Exceptional Graduate Student Spotlight: Nina Tang

Posted: May 25, 2023
Nina Tang and her advisor Devina Purmessur. They both are wearing white lab coats
Nina Tang and Dr. Devina Purmessur-Walter

BME graduate Nina Tang was so inspired by the research experience she completed at Ohio State while earning a biomedical engineering (BME) degree that she decided to pursue a PhD to continue that work.


“What ultimately solidified the decision to pursue my PhD was actually Dr. Purmessur-Walter,” Tang explained. “I did a research assistantship in her lab and it really inspired me—her passion for research, her resiliency to study difficult problems and the unwavering mentorship she provided to her students.” 

Since then Tang has continued her research under the guidance of BME Assistant Professor Devina Purmessur, focusing on developing minimally invasive therapies for patients suffering from chronic low back pain. Tang’s work uses engineering nanocarriers (extracellular vesicles) to deliver critical developmental transcription factors into diseased human intervertebral disc cells and revert/reprogram them to a healthy state. 

Her efforts have contributed to two successful federal research awards from the National Institutes of Health and she is principal investigator of an Orthoregeneration Network Foundation grant. Tang’s numerous recognitions include the university’s prestigious Presidential Fellowship, top honors at Ohio State’s 2022 Hayes Graduate Research Forum, a Graduate Associate Performance Award, and national and international research conference awards.

As an instructor, Tang has been inspired by BME Professor of Practice Mark Ruegsegger and Clinical Associate Professor Tanya Nocera, who she describes as, “the kind of professors I aspire to be one day. They deliver knowledge in the best way possible and truly care about their students.”

Already a role model and dedicated mentor to less-experienced students, Tang received the Department of Biomedical Engineering’s Graduate Teaching Associate Award in 2020. She’s also president of the Graduate Society of Women Engineers at Ohio State, which aims to build an inclusive environment for female graduate engineering students.  

“Being able to mentor other students in the lab is incredible,” Tang said. “They come in with minimal research experience, but go out being experts in what they do. It’s very fulfilling, being able to pass on that knowledge.” 

What makes Tang’s accomplishments even more remarkable is that she has also supported her family as a caregiver throughout her undergraduate and graduate studies.

“I come from a really socioeconomically challenging background and without the support of Ohio State, all the professors and the BME department, I wouldn't be here today,” she said. “I ended up becoming the first in my family to finish middle school, graduate high school, graduate undergrad and get PhD, which is an accomplishment that I never thought someone like myself could achieve.” 

After graduation, Tang will continue her academic journey as a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Washington in St. Louis. Ultimately, she hopes to join the faculty at an R1 research institution to study pathological mechanisms and engineer therapeutics for orthopedic diseases and mentor the next generation of future engineers.

Nina Tang and Dr. Devina Purmessur Walter

“I want to be a support system for the students who were once told they couldn’t achieve something, like my support system at Ohio State has been for me,” Tang said.

Congratulations Nina on your accomplishments; we look forward to seeing all you do in the future!

If you would like to support exceptional BME graduate students like Nina Tang, consider giving to the BME Scholarship Fund

Slightly modified from original piece by Candi Clevenger, College of Engineering Communications, clevenger.87@osu.edu