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Team Members

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Ioannis (Yannis) Zervantonakis, Principal Investigator 

Assistant Professor, Department of Bioengineering and Hillman Cancer Center

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Ioannis (Yannis) grew up in Heraklion (Crete), Greece and attended the National Technical University of Athens to study mechanical engineering. He then moved to Munich, Germany and obtained a M.S. in mechanical engineering from the Technical University of Munich. Yannis received his PhD in the lab of Roger Kamm at MIT, where he engineered an array of microfluidic devices to study the tumor microenvironment. For his postdoctoral studies Yannis joined the lab of Joan Brugge and developed systems biology approaches to study drug resistance and tumor-fibroblast interactions. Yannis is a recipient of a 2014 Department of Defense Breast Cancer Postdoctoral Fellowship, a 2017 NCI Pathway to Independence K99/R00 award, a 2022 ACS RSG Scholar Award, a 2023 R35 NIGMS MIRA Award, a 2024 CMBE-BMES Rising Star Award and a 2024 NSF Career Award. Outside the lab, Yannis enjoys mixing music, kayaking and playing basketball. 

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Youngbin Cho, Postdoctoral Fellow 

Youngbin received his B.S. degree in Mechanical Engineering from Korea University in 2013 where his undergraduate research focused on the development of a force loading device to observe the real-time bone deformation. After graduation, Youngbin moved to Mechanical Engineering in Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST) where he received M.S./Ph.D. degree in the lab of Prof. Jennifer H. Shin. During this period, Youngbin investigated how the mechanical forces regulate the dynamics of 2D/3D collective epithelial cell aggregates using hydrogel system. Youngbin is interested in developing in vitro culture platform to investigate the immune cell recruitment toward breast tumor microenvironment and understanding the interaction between tumor/immune cells. Outside of the lab, he enjoys watching movies, snowboarding, hiking, and traveling.

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Dorota Jazwinska, PhD Candidate 

Dorota received her Bachelor’s degree in Biomedical Engineering from Rutgers University, New Brunswick in 2019.  Her research focused on developing an antibacterial collagen hydrogel for wound healing purposes.  She has also worked at Regeneron Pharmaceuticals Inc. for 3 consecutive summers, in both the Infectious Diseases and Immuno-Oncology groups. Dorota is interested in developing in vitro bioengineered culture platforms to model tumor-immune interactions in ovarian cancer and improve our understanding of therapy resistance. Outside of the lab, Dorota enjoys painting, hiking, and cooking. 

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Matthew Poskus, PhD Candidate

Matthew received his B.S./M.S. degree in Mechanical Engineering from Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) in 2019 where his research focused on the development of a numerical model of blood damage and membrane transport in microfluidic hemodialysis devices. He also worked at Ortho Clinical Diagnostics in Rochester, NY for 2 semesters and was a member of RIT's Formula SAE team for 5 years, serving as the team's Chief Engineer in his last year. Matthew is interested in using systems biology approaches and modeling to study drug resistance. Outside of the lab, he enjoys snowboarding, running, and working on cars.

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Ruxuan (Rosy) Li, PhD Candidate

Rosy received her bachelor’s degree in Biomedical Engineering from Southern University of Science and Technology in 2020. In her senior year, she went to Bone Bioengineering Lab, Columbia University for a one-year research program, where her work focused on the mechanobiology of bone modeling and remodeling. She joined the TME lab in Fall 2020. Rosy is interested in using bioinformatics and 3D tissue culture models to study the dynamics of immune cells in breast tumors. Outside the lab, she enjoys playing piano and singing.

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Angela Wong Lau, PhD Candidate

Angela received her Bachelor’s degree in Biomedical Engineering from Florida International University in 2019. Her research focused on developing a more affordable and smaller gait analysis technology. She has also worked with NOVA Southeastern University to develop equipment that could be used to quantify the effect of visual stimulus on body sway on children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). She then received her Master’s degree in Biomedical Engineering from University of Rochester in 2023. Her research focused on examining engineering nanomaterials and what type of immunomodulatory effects they have on the skin. She joined the lab in Fall 2023. She is interested in studying macrophage migration in ovarian tumor microenvironment using microfluidics systems. Outside the lab, she enjoys playing videogames, cooking and hiking.

 

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Rabab Al deabal, PhD Candidate

Rabab received her bachelor’s degree in medical laboratory technology from King Abdul-Aziz University in 2016. She completed her two masters’ in biomedical science (Molecular Immunology and Cancer Biology) at Long Island University, USA, in 2021 and Bioengineering at King Fahad University, KSA, in 2022. Her research focused on exploring the effects of Gnetin C as a chemotherapeutic agent, alone and in combination with enzalutamide, in inhibiting ARs, particularly AR-V7, neuroendocrine markers, and metastasis-associated 1 (MTA1) signaling, Professor Anait S. Levenson Lab, at Long Island University. She joined the lab in Fall 2023. She is studying ovarian cancer metastasis, focusing on the IGFBP2-Src signaling pathway and mesothelial reprogramming. Using bioengineered microfluidic/three-dimensional models, she aims to develop therapies with broader applications for peritoneal metastasis. Outside the lab, Rabab enjoys doing Yoga, hiking, and traveling.

 

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Mahdi Eskandarisani, PhD Candidate

Mahdi earned his Bachelor's degree in Mechanical Engineering from Babol Noshirvani University of Technology in 2020. His undergraduate research focused on developing a microfluidic device for separating Circulating Tumor Cells from blood. He went on to obtain his Master's degree in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Tehran in Iran in 2023. His master's research concentrated on enhancing single-cell encapsulation efficiency using droplet microfluidics, combining experimental and numerical approaches. Mahdi collaborated with Sharif University of Technology on the development of a device for target cell lysis. Additionally, he worked with the Urology Research Center of Tehran University of Medical Sciences, contributing to the development and fabrication of a microfluidic device for detecting cancer in urine samples from prostate cancer patients. Joining the lab in September 2023, Mahdi's current interests revolve around understanding the mechanisms of macrophage-fibroblast interactions. Outside the lab, he enjoys listening to music, playing volleyball, and climbing.

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Tianyang (Leo) Li, Research Technician

Leo is a professional laboratory technician at Zervalab. He obtained his M.Sc. and B.Sc. in Bioengineering (medical product engineering track) and a minor in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Pittsburgh in 2023. He is interested in studying the various applications of microfluidics devices. Outside of the lab, Leo enjoys playing the flute, bouldering, playing tennis, and watching soccer.

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Nicholas Ferchak, Research Masters Student

 

Nick received his bachelor’s degree in Bioengineering (with a focus in Cellular Engineering) and a minor in Chemistry from the University of Pittsburgh in 2021. His research interests include microfluidics and transport phenomena and their applications to targeted breast cancer treatment. Outside the lab, Nick enjoys rooting on all Pittsburgh sports teams and spending time outdoors.

 

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Sara Keriakes, Undergraduate Student

Sara is a sophomore at the University of Pittsburgh studying Bioengineering, with a certificate in Nanoscience. She hopes to pursue a PhD in Bioengineering. Her research involves optimizing microfluidic models of the peritoneal cells to study interactions of stromal and ovarian cancer cells. Outside of the lab, Sara enjoys reading, sewing, drawing. and playing the piano, flute, and guitar.

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Daniel Ibrahim, Undergraduate Student

Daniel Ibrahim is a junior Cellular Biology student at Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) who aspires to pursue a medical career. He has spent previous summers analyzing MRI data to investigate hippocampal volumes in several NIH-funded studies and assisting with functional MRI experiments. From 1/2022 to 1/22023, he was a full-time specialized patient care technician at Children’s Hospital. Daniel’s current research interest is focused on immunofluorescence techniques, where he stains mesothelial cells for antibodies. Through this work, he seeks to investigate the relationship between tumor cells and cell barriers, all in pursuit of predicting tumor cell interactions in ovarian cancer. Outside the lab, Daniel enjoys playing basketball and soccer (he was an NCAA varsity player at Johns Hopkins University before his transfer to CMU), discovering new music, and spending quality time with friends.

Joseph Long, Undergraduate Student

Joseph is a Junior pursuing an undergraduate degree in Bioengineering. He is  interested in the cellular engineering track and he is hoping to work in oncology and vaccine/drug development upon graduation. He is also interested in studying neurological diseases such as Alzheimer's and dementia. In lab, he is studying the spatial organization of tumors in tissue, optimizing a single-cell analysis pipeline to both quantify and visualize results. Outside of lab and academia,  he is apart of an a capella group called Tonal Disruption, and he love to play racquetball and spikeball with his friends.

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Soham Mandal, Undergraduate Student

Soham Mandal is a junior pursuing an undergraduate degree in Bioengineering at the University of Pittsburgh. He is currently on the cellular engineering track and aspires to pursue a medical career. In lab, he is studying the effects of paracrine and matrix mediated signaling between fibroblasts and breast cancer tumor cells in 2D and 3D microfluidics. Outside of the lab, Soham enjoys lifting, running, and hiking.

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Ben Kaminski, Undergraduate Student

Ben is a Junior at the University of Pittsburgh pursuing an undergraduate degree in Bioengineering. He is interested in the cellular engineering track and a certificate in conceptual foundations of medicine. Upon graduation, Ben hopes to continue to graduate school to obtain a higher degree in Biomedical Engineering. After his schooling, Ben hopes to work clinically in a hospital and continue research for oncology or cardiovascular diseases. In the TME lab, Ben is studying the interactions between CarT cells and tumor cells to understand the effect of certain chemokines on CarT infiltration through the staining and imaging of droplet assays. Outside of the lab, Ben is an active member of Pitt’s Dance Marathon where he holds the chair as the Director of Membership, raising money and awareness for the Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh and Children’s Miracle Network. Ben also enjoys listening to music, going to concerts, and hanging with friends in his free time. 

Linkedin

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Team Alumni

PostDoc Alumni

Don Belcher, Postdoctoral Fellow, Fall 2020-Summer 2021  Linkedin ,  Associate Director, Forge Biologics

Graduate and Research Assistant Alumni

Diana Kulawiec, Master's Student, Fall 2021-Spring 2023 Linkedin , Laboratory Technologist, Predictive Oncology

Alexis Scott, Research Technician, Fall 2019-Summer 2021 Linkedin  , PhD student UPenn Medical School

Undergraduate Alumni

Will Blackledge, Spring 2023-Summer 2023 Linkedin , PhD student UNC/NC State
Teddi BishopFall 2022-Summer 2023 Linkedin
Griffin Hurt,  Spring 2023-Summer 2023 Linkedin, PhD student U Pittsburgh

Tuo Wang, Spring 2020-Fall 2021 Linkedin , PhD student U Texas Austin

Kacy Liang,  Spring 2021-Summer 2022 Linkedin , PhD student U Washington

Yuxuan Deng, Spring 2022 Linkedin , PhD student Cornell University

Sean Wescott, Fall 2022- Fall 2023 Linkedin, Pharmaceutical Controls Engineer, Multi-dimensional Integrations

Sydney Borcherding,  Spring 2021-Spring 2022 Linkedin, R&D Associate at Renerva

Jacob McDonald, Summer 2020-Spring 2022 Linkedin, Research Technician, UPMC

Rosemary Nti-Gyabaah, Fall 2019

Lia Franco , Spring 2020 Linkedin

Ashlinn Sweeney Spring 2020- Fall 2020 Linkedin

Sarai MoratoSummer-Fall 2021 Linkedin

Victoria Lieu, Fall 2021 Linkedin

Oluwadamilola Ayoola, Fall 2019-Spring 2022​ Linkedin

Nicholas Genco, Fall 2019-Spring 2022​ Linkedin

Manoj Kuppusay, Fall 2022 Linkedin

Aidan O'Grady, Fall 2022 Linkedin

Suyash Sinkar,  Fall 2022 Linkedin

High School students Alumni

Milun Jain,  Summer 2021-Spring 2022 Linkedin, Undergraduate student, John Hopkins

Siya Jain, Summer 2022-2023 Linkedin, Undergraduate student, Duke University

Jonathan Williams, Summer 2020 Linkedin, Undergraduate student, Stanford

Tibo Roy,  Summer 2020 Linkedin, Undergraduate student, Duquesne University

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