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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.

Postdoctoral Scholar

Joe Sharick, PhD

Dr. Joe Sharick joined the Leight Lab in 2019 as a postdoctoral scholar. He graduated from Duke University in 2013 with a BSE in Biomedical Engineering, and obtained a PhD in Biomedical Engineering from Vanderbilt University in 2019. His doctoral work under Dr. Melissa Skala focused on the development of optical metabolic imaging, a novel method to evaluate tumor treatment response at the single-cell level and to optimize treatment plans for individual cancer patients. He is now working on engineering new biomaterials functionalized with fluorescent biosensors, and using them to study how thyroid cancer cells become metastatic. In the future, Joe would like to run his own laboratory focused on engineering better models of human cancer.

Graduate Students


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.





Liam Holzer

My name is Liam Holzer and I am a current master’s student in Biomedical Engineering at The Ohio State University. I graduated from Purdue University in 2019 with a BS in Biomedical Engineering. My undergraduate research revolved around microfluidic devices and diabetes research. I am now doing research regarding MMP activity in cancer cells and would like to translate the results for use in a clinical setting. After I graduate, I intend to continue biomedical engineering work and research in industry.

Undergraduate Researchers


Emma Rand

My name is Emma Rand I am an incoming junior at the Ohio State University. I am majoring in Biological Engineering. My research focuses on designing a more efficient and cheaper alternative to the current fluorescent biosensor. Once I graduate I intend to enter the world of industry.


Logan Bowen

My name is Logan Bowen and I am an undergraduate researcher in Dr. Leight’s Lab. I work with many of the graduate students and help them with their projects. I like to play soccer, play video games, and hang out with friends in my free time. I hope to one day work for a company’s research and design team, using the skills and knowledge I have built here!




Caitlin Jones, PhD (Graduate Student 2015-2020)

Currently: Post doctoral associate, Nationwide Children's Hospital, Columbus, OH









Ameya Deshmukh, PhD (Graduate Student 2015-2020)
Currently: Consultant, Health Advances, Boston, MA

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

Deja Rush (Undergraduate student, 2016-2020)

Currently: University of Dayton, Medical School










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 







Sheila Colbert (Undergraduate Student, 2019)

Shahad Salman (CREATES High School Summer Student, 2019)

Catherine Van Curen (Undergraduate Student, 2017-2018)

Carter Brzezinski (Kenyon College Summer Undergraduate Student, 2018)

Alex Fixler (Undergraduate student, 2014-2015)

Bobby Puchalski (Undergraduate student, 2014-2016)

Mohamed Osman (High school student, 2016)