Hannah Strobel, PhD Student
Hometown: Charlestown, RI
Previous degrees/school where the degree was earned: BS, Biomedical Engineering, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
Why did you choose WPI for your PhD?
I chose WPI primarily because of its collaborative environment and innovative research projects. I am very interested in tissue engineering, and WPI has a number of professors doing work in that area. The education and research experience I will gain here will give me an edge when I enter the job market later on. My training as an IGERT fellow is also a unique experience that I could not have found anywhere else in the area.
What area(s) of research are you currently exploring?
I am a second year Ph.D. student working in Dr. Rolle's lab. Our lab uses smooth muscle cells to form vascular tissue rings, which can be stacked on tubing where they fuse to form small diameter tissue engineered blood vessels. For my current project, I am incorporating gelatin microparticles loaded with transforming growth factor beta (TGF-beta) into the rings. Due to the thickness of the rings, signaling molecules such as TGF-beta cannot diffuse to the center of the tissue. TGF-beta has been shown to increase the expression of the contractile proteins smooth muscle alpha actin and calponin, which are indicators of healthy contractile smooth muscle cells; it has also been shown to increase matrix production. The gelatin microparticles, when incorporated into the rings, can release TGF-beta directly to the center of the tissue as the particles degrade.