Our Team

Team-building at ropes course, 2024

Principal Investigator: Erin Purcell, PhD

Degree(s):

Ph.D. Biomedical Engineering, University of Michigan, 2008

M.S. Biomedical Engineering, University of Michigan, 2004

B.S. Biomedical Engineering, Michigan Tech University, 2001

Biography: 
Dr. Erin Purcell studied neural engineering during her graduate work with Dr. Daryl Kipke at the University of Michigan, where her work focused on developing ways to improve the integration of neural implants with the surrounding brain tissue. She became interested in neural regeneration and plasticity, developing techniques to deliver stem cells and drugs with the implant and characterizing the effects of those treatments using histology and extracellular electrophysiology.

Following graduation, Erin joined the Kresge Hearing Research Institute as a Research Fellow in Dr. Keith Duncan’s laboratory at the University of Michigan, where she trained in intracellular (patch clamp) neural recordings. She characterized the electrophysiology of stem cell-derived neurons and studied treatments to alter their firing patterns and passive electrical properties. She subsequently joined MSU as a Senior Research fellow in the Neural Systems Engineering Lab, where she set-up patch clamp electrophysiology for brain slice recordings and used optogenetics techniques to study the influence of motor input on sensory-evoked activity in the rat somatosensory cortex.

Erin was promoted to the rank of Assistant Professor in the Fall of 2014 in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering and became a founding faculty member of MSU’s new Department of Biomedical Engineering in 2016. She was tenured as an Associate Professor in the Fall of 2020. She became the Associate Chair for the Department of Biomedical Engineering in 2022.

At MSU, Erin teaches 400- and 800-level neural engineering courses to students from diverse backgrounds in engineering and life sciences. As the P.I. of the Regenerative Electrode Interface Lab, Dr. Purcell is pursuing new approaches to characterize, modulate, and regenerate neuronal responses at the interface of electrodes implanted in the brain.

Graduate Students

Akash Saxena

Degree(s):

M.S, Electrical and Computer Engineering, Michigan State University (In Progress)

B.E, Electronics and Communication, A.D Patel Institute of Technology

Biography:

Akash Saxena is a current Electrical and Computer Engineering PhD student. His research focus is understanding how the changes in tissue response at the electrode implant site are reflected in the electrophysiology data (Local Field Potential) by applying different signal processing techniques. 

His future goals include earning a PhD. in the field of neuroscience and Engineering where he can apply signal processing techniques to further understand the tissue response and use that knowledge to fabricate neural implants which are more efficient and biocompatible for applications in brain machine interfaces.

Bhavna Gupta

Degree(s):
Ph.D., Neuroscience, Michigan State University (in Progress)

B.S., Behavioral Neuroscience, University of Kansas (2020)

Biography:
Bhavna received her bachelor’s degree in behavioral neuroscience at the University of Kansas in 2020. As an undergraduate student, she worked on detecting a chemotherapy drug, 5-fluorouracil, in rat brain tissue using high-pressure liquid chromatography coupled with electrochemical detection. Currently, Bhavna is a first-year graduate student in the neuroscience Ph.D. program at Michigan State University. Her interests lie in studying techniques that assist in the treatment of neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson’s disease.

Mason Perillo

Degree(s):
B.S, Mechanical Engineering, Michigan State University (2022)

M.S., Biomedical Engineering Michigan State University (In progress)

Biography:

Mason is a new graduate with a Mechanical Engineering degree and a minor in Computer Science. He seeks to pursue his passions for biology, neuroscience, biomedical technology, and medicine by working on various research projects. He hopes to contribute in some meaningful way to improve or prevent disease outcomes in his career and will specifically be working on electrode insertion strategies for electrode-brain implants in this lab.

Lauren Wade

Degree(s):

B.S., Cognitive Science and Psychology, Indiana University

Ph.D., Neuroscience, Michigan State University (in progress)

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Biography:

Lauren graduated with Bachelor’s degrees in Cognitive Science and Psychology and a certificate in Clinical Psychological Science from Indiana University in 2019. While at Indiana University, she researched semantic, phonemic, and organizational pattern differences expressed between individuals, specifically in those on various points of the psychotic spectrum. After graduating, she worked as a laboratory technician in the IU Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience lab at Indiana University, where she researched (1) action understanding in infants and (2) the continuity and consistency of social-cognitive development in infants and toddlers. Now, Lauren’s work in the REIL focuses on single cell transcriptomics surrounding implanted devices. Through working in the REIL, Lauren hopes to help enhance bio-compatibility of implanted neuro prostheses, as well as help identify hubs of genes that can be potential therapeutic targets for various neurological disorders.

Lab Manager: Alexandra Veltri

Degree(s):
B.S, Neuroscience, Michigan State University

Undergraduate Students

Bella Patel

Degree(s):

B.S. Physiology, MSU (2024)

Biography:
Bella Patel earned a B.S. degree in physiology, with a minor in graphic design. Some of her goals include deepening her knowledge of neuroscience, research techniques and, in the future, go to medical school to become a physician.

She is currently an undergraduate research assistant studying the effects of implanted electrodes in rat brains.

Isabelle Christensen

Degree(s):

Isabelle Christensen is pursuing a B.S. in Mechanical engineering with a Biomedical concentration. 

Biography:

After finishing her undergraduate, she plans to get a master’s degree in Biomedical engineering. In the future, she wants to develop medical devices to improve the quality of life for patients with spinal issues.

Dorothy Zhao

Degree(s): B.S., Neuroscience – Cognitive and Computational Neuroscience Concentration (2024)

B.S., Psychology (2024)

B.S., Human Biology (2024)

Biography: Dorothy is currently pursuing degrees in Neuroscience, Psychology, and Human Biology. After her undergraduate, she plans to attend graduate and medical school with the goal of developing and researching neurostimulation devices for the treatment of treatment-resistant psychological disorders.

Dorothy is a Marshall Scholarship Winner and a participant in the NIH Oxford-Cambridge Scholars program!!! Read more here

Sofi Aultman

Degree(s):
B.S, Mechanical Engineering, biomedical concentration, Michigan State University (In Progress)

Biography:

Sofi is currently pursuing her bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering at Michigan State University and plans on continuing her education with a concentration in biomedical engineering. In the future, she hopes to work in the research and design of innovative, small-scale prosthetics. 

Alumni

Graduate Students

Cort Thompson, PhD (2023): Post-doctoral fellow in Dr. Tracy Cui’s lab at the University of Pittsburgh.

Quentin Whitsitt, PhD (2022): Posthumous PhD recipient.

Ti’Air Riggins, PhD (2021): Post-doctoral fellow in Dr. Joao Pereira’s lab at Yale University.

Monica Setien Burbano, PhD (2020): Research Engineer at SPR Therapeutics.

Joseph Salatino, PhD (2019): Manager at LifeSci Consulting

Bailey Winter, MS-Thesis (2019): MD/PhD Student at the Mayo Clinic

Undergraduate Students

Matt Barringer – Pfizer

Nate Blanke – Doctoral student in Biomedical Engineering at Boston University

Shardul Deolekar – Lear Corporation

Matt Drazin – Doctoral student at MSU

Blake Evans – Doctoral student in Biomedical Engineering at UT-Austin

Kaleb Howard – MD student at the University of Miami

Brad Hunt – MD student at Rush University Medical Center

Emani Hunter – Doctoral student in Biomedical Engineering at the University of Pittsburgh

Joseph Lucas – Danaher Corporation

Demetrius Moncrease – MD student at Wayne State University

Stefanos Palestis – General Motors

Kylie Smith – Post-doctoral fellow at Michigan State University

Kathleen Williams – Doctoral student in Biomedical Informatics at the University of Cincinnati

Marissa Zoratti – Doctoral student in Pharmacology at the University of Colorado