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Faculty Members

Members of the Vanderbilt Center on Mechanobiology (V-CoM) come from across the University to address biological questions rooted in mechanics. This works stretches from the study of the signaling of individual molecules to the assembly and maintenance of tissues. It spans from basic science, hypothesis-driven questions to the translation of devices and platforms to help study and treat disease. 

Vanderbilt Center on Mechanobiology - Leadership


University Distinguished Professor, Cornelius Vanderbilt Professor, Departments of Biomedical Engineering and Cell and Developmental Biology; Senior Associate Dean for Research, Engineering
Related Research:



Associate Professor of Cell and Developmental Biology, Chemical & Biomedical Engineering, and Biochemistry
Related Research: The Marija Zanic lab studies the dynamics and mechanics of the microtubule cytoskeleton.


School of Engineering


Associate Professor Mechanical Engineering 

Related Research: The 
Bellan Lab is dedicated to forming and characterizing artificial microvascular networks within engineered tissue structures. We utilize a range of traditional and non-traditional approaches to pattern vessel networks with lumen diameters ranging from the small resistance artery to the capillary scale. In particular, we are interested in understanding how mechanical forces induced by various flow conditions through matrices of different compliance can affect endothelial cells and smooth muscle cells cultured in networks of microchannels. Our goal is to replicate the complex microanatomy and functionality of the natural microvasculature in engineered tissues.



Assistant Professor of Biomedical Engineering

Related Research: The Brunger Lab deploys synthetic biology to execute regenerative programs in therapeutic cells and to understand cell-niche interactions that give rise to diseases. One major focus of our work is to promote regeneration of musculoskeletal tissues that can withstand mechanical loading, and we are also interested in wiring cells to interpret mechanical cues based on customized, synthetic signaling modules.



Assistant Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering

Related Research: PhD research modeled growth and fracture of bacterial biofilms the led to development of new numerical methods for chemomechanical deformation, growth and transport processes in soft/biological materials. More recent work is being conducted to develop new methods for reactive electrochemical systems. Additional detail may be found here



Cornelius Vanderbilt Professor of Biomedical Engineering
Related Research: Study of load-induced, post-traumatic osteoarthritis models and drug development. More information may be found here



Professor of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering 

Related Research: The Guelcher Lab designs and develops novel biomaterials for regenerative medicine.



J. Lawrence Wilson Professor and Department Chair of Biomedical Engineering

Related Research: The King Lab studies the responses of leukocytes and cancer cells to fluid shear stress. The blood circulation is an understudied tumor microenvironment that we believe holds the key to understanding, and eventually controlling, distant metastasis and therapeutic interventions such as cancer immunotherapy.



Professor of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering & Molecular Physiology and Biophysics

Related Research: Lang Laboratory probes the inner-workings of Nature's molecular and cellular machinery through functional measurement. 



Assistant Professor of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering
Related Research: Age- and disease-related mechanical changes to the neurovascular unit through the Lippmann Lab.



Walters Family Professor of Biomedical Engineering 

Related Research: The MERRYMAN MECHANOBIOLOGY LABORATORY (MML) is devoted to cardiovascular and pulmonary mechanobiology research with emphasis on cellular response and functional changes (phenotypic and biosynthetic) to altered mechanical stimuli and various biochemical agents. Areas of expertise include: cellular and soft tissue biomechanics, in vitro mechanobiological systems of disease, and mechanistic studies of cytokine activity and mechanical stimuli. The primary goals of the lab are to elucidate the mechanisms leading to multiple cardiovascular/pulmonary/renal diseases and develop non-surgical strategies to prevent and treat them, with particular focus on heart disease, pulmonary arterial hypertension, and kidney fibrosis. The laboratory is directed by W. David Merryman, PhD, the Walters Family Professor of Biomedical Engineering, Pharmacology, Medicine, and Pediatrics at Vanderbilt University.



Assistant Professor of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering

Related Research: Our laboratory works at the interface of engineering and cancer biology. We examine the biological, chemical, and physical cues that influence cancer metastasis and recurrence. Current projects focus on studying the effects of radiation and surgery on tumor and immune cell migration dynamics, the molecular profiles of tissues wounded from therapy, and the biomechanical properties of tissues following therapy. We are also interested in developing models of the tumor and tissue microenvironment to explore how mechanical forces modulate tumor cell migration and invasion.



Associate Professor of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering 

Related Research:  Wilson laboratory works at the interface of engineering and immunology to develop new therapeutics to improve human health. We are interested in understanding the role of innate immune signaling on immune, cancer, and endothelial cell migration and in engineering therapeutics to modulate these responses for therapeutic benefit in cancer, infectious disease, and autoimmunity. 


School of Medicine Basic Sciences


Associate Professor of Cell and Developmental Biology

Related Research: Using multidisciplinary scientific methodologies, the
Burnette lab aspires to understand the growth of the human heart on a single cell level. The growth of heart muscle is driven by cardiac myocytes going through cell division (hyperplastic growth) followed by their subsequent enlargement (hypertrophic growth). The physical forces driving both processes are largely produced by myosin II-based contractile machinery. As such, our research explores the sub-cellular mechanisms controlling contractile system-dynamics, physically coupling these systems between cells, tuning of these systems by extracellular forces (e.g., load), and how these systems switch between driving cell proliferation and cell enlargement. 


Kathleen Gould

Professor of Cell and Developmental Biology

Related Research: The Gould Lab conducts foundational research on the molecular basis of cell division, a highly conserved process central to development and tissue maintenance. Eukaryotic cells accomplish cell division with exquisite spatial and temporal control. A key event during cell division is the formation of an actin- and myosin-based cytokinetic ring that constricts to physically separate two new daughter cells. Our lab is fascinated by the question of how the cytokinetic ring is assembled and organized on the plasma membrane. We are also interested in how the assembly and constriction of the cytokinetic ring is coordinated with chromosome segregation to ensure genomic integrity. We have made fundamental, pioneering discoveries in the mechanisms that control cell division using a multi-disciplinary approach that includes super-resolution microscopy, mass spectrometry-based proteomics, genetics, structural biology, biochemisty, and biochemical reconstitution.



Professor of Cell and Developmental Biology

Related Research: The major interest of Kaverina laboratory is the microtubule network that drives intracellular trafficking and to a large extent defines mechanics and architecture of various cell types. MT-dependent motors provide forces for intracellular organelle transport and remodeling of cell membranes. We study the mechanisms whereby MT-dependent forces drive secretory trafficking and cell-cycle-associated membrane rearrangements necessary for correct cell division. Furthermore, MTs control cell architecture through fine-tuning the actin cytoskeleton via delivery or withdrawal of regulatory factors. We study MT-dependent regulation of actin and its role in the mechanics and polarity of cell migration and organelle positioning. 



Associate Professor of Cell and Developmental Biology

Related Research: The Lau Lab studies how the microenvironment of the intestine and colon directs differentiation of stem cells into different functional states. The lab has interest in understanding how stromal cells provide a different mechanical environment to stem cells in cancer and inflammatory bowel disease. The lab has also leveraged microfluidics to understand how brush border mechanics affect an intestinal cell monolayer.



Professor and Department Chair of Cell and Developmental Biology
Related Research: The Macara lab studies Epithelial homeostasis, mechanobiology of epithelial cell extrusion and integration and single molecule imaging in live cells.



Professor of Cell and Developmental Biology
Related Research: The Page-McCaw lab analyzes the interplay of mechanical force and repair of damaged tissues.  Specifically we seek to understand how wounds alter epithelial tissue tension, and how changes in tension contribute to epithelial wound detection and repair.  Another aspect of tissue repair is matrix repair, and we analyze the repair of basement membranes, the main matrix of epithelial tissues.  Specifically we are analyzing how tissue mechanics are altered when basement membranes are damaged, and how those changes in mechanics contribute to matrix repair. 



Cornelius Vanderbilt Professor, Professor of Cell and Developmental Biology, Scientific Director of Cell Imaging Shared Resource
Related Research: The overarching goal of the Tyska Laboratory is to understand how transporting epithelial cells assemble a functional apical surface. Intestinal epithelial cells in particular build one of the most elaborate apical specializations, an array of microvilli known as the brush border. Our current studies are investigating how enterocytes assemble this domain, how the brush border contributes to maintaining physiological homeostasis, and how perturbation of this interface by inherited or infectious causes leads to human disease. 



Professor of Cell and Developmental Biology
Related Research: The Alissa Weaver laboratory works on the role of exosomes and other extracellular vesicles in health and disease.  We have a focus on the role of exosomes in cancer metastasis.  Our work relates to mechanobiology because we frequently focus on regulation of extracellular matrix and cytoskeletal reorganization by cargoes carried by extracellular vesicles, and the consequence for cell migration and invasion.


College of Arts and Science


Professor of Physics and Biological Sciences

Related Research
The Hutson lab is broadly interested in how cellular forces drive tissue morphogenesis and wound healing. We develop new techniques for measuring and inferring cellular forces, and we investigate how those forces are regulated over time, space and cell type in normal and abnormal development. Current projects in the lab include: (1) investigating the mechanisms by which cells detect nearby wounds, eliciting prompt calcium signals, and how those calcium signals are then linked to cellular mechanics of wound closure; (2) using computational modeling and laser-microsurgery to probe the inter- and intra-cellular forces that drive events in early fruit fly embryogenesis; and (3) investigating how morphogenetic forces and cell behaviors become dysregulated after toxicant exposure in early mammalian development.