Skip Navigation
photo of Jenny Robinson photo of Jenny Robinson

Catching Up with Jenny Robinson, former Pilot Awardee (2020-2021)

May 25, 2023

Currently: University of Washington, Assistant Professor – Mechanical Engineering; Endowed Chair in Women’s Sports Medicine and Lifetime Fitness – Orthopaedics and Sports Medicine

For Jenny Robinson, playing competitive soccer was not only a goal but a reality until she first injured her knee at the age of 12, while planning to attend the Olympic development program tryouts that year. And as she returned from the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) and meniscus tear, osteoarthritis developed over time.

“I was in a lot of pain at 15, 16 years old and the surgeon told me I had post traumatic osteoarthritis and I should really stop playing soccer,” she said, noting that at the time there weren’t many pediatric orthopedic surgeons. “But in my mind that wasn’t happening. Soccer was what I wanted to do and play in college (where she did end up playing club soccer).

“As I dealt with my injury, I was fascinated by the orthopedic surgery process and that there were options to repair my knee. However, I was also upset that these options were not ideal as they required using healthy tissue from elsewhere in my body and the process did not get my knee back to full function.  I think that’s when I really decided that research could be an option for me. I already knew I liked science and engineering; I liked solving problems so this was the right path.”

And for someone who doesn’t like to be bored, Robinson has led an exciting path to where she is now.

“I did my undergraduate work at Rice University and got my first experience working in a tissue engineering lab; I just cold emailed professors and am grateful that Dr. Tony Mikos, a pioneer in tissue engineering, said he had a position in his lab” she said.

And from there, she earned her Ph.D. at Texas A&M, completed postdoctoral training at Columbia University, spent a summer in Ireland working in a lab and doing a fellowship in Singapore the year after undergrad.

“At Texas A&M, I worked in a biomaterials lab focused on tuning material properties by controlling polymer chemistry and fabrication parameters to mimic native tissue properties. This work was fascinating to me because you could tangibly observe and measure how altering one parameter could drastically change material properties.” she said. “We worked with different biomaterial fabrication techniques, like 3-D printing, in our lab.”

“I think my work at Columbia really helped spark my interest in the differences between sexes. I worked with a PhD-trained orthodontist and he was seeing more jaw pain in women and we started to study how estrogen impacted the tissue in a mouse model.”

When she joined the University of Kansas – Lawrence as an Assistant Professor in the Department of Chemical and Petroleum Engineering, she started doing more research on tissue and cell regeneration when it came to the differences in men and women, with a focus on the knee meniscus.

“For my Pilot research, I studied the sex differences in injury and regeneration and that work actually led me to the University of Washington,” she said. “I wanted to study why ACL tears and meniscal tears were happening more in female athletes, which isn’t as researched.”

It all started with looking at when tissue is removed due to injury and how that leads to osteoarthritis.

“We  worked with Dr. Donna Pacicca, pediatric orthopedic surgeon, and Dr. Emily Farrow, Director of Lab Operations at the Genomic Medicine Center, both at Children’s Mercy Kansas City, to get meniscus tissue from both males and females and do bulk RNA sequencing to assess transcriptional signatures that may be different in injured tissues in females compared to males of similar ages. We had three participants from each sex and wanted to see how cells responded to estrogen,” she said. “And we’re still working on that. The more we study, the more we realize that there is so much more to learn.

“It’s been great because it’s a cross discipline collaboration for a complex problem and Frontiers really promoted that when I started my Pilot project.”

And one thing that has been learned from the research is that even though there were three males and three females who participated, there was still a great deal of donor variability.

“When there’s an injury, tissue is impacted and it signals to immune cells that they need to clean up the area and then send out signals to make new tissue to repair the injury,” she said. “But the process may be different in the sexes. We’re studying if it is hormone dependent. Once we have the impact, how do we use that data to change how athletes train, but also how they come back from an injury.”

“There’s a company out there, Orecco, working with high performance athletes and tracking their  menstrual cycle and then providing suggestions for nutritional and training decisions. The research I’m working on could help us better prepare athletes in all phases and we could personalize training for them to help prevent injuries using the menstrual tracking method.”

And during her time in research, the one thing she has noticed is that  women researchers are driving the research on sex differences and conditions predominantly impacting women.

“Women have definitely started joining this research area more over the last few years,” she said. “I know some women researchers who are studying tissue mechanics in pregnancy because no one else was. This just helps all of us.”

Currently her lab is working on projects related to the knee meniscus, where they are making fibers and hydrogels to mimic the healthy and injured tissue mechanics and then using them as microenvironment to understand how human meniscal cells from injured patients respond. They are also investigating how macrophages, cells of the innate immune system that are critical for tissue healing and regeneration, from male and female donors differentially respond to the engineered microenvironments.

The exciting path for Robinson continues.

 

 

No Photo Available

Kelly Hale

Communications Coordinator

Latest Articles

View All
Frontiers circle logo Funded Projects  ·  News
Feb 19, 2024 Lauren S. Aaronson Frontiers Pilot Awardee
Frontiers logo with partners
Feb 19, 2024 Lauren S. Aaronson Frontiers Pilot Awardee - Kai Ling Kong
Photo of Dr. Leaman Funded Projects  ·  News
Feb 19, 2024 Lauren S. Aaronson Frontiers Pilot Awardee - Marion Leaman
Photo of Ashley Shaw News
Feb 09, 2024 Catching Up with Ashley Shaw, Ph.D., MPH
photo of Rong TL1 Trainee  ·  News
Feb 08, 2024 Spotlight on Rong Xin Liu, TL1 Pre-Doctoral Trainee
Frontiers logo News  ·  In the Community  ·  Funded Projects
Feb 06, 2024 Integrating Special Populations Pilot Award
Image of Kelsie Forbush Funded Projects  ·  News
Jan 09, 2024 Catching Up with Kelsie Forbush, Ph.D., past Trailblazer Pilot Awardee
Amy Smith KL2 Scholar  ·  News
Jan 09, 2024 Spotlight on TL1 Program's Amy Smith, Ph.D., Children's Mercy Kansas City
Image of Alexandra Prosser TL1 Trainee  ·  News
Dec 07, 2023 Spotlight on Alexandra Prosser, M.D., TL1 Postdoctoral Trainee
Image of Frontiers logo News
Nov 30, 2023 Learn More About the Implementation Science Core
Image of Frontiers logo News
Nov 30, 2023 Broderick Crawford Community-Partnership Awardees
Frontiers logo News
Nov 27, 2023 Frontiers Annual Impact Report 2023
Image of McNeill-Johnson KL2 Scholar  ·  News
Nov 06, 2023 Spotlight on KL2 scholar April McNeill-Johnson, M.D.
Photo of Sarah Weinsztok TL1 Trainee  ·  News
Nov 02, 2023 Spotlight on TL1 Postdoctoral Trainee Sarah Weinsztok, Ph.D.
logos News
Oct 24, 2023 Frontiers Annual Member Survey
Image of JUNTOS with Gov Kelly News
Oct 05, 2023 Congratulations!
Image of Shelby Williams News
Oct 03, 2023 Meet Shelby Williams, Administrative Director, Clinical and Translational Science Units at Rainbow, Fairway and Swope (University of Kansas Medical Center)
Image of Diego Mazzotti Funded Projects  ·  News
Oct 03, 2023 Catching Up with Diego Mazzotti, Ph.D., a past Pilot Awardee
Photo of Kathryn Unruh Events  ·  News
Oct 03, 2023 KL2 Spotlight: Kathryn Unruh, Ph.D., University of Kansas – Lawrence
Photo of Stephani Stancil
Sep 22, 2023 Former Frontiers KL2 Scholar Stephani Stancil, PhD, APRN Presenting at K-CART Research Seminar
Photo of Rebecca Lepping KL2 Scholar  ·  News
Sep 07, 2023 KL2 Spotlight: Rebecca Lepping, Ph.D., University of Kansas Medical Center
Photo of Matthew Mosconi News
Sep 05, 2023 Getting to Know Matthew Mosconi, Ph.D. New Co-Lead for Frontiers KL2 Scholars program
Image of Anthony Fehr Funded Projects  ·  News
Aug 29, 2023 Catching Up with Anthony Fehr, Ph.D.
Frontiers circle logo
Aug 29, 2023 KU Center for Community Access, Rehabilitation Research, Education and Service (KU CARES)
Frontiers logo image News
Aug 08, 2023 Informatics Collaboration
Frontiers logo with all partners Partner News  ·  News
Jul 28, 2023 T32 Post-doc Fellowship in Cardiovascular Outcomes Research
Photo of back to school event News  ·  In the Community
Jul 26, 2023 Juntos Back to School Event
Photo of Nicole Nuckolls
Jul 18, 2023 10 Questions with Nicole Nuckolls, Ph.D.
Projects Placeholder 0 Video Title Goes Here
Jul 17, 02023 Garold Minns, M.D., Dean, School of Medicine, Wichita
Image of Jingxin Wang Funded Projects  ·  News
Jul 10, 2023 Catching Up with Jingxin Wang, Ph.D., past Frontiers Pilot Awardee
Photo of Shyam Funded Projects  ·  News
Jul 05, 2023 Catching up with Shyam Sathyamoorthi, M.D., Ph.D.
picture of Tina V News
Jul 03, 2023 Catching up with Valentina (Tina) Shakhnovich, M.D.
Photo of Jonathan Wagner with patient Funded Projects  ·  News
Jul 01, 2023 Catching up with Jonathan Wagner, D.O., FAAP, Children’s Mercy Kansas City
Frontiers and partners logos Funded Projects  ·  News
Jun 27, 2023 Frontiers Integrating Special Populations Pilot Award
pic of maggie K News
Jun 27, 2023 10 Questions with Maggie Padek Kalman
Image of Stephani Stancil Events  ·  News
Jun 27, 2023 Congratulations to Stephani Stancil, Ph.D., APRN on her K23 Award!
Image of Jada TL1 Trainee  ·  News
Jun 08, 2023 Spotlight on TL1 Predoctoral Trainee Jada Ohene-Agyei
juntos logo News  ·  In the Community  ·  Events
Jun 08, 2023 All of Us Brings the Future of Health to Kansas City, Kansas
Image of Sarah Johnson TL1 Trainee  ·  News
Jun 06, 2023 Spotlight on TL1 Pre-Doctoral Trainee Sarah Johnson
Image of Hanluen Kuo News
Jun 01, 2023 Meet Frontiers Recruitment and Network Navigator Hanluen Kuo
photo of Jenny Robinson Funded Projects  ·  News
May 25, 2023 Catching Up with Jenny Robinson, former Pilot Awardee (2020-2021)
Photo of Christie Smith News
May 09, 2023 Meet Frontiers Administrative Coordinator Christie Smith
Image of Trisha Steele with husband and grandson Partner News  ·  News
May 04, 2023 Spotlight on Trisha Steele, Administrative Director, Center for Clinical Research, University of Kansas School of Medicine – Wichita
Photo of Stacey Aaron TL1 Trainee  ·  News
May 02, 2023 Spotlight on TL1 Post-doctoral Trainee Stacey Aaron, Ph.D.
Sara Serritella speaking at symposium Events  ·  News
Apr 21, 2023 2023 Research Symposium Presentations
Frontiers logo News  ·  In the Community
Apr 10, 2023 Kansas Governor Laura Kelly Signs Proclamation Declaring it Black Maternal Health Week in Kansas
Photo of Dana Bakula KL2 Scholar  ·  News
Apr 04, 2023 Spotlight on KL2 Scholar Dana Bakula, Ph.D.
Photo of Cherayla Haynes News
Apr 04, 2023 Meet Frontiers Community Partner Project Manager Cherayla Haynes
Photo of Brian Helsel at Special Olympics events TL1 Trainee  ·  News
Apr 04, 2023 Spotlight on TL1 Postdoctoral Trainee Brian Helsel, Ph.D., MS, CSCS
Image of Grand Rounds information News  ·  KL2 Scholar
Mar 30, 2023 John Hopkins Virtual Nursing Grand Rounds
logo of Frontiers and its partners
Mar 28, 2023 New Genomics Resource!
Photo of Nikki Nollen TL1 Trainee  ·  News
Mar 28, 2023 New TL1 Co-Lead: Nicole Nollen, B.S., M.A., Ph.D
Image of Cheryl Jernigan Events  ·  News
Mar 23, 2023 2023 Research Symposium photos
Photo of Olivia Veatch News
Mar 02, 2023 Research Spotlight – Olivia Veatch, Ph.D.
Frontiers logo News
Feb 22, 2023 "Communicating Research to the Community" Program Documents and Links
Photo of group listening to speaker
Feb 17, 2023 “Cuídate, Chécate y Muévete” (Care of yourself, Take the test, Move your body)
Frontiers logo
Feb 14, 2023 Research Symposium Poster Presentation
Frontiers logo News
Feb 07, 2023 Using Your Resources: University of Kansas Medical Center A. R. Dykes Library
Photo of John Thyfault
Feb 07, 2023 Spotlight: John Thyfault, Ph.D., FACSM, FTOS and the University of Kansas Diabetes Institute
Projects Placeholder 40 Video Title Goes Here
Feb 03, 02023 Why Is It Important to Collaborate?
Image of Dr. Tiffany News
Feb 02, 2023 Spotlight on Tiffany Schwasinger-Schmidt, M.D., Ph.D., FACP
Frontiers logo News
Jan 24, 2023 Frontiers Has an Associate Director Opening
JUNTOS event Partner News  ·  In the Community
Jan 19, 2023 JUNTOS Vaccination Event
Image of Jephte Akakpo TL1 Trainee  ·  News
Jan 17, 2023 Spotlight on TL1 Trainee Jephte Akakpo, Ph.D.
Image of Robert White News
Jan 05, 2023 Spotlight on Robert White, Ph.D., MS – Dean of the College of Biosciences at Kansas City University (KCU)
Image of Olivia Veatch Funded Projects  ·  News
Jan 05, 2023 Spotlight on Olivia Veatch, Ph.D., MS
Image of Jen Bacani News  ·  In the Community
Jan 04, 2023 Community Partner Spotlight: Dr. Jennifer Bacani McKenney
Events  ·  In the Community
Dec 21, 2022 JUNTOS December Community Events
Frontiers logo with all partners Funded Projects  ·  News
Dec 19, 2022 Frontiers Clinical and Translational Science Institute gives six Pilot Awards
Image from JUNTOS vaccination event In the Community
Dec 15, 2022 JUNTOS Community Events
Image of Andrea Bradley Ewing News  ·  In the Community  ·  Partner News
Dec 09, 2022 Spotlight on Andrea Bradley Ewing, MPA, MA; Community Engaged Research, Health Services and Outcomes Research; Children’s Mercy Kansas City
Image of Anna Wallisch KL2 Scholar  ·  News
Dec 08, 2022 Spotlight on KL2 Scholar Anna Wallisch, Ph.D.
Image of Crawford and Ramirez News  ·  In the Community
Dec 06, 2022 Community Partner Broderick Crawford Passes Away
Image of Mock Study panel Events  ·  News  ·  Services
Dec 05, 2022 First Frontiers Mock Study Section
Photo of Rebecca Lepping Funded Projects  ·  News
Dec 01, 2022 Spotlight on Rebecca Lepping, Ph.D.
News
Nov 28, 2022 Frontiers New Tagline
Image of Stephani Stancil KL2 Scholar  ·  Funded Projects  ·  News
Nov 08, 2022 Spotlight on KL2 Scholar Stephani Stancil, Ph.D., APRN
Image of Elly Leavens TL1 Trainee  ·  Funded Projects  ·  News
Nov 08, 2022 Spotlight on TL1 Post-Doctoral Trainee Elly Leavens, Ph.D.
Image of Erin Nichols News
Nov 04, 2022 Focus on Research Informatics with Erin Nichols, Director of Research Informatics -University of Kansas Health System
Frontiers logo News
Nov 03, 2022 Call for Abstracts and Case Reports
JUNTOS logo News  ·  In the Community
Nov 01, 2022 Spotlight on JUNTOS – Center for Advancing Latino Health
Image of Romina Barral KL2 Scholar  ·  Funded Projects
Oct 14, 2022 Meet KL2 Scholar Romina Barral, M.D.
Image of Amanda Emerson KL2 Scholar  ·  Funded Projects
Oct 10, 2022 Meet KL2 Scholar Amanda Emerson
Partner Institution representatives Events  ·  News
Sep 28, 2022 Frontiers Celebrates Award Renewal
Frontiers logo News
Sep 21, 2022 University of Kansas Medical Center announces nearly $27 million NIH grant to accelerate clinical and translational research in the region
Image of Ton Mieras News  ·  In the Community
Sep 09, 2022 Spotlight on Communities Organizing to Promote Equity (COPE)- Ton Miras Neira
Image of Jennifer Villwock KL2 Scholar  ·  Funded Projects
Aug 12, 2022 Spotlight on KL2 program recipient, Jennifer Villwock, M.D.
Image of two researchers News
Aug 04, 2022 Kansas IDeA Network Provides Another Round of Funding
Image of Heather Minchew Funded Projects
Jul 13, 2022 Spotlight on Heather Minchew
Image of Scott Weir
Jul 11, 2022 Fosociclopirox AUA Thought Leadership Series
Image of Bertha De Los Santos TL1 Trainee
Jun 14, 2022 Spotlight on Bertha De Los Santos, KU PharmD Student
Female researcher News
Jun 14, 2022 Women Making a Difference in Research
Frontiers logo
Apr 28, 2022 Frontiers Patient-Community Patient Partner Hakima Payne Receives DeVerne Lee Calloway Award
Frontiers logo Funded Projects
Apr 28, 2022 Trainees at ACTS conference
Image of Laura Mussulman
Oct 29, 2021 Laura Mussulman, MA, MPH, Named Director of Clinical and Translational Science Unit Fairway
Frontiers logo
Sep 17, 2021 Researchers at 3 CTSA Institutions Collaborate to Develop a Research Network Supporting Translational Science Across the Criminal Justice Continuum
Back to Top