Pitt | Swanson Engineering
Research Team

Vascular Bioengineering Laboratory Research Team

Lab Photograph
Lab Photograph at the University Club after a lunch outing

Justin Weinbaum

Justin Weinbaum, PhD
Research Assistant Professor
Associate Director of the VBL since 3/2013 ( email )

My independent research interests concern the dynamic composition of the vascular extracellular matrix (ECM), in particular the quantity and quality of elastic fibers that are present. Drawing on this experience, I have teamed up with the Director of the VBL to provide research oversight for the stem-cell derived tissue engineered vascular graft and abdominal aortic aneurysm therapeutics projects. Owing to the VBL’s position within the Department of Bioengineering at the Swanson School of Engineering, I also serve as a secondary, on-site mentor, for the pre-doctoral fellows within the lab (see below). In this role, I teach the trainees about writing manuscripts and grant proposals, following good tissue culture technique,


Melissa Penkrot
Member of the VBL since 2013( email )

Melissa has worked at the University of Pittsburgh since 2001, and in the Swanson School of Engineering since 2013. At SSOE, she serves as Administrative Office Coordinator for Associate Dean for Research, David Vorp. In addition to her role in Dean Vorp’s office, she also provides support for the Vorp Lab in the Center for Bioengineering. Prior to her position in SSOE, Melissa worked for the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine. 

A Pittsburgh native, Melissa loves being a part of the hustle and bustle of the busy campus and enjoys studying the rich history that the University of Pittsburgh provides. Being close to the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh is a special treat too!                                                          


Katherine Lorentz, MS

Graduate Student
Member of the VBL since 9/2015 ( email )

My work focuses on developing a cell free tissue engineered vascular graft (TEVG) which retains the pro-remodeling and anti-thrombogenic properties of stem cell based TEVGs. Current stem cell based TEVGs rely on the host to undergo a remodeling process which is stimulated by the engrafted cells. Despite the positive effects of stem cells in TEVGs, they also represent the greatest roadblock to clinical translation due to the extensive culture time of each graft and the possibility that not all patient demographics possess suitable cells (e.g. diabetics). The goal of my work is to apply the pro-remodeling factors of stem cells to a synthetic TEVG suitable for all patient populations.                                             

Aneesh Ramaswamy

Aneesh Ramaswamy, MS (Co-advised by Justin Weinbaum)
Predoctoral Fellow, Angiopathy Training Program (NIH T32)
Member of the VBL since 7/2014 ( email )

Abdominal aortic aneurysms are characterized by their minimal vascular stability, with regenerative medicine efforts focused primarily on engineering regeneration of the elastic matrix. My primary role in the VBL is to develop novel techniques for monitoring elastin assembly in the context of aneurysm and other elastin-disrupting diseases. These techniques are used to bridge the work of Dr. Justin Weinbaum's Vascular ECM Dynamics Laboratory with the VBL's vascular remodeling research. My ultimate goal is to understand enough about the dynamics of vascular elastin and elastin organizational proteins to develop novel "pro-elastogenesis" therapies.

Eoghan Cunnane

Eoghan Cunnane, PhD  
Marie Curie Post-doctoral Fellow 
Member of the VBL since 7/2016( email )

Eoghan received his PhD from the University of Limerick in 2015 in the field of experimental soft tissue characterisation. Eoghan is also a co-founded of Class Medical Ltd which was spun out of UL to translate a patented device that improves urinary catheter insertion safety.

Eoghan is the recipient of a prestigious Marie Curie Global Fellowship award and is currently undertaking this research fellowship at the VBL. This fellowship explores methods of functionalising tubular degradable scaffolds with stem cell secreted products for the purposes of regenerating segments of damaged vascular or urethral tract.

Timothy Chung

Timothy Chung, PhD
Research Specialist
Member of the VBL since 7/2017 ( email )

Tim received his PhD from the University of Iowa in 2017 in Biomedical Engineering with a focus on cardiovascular biomechanics.  Tim's research areas include computational modeling of cardiovascular diseases as well as the development and implementation of experimental mechanical testing of biological soft tissues.  Since his arrival at the University of Pittsburgh, Tim has been apart of various interdisciplinary and collaborative projects that include full automation of computational simulations of abdominal aortic aneurysms AAA - from image to post-processing, treatment of AAA using a murine model, image segmentation based machine learning, predictive modeling of patient outcomes using machine learning and development of various mechanical tests.  In his free time he enjoys traveling and exploring the city of Pittsburgh.


Current Undergraduate Researchers

Trevor Kickliter

Trevor Kickliter
Undergraduate Researcher, SSOE MEMS
Member of the VBL since 7/2016( email )

My work primarily involves the development of new prognostic tools for vascular diseases, particularly abdominal aortic aneurysms (AAA). Current clinical guidelines for prognosis of these diseases are inadequate, subjecting some patients to unnecessary risks while failing to provide care to others who need it. Using machine learning, as well as the cutting-edge computational modeling techniques developed in the VBL, we may be able to predict the outcome of these diseases with much greater accuracy. I am also developing a method to deliver adipose-derived stem cells (ADMSCs) to large animal aortas, building upon the work of a previous VBL to produce a new therapy for AAA.