People

Current Members

Principal Investigator

otto_kevin2014Dr. Kevin J. Otto
Professor
kevin.otto@bme.ufl.edu
LinkedIn Profile
Twitter (@OttoKev)
Neural engineering, device-tissue interfaces, and neurostimulation
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Dr. Kevin J. Otto received the BS degree in chemical engineering from Colorado State University in 1997, the MS degree in Bioengineering in 2002 and the PhD Degree in Bioengineering in 2003 from Arizona State University, Tempe.

From 1997 to 2003 he was a Research Assistant in the Bioengineering Department, Arizona State University, where his work was in the areas of neural engineering and sensory neuroprostheses. From 2003 to 2004 he was a Research Fellow in the Department of Biomedical Engineering, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor where his work focused on brain-machine interface systems and implantable devices. From 2004 to 2006 he was a Post-Doctoral Fellow in the Central Systems Laboratory in the Kresge Hearing Research Institute in the Department of Otolaryngology at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor where his work focused on cochlear implants.

His primary appointment is Professor in the J. Crayton Pruitt Family Department of Biomedical Engineering at the University of Florida. His research interests include neural engineering, device-tissue interfaces, neurostimulation.

Download Dr. Otto’s Curriculum Vitae

Academic Positions

  • 2018-Present: Professor, the J. Crayton Pruitt Family Department of Biomedical Engineering, University of Florida
  • 2018-Present: Affiliate Faculty, Department of Electrical & Computer Engineering, University of Florida
  • 2016-Present: Affiliate Faculty, Department of Materials Science & Engineering, University of Florida
  • 2016-Present: Affiliate Faculty, Department of Neurology, University of Florida
  • 2014-Present: Affiliate Faculty, Department of Neuroscience, University of Florida
  • 2014-2018: Associate Professor, the J. Crayton Pruitt Family Department of Biomedical Engineering, University of Florida (with tenure)
  • 2012-2014: Associate Professor, the Department of Biological Sciences and the Weldon School of Biomedical Engineering, Purdue University (with tenure)
  • 2006-2012: Assistant Professor, the Department of Biological Sciences and the Weldon School of Biomedical Engineering, Purdue University
  • 2003-2006: Post-Doctoral Fellow, Program in Hearing, Balance and Chemical Senses, Kresge Hearing Research Institute, University of Michigan
  • 2001-2003: Research Staff, Neural Engineering Laboratory, Biomedical Engineering Department, University of Michigan
  • 1998-2001: Research Assistant, Neural Computation Laboratory, Bioengineering Department, Arizona State University
  • Spring 1998: Teaching Assistant, Surgical Techniques, Arizona State University
  • Spring 1998: Teaching Assistant, Heat and Mass Transfer, Arizona State University
  • Fall 1997: Teaching Assistant, Introduction to Bioengineering, Arizona State University

Education

  • Jul 2004 – Feb 2006, Post-Doctoral Fellow Department of Otolaryngology, University of Michigan
  • Aug 2003 – Jul 2004, Post-Doctoral Fellow Biomedical Engineering, University of Michigan
  • Aug 2002 – May 2003, PhD Biomedical Engineering, Arizona State University
  • Aug 1997 – Aug 2002, MS Biomedical Engineering, Arizona State University
  • Aug 1993 – May 1997, BS Chemical Engineering, Colorado State University


Post-Docs


Dr. Scott Thourson
Post-Doc
Biomedical Engineering
sthourson@ufl.edu
Neural electrodes
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Scott received his B.S. in Mechanical Engineering from Bradley University in Peoria, IL in 2013. His undergraduate research studied how the concentration used for primary protein adsorption affected the binding efficiency of secondary analyze binding for biosensing applications. Scott also designed and tested custom MEMS devices to investigate silicon “micro-welding” or electric current-induced fusion of silicon-silicon surfaces. Scott completed his PhD in Bioengineering at the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta, GA in 2018. His graduate research aimed to develop flexible wire electrodes composed of conductive polymer to electrically interface with individual cells. Scott started his postdoctoral research in the Otto lab in Fall 2018.



Dr. Francisco Delgado
Post-Doc
Biomedical Engineering
fdelgado@ufl.edu
Neural interfaces
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Francisco received his B.S. in biomedical engineering with a minor in mechanical systems design from Florida International University in Miami. After completion of his degree he moved to Gainesville to begin his doctoral research. In 2010 he joined the Epilepsy Research Lab under the leadership of Dr. Paul R. Carney; here Francisco garnered experience in the field of central nervous disorders and the tools and techniques used to study and treat them. During his tenure in the Epilepsy research lab he was awarded a prestigious CTSI TL1 fellowship, which supported his study of nanotechnological methods for the treatment of epilepsy. His work focused on the interplay of drug delivery technologies and disease, and he wrote his dissertation on the influence of tissue structure and delivery environments on treatment strategies for neurological diseases.

After graduating with his PhD, Francisco joined the Neural Prosthetics Research Lab under Dr. Kevin Otto as a postdoctoral fellow. His current research includes novel methods of stimulating and recording in the peripheral nervous system in vivo, and understanding the outcomes of these methods as they pertain to the restoration of function or improvement of learning. In the future, he hopes to extend this work to create novel technologies to interface with neurological tissues to treat disease, enhance function, and develop a better understanding of how the brain functions.


gaireDr. Janak Gaire
Post-Doc
Neuroscience
jgaire@ufl.edu
Tissue-device interfaces and neural implants
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Janak completed his B.S. in Biology, with a minor in chemistry from the University of North Texas in 2010. For a year, he worked with Dr. Guenter W. Gross at Center for Network Neuroscience to develop ways to increase the durability of microelectrode array plate. Currently, he is pursuing a PhD in Department of Neuroscience at University of Florida (UF). Before transferring to UF in August 2014, he joined the Neuroprostheses Research Laboratory at Purdue University in summer of 2012. He is interested in improving the functional longevity of the implanted devices and currently working on evaluating tissue response to brain-implanted devices.

Research Abstract:

Intracortical microelectrode devices provide a brain machine interface capable of targeting very small populations of neurons with a potential to treat many neurological disorders. These penetrating devices generally perform well for a short duration but fail to record or stimulate reliably for chronic time putatively due to reactive tissue response (RTR). The loss of chronic functional reliability is a major hurdle for successful clinical implementation. I am interested in understanding the mechanisms underlying device failure. My research focuses on employing novel techniques and models to investigate biological mechanisms underlying device failure. I have been involved in developing novel imaging techniques (both in situ and in vivo imaging techniques) and mouse models to evaluate biological changes surrounding the implanted devices.

Download Janak Gaire’s Curriculum Vitae


Ph.D. Students

Savannah Dewberry
Ph.D. student
Biomedical Engineering
ls.dewberry@ufl.edu
Neurostimulation and chronic pain

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Savannah received her B.S. degree in Biomedical Engineering at the University of Alabama at Birmingham in 2016. Her undergraduate research under Dr. Robert Sorge focused on the behavioral psychology of nociception, with a paper establishing a novel zebrafish model for chronic pain. She worked at a start-up developing a diagnostic device for a year before coming to UF. She is currently pursuing a Ph.D. in Biomedical Engineering at the University of Florida.

 


Ian Malone
Ph.D. student
Electrical Engineering
malonei@ufl.edu
LinkedIn Profile
Neural interfaces and neural stimulation
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Ian completed his BS in Industrial and Systems Engineering at the University of Florida in 2016. He is now pursuing a PhD in electrical engineering focusing on neural implants and stimulation to encourage neural regeneration after injury. 

 


Morgan Urdaneta
Ph.D. student
Interdisciplinary Science with specialization in Neuroscience
morgan.urdaneta@ufl.edu
Neural Interfaces and Neurostimulation
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After a brief period of Medical School at the Universidad de Carabobo (Venezuela), Morgan received his B.S. in Biomedical Sciences from The University of North Florida in 2015. For more than three years, he worked with Dr. Amy L. Lane where he finished his Undergraduate Honors thesis on Natural Products from Marine Bacteria as Inhibitors of Fungal Biofilms. Upon graduation he worked on drug pharmacodynamics in the laboratory of Dr. Alan P. Fields at the Mayo Clinic Comprehensive Cancer Center. Morgan is currently pursuing a Ph.D. in Interdisciplinary Science with a specialization in Neuroscience at the University of Florida. He’s currently interested in chronically-stable intracortical microstimulation devices and technologies, such as Micromagnetic stimulation, for closed-loop Brain Machine Interfaces.



Elliott Dirr
Ph.D. student
Biomedical Engineering
edirr@ufl.edu
LinkedIn Profile
Neural interfaces and neural stimulation
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Elliott received his B.S. in biomedical engineering with a minor in entrepreneurship from The Ohio State University in 2014. His undergraduate research focused on the effect of intrastriatal injection of alpha-synuclein fibrils on ultrasonic vocalizations in rats under Dr. Shelia Fleming. Elliott is interested in the use of peripheral neuromodulation to treat diseases by utilizing the body’s own ability to respond chemically to neural stimuli. He is currently examining the efficacy of using targeted neurostimulation techniques to chronically control blood glucose.



Jamie Murbach
Ph.D. Student
Materials Science and Engineering
jam8744@ufl.edu
Neural interfaces and drug delivery
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Jamie completed her B.S. in Materials Science and Engineering with a concentration in polymeric materials and a minor in chemistry from Clemson University in 2016. She is currently pursuing a PhD in Materials Science and Engineering at the University of Florida.


small_sethprofileSeth Currlin
Ph.D. student
Interdisciplinary Science with specialization in Neuroscience
scurrlin@ufl.edu
Neural implants and neural stimulation
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Seth earned his B.S. (2011) in Biology and M.S. (2013) in Molecular Genetics and Microbiology at the University of Florida. Master’s work focused on metabolic peptide influence upon taste modulation and related neural pathways with Dr. C.D. Dotson and Dr. Sergei Zolotukhin. In 2015 Seth was accepted to the University of Florida’s Interdisciplinary Science Ph.D. program (IDP) and will specialize in Neuroscience.


eric-atkinson-100x133Eric Atkinson
Ph.D. student
Interdisciplinary Science with specialization in Neuroscience
ericwayne@ufl.edu
Tissue-device interfaces
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Eric finished his Bachelor of Science degree in Biological Engineering with a minor in Biomechanics at the University of Florida in 2011. Upon graduation, he continued his work with Dr. Michael Okun analyzing electrophysiological data collected from human patients undergoing deep-brain stimulation treatment for Tourette’s syndrome. Eric then began working under Dr. Ben Dunn conducting research focusing on drug design for targets involved in infectious diseases (e.g., HIV, tuberculosis, and malaria). In 2015, he earned his Master’s of Science degree in Medical Science at the University of Florida under the mentorship of Dr. Jason Coleman. His research with Dr. Coleman examined neural plasticity changes due to chronic hypoxia in neonates. Eric is currently pursuing a Ph.D. in Interdisciplinary Science with a specialization in Neuroscience through the College of Medicine at the University of Florida. His research interests focus on understanding the tissue-electrode interface of chronically implanted neural devices. He hopes to develop novel approaches to improving recording longevity.

Download Eric Atkinson’s Curriculum Vitae


kaitlynn-olczak-100x133Kaitlynn Olczak
Ph.D. student
Biomedical Engineering
kpolczak@ufl.edu
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Kaitlynn completed her BS in Biomedical Engineering, with a minor in chemistry, from the University at Buffalo in 2015. She is now pursuing a PhD in Biomedical Engineering at the University of Florida.


Masters Students

Jesus Peñaloza
Masters Student
Biomedical Engineering
jesus.penalozaa@ufl.edu
LinkedIn Profile
Twitter (@jesusdpa1)
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Jesús Peñaloza received his B.S degree in Electronic Engineering at the University Nueva Esparta in Venezuela. After developing an intelligent helmet capable of detecting accidents and sending information to the authorities for a fast response in his B.S. degree, he decided to pursue a M.S degree in Biomedical Engineering at the University Simón Bolívar, and Advance Study Diplomas on Business Management and Innovation at the University Metropolitana. In these years he focused his research on epilepsy where he applied signal processing to extract features that could be used to develop fast detection systems that could help reduce the cost and time of diagnosis for patients in 3rd world countries.

Currently he is a 2nd year master student in the Biomedical Engineering department at the University Florida. In this moment he is working in two main projects. The first one, understanding the effect of waveforms in the protein adsorption layer at the electrode sites to evaluate the possibility of recovering the electrodes capability. The second one, developing image processing and computer vision algorithms to extract features to understand the relation between the neural system and type 1 diabetes.

He plans on pursuing a PhD and hopes to continue his learning and contribution on the neural engineering research area.


Valdimir Talley III (JT)
Masters student
Biomedical Engineering
talleyv3@ufl.edu
Neural Integration and Drug Delivery

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Valdimir Talley received his bachelors of science through the Weldon School of Biomedical Engineering at Purdue University in 2015. His undergraduate capstone work was the result of a Weldon School and Global Engineering Program (GEP) supported independent study abroad and site visit to a clinic in Guatemala under the organization Range of Motion Project (R.O.M.P). The capstone project focused on improving mechanical prosthetic-patient interactions, specifically in rural settings. He is currently pursuing his masters in biomedical engineering (BME) at the University of Florida with an interest in improving prosthetic-patient interactions through neural integration and drug delivery.


Minhal Yusufali (Min)
Masters Student
Biomedical Engineering
muhammady@ufl.edu

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Minhal Yusufali received his B.S. in Chemistry with an emphasis in biochemistry from the University of Florida in 2016. During his undergraduate program, he worked on neuroscience research under Drs. Kenneth Heilman and John Williamson. Later he joined Dr. Carlos Rinaldi’s lab to work on magnetically triggered drug release with magnetic composite nanocarriers (MCNCs) and completed his honors thesis.

Currently, Min is a graduate assistant for the Department of Biomedical Engineering at the University and is pursuing a master’s in biomedical engineering. He works with both invasive and noninvasive neural interfaces under Drs. Kevin Otto and Janis Daly. Within NPR lab, he is interested in peripheral nerve regeneration, growth, and stimulation with the use of tissue-electrode interfaces. His individual work focuses on dip coating methods for polyimide with the goal of in vivo drug delivery to promote biocompatibility and axonal regeneration.


Undergraduate Students

Brandon Badamtchian
Biomedical Engineering
bbadamtchian@ufl.edu
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Brandon is a third-year biomedical engineering student specializing in neural engineering. He is researching the electrical properties of shape-memory polymer nerve cuff electrodes for use as neural implants. After graduating, Brandon plans to pursue an MD/PhD program.


Aaron Czeiszperger
Biomedical Engineering

 

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Aaron is a fifth year Biomedical Engineering student in the Combined Bachelor’s and Master’s Degree at the University of Florida and is seeking a minor in Electrical Engineering. His work is concentrated about the foreign body response to neural implants in the peripheral nervous system.


Adrienne Widener
Materials Science and Engineering
Adriennejan25@ufl.edu
Neural Interfaces and Drug Delivery

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Adrienne is a fourth-year materials science and engineering student with a specialization in biomaterials and a minor in trumpet music performance. She is currently studying conductive polymers and their effect as a neural interface in the central nervous system. After graduating, Adrienne is interested in pursuing a PhD in Materials Science and Engineering


Felicia Sedwick
Biomedical Engineering
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Felicia Sedwick is a fifth year biomedical engineering student at the University of Florida. She is working on the TEENI project and will be focusing on nerve regeneration through the threads.


Nicolas Kunigk
Biomedical Engineering

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Nicolas Kunigk is a third year biomedical engineering student at the University of Florida with minors in computer science and bioinformatics. He plans on pursuing a PhD and is interested in studying neuroprosthetics.


Annie Gormaley
Biomedical Engineering
agormaley@ufl.edu

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Anne is a fourth year biomedical engineering student at the University of Florida. Her work focuses on the evaluation of the foreign body response to neural implants in the peripheral nervous system.


Ray Ward
Biomedical Engineering
wr4yflorida@ufl.edu

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Ray Ward is a fourth year biomedical engineering student, most interested in the implications of long-term foreign body response on the application of neural implants in modern medicine. He plans on pursuing a PhD and hopes to contribute to the development of novel treatment options for patients with neurological disorder and neuropathic pain.



Lauren Lester
Mechanical Engineering
laurenlester@ufl.edu
Neural interfaces and drug delivery
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Lauren is a first year mechanical engineering undergrad at the University of Florida with a focus on bio-mechanics. This is Lauren’s first lab setting and is very enthusiastic to get involved with research.



Alexis Brake
Biomedical Engineering / Dance
abrake@ufl.edu
Neural interfaces and immunohistochemistry
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Alexis is currently in her first year as a biomedical engineering major and dance minor at the University of Florida. She is interested in investigating the body’s immune response to neural devices and is excited to be joining the NPR lab. After graduating, Alexis looks forward to attending a Ph.D./M.D. combined program and becoming a physician scientist.


small_aviAvi Matarasso
Chemical Engineering
avimatarasso@ufl.edu
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Avi is a 3rd year Chemical Engineering student with an Electrical Engineering minor. Avi is interested in pursuing a Ph.D. in Biomedical Engineering, and is currently researching histology aspects of TEENI electrode implants. His research interests include brain-computer and peripheral interfaces, electrochemical brain signals, and their interactions with debilitating brain diseases and brain disorders.


Research Staff

Ladan Jiracek
Research Technician
Biomedical Engineering
lgocman.jiraceks@ufl.edu
Neural Interfaces

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Ladan is the brilliant host of the Neural Implant podcast, the single best podcast in the field of Brain-Machine Interfaces (and the only one!). There, and on his YouTube channel, he talks to the leaders in the field of Neuroprosthetics with the power of seven buffalo to quickly and understandably bring new developments to those interested in the field.
Ladan did his Masters in Nanobiophysics at TU Dresden in Germany where in between studying, his parties broke all records with the number of people able to fit in a studio apartment. For his Master’s thesis, he bravely avoided beggars and heroically ignored disabled children in the streets of Bangalore, India. There at the Indian Institute of Technology (IISc) he investigated the swimming characteristics of helical microswimmers in Non-Newtonian Fluids finding that scallops could indeed swim at the micro scale.
For his Bachelor’s, Ladan went to the University of Utah, the mountain biking center of the world. For his final project, his group developed a medical device which ended up winning $10k in prize money. He also co-founded the Ninkasi Brewing Club which was funded to brew beer on a dry campus (no joke!).
Ladan has travelled to over 100 countries, speaks 6 languages, has been deported to Siberia, and has trained Guinea Pigs to put out house fires (ok, only 3 of those are true!).
He hopes to start his Biomedical Engineering PhD in 2019 at UF and convert more undergraduates to the ways of the Jedi. He is especially interested in Brain Implant design and testing as well as integrating Traditional Chinese Medicine into the field of BCI’s (ant eating therapy anyone?).
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