• Principal Investigator: Professor Thomas H. Barker

    Department of Biomedical Engineering

    School of Engineering & School of Medicine

    University of Virginia

    the matrix biology and engineering lab

  • The Extracellular Matrix (ECM) of tissues constitutes both the structural and mechanical support for cells, but recently we've learned it is much, much more...

    Cells both generate and sense forces, establishing a complex feedback loop that ensures mechanical homeostasis between the cell and its microenvironment.

    What happens when this delicate balance is disrupted?

  • what we do

    Novel Regulators of Cell Mechanotransduction

    The quiet influence of Thy-1

    Thy-1, and perhaps numerous GPI-linked, integrin binding membrane proteins, have tremendous potential to alter how cells sense and respond to their mechanical environment.

    Hijacking the Cell's Mechanotransduction Machinery

    Finding the leverage point

    A host of intracellular signaling molecules and transcription factors help realize the cell's intended responses to the mechanical microenvironment.

    Hey, don't forget the Matrix

    Fibronectin is our hyper-elastic friend

    Fibronectin and many other ECM proteins exhibit significant molecular deformation under force. Do these deformations drive meaningful altered interactions with cells?

    Time is not on our side

    The incongruity between acute mechanotransduction and chronic disease progression

    How mechanotransduction within cells and the matrix drive lasting changes in tissue remodeling are incompletely understood.

  • the motley crew

    Countless hours, poor pay, and an absent-minded Principal Investigator all qualify these guys as heroes & lab rats!

    Lab Manager

    Mary helps keep us pointed in the right direction and anchors down the fort as our Lab Manager. Her research focuses on protein production and animal models of disease.

    Lab Specialist II

    Sue brings 20 years of animal and human research experience to the group. Her research focuses on developing animal models of fibrosis and analysis of novel therapeutics.

    Research Scientist

    Jagath brings extensive experience in antibody development based on his time working in the Antibody Engineering and Development Core facility. His research focuses on antibody production as potential therapeutics.

    Research Scientist

    Vincent's research focuses on endogenous heterogeneity in fibroblast mechanotransduction and new biotechnology development hijacking normal mechanotransduction.

    Postdoctoral Fellow (Joint with Matt Torres @ GA Tech)

    Wei's research focused on fibronectin mechanics in the past and currently explores mechanisms of ECM memory.

    Postdoctoral Fellow

    Ping is focused on further exploring Thy-1's role in directing integrin signaling and mechanotransduction.

    NRSA (F32) Postdoctoral Fellow

    Dan is investigating the roles innate immunity and cytokine signaling play in contributing to the onset of fibrosis.

    5th Year PhD Candidate

    Biomedical Engineering Program

    Leandro is using directed evolution and antibody engineering to improve a potential fibrosis theranostic we developed in the lab.

    5th Year PhD Candidate

    Molecular and Cellular Basis of Disease (MCBD) PhD Program

    Riley is studying the potential for mechanical cues and cytokine signaling to impact pericyte participation in tissue regeneration and fibrosis.

    3rd Year PhD Candidate, Biotechnology Training Grant Fellow

    Drew's PhD research is focused on identifying mechanosensors for application in stiffness-driven diseases like fibrosis

    3rd Year PhD Candidate,

    Cancer Training Grant Fellow

    Grace's PhD research is to be decided. Currently she is studying a new family of integrin adaptor proteins that set the mechanotransductive phenotypes of cells.


    Ph.D. & Postdoc (PD)


    Dr. Sarah Stabenfeldt (PD '07-'10)- Arizona State University

    Dr. Ashley Brown (PhD & PD '06-'15) - North Carolina State University

    Dr. Allyson Soon (PhD '06-'12) - Lee Kong Chian School of Medicine

    Dr. Rodney Averett (PD '07-'10) - University of Georgia

    Dr. Kelly Clause (PD '07-'10) - RayBiotech, Inc



    Ph.D. & Postdoc (PD)


    Dr. Lizhi Cao (PhD '08-'14)- Palleon Pharmaceuticals

    Dr. Marilyn Markowski (PhD '09-'13) - PharmaJet

    Dr. Vincent Fiore (PhD '08-'14) - Rockefeller University

    Dr. Alison Douglas (PhD '10-'15) -Sarah Cannon Cancer Institute

    Dr. Anton Bryksin (PD '12-'13) - Georgia Institute of Technology


    Ph.D. & Postdoc (PD)


    Dr. Michelle Gaines (PD '15-'16)- Spelman College

    Dr. Haylee Bachman (PhD '12-'17) - Lonza Corp.

    Dr. Vicky Stefanelli (PhD '12-'18) - Integra LifeSciences

    Dr. Dwight M. Chambers (PhD '12-'18) - Emory School of Medicine

    Dr. John Nicosia (PhD '13-'19) - Emory University

  • The Cautiously optimistic leader


    We're all just trying to find happiness

    The folks in my lab remind me that we are each on a journey. Sometimes we have detours and sometimes we find ourselves unintentionally in the fast lane. They help me on my journey every day and I hope, in return, I help them find their way too.


    My own "regenerative medicine" experiment

    In collaboration with Dr. Shannon Barker, I am attempting to grow two small organisms that share remarkable similarities to the collaborative team at both the molecular and macroscopic scale.


    The small band of humans that tolerate me

    Thankfully a handfull of individuals put up with me and for that I'm very grateful.  These folks share a common love for food, travel, and family 


    Yeah, major driver in my life

    I have a healthy love for cooking and eating.  I like to cook and eat just about anywhere I am.  Eating is good and I particularly like eating at places that take you someplace you've never been before.

  • Our funding

    The 3 "P"s of great progress: patience, perseverance, and penny

    NIH Director's Transformative Research Award

    Mechanosensors that Detect and Treat Lung Fibrosis

    Department of Defense

    CDMRP: Development of platelet-like particles for augmentation of hemostasis in congenital heart defect patients

    National Institutes of Health (NHLBI)

    R01: Targeting the alphaV integrin mechanotransduction axis in Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis

    National Institutes of Health (NHLBI)

    R01: Augmenting hemostasis with platelet-like particles

    National Science Foundation

    5 NSF GRP Fellows

    2 Graduate Trainees

    National Institutes of Health

    3 Postdoc & Fellow-to-Faculty Fellowships

    7 Predoctoral MD/PhD & PhD Fellows & Trainees

    American Heart Association

    2 Postdoc & Predoctoral Fellows

  • What's Happening

    Look how good we are :)

  • our universe

    Links to resources, societies, and random things

    Lab Protocols/Research Images


    American Society for Matrix Biology

    American Thoracic Society


    Tissue Engineering and Regenerative Medicine International Society

    Society for Biomaterials

  • Connect With Us

    We're always looking for eager, ambitious students, postdocs, and scientists

    Just click the EMAIL icon below to inquire


    Google Scholar

    Research Gate



    BME Department

    University of Virginia

    MR5, Rm 1225

    415 Lane Rd.

    Charlottesville, VA 22904

    (434) 924-1729

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