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Rachel Walmer, Ph.D.

Biomedical Engineering


UNC Chapel Hill, Biomedical Engineering


Kennita Johnson, Ph.D. and Paul Dayton, Ph.D.


I completed my Ph.D. in Biomedical Engineering at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill under the mentorship of Dr. Paul Dayton. My research focused on applying contrast-enhanced ultrasound imaging techniques to characterize tumor progression and developing kidney disease. My work explored molecular and hemodynamic biomarkers capable of early disease detection and even predicting disease outcomes. My postdoctoral research, mentored by Dr. Kennita Johnson, centers on developing imaging methods to decipher microvascular structure-function relationships in the kidney to aid disease detection. Currently, I am validating molecular imaging probes to ensure they provide reliable information about kidney microvasculature. I am developing an assay to easily confirm targeted ultrasound contrast agent efficacy prior to in vivo contrast agent use. This will improve the accuracy of ultrasound molecular imaging and is just one piece of a multiparametric imaging workflow the Johnson lab hopes to create. Our goal is to establish a technique sensitive to subtle changes in kidney microvasculature, with the ability to classify structural alterations and comprehensively diagnose kidney heath.

Imaging technology offers a powerful approach to addressing current challenges with disease diagnosis and prognosis. The SPIRE program provides a unique opportunity for me to make imaging more accessible, to introduce students to the versatility of different imaging modalities, and to grow as a research educator. In my classroom I want to cultivate curiosity, critical thinking, and empower the next generation of biomedical engineers by creating an inclusive classroom environment, fostering mutual respect and understanding, and encouraging academic achievement. I am thrilled to be part of the SPIRE program and look forward to engaging in modern pedagogy, receiving expert mentorship, and developing key skills to be a successful instructor.