The Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering announces six individuals joining the ranks of its prestigious faculty in fall 2023. This illustrious cohort brings a wealth of experience and expertise in an array of cutting-edge research areas, fortifying the department's commitment to advancing the frontiers of biomedical engineering.
New faculty include:
- Edikan Archibong Ogunnaike, assistant professor
- Marian Ackun-Farmmer, assistant professor
- Zachary Danzinger, professor
- Rafael Davalos, Weitnauer Faculty Chair in Biomedical Engineering
- Simone Douglas-Green, assistant professor
- Peter Kasson, associate professor
Read more about each professor below.
Edikan Archibong Ogunnaike
Growing up with chronic asthma and losing family members to cancer as a child in Nigeria, Edikan Ogunnaike developed a lifelong love for science and helping others. Along her journey, while attending Florida A&M University (FAMU), mentorship from a supportive faculty member changed her path toward graduate school, and now, an academic career. Sponsored by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, she completed her thesis studying low-cost chemo-sensors and biological detection of contaminants at FAMU. Seeking to further her interests in engineering research that improves healthcare, Ogunnaike received funding from the NSF Florida-Georgia Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation Bridge to the Doctorate Activity, Alfred P. Sloan Foundation Minority PhD Graduate Scholarship, and the McKnight Doctoral Fellowship program at the University of South Florida College of Engineering. She earned her Ph.D. focusing on point-of-care devices to reduce pregnancy-related complications among women in low-resource countries. Moving onward as a postdoctoral researcher at both North Carolina State University and the UNC-Chapel Hill Eshelman School of Pharmacy, Ogunnaike shifted her research to develop a smart biomaterial that can be used in the delivery of engineered t-cells against solid tumors.
Now, as principal investigator of a Maximizing Opportunities for Scientific and Academic Independent Careers (MOSAIC) Career Transition Award to Promote Diversity (K99/R00) – funded by the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS) – and newly appointed tenured-track Assistant Professor in the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering at Emory University and Georgia Tech, Ogunnaike is excited about developing systems to integrate nanobiotechnology, immunology, and neuroscience to translate into clinical use. More broadly, she hopes to continue her passion for “giving back” by mentoring women and underrepresented students in providing new pathways for their increased participation in STEM and biomedical engineering research.
“By understanding the interplay of biomaterials and physiology, I am particularly interested in exploring novel strategies that leverage physiological processes (mimicking natural cells and applying biological interactions) for delivering therapeutics in a spatially- and temporally-controlled manner for disease treatment.” Specifically, Ogunnaike’s goal is to apply a convergence of tools, techniques, and therapeutic strategies in materials science, nanotechnology, engineering, and immunology to develop an increased understanding of the molecular mechanisms of diseases, while also defining the complex material-cell-host tissue interaction that occurs in healthy and diseased patients. “For cancer, my research program will focus on responsive biomaterials, as modulators of pathways to advance delivery approach, facilitate long-term persistence of therapy, and improve resistance to biological challenges to reduce tumor cell proliferation while penetrating solid tumors,” says Ogunnaike.
Marian Ackun-Farmmer, Ph.D., is an incoming Assistant Professor in the Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering at the Georgia Institute of Technology. She is an early career biomedical engineer with academic and industry expertise in developing drug delivery systems for cancer and autoimmune disease applications. After completing her bachelor’s degree in biomedical engineering from George Washington University, she ventured into the pharmaceutical manufacturing industry as a quality associate for 3 years before pursuing her PhD. Her thesis work from University of Rochester, was funded by an NIH F32 from NCI, and focused on developing drug delivery systems to improve acute myeloid leukemia treatments.
She most recently served as a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Maryland, College Park, to engineer peptide and oligonucleotide-based biomaterials to treat autoimmune diseases. At UMD, her work was funded by an NIH Research Supplement and an NIH F32 award from the NIAID. Marian is the postdoc representative for the Drug Delivery Special Interest Group for the Society of Biomaterials and a co-chair for the 2023 AfroBioTech conference and a current George Washington University Clark Scholars Mentor. Her group will design tailored self-assembled systems to modulate the immune system to treat cancer and autoimmunity.
Zachary Danziger, Ph.D., received his doctorate from Northwestern University in the area of human motor learning and computational neuroscience, and his postdoctoral studies at Duke University were in electrophysiology and neurourology. Danziger’s primary research interests lie at the intersection of these areas of neuroscience theory and application. His approach is to focus first on understanding the underlying behavior of the neural system, and second, to exploit that understanding to optimize the design of neural interfaces. His lab is currently developing tools to 1) understanding brain activity in motor cortex, with the goal of improving performance of brain-computer interfaces and 2) understanding nerve activity in the urinary tract, with the goal of improving efficiency of stimulation technology designed to restore bladder function.
Rafael Davalos, Ph.D. is the Margaret P. and John H. Weitnauer Jr. Chair Professor within the Georgia Tech– Emory University Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering. Before this appointment, Davalos was the L. Preston Wade Professor of Biomedical Engineering at Virginia Tech, Leader of the Wake Forest Comprehensive Cancer Center’s Signaling and Biotechnology Program, and Director of the Center for Engineered Health. Prior to his academic appointment, Davalos was a Principal Member of Technical Staff at Sandia National Laboratories. His research interests are in microfluidics for personalized medicine and developing technologies for cancer therapy. He is most recognized for co-inventing Irreversible Electroporation (IRE), a minimally invasive non-thermal surgical technique to treat unresectable tumors near critical structures such as major blood vessels and nerves. The technology has been used to help thousands of patients worldwide with a second-generation version in clinical trials for the treatment of cardiac disease. Davalos has authored 150 peer-reviewed articles and has 47 issued patents (71 h-index, >17,400 citations) and has secured over $37M in research funding with $10M his share. His patents have been licensed to 7 companies. He has been a plenary speaker for several prestigious venues including the International Symposium of the Bioelectrochemistry Society, the World Congress on Electroporation, and the Society of Cryobiology Annual Meeting.
Davalos serves on the editorial boards for IEEE Transactions on Biomedical Engineering, Cancers, Annals of Biomedical Engineering, and the ASME Journal of Biomechanics. Davalos is an ASME (American Society of Mechanical Engineers), NAI (National Academy of Inventors), BMES (Biomedical Engineering Society), and AIMBE (American Institute of Medical and Biological Engineering) Fellow and recipient of the 2021 ASME Van C. Mow Medal. Davalos received his bachelor’s from Cornell University and doctorate from University of California, Berkeley.
Simone Douglas-Green, Ph.D. earned her B.S. in biomedical engineering from the University of Marylan, and her Ph.D. from the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering at Georgia Tech and Emory University. She most recently served as a postdoctoral associate at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology focused on designing charged cartilage-targeting nanocarriers to treat osteoarthritis. At MIT, she was selected as a NASEM Ford Postdocral Fellow and Burroughs Wellcome Fund Postdoctoral Enrichment Program Fellow. In the Coulter BME Department, Douglas-Green’s dissertation research with Professor Manu Platt focused on cysteine cathepsins’ role in making or breaking fibrin, an essential blood-clotting protein and a biomaterial commonly used in tissue engineering. Her work examined both the abnormal blood clotting in sickle cell disease and remodeling engineered microvascular networks.
Peter Kasson will be joining Georgia Tech as a Professor of Biomedical Engineering and Chemistry and Biochemistry. He received his PhD and MD at Stanford University and first established his lab at the University of Virginia. Peter's research focuses on emerging viruses using both computational and experimental approaches. The lab has developed large-scale molecular simulation and analysis methods (in conjunction with a Visiting Faculty appointment at Google) and also experimental platforms to study viral infection at the single-virus level. Ongoing work seeks to understand the mechanistic barriers that control which locations, cells, and species a virus can infect and the implications for pandemic surveillance and control. Dr. Kasson has been named a Pinn Scholar and also serves as a Wallenberg Academy Fellow at Uppsala University.