Duvall Lab

Lab Members


Lab photo

Rebecca Cook, PhD. in her Preston Research Center lab. (Steve Green / Vanderbilt University)

Rebecca Cook, Ph.D.

Research Associate Professor
E-mail: rebecca.cook [at] vanderbilt.edu

Dr. Rebecca Cook earned a B.Sci. in Biology from Vanderbilt University, and a Ph.D. in Developmental Biology from the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine, Dr. Cook’s post-doctoral training was under the mentorship of internationally recognized leaders in the breast cancer research field. Dr. Cook returned to Vanderbilt as a faculty member in 2010, focusing on the physiologic signaling pathways that are often commandeered by breast cancers to promote their own growth and metastasis. and applying this knowledge to develop novel treatments for breast cancer. Dr. Cook has served as a guest editor and scientific reviewer for numerous biomedical research journals, and has served on national and international grant review study sections. Dr. Cook’s research has been funded by grants from the National Cancer Institute, the Susan G. Komen for the Cure Foundation, and the Congressionally Directed Medical Research Program.


Mukesh Kumar Gupta, Ph.D.

Research Associate Professor
E-mail: mukesh.k.gupta [at] vanderbilt.edu

Dr. Gupta received his PhD in organic polymer chemistry from the Department of Polymer Science and Engineering at National Chemical Laboratory, University of Pune, India in 2008. Then, Dr. Gupta moved as postdoctoral research associate in group of Prof. Jean-Luc Six at Laboratoire de Chimie Physique Macromoléculaire, University of Lorraine, Nancy, France to work on biodegradable PCL/PLA based electrospun scaffolds for ligament and tendon tissue engineering. In February 2010, Dr. Gupta joined the Vanderbilt University Department of Biomedical Engineering as a postdoctoral research associate for Prof. Craig Duvall and Prof. Hak-Joon Sung. He focused on development of advanced multi-functional stimuli-responsive degradable biomaterials (such as micelles, hydrogels, scaffolds, nanofibers, shape memory polymers, etc.) through combined approaches of living/controlled polymerization methods, standard organic synthesis, and bioconjugation techniques for targeted drug/gene delivery and cardiovascular applications. In February 2016, he was appointment as Research Assistant Professor in Department of Biomedical Engineering and currently focused on design and synthesis of injectable polymeric biomaterials for drug delivery and tissue engineering applications.

Dickie D'Arcy

Dickie D’Arcy, Ph.D.

Research Assistant Professor
E-mail: richard.darcy [at] vanderbilt.edu

Dickie graduated from the University of Manchester (UoM) in 2011 with a M.Eng. in biomedical material science, undertaking a one‐year industrial placement at Biocompatibles International plc, where he worked on drug‐eluting embolization beads and stimuli‐responsive polymersomes. In 2015, he obtained his Ph.D. from UoM under the supervision of Prof. Nicola Tirelli, where he engineered novel oxidation‐responsive and self‐assembling polymers. From 2015, he was an EPSRC Doctoral Prize Fellow at UoM studying the effect of antioxidant nanoparticles on cancer before moving to the Istituto Italiano di Tecnologia in Genova, Italy in 2017 as a collaborator/post-doc. In 2019 he was appointed Research Assistant Professor at Vanderbilt working in the Duvall lab and is now developing new drug delivery systems/gene therapies targeted towards osteoarthritis and bone destructive cancer metastasis. Outside of lab he attempts to learn languages, explore the outdoors and is unfortunately a keen Newcastle United fan.

Justin Lo

Justin Lo, M.D., Ph.D.

Post-Doctoral Researcher

Justin received his B.S. in Biological Engineering and Music from M.I.T. He then completed his Ph.D. in Medical Engineering and Medical Physics in 2015 through the Harvard-M.I.T. Health Sciences & Technology program. There, he worked with Professor Sangeeta Bhatia developing tumor-penetrating siRNA nanocomplexes for the treatment of pancreatic cancer. After earning his M.D. from Harvard Medical School in 2017, Justin moved to Nashville to join the physician-scientist training program (Harrison Society) at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, where he has completed his residency in Internal Medicine and is currently a Clinical Fellow in the Division of Hematology/Oncology. His clinical interest is in Gastrointestinal Oncology, and his research in the Duvall lab focuses on new delivery methods and gene targets for RNAi therapeutics in the treatment of GI tumors. In his spare time, Justin enjoys playing violin, composing music, drawing/animating, and cooking.


Isabel Vallecillo-Viejo, M.D., Ph.D.

Post-Doctoral Researcher
E-mail: isabel.vallecillo-viejo [at] vumc.org

Isabel was born in San Juan, Puerto Rico and received a Bachelor of Science degree from Tufts University. After graduation, she moved back home to pursue an MD/PhD at the University of Puerto Rico. During her PhD, she worked on the development of a site-directed RNA editing strategy for correcting genetic mutations at the level of RNA. In 2019 she moved to Nashville to join the physician scientist training program at Vanderbilt University Medical Center where she is currently completing her Pediatrics Residency. Isabel is now doing a research year in the Duvall lab where she is involved in a project investigating nonviral delivery of the CRISPR-Cas9 ribonucleoprotein for in vivo genetic editing. Her research and clinical interests include pediatric pulmonology, allergy and immunology with an emphasis on developing genome modifying small molecule therapeutics for the treatment of childhood illnesses. Outside of medicine and the lab, Isabel enjoys cooking, trying out new restaurants, listening to music, going on road trips, anything related to the beach, and spending time with her family (including her Puerto Rican mutt “Adenina”).


Fang Yu, M.D., Ph.D.

E-mail: fang.yu [at] vanderbilt.edu

Fang worked as resident and attending pediatrician at Medical Centre of Luoyang after she received her M.D. She then attended Tongji Medical College, Huazhong University of Science and Technology (Wuhan, Hubei, China) where she earned her masters (2001) and Ph.D. (2005). In October 2005, Fang began her postdoctoral training in Dr. Kevin Niswender’s Lab (Medicine, Diabetes, Endocrinology and Metabolism and Molecular Physiology and Biophysics, Vanderbilt University School of Medicine). In February 2009, Fang joined Dr. Jeffrey M. Davidson’s Lab in department of pathology. Fang joined Dr. Duvall’s group in the Department of Biomedical Engineering in July 2014 and in her current role assists in general animal care and animal model development.

Graduate Students


Isom Kelly
6th Year Graduate Student (PhD)
E-mail: isom.b.kelly [at] vanderbilt.edu

Isom obtained his B.S. in Chemistry from Huston-Tillotson University in 2014 and earned an M.A. in Polymer Chemistry from Fisk University. In past research experiences, Isom has investigated the development of polymer nanoparticle delivery systems using naturally occurring materials, for the means of treating breast cancer. Currently, Isom is developing a fluorescent polymer/porous silicon composite particle for the means of tracing both the cargo and vehicle in vivo. Yielding an enhanced understanding of the delivery pathways of our “Gold Standard” polymer, PEG-DB as well as porous silicon nanoparticles (PSNPs) and peptide nucleic acids.


Ella N. Hoogenboezem
5th Year Graduate Student (PhD)
National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellow
E-mail: ella.hoogenboezem [at] vanderbilt.edu

Ella received her B.S. in Biomedical Engineering from the University of Florida in 2017. As an undergraduate, she worked with Dr. Christine Schmidt on the creation of naturally derived biomaterials for the treatment of degenerative disc disease and peripheral nerve injury. She additionally investigated stem cell derived treatments for osteoarthritis while working for RTI Surgical in Alachua, Florida. At Vanderbilt, Ella is working on albumin-mediated gene silencing in tumors. Outside of lab, she enjoys backpacking, scuba diving, and travel.


Brock Fletcher
5th Year Graduate Student (PhD)
National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellow
E-mail: brock.fletcher [at] vanderbilt.edu

Brock is currently investigating nonviral delivery of Cas9 to perform in vivo gene editing. Brock received his B.S. in Biomedical Engineering from the University of South Carolina Honors College in 2017. As an undergraduate, he worked for Dr. Brian Benicewicz functionalizing silica nanoparticles via RAFT polymerization. Brock is a native of Hartsville, SC and attended Mayo High School for Math Science and Technology.


Shrusti Patel
4th Year Graduate Student (PhD)
National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellow
E-mail: shrusti.s.patel [at] vanderbilt.edu

Shrusti completed her B.S. in Biomedical Engineering at the University of South Carolina Honors College in 2018. She worked as an undergraduate research assistant in Dr. Ann Ramsdell’s lab on the left-right laterality of breast biology, specifically triple negative breast cancer. Shrusti is currently working on siRNA delivery for breast cancer treatment. Outside of her lab work, you can find Shrusti enjoying movie marathons with multiple cups of tea.


Carli DeJulius
4th Year Graduate Student (PhD)
National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellow
E-mail: Carlisle.R.DeJulius [at] vanderbilt.edu

Carli grew up in Northeast Ohio and earned her Bachelor’s in BME from the University of Akron in 2018. As an undergrad, Carli researched fibroblast migration, hydrogel platforms for nerve regeneration, and cancer cell signaling. She joined Vandy’s PhD program in the fall where her project focuses on antioxidant drug delivery systems for arthritis therapies. In her free time, you can find her running, reading, or watching Cleveland sports.


Juan Colazo
3rd Year Graduate Student (MD-PhD)
E-mail: juan.m.colazo [at] vanderbilt.edu

Juan completed his BSc. honors degree in Biochemistry at the University of Alberta in 2017. His undergraduate thesis work was done in the structural biology laboratory of Dr. Michael James focusing on substrate-assisted catalysis in serine peptidases. He has also performed research, to a lesser extent, in the structure of viral proteins, anti-cancer drug delivery, and Candida albicans morphogenesis and virulence. He came to Vanderbilt in 2017 to join the Vanderbilt Medical Scientist Training Program (MSTP) to get combined MD/PhD training with the hope of becoming a well-trained physician-scientist. He has completed 1 year of lecture-based medical training and 1 year of clerkship-based medical training before joining the lab in 2019. Outside of the clinic/lab, Juan enjoys playing soccer, coaching soccer, hiking, and playing with his puppy, Zoe.


Jordan Hill
3rd Year Graduate Student (PhD)
E-mail: jordan.l.hill [at] vanderbilt.edu

Jordan is a first-year graduate student at Vanderbilt University. He received his B.S. in BME with a concentration in tissue engineering from the University of Miami in 2019. While in undergrad, Jordan worked with Dr. Ashutosh Agarwal on the development of long term human organotypic tissue culture and interrogation platforms. Currently, he is working on siRNA delivery for the treatment of tumor induced bone disease.

Alex Sorets

Alex Sorets
3rd Year Graduate Student (PhD)
E-mail: alexander.g.sorets [at] vanderbilt.edu

Co-advised by Dr. Ethan Lippmann, Alex is developing novel brain drug delivery strategies involving albumin-based siRNA conjugates. Alex completed his B.S. in Biomedical Engineering at Cornell University, where he worked on treating metastatic prostate cancer in Dr. Michael King’s lab by harnessing immune cells to target and kill cancer cells in the blood stream. In his free time, Alex enjoys reading, playing piano, and explaining to everyone how awesome Boston is.

William Tierney

William Tierney
3rd Year Graduate Student (PhD)
National Institute of Health F31 Predoctoral Fellow
E-mail: john.w.tierney [at] vanderbilt.edu

William received B.S. degrees in Biomedical Engineering and Mathematics from the University of South Carolina Honors College in 2019. As an undergraduate, he researched tissue engineering for bone regeneration with Dr. Esmaiel Jabbari and mathematical modeling of the pituitary gland with Dr. Paula Vasquez. Additionally, he spent a summer working on fabricating synthetic vascular grafts with Dr. Jian Yang at Penn State University. Now at Vanderbilt, William is working on peptide delivery for the prevention of restenosis and vessel failure after cardiovascular interventions. When not in lab, he enjoys trivia, going to concerts, and watching movies.

Mariah Bezold

Mariah Bezold
2nd Year Graduate Student (PhD)
E-mail: mariah.g.bezold [at] vanderbilt.edu

Mariah Bezold earned her undergraduate degree in Chemical Engineering from the University of Kentucky in May 2020. As an undergraduate, Mariah was a member of Dr. Bhattacharyya’s Center of Membrane Sciences Lab where she worked on the synthesis and functionalization of both polymeric and inorganic membranes for selective separations. Alongside her undergraduate research, Mariah worked on the development of polymeric carriers for antioxidant delivery in high oxidative stress environments as a research member for Bluegrass Advanced Materials. Now at Vanderbilt University, Mariah is currently working on the development of novel shear-thinning hydrogels as a multi-functional biomaterial for sustained drug release and local retention of cells to promote wound healing. Outside of lab, Mariah enjoys spending time outdoors, watching college football with friends, and drinking unhealthy amounts of sweet tea.

McCune Headshot

Josh T. McCune
2nd Year Graduate Student (PhD)
National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellow
E-mail: joshua.t.mccune [at] vanderbilt.edu

Josh received his B.S. in Biomedical Engineering at The University of Texas at Austin in 2020. As an undergraduate, he worked with Dr. Elizabeth Cosgriff-Herandez on the development of an electrospun antimicrobial delivery system to combat antibiotic-resistant bacterial infections in orthopedic applications. Now at Vanderbilt, Josh is working to develop novel ROS degradable materials for the delivery of siRNA to treat chronic wounds. Outside of lab, he enjoys traveling, cooking, and photography.

Graduate School Portraits Graduate School Career Colloquium Alumni Hall Vanderbilt University Photo: Anne Rayner

Morgan Struthers
1st Year Graduate Student (PhD)
E-mail: morgan.struthers [at] vanderbilt.edu

Morgan received her B.S. in biomedical engineering with a concentration in biomaterials, cellular, and tissue engineering from the University of Texas at San Antonio in 2021. As an undergraduate, she worked with Dr. Mark Appleford in the field of orthopedic biomaterials, studying polymer embedded scaffolds for tissue scaffold integration and a carbon fiber bioglass composite for bone tissue regeneration. Now at Vanderbilt, Morgan is working on Cas9-mediated gene knock-out/knock-in for the treatment of Osteoarthritis. Outside of lab, she enjoys playing sports, going outdoors, watching movies, and travelling.

larry stokes

Larry D. Stokes
1st Year Graduate Student (PhD)
National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellow
E-mail: larry.d.stokes [at] vanderbilt.edu

Larry earned his B.S. in Biomedical Engineering at The University of Mississippi in 2021. During his time in undergrad, Larry was a part of Dr. Thomas Werfel’s NanoBioSciences Interdisciplinary Lab where he researched the effects of efferocytosis inhibition in the tumor microenvironment and its potential as an immunotherapy. Additionally, he spent a summer researching the effects of protease inhibition on muscle stem cells with Dr. Manu Platt at Georgia Tech. Now at Vanderbilt, Larry is working on the development of a hybrid nanoparticle-hydrogel system to deliver CRISPR-Cas9 ribonucleoprotein to treat osteoarthritis. Outside of lab, he enjoys drawing, reading, watching movies, and hiking.

Undergraduate Students

Shubham Gulati (BS/MS Biomedical Engineering)
Blake Hanan (BS/MS Biomedical Engineering)
Thomas Dean (BS Biomedical Engineering)
Fiona Cherry (BS Chemistry, SyBBURE)
Benjamin Wong (BS Molecular & Cellular Biology, BS Human & Organizational Development, SyBBURE)

Lab Alumni

Former Graduate Students

Bryan Dollinger, Ph.D. (2021) is now an equity research associate in Biotechnology at BTIG.

Prarthana Patil, Ph.D. (2021) is now a Scientist II in Discovery Medicine at Kodiak Sciences.

Sean Bedingfield, Ph.D. (2020) is now a research engineer in RNA innovation at Eli Lilly exploring novel RNA delivery technologies.

Meredith A. Jackson, Ph.D. (2019) is now a staff scientist at the Immunotherapy Integration Hub at Seattle Children’s Research Institute.

Kameron V. Kilchrist, Ph.D. (2019) is now a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the Janssen Pharmaceutical Companies of Johnson & Johnson.

Brian C. Evans, Ph.D. (2015) Completed Ph.D. and Post-Doc at Vanderbilt, worked as Research Assistant Professor until 2019. Brian is now a Research Scientist at Cumberland Emerging Technologies.

Taylor (Kavanaugh) Collins, M.S. (2017): completed M.S. at Vanderbilt (2016); now Clinical Studies Engineer at BIOTRONIK in Portland, OR.

Thomas A. Werfel, Ph.D. (2017): is now an Assistant Professor of Biomedical Engineering at University of Mississippi.

Samanta M. Sarett, Ph.D. (2017): now a Senior Scientist at Exicure

John R. Martin, Ph.D. (2017): now a post doc with Dr. Paula Hammond in the Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research at Massachusetts Institute of Technology; starting in 2020 as Assistant Professor of Biomedical Engineering at University of Cincinnati.

Kelsey (Beavers) Mayo, Ph.D. (2016): now Program Manager at Precision Medicine Initiative, Vanderbilt University Medical Center

Kristin Poole O’Grady, Ph.D. (2015): now a Research Instructor in Radiology, Vanderbilt University Institute of Imaging Science

Christopher Nelson, Ph.D. (2014): now an Assistant Professor of Biomedical Engineering at University of Arkansas

Martina Miteva, M.S. (2014): now Life Sciences Consultant and Client Engagement Manager at CGI

Rucha Joshi, Ph.D. (2016): completed M.S. at Vanderbilt (2011) and Ph.D. at Purdue (2016); now BME Assistant Tenure Track Lecturer at U California Davis

Former Post Docs

Eric Dailing, Ph.D.: now a Senior Scientific Engineering Associate at the Molecular Foundry of Berkeley National Lab.

Kellye Kirkbride, Ph.D.: now Senior Biological Scientist at StemSynergy Therapeutics.

Hongmei Li, Ph.D.: now a Scientist at Nektar Therapeutics.

Former Lab Techs, Research Assistants, Visiting Scholars:

Jacob Ayers is currently a chromatography technician for Pfizer.
Linus Lee is now pursuing his MD at Carle Illinois College of Medicine
Alvin Mukalel is a PhD student at the University of Pennsylvania.
Constance Lents is now in medical school pursuing an MD at the University of Kentucky.
Arnold Kim is now in medical school pursuing an MD at the Ohio State University.
Ann Hannah is now a graduate student at University of Alabama at Birmingham.

Undergraduate Researchers (Past and Present)

1.Travis Meyer – VUSRP recipient, 2012 Vanderbilt BME graduate; Ph.D. student at Georgia Tech
2.John Hall – 2012 Vanderbilt BME graduate; employed by the US Patent and Trademark Office as a biomedical technology patent examiner.
3.Matthew Getzin – 2012 Vanderbilt BME graduate; Ph.D. student at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
4.Mitchell Weisenberger – SUGRE recipient, 2013 Vanderbilt BME graduate; employed by Epic Systems Corporation / now graduate student at University of Utah
5.Josh Shannon – VUSRP recipient, 2013 Vanderbilt BME graduate; graduate student University of South Florida
6.Ming Cheng – SUGRE recipient, 2013 Vanderbilt BME graduate; graduate student Northeastern University
7.Erica Curtis – 2013 BME graduate, SyBBURE Program, employed by Medshape Solutions
8.Samuel Fraifeld – SUGRE recipient, 2013 Vanderbilt BME graduate; employed by Schlumberger Oil Services
9.Skylar Haws – SUGRE recipient, 2014 Vanderbilt BME graduate, admitted to medical school, succumbed in 2015 to cancer.
10.Julia Dmowska – SUGRE and VUSRP recipient, 2015 Vanderbilt BME graduate
11.Tianwei Shen – VUSRP recipient, 2015 Vanderbilt BME / ChBE graduate, graduate student at University of Washington
12.Steven Wang – 2015 Vanderbilt BME graduate
13.Martin Lu – SUGRE recipient, 2016 Vanderbilt BME graduate
14.Douglas McKinley – 2017 Vanderbilt BME graduate
15.Cristina Contreras- SUGRE recipient, 2017 MIT BioE graduate
16.Megan Dunn (U of Arkansas), 2011 VINSE REU Program; currently Ph.D. student in Chemical Engineering at University of Michigan
17.Thomas Werfel (Murray State U), 2011 VINSE REU Program; currently Ph.D. student in Duvall Lab
18.James Kintzing (Grove City College), 2012 VINSE REU Program; currently Ph.D. student in Bioengineering at Stanford University
19.Corban Swain (Washington University), 2013 VINSE REU Program; currently undergraduate senior
20.Jesus Sosa-Rivera (Universidad del Este, Puerto Rico), 2014 VINSE REU Program
21.Sayali Belsare (India), 2015 BME/bioengineering graduate
22.Alex Anderson – 2015 Vanderbilt ChBE graduate, graduate student University of Colorado
23.Zoha Malik – 2017 Vanderbilt BME graduate
24.Madison Hattaway – VUSRP recipient – 2017 Vanderbilt BME/ChBE double major
25.Belle Ye – 2017 BME/ChBE double major
26.Benjamin Burdette (University of Kentucky), 2015 VINSE REU Program;
27.Elizabeth Curvino- 2018 Vanderbilt BME major (VUSRP Program)
28.Linus Lee- 2017 Vanderbilt BME major (SUGRE Program)
29.Alvin Mukalel- 2017 Vanderbilt BME major (SUGRE Program)
30.Najwa Faqih- 2019 Johns Hopkins BME major
31.Somtochukwu Dimobi- 2019 Vanderbilt CheBE major (Syburre Program)
32.Ayisha Jackson- 2018 Brown University BME major, 2016 VINSE REU Program;
33.Mitchell “Deuce” Stokan- University of Kentucky, 2017 VINSE REU Program;
34.Allyson King- 2019 Vanderbilt BME and CheBE major
35.Matt Castanon- 2022 Kennesaw State University Chemistry major, 2019 VINSE REU Program
36.Jacob Ayers-2019 Vanderbilt BME major
37.Katie Henderson-2020 Vanderbilt BME Major
38.Rachel Miles-2020 Vanderbilt BME Major

High School Student Researchers:

1.Michelle Chintanaphol (Harpeth Hall H.S.), summer 2011
2.Camellia Zafar (Harpeth Hall H.S.), summer 2012
3.Varun Prakash (Metea Valley H.S.), summer 2014
4.Michelle Biesman (Harpeth Hall H.S.), spring 2016

Other Visiting Scholars:

1. Egon Urgard, University of Tartu, Tartu, Estonia, summer 2015 (ResearchGate link)