Henry J. Donahue, Ph.D

Professor and Chair

Dr. Donahue is the College of Engineering Foundation Professor and Chair of the Department of Biomedical Engineering at Virginia Commonwealth University. He received his Ph.D. in Biology from the University of California, Santa Barbara and completed a post-doctoral fellowship at the Mayo Clinic. He has over 25 years of experience studying musculoskeletal biology, using both in vitro and in vivo models. His research focuses on understanding the mechanism by which bone and muscle adapt to their mechanical environment; examining the effects of space flight on musculoskeletal tissues and exploiting biophysical signals, including shear stress and nanotopography, to develop innovative strategies to regenerate musculoskeletal tissue lost to disease, injury or ageing. His research has been continually funded by the National Institutes of Health for over 25 years and he has also had funding from the Department of Defense, NASA/National Space Biology Research Institute, private foundations and industry. Dr. Donahue is a fellow of the American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering.

Phone: (804) 828-7958
Twitter: @HenryJDonahue1

Yue Zhang, Ph.D

Research Associate Professor

Dr. Zhang received his PhD in Molecular Genetics from University of Pavia, Italy.  His research topics include bone biology and regeneration, cartilage biology and animal models of musculoskeletal conditions.

Phone: (804) 828-0870

Michael A Friedman, Ph.D

Postdoctoral Fellow

Michael is a postdoctoral fellow who received his PhD and Masters in biomedical engineering from Michigan University. Michael received his bachelor’s degree from University of Texas at Austin in biomedical engineering as well. His research focuses on interactive effects of exercise and nutrition on the musculoskeletal system. He interest is in studying ways to maximize bone mass and bone strength as well as ways of preventing bone loss from disuse or disease

Twitter: @MAFriedmanVCU

Evan Buettmann, Ph.D

Postdoctoral Fellow 

Evan is a postdoctoral researcher in the BEST Lab who previously received his PhD and Master’s in Biomedical Engineering at Washington University in St. Louis. There he worked in Matthew Silva’s Mechanobiology Laboratory looking at the role of osteoblast lineage cells and VEGFA in coordinating osteogenic and angiogenic processes necessary for fracture healing. Before that Evan received his B.S. in Biological Engineering from the University of Missouri-Columbia. His current interests in the BEST Lab involve understanding how gap junctions and space related effects such as unloading and radiation affect bone mechanosensing and repair following injury. 

Twitter: @EvanBuettmann

Otto (OJ) Juhl

BME Doctoral Candidate 

Otto (OJ) is a Ph.D candidate studying biomedical engineering under Dr. Donahue at VCU. His undergraduate degree was from the University of Delaware in 2016 in biomedical engineering as well. His current research focuses on the effects of nanotopography and the role different topographies play in bone healing and remodeling in synthetic composite grafts. Additionally he is evaluating a novel pathway by which substrate surface characteristics are transduced into intracellular signals to then regulate osteogenesis in vitro.


Rachel DeNapoli

BME Ph.D. Student

Rachel is a Ph.D. student studying biomedical engineering under Dr. Donahue at VCU. Her undergraduate degree was from the University of Florida in 2018 in biomedical engineering as well. Her current research involves studying the endocannabinoid system, particularly the CB1 and CB2 receptors, and how they influence bone metabolism under different loading conditions.



Gabe Hoppock

BME Ph.D Student

Gabe Hoppock is a Ph.D student studying Biomedical Engineering under Dr. Henry Donahue at VCU. He received a Bachelor’s Degree in Biomedical Engineering from Vanderbilt University in 2019. Gabe is researching the effect loading and simulated microgravity have on osteocytes, both in vitro and in vivo.  Specifically, the effects these changes have on osteocyte phenotype and protein expression and the effect of osteocytic protein expression on other musculoskeletal cell types.


Anna-Blessing Merife

CLSE Undergraduate Student

Anna is an undergrad student from the Chemical and Life Science department. She joined the B.E.S.T lab during her junior year to get involved with research. Anna’s research interests include biomaterial design and its in vivo effects. Thus far, Anna has been the lead undergraduate researcher on a hydrogel collaboration with Penn State University.


Caleb Ryan

BME Undergraduate Student

Caleb Ryan is an undergraduate student in his sophomore year, majoring in biomedical engineering. He has been working in the B.E.S.T. lab since August 2018. He became interested in the lab while shadowing during the summer of 2018. He is interested in biomaterials.


Yasmina Zeineddine

BME Undergraduate Student

Yasmina Zeineddine is an undergraduate student in her junior year, majoring in biomedical engineering. Shee has been working in the B.E.S.T. lab since September 2019. Yasmina is interested in investigating the effects of microgravity and spaceflight on muscle and bone homeostasis.