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

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, and manufacturing fibrin gel constructs.

Jaime Turek, MS
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Member of the VBL since 2019

Jaime has worked at the University of Pittsburgh in the Swanson School of Engineering since 2019. At SSOE, she serves as the Administrative Office Coordinator for the Associate Dean for Research, Dr. David A Vorp. In addition to this role, she also provides support for the Vorp Lab Group and the Sponsored Projects Office. Prior to working at the University of Pittsburgh, Jaime spent over a decade working in the nonprofit field, first in anti-human trafficking and then with refugees and immigrants. She has a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science and a Master’s Degree in International Development, both from the University of Pittsburgh. A native to the Pittsburgh area, Jaime enjoys running and fitness, reading, football, and spending time with family, friends, and her cats.

Timothy Chung, PhD
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Member of the VBL since 7/2017, Research Assistant Professor

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.

Cyrus Darvish, BS
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Member of the VBL since 10/2021, Research Specialist

Cyrus is originally from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He received a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from Pennsylvania State University. His experience is focused on mechanical testing and design. He is pursuing his interest in biomechanics research and medical device design working in the Vascular Biomechanics Lab.

Pete Gueldner, BS
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Member of the VBL since 8/2020, National Science Foundation (NSF) Graduate Research Fellow

Pete is a native of San Antonio, Texas, as an undergraduate he received his degree from The University of Texas at San Antonio in Biomedical Engineering. As a graduate student, he is studying Bioengineering with a concentration in biomechanics. His research interests are primarily related to vascular biomechanics, investigating abdominal aortic aneurysms. He is currently developing a novel bubble inflation testing apparatus to mechanically characterize diseased aneurysmal tissue. More rigorous experimental testing tools can greatly improve computational models by more properly analyzing material properties and failure properties. In addition to his work in experimental mechanics, he is also interested in how artificial intelligence tools can aid with computational methods, and clinical diagnosis/prognosis of aneurysms.

Ande Marini, BS
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Member of the VBL since 8/2019, Cardiovascular Bioengineering Training Fellow (CBTP) - Graduate Research Fellow

Originally from New Alexandria, PA, Ande received her undergraduate degree in Engineering Science with a second major in Biology from Saint Vincent College. She is working toward her PhD in bioengineering on the tissue engineering and regenerative medicine track. Her PhD project focuses on the controlled delivery of MSC-derived extracellular vesicles (MSC-EVs) as a regenerative treatment for aortic aneurysms, specifically abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA). She is interested in the degradative mechanisms of AAA, mitigation of these degradative enzymes with MSC-EVs, investigation of extracellular matrix production following EV treatment in AAA, and restoration of vascular wall integrity. In addition to extracellular vesicle work, she is also interested in drug delivery of regenerative factors to treat other cardiovascular diseases.

Brittany Rodriguez, BS
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Member of the VBL since 8/2020, STRIVE Graduate Research Fellow

My project focuses on analyzing the response of our tissue engineered vascular graft (TEVG) across an aged life span where thrombosis is expected to be an added concern. We are monitoring hemostatic factors while the TEVG scaffold remodels in vivo. The ultimate goal of my work is to ensure that the TEVG will be appropriate across the life span.

Kamali Charles, BS & DPT
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Member of the VBL since 8/2021, Cardiovascular Bioengineering Training Fellow (CBTP) Graduate Research Fellow

Kamali graduated from Virginia Commonwealth University’s Doctor of Physical Therapy program in May 2021, aiming to specialize in wound care management. Clinically, Kamali has taken key interest in diabetic and military patient populations who are at higher risk for tissue damage. He is currently interested in the application of tissue engineered vascular grafts as interventions for both acute and chronic arterial wounds. Additionally, he is investigating the capabilities of using cellular microparticles and extracellular vesicles to stimulate unhealing wound beds and aid in re-establishing cellular growth via the extracellular matrix.

Amanda Pellegrino, BS BSN & RN
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Member of VBL since 08/2021, Graduate Research Student

Amanda is from Yardley, Pennsylvania. As an undergraduate, she received degrees in biomedical engineering and nursing at Duquesne University. She currently has her nursing license and works in the Artificial Heart Program at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. She is pursuing a PhD in bioengineering with a concentration in tissue engineering and regenerative medicine in the Vascular Bioengineering Laboratory. She is interested in understanding the acute remodeling and healing (e.g., thrombosis and endothelialization) in small-diameter tissue engineered vascular grafts (TEVGs).

Isabelle Chickanosky, BS
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Member of the VBL since 08/2021, Graduate Research Student

Isabelle is a graduate student researcher in the Vorp Lab, originating from St. Louis, MO. She earned her undergraduate degree in Materials Science and Engineering with an additional major in Biomedical Engineering from Carnegie Mellon University. During her graduate studies toward a PhD in bioengineering she will focus on Tissue Engineering and Regenerative Medicine. Her primary interests are vascular grafts, chronic inflammatory diseases (such as atherosclerosis), and the study of disease patterns using machine learning. With respect to vascular grafts, Isabelle currently works on fabrication and characterization of polymeric tissue engineered vascular grafts (TEVGs). She is especially interested in the loading of regenerative factors into the scaffolds to promote the integration of the graft into the body. With respect to atherosclerosis, Isabelle hopes to use machine learning for disease classification. In her free time, Isabelle enjoys running, hiking, and spending time with friends at local Pittsburgh treasures.