Nicole Sarna

Nicole Sarna

Biomedical Engineering PhD Student

National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellow

Vanderbilt University

Download Curriculum Vitae

About Me

Originally from Winter Park, FL, I attened the University of Florida (UF) for my undergraduate studies in Biomedical Engineering. While at UF, I had the opportunity to work in multiple research labs and discovered my fascination for cancer immunotherapy research. After graduating from UF in April 2021, I began my doctoral studies at Vanderbilt University.

I joined Michael King's laboratory in August 2021, where I am currently researching the behavior of immune cells when activating the mechanosensitive ion channel, Piezo1, using fluid shear stress. My research has the potential to develop high throughput methods of ex vivo immune cell activation for adoptive cell transfer (ACT) cancer immunotherapies. My future work will utilize this methodology to optimize chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T cell therapies for the treatment of solid tumors.


Vanderbilt University

Aug. 2021 - Present

Doctor of Philosophy - PhD in Biomedical Engineering
Nashville, TN

University of Florida

Aug. 2017 - Apr. 2021

Bachelor of Science - BS in Biomedical Engineering, Magna Cum Laude
Gainesville, FL

Research Experience

Graduate Student Researcher - Vanderbilt University

Dr. Michael King Laboratory - Department of Biomedical Engineering - Nashville, TN

  • Evaluating the behavior of T cells following activation of the mechanosensitive calcium ion channel, Piezo1
  • Developing third-generation chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T cells to target prostate specific membrane antigen (PSMA)
  • Enhancing ex vivo activation of CAR T cells to improve cytotoxicity at solid tumor sites following Adoptive Cell Transfer (ACT)
  • Mentor and train freshman undergraduate student where I conceptualize, design, and oversee the undergraduate student's research project which aims to overcome chemotherapy resistant glioblastoma cancer cells through combined treatment regimens

Undergraduate Student Researcher - University of Florida

Dr. Carlos M. Rinaldi-Ramos Laboratory - Department of Chemical & Biomedical Engineering - Gainesville, FL

  • Characterized super-paramagnetic iron oxide nanoparticles (SPIONs) for in vivo imaging applications in the context of cancer immunotherapy
  • Evaluated the sensitivity and resolution of in-house synthesized SPIONs using the MOMENTUM™ Magnetic Particle Imaging (MPI) system
  • Performed in vivo experiments to monitor and track the biodistribution of immune cells following Adoptive Cell Transfer (ACT) in breast cancer and glioblastoma animal models

Research & Development Intern

Lucere Laboratories - Gainesville, FL

  • Optimized the synthesis of D-Luciferin, a bioluminescent compound, to ensure clean, efficient, and more affordable production
  • Conducted market research to validate and prioritize new product offerings
  • Identified and communicated internationally with D-Luciferin users to form research collaborations

Undergraduate Student Researcher - University of Florida

Dr. Todd E. Golde Laboratory - Department of Neuroscience - Gainesville, FL

  • Developed MATLAB program to analyze fluorescent images of 3D ex vivo brain slice cultures that exhibit aggregation of tau protein, a primary marker of Alzheimer’s and other neurodegenerative diseases

Undergraduate Student Researcher - University of Florida

Dr. Norman Fitz-Coy Laboratory - Department of Mechanical & Aerospace Engineering - Gainesville, FL

  • Collected data to update NASA’s Standard Breakup Model using Orbital Debris Modeling in collaborative research project, DebriSat, between NASA, The Aerospace Corporation, and the US Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center
  • Analyzed and characterized space debris fragments generated by hypervelocity collision on a model satellite



Research Techniques:

  • Cell Culture
  • Animal Handling/Experiments
  • Histological Staining
  • Flow Cytometry
  • Rotary Microtome
  • Light/Fluorescence Microscopy
  • IVIS® SpectrumCT
  • Magnetic Particle Imaging (MPI)
  • Dynamic Light Scattering (DLS)
  • Dynamic Magnetic Susceptibility (DMS)

Computer Softwares:

  • SolidWorks
  • OnShape
  • Autodesk Inventor
  • 3D Slicer
  • ImageJ
  • Git

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