own mentees.

Meeting my now PhD advisor, Prof. Nelly Andarawis-Puri, was my primary deciding factor in choosing to attend Cornell. When I reflect on my time in graduate school (which frequently happens during this pandemic), the challenging times are far fewer than the overwhelmingly positive experiences that I have had. I am grateful for how much Nelly has trusted me to independently push scientific questions forward, all while always keep me grounded in remembering the practical implications and larger scope of our work. Her openness when providing career advice and feedback has been invaluable to my career development. Her mentorship and leadership by example have been some of the biggest motivators behind my continued desire to pursue a career in academia.

Through the ORS, I am also grateful for the support and mentorship of others outside of my immediate research advisors, including Prof. Alayna Loiselle, Prof. Brianne Connizzo, Prof. Sun Peck, and Dr. Anne Nichols.

What are you currently working on?
I am currently investigating the contributions of the provisional extracellular matrix (ECM) and resident tendon cell-secreted soluble factors (‘secretome’) in mediating scarless tendon healing in the MRL/MpJ mouse model. The work that I presented at the 2021 ORS Annual Meeting demonstrated that the decellularized MRL/MpJ tendon ECM and secretome combined modulate non-healing cells toward a regenerative phenotype. These findings are especially exciting as they provide a robust in vitro platform to functionally interrogate the molecular drivers of MRL/MpJ scarless tendon healing.

What project(s) are you looking forward to in the near future?
An undergraduate mentee and I have recently conducted a comparative proteomic analysis of secretome collected from regenerative and non-regenerative tendon cells. Our preliminary data has identified some promising biological pathways that we are planning to target using small molecule inhibitors. In doing so, we hope to further elucidate the mechanisms that delineate scarless as opposed to fibrotic tendon healing, which will ultimately inform the development of effective therapeutic interventions.

When you’re not in the lab, what do you like to do for fun?
I love indoor bouldering. I started rock climbing in graduate school, and it has become a much-needed outlet for me to destress from work and other activities. I also love to cook and bake. I am also passionate about exploring all new coffee varieties that I have yet to try. 

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Twitter Handle (personal or lab): @JasonCMarvin | @NAP_Lab
ResearchGate: Jason-Marvin
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