Graduate STEM Fellow Profile

Philip Buskohl

Project Title: CLIMB: Cornell's Learning Initiative in Medicine and Bioengineering
Thesis: Growth and structural remodeling of embryonic heart valves
College/University: Cornell University
Research Advisor: Jonathan Butcher
Degree Sought: Ph.D., Theoretical and Applied Mechanics
Research Focus: The role of mechanical forces in the regulation of growth and structural remodeling of heart valves in embryonic development
Teaching Partner(s): Susan Curran

Description of Research

The embryonic development of heart valves is a highly complex process where the primitive valve transitions from globular cushion to fully functional fibrous leaflets. This morphology and internal remodeling occurs simultaneously with a continual increase in hemodynamic (blood flow) and pressure forces being applied to the valve. The goal of my research is to build a framework through which to understand how these mechanical forces are regulating heart valve growth. Through micro scale mechanical testing and histology staining, I have quantified the structural remodeling of atrioventricular valves during early stages of development in chickens. This data is used to inform my mechanically based growth model which assumes that the rate of growth is a function of the stress state experienced by the valve. This model will be implemented in a numerical simulation to test its predictive capability. Understanding the role of mechanics in growth has applications in optimizing tissue engineering strategies, intervention techniques for congenital heart defects, and potentially early prognosis of disease.

Example of how my research is integrated into my GK-12 experience

Almost everyone knows someone with a heart related developmental defect. The clinical goals of my research serve as a first connection to my students through the people they know who would benefit from my work. More directly, valvulogenesis is a subset of the fascinating development process which my student will observe, measure, and describe through the hands-on experiment of culturing chick embryos outside of the shell. Inquiry is intrinsic to observing development, as the students naturally ask the question of “How does this happen?”