2022-2023 TGF Lab picture: From left to right: Sofia Ruiz, Isabella Federico, Lisette Werba, Joshua Graham, Tomas Gonzalez-Fernandez, Owen Fitz and Chiebuka Okpara
Tomas Gonzalez-Fernandez, PhD
Tomas received his PhD in Mechanical and Manufacturing Engineering in 2018 from Trinity College Dublin (Ireland) under the supervision of Prof. Daniel Kelly and Fergal O’Brien. His PhD work focused on the combination of non-viral gene therapy and 3D bioprinting for the spatial control of mesenchymal stromal cell (MSC) differentiation and the recapitulation of the biochemical gradients found in native tissues. After completing his PhD, Tomas joined the Leach lab at University of California Davis to explore biomaterial functionalization with different components of the extracellular matrix to direct MSC function and promote the repair of critically sized bone defects. During his postdoc, Tomas was awarded with the American Heart Association Postdoctoral Fellowship to investigate the relationship between innervation and vascularization for the repair of diabetic wounds, and he was selected as a Rising Star in Engineering and Health by the University of Columbia.
Hobbies: Hiking & biking, traveling, wine tasting, the Lord of the Rings
Joshua Graham, B.S.
Josh completed his undergraduate studies at Villanova University, earning a B.S. Chemical Engineering with minors in Biochemical Engineering and Finance. His undergraduate research was centered on the Gut Microbiome and foodborne pathogens. This included identifying inhibitors for Listeria Monocytogenes – a notorious species in the food processing industry. Josh hopes to use his experience to enhance antimicrobial properties of 3D bioprinted scaffolds for bone repair. He also plans to explore opportunities to use CRISPR-Cas9 mechanisms to optimize cell differentiation towards osteocytes within these scaffolds.
Hobbies: Cooking, Hiking, Traveling, and Skiing
Lisette Werba, B.S.
Funding: Lehigh University Presidents Fellowship
Lisette grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area, California. She finished her undergraduate degree at the University of California, Davis in 2021 in Biomedical Engineering with a specialization in cellular and tissue engineering. Her general research interests and experience revolve around tissue engineering, molecular and cell biology, and immunology. She previously worked in Dr. Scott Simon’s inflammation biomechanics lab at UC Davis studying the biomechanics of neutrophil recruitment. She is currently attending Lehigh University for her Ph.D. in Bioengineering after joining in 2022. Lisette is currently working in the TGF lab which focuses on using 3D printable bio-instructive materials to address musculoskeletal disease. Her research will address using genetic editing in combination with tissue engineering techniques to control musculoskeletal tissue regeneration.
Hobbies: hiking, biking, paddleboarding, and baking
Peter Jensen, B.S.
Peter was born and raised in Severna Park, Maryland. He completed his undergraduate studies at Lehigh University with a B.S. in Bioengineering. Peter specialized in biomechanics and biomaterials, with research in surgical devices and osteoblast cellular mechanics. Currently he is earning his M.S. in Bioengineering and shifted his focus to tissue engineering. In Dr. Gonzalez-Fernandez’s lab, Peter hopes to optimize the use of 3D bioprinting with current bioinks and develop novel bioinks. He plans to 3D print viable engineered stem cells for musculoskeletal regeneration applications.
Hobbies: Running, Working Out, Reading, Spending Time with Friends
Trevor Busch, Biomechanical IDEAS major
Funding: IDEAS Program Research Grant
Trevor is a first-year biomechanical IDEAS major here at Lehigh. He grew up in the Bay Area near San Francisco, California. He enjoys spending time outside, and eventually that led to his interest in biology, then through classes in high school he developed a passion for chemistry. He has always wanted to do research, and the TGF lab offered a perfect opportunity for that. He aims to learn about 3D bioprinting and bioink gels such as GelMA.
Hobbies: In his free time, he enjoys playing lacrosse, reading and watching movies.
Jose-Gabriel Castro, Bioengineering Major
Jose-Gabriel is a current freshman bioengineering student hoping to get a great foundation within the research field. In high school and middle school, he was a part of the Applied Math and Science Academy, where his interest in the STEM field grew as he took classes within the school and the local community college. In his final year of high school, he was able to develop a research project, developing a circuit model to display how biopolymers may assist in keeping a neuron’s electrical system constant. As he starts in the TGF lab, he hopes to get a better grasp on the inner workings of gene editing methods. His research interests include exploring biomaterial environment induced cell signaling in CRISPR-Cas9 edited neurons for degenerative disorders. Along with the lab, he is a subcommittee leader for the Biomedical Engineering Society, active in the campus’ Reformed University Fellowship, and volunteers through several opportunities around Lehigh.
Hobbies: MMA, volunteering, working out, spending time with friends
Allison Bechard, Bioengineering Major
Allison is a current first-year biomedical engineering student on the biomaterials and biomechanics track, hoping to pursue a minor in environmental earth and sciences. In high school, she uncovered her passion for biomedical engineering, environmental sustainability, and research through various STEM classes, including the STEM Fellowship Independent Research Project. It was through this program that she gained technical laboratory skills, pursuing experimentation on the effects of natural diet change on an Alzheimer’s model of Drosophila Melanogaster. She hopes to apply these skills, working alongside Ph.D. student Lisette Werba to further her knowledge of CRISPR-Cas9 mechanics and its implications for controlling musculoskeletal tissue regeneration. Ultimately through research in the TGF lab, she wants to have the potential to apply her findings to real-world problems for the benefit of the greater community. Outside the lab, Allison is a subcommittee leader in the Biomedical Engineering Society, a member of the LU Dancin club, and part of the Society of Women Engineers.
Owen Fitz, Bioengineering Major
Owen is currently a junior bioengineering student in the mechanics and materials track who is passionate about science and new technologies. Unsure of what career path he’d like to pursue, he joined Prof. Tomas Gonzalez-Fernandez’ lab to gain some technical bioengineering experience and to see whether research is a good fit for his future. His research focuses on 3D bioprinting, where he is researching the synthesis of bioink gels like GelMA, that act as a biocompatible scaffold for cells to differentiate, proliferate and migrate through the material to make 3D printable human tissue mimicking constructs. He is currently the House Manager and Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion chair for his fraternity.
Hobbies: Fitness, travelling, pickleball, quality time with friends and family.
Krishna Jayaram, Bioengineering Major
Funding: Clare Boothe Luce Fellowship
Krishna is a second year bioengineering student in the biomechanics and biomaterials track also pursuing a minor in psychology. She developed a passion for biomedical sciences in eighth grade after studying genetics in a biology class. This interest further grew in high school after she participated in a microbiology lab internship through the University of Connecticut. She hopes to continue to work alongside phD student Chieubuka Okpara to create an osteoarthritic model and develop an in vitro solution to the disease. Krishna has been a Clare Boothe Luce research fellow since the summer of 2023 and it is through this program that she joined the TGF lab. This award is given by the Rossin College of Engineering to support women in STEM. This prestigious scholarship is awarded to undergraduate students who have shown excellence and motivation in academics and a willingness to learn. By working in the TGF lab, Krishna hopes to further her knowledge in tissue engineering and regenerative medicine. She also hopes to use her learning to pursue a career in prosthetics.
Hobbies: Outside of the lab, Krishna is the secretary of Leela Indian Fusion dance team and is a Gryphon.