Rafat Tumor and Tissue Microenvironment Laboratory

Lab Members

Graduate Students

Steven Alves

(steven.m.alves [at] vanderbilt.edu)

Steven received his B.S. in Chemical Engineering from the University of Massachusetts Lowell in 2017. As an undergraduate, he held a co-op position at Joule Unlimited, where he operated a custom photobioreactor platform for producing fuel molecules from photosynthetic bacteria. He held a second co-op at GreenLight Biosciences, where he worked on in-house fermentations and a custom cell-free reaction platform. At Vanderbilt, his research focuses on changes in the extracellular matrix in the tumor microenvironment. Outside the lab, he enjoys attending concerts and taking his dog on adventures outside the city.

Steven received his B.S. in Chemical Engineering from the University of Massachusetts Lowell in 2017. As an undergraduate, he held a co-op position at Joule Unlimited, where he operated a custom photobioreactor platform for producing fuel molecules from photosynthetic bacteria. He held a second co-op at GreenLight Biosciences, where he worked on in-house fermentations and a custom cell-free reaction platform. At Vanderbilt, his research focuses on changes in the extracellular matrix in the tumor microenvironment. Outside the lab, he enjoys attending concerts and taking his dog on adventures outside the city.

Benjamin Hacker

(benjamin.hacker [at] vanderbilt.edu)

Ben grew up in Minneapolis, Minnesota. In 2017, he graduated from the University of Minnesota with a Bachelor of Chemical Engineering, cum laude. At Vanderbilt, he studies the interactions between irradiated in vivo mimicking organoids and immune cells in the tumor microenvironment. Outside of the lab you will usually find Ben reading, working out, or cheering for the beleaguered Minnesota Twins.

Ben grew up in Minneapolis, Minnesota. In 2017, he graduated from the University of Minnesota with a Bachelor of Chemical Engineering, cum laude. At Vanderbilt, he studies the interactions between irradiated in vivo mimicking organoids and immune cells in the tumor microenvironment. Outside of the lab you will usually find Ben reading, working out, or cheering for the beleaguered Minnesota Twins.

Kevin Corn

(kevin.c.corn [at] vanderbilt.edu)

Kevin-01

Kevin received his B.S. in Chemical Engineering from the University of Texas at Austin in 2009. For the past 8 years, he has worked at INEOS Olefins & Polymers USA in the Houston, TX area as a technical service engineer, polypropylene product development engineer, and Six Sigma Black Belt. He hopes to combine his industry experience with his past academic research stemming from an REU studying mesenchymal stem cell migration at MIT to solve complex problems in the biomedical field. At Vanderbilt, his research focuses on understanding normal-tissue wound healing due to radiation therapy. He is exploring how this treatment affects cellular metabolism and extracellular vesicle release to impact cell-to-cell communication, and how it potentially influences tumor-cell infiltration and local recurrence for triple-negative breast cancer. Outside of the lab, Kevin is an avid cook and equally avid foodie. He has a (questionably) healthy obsession with K-pop, enjoys laughing along to the comedy/true-crime podcast My Favorite Murder, and spends a significant amount of time talking about his dog Mochi.

Tian Zhu

(tian.zhu [at] vanderbilt.edu)

Tian-01

Tian got her B.S. in Chemistry from China Agriculture University and M.S.E in Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering form Johns Hopkins University. As a master’s student, her research focused on breast cancer cell migration in 3D microenvironments. At Vanderbilt, she studies mammary fat changes following damage from therapy, and she will design 3D environments to study breast cancer cell invasion and migration in that context.

Logan Northcutt

(logan.a.northcutt [at] vanderbilt.edu)

Logan is from Hoffman, North Carolina. He received his B.S. in Chemistry from Morehouse College in Atlanta, Georgia. At Morehouse College, Logan conducted research in the laboratory of Dr. Juana Mendenhall where he developed therapeutic hydrogels to regenerate degraded cartilage. At Vanderbilt, his project focuses on creating synthetic microenvironments to better understand tumor cell behavior. Outside of lab, Logan enjoys boxing, traveling, going to concerts, listening to music and reading.

Logan is from Hoffman, North Carolina. He received his B.S. in Chemistry from Morehouse College in Atlanta, Georgia. At Morehouse College, Logan conducted research in the laboratory of Dr. Juana Mendenhall where he developed therapeutic hydrogels to regenerate degraded cartilage. At Vanderbilt, he is in the Cancer Biology Graduate Program, and his project focuses on creating synthetic microenvironments to better understand tumor cell behavior. Outside of lab, Logan enjoys boxing, traveling, going to concerts, listening to music, and reading.

Research Assistant

McKenzie Windham

(mckenzie.a.windham [at] vanderbilt.edu)

McKenzie

McKenzie received her B.S in Biological Engineering from Louisiana State University in her hometown of Baton Rouge, LA. In the past, her research has involved nanoparticles and nanostructures for biological applications. Her role as a Research Assistant encompasses a variety of tasks, including lab organization and safety in addition to facilitating experiments to learn about the tumor and tissue micronvironment. She hopes to pursue a doctorate in the future, expand her research career, and also to teach. McKenzie has more hobbies than she does time. She enjoys animals, art/ animation, cross stitching, lore and science podcasts, Dungeons and Dragons, and spending time with her husband, little girl, and guinea pig.

 

Undergraduate Students

Anesha Walker

Anesha Walker is a rising Junior majoring in biology at Tennessee State University. After graduation, she plans on attending medical school with the aim of becoming a pediatrician. While working in Dr. Rafat's lab at Vanderbilt this summer, she will be using immunohistochemistry to evaluate immune cell infiltration in various tissues following irradiation. Outside of lab, she enjoys spending time with her friends and family and shopping.

Anesha Walker is a rising senior majoring in biology at Tennessee State University. After graduation, she plans on attending medical school with the aim of becoming a pediatrician. While working in Dr. Rafat’s lab at Vanderbilt this summer, she will be using immunohistochemistry to evaluate immune cell infiltration in various tissues following irradiation. Outside of lab, she enjoys spending time with her friends and family and shopping.

Drake Shaub

Drake-01

Drake is a rising junior at Vanderbilt who plans on majoring in Chemical and Biomolecular engineering with plans to attend graduate school after obtaining his degree. While in the lab, he will be investigating tissue microenvironmental changes following radiation therapy. Outside of the lab, he enjoys such activities as playing (and trying) new sports, going to the gym, and spending time with family and friends.

Yoanna Ivanova

Yoanna is member of the SyBBURE Searle Undergraduate Research Program. She is a rising Junior at Vanderbilt University majoring in Biomedical Engineering who hopes to attend graduate school. Her research focuses on understanding normal tissue wound healing post radiation therapy, specifically looking at fibroblasts, to determine their role in cellular metabolism and potential recurrence of triple-negative breast cancer. In her free time, Yoanna loves to swim, dance, and read short stories and articles.

Yoanna is member of the SyBBURE Searle Undergraduate Research Program. She is a rising junior at Vanderbilt University majoring in Biomedical Engineering who hopes to attend graduate school. Her research focuses on understanding normal tissue wound healing post radiation therapy, specifically looking at fibroblasts, to determine their role in cellular metabolism and potential recurrence of triple-negative breast cancer. In her free time, Yoanna loves to swim, dance, and read short stories and articles.

Dana Herman

Dana is a member of the SyBBURE Searle Undergraduate Research Program. She is a rising sophomore at Vanderbilt University studying Chemical Engineering, Engineering Management, and Spanish. She is deeply passionate about science and engineering, through which she hopes to have a global impact one day. Within the Rafat lab, her main focus is analyzing protein expression and chemokine secretion in mammary fat pads following radiation therapy and how those factors influence immune cell migration. Outside of the lab, you will usually find Dana reading, figure skating, eating good food, or dreaming up her next travel adventure.

Dana is a member of the SyBBURE Searle Undergraduate Research Program. She is a rising sophomore at Vanderbilt University studying Chemical Engineering, Engineering Management, and Spanish. She is deeply passionate about science and engineering, through which she hopes to have a global impact one day. Within the Rafat lab, her main focus is analyzing protein expression and chemokine secretion in mammary fat pads following radiation therapy and how those factors influence immune cell migration. Outside of the lab, you will usually find Dana reading, figure skating, eating good food, or dreaming up her next travel adventure.

Anastasia Shostak

Anastasia is a rising senior at Hume-Fogg Academic Magnet High School. An avid science and math student, she enjoys being able to transfer the knowledge from her studies into the lab and wants to continue doing so while studying chemical engineering in college. She is also involved in various (often science and math oriented) clubs and organizations in her school, including being president of the Science Bowl club and secretary of Mu Alpha Theta. In her free time, she runs, dances, plays piano, and volunteers.

Anastasia is an incoming Vanderbilt student. An avid science and math student, she enjoys being able to transfer the knowledge from her studies into the lab and wants to continue doing so while studying chemical engineering in college. She studies normal tissue radiation damage through histological and extracellular matrix changes. In her free time, she runs, dances, plays piano, and volunteers.

High School Student

Samuel Halbert

Lab Picture

Sam is a rising senior at Hume-Fogg Academic Magnet High School. In the lab, he enjoys using scientific thinking skills learned at school and at the School of Science and Math at Vanderbilt (SSMV), a program for high schoolers interested in STEM. Currently, he is working on observing vasculature in tumors and normal tissues. An aspiring entrepreneur, he is eager to learn the discipline of chemical engineering to produce beneficial goods and services. In his free time, he likes to play guitar and read about a variety of topics.

Previous Lab Members

Elena Irvine, Undergraduate Student, Vanderbilt University

Akrimi Fauzi ’19, Schlumberger Field Engineer