GSBS50-50 Initiative
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Student Spotlight

Stephanie Vega, PhD_smStephanie Vega, PhD

Being a graduate student at the University of Texas Medical Branch (UTMB) has given me the opportunity to learn in a strong research intensive atmosphere with a diverse scientific community that values the intellectual development of their students. My mentor Dr. Nichols, has been essential to my success as a graduate student. As my mentor, she encourages and challenges me to build on my strengths in order to reach my full potential. Working in her laboratory has been an amazing experience as I am part of a team that is working on cutting-edge bioengineering research.

My dissertation project was focused on the development of a 3D bioengineered human lung construct as an experimental model to study pathogenesis of chronic lung disease (e.g. pulmonary fibrosis), respiratory infections caused by influenza virus, for toxicology studies or screening of drug therapies. Of particular interest to me, is the involvement of macrophage subsets (M1 and M2) and other innate immune cells in chronic inflammation and tissue remodeling during the formation of fibrotic lung tissue.

The whole-organ human lung constructs we have developed in our laboratory have the potential to be used for regenerative medicine. This would help to increase the number of lungs available for patients who suffer from end-stage lung disease and need a lung transplant. Our research team was the first in the world to bioengineer human lungs and successfully transplant a bioengineered lung into a large-animal model.