Current Title and Department: PhD Candidate, Biomedical Engineering
Current Employer: Cornell University
Undergraduate Degree, University: Chemical and Biological Engineering, University of New Mexico
Graduate Degree, University: PhD in Biomedical Engineering, Cornell University
Post-doctoral Position: N/A
Past Employers: Sandia National Laboratories, University of New Mexico Hospital
Mentors: Dr. Chad Staiger (SNL), Dr. Christina Salas (UNMH), Dr. Lawrence Bonassar (Cornell)

Could you describe the path you’ve taken in meniscus research? How did it evolve?
I started my studies in chemical engineering working with materials for battery applications. I realized that I enjoyed studying materials and material properties but wanted to apply this to human health and biology. I began working with Dr. Christina Salas at the University of New Mexico on some potential materials for meniscus replacement in my last year of undergrad. When I applied to grad school, my goal was to continue working with orthopaedic tissues and I began my studies with Dr. Bonassar where I worked on improving the ECM structure in tissue-engineered menisci.

When you started in meniscus research, what was your biggest question? Do you think it’s answered?
My initial questions in meniscus research were what types of materials would be best for meniscus replacement and what are the most important aspects of the meniscus to recapitulate when searching for these materials?

What collaboration was the most unexpected of your career? How did it impact your work today?
I don’t have any super unexpected collaborations, but I am fortunate to be able to work with a very diverse and interdisciplinary team. Our group collaborates with folks from material science engineering, chemical engineering, the veterinary school, clinicians, and more. It’s been valuable for me to have a wide variety of mentors and peers to work with, both for help on my thesis projects and as mentors for developing as a scientist.

In your opinion, what is the current open question in the meniscus field right now?
What are the tools we need to improve extracellular matrix organization and subsequent mechanical properties in the context of creating robust tissue-engineered replacements?

What advice would you give investigators who are just starting out in the field?
Stay curious and don’t be afraid to fail. You often learn the most from your mistakes.

When you’re not in the lab, what do you like to do for fun?
My favorite thing to do out of lab is to be outside. I like to spend as much of my free time as possible hiking, kayaking, or doing something with my dog. If I’m not outside then I’m probably baking, reading, or crocheting.

What is the most unusual/unexpected item sitting on your desk right now?
The most unexpected item on my desk is probably our lab calendar! It features pretty images that my lab mates have taken over the past year.