Marcos Barcellona is a recent PhD graduate from Dr. Lori Setton’s laboratory in the Department of Biomedical Engineering at Washington University. He will soon be starting a new role as a post-doctoral research fellow in Dr. Conor Buckley’s laboratory at Trinity College Dublin.

Who were/are your past scientific mentors?
I have greatly benefited from the mentorship of several people throughout my academic career. During undergrad, Dr. Matthew Bernards was an incredible mentor to me, and exposed me to fields of study I had never considered prior to meeting him. As a doctoral candidate, Dr. Lori Setton, my doctoral research advisor, was an incredible mentor who continuously provided me with mentorship and guidance, and has given me incredible opportunities over the years. I have also received great mentorship from other Washington University faculty, including Dr. Nathaniel Huebsch, Dr. Amit Pathak, Dr. Jacob Buchowski, and Dr. Simon Tang.

Can you give us a brief overview of your research?
My research has focused on the development of a peptide-functionalized biomaterial for the phenotypic modulation of cells of the nucleus pulposus (NP) of the intervertebral disc (IVD). We have observed the ability to modify substrate parameters in order to promote phenotypic shifts towards increased expression of markers associated with the NP cell phenotype, and have been looking into the potential for delivery of this system as an in situ crosslinked biomaterial for promoting IVD tissue repair.

How did you get involved in orthopaedic research?
After undergrad, I wanted to become involved in research with a translational component to it. My interests have always been largely in the field of biomaterials, and orthopaedic research offers many opportunities to combine biomaterials with translational medicine, so it seemed like a great match.

How has the ORS supported you?
I have enjoyed the networking opportunities I’ve had through ORS, where I have met a number of colleagues and mentors and have had meaningful and exciting conversations about scientific directions and project ideas.

Why do you believe diversity and inclusion is important?
The approach towards a research problem, developmental planning and design, the troubleshooting stages, and everything in between, can all change from investigator to investigator, and is dependent on people’s perspectives and ideas. However, people’s way of thinking is often heavily influenced by their life experiences. Thus, I strongly believe that developing inclusive environments supporting people with diverse backgrounds is crucial for furthering the sciences, regardless of the specific field of study.

What are your career goals?
Although I have historically had an inclination towards industry-based research positions, I am keeping an open mind to the different possibilities and paths that may come up.

Any personal interests or hobbies you would like to share?
In my free time, I enjoy rock climbing, playing soccer, and playing guitar.

What personal advice would you give to new investigators starting out in the field?
I would say two things. First, ORS is overall a very cooperative society and there are always incredibly knowledgeable people with whom you could have fruitful discussions if you ever wanted to expand your horizons, so don’t be afraid to reach out to people. This leads into the second point, which is to never be afraid to ask questions – and to never stop asking questions.