Principal Investigator

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Chase Dan
Dinner girls
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Going away
UVa Football
Lab dinner cville
Sadie Jenny talk
Jess Ali award
TECHgirls
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BME Tug of War 2015
Harry potter
Dan defense
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BMES 2017
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Lab Ali Chase
Rita Schaffer
BMES 2015
BME Graduation 2016
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Tug of War 2015
BMES 2015

Jenny completed her Ph.D. at Georgia Tech in Bioengineering followed by postdoctoral research at l'Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne in Switzerland. She's a Fulbright and Whitaker Alumna and started at the University of Virginia in 2014, moving to Virginia Tech in 2017. She was promoted to Associate Professor with tenure in 2020. Though she loves science and engineering, she also loves dancing with her daughters, Sadie, and June, travel, photography, and cooking.

Research Faculty and Staff

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Sharon Michelhaugh, PhD

Research Scientist
Contact
Joined: November 2021

 

Sharon K. Michelhaugh hails from the Midwest with a BS in Life Science and Chemistry from Otterbein College, Westerville, OH, and her PhD from the Department of Pharmacology at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI, in the laboratory of Margaret E. Gnegy. Her thesis work focused on changes of gene expression in dopaminergic circuits induced by psychostimulants in rats. This work was extended to humans in a postdoctoral fellowship followed by a permanent research position in the laboratory of Michael J. Bannon at Wayne State University, Detroit, MI by studying changes in the expression and activity of dopaminergic transcription factors in in vitro culture models and in cocaine overdose victims.  Sharon then switched fields to neuro-oncology as the Research Scientist of the Translational Neuro-Oncology Research Lab at Wayne State University, Detroit, MI, under the direction of Neurosurgeon Sandeep Mittal, MD where they developed cell culture and patient-derived xenograft models of primary and metastatic brain tumors. Sharon will use this expertise to contribute to the Munson Lab studies of glioblastoma and Alzheimer's Disease.  

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Jessica Cunningham, PhD

Research Scientist
Contact
@CunninghamJessJ

Joined: January 2022

Jessica Cunningham was born in Michigan and traveled as far south as she could get to obtain a BS (applied mathematics / astrophysics) and MS (computer science) from the Florida Institute of Technology, Melbourne, FL. Her PhD in Mathematical Oncology from Maastricht University, Netherlands, and her time at the Integrated Mathematical Oncology department at the Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa, FL focused on using mathematics as a bridge to study metastatic disease at the intersection of clinical oncology and evolutionary ecology. She is particularly interested in revolutionizing how we administer currently available drugs to delay or completely prevent evolution of resistance to available therapies, drastically reducing drug usage and lengthening the overall survival of patients with metastatic disease. In the Munson Lab she will be working across projects to develop new mathematical models and tools for the analysis and integration of therapeutic responses and interstitial fluid flow. Outside of the lab, she can be found playing with her daughters Penelope and Charlotte, sticking to her astronomy roots by using her 12-inch telescope, and Olympic weightlifting.

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Yanping Liang

Research Associate
Contact
Joined: November 2021

 

Yanping Liang was born and raised in China.  She obtained her AS in Computer Science from the Shanghai Jiao Tong University in China and received her BS in Biotechnology from Worcester State University in United States. After becoming a research assistant in Dr. Deborah Kelly’s lab at the Fralin Biomedical Research Institute (the former Virginia Tech Carilion Research Institute) in Virginia, she studied a highly mutated tumor suppressor protein called BRCA1 using cryo-
Electron Microscopy.  Later, she joined Dr. Michael Fox’s lab at Fralin Biomedical Research Institute as a research coordinator, where she developed immunopanning method to purify and culture visual neurons in vitro to investigate these neurons at cellular and molecular levels.  In the Munson Lab, her major responsibility will be to maintain lab stocks of cancer cell lines. In addition, she is going to carry out diverse molecular and biological experiments across different projects. Outside of the lab, she enjoys spending her time with her family for a variety of outdoor/indoor activities such as hiking, gardening, and cooking.

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Peng Jin, PhD

Senior Research Associate
Contact
CV
Joined: February 2021
Google Scholar

Peng Jin was born and grew up in China. He received his Ph.D degree in Biomedical Science from Seoul National University, South Korea in 2018. During his Ph.D, he developed expertise studying how astrocyte-derived CCL20 reinforces hypoxic responses in glioblastoma. Then he started his postdoctoral research at UCSF in Dr.Rohit Bose Lab, studied hypermutated-prostate cancer evolution via organoids, cell lines and mouse models. From Feb.25, 2021, he joined Munson Lab and started his new scientific journey. Outside of science, Peng enjoys spending time with his son and family, also loves to snowboard and play soccer.

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Monét Roberts, PhD

Research Associate
Contact
CV
Joined: July 2019
Twitter: @PhunsizeDPhD
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Monét Roberts is from Newnan, Georgia and received her B.S. in Biomedical Engineering from Georgia Institute of Technology in 2014 where her interest in pursuing a Ph.D. stemmed from working as an undergraduate researcher in Dr. Manu Platt’s lab studying HIV-mediated CVD.  Monét received her Ph.D. from the Nancy E. & Peter C. Meinig School of Biomedical Engineering at Cornell University, with Dr. Matthew Paszek’s lab on the role of the cancer glycocalyx in microvesicle shedding in the Robert Frederick Smith School of Chemical & Biomolecular Engineering.  During her Ph.D., she received the Ford Foundation Pre-doctoral Fellowship as well as the NSF GRFP. As a postdoctoral research associate, Monét is exploring the role of lymphatics in glioblastoma and other pathologies. Outside of lab, Monét enjoys video chatting with her younger sister (who is 16 years younger than her),  playing with her Yorkie, BJ, playing video games, hanging out with friends, and all things fashion and natural hair. 

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Gabriela Mendes, PhD

Research Associate

Contact

Joined: July 2021

Twitter: @gabigmends

she/her/hers

Gabriela was born and raised in Brazil and received her BS in Biomedical Sciences (2013) and MS in Cell Biology (2015) from Federal University of Uberlandia. She then received a scholarship from the Brazilian National Council for Scientific and Technological Development (CNPq) in 2015 and moved to the US to pursue her PhD. She attended the Genetics Program at Texas A&M University where her research focused on protein-based materials and neovascularization. She joined the Munson lab as a postdoctoral researcher  in July 2021 to work with CAR T-cell immunotherapy for glioblastoma. Outside the lab, Gabriela enjoys spending time with her husband, watching movies, traveling, doing embroidery, and video chatting with her family— especially with her niece and nephew.

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Caleb Stine

Postdoctoral Research Associate 
Contact

Joined: August 2017
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Caleb was born and raised in Ohio and attended Ohio University where he received a BS in Mechanical Engineering. Following school, he worked as an engineer in the automotive and construction fields, but his desire to improve lives brought him to the biomedical field. He is excited to bring his background and experiences to the Munson lab to study the cancer cell microenvironment. In his free time, Caleb enjoys being outside, spending time with his wife, daughter, and two cats, woodworking, and playing basketball.

Graduate and Medical Students

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Kinsley Tate, M.S.

Graduate Research Assistant
Contact
Joined: August 2018
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Kinsley was born and raised in Wilmington, NC. She attended East Carolina University, where she completed her BS in Engineering and her MS in Biomedical Engineering. Kinsley is now pursuing her Ph.D. in Biomedical Engineering at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, where she is studying the glioblastoma tumor microenvironment. Apart from lab, Kinsley enjoys spending time with her husband, hiking, painting and playing with her two dogs.

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Naciye Atay

Graduate Research Assistant
Contact
Joined: August 2018

A Turkish-American who lived most of her life in North Carolina, Naciye is a proud Tar Heel who earned a BS in Biomedical and Health Sciences Engineering from the Joint Department of BME at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and North Carolina State University. Afterwards she ventured to Blacksburg to pursue her PhD in the Munson Lab. Her research focuses on understanding the role of CXCL12 and CXCR4 in flow-mediated glioma invasion. Outside of the lab she is a complete adrenaline junkie, although she also enjoys more normal activities such as photography and watching Turkish soap operas.

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Savieay Esparza

Graduate Research Assistant
Contact
Joined: August 2018

New Mexican from birth, Savieay attended New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology, where he earned a BS in Biomedical Sciences with a concentration in Biochemical Engineering in 2018. 

He has joined the Munson and Verbridge labs to study lymphatic and endothelial interaction in a 3D model. When not in the lab, Savieay loves to  spend time wife his wife, cook "Xmas" style  with (Hatch Red and Green Chile), play soccer, racquetball, board/video games, and hike.

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Jennifer Hammel

Graduate Research Assistant
Contact
Joined: Fall 2020
@JennHammel11
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Jenn received her BS in Bioengineering from Temple University in Philadelphia, PA. As an undergraduate, she was an NIH MARC scholar and studied the cross-talk between adipocytes and endothelial cells in an engineered adipose tissue model in the BellasFATLab. Her research interests include tissue engineeeing, in vitro disease models, and cell-cell communication. She will now move to Roanoke, VA to pursue her PhD in Biomedical Engineering in the Munson Lab as a VT ICTAS Doctoral Scholar. Outside of the lab, Jenn enjoys hiking, reading true crime and mystery novels, and playing with her two cats. 

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Cora Carman Esparza

Graduate Research Assistant
Contact
Joined: January 2019
Twitter: @cora_esparza
she/her

Cora received her bachelor’s degree in Chemical Engineering at New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology in May of 2018. Since then, she has married and moved from her hometown of Rio Rancho, NM to Blacksburg, VA to pursue her PhD in Biomedical Engineering. During her time in the Munson lab, she will study vasculature in in vivo and in vitro models. Outside of research, Cora and her husband have a vast list of entertainment activities, some of which include: board games, water sports, racquetball, gardening, and cooking. Cora is an NSFGRFP Awardee! Cora will also be traveling to Spain in 2022 to conduct research sponsored by the IIE-GIRE program (Read about this award and her work here). 

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Yamilet Macias-Orihuela

Graduate Research Assistant
Contact
Joined: Fall 2020
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Yamilet is a graduate of the Biological Systems Engineering program at Virginia Tech. She will be pursuing a master's of science in the OEL focusing on cancer tissue engineering with new biomaterials. 

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Aileen Suarez

Graduate Research Assistant
Contact
Joined: Fall 2020
Website: https://linktr.ee/Romeacs
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Aileen is from Miami, Florida, and graduated from the Georgia Institute of Technology with a B.S. in Biomedical Engineering in 2019. They are excited to join the Munson and STRETCH lab to study lymphatic interactions in female reproductive tissue. Outside of science they enjoy spending time with family, dancing, critiquing movies, and going to art museums.

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Samantha Howerton

Graduate Research Assistant
Contact
Joined:  June 2021
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Samantha is a West Virginia native that has been asking questions about disease physiology since high-school A&P. She began studying cancer biology as an undergraduate at Concord University and has joined the Munson lab to characterize the glioblastoma microenvironment for treatment development. Samantha is pursuing her Ph.D. in Translational Biology, Medicine, and Health from Virginia Tech. Outside of the lab, Samantha greatly enjoys creative activities like colored pencil drawing and 3D modeling, but most of all adventuring with her husband and reading Tolkien together.

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Rhea John

Graduate Research Assistant
Contact
Joined: January 2022
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Rhea was born in and raised in Pune, India. She completed her Bachelors in Electronics and Telecommunications Engineering from University of Pune in 2019. However, she wanted to make a difference in healthcare and give back to society. Keeping that in mind, she moved to the United States for her MS in Biomedical Engineering at State University of New York, Binghamton. She joined the Munson lab at Virginia Tech for her PhD in Biomedical Engineering in January 2022 with a research focus on the Fluid flow in Alzheimer's Disease. In her free time she loves to dance, try cooking different culinary fusions and playing with her dog!

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Joseph Owens

Graduate Research Assistant
Contact
Joined: 2022


 

Joseph was born in England and grew up in southern New Hampshire. He received a bachelor's degree in biology at Keene State College along with minors in chemistry and computer science. During undergrad Joseph worked in a lab for three years studying the interactions between arsenic and nutrition. He moved to Roanoke in 2020 to pursue a PhD in Translational Biology Medicine and Health and Joined the Munson Lab in 2022 where he will do research that will prepare him to work in regenerative medicine. Outside of the lab Joseph enjoys drawing and painting, traveling, and outdoor activities such as hiking and kayaking.

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Sarah Kremer

Medical Student Research Assistant
Contact

Joined: November 2021
she/her

Sarah was born and raised in Southern California. She attended UCLA where she received her BS in Microbiology, Immunology, and Molecular Genetics in 2020. While at UCLA, Sarah worked in the Ribas lab where she studied melanoma and sarcoma and their response to various types of immunotherapy. Sarah is now pursuing her MD degree at Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine. She is excited to join the Munson Lab in early 2022. Outside of school and the lab, Sarah likes to read, hike, practice yoga, and spend time with friends and family.

Undergraduate Students

Shivanie Kodikalla

Undergraduate Research Assistant

Major: Biomedical Engineering

Class of 2023

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Ghaidaa Al Khafaji

Undergraduate Research Assistant

Major: Biomedical Engineering

Class of 2022

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Danny Mcwilliams

Undergraduate Research Assistant

Major: Material Science and Engineering

Class of 2023

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Samantha Haynes

Undergraduate Research Assistant

Major: Biomedical Engineering

Class of 2023

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Kate Herrema

Undergraduate Research Assistant

Major: Biomedical Engineering

Class of 2022