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Juan Pablo Ruiz Villalobos

DPhil Student

I received my B.S. in Biomedical Engineering and English from the University of Miami in 2013. During my time at UM, I worked in the tissue engineering lab of Dr. Herman Cheung. In collaboration with the group of Dr. Noelle Ziebarth, I used Atomic Force Microscopy to study the effect that exposure to nicotine had on the viscoelastic properties of mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) and how this affected their ability to differentiate into different lineages.

During this time, I also had the opportunity as a Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) EXROP scholar to work for two summers at the Harvard Stem Cell Institute in Dr. Jeffrey Karp’s lab, exploring ways to functionalize the surface of MSCs to better improve their homing to zones of inflammation and avoid lung entrapment. After graduation, I spent a year as a Fulbright award recipient in Tanzania, working in collaboration with the Vector and Vector-Borne Diseases Research Institute (VVBDI) studying the prevalence and distribution of trypanosomiasis among Maasai cattle in the Ngorongoro Crater Conservation Area.

As an HHMI Gilliam Fellow, I am currently a part of the NIH/OxCam Biomedical Sciences DPhil program, in which I have spent two years working at Oxford with the Porcher and Patient groups, and two years at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute (NHLBI) with Dr. André Larochelle. My DPhil project consists of exploring the various pathways involved in development haematopoiesis, and to recapitulate these processes in-vitro with the goal of generating engraftable haematopoietic stem cells (HSCs), for therapeutics to patients who present in the clinic with various genetic bone marrow failures.

During my time in the Porcher lab, I focused on using a serum-free, embryoid body protocol for mouse embryonic stem cell differentiation to study how the signaling cytokine, vascular endothelial growth factor A (VEGFA), determined the fate of endothelial precursors into either arterial or haemogenic endothelium lineages. I also worked closely with postdocs in the lab to use CRISPR-Cas9 for the generation of a reporter line, and became proficient in the use of Flow Cytometry and Flow Assisted Cell Sorting (FACS) for a variety of applications.

Recently, I have also become interested in the research that shows that the culture and environments in which we work affect our mental health, productivity, and creativity, and in the science of effective team management. Because of this, I founded a blog,, which aims to change academic scientific culture to encourage life satisfaction and positive mental health. I am also active on the Board of Directors of a non-profit organization, Future of Research, which aims to promote systemic changes to improve academic science. Likewise, I am active in science communication through my twitter account @HappyStemCell.