Torri Rinker

Department: Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering

Graduate Program: Biomedical Engineering

Advisor: Johnna Temenoff, PhD

Lab Website

Research Summary:

Our lab works with various polymer materials to study cellular communication. Specifically, I am working on a project that involves studying the interaction between adipocytes, osteoblasts, and human mesenchymal stem cells in a 3D tri-culture system.

During biological development, initiation and termination of cellular processes are directed by a variety of biomolecule and material based cues, such as growth factor access and extracellular matrix presentation. When these processes are interrupted due to disease or injury, growth-related consequences, such as abnormal limb length or tissue growth, can occur. In this project, we aim to design biomaterials to temporally modulate the cellular microenvironment in order to restore normal growth and developmental processes. 


My love for science and research began in my high school biology class. Fascinated by DNA and proteins, I pursued an internship in Proteomics at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) during my senior year in high school. The internship showed me the vastness of both information and opportunity in the biology realm and I chose to major in Bioengineering at Oregon State University (OSU). During my four years in Corvallis, I had two more internships in Fungal Biotechnology at PNNL and an internship involving polymer dynamics and fluid mechanics in the Chemical Engineering Department at Stanford University. I was an active member of the Chemical, Biological, and Environmental Engineering professional group at OSU and acted as the Bioengineering President for two consecutive years. During my time at OSU, our club went to two regional AIChE Regional Student Conferences and three National Student Conferences. I presented a research paper titled Deletion of a Chitin Synthase Gene in a Citric Acid Producing Strain of Aspergillus niger at the 2007 AIChE Regional Student Conference. I graduated Summa Cum Luade with honors in 2009, with a major in Bioengineering and a minor in Spanish, and was awarded The Most Excellent Bioengineer in the class of 2009.

A passion for social justice led me to work for the Engineering Ambassadors throughout my
undergraduate education, a program that works to promoted engineering education to pre-college students, specifically minorities and women. I wrote my senior Honors College thesis a unique social justice course offered at our university, entitled “The Effect of an Ethics Course on Bioengineering Students' Understanding of Social Justice Issues in the Context of Engineering.” My research opened my eyes to many of the injustices in our country, namely our education system. I applied for and was accepted by Teach For America in Newark, New Jersey, where I worked for two years at Passaic High School as a Chemistry teacher. During my teaching experience, I taught 170 students and won the Maitland P. Simmons Memorial Award for New Teachers in my first year of teaching, which involved a stipend to attend the National Science Teachers Association National Conference in Philadelphia, PA. In my second year of teaching, I was awarded a Fidelity Field Trip grant to bring eighty students on an all-expense paid trip to The Franklin Institute and University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia. After my second year of teaching ended, I worked for eight weeks as a School Operations Manager as part of Teach For America’s summer institute in New York City at Bronx Preparatory Charter School. Now, I have settled in Atlanta and am a first year graduate student in the Biomedical Engineering Department at Georgia Tech.

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