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Lead Investigator

Jennifer Leight, PhD

Dr. Jennifer Leight is the lead investigator of the Leight Research Group and an assistant professor in the Biomedical Engineering Department at The Ohio State University. Dr. Leight graduated from Tulane University with a degree in Biomedical Engineering and earned her Ph.D. in Bioengineering at the University of Pennsylvania working under Dr. Christopher Chen. Following graduation, Dr. Leight continued her training as a post doc in the lab of Dr. Kristi Anseth at the University of Colorado Boulder. It was here that Dr. Leight investigated microenvironmental regulation of matrix metalloproteinase (MMP) activity. Today, Dr. Leight continues her research concerning MMP activity with laboratory efforts focused on the development of a fluorescent biosensor peptide model to measure MMP activity in 3D cellular microenvironments.

PhD Students


Abdulaziz Fakhouri

My name is Abdulaziz Fakhouri and I obtained my bachelors degree in Biomedical Technology (Instrumentation) from King Saud University in Saudi Arabia. I am currently a faculty member there who is on a scholarship that enabled me to get my Masters from the Biomedical Engineering Department at Ohio State. Currently, I am pursuing my Ph.D. in Dr. Leight’s Lab hoping to improve our Matrix Metalloproteinase (MMP) biosensor and optimize it for high throughput assays. My ultimate goal is to utilize this biosensor for early diagnosis of cancers in screening which will eventually lead to earlier treatment and better prognosis.

Caitlin Jones

My name is Caitlin Jones, and I joined the Leight Lab in 2015 to pursue a PhD in Biomedical Engineering. I completed my undergraduate degree in Chemical and Biological Engineering at the University of Colorado, Boulder. I am particularly interested in the role that the tumor microenvironment plays in cancer progression, and my work has focused primarily on the role of fibroblast phenotype in extracellular matrix organization. After graduation, I plan to continue a career in medical research.

Ameya Deshmukh

My name is Ameya Deshmukh and I am currently a fourth-year Ph.D. student. I completed my undergraduate work in Biochemistry at The Ohio State University in May 2015 and decided to start my graduate work immediately. My work has focused on the development and validation of new techniques to measure MMPs in biological samples, including a variant on traditional SDS-PAGE called Fluorescent Peptide Zymography.  With this assay I hope to further elucidate the pathways by which MMPs contribute to the invasion and metastasis of cancer. My career goal is to work in the biotech start-up industry as a scientist/entrepreneur in the tissue engineering space.

Joshua Zent

My name is Joshua Zent and I am a first-year MD-PhD student. I previously obtained my undergraduate and master’s degrees in Biomedical Engineering at the University of Wisconsin–Madison before spending a year studying cancer stem cells at the National Cancer Institute. My current work focuses on merging the hydrogel-tethered MMP-specific peptide technology developed in this lab with computational live-imaging techniques to analyze MMP activity at the resolution of single cells. Through this method, I hope to explore heterogeneity of MMP activity in the cancer cell population with the goal of parsing ambiguities previously found to limit the efficacy of pharmacologically targeting MMP activity in cancer patients. After graduate school, I plan on completing my medical training and continuing to translate laboratory research to the clinical environment.

Undergraduate Researchers



Anthony Tomusko

My Name is Anthony Tomusko (Tony T), and I am a sophomore at The Ohio State University majoring in Biological Engineering. I am currently working in Leight Lab as an undergraduate volunteer in hopes of applying my knowledge to an out-of-the classroom setting. I work alongside Jessica and Abdulaziz in collaboration with Dr. Lisa Yee to study MMP activity and secretion levels in adipose, breast tissue samples. In addition to research, I am also involved in Green Engineering Scholars and in my fraternity, Phi Kappa Tau, where I serve on the Executive Council. After graduation, I hope to attend medical school to become a pediatrician or to work in an R&D division for a pharmaceutical company.



Deja Rush

My name is Deja Rush I am currently a junior at the Ohio State University. I am majoring in Biomedical Engineering and minoring in Spanish. My research focuses on understanding the relationship between tumors and their microenvironments. Specifically, I want to know how the manipulation of mechanical properties of the extracellular matrix such as stiffness and degradability, affect matrix metalloproteinase (MMP) activity. This work can eventually lead to the development of treatment protocols that may be more favorable for controlling cancer cell migration and invasion. Once I graduate, I intend to attend medical school and become an orthopedic surgeon.



Jessica Weist (Research Associate, 2014-2018)


Currently: Research Associate, OSU 







Tori Barnhouse (Undergraduate student, 2014-2017)

Currently: University of Illinois, Department of Biomedical Engineering, Ph.D. Student


Erin Donnelly (Undegraduate student, 2014-2016)

Currently: Ethicon Inc.

Kathryn Kaltenmark (Undergraduate student, 2014-2017)

Currently: Ohio University College of Osteopathic Medicine







Ryan Donnelly (Masters student, 2014-2016)

Currently: Epic Systems







Chris Baggott (Undergraduate student, 2015-2016)

Currently: Medpace







Billy Carson (Undergraduate student, Summer 2015)

Currently: Duke University, Department of Biomedical Engineering, Ph.D. Student 







Carter Brzezinski (Summer Undergraduate Student, 2018)

Alex Fixler (Undergraduate student, 2014-2015)

Bobby Puchalski (Undergraduate student, 2014-2016)

Mohamed Osman (High school student, 2016)