PhD Spotlight: Suzanne Stasiak, PhD’23, Bioengineering
Suzanne Stasiak began her PhD in bioengineering at Northeastern in 2017 after graduating with a BS in biomedical engineering from Boston University. Advised by Associate Professor Harikrishnan Parameswaran, Her research focuses on airway smooth muscle mechanics and interactions with the extracellular matrix in the context of understanding the development of asthma.
Within her first year of graduate school, she won the university’s Alpha Fund Grant to develop a cell and tissue stretcher compatible with an inverted microscope for live imaging, resulting in a patent application. This device is used in the lab to mimic the isotropic, variable stretch waveforms felt by smooth muscle cells in the living airway, while culturing the cells on optically clear elastic substrates of tunable stiffness and protein. Over the course of her doctoral work, she investigated the relationship between extracellular matrix remodeling, such as pathological stiffening, and airway smooth muscle reactivity, such as hyperresponsiveness to a contractile agonist.
Stasiak presented her research at numerous conferences at the university, national, and international levels, winning multiple travel and abstract awards, including the Northeastern University Bioengineering Symposium Outstanding Oral Presentation award in 2019. She published a first-author paper in Science Advances in August 2020, detailing efforts to understand how matrix stiffness and cell connectivity alter calcium signaling among smooth muscle cells. In 2021, she was awarded the Northeastern University College of Engineering Outstanding Graduate Student Award for her contributions.
During her time at Northeastern, Stasiak participated in multiple outreach activities for young scientists spanning grades K-12, such as at the MIT Museum where she educated on energy concepts, and at Northeastern’s Building Bridges program, where students learned about mechanical elements of cell cytoskeleton. Following graduation, Stasiak moved to California to pursue a career that combines her detail-oriented, problem-solving skills from years of research experience with her passion for hands-on teaching.