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.

Emily H. VonderPorten, MPH

Administrative Office Coordinator 
Office of David A.Vorp, Ph.D.

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 6/2019, National Institutes of Health (NHLBI) F31 Predoctoral 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, National Science Foundation (NSF) 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
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
Amanda Pellegrino
Member of VBL since 08/2021, National Science Foundation (NSF) Graduate Research Fellow

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
Member of the VBL since 08/2021, CATER T-32 Graduate Research Fellow

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 is focusing on machine learning and microfluidic approaches to studying endometriosis. She has taken her interest in clinical translational research and applied it to EndoDx, a non-invasive machine learning diagnosis tool for endometriosis. She enjoys researching the endometriosis tissue response to different microenvironments in a microfluidic model, and how that can influence the angiogenesis and growth of the disease. In her free time, Isabelle enjoys running, hiking, and spending time with friends at local Pittsburgh treasures.

Kat Kerr, BSBME
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Member of the VBL since 08/2023, National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellow

Kat hails from the Pittsburgh area. She first worked in the VBL in 2017 as a high school student as part of the UPMC Hillman Cancer Center Academy summer program. She went on to complete her undergraduate work at Purdue University, where she received a degree in Biomedical Engineering. Before beginning her graduate work in the VBL, Kat was a Fulbright Student research grantee to Germany. Kat is pursuing a PhD with a focus in vascular biomechanics, with a specific interest in sex-based differences.