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Elizabeth (Elzani) van Zyl ’17 (BS), ’19 (MS)

PhD, Biomedical Engineering

Elzani first came to WPI for a bachelor’s degree and eventually joined the BS/MS program before applying for the PhD program to continue her studies in biomedical engineering. Driven by the high burn injury rate in her home country of South Africa, Elzani’s thesis allows her to advance her research on kombucha-cellulose wound dressings.

With a combined approach of hands-on lab work and the deep dive into data analysis of her findings, Elzani’s work blends science and technology for innovative answers. And her research on kombucha cultures stems from a surprisingly ordinary origin—the kombucha Elzani’s advisor Professor Jeannine Coburn makes at home in her kitchen. That kind of inventive thinking aligns with how Elzani sees her peers balance so many interests and activities. “WPI graduates are used to working in fast paced environment,” she says, “and have well-developed multi-tasking abilities.”

"WPI's graduate program offers a more intimate setting for students and faculty to work together to develop really impactful projects." —Elzani van Zyl

The BS/MS program accelerated Elzani’s earlier degrees; it also gave her credits to begin her PhD. She’s found that WPI’s small size has let her work closely with faculty and peer researchers which leads to rapid outcomes. With many students from different backgrounds and home countries, Elzani says WPI’s people and community have made her years here especially rewarding. “As an international student, WPI’s large international population made it easy to find people with similar backgrounds,” she says. “The international house helps to develop a sense of community and support among the international students on campus.”

In between academic work and teaching assistant duties, Elzani fits in some rock climbing to relax. After graduation, she plans to work for a medical device company that works with tissue-engineered scaffold and biomaterials.

Elzani van Zyl

Centurion, South Africa

Faculty Mentor

Jeannine Coburn, Department of Biomedical Engineering, Assistant Professor


research abstract was chosen for a talk presentation at the annual Biomedical Engineering Society Conference


Obstacle course races, rock climbing