Aaron Sun

MD/PhD Cadidate
MD/PhD Cadidate
axs3@pitt.edu

Biography

Education

B.S. Degree in Chemistry and Electrical & Computer Engineering in May 2013, Rutgers University, New Brunswick, NJ

Undergraduate thesis: “Redox-Neutral Reactions and Hydrogen Bonding Catalysis”

MD/PhD Candidate, University of Pittsburgh, 2013 - present

Research Interests

Broadly, I am interested in mechanisms of tissue regeneration and development of biomaterials for tissue engineering. This includes peripheral nerve regeneration, cartilage tissue engineering, and lizard/gecko models of regeneration (see Tom Lozito’s page!).

Peripheral Nerve Regeneration – Severe nerve damage in the form of crush, disease, or transection can lead to nerve tissue death and an inability to reestablish a functional neural connection. While peripheral nerves do have an intrinsic ability to regenerate, they are not able to overcome large gaps thus necessitating the need for surgical intervention in the form of a graft or synthetic conduit. Our lab has developed a novel method of conduit fabrication that allows for the encapsulation of stem cells within the walls of the conduit. This affords us unprecedented control of spatial distribution and cell loading within these conduits. We are presently exploring the potential of this system as well as others.

Cartilage Tissue Engineering – Cartilage damaged by trauma, age, or disease demonstrates a very limited capacity for self-healing. As such, new methods to replace or regenerate cartilage are a necessity. One popular method, the use of cell-encapsulated hydrogels, is promising but generally possesses low mechanical stiffness and strength, which reduces its usability in point-of-care applications. I am interested in the design of strong hydrogels for direct cell encapsulation with the end goal of shortening the time to return of function for patients and decreasing morbidity. 

Awards

  • Bevier Award, University of Pittsburgh School of Engineering
  • Cellular Approaches to Tissue Engineering and Regeneration (CATER) Training Grant (NIH T32 EB001026)
  • MSTP Training Grant (NIH T32 GM8208-26)
  • Outstanding Engineering Scholar Award, Rutgers University (awarded to top GPA in School of Engineering)
  • John B. Smith Memorial prize, Rutgers University (highest ranking graduate in dept. of electrical engineering, 1 of 1)
  • Bruce Garth Award for General Academic Excellence and Research, Rutgers University (1 of 1)
  • Summa Cum Laude (4.0/4.0), Rutgers University
  • Highest Distinction in Research, Rutgers University
  • Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship Honorable Mention
  • Ning Moeller Award for Outstanding Academic Achievement by a Chemistry Major, Rutgers University (1 of 1)
  • ACS Inorganic Division Award for Excellence in Inorganic Chemistry, Rutgers University (1 of 1)
  • Croda Award for Outstanding Junior for Excellence in Organic Chem Lab, Rutgers U. (1 of 1)
  • Phyllis Dunbar Award for Excellence in Physical Chemistry, Rutgers University (1 of 2)
  • Tau Beta Pi Honor Society, Inductee, Rutgers University (National engineering honors society)
  • Eta Kappa Nu Honor Society, Inductee, Rutgers University (National electrical engineering honors society)
  • ARESTY undergraduate research fellowship, Rutgers University
  • Dean’s List, Rutgers University
  • Presidential Scholarship, Rutgers University (Full scholarship)