Dr. Abigail Koppes,
Principal Investigator

Group Members

Principal Investigator

Dr. Abigail Koppes

Dr. Abigail Koppes joined the department of Chemical Engineering at Northeastern University in 2014 where her group, the Advanced Biosystems for Neuroengineering Laboratory (ABNEL), harnesses biochemical engineering methods to address challenges in nervous system disorders and dysfunction. She was the recipient of the NIH R21 Trailblazer in 2017, is a co-investigator on a 2019 AHA Innovative Project Award and is a co-investigator on a 2016 NIH Biomedical Research Partnership R01 between Northeastern, MIT, and Boston Children’s Hospital. She received the 2020 BMES Rita Shaffer Young Investigator and CMBE Young Innovator Award in 2020. She received her Ph.D. in Biomedical Engineering from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) in Troy, New York in 2013. Her doctoral research with Dr. Deanna Thompson focused on using electrical stimulation to manipulate neural and supportive glial cell behavior for improved repair following peripheral nervous system injuries. In 2013, Dr. Koppes joined the Advanced Drug Delivery Research Laboratory with Dr. Rebecca Carrier as the Northeastern University NSF ADVANCE Future Faculty Fellow and held a joint appointment at Schepen’s Eye Research Institute and Harvard Medical School with Dr. Michael Young and as a visiting scientist in Dr. Douglas Lauffenburger’s Molecular Cell Bioengineering group at MIT. At Northeastern Dr. Koppes enjoys teaching Design 1 Lab (Unit Operations Transport I) for undergraduate engineers and Design of Experiments and Ethical Research for graduate students, where she is a member of the DEI and graduate committees, as well as has mentored over 40 undergraduates in the laboratory. She also currently serves on the BMES Diversity Committee.

When not in the lab, Dr. Koppes enjoys cooking, travel, outdoor sports, and spending time with her husband and two Siberian huskies.

CV Here

Ph.D. Biomedical Engineering
Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI)
Troy, NY

M.S. Biomedical Engineering
Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI)
Troy, NY

B.S. Biomedical Engineering
Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI)
Troy, NY

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ORCID iD icon   orcid.org/0000-0003-0433-9290


Graduate Students

Bryan Schellberg

Over the past 30 years, organ-on-a-chip devices have emerged as a robust alternative to address the technological gaps associated with current in vitro and in vivo options used to investigate biological questions. Organ-chip models integrate three-dimensional tissue architectures in vitro to recapitulate organ-specific functions, such as liver metabolism and intestinal barrier function. Although organ-chips are rapidly gaining interest, more work is needed to encourage broad adoption across research and industry. Bryan’s work focuses on the technical development of organ-chip devices for real-time monitoring and modulation of cell culture conditions with the goal of improving organ-chip functionality.

Bryan joined ABNEL in the Fall of 2021 as a Chemical Engineering PhD student. Before joining the lab, he graduated with a BS in Chemical Engineering from the University of Rochester in 2021. At his undergraduate institution, Bryan’s research focused on polymer science and new materials discovery. While at Rochester, Bryan participated in a summer NSF Research Experience for Undergraduates, which shifted his interest to biomedical research.

B.S. Chemical Engineering
University of Rochester ’21
Rochester, NY

Brent Buchinger

Parkinson’s disease is the second most common neurodegenerative disease, characterized by progressive losses in motor control and cognitive functioning. While recent work has hinted at a gut origin, research elucidating the mechanisms for this pathological pathway is lacking. Brent’s work aims to develop a novel microphysiological system mimicking the gut-brain axis with the goal of improving platforms for studying and understanding Parkinson’s disease.

Brent joined ABNEL in the summer of 2022 as a Chemical Engineering PhD student. Prior to his graduate studies at Northeastern University, Brent worked as an analytical chemist at Eurofins Food Integrity & Innovation. He obtained his BS in Chemical Engineering at the University of Wisconsin–Madison in December of 2019. At his undergraduate institution, Brent’s research focused on catalysis. However, his passions switched to biomedical engineering after researching chondrogenic differentiation at Case Western Reserve University in the summer of 2018.

B.S. Chemical Engineering
University of Wisconsin–Madison ’19
Madison, WI

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Kat Nilov

Interested in the overlap of space science and the gut-brain-axis, Kat will be taking the NASA SHINE class in 2023 to learn about radiation risk and impact on human health. This interest will lead to the development of stem-cell derived humanized models and eventually the investigation of exogenous forces impact on human nerve, gut, and microbiota response. She hopes to develop a deeper understanding of health challenges exhibited by those in space and on earth.

Kat began their PhD in chemical engineering with ABNEL in 2023, co-advised with Professor Luke Landherr. Prior to Northeastern, Kat completed their bachelors in chemical engineering with a minor in chemistry. She did research in the field of complex coacervates with the Sarah Perry Lab at UMass Amherst. Kat was also involved in projects developing microfluidic chips to synthesize and purify mRNA sponsored by the Craig Martin Lab at UMass. They are committed to making science safe and accessible, implementing pedagogical values in all their work.

B.S. Chemical Engineering
University of Massachusetts Amherst ’22
Amherst, MA

Ziwen Wang

Periphery neuron repair has always been one of the hot topics to scientists and surgeons. Recent advancements in Dr. Ryan Koppes’ lab have led to the development of a method for differentiating olfactory mucosa stem cells (OMSCs) into Schwann cells, a crucial cell type in facilitating nerve function. With that knowledge, Ziwen aims to perform survival surgery to look at the nerve repair. She is hoping her work will yield a higher rate of nerve repair.

Ziwen joined ABNEL in the fall of 2023 as a bioengineering Ph.D. student. Before joining the lab, she had her M.S. in bioinformatics in Northeastern University in 2022. She graduated majoring in biochemistry at Seton Hall University in 2019 and worked as a research assistant in TheWell Bioscience. She also interned in United Therapeutics in 2021, participating in 3D cell culture and bio printing designs.

M.S. Bioinformatics
Northeastern University ’22
Boston, MA

B.S. Biochemistry
Seton Hall University ’19
South Orange, NJ

Jessica Woolston

By age 45, around 20% of women and 10% of men are impacted by Alzheimer’s Disease, the primary cause of dementia. As of 2023, over 6 million Americans live with Alzheimer’s, a figure expected to nearly double by 2050. The economic burden is immense, with costs reaching $345 billion in 2023 and anticipated to soar to $1 trillion by 2050. The gut microbiome, comprising about 1,000 bacterial species, is a key research area, particularly for its role in neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s, although the complexity of its interactions is not fully understood. The significance of these bacteria in brain function is increasingly recognized, yet their precise functions and interactions remain largely uncharted. The complexity of the gut microbiome, possessing genetic material far exceeding that in the human genome, adds to the challenge of deciphering these interactions.

Jess Woolston, a PhD student at ABNEL, Northeastern University since September 2023, focuses her research on the microbiome-gut-brain axis and its influence on neurodegenerative diseases. Utilizing microfluidic organ-on-a-chip technology, she investigates the role of bacterial extracellular vesicles in these diseases, an approach pivotal for understanding the mechanisms of the microbiota-gut-brain axis in Alzheimer’s disease. Jess’s master’s thesis, which concentrated on the vaginal microbiome and bacterial vaginosis, refined her expertise in microbial analysis and laboratory practices. This formative period played a significant role in shaping her current research pursuits, particularly in her understanding of complex biological systems and their influence on human health.

M.S. Biomedical Sciences
Ghent University ’23
Ghent, Belgium

B.S. Biomedical Sciences
Ghent University ’21
Ghent, Belgium



Zachary Stolberg: Biochemistry, 2024
Mentor: Kyla Nichols

Christina Aniolek: Chemical Engineering and Biochemistry, 2025
Mentor: Bryan Schellberg

Hannah Carter: Bioengineering, 2025
Mentor: Ziwen Wang

Stephen Landry: Chemical Engineering, 2025
Mentor: Bryan Schellberg (ABNEL) and Selina Banerjee (LNNR)

Iris Chang: Cell and Molecular Biology, 2026
Mentor: Brent Buchinger

Julia Inayan: Bioengineering, 2026
Mentor: Bryan Schellberg (ABNEL) and Selina Banerjee (LNNR)


Dr. Ryan Koppes Presents at FluidicMEMS Meetup

Dr. Ryan Allen Koppes presented his lab's work at the FluidicMEMS Meetup this past Thursday. This event (held in the Samberg Center at MIT) was organized by FluidicMEMS, a dynamic community focused on bringing together individuals with a passion for microfluidics and...

Dr. Kyla Nichols Earns her PhD

Dr. Kyla Nichols Earns her PhD

Congratulations to Dr. Kyla Nichols for successfully defending her thesis. Kyla joined ABNEL back in the Fall of 2019, and she began her lab work just as the pandemic hit. However, despite this set back, she fully utilized her time in lab, investigating both the...