Jennifer Davis, PhD

Assistant Professor, Bioengineering & Pathology; 2015-Present

Postdoctoral Fellow, Department of Molecular and Cardiovascular Biology, Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center

Ph.D. Molecular & Integrative Physiology, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, 2007
M.A. Exercise & Nutritional Science, San Diego State University, 2001
B.S. Kinesiology, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, 1996

Dr. Davis, a cellular and molecular physiologist, uses genetic engineering to study the biology of cardiac wound healing and remodeling. Specifically, she investigates the role of scar tissue in repair processes and how it affects heart muscle function and prevents regeneration. Dr. Davis identified a key set of molecular signals that activate scar-forming myofibroblast cells, and she has successfully engineered them to either promote or block scarring, both at the cellular level and in genetically modified mice. Dr. Davis earned her Ph.D. in Molecular & Integrative Physiology at the University of Michigan, followed by postdoctoral training at the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Heart Institute. In 2014, she won the Louis N. & Arnold M. Katz Basic Science Research Prize for Young Investigators from the American Heart Association.

Postdoctoral Fellows

Kristin Zabrecky, DVM – Senior Fellow

Kristin is a Veterinary Resident in the Department of Comparative Medicine pursuing a masters degree in the Davis lab. She is interested in how cardiomyopathy phenotypes are altered by manipulating the extracellular matrix. The overall goal is to characterize the phenotypes using in vivo and in vitro techniques at the organ and cellular level.

PhD Students

Darrian Bugg

Darrian joined the Davis Lab in 2015 as a tech, and is now a 2nd year PhD student in the M3D program. She is interested in understanding the wound healing response in the heart post myocardial infarction with respect to the myocyte, fibroblast and the underlying matrix. By probing molecular pathways that underlie the transdifferentiation process of a quiescent fibroblast into a matrix secreting myofibroblast in the heart post injury, her work will help us better understand this transformation and look for ways in which it can be altered. Ultimately she hopes to utilize a basic biological approach to reduce the fibrotic response seen in cardiac wound healing and combine it with regenerative therapies to reduce cardiac dysfunction over time.

Emily Olszewski

Emily is interested in how extracellular matrix and fibroblasts affect cardiac vascular structure and function. She is working on characterizing in vivo mouse models with finely-tuned fibrotic phenotypes and building 3D, perfusable, in vitro models of vessel development and growth in extracellular environments with varied biochemistry, structure, mechanics. Her research is motivated by the need to understand variations in fibrotic responses and their effects on  vessel function. Host-graft anastomosis in biological therapies and building hierarchical vascular structures in engineered tissues are major barriers in regenerative medicine. A combination of in vivo and in vitro modeling is crucial for understanding and subsequently controlling a host vascular response in therapy.

Ross Bretherton

Ross is a first year PhD student in the department of Bioengineering jointly mentored by Jen Davis and Cole DeForest. He is interested in using engineered hydrogels to recapitulate the mechanical and biochemical cues of diseased matrix in the context of cardiomyopathies.

Logan Bailey

Logan is an MD/PhD student in the UW Medical Scientist Training Program. His work focuses on elucidating the mechanisms controlling cell fate and differentiation with the hopes of leveraging this knowledge to inform novel regenerative medicine therapies.

Abby Nagle

Abby is interested in using stem cell derived cardiomyocytes to learn how heart cells develop and maintain the contractile machinery needed for the heart to pump. She is currently studying the mechanotransduction of environmental cues that mediate sarcomere assembly, and how this process is disrupted in disease. In her spare time she enjoys playing Dungeons and Dragons and rooting for her favorite college football team.

Kalen Robeson

Kalen works as a co-mentored Ph.D. student in the Regnier and Davis labs developing novel tools to treat heart disease. With a focus on tissue engineering and gene therapy, Kalen is working to translate emerging ideas and techniques in bioengineering into medical treatments and therapies. This work focuses on using dATP as a small molecule therapy to enhance cardiomyocyte contraction and modulate cardiac myofibroblast transdifferentiation.

Bella Reichardt

Bella is a 2nd year Bioengineering PhD Student. She is working on better understanding the link between epigenetic-transcription patterns and mechanical disequilibrium in hypertrophic and dilated cardiomyopathies. She is also interested in investigating how the pro-fibrotic environment after a myocardial infarction impacts stem cell-cardiomyocyte engraftment.

Lab Staff

Ambika Gunaje – Lab Manager

Amy Martinson – Research Scientist



Issac Flores – Senior

Kacie Yokoro

Renee Gibson

Past Trainees

Danny El-Nachef, PhD

Senior Scientist – Sana Biotechnology

Peter Kim, PhD

Scientist – Seattle Children’s Hospital

Peter’s research focused on investigating mechanoregulation of myofibroblast fate and function. Utilizing BioMEMs techniques, he recapitulated in vivo myocardial scar ECM topographies for assessing the topographic regulation of myofibroblast transdifferentiation.

Christina Jones, PhD

Kevin Shi, MS

Divya Lakshmanan – BioE Undergraduate

Bioengineering Master’s Student – UCSD

Kylie Beach – Microbiology Undergraduate

Research Scientist – Bermingham-McDonogh Lab, UW

Anna Reese – Visiting Undergraduate, UCLA