Research Team
Justin Weinbaum, PhD
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
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
Member of the VBL since 7/2017, Post-Doctoral Associate

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.

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

Regenerative factors contained within MSC-derived extracellular vesicles (MSC-EVs) may provide avenues for cell-based yet cell-free treatments of cardiovascular disease. My research focuses on generating a delivery system containing these regenerative MSC-EVs for the treatment of aortic aneurysms, specifically abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA). The delivery of regenerative factors may provide an efficacious treatment for this elastin-disrupting disease. My ultimate goal is to gain a better understanding of the degradative mechanisms of AAA and investigate how to mitigate the effects of degradative enzymes with MSC-EVs.

Brittany Rodriguez, BS
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.