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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


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



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.



Abdulaziz Fakhouri, PhD (Graduate student, 2015-2019)

Currently: Assistant Professor, King Saud University, Saudia Arabia 







Ryan Donnelly (Masters student, 2014-2016)

Currently: Epic Systems








Jessica Weist (Research Associate, 2014-2018)

Currently: Research Associate, OSU 





Undergraduate Alumni

Anthony Tomusko (Undergraduate student, 2016-2019)

Currently: University of Akron, Law School










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








Chris Baggott (Undergraduate student, 2015-2016)

Currently: Northwestern University, Department of Biomedical Engineering, Masters Student 







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)