Student Spotlight: Robert Accolla

Robert Accolla

Robert Accolla

Lab: Stabler Lab

Hometown: Yorktown, VA

Degree/current status: Ph.D. Candidate

Year you became a Gator: 2017

From which institutions do you hold degrees? Virginia Tech, BA in Biological Systems Engineering

Research focus:
My research focuses on biomaterials fabrication and clinical islet transplantation (CIT), a potential cure for type 1 diabetes. Islets, which are the insulin-producing cell clusters found inside a person’s pancreas, are very sensitive making them difficult to transplant compared to traditional organs. To prolong the survival of islets at the site of transplantation, I work to create biomaterials capable of releasing therapeutic drugs, generating supportive chemicals such as oxygen, and encouraging the formation of vessels capable of supplying blood to the transplant site. The potential impact of my research is the creation of a sustainable device capable of curing type 1 diabetes.

What motivates you?
My motivation primarily comes from the real-world impact I see in my work as well as my personal fascination with biomaterials and cell-based therapies. As someone with a sibling with type 1 diabetes, I understand the limitations of the current therapies offered as well as how groundbreaking successful clinical islet transplantation (CIT) could be in the field. Therefore, I try to use the insight provided by my family as well as my previous personal experiences in fabrication to overcome the pitfalls that have limited the potential impact of CIT in the past.

What attracted you to UF BME?
I was attracted to the UF BME department because of the focus on translation and innovation in the field of cell-based therapy and the expertise within the department. I also liked how the department values diversity and actively supports the mental health of its students.

What I love about Gainesville:
Feels like a small town with the opportunities of a large city. Plenty of outdoor activities, including hiking, biking, and rock climbing, and a strong feeling of community.

Honors & Awards:

  • Graduate Student Mentoring Award (2020)
  • NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Honorable Mention (2019)