PhD Candidates


Megan Pendleton – Megan is a PhD graduate student in Mechanical Engineering (co-advised by Drs. Tony Keaveny and Grace O’Connell). Megan’s research is focused on understanding the effect of radiation on the mechanics and quality of bone tissue for both space flight and radiotherapy applications. She is supported by a NASA Space Technology Research Fellowship. Megan loves to support outreach for kids in science and engineering through events like Oakland Unified School District science fairs and their annual “Dinner with a Scientist”.

Bo Yang – Bo is a fifth year Ph.D. candidate. Bo joined the Berkeley Biomechanics Laboratory in 2015, and his current research focuses on simulating mechanical behavior of the intervertebral disc using finite element modeling. This is a great research topic for him, because he likes math and human body mechanics. Bo also got interested in using magnetic resonance imaging to investigate properties of soft tissue, since it is efficient and noninvasive. Currently, he is supported by a Signatures Innovation Fellowship.

Semih Bezci – Semih Bezci (aka Jason) is a 3rd year PhD student in Mechanical Engineering Department and has been working in Berkeley Biomechanics Lab since 2013. He received his BS at UC Berkeley. His research focuses on joint level biomechanics of intact and injured discs, and swelling properties of the intervertebral disc. He was awarded William C. Webster Graduate Fellowship in 2016 and Henry Lurie Family Fund in 2017. Semih is originally from Istanbul, Turkey and has been living in the US for 7 years. In his free time, he likes to spend time with his friends, take pictures, hike and watch scary movies. There’s nothing more than a pug or a frenchie that makes Semih happier.

PhD Graduate Students

Shannon Emerzian – Shannon is a graduate student in Mechanical Engineering, co-advised by Drs. Tony Keaveny and Grace O’Connell. Shannon’s research is focused on understanding the effect of ionizing radiation on vertebral biomechanics, and is funded by the Berkeley Chancellor’s Fellowship (2015-2017) and the Graduate Research Fellowship from the National Science Foundation (2017-2020). Shannon is also involved in STEM outreach through Expanding Your Horizons (EYH) and Bay Area Scientists in Schools (BASIS).

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Ben Werbner – Ben received his BA Applied Mathematics (focus in Computational Biology) from UC Berkeley in 2014 and joined the O’Connell Lab in 2015. He is now a second-year PhD student focused on understanding the failure mechanics of fiber-reinforced soft tissues, including the effects of tissue degeneration and accumulated damage. Ben was funded by the Keith L. Markolf – Robert F. Steidel Jr. Graduate Fellowship, and hopes that his research will help prevent avoidable spinal injuries and better inform tissue repair strategies. In his free time, Ben enjoys rock climbing and automotive mechanics.

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Minhao Zhou – Minhao is from Suzhou, China. He received both his B.S. and M.S. from Mechanical Engineering at UC Berkeley in 2016 and 2017, so he has already been here for almost 6 years. Minhao is currently a second year PhD student in the Berkeley Biomechanics Laboratory and has been working in the lab since August 2015. His current research uses computational models to investigate the role sub-tissue components play in tissue-level failure mechanics of the annulus fibrosus. Minhao is the recipient of the Iain Finnie Fellowship (Spring 2018). In his free time, he enjoys powerlifting and has been part of The Watershed Project, which aims to restore and preserve the unique ecosystems that make up the San Francisco Bay. The Pug is Minhao’s spirit animal.


Gabriel Lopez – Gabriel graduated from the University of Puerto Rico with a BS in Mechanical Engineering with a research focus in biomedical applications. His current research is focused on using hydrogels as biomaterials for tissue engineering. Gabriel is a recipient of the Berkeley College of Engineering Fellowship (2016-2017) and the NSF Graduate Fellow Award (2017-2020). He is also on the board for the Latino Association for Graduate Students in Engineering and Sciences (LAGSES), which participates in outreach, academic and professional development of underrepresented minority students.

Emily Lindberg – Emily graduated from Syracuse University with a Bachelors in Mechanical Engineering and with a research focus in articular cartilage repair. She is an MS/ PhD student with an interest in soft tissue mechanics. Emily is a member of Students for Environmental Energy Development (SEED) where she leads biweekly activity-based science lessons at an elementary school in Oakland.


Mona Eskandari, PhD – Mona is a University of California Postdoctoral Fellow and joined the O’Connell lab after her Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering from Stanford University in 2017. Her area of expertise is experimental characterization and computational modeling of soft tissues, focusing on lung biomechanics. She was previously a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellow, a DARE Doctoral Fellow, and a Sang Samuel Wang Stanford Graduate Fellow.

Undergraduate Students

Christina Laura Borroni-Bird Christina is a fourth year undergraduate mechanical engineering student from Detroit, Michigan. She will be working with Minhao Zhou and is excited to help further research into the field of tissue mechanics after taking a couple undergraduate courses on the subject. She will use skills learned during finite element analysis co-op at Tesla in 2017 and hopes to learn much more.


Wan Fung Chui – Wan Fung is a junior in Computer Science and has been working in the lab since May 2015. Wan Fung works with Megan Pendleton on understand the effect of space flight and radiation on spine biomechanics. gmail_new

Aditya Goel – Aditya is a junior majoring in Molecular and Cell Biology and minoring in Bioengineering. He is an international student from Mumbai, India and has been working with Megan and Shannon since Fall 2016. His research focuses on understanding the effects of ribose exposure on the mechanical properties of bone. In his free time, he likes to do photography, play ultimate frisbee, and binge watch TV shows.

Matthew Sie – Matthew is a third year Bioengineering student minoring in EECS. He has been working with Megan and Shannon on studying the changes in the mechanical properties of bone exposed to ribose since Fall 2017. He enjoys being in the outdoors, exercising, and pizza.


Albert Wang – Albert is a sophomore majoring in Bioengineering, and has recently joined the lab. He works under Megan and Shannon researching how bone material properties are affected by ionizing radiation. Outside of research, he is a member of the marching band, and enjoys playing baseball or watching movies.

Colin Um – Colin is a second year undergraduate mechanical engineering student and has worked in the lab since Fall 2016. He is working with Bo to develop and run simulations of finite element models of the intervertebral disc.

Lab Alumni

Yeabsra (Nebsu) Habtegebriel – Position after Lab: Study abroad.

Arun Bahl – Position after Lab: Engineering Consultant at Accenture in San Francisco, CA.
Jiayang Cao – Position after Lab: Medical school.
Wan Fung Chui – Position after Lab:
Tatiana Jansen – Position after Lab: Senior in Bioengineering.
Joyce Huang – Position after Lab: Distribution Engineer at Southern California Edison in Rosemead, CA.
Rohan Konnur – Position after Lab: Junior in EECS.
Anne Zeng – Position after Lab:

Naomi Kibrya – Position after Lab: Engineer at Stryker in Dallas, TX.

Semih Bezci – Position after Lab: Graduate school; Mechanical Engineering at UC Berkeley.
Joseph Felipe – Position after Lab: Mechanical Engineer at Velo3D in Campbell, CA.
João Paulo Innocente de Souza-Position after Lab: Engineering student in Brazil
Gerald Santos – Position after Lab: Mechanical Engineer at Gilead Sciences, San Dimas, CA.

Grant Alpert-Waldman – Position after Lab: Mechanical Engineering in CA.
Andrew Burg – Position after Lab: Practicing engineer in Switzerland.
Zhengtang Yang – Position after Lab: Mechanical Engineering in CA.
David Zarrin – Position after Lab: Gap year for internships in CA.