Mitchel Colebank

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Mitchel Colebank

Mitchel Colebank, PhD

Biomedical Engineering

Mentor: Dr. Naomi Chesler, PhD



Project Title: An interdisciplinary investigation into the role of nitric oxide and endothelin-1 production in pulmonary vascular growth and remodeling

Immunotherapies harness the body’s own natural defenses to fight cancer aMy research lies at the intersection of computational mathematics, data-driven statistics, and cardiovascular mechanobiology. Computational science has always been an interest of mine, beginning with my undergraduate degree in mathematical sciences. However, losing my father to lung cancer made me realize that my true, long-term goals are to advance the field of cardiovascular diagnostics and medicine through the lens of computational science. I utilize computational modeling and statistics to elucidate the complex mechanisms behind pulmonary hypertension (PH). This unique perspective is crucial for translational research, as computer simulations can be used to rapidly construct and test hypotheses for vascular mechanotransduction, which drives growth and remodeling (G&R). Subsequently, these hypotheses can be tested by small animal and cell culture studies to expedite research crucial for the development of PH treatments. My doctoral research at North Carolina State University (NCSU) combined computational cardiovascular biomechanics with patient-specific data to better understand the progression of PH and developed the necessary computational skills for this proposal. My PhD research was driven by a collaborative initiative with physicians Sudar Rajagopal and Rich Krasuski at Duke University, experts in chronic thromboembolic PH (CTEPH). I independently initiated and drove this project out of my interest in working with clinicians, resulting in a computational model of CTEPH fluid mechanics. This interdisciplinary relationship has blossomed into a long-term research project at NCSU. This work sparked my excitement about vascular biology, motivating my new position in the Chesler lab where I will engross myself in new wet-lab skills while still approaching research hypotheses from a computational science perspective. As discussed with both Drs. Chesler (mentor, Director of the Edwards Lifesciences Research Center and Professor at UCI) and Witzenburg (co-mentor, Assistant Professor at UW-Madison), I believe my unique perspective on computational biomechanics makes the proposed study on vascular mechanotransduction-driven G&R impactful, with long term goals aimed at understanding the tissue-to-cell mechanisms behind vascular G&R in PH. By combining computer simulations with small animal and cell culture experiments, my research will construct and test hypotheses relating pulmonary vascular mechanotransduction and cell signaling, critical for understanding appropriate targets for PH treatment. This research will include cell culture and molecular biology training, which will complement my computational science background, supporting my future goals of becoming an interdisciplinary academic within a biomedical engineering department.