(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.
(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.
(kevin.c.corn [at] vanderbilt.edu)
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 [at] vanderbilt.edu)
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.
(mckenzie.a.windham [at] vanderbilt.edu)
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.
Kimi, a senior at Vanderbilt, is majoring in Chemical Engineering. She plans to attend a graduate school after completing her studies at Vanderbilt. She is investigating the role played by CD8+ T cells in regulating macrophage chemotaxis, proliferation, and invasion. She loves travelling and enjoys trying new desserts.
Anesha Walker is a 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.
Elena Irvine is a sophomore at Vanderbilt University and is unsure of her major at this time, but her interests lie in many areas including Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, Environmental Engineering, Human and Organizational Development, Business, and Medicine. Elena is passionate about helping and working with people and hopes to make an impact through her time in the Rafat Lab. Her main focus is visualizing the tumor vasculature. Specifically, Elena aims to determine the effects of radiation therapy on High Endothelial Venules in the presence and absence of CD8+T cells. Outside of the lab she enjoys spending time in nature, listening to music, trying new foods, and exercising.
Drake is a sophomore 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.
High School Students
Anastasia is a 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.
Sam is a junior 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.