Endowed Faculty

Jacobs Family Scholar 

Photo of Stephanie Fraley, Ph.D.

Stephanie Fraley, Ph.D.
Associate Professor of Bioengineering

Dr. Fraley was selected as a Jacobs Family Scholar due to her stellar track record or teaching, research, and service as well as her commitment to equity, diversity and inclusion.

Research Impact:
By engineering physiologically relevant tissue environments "in a dish," the Fraley lab has discovered new strategies to reduce cancer migration, which has led to the identification of a new candidate therapeutic that targets migratory cancer cells. The lab plans to advance this therapeutic candidate through translational studies towards clinical use over the next 3 years. Concurrently the lab is also advancing cancer prevention by developing technologies to democratize the ability to test for known and novel infectious diseases, which are estimated to cause 20% of the global cancer burden and are often treatable and/or preventable if detected.

Capsule Bio:
Stephanie I. Fraley is an Associate Professor of Bioengineering at the University of California, San Diego. She earned her bachelor's in Chemical Engineering in 2006 from The University of Tennessee, Chattanooga and her Ph.D. in Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering in 2011 from The Johns  Hopkins University. For her contributions to her fields of study, she has been named a SAGE Bionetworks Scholar, Kavli Frontiers of Science Fellow, Biomedical Engineering Society Rising Star in Cellular and Molecular Bioengineering, Biomaterials Science Emerging Investigator, NSF CAREER awardee, Burroughs Wellcome Fund Career Award at the Scientific Interface awardee, and elected fellow of the American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering. She has also been honored for her contributions to education, receiving a Jacobs School of Engineering Teaching Award and UC San Diego Integrity Award.


The Joan and Irwin Jacobs and Kavli Foundation Chancellor’s Endowed Faculty Fellowship for Engineering the Brain and the Mind

Photo of Ester Kwon, Ph.D.

Ester Kwon, Ph.D.
Associate Professor of Bioengineering

Dr. Kwon was selected for the inaugural Joan and Irwin Jacobs-Kavli Foundation  Chancellor's Endowed Faculty Fellowship for Engineering the Brain and the Mind because of her outstanding contributions to research, education, service and diversity.  This award and recognition will assist in the advancement of research.

Research Impact:
The overall goal of Dr. Kwon's research program is to create nanoscale diagnostic and therapeutic tool sets for  the brain, with a specific focus on traumatic brain injury (TBI). In particular, her research thrusts have been on:  (1) engineering tools to understand molecular drivers of TBI; and (2) understanding how therapeutic  nanomaterials interact with the injured brain. These are exciting research directions and Dr. Kwon has carved  out a solid research niche that is both completely distinct from her prior graduate and postdoctoral training, and  also fairly distinct from other efforts worldwide. Notably, to support this line of research, she has been incredibly  successful with grant funding, having raised ~$3 million, including winning the very highly competitive NIH  Director’s New Innovator Award and the very prestigious NSF CAREER Award. Her work has resulted in a  number of publications and invited talks across the nation. 

Capsule Bio:
Ester J. Kwon is an associate professor of Bioengineering at the University of California San Diego. She earned her B.S. in Bioengineering and B.A. in Molecular & Cell Biology at UC Berkeley. She went on to earn her Ph.D. in Bioengineering at the University of Washington with Suzie H. Pun and was a postdoctoral fellow at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology with Sangeeta N. Bhatia. Dr. Kwon is a recipient of the pre- and post-doctoral NIH Ruth L. Kirschstein National Research Service Awards, the NIH Director’s New Innovator award, and the NSF CAREER Award. In addition to her research activities, Dr. Kwon is motivated to create an inclusive research environment through the individualized mentorship of trainees and outreach to young scientists.

Richard Skalak Chancellor's Endowed Faculty Fellowship
in Biomedical Engineering

Photo of Daniella Valdez-Jasso, Ph.D.

Daniela Valdez-Jasso, Ph.D.
Associate Professor of Bioengineering

Dr. Valdez-Jasso was selected for the Richard Skalak Chancellor's Endowed Faculty Fellowship in Biomedical Engineering due to her highly meritorious record that is consistent with the stated purpose of the endowed faculty fellowship and its namesake, Professor Richard Skalak. Dr. Skalak was a pioneer in Biomedical Engineering, working at the interface of cardiology, tissue engineering, and mathematical modeling.

Research Impact:
For the past 10 years, Dr. Valdez-Jasso has developed an expertise in ventricular-vascular adaptations resulting from pulmonary hypertension. One of the most unique aspects of her career to date has been her ability to combine both computational modeling and wet lab experiments to understand the implications of pulmonary arterial hypertension (PAH) more completely; such integration of experimental work and modeling was something that Professor Skalak prized.

Capsule Bio:
Dr. Daniela Valdez-Jasso is an Associate Professor of Bioengineering at the University of California San Diego. She received her Bachelor’s degree in Applied Mathematics in 2005, her Master’s degree in Applied Mathematics in 2008, and her doctorate in Biomathematics in 2010, all at North Carolina State University. Her graduate thesis was recognized for its excellence with a Lucas Research Award. During her postdoctoral training at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, she was an American Heart Association postdoctoral fellow, and a member of the Vascular Medicine Institute and the McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine. In 2013, she was appointed as an Assistant Professor of Bioengineering at the University of Illinois at Chicago, where she established her research laboratory in biomechanics, mechanobiology and multi-scale mathematical modeling of the heart and lung in pulmonary arterial hypertension. In 2017, she was recruited to the Bioengineering Department at the University of California San Diego. Her work has been funded by the American Heart Association, a National Science Foundation CAREER award, a National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute R01, and the Wu Tsai Foundation. She has been Pulmonary Grand Rounds lecturer at Stanford University Medical Center and a session chair and invited speaker at the Cardiac Physiome Workshop, the ASME Bioengineering Division, SIAM, and the World Congress of Biomechanics among others. She is the Shu Chien Early Career Lecture Awardee. Dr. Valdez-Jasso has been an active mentor for minority students and an advocate for diversity and inclusion at her campuses and for national professional societies. In 2020 she was the campus-wide recipient of the Faculty Inclusion Excellence Award at UC San Diego. At the national level, she is the Chair of the Diversity and Inclusion Committee of the American Society of Mechanical Engineering Bioengineering Division, member of the Bioethics Subcommittee and Strategic Outcomes Subcommittee of the American Heart Association. In 2022, she was the recipient of the Galvanizing Engineering in Medicine Inclusion Initiative (GEMINI) Faculty Mentor awardee by the Institute of Engineering in Medicine at UC San Diego. 

Pierre M. Galletti Professor of Bioengineering Innovation Endowed Chair 

Photo of Karen Christman, Ph.D.

Karen Christman, Ph.D.
Professor of Bioengineering

Dr. Christman was seleted to the Pierre Galletti Endowed Chair for Bioengineering Innovation because she exemplifies the Galletti legacy which emphasizes the clinical and engineering translation of innovations in bioengineering science. Dr. Christman’s record addresses this, as she has developed – from basic science to application – research findings and novel technology that has become a serious contender for a new biomaterial therapies for treating widespread and serious medical conditions.

Research Impact:
Dr. Christman’s research is extremely productive and high in quality with exceptionally strong translational impact. She has co-authored over 85 peer-reviewed refereed papers in outstanding journals, given over 150 invited talks, and is a dedicated mentor and advisor to a large cohort postdoctoral students (7), PhD students (19), MS students (14) and undergraduate researchers (~70). She has been continually funded with a total of $16M of funding in the last five years alone. This makes hers one of the top-funded research labs at UC San Diego and is a reflection of the exceptional high potential for major translational impact. Her first research inventions of novel biomaterial therapies for myocardial infarction have now entered clinical trials in humans and her new approaches are also being developed now for other major medical conditions including peripheral vascular disease and COVID-19.  There are few researchers at UC San Diego who can point to such profound clinical impact of their research, even fewer in engineering and none at Dr. Christman’s career stage.We note in particular the rapidly evolving component of Dr. Christman’s research. She has perfected technologies for decellularized extracellular hydrogels for treating myocardial infarction. The concept is that this composite material includes biochemical cues that induce repair of heart tissue, with efficacy such that its injection after heart attack is likely to be clinically advantageous. Extensions include using a parallel strategy for treating skeletal muscle pathologies and, via nanoparticles, a novel delivery mechanism to achieve effective treatment.

Capsule Bio:
Dr. Christman received her B.S. in Biomedical Engineering from Northwestern University in 2000 and her Ph.D. from the University of California San Francisco and Berkeley Joint Bioengineering Graduate Group in 2003, where she examined in situ approaches to myocardial tissue engineering. She was also a NIH postdoctoral fellow at the University of California, Los Angeles in the fields of polymer chemistry and nanotechnology. Dr. Christman joined the Department of Bioengineering in 2007 and is a member of the Institute of Engineering in Medicine and the Sanford Consortium for Regenerative Medicine. She is a fellow of the American Heart Association and the American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering. She has received several awards including the NIH Director’s New Innovator and Transformative Research Awards, the Wallace H. Coulter Foundation Early Career Translational Research Award, the American Heart Association Western States Innovative Sciences Award, and the Tissue Engineering and Regenerative Medicine Society’s Young Investigator Award. Dr. Christman is also co-founder of Ventrix, Inc., which is in clinical trials with the cardiac extracellular matrix hydrogel technology developed in her lab at UC San Diego.