Graduate Students

Jill Ivey, SBES PhD Student -
My research is focused on targeting specific biological properties of cancer cells that are resistant to current therapies in order to develop more effective cancer treatment. I am studying the use of electric fields to target specific microenvironments, cell morphologies and cell types with the goal of developing an electric therapy for targeting invasive glioma cells as well as glioma stem cells. I am also studying the evolutionary stresses that make glioma stem cells more therapy-resistant. I earned my bachelors degree in Chemical Engineering from the University of Arkansas where I performed research on biofuel production as well as directed evolution of bacteria metabolism.

Megan Cox, SBES PhD Student -
My current research is focused on studying microenvironmental factors that affect brain tumor progression. My work involves developing a microfluidic platform to mimic the heterogeneous nature of the brain tumor microenvironment and determining how the variations in extracellular matrix and cellular composition affect tumor development. I earned my B.S. in Chemical Engineering from Virginia Tech where I performed undergraduate research focused on incorporating growth factors into alginate electrospun scaffolds for bone tissue regeneration applications.

Brittany Balhouse, SBES PhD Student -
In my research, I am developing a novel microfluidic network in order to investigate organ-specific metastasis. In particular, I am interested in elucidating microenvironmental factors and epigenetic mechanisms related to breast-to-brain metastasis. I earned my B.S. in Biomedical Engineering at North Carolina State University. As an undergraduate student, I did research examining the structure, composition, and mechanical properties of porcine heart valve tissues and the effect of aging on endothelial cell senescence.

Ishan Goswami, ME PhD Student -
The intersection of molecular cell biology and electromagnetism offers an exciting avenue for physicists and engineers. In the LITE lab, my research involves understanding how electric fields can influence cells with implication in immune cell signaling. Under the tutelage of Drs. Verbridge and von Spakovsky (ME), my goal is to have a synergistic integration of experiments and non-equilibrium mathematical modeling in improving the design of electric field used for cancer ablation such that it promotes anti-tumor properties in tumor microenvironment outside the lethal ablation zone (i.e. the cells that escape treatment). My passion is to work on engineering problems that can address challenges faced in human health and energy. Prior to joing Virginia Tech, I completed my masters and bachelors degrees in mechanical engineering from University of Cincinnati and Vellore Institute of Technology respectively. I briefly worked for a year in the Indian Institute of Technology Kanpur as a research assistant between my bachelors and masters degree.

Undergraduate Students

Danielle Jones, BSE major, BME minor -
I am currently assisting in a project involving studying the microenvironment of the brain tumor as well as tumor vasculature. I am in my senior year as an undergraduate, majoring in Biological Systems Engineering and minoring in Biomedical Engineering

Andrea Kuliasha, BSE major, BME minor -
My project focuses on developing an in vitro brain tissue mimic that can be used to understand how the brain tissue will respond to various treatments or environmental factors, especially in the presence of cancer. This tissue mimic consists of a 3D cell culture platform using various types of brain cells such as endothelial cells and astrocytes. This platform is especially useful for developing a greater understanding of the dynamics of the blood-brain barrier in the presence of cancer. I hope to further develop this tissue mimic by introducing cancer cells so that it can serve as a valuable resource in gathering more information on the mechanisms of certain primary brain tumors.

Robert Accolla, BSE major, BME minor

Sara Peterson, BSE major, BME minor

Evan Massaro, ME and Mathematics major

Parker Benzie, ME major, BME minor

Hani Mustafa, BSE and Nanoscience major, BME minor

Lab alumni

- Dr. Akanksha Kanitkar (now a biochemist at Merck)
- Emily Williams (REU student, 2016)
- Ryan Watral
- Megan Richards (REU student, 2015)
- Eileen Cheng
- Casey Patnode (REU student, 2014)
- Logan Patterson (now a PhD student at the University of Virginia)
- Sebastian Shaner (now a Masters student at San Diego State University)
- Meryl Suresh
- Kara Ford
- Tyler Davidson
- Jay Chaniyara
- Courtney Robertson

Lab Mascot

Kid Genius -
I am Dr. Verbridge’s nephew, currently pursuing independent studies in Rochester, NY. My interests include low dimensional condensed matter physics, string theory, and biological chaos. I also love trains, Toy Story, and sprinting in circles, so I may go into mechanical or civil engineering, space sciences, animation, or perhaps track and field. I’m looking forward to becoming a member of the Virginia Tech graduating class of 2034!