Meet our CVMP Mentees

Current CVMP Mentees

Adam Lauko

Adam Lauko

Adam is currently a graduate student in the Department of Pathology. Adam went to the University of Wisconsin-Madison for his undergraduate education where he studied biochemistry. Adam next joined the Cleveland Clinic Learner College of Medicine and ultimately transitioned to the Medical Scientist Training Program. In the lab Adam studies cancer stem cells, populations of treatment resistant tumor cells that are partially responsible for recurrence. Along with his commentors Dr. Justin Lathia and Dr. Ofer Reizes, Adam will be working on the commercialization of a short interfering peptide technology targeting triple negative breast cancer. Ultimately, Adam’s goal is to be a pediatric oncologist and work to bring discoveries from the lab into patient rooms.



Ben Clayton, PhD

Dr. Ben Clayton is a neuroscientist with a passion for identifying innovative approaches to treat neurodegenerative disease. As a postdoc in Dr. Paul Tesar’s lab at the Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine, Ben is leveraging the power of phenotypic screens to uncover novel treatment strategies that protect and repair the brain by controlling cell state. As a CVMP mentee Ben will develop exciting scientific discoveries in this space.

Originally from Salt Lake City, Utah, Ben received a B.S. in Biology with an Undergraduate Research Scholar designation from the University of Utah while mentored by Dr. Kurt Albertine. Ben then received his Ph.D. in Neurobiology from the University of Chicago under the mentorship of Dr. Brian Popko.


Bo Zhang



Brecken Blackburn

Brecken grew up north of Pittsburgh, PA. After attending Cornell University to study Electrical and Computer Engineering, she came to Case Western Reserve University to pursue her PhD in Biomedical Engineering, with a focus on biomedical optics. In her free time, she enjoys hiking, cooking, and entertaining her border collie. 



David Shafran, MD



Edwin Vazquez-Rosa, PhD

Dr. Edwin Vazquez-Rosa has spent most of his young career studying the fundamental basics of neuronal vitality. He earned his Ph.D. at the University of Puerto Rico, and then joined Dr. Andrew Pieper’s laboratory for postdoctoral training in order to expand his neuroscientific knowledge and skills in preclinical drug discovery and development applied to neurodegeneration. His career objective is to conduct innovative science that advances our understanding of neurodegenerative conditions, most keenly focused on traumatic brain injury (TBI) and Alzheimer’s disease (AD), in ways that will help develop new diagnostics and treatments for the large number of people suffering from these devastating conditions.


Bushra Alghamdi



Elizabeth Benninger, PhD

Elizabeth Benninger is the founder and CEO of HMHC Consulting who specializes in Community and Health Psychology. She obtained a Masters in Psychology (Applied Community Psychology) from Antioch University, Los Angeles and a Bachelor’s degree in Social and Community Development and Doctoral degree in Psychology from the University of the Western Cape in Cape Town, South Africa. Her research interests include the study of children’s well-being, health disparities, participatory research approaches, and community health promotion. Her work additionally focuses on national and international collaborations with a number of non-profit and nongovernmental organizations which specifically focus on improving the well-being of children and families within communities experiencing high levels of poverty and violence. She currently serves as a National Institute of Health supported Post-Doctoral Fellow at Case Western Reserve University and an adjunct Psychology Instructor at Cleveland State University. She is additionally an active member of the International Society of Child Indicators Research (ISCI), the Society for Community Research and Action, the Society for Prevention Research, and the International Surf Therapy Organization (ISTO).


Eser Tuna



Ian Drummond, MD



Jesse Davila Calderon


Jessica de

Jessica de Abreu

Jessica is a PhD candidate in the department of Biomedical Engineering. Her research focuses on developing controllers for functional electrical stimulation to revert upper-limb paralysis. Currently, Jessica is developing a Neural Tissue Mapper to assist surgeons in quickly and precisely mapping targeted neural tissue to motor actions in the operating room. She is also the creator of NUPA, an initiative to teach computer programming to underprivileged youth in Brazil.



Jessica S.

Jessica Scarborough


Jose-Andres Portillo, MD



Lauren Yeh

Lauren Yeh is a PhD candidate in the department of Genetics and Genome Sciences at Case Western Reserve University.  She completed her undergraduate at Vanderbilt University where she majored in Molecular and Cellular Biology and minored in Corporate Strategy.  At Case, she works on modifier genes impacting gastrointestinal symptoms of cystic fibrosis.  She previously worked on other genetic-based orphan diseases supported by the Research Institute for Children’s Health with her research mentor Dr. Mitch Drumm.  Lauren is interested in biomedical entrepreneurship with a focus on transforming the discoveries from her lab into a treatment for patients.  As a CVMP mentee, she hopes to learn new skills and to bring a promising lung therapeutic treatment to market.



Matthew McPheeters, PhD

Matthew McPheeters is a postdoctoral researcher in the Department of Biomedical Engineering.  His academic research is currently focused on biomedical optics and building optical tools for functional neuroimaging in the eye.  His professional interests include commercialization of relevant photonic technologies in underserved markets.


Mei Zhang, PhD


Nathan Makowski



Roberto Martinez, MD MPH



Samantha Oblander, PhD

Dr. Oblander trained in the fields of cell adhesion and signaling under the direction of Dr. Susann Brady-Kalnay, the leading expert on Receptor Protein Tyrosine Phosphatase PTPmu (PTPmu/PTPRM) mediated cell adhesion, at Case Western Reserve University in the department of Molecular Biology and Microbiology. She went on to co-found a successful commodities trading firm from the ground up. As part of a small business startup she managed the market analysis, product development, manufacturing, marketing, communications and sales from inception to product launch for over a dozen product lines. Dr. Oblander recently brought her expertise in marketing and business development back to Dr. Brady-Kalnay’s lab as a postdoctoral scholar to translate a platform technology developed in the lab for commercialization. The platform of PTPmu agents specifically target virtually all tumor cell, regardless of their distance from the main tumor mass and do not detect normal cells, improving tumor detection. Each PTPmu agent can be tuned to perform as a prognostic, diagnostic, fluorescence imaging agent, MRI, PET or as a therapeutic.



Selva Jeganathan, PhD



Seth Fillioe, PhD

Seth Fillioe, PhD., is a Postdoctoral Scholar in the Decker lab.  Seth received his Bachelor’s Degree (2012) in chemistry from Hofstra University and both his Master’s Degree (2017) and Doctoral Degree (2020) from Syracuse University, also in Chemistry.  His Doctoral research focused on using Near-Infrared spectroscopy to assess spinal cord injury in a rat model immediately following injury, while minimizing invasive procedures and contact to affected areas.  His main research interests involve biomedical technologies and extending his knowledge in chemistry and spectroscopy to physiology.


Timothy Walker



William Wulftange

I was born and raised in Reno, NV which is also where I completed my bachelor’s in chemistry (University of Nevada, Reno). After undergrad I had to explore the world so I did a master’s in organic chemistry at the University of Erlangen-Nuremberg in Germany. After my studies, I worked at the National Institutes of Health as a post-bac. I am now in the third year of the MD/PhD program doing my biomedical engineering graduate work in the Gurkan and Tesar labs. We are focusing on building a blood-brain barrier model to investigate leukemia therapies. I am excited to be in the Translational Fellowship program so that I can also experience biotech industry and determine how it will fit into my career.



Yehe Liu

Yehe Liu is a Ph.D. student in the Department of Biomedical Engineering. He works on several biomedical research projects related to optical imaging. He is especially interested in developing technologies and protocols that are user-friendly and easy to implement. Yehe recently founded a small business, OpsiClear LLC, with his research mentor Dr. Michael Jenkins. They are exploring the commercialization potential of their optical imaging technology in clinical imaging. Using advanced 3D imaging and sample processing techniques, Yehe aims to make clinical histopathology imaging more accurate and efficient.



Yue Xu

Yue Xu is a Ph.D. candidate at Dr. Vijay Krishna’s lab in the Department of Biomedical Engineering. His research area is a convergence of engineering, nanotechnology, medicine, and biology. With an interest in immunology, he is currently working on the “PhotoVaccine” project which applies nanotechnology in cancer treatment to prime robust anti-cancer immune response for long-term protection. Combining both phototherapy and immunotherapy, Yue aims to develop a novel cancer therapy with effectiveness and improved patient compliance.



Zoe Seyonders

Zoe Sekyonda is a PhD student in the Biomedical engineering department, working in Prof. Umut Gurkan's lab. She is an inventor on an noval optical system for diagnosing and monitoring hemoglobin variants. Her current research focuses on improving health care through research in hemoglobin disorders to develop point-of-care systems and/or applications that may be critical components in addressing access to health care problems. Zoe previously led a project to develop a point-of-care strip for detecting a pregnant complication that is common in developing countries, which was named a Grand Challenge Canada star in Global Health. She is driven to conduct high-impact translational research at the intersection of engineering and medicine, and she believes that translational research is critical to resolving many of the world's most difficult health problems.

Zoe is originally from Uganda, Africa, and received her B.S. in Biomedical Engineering from Makerere University, one of Africa's top universities. Makerere University has worked with CWRU for over 20 years.



CVMP Mentee Alum 



Brad Lang, PhD

Dr. Brad Lang has extensive background in drug discovery and development of therapeutics for neurological diseases and injuries.  Brad is currently the VP of Research and Biology lead at Convelo Therapeutics, a Cleveland-headquartered pharmaceutical company developing medicines to treat central nervous system disorders.  As the first employee at Convelo, Brad helped grow the venture- and angel-backed company to 13 full-time employees in three years, including 4 CWRU PhD graduates.  Convelo entered a co-development and option-to-acquire deal with Genentech, Inc. in July of 2019.  

Prior to his work at Convelo, Brad invented a cutting edge regenerative therapy for the treatment of spinal cord injury as a neurosciences graduate student in the Jerry Silver laboratory at CWRU. Brad transitioned this invention into a biotech start-up, becoming the scientific founder of Nervgen. Nervgen plans to initiate a phase 1 clinical trial in Q4 of this year.

Dr. Lang previously served as an Executive in Residence at BioEnterprise and scientist on the regenerative medicine team at Athersys. Dr. Lang received his B.S. in Biology from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and his PhD in Neurosciences from Case Western Reserve University.



Chhavi Jain, PhD



Christa Pawlowski, PhD

Dr. Christa Pawlowski is co-founder and COO of Haima Therapeutics, a biotechnology company focused on the translation and commercialization of an artificial platelet technology, originally developed at Case Western Reserve University, for the treatment of bleeding and other blood-related ailments. She has also served as Associate Director of Technical Operations at BioMotiv, a Cleveland-based, mission-driven drug development accelerator. At BioMotiv, Christa lead operations for several therapeutics startup companies, including SapVax and Allinaire Therapeutics.

Christa completed her B.S.E. and Ph.D. in Biomedical Engineering at Case Western Reserve University and was the recipient of an NSF Graduate Research Fellowship, a Medtronic Graduate Fellowship and a Baxter Young Investigator Award. She was a Case Venture Mentorship Program mentee during the program’s inaugural year.



Eun Kyung Lee, PhD

Eun Kyung Lee is a Postdoctoral Scholar at the Mary Ann Swetland Center for Environmental Health working under the supervision of Dr. Darcy Freedman. Eun Kyung’s previous training is in environmental health and data science. She obtained her PhD in Environmental Health Sciences from the University at Albany, SUNY, where her research work focused on examining the environmental impacts associated with agricultural production in U.S. Midwest using Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) approach, and assessing respiratory effects associated with living near biorefinery facilities in New York State. Eun Kyung received her Master of Public Health from Tufts University and B.A. in Chemistry and Biology from Minnesota State University, Moorhead.

Prior to joining the Swetland Center, Eun Kyung worked with a policy research organization in Guatemala to examine potential environmental risk factors related to food insecurity. In addition, she worked with a non-profit healthcare advocacy organization in Massachusetts aiming to promote access to health care through community-outreach. While growing up, living and working in diverse metropolitan and rural areas in international settings and the U.S. and evidencing many preventable health inequities potentially linked to environmental pollution, poverty, discrimination, lack of quality food, education and health care has been long-lasting motivations to continue working in the public health and environmental health fields.

Currently, at CWRU, Eun Kyung is involved in food systems and COVID-19 related projects across Ohio. For the Translational Fellow Program, Eun Kyung has been focusing on enhancing data dissemination using Farmers’ Market (FM) Tracks data across the U.S. She looks forward to continue working on improving FM Tracks technology through conducting a series of interviews and dissemination of findings to better serve the end users and promote better access to healthy diets for low-income consumers.



Kihwan Kim



Tej Pareek, PhD


Thomas J. Sweet, PhD