Meet Elaheh (Ellie) Rahbar, Ph.D. Dr. Rahbar is an associate professor in Biomedical engineering at Texas A&M University. Her research focuses on how blood moves through the body during traumatic injuries. She has also studied how certain genes and dietary factors play a role in lung health biomarkers in a person’s blood (that might indicate disease or help in better recovery post-injury) and how the heart performs during shock. In 2017, Dr. Rahbar received a K25 award from NHLBI to investigate what gene-diet interactions influence patient outcomes after lung and other traumatic injuries. But in 2019 when her daughter was born, her work and home life changed dramatically. To assure that her research would continue, Dr. Rahbar applied for an NHLBI K25 supplement. 

Fast facts: Dr. Rahbar’s K25 supplement was part of the Administrative Supplements to Promote Research Continuity and Retention of NIH Mentored Career Development (K) Award Recipients and Scholars program. This program assists investigators going through critical life events such as childbirth or long-term illness. The goal is to find ways for investigators to continue developing their careers without having to stop or pause their research.  

Dr. Ellah (Ellie) RahbarSweet inspiration. Dr. Rahbar is inspired by NHLBI’s years of life-saving discoveries in the field of traumatic injuries and blood transfusions. She hopes her research can lead to even more breakthroughs that help improve treatment of trauma patients. Dr. Rahbar is also motivated by the dedication of her talented team of collaborators and students, who help drive her own curiosity to learn.  

Big impact. “To me, research independence means having the ability and resources to execute the research questions you want to answer and the projects you want to do,” says Dr. Rahbar. The NHLBI K25 supplement helped fund a technician to manage and maintain Dr. Rahbar’s lab. The technician, who also trained graduate students, brought valuable experience in tissue engineering and microfluidic-based designs, further expanding Dr. Rahbar’s research. Dr. Rahbar credits NHLBI for helping her achieve research independence, while broadening her perspective on her research.  

Bright future. Dr. Rahbar went on to secure her first R01 in 2022, and credits NHLBI’s program officers for being instrumental during the early stages. In her current project she develops computational models that predict what will happen to blood pressure, heart rate, and shifting fluids during serious injuries. Computational models like this are especially useful in traumatic injury research, which can help better inform designs of medical devices that can save lives in emergency and clinical settings. Dr. Rahbar hopes these models will help scientists and medical professionals better understand what happens to the body during injuries to improve treatment options.