Academic quad in spring

Stern Fellow Demetra Sklaviadis

Biomedical engineering Ph.D. candidate Demetra Sklaviadis has been named the 2016 Stern Fellow.

Biomedical engineering Ph.D. candidate and Stern Fellow Demetra Sklaviadis.

How did you become interested in working at the interface of biomechanics, tissue engineering, and imaging?

I initially became interested in biomechanics and tissue engineering through courses led by Professor Spector and Professor Yannas during my undergraduate studies at MIT. These courses motivated me to think of how the collective effect of biological events occurring at the molecular and cellular level shaped tissue and organ function, as well as to familiarize myself with research aimed at engineering biomedical tools. In recent years I have also gained an appreciation of the practical applications of bioimaging research in gathering and assessing experimental results.  

What kind of research have you worked on in this area? What are the broader implications of your research?

At MIT, I worked on a project in Professor Langer’s lab aimed at engineering a cardiac graft that is intended to repair or regenerate injured heart muscle. I evaluated the effects of different polymer chemical formulations and scaffold architectures in designing a graft that matched the mechanical properties of native myocardium as well as biodegraded within a time frame that allowed heart tissue to heal after sustaining a myocardial infarction. I also helped incorporate a robust vascular-like flow network so as to facilitate nutrient exchange and demonstrate scalable thickness of the cardiac graft. Moreover, the applications of this research are broad enough to apply techniques from cardiac tissue engineering to other tissue types.

What research topics do you think you might pursue?

My graduate work will be aimed toward articulating a better understanding of the interplay between biological and mechanical cues in guiding tissue development and function. I am especially interested in continuously recording the behavior of both cells and engineered tissue constructs over time. A picture might be worth a thousand words, but a video tells a story, and I want to find ways of transforming these stories into quantitative data in an automated manner so as to build a computational assay library that can be employed by other tissue engineers and at the same time guide my own research.

What made Tufts the right choice for you?

Tufts has great resources with respect to its faculty and its facilities. I like the Tufts BME community and I look forward to finding mentors as well as collaborators there that encourage a multi-disciplinary approach to their work.

Once you finish your degree program, what would you ultimately like to be doing with your time?

I hope that the career path I follow after completing my graduate studies places me in a position where I can make available data analysis resources that can increase the efficiency and capabilities of tissue engineering research. The types of resources I am interested in creating involve using mathematical models and visualization to optimize the design characteristics of various engineered tissue parameters prior to attempting many labor intensive and costly experimental trials. 

What does having this fellowship and the financial support mean to your ability to pursue a graduate education?

The financial support provided by Tufts will make it possible for me to pursue my graduate education. I am honored to receive the Stern Fellowship and I consider it a great privilege that I am given the opportunity to continue my studies and contribute to the research conducted at the Tufts Department of Biomedical Engineering.