Nora Hlavac, Ph.D.
Lab: Biomimetic Materials and Neural Engineering Lab, PI: Dr. Christine E. Schmidt
Hometown: Charleston, SC
Degree: Ph.D. in Biomedical Engineering, Virginia Tech
Year you became a Gator: 2019
From which institutions do you hold degrees?
BS, Bioengineering, Clemson (2014); PhD, Biomedical Engineering, Virginia Tech (2018)
A major focus of my research within the Schmidt lab is developing cell and material-based therapeutics for central nervous system injuries. Brain and spinal cord injuries are some of the most debilitating and costly for people to endure, and they have no available treatments. Our research applies a broad range of approaches including stem cells, decellularized tissue scaffolds, and recombinant enzymes as novel treatment methods. As one example of the research we are conducting, we evaluate pro-regenerative features of adipose (or fat)-derived stem cells with and without applied electrical stimulation to determine feasibility as a therapeutic for spinal cord injury. This a particularly attractive option as adipose tissue can be readily and easily sourced to provide an abundant stem cell supply. We plan to combine the pro-regenerative secretions from these stem cells with our decellularized neural tissue scaffolds as a minimally-invasive treatment. To be able to better screen our therapeutics, we also focus much of our work on creating unique, multi-component model systems using various neural cell types and molecular inputs.
Since beginning my research at UF in January 2019, I have worked in the lab with a team of 7 undergraduate students, two graduate students, multiple collaborators and even a third-grade teacher, all of whom have been very dedicated to our scientific goals.
What motivates you?
As I mentioned above, I have worked with a great team of people that are excited by the research we do. Our long-term motivation is a shared goal to see research progress towards long-awaited treatment options for the millions of patients with central nervous system injuries. A major source of my day-to-day motivation is the students I work with in the lab. I really enjoy mentoring students and being a part of their training to become well-rounded scientists with strong technical and ethical practices that they carry forward into many new places!
What attracted you to UF BME?
I was attracted to UF BME because of its reputation as having a highly collaborative and enriching environment. After being here for a year, I can certainly say I have benefited from the department’s many shared resources, supportive faculty, and terrific leadership.
What I love about Gainesville:
I love the weather and all of the outdoor activities Gainesville has to offer!