Anthem: Lost in Yesterday, Tame Impala
Hobbies: Surfing, Olympic weightlifting, hiking, salsa dancing, live music

Brian Aguado, Ph.D.

Principal Investigator

Dr. Brian Aguado (Twitter: @BrianAguado) is currently an Assistant Professor of Bioengineering at UC San Diego, where his laboratory research is focused on studying sex differences in cardiovascular disease using biomaterial technologies. Dr. Aguado completed his BS degree in Biomechanical Engineering from Stanford University and his MS and PhD in Biomedical Engineering from Northwestern University. He also obtained his certificate in Management for Scientists and Engineers from the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern. He completed his postdoctoral fellowship in Chemical and Biological Engineering at the University of Colorado Boulder. Dr. Aguado has received numerous awards to support his research, including the NIH K99/R00 Pathway to Independence Award, the American Heart Association Career Development Award, and the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative Science Diversity Leadership Award. Dr. Aguado is also a dedicated science communicator outside of the lab and seeks to engage historically excluded and marginalized populations in the sciences. Dr. Aguado co-founded LatinXinBME (Twitter: @LatinXinBME), a new social media initiative dedicated to building a diverse and inclusive community of Latinx biomedical engineers and scientists to support each other personally and professionally through their careers.  For his efforts, he was named one of the 100 Most Inspiring Latinx Scientists in America by Cell Press and received the Biomaterials Diversity Award for Young Investigator from the Biomaterials journal and the GEMINI Faculty Mentor Award from the Institute for Engineering in Medicine. 

Anthem: Shrike, Hozier
Hobbies: Gardening, exploring museums, national parks, and botanical gardens, and reading sci-fi/fantasy books.

Ashley K. Nguyen, Ph.D.

Postdoctoral Researcher
Twitter, LinkedIn

Ash is a postdoctoral researcher in the Department of Bioengineering at UC San Diego. Originally from Sydney, Australia, she obtained a dual Bachelors degree in Commerce and Science with majors in Biotechnology and Business Law from the University of New South Wales (UNSW). She then joined the labs of Professor Kristopher Kilian and Professor Lawrence Lee in the respective Schools of Chemistry and Medicine, fabricating DNA force probes to characterize cellular tractions on micropatterned hydrogel substrates as part of her Honours thesis in 2019. She then completed her PhD in Chemistry with Professor Kilian in 2023, developing a 3D hydrogel matrix platform based on a novel tryptophan zipper peptide motif, while also specializing in molecular dynamics (MD) simulations, human induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs), iPSC- and patient-derived organoids, peptide and polymer synthesis, and materials chemistry characterization techniques. In the Aguado lab, Ash will be developing biomaterial platforms to study the role of the extracellular matrix (ECM) in guiding chromosome development during human embryogenesis, as well the impact of the ECM in pathologies such as aortic valve stenosis (AVS).

Anthem: Sunshine, OneRepublic
Hobbies: Reading, salsa dancing, hiking, scoping out good coffee spots, and finding good tv shows to watch

Nicole E. Félix Vélez

Ph.D Student (3rd year), Bioengineering
CV, Twitter

Nicole is a PhD student, NSF Graduate Research Fellow, and IEM GEMINI Fellow in the Department of Bioengineering at UC San Diego. Having started her college career in her homeland at the University of Puerto Rico-Mayagüez, she transferred to Cornell University where she obtained her BS in Biological Engineering. Nicole works in creating patient-specific in vitro models of aortic valve stenosis to understand how different inflammatory biochemical cues can affect disease progression via epigenetic alterations. Aside from research, Nicole is passionate about communicating science and making it accessible to all. Additionally, she is determined in providing students the tools they need to succeed in their careers. She is involved in the Bioengineering Graduate Society, founding its Diversity Committee in 2022 and serving as co-president of the organization. 

Anthem: Coat of Many Colors, Dolly Parton 
Hobbies: Organizing my Spotify playlists, running, discovering funky ice cream flavors, and reading the NY Times.

Talia Baddour

Ph.D Student (3rd year), Bioengineering

Talia Baddour is a first year PhD student in the Department of Bioengineering at UC San Diego. She graduated with honors from Lafayette College with a degree in Mechanical Engineering. At Lafayette, she completed a thesis in optimizing the mechanical characterization of agarose gel to improve brain tissue research. As a researcher, she is passionate about utilizing engineering as a tool to bring awareness to the mechanisms by which sex influences disease and subsequent therapeutics. Talia's research in the Aguado Lab is focused on using single cell and spatial RNA sequencing techniques to understand the sex-specific mechanisms by which Aortic Valve Stenosis progresses. Talia is also dedicated to mentorship and helping underrepresented students excel in STEM. She is involved in the UCSD Bioengineering Graduate Society Mentorship Committee and serves as the Women in Bioengineering chair of Professional Development. During the summer, she enjoys facilitating fun science projects at Camp Connect, a STEM camp for high school students who identify as migrants. 

Anthem: Ready, Chaz French feat. Goldlink
Hobbies: Photography, weightlifting, baking, live music, video games

Rayyan Gorashi

PhD Student (3rd year), Bioengineering

Rayyan is a PhD student in the Department of Bioengineering at UC San Diego. She is also an ARCS Scholar, GEM Associate Fellow, and served as Racial Equity Fellow through the Jacobs School of Engineering. She earned her bachelor's degree at Johns Hopkins University in Chemical & Biomolecular Engineering and her master’s degree at Northwestern University in Biomedical Engineering. Her master’s thesis worked to create an in vitro model of diabetic endothelial cell dysfunction using patient-derived induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs). In the Aguado Lab, Rayyan builds upon her experience with iPSCs in her efforts to create patient-specific models. She seeks to further our understanding of the molecular mechanisms driving sex differences in the development and progression of heart disease. Outside of lab, Rayyan fuels her passion for outreach and mentorship through the Bioengineering Graduate Society (BEGS) and PATHS. In BEGS, she currently chairs the Festival Outreach Committee and serves as co-President. Rayyan also works as a Graduate Advocate for the Pathways to STEM Scholars (PATHS) program. She mentors multiple underrepresented undergraduate STEM scholars in their pursuit of graduate and professional school.

Anthem: Glory, Dermot Kennedy
Hobbies: Rock climbing, watching movies, hiking, and traveling

Brandon Vogt

Ph.D Student (2nd year), Bioengineering

Brandon is a second year PhD student in the Bioengineering Department at UC San Diego and a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellow.  While earning his bachelor's degree at the University of Colorado Boulder, Brandon spent two years volunteering in the Anseth Research Group studying the effects of proinflammatory cytokines on valvular cell phenotypes and identifying inflammatory serum factors that contribute to sex-specific aortic valve stenosis progression.  Since joining the Aguado Lab, Brandon has been working to develop a high-throughput hydrogel cell culture platform that can be used as a tool to improve the clinical translatability of in vitro drug screening assays. He is using this novel tool in combination with an artificial intelligence platform to rapidly identify sex-specific and patient-specific drug combinations aimed at treating aortic valve stenosis. He is also investigating how factors from aortic valve stenosis patient serum impact drug sensitivity and drug combination efficacy. Beyond his work in the lab, Brandon is committed to mentoring prospective PhD students as a member of the Jacobs Undergraduate Mentorship Program (JUMP).

Anthem: Fearless (Taylor's Version), Taylor Swift 

Hobbies: Listening to music, hiking, weight lifting, and exploring new places

Maria Samaritano

PhD Student (1st year), Bioengineering

Maria is a first-year PhD student in UC San Diego's Bioengineering Department, supported by the National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship and Sloan Scholarship. Maria’s passion for women's health began during her time as a Rodman Scholar at the University of Virginia, where she earned a BS in Biomedical Engineering with a minor in Engineering Business. For her senior projects, Maria engineered a microfluidic device to model wound healing in vaginal tissue and wrote a thesis exploring the impact of gender bias in biomedicine. After graduation, Maria spent two years working as a research technician at the Laboratory for Stem Cells and Tissue Engineering at Columbia University. As a part of the organs-on-chip team, she collaborated across a breadth of projects, including in vitro modeling of breast cancer metastasis in engineered lung, bone, and heart tissues as well as the investigation of sex-specific changes to innate immune cell phenotypes. Now, in the Aguado Lab, Maria is excited to move into the in vivo space, as she plans to use mouse models to investigate the mechanisms of biological sex differences in the context of myocardial fibrosis.

Anthem: Enjoy the Silence, Depeche Mode 

Hobbies: Horses, pugs, growing and propagating houseplants, live music and podcasts, spending time with family and friends

Meaghan Loud

Staff Research Associate

Meaghan Loud is a Staff Research Associate 2 in the Department of Bioengineering at UCSD. She acquired her Bachelor’s of Science from Cal Poly Pomona in animal science, and her Master’s of Science in animal biology at UC Davis. Her Master’s thesis focused on manipulating the normal breeding cycle in horses through the injection of recombinant equine gonadotropins. She was able to successfully bring female horses into a state of seasonal estrus sooner than typical for mares in the northern hemisphere, and all the mares in the study had fertile ovulations, conceived, and maintained viable pregnancies. After completing her Master’s she put her skills in reproductive biology to work in the Transgenic Core at the Salk Institute, where she assisted in generating novel mouse models. Meaghan moved to Howard Hughes Medical Institute in the lab of Dr. Ardem Patapoutian as an animal behavior technician, where she was responsible for conducting somatosensory behavioral tests for in vivo lab projects. She additionally acquired many in vitro skills, such as cell culture and molecular biology techniques, and in 2020 she was officially promoted to the title of Lab Manager. While working at HHMI she served as the secretary on the Advisory Board for the Lab Manager Network of Professionals, where she strove to create an inclusive, engaging, and supportive environment for other lab managers at different HHMI locations across the country. In the Aguado lab, Meaghan is hoping to leverage the skills she has acquired during her career, both in vitro and in vivo, to support the lab and its members in their experiments and functions. 

Megan Chavez


Major - Bioengineering: Biotechnology 

Class of 2026

Mentor - Brandon V.

 Anthem: The Archer Live at Paris by Taylor Swift 

Mason Faust


Major - Bioengineering: Bioengineering 

Class of 2024

Mentors - Rayyan G. and Talia B.

Anthem: Southern Nights by Glen Campbell

Sarah Chittle


Major - Bioengineering: Biotechnology 

Class of 2024

Mentor - Rayyan G.

Anthem: Iron Man by Black Sabbath

Kristi Tu


Major - Bioengineering: Biotechnology 

Class of 2024

Mentor - Nicole F.

Anthem: Harmony Hall by Vampire Weekend


Courtney Cheng

Staff Research Associate

Current position: School of Nursing, Azusa Pacific University

Bianca Peña

Rotation Student (Winter 2022)

Current position: PhD Student, UCSD BioE

Steven Robles

UCSD Biomaterials REU Student  (Summer 2022)

Current position: Undergraduate Student, University of Florida

Riam Badr


Major - Bioengineering: Biotechnology

Willard Ford


Major - Biology: Bioinformatics