The current team includes (L-R) Sean Borkowski, Dr. Sophia Sangiorgio, Ashleen Knutsen, and Dr. Edward Ebramzadeh.
“Mentoring: it’s a core value at this lab. It has been since day one,” says Edward Ebramzadeh, Ph.D. The UCLA professor and director of the Implant Biomechanics Lab at the J. Vernon Luck, Sr., M.D. Orthopaedic Research Center (JVL) is putting away a bag of foam bones and plastic and metal hip implant parts, brought out as demonstration models to help orient the department’s latest volunteer. In addition to volunteers, the lab regularly serves as home, and often launching pad, for young talent entering the field of medical research.
Sean Borkowski, MS, and Ashleen Knutsen, MS, are the lab’s current graduate research assistants, both pursuing their Ph.D.s in biomedical engineering at UCLA. Borkowski’s research in the JVL lab will result in better treatment methods for children and adults undergoing surgery for scoliosis and other disorders of the spine. Knutsen’s investigation into how bone and implants interact will lead to enhanced safety and performance of implants for patients with osteoporosis.
Twelve years ago, Sophia Sangiorgio, Ph.D., now assistant professor, UCLA Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, was in their position, starting at the lab as a graduate research assistant under Ebramzadeh’s mentorship. Now an LAOH veteran and the mother of three young children, Sangiorgio says it’s very much on her mind what it means to be a mom working toward answers that will help today’s and coming generations of children. She is eager to be a good role model – to her own children, who know mom as a “bone engineer,” and, along with Ebramzadeh, to the graduate students who become an integral part of their lab family.
Sangiorgio speaks of the lab’s work with undisguised passion, noting that the modest Ebramzadeh was just elected a member of the Hip Society, generally acknowledged as the most highly regarded organization in the field.
“This lab is a remarkable place,” says Sangiorgio. “Today’s graduates are often told to go into tissue engineering, genetics, or DNA. I say, also consider the type of work that’s being done here. There are some fundamental orthopaedic problems still to be solved through biomechanical research. And the impact is enormous. We’re working directly with surgeons – with implants that are being used on patients today and techniques that can help shape a surgeon’s decisions to promote better outcomes, literally, tomorrow.”