Former T32 Supported Pre-doctoral Trainees

2018 WFIRM NIH Fellows

As Pictured: Class of 2018-2019 Fellows: Matthew Brovold, Renata Magalhaes, Andrea Mazzocchi, Kevin Enck, James Poteracki

Use the jump navigation below to move between the former fellows.

James Poteracki (October 2018 – November 2019) Andrea Mazzocchi (January 2018 – November 2019)
Kevin Enck (September 2017 – September 2019) Renata Magalhaes (November 2016 – August 2018)
Matthew Brovold (October 2015 – October 2018) Mahesh Devarasetty (October 2015 – May 2017)
Amritha Kidiyoor  (September 2015 – May 2018) Ashley Wagoner (April 2015 - June 2016)
Hannah Besser Baker (September 2013 – June 2015) John P. McQuilling (September 2013 - April 2015)
Ethan Willey-Shelkey (August 2021 – July 2022) Diana Lim (August 2020 - July 2022)

Hannah Besser Baker, BME Track 

September 2013 - June 2015
Mentors:  G. Christ, PhD and A. Mohs, PhD
Focus:  TE/RM Solutions for Functional Reconstruction of VML Injuries

Hannah was involved in the study of tissue engineering/RM solutions for functional reconstruction of volumetric muscle loss (VML) injuries. Her research was funded by a diversity of sources including and internal Innovation Award for development and commercialization of the tissue engineered muscle repair (TEMR technology), and external funding from the Armed Forces Institute of Regenerative Medicine (AFIRM). The TEMR technology is funded by AFIRM for a pilot clinical study on 5 patients undergoing secondary revision of cleft. Her project involves development of biomaterial and bioreactor strategies for functional restoration of surgically created VML injuries analogous to the permanent VML injuries suffered by civilians and wounded warriors. She is presently focused on the use of rodent models for finalizing the applicability of the TEMR technology for cleft lip.

Hannah successfully completed her T32 training appointment and defended her thesis on June 15th, 2015.  Consistent with Hannah’s goal is to stay closely involved with translational science by continuing to pursue research endeavors in musculoskeletal regeneration and by becoming more involved with the associated regulatory processes and policy, she submitted applications to a variety of postdoctoral positions in tissue engineering research labs as well as to the American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering Scholars Program. On March 17th, 2015 she accepted a Post-Doctoral Fellow position at the University of Maryland under the primary advisement of Dr. John P. Fisher in the Bioengineering Department working on tissue engineered therapies for orthopedic tissues. Simultaneously, her postdoctoral appointment included training at the FDA in Silver Spring, MD.  Hannah completed her postdoctoral fellowship in March 2018.  In April 2018, Hannah was recruited and accepted a position as Research Scientist at ACell, Inc., where she is responsible for participating in all aspects of basic and applied research for early-stage development of medical devices at ACell in compliance with the FDA Quality System Requirement.

John P. McQuilling, BME Track

September 2013 - April 2015
Mentor:  E. Opara, PhD 
Focus:  Cell Therapy for Treatment of Type 1 Diabetes

John’s research focused on developing novel procedures and devices to further advance encapsulated islet cell technology as a treatment for type-1 diabetes. Specifically, he investigated the application of growth factors for improving angiogenesis for implanted islet grafts, applications of particulate oxygen generating substances for preventing hypoxic injury to encapsulated islets, alternative collagenase-free methods for isolating islets, and developed new devices for the encapsulation of cells and islets.

John successfully defended his thesis on April 24th, 2015. He applied to a number of research and development positions including: United Therapeutics in RTP, Cook Medical in Indiana, and a biomaterials postdoctoral position at the Naval Research Laboratory. Immediately following completion of training and PhD defense, John accepted a position of “Senior Research Engineer” at NuTech Medical, in Birmingham Alabama. NuTech Medical is focused on developing their allograft derived products from human amnion and amniotic fluid, as well as some cell based therapies using their amniotic fluid stem cells.  In January of 2019, NuTech medical was acquired by Organogenesis Inc. John continues as Senior Research and Development Engineer at Organogenesis where he continues to contribute his expertise in biomedical engineering and regenerative medicine in ongoing R&D projects in the Surgical and Sports Medicine Division.

Mahesh Devarasetty, BME Track

October 2015 – May 2017
Mentors: A. Skardal, PhD and S. Soker, PhD
Focus:  Construction of Various Microscale, 3D Organoid Microfluidic Platforms for In Vitro Diagnostics

Mahesh joined as a third year biomedical engineering student in the VT-WF-SBES program (Track 7). He received his B.S. in biomedical engineering from Columbia University, graduating in 2012. Mahesh’s research deals with the construction and testing of various microscale tissue models. He is an active member of the XCEL body-on-a-chip project, utilizing his engineering experience to develop microfluidic and sensor technologies. His future goals include using microfabricated models, or organs-on-a-chip, for personalized medicine and drug screening. Mahesh’s project revolves around building a RM model of the colon for use in colorectal cancer modeling. The model is based around the interaction of the submucosa and the epithelium of the colon, the initiating site of many colorectal cancers.  Using this model,  a 3D tumor spheroid is embedded to observe the effects of varied microenvironments on oncogenesis and cancer progression. In addition, the model can be used to study drug kinetics and efficacy. Using this colonic model, he found a link between mechanical properties (such as stiffness and fiber alignment) and cellular processes (Focal adhesion kinase activation and downstream WNT activity).

Mahesh successfully defended and graduated in May 2017. Mahesh confirmed a post-doctoral fellow position with Drs. Shay Soker and Aleks Skardal at the Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine. In addition to an ongoing commitment and interest in an academic research career, Mahesh remained interested in startup RM sector opportunities that fit his expertise and is currently a Medical Science Liaison at Allergan.

Ashley Wagoner, NS Track

April 2015 - June 2016
Mentor:  S. Walker, PhD 
Focus:  Novel Cost-Effective Approaches to Derivation of Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells from Epstein-Barr Virus Immortalized β-Lymphoblastoid Cell Lines 

Ashley Wagoner joined as a 3rd year Neuroscience graduate student under advisement of Dr. Steve Walker at WFIRM. Ashley’s research project focused on elucidating central, autonomic, and enteric nervous system mechanisms underlying cardiovascular and gastrointestinal dysfunction in pediatric populations. Ashley conducted two different research projects to study these mechanisms. Her first project aimed to develop a model to study intrinsic synaptic function of the enteric nervous system to investigate neuronal implications of gastrointestinal motility disorders, such as chronic nausea and gastroesophageal reflux disease. Her additional project aimed to further define the phenotype of children with chronic nausea and orthostatic intolerance (OI), a type of dysfunction of the autonomic nervous system (dysautonomia). Using head upright tilt table testing, Ashley has been able to characterize neurohumoral and autonomic profiles in this patient population, which provides validation of non-invasive testing for diagnosis and direct evidence for optimal treatment approaches in children with OI and GI symptoms. Ashley also evaluated potential brain mechanisms involved in OI using fMRI and magnetic resonance spectroscopy.  

Ashley successfully defended her thesis on April 14th, 2016. She applied to a number of clinical research and postdoctoral positions in industry and academia. Following her clinical and translational training experience, Ashley accepted a Clinical Research Trainee Fellowship Position at Quintiles, the world’s largest provider of biopharmaceutical development and commercial outsourcing services in Research Triangle Park, NC with start on June 1, 2016. At Quintiles she was primary clinical research monitor on a Phase 3 Alzheimer's Disease clinical trial, managing 13 sites across the southeast.  She was also an active contributor to a Phase 3 Psoriasis and two Phase 3 Osteoarthritis clinical trials. Beginning her position at Quintiles, she became a certified ICH-GCP expert in October, 2016. Her key responsibilities were protecting subject safety, acting as the main point of contact for all assigned sites and providing on-site clinical monitoring in all aspects of project phases from site selection to close-out; making sure all subject data is reviewed for accuracy and captured within the protocol requirements; managing all Investigational Product-related issues as well as making sure all regulatory documentation at assigned sites is current. In 2019, Ashely was recruited by Becton Dickson because of her T32 training and research expertise in neurocritical populations, where she is now a currently a Clinical Research Scientist Lead, Neurology & Critical Care.

Amritha Kidiyoor, MCB Track

September 2015 – May 2018 
Mentors:  K. Williams, A. Atala and S. Murphy
Focus:  Using Reprogramming Technology to Convert Damaged Fibrotic Lung Tissue into Functional Lung Tissue as a Potential Treatment for Pulmonary Fibrosis 

Amritha Kidiyoor joined as a 3rd year Molecular Medicine and Translation Science graduate student at the Wake Forest School of Medicine. Her research focused on using reprogramming technology to convert damaged fibrotic lung tissue into functional lung tissue as a potential treatment for pulmonary fibrosis. This involved investigating the reprogramming capacity of specific genes in different combinations on lung cells.

Amritha successfully defended her thesis in February 2018 and is finalizing her publications. She is interested in a career in science communications and the dissemination of knowledge to students, patients and the public. She will begin work at IMPACT Pharmaceuticals in June 2018 as Medical Writer and Program Management Fellow with emphasis on RM and early phase clinical trial management, encompassing a range of therapeutic areas, including respiratory/lung disease. IMPACT provides a variety of specialized services to support the pharmaceutical and biotech industries, which includes RM.    

Matthew Brovold, MCB Track

November 2015 – October 2018
Mentor:  S. Soker, PhD
Focus:  Fibrotic Diseases of the Fetal Liver and Their Effect on Organogenesis

Matthew received his Bachelor’s degree in Genetics, Molecular and Cellular Biology in 2011 and worked as a Research Technician in 2012 before joining Dr. Shay Soker’s research group in 2013. His research is focused on development of a 3-D in vitro model of developmental diseases of the liver where fibrosis is prevalent. This study specifically focuses on biliary function and tubulogenesis, which may be affected when introduced into a fibrotic environment. The impact of fetal liver fibrosis on the development of the liver is a unique field of study into the rare, but devastating congenital liver disorders such as Biliary Atresia. Successful generation of this model will give insight into the effects of abnormal regulation of pathways critical for normal organogenesis. Matthew has taken a leadership role in the design a unique system that allows for the formation of biliary duct like structures that also allows for the analysis of cell-cell interactions with hepatic stellate cells, and of biliary transport functionality. He has also conducted a variety of experiments that show its utility of the model for use as a drug screening platform, which has the potential for use in adult liver fibrosis. Matthew has also incorporated a distinctive use of classic molecular analysis techniques along with more cutting edge techniques of image quantification through the use of open source software and custom designed MATLAB code.This training has also allowed for him to become an effective collaborator utilizing similar methodologies in the study of colorectal cancer metastasis and of the complex field of hepatic stellate cell activation and function.  

Matthew defended December 2019. Upon applying to and interviewing for several postdoctoral and faculty position with goal to continue his academic research in the field of developmental liver biology and to become more deeply involved in clinical developments for treatment of fibrosis he accepted a position at Wake Forest at Postdoctoral Research Fellow. 

Renata Magalhaes, MD, IPP Track

November 2016 – August 2018
Mentors:  K. Williams, DVM and A. Atala, MD
Focus:  Bioengineering Uterine Tissue in a Rabbit Model

Renata joined as a 3rd year Integrative Physiology and Pharmacology graduate student. Renata received her medical degree from the Pontificia Universidade Catolica de Sao Paulo, Brazil in 2002 and successfully completed her residency in Obstetrics, Gynecology, and fellowship in Minimally Invasive Surgery in 2006 at the Faculdade de Medicina do ABC, Brazil. Renata has been working on bioengineering uterine tissue in a rabbit model. In this study, she developed an engineered uterine tissue seeding ex vivo expanded autologous primary uterine cells into a polymer-based biodegradable scaffold that is tailor-made to replace a sub-total excised uterine horn. The preliminary results showed a successful in vivo time-course regeneration of uterine tissue within the constructs. Six months after cell-seeded construct implantation, the neo-uterine tissue showed organized tissue structures within the endometrium and myometrium compartments in which expression of specific markers for epithelial, stromal, smooth muscle, and endothelial cells was comparable to normal tissue. 

The ultimate goal of this project is to test the functionality of the bioengineered uterine tissue regarding reproductive outcomes. A new cohort of animals was naturally mated with fertile males six months after scaffold implantation and the pregnancy rates were 71.5% in the cell-seeded group, 50% in the polymer-only group, and 14.3 % in the injury-only group compared to 100% in the control group. The fetuses implanted within the engineered uterus had comparable size and weight with those implanted in the native uterine tissue at birth. These results suggest that a bioengineered uterine tissue supports viable pregnancy to term in rabbits. Successful completion of this project can potentially provide evidence for a RM-based approach for uterine factor infertility, as well as bring an important insight for bioengineering other organs with complex structure and function.

Renata defended her thesis May 2019. She is committed to staying closely involved in medical research and translational RM projects pertaining to the female reproductive system with ultimate interest in academic career. She is currently a Clinical Research Program Officer in Female Pelvic Health at Wake Forest Baptist Health and Wake Forest School of Medicine.

Kevin Enck, BME Track

September 1, 2017 to 2019)
Mentor:  E. Opara, PhD
Focus:  Next Generation Bioartificial Pancreas

Kevin joined as a 2nd year Biomedical Engineering graduate student at the VT-WF-SBES program. He received his BS in Biomedical Engineering from the University at Buffalo in 2014 and his MS from VT-WF in 2016.  Kevin has been working on engineering a new generation, bioartificial pancreas. The goal of this project is to develop a new generation bioartificial pancreas utilizing a current model of encapsulation of islets with alginate, but also incorporating the innovative properties of decellularized tissue to increase the viability and functionality of islets. In vitro experiments will be performed initially to optimize the properties of the ECM powder such as concentration. Next, in vivo experiments in immune-compromised T1D rats will be done to assess if the islets can function properly and maintain normoglycemia for an extended period of time. For all experiments, islet functionality and viability will be measured using insulin ELISAs, live-dead immunofluorescent assays, histological assessment, dithizone staining, along with other tests.

Kevin defended in summer 2019. His goals were open to all sectors, but with a growing interest in the government scientist and industry science positions coupled with a commitment to remaining in biomedical research field and desire to keep doing RM work at the bench in a translational capacity. In July 2019 he accepted a position as Product Development Scientist at Stallergenes Greer, a global healthcare company specializing in the development of allergy immunotherapy products and services. With Stallergenes aspiration to “change the treatment paradigm of allergy therapies by delivering curative medicines, technologies and tools for patients”, Kevin brought a specific skill and mindset where is he now currently designing diagnostic assays for second generation immunotherapy.

Andrea Mazzocchi, BME Track

January 2018 to May 2020
Mentor: A. Skardal & S. Soker, PhDs
Focus: In vitro microenvironment fabrication for modeling of physiology and disease

Andrea joined as a 2nd year Biomedical Engineering graduate student in the VT-WF-SBES program. She received her BS in Biomedical Engineering from Rochester Institute of Technology in 2016. Andrea has been working on topics such as bioprinting, tumor organoids for precision medicine, and customized liver biomatrices. Her dissertation topic is, "In vitro fabrication of bio-inspired liver tissue for improved modeling of physiology and disease." The goal of this project is to better model the liver microenvironment and determine the role fibronectin and laminin play in cellular behavior. Hepatic stellate cells, hepatocytes, and liver cancer behavior will be studied (alone and in combination) within each of the 3D microenvironments and correlated to in vivo behavior. Drug treatments will then be carried out to better understand the impact the ECM additions have on drug resistance. It is intended that correlation then be made between drug resistant behavior and ECM.

Andrea defended her PhD in May of 2020, after which her interests were to pursue an industry position fellowship position related to precision cancer diagnostics and translational medicine. Andrea is now Co-Founder & CEO at Know Medicine where she remains involved in cancer, tissue engineering and precision medicine research. She is also an adjunct lecturer at Wake Forest University.

James Poteracki, MS, IPP Track

October 2018 – November 2019
Mentor:  Tracy Criswell, PhD
Focus:  Development of a clinically relevant rat model of compartment syndrome, with full characterization of the cellular and molecular changes that occur with the skeletal muscle and peripheral nerves.

James joined as a 2nd year IPP PhD student. James attended Michigan State University for his Bachelor’s degrees in Physiology and Biochemistry & Molecular Biology. After graduating in 2012, he researched changes in microvasculature in aging and exercising adults, and taught undergraduates. He joined Dr. Tracy Criswell’s lab in 2016, in the department of Integrative Physiology & Pharmacology, where he completed his Master’s degree, creating a rat model of compartment syndrome. Currently, as a PhD student and newly appointed (additional slot) STRM T32 trainee, he will be characterizing cellular and molecular changes that occur with skeletal muscle injuries, as well as exploring biomaterials, bio-printed constructs, nutraceuticals, and anti-oxidants to improve muscle and peripheral nerve regeneration.

James anticipates completing his PhD in 2021 and is interested in an academic track with commitment to both education and RM research. He plans to further develop as a mentor through his time at WFIRM, to prepare him to one day lead his own academic lab. James is interested in continued study of tissue regeneration strategies throughout his career, to help develop clinical treatments for muscle injuries and nerve damage.

Diana Lim

Aug 2021 – June 2022
Mentors: James Yoo, MD, PhD, and John Jackson, PhD 
Research Focus: Kidney Tissue Engineering

Diana received her Bachelor of Science with Honors in Neuroscience from Dartmouth College and is currently a PhD candidate in the department of Molecular Medicine and Translational Sciences. She is working towards becoming a physician-researcher, with plans to pursue a regenerative medicine fellowship in the future. In her career, she would like to become a physician who is able provide hope for patients beyond what is achievable with current therapies. For this reason, she has pursued research in regenerative medicine and in projects that have a wide range of applications. Since joining the PhD program, she has taken a multi-faceted approach to addressing the challenges of kidney regeneration through a variety of projects including renal progenitor organoid formation, functionalized scaffold development, construct bioprinting, microfluidics-based cell maturation, neovascularization, mesenchymal stem cell direct differentiation, and bioreactor design. Her T32 work focuses on using these strategies to develop and deliver renal progenitor organoids for rapid kidney tissue integration and functional recovery. Through her research experience, she hopes to gain deep foundational knowledge in the field of regenerative medicine to be able to ask the right questions to move projects in the field closer to clinical translation. 
Ethan Willey-Shelkey, Integrative Physiology and Pharmacology PhD Candidate
Mentors: S
hay Soker, PhD and Konstantinos Votanopoulos, MD, PhD, FACS
Research Focus:
Immunoreactive cancer organoids
T32 Appointment:
08//2021 to 7/2022

Ethan Willey-Shelkey is a 4th year Ph.D. candidate in the Integrative Physiology and Pharmacology program with a concentration in Regenerative Medicine at the WF Graduate School of Arts and Sciences. He conducts his research with WFIRM faculty mentor, Dr. Shay Soker along with Dr. Konstantinos Votanopoulos, a surgical oncologist with WF Baptist Health.  His research is focused on tumor organoid modeling the effects of select bacterial metabolites on immune checkpoint blockade efficacy. He aims to pursue a career in translational regenerative medicine, hoping to apply what he has learned at WFIRM to potential clinical applications. Prior to graduate school, he received his Bachelor of Science in Biology at SUNY Geneseo before going on to work in cancer genetic engineering for the Institute of Precision Medicine at Weill-Cornell Medicine.
Brady Trevisan

Aug 2021 – June 2022
Mentors: Graça Almeida-Porada, MD, PhD, and Christopher Porada, PhD 
Research Focus: Cell and Gene Therapy

Brady Trevisan started his research career during his undergraduate studies where he had the opportunity to be a part of the development of biomaterial scaffolds and hydrogels for tissue regeneration. This opportunity gave him a passion for regenerative medicine and research that led Brady to the Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine, where he transitioned his research focus from biomaterials to cell and gene therapies. Brady was selected to participate in the T32 program at WFIRM in the beginning of his 3rd year as a PhD candidate in the Biomedical Engineering track with Drs. Almeida-Porada and Porada as his WFIRM faculty mentors.  His T32 research at WFIRM includes the use of microfluidics to study the mechanisms of shear-induced protein regulation in a cell therapy. Additionally, his current research allows him to work with collaborators across the country to develop and study a treatment for hemophilia A in previously-untreated-patients using a FVIII-producing cell therapy. He is currently working in a large animal model to study the effects of an off-the-shelf therapy as well as autologous and allogeneic therapies. Brady’s career goals involve utilizing his training in translational research to aid in the development of novel products through working in an industry or government lab with a focus on translation to the clinic.