Tanya O Brien profile pic Tanya O’ Brien (PhD)

Tanya obtained her undergraduate Bachelor (BSc) degree in Veterinary Nursing in 2015 from University College Dublin – conferring with First class honours and receiving the Merial Animal Health Prize for overall best student in large animal studies. Tanya then worked for 4 years as a Registered Veterinary Nurse in Ireland – in hospital, clinic and teaching capacities, and volunteered abroad with arboreal, marine, avian, reptilian and mammalian species.

In 2019, Tanya undertook a Master’s degree in Biomedical Science at the National University of Ireland, Galway, where she discovered her passion for biomedical engineering. Tanya is particularly interested in understanding how biophysical stimuli are transduced by biological tissue. Hence, she completed her thesis as a literature review, titled: Smart Piezoelectric Biomaterials for Tissue Engineering of the Central Nervous System. Tanya qualified with First class honours from the MSc. Biomedical Science in 2020.


Tanya was awarded a PhD scholarship by the European Research Council in 2020, under the supervision of Prof. Laoise McNamara for the research project: Mechanobiological model systems for Bone Osteoporosis mimetics. As the MMDRG group recently discovered –biological mechanisms by which bone cells respond to their mechanical environment in osteoporotic bone are impaired – Tanya will continue to advance this research by working as part of the MMDRG group to (i) Uncover the role of mechanobiology in the aetiology of bone osteoporosis by developing mechanobiological in vitro and ex vivo models to mimic the complex multicellular and mechanical environment of osteoporosis in vivo, and (ii) Investigate the potential of mechanobiological inhibitors to prevent osteoporosis. The overall aim of this research is to recapitulate the paragon for bone osteoporosis to more closely align with the pathology of the disease in an attempt to advance future therapeutics.

vesna Veasna Sum-Coffey (PhD)

Veasna is originally from Boston, MA, U.S.A. In 2011, she started her undergraduate degree in Biotechnology at National University of Ireland, Galway. She was rewarded a Wellcome Trust Vacation scholarship in 2013 to do an internship in Centre for Chromosome Biology. In 2015, she was awarded a Bachelor of Science degree in Biotechnology from National University of Ireland, Galway. The following year (2015/2016), she went on to complete her Masters of Science degree in Biomedical Science at National University of Ireland, Galway. Recently, she received a PhD studentship with Professor Laoise McNamara. Her PhD is funded by Science Foundation Ireland and Cúram, and it is a collaborative work with Stryker Instruments.

Stryker is a world leader in the area of surgical instrument innovation and development of bioresorbable and biodegradable medical devices for orthopaedic applications. The ideal outcome of surgical cutting is to remove biological tissue while minimising cellular damage, but also to leave a cut surface that is favourable for effective healing post-operatively or formation of a strong bond between an implant and surrounding tissue. Stryker is committed to the design and development of novel biomaterials and processing technologies for various applications, including orthopaedic joint replacement, nasal wound dressing and craniomaxillofacial tumour removal surgery. Innovation in the area of surgical cutting technology requires further research to understand the regenerative capacity of surgically cut bone, and also information on materials that can be used to enhance tissue healing after surgery. Veasna’s research is focused on these specific topics to inform future medical device applications.


Veasna’s project with Stryker will entail characterizing the properties of cut bone and determining the optimal parameters for viability of cut bone as an autograft material. She will also investigate the use of bio-resrobable materials to enhance/accelerate tissue re-modelling/healing after orthapaedic surgery. Particularly, she will be focusing on the response of primary tissue to cutting, and the agents required for accelerating bone healing and how they can be optimally delivered in vivo. This research will be used towards the development of the next generation of Stryker surgical instruments.

 Vincent photo Vincent Casey (PhD)

Vincent is a graduate of NUI Galway (2016), where he received his Bachelor’s degree in Biomedical Engineering. In his final year, Vincent completed a project investigating flow of surgical smoke, a by-product created during different cutting modalities (e.g. Radiofrequency ablation, ultrasonic, laser). Following this project, Vincent spent the summer working in Stryker’s Research & Development Innovation Centre in Carrigtwohill, County Cork.

Stryker is one of the world’s leading medical technology companies offer a diverse array of innovative products and services in Orthopaedics, Medical and Surgical, and Neurotechnology and Spine that help improve patient and hospital outcomes. Stryker is active in over 100 countries worldwide. Stryker established its presence in Ireland in 1998 and over the last 17 years has built a significant research and development competency and continued to expand its manufacturing operations in Ireland.


Vincent is now undertaking a PhD in collaboration with Stryker, under the supervision of Professor Laoise McNamara, carrying out toxicological, thermo-mechanical and biological investigations of bone and soft tissue cutting and non-mechanical removal. This project is intended to develop an understanding of the toxicological profile of by-products created during surgical cutting of tissue, to improve success rates of surgery and to maximise the amount of diseased tissue removed during surgery thus, for example, preventing the return of various cancerous conditions after removal of a tumour.

  Anneke Verbruggen  (PhD)

Anneke Verbruggen was awarded a Bachelor in biomedical engineering from National University of Ireland, Galway, in 2016. During this time she worked in the Lean Sigma department of Medtronic for 9 months (the only medical device company Cell system in the world). Her final year project involved a computational model demonstrating bone nanoindentation of hydrated and dehydrated bone tissue, and was aided by her supervisor (and NUIG alumnus) Dr. Ted Vaughan. To further research this field and investigate where to specialise, she returned to Galway for a taught Masters degree in biomedical engineering. This included a group Bioinnovation project investigating an optimum method to tackle obesity. A fluid flow model, bench testing, original patent and seven year business model were included in the thesis for an entirely novel bariatric device.

Anneke worked as a research assistant under the supervision of Prof. Laoise McNamara in the Mechanobiology Research Group for 6 months. This research was funded by the Centre for Research in Medical Devices (CURAM) and involved projects such as the mechanical testing of bone aggregates originally optimized by Dr. Fiona Freeman (see Alumni section). Following a 7 month backpacking trip around the world to gain perspective, Anneke returned to begin a PhD with the MMDRG group.


Anneke was awarded the Hardiman Postgraduate Scholarship to conduct research into metastatic bone tissue. Specifically, she is assessing local tumour-induced changes in bone mechanical properties and composition, using animal models provided by Dr. Roisin Dwyer from the Regenerative Medicine Institute (REMEDI, NUI Galway). By applying methods such as nanoindentation and microCT scanning, Anneke hopes to pinpoint distinct differences in bone tissue microenvironment upon cancer invasion and replicate this process through computational modelling techniques (FEA, USDFLD subroutines) to establish why breast and prostate cancer favour bone tissue as a site for invasion.

 Masooma Id photo Dr. Syeda Masooma Naqvi (Post Doc)

Masooma joined the Mechanobiology and Medical Device Research Group as a Post Doctoral Researcher after receiving her PhD from Trinity College Dublin.  Masooma’s PhD research initially focused on investigating the specific environmental conditions that can aid in regeneration of the intervertebral disc, specifically the nucleus pulposus region. She later explored the microencapsulation of MSCs for minimally invasive repairing of damaged tissue and followed this by validation in in vitro and ex vivo model systems of intervertebral disc degeneration. Her PhD conclusions emphasize the importance of employing a relevant model system when investigating therapeutic strategies for regeneration of the nucleus pulposus. Prior to this, Masooma received her MSc (Clinical Research) from NUI Galway where she also recieved her BSc in Biomedical Science (Majors in Physiology and Information Technology).

As a postdoctoral researcher, she utilised skills she gained during her PhD and combined this with the indispensable training she received in the MMDR group to develop appropriate 3D in vitro model systems that mimic the changes that occur in bone mechanobiology during osteoporosis (SFI funded project: mechanobiology based approaches for treatment of osteoporosis). Her investigations attempted to inform the generation of novel mechanobiology-based therapeutic approaches for osteoporosis.

Project Description:

Masooma’s current research involves investigating the role of mechanobiology in the aetiology of bone metastases (IRC funded project: MEchanobiological model systems for bone METastases mimetICs (MEMETIC)). Although much research has been conducted to understand the pathogenesis of metastatic bone disease, it remains that therapies are deficient and once cancer invades bone tissue the condition is untreatable. Thus there is a distinct need to significantly advance our scientific understanding of bone metastasis. To address this, she is developing advanced 3D in vitro model systems that mimic the complex multicellular and in vivo mechanical environment of metastases, including interactions (via mechanosensitive matrix attachments) between such cells and their surrounding physical environment and using these model systems to establish whether inhibition of mechanobiological responses can attenuate tumour cell-bone cell signalling and the development of bone metastases.

Vatsal Kumar Photo_ Vatsal Kumar (PhD)

Vatsal graduated from Manipal University, India in 2014 with a Bachelor’s degree in Biomedical Engineering. He went on to work for close to 3 years as a Verification and Validation engineer in Tata Elxsi, India in the area of medical electronics. In 2017, he came to NUI Galway to pursue MSc in Biomedical Engineering and worked on his thesis with the MMDR group. The thesis titled ‘Mechanobiology of Bone Metastasis’ investigated the effects of conditioned media from mammary carcinoma cells on Osteoblast mediated Osteoclastogenesis and the effect of 3D gelatin substrate stiffness and mammary carcinoma cell on Osteoblast mediated Osteoclastogenesis. After completing his Master’s in August, 2018, he has now begun his PhD titled ‘Mechanobiological model systems for bone metastases mimetics’, funded by the College of Engineering and Informatics scholarship, under the supervision of Prof. Laoise McNamara in the MMDR group


This project will use advanced in-vitro and ex-vivo models that replicate bone metastasis in terms of biomechanical properties to study mechanobiological responses during metastasis. These models will be used to assess whether inhibition of these responses can affect tumor-cell and bone cell signalling, hence, essentially affecting the development of metastatic bone disease.

Dave Symes David Symes (PhD)

David is a graduate of NUI Galway (2016), where he received his Bachelor’s degree in Biomedical Engineering. In his final year, David completed a project on the analysis of the risk of rupture and dissection of arteries.  Following completion of his Bachelors, David spent a year working with a medical device start-up (AdvancedCath) in San Jose, California before returning to Galway, Ireland to work with Creganna Medical for a year.


David is now undertaking a PhD in Biomedical Engineering in collaboration with Medtronic Vascular entitled “Cerebrovascular risk predictions post-transcatheter aortic valve replacement”. This research will be carried out under the supervision of Dr. Claire Conway in Aston University’s Biomedical Engineering Department in Birmingham, United Kingdom and Prof. Laoise McNamara in the Mechanobiology and Medical Devices Research Group in the Discipline (MMDRG) of Biomedical Engineering at NUI Galway. David was awarded funding by the Irish Research Council “Enterprise Partnership Scheme” to conduct this research.

Ischemic stroke post-TAVR is thought to occur due to debris or tissue tearing away during or after intervention which can result in a blockage forming in the cerebral vasculature. This project will investigate using numerical techniques and imaging data the response to prosthetic valve placement via TAVR. Using virtual aortic structures derived from patient imaging, the deformation and tearing of tissue will be predicted using advanced computational techniques. Consideration of the impact of the dynamic motion of the whole heart will be enabled through the use a 3D multiphysics model capable of simulating a complete cardiac cycle. This project will reveal vital information on the likelihood of an embolic response post-TAVR and insights gained will inform SAVR also.