Southwest Biomaterials Day

Dr. Kristi Anseth
University of Colorado

Keynote Speaker

Dr. Anseth is a Professor of Chemical and Biological Engineering and Associate Faculty Director of the BioFrontiers Institute at the University of Colorado at Boulder. She currently holds the Tisone Professorship and is a Distinguished Professor. Dr. Anseth came to CU-Boulder after earning her B.S. degree from Purdue University, her Ph.D. degree from the University of Colorado, and completing post-doctoral research at MIT as an NIH fellow. Her research interests lie at the interface between biology and engineering where she designs new biomaterials for applications in drug delivery and regenerative medicine. Dr. Anseth’s research group has published over 350 peer-reviewed manuscripts, and she has trained more than 110 graduate students and postdoctoral associates. She is an elected member of the National Academy of Engineering (2009), the National Academy of Medicine (2009), the National Academy of Sciences (2013), the National Academy of Inventors (2016) and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences (2019). Most recently, she received the L’Oreal-UNESCO for Women in Science Award in the Life Sciences (2020). Dr. Anseth has served on the Board of Directors and as President of the Materials Research Society, the Board of Governors for Acta Materialia, Inc, the NIH Advisory Council for NIBIB, and as Chair of the NAE US Frontiers of Engineering meetings.

Dr. Dina Gadalla
Mayo Clinic


Dr. Valerie Binetti
W.L. Gore and Associates


Dina Gadalla, Ph.D., graduated with a bachelors degree in chemical engineering from the American University of Sharjah in 2015. She then pursued her doctoral degree at Virginia Tech under both the Interdisciplinary Graduate Education Program in Regenerative Medicine and the Department of Chemical Engineering. As part of her doctoral work in the biomedical engineering field, Dina fabricated tissue engineered scaffolds to make up the ends of an anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) substitute graft to aid in its integration with native bone tissue. The results of this work led her to enhance scaffold efficacy through the use of delivery nanoparticles in which she analyzed different synthesis methods of protein incorporated particles and the effect they had on cell growth and differentiation. Dina is currently a Postdoctoral Research Fellow and an Assistant Professor of Otolaryngology at Mayo Clinic in Arizona and her work is primarily focused on the development of implant biomaterials and modification of implant surfaces to improve different cellular process such as epithelialization and vascularization of an implant once placed in vivo. Furthermore, she is working on developing a material construct that could be 3D printed into the required shape and dimensions for use as a reconstructive laryngeal implant. Through this work, she continues to explore her research interests of bridging the gap between engineering and biology. 

Dr. Valerie Binetti is a Research Scientist at W.L. Gore and Associates, where she has been an associate for the last 8 years.  In her current role she is responsible for developing new materials for implantable medical devices; this encompasses driving projects, building capabilities and mentoring fellow associates to advance Gore’s understanding of these new materials in biological environments to enable product development.  Dr. Binetti came to Gore after earning her B.S. degree from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, working at Lockheed Martin and The Boeing Company before returning to academia to complete her M.S. and Ph.D. in materials science and engineering at Drexel University.  Dr. Binetti has two issued U.S. patents.

Dr. Jessica Weaver
Arizona State University


Dr. Robert Kellar
Northern Arizona University


Dr. Jessica Weaver obtained her PhD in Biomedical Engineering at the University of Miami. She completed a postdoctoral fellowship at the Georgia Institute of Technology, where she was supported by the NIH ILET2 training grant and a JDRF Postdoctoral Fellowship. As an Assistant Professor in the School of Biological and Health Systems Engineering at Arizona State University, Dr. Weaver’s research centers on developing translatable cell-based therapies for the treatment of disease, with a focus on islet transplantation for the treatment of Type 1 Diabetes. The Weaver lab uses biomaterials and immunoengineering approaches with the aim to generate immunosuppression-free transplantation strategies.

Dr. Robert Kellar is an Associate Professor of Practice at Northern Arizona University in the Center for Materials Interfaces in Research Applications (¡MIRA!), Biological Sciences, and Mechanical Engineering.  He serves as the Chief Science Officer for Axolotl Biologix and the Chief Technology Officer for NuLastin.  He has over 20 years of experience in the development and regulatory approval of medical devices, pharmaceuticals, and biologics, including cell-based products and regenerative medicine and tissue engineered technology.  He has 146 scientific abstracts, 40 peer-reviewed publications, and 6 issued US patents.  He received his PhD from the University of Arizona in 2001.

Dr. Kellar currently serves on the Scientific Advisory Board (SAB) for Leonhardt Ventures and the Clinical Advisory Board for Aesthetics Biomedical.  He serves as an Advisory Board Member for Protein Genomics, a protein polymer medical device company, and the California Stock Exchange. Dr. Kellar has helped to co-found a number of companies including Development Engineering Sciences, a biomedical consulting firm, Flagship Biosciences, a digital pathology company, and Elevated Manufacturing, a contract manufacturer. 

Dr. Kellar’s previous roles include: Past-President of the Surfaces in Biomaterials Foundation, VP of Research and Development at Histogen, Inc. in San Diego, CA, Product Specialist at W.L. Gore and Associates in Flagstaff, AZ, and Lead Scientist and Project Manager at Advanced Tissue Sciences, Inc. in La Jolla, CA.

Honors and Awards:

Jay N. Cohn New Investigator Award, Heart Failure Society of America, Sept. 11, 2001

Outstanding Professor Appreciation, Northern Arizona University, February 25, 2010

Faculty Louie Award Nominee, Northern Arizona University, 2012

Faculty Member of the Year, (Order of Omega, Northern Arizona University), 2012

Pearson’s One Professor Project, August 18, 2015

Nominee, College of Engineering, Forestry & Natural Sciences, NAU, Teacher of the Year Award, 2016

Outstanding Teacher of the Year, Department of Biological Sciences, NAU, 2016

Finalist, BioAcell Solutions Challenge (Scorpion Pit), 2016

Global Health & Pharma’s “Most Innovative Regenerative Medicine Research Company – USA”, 2018

Finalist, Phoenix Business Journal’s Health Care Hero Awards, 2018

Arizona Business Magazine’s Healthcare Leaders Award, 2019

Nominee, Research and Creative Activity (RCA), Northern Arizona University, “Most

                  Significant Innovation in Technology Transfer of Commercialization”, 2019

Arizona Business Magazine’s Healthcare Leadership Awards, Researcher of the Year, 2019

Awardee, Research and Creative Activity (RCA), Northern Arizona University, “Most

                   Significant Innovation in Technology Transfer of Commercialization”, 2020"

Dr. Mohammad Albanna

Dr. Medhi Nikkhah
Arizona State University


Dr. Albanna is the founder and CEO of Humabiologics, a company focused on developing high quality human-derived biomaterials for regenerative medicine applications. Prior to starting Humabiologics, Dr. Albanna has held numerous industry and academic positions including Vice President of Clinical and Scientific Affairs at Pinnacle Transplant Technologies. Dr. Albanna was a recipient of the Thomas Edison Gold Award in Innovation in 2013 and was a finalist for the Arizona Outstanding Innovator of the year award in 2018.

Dr. Mehdi Nikkhah is an Associate Professor of Biomedical Engineering at Arizona State university. His laboratory is currently focused on the integration of innovative biomaterial and microscale technologies to create biomimetic model tissue constructs for regenerative medicine and disease modeling applications. Dr. Nikkhah completed his postdoctoral fellowship training at Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women’s Hospital where he was also affiliated with the Harvard-MIT Division of Health Sciences and Technology. He received his B.S. in Mechanical Engineering and the M.S. degree in Biomedical Engineering from Tehran Polytechnic University. He received a second M.S. degree in Mechanical Engineering from Villanova University and his PhD in Mechanical Engineering from Virginia Tech University. Dr. Nikkhah has published more than 65 journal articles, 8 book chapters and 85 peer-reviewed conference papers. He has also been the recipient of the NSF CAREER Award, the Young Innovator Award from Cellular and Molecular Bioengineering Division of Biomedical Engineering Society, and the National Institute of Health (NIH) Ruth L. Kirschstein National Research Service Awards for Individual Postdoctoral Fellows.He is a member of American Society of Mechanical Engineering (ASME), American Heart Association (AHA) and Biomedical Engineering Society (BMES).

Dr. Maral Mousavi
University of Southern California

Dr. Wendy L. Wolfersteig
Arizona State University


Maral Mousavi is an assistant professor in the Biomedical Engineering Department at the University of Southern California. Her research experiences and interests span from point-of-care diagnostics, to electrochemical sensors, wearable devices, neural probes, and tools for precision medicine. She received her B.S. from Sharif University of Technology in Tehran, Iran. She completed her PhD studies in 2016 at the University of Minnesota, under the advisement of Prof. Philippe Buhlmann. Her doctoral studies focused on electrochemical devices for sensing and energy storage, and use of fluorous compounds as novel materials for improving selectivity of potentiometric sensors. From 2016-2019, Maral was a postdoctoral fellow in the research group of Prof. George Whitesides at Harvard University, and Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering, working on affordable diagnostic devices to make healthcare and analysis accessible to all. Dr. Mousavi was the recipient of the University of Minnesota Doctoral Dissertation Fellowship and Graham N. Gleysteen Fellowship for academic excellence, and two Graduate Student Research Awards from Eastern Analytical Symposium, and Society for Electroanalytical Chemistry. She was also the recipient of the runner-up 2018 Young Chemist Award by Metrohm Inc., in recognition of her invention of multiplexed thread-based point-of-care ion sensors. She is the founder of a YouTube channel called “Surviving and Thriving in Higher Education”, dedicated to training students on soft skills, technical skills, and the strategies for maintaining well-being in graduate education. This channel currently has more than 19,000 subscribers, and 650,000 views.

Dr. Wendy L. Wolfersteig serves as Director of Evaluation and Partner Contracts at the Southwest Interdisciplinary Research Center (SIRC) at ASU. For over 20 years, her work in substance abuse prevention and evaluation in Arizona has focused on the use of effective evidence-based strategies and data-driven decision-making. She leads her team in working collaboratively with state, county, city and local partners to design and perform evaluations, provide trainings and disseminate findings aimed at preventing, reducing and eliminating health disparities.

Her community based participatory research addresses health equity with underserved populations and diverse subgroups. Specifically, this includes research on health effects stemming from risk and protective factors around social determinants such as food and housing, social support and isolation, and traumatic childhood and adult experiences. Recent community-based projects investigate the social determinants of health related to medical outcomes, collect and analyze data on social and health needs of target groups, and test the efficacy of a child abuse and neglect curriculum for preK to 12th grade students.

Dr. Wolfersteig is a research associate professor in the School of Social Work at ASU. She serves as a member of the Arizona Program Inventory Workgroup and was appointed as a member of the City of Phoenix, Fast-Track Cities Initiative Ad-Hoc Committee. Recently she completed four years on the board of the Arizona Evaluation Network (AZENet) and received the 2021 Allison Titcomb Award for outstanding service to AZENet and the profession.