Bone Center Trainees

  • Rafay Ahmed

    Postdoctoral Fellow
    Orthopaedic Surgery

    Lab Address
    MCN
    1161 21st Ave S
    Room / Suite
    B0213
    Nashville
    Tennessee
    37232
    Lab Phone
    (615) 322-7184

    Rafay Ahmed received his PhD from City University of Hong Kong in 2019. There he diagnosed the healing of calvarial defects by assessing the molecular and elemental changes using Raman spectroscopy, X-Ray fluorescence spectroscopy, optical profiling and microscopies. Additionally, he developed the Laser Induced Breakdown Spectroscopy system in his lab that was used for several elemental studies including bones, teeth, thyroid, Red blood cells etc. Currently, Rafay is working as postdoctoral research fellow in Dr. Nyman’s lab on the development of Spatially Offset Raman Spectroscopy to translate it for clinical assessment of bone matrix quality; to diagnose the reasons of fragility fractures in type 2 diabetes; fatigue testing of cortical bones using single edge notch bend specimen and assessing the ability of Raman spectroscopy to predict mechanical properties of human bone.

  • Erik Beadle

    Graduate Student
    Cancer Biology

    Lab Address
    MRB IV
    2215b Garland Ave
    Room / Suite
    1155
    Nashville
    Tennessee
    37232

    Erik is a 4th-year cancer biology graduate student in the Rhoades lab. He came to Vanderbilt in 2016 after completing his bachelor’s in biology (2014) and master’s in molecular science and nanotechnology (2016) at Louisiana Tech University. Erik’s master’s thesis focused on transcriptional control of bone marrow mesenchymal stem cell differentiation, which corresponded well to the research in the Rhoades lab.  His current research is focused on solidifying the link between Gli2 and PTHrP in tumor-induced bone disease while identifying how this interaction facilitates the development of osteosarcoma. 

  • Natalie Bennett

    MSTP Student
    Cancer Biology

    Lab Address
    MRB IV
    2215B Garland Avenue
    Room / Suite
    1155
    Nashville
    Tennessee
    37232

    Natalie is from Nashville, TN and graduated from the University of Tennessee in Knoxville, where she received a BA through the College Scholars Program in Cancer Biology & Cellular Metabolism. She is a graduate student in the Vanderbilt Medical Scientist Training Program and is conducting research under the mentorship of Dr. Julie Rhoades. Her project focuses on myeloid cell regulation in bone metastatic disease.

  • Lauren Boller

    Graduate Student
    Biomedical Engineering

    Lab Address
    Olin Hall
    2400 Highland Ave
    Room / Suite
    107
    Nashville
    Tennessee
    37235

    Lauren joined the Guelcher lab in August of 2016 after receiving her B.S. in Bioengineering from Lehigh University (2016). Her research is focused on engineering biodegradable polyurethane based composites for the delivery of Recombinant human bone morphogenetic growth factor-2 (rhBMP-2) to aide bone regeneration.

  • Casey Butrico

    Graduate Student
    Department of Pathology, Microbiology, and Immunology

    Lab Address
    MRB IV
    2215b Garland Ave
    Room / Suite
    1035
    Nashville
    Tennessee
    37232
    Lab Phone
    615-936-8476

    Casey is a graduate student in the Microbe Host Interactions program. She is originally from New Jersey and received her B.S. in Biology from Gettysburg College. Casey worked at Janssen R&D in the Translational Oncology Disease Area Stronghold before joining the Cassat lab in 2018. Her research focuses on S. aureus metabolism and abscess formation during osteomyelitis in the context of comorbid immune-modulating conditions, including diabetes. Outside of lab, Casey enjoys running and exploring Nashville coffee shops.

  • Courtney Edwards

    MSTP
    Cancer Biology

    Lab Address
    MRB IV
    2215b Garland Ave
    Room / Suite
    1175
    Nashville
    Tennessee
    37232

    Courtney attended Hampton University where she graduated with her B.S. in Biochemistry (2016). She is currently a graduate student in the Vanderbilt Medical Scientist Training Program and a member of the Johnson Lab. Her project focuses on understanding how histone deacetylase inhibition can promote breast tumor dormancy. 

  • David Florian

    Graduate Student
    Biomedical Engineering

    Lab Address
    MRB IV
    2215b Garland Ave
    Room / Suite
    1155
    Nashville
    Tennessee
    37232

    David Florian graduated from the University of Virginia in 2017 with degrees in Biomedical Engineering and Mathematics. His research focuses on modeling and imaging the bone-tumor microenvironment to study the complex process of metastatic seeding and outgrowth of tumor cells in the bone marrow.

  • Caleb Ford

    MSTP
    Biomedical Engineering

    Lab Address
    MRB IV
    2215b Garland Ave
    Room / Suite
    1035
    Nashville
    Tennessee
    37232

    Caleb is from St. Louis, MO, and attended Washington University in St. Louis as a biomedical engineering student. During his time as an undergraduate, his primary research focused on the role of mechanical force in development of the hip joint in a murine model of paralysis. He is now in the research years of his time in Vanderbilt's Medical Scientist Training Program (MSTP). His research project focuses on the role of the osteoblast in osteomyelitis. Outside of academics, Caleb enjoys running, backpacking, and most things outdoors.

  • Dustin Groff

    Graduate Student
    Chemical Engineering

    Lab Address
    Olin Hall
    2400 Highland Ave
    Room / Suite
    107
    Nashville
    Tennessee
    37235
    Lab Phone
    (615) 343-4977

    Dustin received his B.S. in Chemical and Environmental Engineering from the University of Arizona in May of 2015. He then spent one year working for W.L Gore Medical in Phoenix, AZ before returning to school. Dustin joined the Guelcher lab in August of 2016 and his researched is focused on the characterization of polyurethane based scaffolding for bone tissue remodeling.

  • Ian Houdelette

    Masters Student
    Program in Biomedical Sciences

    Lab Address
    MRB IV
    2215B Garland Avenue
    Room / Suite
    1155
    Nashville
    Tennessee
    37232

    Ian is a French student, who holds a French BS in Medical Sciences (2019) and is currently enrolled in the MS Program in Biomedical Sciences at Vanderbilt University. He joined the Rhoades lab in the VCBB for research on the role of trabecular architecture in tumor-induced bone disease. His ultimate goal in life is to become an American physician.

  • James Houdelette

    Masters Student
    Program in Biomedical Sciences

    Lab Address
    MRB IV
    2215B Garland Avenue
    Room / Suite
    1175
    Nashville
    Tennessee
    37232

    James is a French student, who holds a French BS in Medical Sciences (2019) and is currently enrolled in the MS Program in Biomedical Sciences at Vanderbilt University. He joined the Johnson lab in the VCBB for research on the dormancy phenotype in bone metastatic disease. His ultimate goal in life is to become an American physician.

  • Kristin Kwakwa

    Graduate Student
    Cancer Biology

    Lab Address
    MRB IV
    2215-B Garland Ave
    Room / Suite
    1235
    Nashville
    Tennessee
    37232

    Kristin attended the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign where she graduated with her B.S. in Molecular & Cellular Biology (2012). She is currently a third-year student in the Department of Cancer Biology and is conducting research under the mentorship of Dr. Julie Sterling. Her thesis work involves the use of 3D tissue-engineered bone constructs to investigate the effects of the physical bone microenvironment on metastatic tumors from patients as well as novel therapeutics for the treatment of tumor-induced bone disease (TIBD).

  • Greg Lowen

    Graduate Student
    Biomedical Engineering

    Greg attended Brown University where he graduated with his B.S. in Chemical and Biochemical Engineering (2012). After three and half years of research and project management at Orica Limited in Denver, he came to Vanderbilt and joined the Guelcher lab in October 2016. Greg is investigating how mechanical stress affects osteoblast/osteoclast activity in polyurethane composite grafts.

  • Lauryn Luderman

    Graduate Student
    Cell and Developmental Biology

    Lab Address
    MRB IV
    2215b Garland Ave
    Room / Suite
    1155
    Nashville
    Tennessee
    37232
  • Tolu Omokehinde

    Graduate Student
    Cancer Biology

    Lab Address
    MRB IV
    2215-B Garland Ave
    Room / Suite
    1255
    Nashville
    Tennessee
    37232
    Lab Phone
    (615) 936-0709

    Tolu attended the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC) where he received his Bachelor’s degree in Biochemistry in May of 2016. He is currently a fourth-year student and is conducting research under the mentorship of Dr. Rachelle Johnson.

  • Chris Peek

    MSTP
    Pathology, Microbiology, and Immunology

    Lab Address
    MRB IV
    2215b Garland Ave
    Room / Suite
    1035
    Nashville
    Tennessee
    37232

    Chris is a Nashville native and graduated Davidson College in 2015 where he focused his research on RSV replication and attachment. He's back in Nashville for the Medical Scientist Training Program (MSTP) and has switched gears from virology to bacteriology. His current project focuses on the role of inflammatory signaling and the gut microbiome in IBD mediated bone loss. Outside the lab, Chris enjoys playing ultimate frisbee, hiking, live music, and coffee. 

  • Jenna Petronglo

    Graduate Student
    Pathology, Microbiology, and Immunology

    Lab Address
    MRB IV
    2215b Garland Ave
    Room / Suite
    1035
    Nashville
    Tennessee
    37232
    Lab Phone
    615-936-8476

    Jenna attended Fordham University where she majored in Biological Sciences and completed a research thesis on the ecology of the black-legged tick, the major vector of Lyme disease. After graduating in 2014, she worked as a research technician at The Albert Einstein College of Medicine and assisted in projects studying Huntington's disease. She joined the IGP in 2017 and the Cassat lab in 2018. Her project focuses on how inflammation generated during the innate immune response to S. aureus osteomyelitis affects osteoclast differentiation and function.

  • Thomas Spoonmore

    Graduate Student
    Chemical and Molecular Engineering

    Lab Address
    MRB IV
    2215b Garland Ave
    Room / Suite
    1155
    Nashville
    Tennessee
    37232

    Tom hails from Indianapolis, IN and received his bachelor's degree in chemical engineering from the University of Notre Dame. During his time as an undergraduate, his primary research was focused on polymeric thin film membranes for water filtration using size exclusion chromatography. Tom is a PhD student in the Chemical Engineering department at Vanderbilt and is co-mentored by Dr. Cassat. His project focuses on novel delivery strategies to combat bone-dwelling biofilm infections. Outside of academics, Tom enjoys coaching lacrosse, running, and anything else involving sports.

  • Vera Todd

    Graduate Student
    Cancer Biology

    MRB IV
    2215-B Garland Ave
    Room / Suite
    1255
    Nashville
    Tennessee
    37232
    Lab Phone
    (615) 936-0709

    Vera attended Brigham Young University where she graduated with her B.S. in Genetics & Biotechnology in 2016. She is a PhD candidate student in the Program in Cancer Biology and is conducting research under the mentorship of Dr. Rachelle Johnson. Her thesis work investigates the impact of hypoxia on breast cancer dissemination to bone, colonization of bone, and dormancy escape.

Bone Center Staff

  • Virginia Cruz-Victorio

    Research Assistant
    Pathology, Microbiology, and Immunology

    Lab Address
    MRB IV
    2215b Garland Ave
    Room / Suite
    1035
    Nashville
    Tennessee
    37232
    Lab Phone
    615-936-8476

    I was born in LA, CA but spent most of my life in Nashville. I went to Union College in New York where I received my B.S. in Neuroscience. My future plans include earning my M.D. and using it to do volunteer work abroad. Outside of the lab, I enjoy camping, hiking, reading, and traveling.

  • Joshua Johnson

    Lab Manager
    Vanderbilt Center for Bone Biology

    Lab Address
    MRB 4 (Light Hall)
    2215-B Garland Ave
    Room / Suite
    1225
    Nashville
    Tennessee
    37212
  • Alyssa Merkel, MS

    Lab Coordinator
    Medicine, Division of Clinical Pharmacology

    Lab Address
    MRB 4 (Light Hall)
    2215-B Garland Ave
    Room / Suite
    1155
    Nashville
    Tennessee
    37212

    Alyssa came to Nashville as an Undergraduate at Belmont University, where she completed a degree in biochemistry and molecular biology in 2009. She began working in the Center for Bone Biology in the laboratory of Julie Rhoades (Sterling) as a part-time student intern prior to graduation and joined full time in May 2009. Alyssa earned her M.S. in 2016 from Vanderbilt’s Masters of Laboratory Investigation program. Over the past 10 years she has become an expert in many techniques in bone and cancer biology including animal models, 3D culture, imaging, and molecular biology assays. Alyssa is collaborative and an excellent teacher helping train many students and staff in the Center for Bone Biology, while leading her own projects involved in understanding the molecular pathways regulating tumor-induced bone disease.

  • Sasidhar Uppuganti, MS

    Lab Manager
    Orthopaedic Surgery

    Lab Address
    MCN
    1161 21st Ave S,
    Room / Suite
    B0213
    Nashville
    Tennessee
    37232
    Lab Phone
    (615) 322-7184

    Sasi graduated with a Masters in BME from University of Akron, Ohio in 2010. After a brief stint in the industry with Philips Respironics (Monroeville, PA) as an Engineering Assistant, he joined the Nyman lab in August 2011. He assists with the research studies for Dr. Nyman, VCBB collaborators, Vanderbilt Orthopaedic department, and other industry projects; besides overseeing the daily operation and management of the Bone Biomechanics laboratory. He has strong technical skills with hands-on experience in Micro-CT, 1H NMR, Raman spectroscopy, SEM imaging, and biomechanical testing of bone.

  • Lawrence (Tony) Vecchi, III

    Research Assistant III
    Medicine, Division of Clinical Pharmacology

    Lab Address
    MRB 4 (Light Hall)
    2215-B Garland Ave
    Room / Suite
    1255
    Nashville
    Tennessee
    37212

    Tony attended the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga where he graduated with his B.S. in Biology. His current research consists of studying how disseminated tumor cells exit dormancy and metastasize to the bone by using transgenic mouse models, qPCR, Western blotting, and other techniques. He is currently a graduate student in the Master of Laboratory Investigation program at Vanderbilt.

Bone Center Alumni

Graduate Students:

Adrian Alepuz, 2020
Master’s Program in Biomedical Sciences
Dr. Jeffry Nyman

Gokhan Unlu, 2019
Cell and Developmental Biology
Dr. Ela Knapik

Nicole Putnam, 2019
Pathology, Microbiology, and Immunology
Dr. Jim Cassat

Aimee Potter (Wilde), 2019
Pathology, Microbiology, and Immunology
Dr. Jim Cassat

Miranda Sowder, 2019
Cancer Biology
Dr. Rachelle Johnson

Joe Vanderburgh, 2019
Biomedical Engineering
Dr. Scott Guelcher

Madison McGough, 2018
Biomedical Engineering
Dr. Scott Guelcher

Amy Creecy, 2018
Biomedical Engineering
Dr. Jeffry Nyman

Sichang Lu, 2018
​Chemical Engineering
Dr. Scott Guelcher

Denise Buenrostro, 2018
​Cancer Biology
Dr. Julie Sterling

Patrick Mulcrone, 2017
Cancer Biology
Dr. Julie Sterling

Shellese Cannonier, 2016
​Cancer Biology
Dr. Julie Sterling

Ushashi Dadwal, 2016
​Chemical Engineering
Dr. Julie Sterling / Dr. Scott Guelcher

Daniel Levic, 2015
Cell and Developmental Biology
Dr. Ela Knapik

Matthew Karolak, 2015
​Pharmacology
Dr. Florent Elefteriou

Alex Makowski, 2015
​Biomedical Engineering
Dr. Jeffry Nyman

Preston Campbell, 2012
​Pharmacology
Dr. Florent Elefteriou

Na Lian, 2011
​Pharmacology
Dr. Xiangli Yang

Rachelle Johnson, 2011
​Cancer Biology
Dr. Lynn Matrisian / Dr. Julie Sterling

Weiguang Wang, 2011
​Pharmacology
Dr. Xiangli Yang

Nazanin Ruppender, 2011
​Chemical Engineering
Dr. Scott Guelcher / Dr. Julie Sterling

Jessica Fowler, 2010
​Cancer Biology
Dr. Claire Edwards

Postdocs:

Miranda Sowder (Johnson Lab)

Mustafa Unal (Nyman Lab)

Sabrina Danilin (Sterling Lab)

Mathilde Granke (Nyman Lab)

Yun Ma (Elefteriou Lab)

Jean Ndong de le Croix (Elefteriou Lab)

Koichiro Ono (Elefteriou Lab)

Beth Rendina-Ruedy (Perrien Lab)

​Guillaume Vignaux (Elefteriou Lab)