Dr. Michael R. King

image6

J. Lawrence Wilson Professor of Engineering

Chair, Department of Biomedical Engineering

Professor of Biomedical Engineering

Professor  of Radiology and Radiological Sciences


Ph. D. in Chemical Engineering from University of Notre Dame

B.S. in Chemical Engineering from University of Rochester

About Dr. King

Michael R. King is the J. Lawrence Wilson Professor and Department Chair of Biomedical Engineering at Vanderbilt University. Previously he was the Daljit S. and Elaine Sarkaria Professor at Cornell University. He completed a PhD in chemical engineering at the University of Notre Dame and postdoctoral training in bioengineering at the University of Pennsylvania. He has written textbooks on the subjects of statistical methods and microchannel flows, and has received several awards including the NSF CAREER Award, Outstanding Research Awards from the American Society of Mechanical Engineers and the American Society of Clinical Chemistry, and was a James D. Watson Investigator of New York State. King is a Fellow of the American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering, the Biomedical Engineering Society, and the International Academy of Medical and Biological Engineering, and serves as Vice President of the International Society of Bionic Engineering. He is the Editor-in-Chief of Cellular and Molecular Bioengineering, an official journal of the Biomedical Engineering Society, and serves as the Chair-Elect of the Biomedical Engineering Council of Chairs.


The King Lab works at the interface between Cellular Engineering, Drug Delivery, and Nanotechnology. They employ tools and concepts from engineering to understand biomedically important processes that occur in the bloodstream, including cancer metastasis, inflammation, and thrombosis. They have found that tumor cells in the circulation can mimic the physical mechanisms used by white blood cells to traffic through the body and adhere to the blood vessel wall, and have explored strategies to interrupt this metastasis process by targeting specific adhesion receptors. The selectin adhesion receptors important in leukocyte, stem cell, and CTC trafficking have unique biophysics that make them ideal for targeted drug delivery. The King Lab has pioneered the use of selectin proteins to deliver apoptosis death signals to tumor cells in flowing blood, and to deliver therapeutic cargo (e.g., siRNA, chemotherapeutics) encapsulated in nanoscale liposomes. The King lab is currently testing these novel cancer therapies in mouse models of metastatic breast and prostate cancer through the use of whole body luminescence imaging, and in blood samples collected from human volunteers diagnosed with cancer at various stages.


Michael King has been married to Cynthia Reinhart-King, Cornelius Vanderbilt Professor of Engineering, since 2002, and together they have two sons: Simon (age 13) and Julian (age 6), and a 15 year old cockapoo named Lady Mix-a-Lot King. They live in Brentwood, in a home last owned by CJ2K.


Outside of work and family interests, Mike is the founder of VIBE: the Vanderbilt Initiative of Biofunky Engineers, a musical group of biomedical engineering faculty and graduate students who have performed since 2017 on and off the Vanderbilt campus, and live over the air on Radio Free Nashville. Other interests include: being a fanatical lacrosse dad, keeping fit, and wheeling around town in a Jeep Wrangler with no doors.

Selected Honors, Awards, and Activities

  •  Editor-in-Chief, Cellular and Molecular Bioengineering
  • Fellow, Biomedical Engineering Society (BMES)
  • Fellow, American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering (AIMBE)
  • Outstanding Speaker Award, American Association of Clinical Chemistry
  • Fiona Ip Li ‘78 and Donald Li ’75 Award for Teaching Excellence, Cornell University
  • Professor of the Year in Engineering, University of Rochester
  • National Science Foundation CAREER Award
  • James D. Watson Investigator Award, New York State Office for Science, Technology and Academic Research (NYSTAR)
  • Whitaker Investigator, The Whitaker Foundation

Contact Information

Email: Mike.King@vanderbilt.edu

Office Phone: +1 (615) – 322 – 3521

Office: 5824 Stevenson Center

Lab: 442 Engineering and Science Building (ESB)

VU Mailbox: PMB 351631, Nashville TN 351631-1631 USA

Follow Dr. King on Twitter: @ProfMikeKing

Current Lab Members

image7

Jason Zhang, Ph.D.

Research Assistant Professor

Email: Zhenjiang.Zhang@vanderbilt.edu

Having come from China where he recieved his Ph.D. in Chemical Biology from Peking University at Beijung in 2011, Jason is now a research assistant professor in the king lab. His work focuses on developing nanomaterials for the delivery of a wide variety of drugs (TRAIL, curcumin, piperlongemine, doxorubicin, and many many more!) to metastatic cancer cells in the circulation. On the weekends, Jason enjoys all kinds of outdoors activities, including: fishing, hiking, kayaking, and more! He is a man of the forrest! 

image8

Kalana Jayawardana, Ph.D.

Adjunct Assistant Professor

Email: K.Jayawardana@vanderbilt.edu

Kalana, Graduated from University of Colombo Sri Lanka in 2009. Having received his Ph.D. in 2015 in Organic Chemistry he went on to work as the lead scientist in NSF SBIR startup company and then worked developing a low cost diagnosis method for TB in Langer Lab at MIT. Kalana joined the King Lab in 2018 and currently he works with atomic layer deposited surfaces to capture circulating tumor cells to serve as a cancer diagnosis tool. He uses different metal oxides to create nanotrench surfaces and incubate the surfaces with human blood samples spiked with cancer cells. Other than laboratory research activities he manages a US based trading company, US branch of a IT company named LayoutIndex. 

image9

Nidhi Jyotsana, Ph.D.

 Nidhi, originally from India, has been a student of Biotechnology in her undergraduate and master’s degrees. She finished her Ph.D. in Molecular Medicine from Hannover Medical School, Germany in 2015. After exploring liquid cancers in her Ph.D., currently as a postdoc, she is focusing on solid cancers. More specifically, her work focuses on targeting triple negative breast cancer by utilizing different forms of TRAIL therapy including TRAIL liposomes and cellular TRAIL. In her free time, she enjoys dancing and yoga. 

image10

Nerymar Ortiz Otero, Ph.D.

Recently Graduated Ph.D. Student

National Science Foundation Graduate Student Fellow

Email: Nerymar.Ortiz@vanderbilt.edu 

Nerymar, the self-proclaimed heart and soul of the King lab, recieved her bachelors degree from Universidad de Puerto Rico at Mayagϋez Campus in Industrial Biotechnology. Having graduated in 2013, she went on to her Ph.D. at Cornell University to study fluctuations in circulating tumor cell count in blood  smaples and how this coorelates with patient prognosis. Additionally, she is working on the delivery of TRAIL using cell-based nanoparticles to circulating tumor cells. Nerymar also enjoys dancing, exploring new restaurants, and learning about differnet cultures. 

image11

Korie Grayson

5th Year Ph.D. Student

National Science Foundation Graduate Student Fellow

Email: Korie.Grayson@vanderbilt.edu 

Korie obtained her B.S. degree in Chemistry: Pre-Med from Norfolk State University. Although she wanted to go to medical school, she went to work at CyroLife in Atlanta, GA and later obtained her M.S. in Biomedical Engineering at Cornell University. Her research focuses on studying the landscape of leukocytes that infiltrate prostate tumors in vivo. She is also studying a combination therapy with current chemotherapy drugs used to treat metastatic prostate cancer with a nanoscale therapeutic that our lab developed. Outside of the lab, she likes to workout, eat, go to concerts/festivals, and travel! 

image12

Joshua Greenlee

3rd Year Ph.D. Student

National Science Foundation Graduate Student Fellow

Email: Joshua.D.Greenlee@vanderbilt.edu 

Josh, an Athens Ohio native, graduated from Ohio University in 2017 with a BS in Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering and a minor in Chemistry (OU OH YEAH!). He is currently researching chemoresistant colorectal cancer and TRAIL applications as an adjuvant for these patients who have exhausted traditional treatment modalities. Josh also is utilizing drug delivery strategies to prevent lymph node metastasis using microfluidic devices and in vivo orthotopic mouse models. In his spare time, Josh enjoys playing basketball, golfing, being outdoors and spending time with his chunky cats. 

image13

Jacob Hope

3rd Year Ph.D. Student

National Science Foundation Graduate Student Fellow

Email: Jacob.M.Hope@vanderbilt.edu 

Jacob became a TRAIL-blazer back in the summer of 2018 after completing his degree in Biomedical Engineering at University of Virginia (go ‘Hoos!). His projects in the lab focuses on studying the activity of mechanosensitive ion channels in prostate cancer. In his free time, Jacob enjoys reading TONS of books (especially history) and just having a plain good ol’ time. 

image14

Jenna Dombroski

2nd Year Ph.D. Student

Email: Jenna.Dombroski@vanderbilt.edu

Coming from frosty Rochester, NY, Jenna studied Biomedical Engineering at University at Buffalo with a minor in Mathematics (wow!). Her research focuses on breast cancer immunotherapy and establishing a 4T1 breast cancer model for TRAIL immunotherapy studies. She is also developing a cancer vaccine to prevent the growth of breast cancer tumors. After Vanderbilt, she plans to have a research career in industry or government. When she is not in the lab, she enjoys traveling, biking, baking, and listening to live music (especially country) in Nashville! 

image15

María López Cavestany

2nd Year Ph.D. Student

Email: Maria.Lopez.Cavestany@vanderbilt.edu

Hola! Originally from Madrid, Spain, María has also lived in Canada, Texas, and NY. She graduated from Stevens Institute of Technology with a B. Eng. in Biomedical Engineering and a minor in Social Sciences (Psychology and Sociology). In the King Lab, María is working on fabricating TRAIL-coated liposomes which target the cell surface vimentin on circulating tumor cells. Additionally, she is studying how matrix stiffness affects the expression of mechanosensitive ion channels and EMT progression in metastatic cancer cells. María has many hobbies, including: cooking, rock climbing, salsa dancing, and petting other people’s dogs on the street! 

Current Undergraduate and Visiting Students

Kevin Liu

image16

 Kevin Liu is a student in the Vanderbilt University College of Arts and Sciences studying Biochemistry, Spanish, and Studio Art. In the King lab, he is working on TRAIL-coated liposome optimization to prevent cancer metastasis. After graduating, Kevin hopes to attend medical school. He enjoys painting and playing the piano in his free time. 

Sagar Patel

image17

Sagar joined the King lab in the fall of 2018 to work under the guidance of Jason to develop curcumin micelles which sensitize cancer cells to TRAIL therapies. Originally from Clarksville, TN, he is a junior at Vanderbilt University getting a double major in Chemical and Biomedical Engineering. Afterwards, he hopes to work in the pharmaceutical industry as an engineer! Outside of lab, Sagar plays intermural soccer and going on hikes in the woods. 

Su Bin Hanh

image18

As a world traveller, Su Bin was born in South Korea, but has also lived in Ohio and Atlanta. She is a student in Biomedical Engineering major at Vanderbilt University. She plans on going to medical school with the hopes of specializing in emergency medicine. In the King lab, Su Bin is developing novel methods for TRAIL production and purification under the guidance of Jason. When not in the lab, she like drawing, reading, and cooking. 

Michael Jindia

image19

Michael is a junior from Lafayette, LA studying biomedical engineering and engineering management at Vanderbilt University. He works with Dr. Jayawardana to capture circulating tumor cells using nano-structured surfaces. After undergrad, he plans on having a career in management consulting. When he’s not in the lab, Michael enjoys watching college football and listening to country music and old school rap.  

Tejas Subramanian

image20

Tejas joined the King lab in fall 2017. He is currently a senior majoring in Biomedical Engineering with minors in chemistry and scientific computing, planning on attending medical school. Over the past 2.5 years, he has worked in the wet lab with TRAIL conjugated platelets and NK cells.  Outside of academics, Tejas is a huge sports fan. He is an avid Boston sports fan, plays tennis, and golfs competitively. Tejas also enjoys traveling around the world. 

Davis Crews

image21

Davis joined the King lab in the fall of 2019 working on testing the efficacy of a nanoparticle vaccine under the guidance of Jenna. He is a junior in the Vanderbilt University School of Engineering double majoring in Biomedical Engineering and Mathematics. After graduation, Davis plans to pursue a Ph.D. in Biomedical Engineering. Other than his studies, Davis participates in the Vanderbilt Chorale, plays intramural frisbee, and enjoys board games with friends.