PhD Candidates

Semih Bezci – Semih Bezci (aka Jason) is a 4th year PhD candidate 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 8 years. In his free time, he likes to spend time with his friends, take pictures, hike and watch scary movies. Thereʼs nothing more than a pug or a frenchie that makes Semih happier.

Minhao Zhou – Minhao received his B.S. and M.S. degrees from the Mechanical Engineering Department at UC Berkeley in 2016 and 2017. He is currently a PhD candidate in the Berkeley Biomechanics Laboratory and his current research uses computational models to investigate the roles of sub-tissue components play in annulus fibrosus tissue-level failure mechanics. Minhao hopes that his research will help with spinal injury prevention and back pain relief. In his free time, he enjoys doing physically challenging things, including powerlifting, climbing, and biking. A fun fact about Minhao is: 80% of people call him Min because they think “Min” and “Hao” are his first and last name.

Ben Werbner – Ben received both his Bachelor’s (Applied Mathematics – 2014) and Master’s (Mechanical Engineering – 2018) degrees from UC Berkeley. He is now a PhD candidate focused on understanding the failure mechanics of fiber-reinforced soft tissues, including the effects of age- and disease-related compositional changes on intervertebral disc failure. Ben hopes that his research will help understand the fundamental mechanisms of spinal injuries, prevent avoidable injuries, and better inform tissue repair strategies. In his free time, Ben enjoys rock climbing, skiing, and automotive mechanics.

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.

PhD Graduate Students

Emily Lindberg – Emily is from Holden, MA and graduated from Syracuse University in 2013 with a Bachelors in Mechanical Engineering. She is an MS/ PhD student and the aim of her current research is to determine the tissue growth potential of cell sources for cartilage tissue engineering. She is a recipient of a NSF Graduate Fellowship. Emily loves dogs, spending time with friends, and doing things outside.

Anne LaBine – Anne LaBine (Annie) is a PhD student in the Mechanical Engineering Department. She received her B.S. in Mechanical Engineering from MIT in 2015 and her M.S. from UC Berkeley in 2018. Her current research focus is tissue-level fatigue of the annulus fibrosus of the intervertebral disc. Annie has worked as a GSI for classes like Design for the Human Body and Structural Aspects of Biomaterials. She also worked as a Technical Program Manager for Apple and a Failure Analysis Engineer at Google. In her free time, Annie likes to make jam, SCUBA dive, and travel.

Jonathan McKinley – Jonathan is a 3rd year PhD student in the Mechanical Engineering Department. He received his B.S. in Mechanical Engineering from UC Berkeley. Jonathan stayed at UC Berkeley for graduate studies after falling in love with the vibrant and driven multicultural student body located on Berkeley’s extraordinary campus. His research develops a bending Disc-on-a-chip where subunits of an intervertebral disc can be created outside of the body. Jonathan helped develop the Fung Institute while teaching Masters of Engineering students over the last five semesters. He continues to teach at the Fung Institute which helps fund his studies. In his spare time, Jonathan coaches/mentors over 100 student-triathletes of that vibrant UC Berkeley student body. In addition to coaching, Jonathan races triathlons and duathlons globally for both UC Berkeley and TeamUSA. Jonathan’s research is inspired by his athletics when believing that biomechanical work in improving human healthspan for all ages can be inspired by elite athletics where the human body improves by adapting to extraordinary physical demands.

Shiyin Lim –Shiyin Lim is a PhD student and the newest member of the O’Connell lab group. She received her BS from Santa Clara University in 2019 with a major in Bioengineering. She first became interested in biomechanics while doing research at NASA Ames Research Center, where she studied the effects of mechanical unloading on bone biomechanics. Now, Shiyin hopes to study the interactions between bone and soft tissue to better understand how the two tissues influence joint mechanics. In her free time, Shiyin likes to paint, hike, and spend time with her family.

Masters Students

Nicole McMindes – Nicole graduated from Purdue University with a BS in Mechanical Engineering and is a first year MS student in the Berkeley Biomechanics Laboratory. Her research is focused on fatigue of the annulus fibrosus of the intervertebral disc. In her free time she enjoys hiking, swimming, and eating.

Undergraduate Students

Undergraduate students looking for research opportunities in the O’Connell Lab should apply through this link.

Kyelo Torres – Kyelo is a fourth-year undergraduate mechanical engineering student with a focus on biomechanics. He is working with Semih to research the swelling properties of the intervertebral disc. In his free time, he enjoys playing soccer, chess, and petting dogs.

Keerthana Elango – Keerthana is a third-year undergraduate bioengineering student from Danville, California. She has been working with Gabriel Lopez since Summer 2018, and is excited to continue her research evaluating the mechanical and biochemical characteristics of cartilage-like constructs made through the use of bioprinting. In her free time, she likes to listen to music, hike, take photos, and watch TV.

Lab Alumni

Bo Yang, PhD – Position after Lab: Engineer at LinkedIn.

Christina Laura Borroni-Bird
Wan Fung Chui
Shannon Emerzian, MS – Position after Lab: PhD Candidate in Prof. Tony Keaveny’s Lab.
Mona Eskandari, PhD – Completed her postdoc in the lab. Position after lab: Assistant Professor at UC Riverside
Aditya Goel
Yeabsra (Nebsu) Habtegebriel – Position after Lab: Study abroad.
Megan Pendleton, PhD – Position after Lab: Student UCSF medical school.
Matthew Sie
Albert Wang
Colin Um

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.