Four BME students awarded NSF Graduate Research Fellowships

Congratulations to BME’s four outstanding students who were just awarded with a National Science Foundation (NSF) Graduate Research Fellowship! These fellowships recognize and support exceptional graduate students in NSF-supported science, technology, engineering, and mathematics disciplines who are pursuing research-based master’s and doctoral degrees at accredited US institutions.

With these recent awards, the University of Florida ranks in 8th place nationwide for NSF fellowships within BME departments.

We are so proud of our students being honored with this prestigious award! 


Shannon Brown 

Shannon Brown, a graduate of the UF Department of Agricultural and Biological Engineering, is looking forward to beginning her PhD in Biomedical Engineering this Fall, 2014. As a Graduate Assistant for Dr. Blanka Sharma, she will be investigating nanoparticle-based therapies for stem cell migration and  differentiation in cartilage tissue. Traumatic or chronic damage to cartilage tissue can result in painful and naturally irreversible diseases. Mesenchymal stem cells (MSC) have the ability to migrate into damaged tissue and differentiate into regenerative cells, lending promise to the cells as a potential treatment for cartilage disease. Shannon’s goals are to clarify events in MSC differentiation in diseased cartilage and investigate nanoparticles for targeted drug delivery within articular cartilage that will facilitate the regenerative capabilities of local MSCS, thereby improving the effectiveness of treatments for cartilage disease and injury.

Philip Vu


Philip Vu is one of UF Biomedical Engineering’s inaugural undergraduate students. As an undergraduate research assistant, Phillip has been assisting with research in Dr. Christine Schmidt’s lab. He is currently considering several offers of admission for his PhD studies. After graduating with his PhD, he plans on working in industry to develop medical devices. Philip’s research consists of developing 3D composite polymer arrays for microstimulation and transportation of midbrain progenitor cells. The composite, comprised of polypyrrole and hyaluronic acid, would deliver midbrain progenitor cells to a region of interest within the brain and electrically stimulate them to promote migration and differentiation.

Hillary Wehry


Hillary Wehry will be graduating with a combined degree (B.S./M.S.) in Electrical Engineering and Biomedical Engineering from the University of Florida in Summer 2014.  She is currently working on validating the pulmonary system of the Human Patient Simulator (HPS) under the supervision of Dr. Hans van Oostrom for her Master’s thesis project. Next year, she hopes to study neural signal processing and motor learning in a brain machine interface (BCI) paradigm. Hillary ultimately hopes to pursue an MD/PhD to integrate her passions for neuroscience, engineering, and medicine and further the clinical translation of BCI technologies.


Aline Yonezawa

Aline Yonezawa is also one of the inaugural undergraduate students in the BME department. As an undergraduate research assistant, she has been assisting with research under the direction of Dr. Laurie Gower. Aline is currently considering several different offers of admission for her PhD studies. After graduating with her PhD, she plans on pursuing post-doctoral work to investigate innovative ways to regenerate vital tissues and organs. Her NSF Fellowship research proposal focuses on developing a novel approach to tissue engineering a biodegradable 3-D aorta valve. Current heart valve replacement options lack in biocompatibility and require life-long therapeutic treatments. As a result, there is a demand for a functional biodegradable heart valve that can grow, repair, and remodel in the patient. Aline’s proposal incorporates a PEGDA hydrogel scaffold that can be 3-D printed to mimic the native heart valve. Because of the flexibility with the mechanics, biochemistry, and bulk shape, the proposed PEGDA based hydrogels offers significant improvements over current engineered valves, for both pediatric and adult patients.