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: Candyman, Zedd and Aloe Blacc
Hobbies: Working out, yoga, baking, hiking, traveling, playing board games, and trying different escape rooms

Courtney Cheng

Staff Research Associate

Courtney is a Staff Research Associate for the Aguado iBiomaterials Lab at UC San Diego. Courtney graduated summa cum laude from UC San Diego with a Bachelor's of Science in Molecular and Cell Biology and a double minor in Psychology and Health Care - Social Issues. She spent two years as a Research Intern at The Scripps Research Institute in the Department of Immunology. During her time there, she focused on mouse colony management and developing her in vivo techniques - working with Lymphocytic Choriomeningitis Virus (LCMV) in ABSL-2. After graduating, Courtney joined the Infectious Diseases team at Sorrento Therapeutics, Inc. screening libraries of small molecule drugs in many enzymatic assays, cell-based assays, and viral plaque assays (HSV, VSV, Vaccinia, and PR8 Influenza Virus) with hopes to discover an antiviral drug. In the Aguado Lab, Courtney manages daily lab tasks and builds upon her in vivo techniques working with various mouse models to determine biological mechanisms of sex differences. 

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: Surfing, baking, live music, video games, watching the waves crash at Sunset Cliffs

Rayyan Gorashi

PhD Student (3rd year), Bioengineering

Rayyan is a first year PhD student in the Department of Bioengineering at UC San Diego. She is also a GEM Associate Fellow and 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 to further our understanding of sex differences in the development and progression of valvular disease. Outside of lab, Rayyan fuels her passion for outreach and mentorship through the Bioengineering Graduate Society (BEGS). In BEGS, she co-chairs the High School Outreach Committee, participates in the Mentorship Committee, Diversity Committee, and is chairing the newly created Professional Development Committee. She also mentors undergraduate engineering students through BEGS, Women in Bioengineering (WBE), and the Jacobs Undergraduate Mentorship Program (JUMP).

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

Brandon Vogt

Ph.D Student (2nd year), Bioengineering

Brandon is a first year PhD student in the Bioengineering Department at UC San Diego.  Brandon graduated summa cum laude with honors from the University of Colorado at Boulder with a BS degree in Chemical and Biological Engineering and a minor in Biomedical Engineering.  He spent two years volunteering in the Anseth Research Group, where he studied the effects of proinflammatory cytokines on aortic valve stenosis progression, while also pursuing his own thesis project to identify inflammatory serum factors that contribute to sex-specific aortic valve stenosis progression.  Currently, Brandon is working to develop a high-throughput drug screening platform by combining the benefits of hydrogel cell culture platforms and drug optimization algorithms to rapidly optimize patient-specific drug combinations to treat aortic valve stenosis. He is also a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellow and a member of the Bioengineering Graduate Society.

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.

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


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