Current Title and Department: Senior Research Veterinarian, Division of Veterinary Resources
Current Employer: Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia
Undergraduate Degree, University: University of Delaware
Graduate Degree, University: University of Pennsylvania
Post-doctoral Position: University of Pennsylvania
Past Employers: B.W. Furlong and Associates; Tufts Surgical and Interventional Research Laboratories
Mentors: Nathaniel Dyment and Rob Mauck
Could you describe the path you’ve taken in meniscus research? How did it evolve?
My career path could be described as anything but linear! My interest in orthopedics and surgical research began during my time working as an undergraduate student at New Bolton Center’s Comparative Orthopedic Research Laboratory (CORL). I then went on to obtain my veterinary degree at the University of Pennsylvania and continued my clinical training in equine sports medicine at B.W. Furlong and Associates. While I enjoyed clinical sports medicine practice, I eventually returned to the research setting as a laboratory animal surgical veterinarian at Tufts University. Finally, I went on to pursue a post-doctoral position at the University of Pennsylvania, where I focused on meniscus research under the mentorship of Drs. Nat Dyment and Rob Mauck. Ultimately, my experiences across the fields of surgical research, clinical orthopedics, and laboratory animal medicine have supported me in the conduction of meniscus research.
When you started in meniscus research, what was your biggest question? Do you think its answered?
My work has aimed to provide insight into the mechanobiological responses of the meniscus to alterations in mechanical loading, particularly within the early post-natal period where there is continued regional specialization of the cellular and extra-cellular matrix components following birth. The central question has been: How does the input of mechanical loading impact the maturational trajectory of the meniscus? Currently, there is still much more yet to be understood, including the mechanical threshold for disrupting meniscus maturation, and the role that embryonic development plays in establishing a framework for post-natal development.
What collaboration was the most unexpected of your career? How did it impact your work today?
While not necessarily “unexpected”, collaborating with other veterinarians has been critical. My research utilizes microsurgical approaches in neonatal rodents, which poses a variety of inherent technical challenges. Working with other veterinarians to refine the surgical and anesthetic protocols has been crucial for the successful development and implementation of this model. In my current position at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, my goal is to provide a high degree of support to other researchers using complex animal models.
In your opinion, what is the current open question in the meniscus field right now?
Are biochemical or physical cues more important in establishing the structure and function of the meniscus?
What advice would you give investigators who are just starting out in the field?
Embrace unexpected results! And as cliché as it sounds – remember to enjoy the journey.
When you’re not in the lab, what do you like to do for fun?
I love any activity that gets me outside – including running, hiking, climbing, and horseback riding.
What is the most unusual/unexpected item sitting on your desk right now?
Abstract canvas art painted by my West Highland Terrier, Timmy.