The Founders

Katy Lassahn, Executive Director

Research Scientist at KIYATEC

  • BS, Biomedical Engineering, Georgia Tech, 2012
  • MS, BioEngineering, Georgia Tech, 2015
  • Research focus: regenerative medicine, 3D cell culture, and immuno-oncology

Katy was first exposed to bioengineering in 11th grade at an outreach event hosted by Georgia Tech. This one event exposed her to an entirely new career track and motivated her to apply to Georgia Tech and become a bioengineer. Katy hopes that through BioIgnite, she can expose students to bioengineering careers before high school to encourage student success in science and math classes in high school. When not in lab or the classroom for BioIgnite, Katy enjoys hiking, traveling, and cooking.



Tom Bongiorno

Field Application Scientist at Corning

  • BS, Mechanical Engineering, University of Notre Dame, 2011
  • MS, Mechanical Engineering, Georgia Tech, 2015
  • PhD, BioEngineering, Georgia Tech, 2016
  • Research focus: Stem cell mechanics and microfluidic cell sorting

When Tom was first exposed to bioengineering in college, he knew it was the field for him. He sees BioIgnite as an opportunity to immerse young students in a highly impactful discipline and to share his excitement about bioengineering with the next generation. At his current job as a Bioprocess Engineer, Tom helps cell therapy clients to scale up their processes and prepare them for manufacturing. Outside the research lab, Tom enjoys distance running, golfing, and ultimate frisbee.


Jessica Butts

Postdoctoral Fellow at Baylor College of Medicine

  • BS, Biomedical Engineering, Washington University in St. Louis, 2013
  • PhD, Bioengineering, University of California – Berkeley and San Francisco, 2018
  • Research focus: Stem cell differentiation, neural development, and spinal cord injury

Jessie knew she wanted to be a biomedical engineer by 9th grade as it was the perfect combination of math and science. Her career goals are to become a professor in Bioengineering running her own research lab. Growing up, Jessie had a lot of great mentors and recognizes the importance of role models. Through BioIgnite, Jessie is excited to expose students to all of the possibilities math and science can provide for future careers! When not in the lab or working on BioIgnite curricula, Jessie enjoys distance running, going to concerts, and healthy cooking.


Emily Jackson-Holmes

Associate Product Manager at Thermo Fisher Scientific

  • BS, Chemical Biological Engineering, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 2012
  • PhD, Chemical & Biomolecular Engineering, Georgia Tech, 2018
  • Research focus: Microfluidics and stem cell differentiation

Emily credits her father with inspiring her to study engineering by exposing her to math and science in creative ways at an early age. Through BioIgnite, she hopes to provide the same opportunities to young students, as well as to share her experiences and excitement for bioengineering. Outside of research, Emily enjoys photography, cooking, and playing various sports.


Lauren Priddy

Assistant Professor at Mississippi State University

  • BS, Biological Engineering, Mississippi State University, 2008
  • MS, Biomedical Engineering, Mississippi State University, 2010
  • PhD, BioEngineering, Georgia Tech, 2015
  • Research focus: Biomaterials, bone tissue engineering, amniotic tissues for regeneration

Through encouragement and support from her parents and impactful teachers, Lauren developed a love of math and science at an early age. Now focused on mentorship and education of the next generation of scientists and engineers, her research lab studies biomaterials for bone healing and infection mitigation ( Lauren strives to have a positive effect on students’ future success by promoting the development of their problem-solving skills and love of learning. She enjoys running, yoga, watching sports, and cooking.


Steve Renda

  • BEE, Georgia Tech, 1983
  • MBA, Haas School of Business, University of California at Berkeley, 1990
  • Business focus: Board and advisory roles for science education and IT services. General management of technology services – IT, security, hosting, and telecom. Mostly startups.

Steve originally trained to be a physicist, but shifted to engineering and business.  However, he never lost his love of science, and as his avocation spends his time working on business models that advance science and scientific education.  He met the BioIgnite team through his work with the NSF ICorps program.  He enjoys distance running, fly fishing, and anything to do with paleontology.


Bob Nerem (in memoriam)

Dr. Nerem passed away in 2020 but his impact on the field of biomedical engineering and support of engineering trainees will be felt for many generations to come.

Dr. Nerem served an integral role in the start-up of BioIgnite, by sponsoring the co-founders as the Principal Investigator for the NSF I-Corps for Learning grant that led to the development of BioIgnite. Throughout his career he supported countless outreach programs to increase the visibility of BioEngineering in his community. He was a strong supporter of his mentees and colleagues. He enjoyed golfing and spending time with his family.