Eleana Manousiouthakis, PhD

Hometown: Los Angeles, CA

Year I became a Gator: 2019

Department: Biomedical Engineering

Mentor: Christine Schmidt, PhD

Research focus: My research focuses on the development of in vitro testbed systems to study the cellular microenvironment and the impact extracellular matrix changes on tissue repair and function. Specifically, I use 3D printing technologies (e.g., soft matter bioprinting in liquid-like solids) and naturally derived polymers, such as hyaluronic acid, with tunable mechanical properties to create tissue engineered constructs to study the special and temporal changes that occur in the extracellular matrix in acute and chronic spinal cord injury. These systems are seeded with cells to study the response of specific cell types to matrix changes in a controlled environment. Therapeutic treatments can then be studied in these testbeds to assess candidates in a high throughput manner.

What drives me: I love a good unanswered question, and knowing that my work will help those with neural injuries in the future. I would be remiss if I didn’t also mention my love for communicating science and training future biomedical engineers.

What I like most about the BREATHE Training Program: As an engineer by training, the BREATHE program has been invaluable to my research pursuits as it allows access to a community of scientists from various backgrounds that I can discuss my work with and brainstorm new ideas.

Awards & achievements since being on the T32: I am a new trainee on the T32, but in the last year I have presented my work at the Biomedical Engineering Society National Conference and the Southern Biomedical Engineering Conference, where I was awarded the 2021 Subrata Saha Outstanding Award. I have recently been elected as the President of the UF Postdoc Association.

What I like about Gainesville: Gainesville has a great independent music scene and is home to The Fest, a punk rock and pop-punk festival. I’ve enjoyed all the live music and farmers markets.

Why I chose BREATHE at the University of Florida: BREATHE at the University of Florida has been engaging from a scientific standpoint and the community of mentors, trainees, and team members is extremely supportive. There is a level of collaboration and generosity that is invigorating and creates a healthy and engaging culture allowing trainees to grow and thrive as independent researchers.

What makes the BREATHE Training Program unique? The BREATHE Training Program puts me in the same research spaces as clinicians and scientists that study fundamental biological questions related to control of breathing and neural plasticity, which has altered the way I view the engineering problems in my own research.

What I do for fun: I am a big movie buff so I like to spend time watching both new and old movies. My dog is a big fan of smelling stuff outside, so we spend time enjoying some nature.