Postdoctoral Fellow, Harvard / MIT
McDevitt Lab Graduate Student 2009-2014
Project Title:
"Directing embryonic stem cell differentiation and morphogenesis via biophysical cues in the three-dimensional microenvironment"

Biography

Melissa graduated from Boston University in 2008 with a Bachelor of Science degree in Biomedical Engineering.  Her senior design project at BU was conducted in conjunction with Aspect Medical Systems, where she investigated skin biomechanics and methods for reducing skin impedance in electrophysiological monitoring.  In September 2008, Melissa joined the Engineering Stem Cell Technologies Lab under the direction of Dr. Todd McDevitt at Georgia Institute of Technology, where she is working on fluidic delivery of morphogens to embryoid bodies for directing stem cell differentiation.

Education

Bachelor of Science, Biomedical Engineering
Boston University
2008

Research Interests

For the therapeutic promise of embryonic stem cells (ESCs) to be fully realized, scalable approaches to efficiently direct differentiation must be developed.  Directed differentiation methods often rely on the addition of morphogens to monolayer cultures of ESCs, which permits homogeneous delivery; however, this culture format is not easily amenable to the production of increased yields of differentiated cells necessary for therapeutic applications.  Although suspension culture of ESCs as 3D multicellular aggregates is scalable, morphogen delivery is often constrained to the exterior cells due to diffusive transport limitations.  The proposed work aims to develop an enabling technology which will allow more precise control of parameters affecting ESC differentiation, such as temporal kinetics and spatial localization of morphogen delivery.  Ultimately, understanding the impact of environmental perturbations, such as fluid dynamic parameters, on stem cell expansion and differentiation motivates the rational design of bioreactors and bioprocessing systems for tissue engineering applications.  The outcomes of this work are expected to yield insights regarding the transport requirements and limitations in 3D tissues, which will create new opportunities for the scalable culture of multicellular assemblies and large tissue constructs for applications in tissue engineering and regenerative medicine.

Awards

Petit Institute F.L. Bud Suddath Award 1st place - 2013

American Heart Association Predoctoral Fellowship - 2012-present

SBE Stem Cell Engineering Top Poster Award - 2012

Society for Biological Engineering Conference Travel Grant - 2010, 2012

Hilton Head Conference for Regenerative Medicine Travel Award - 2010, 2012, 2013

NSF Graduate Research Fellowship - 2009-2012

Society of Women Engineers (SWE) Scholarship - 2004

Boston University Engineering Scholar Award - 2004-2008