Faculty Spotlight: Rebecca Wachs

Rebecca Wachs
Rebecca Wachs

About Rebecca Wachs: 

I am a native New Yorker and I was born and raised in upstate N.Y., just outside of Albany. My initial interest in engineering was sparked in my high school physics class. I was amazed that equations could predict when bridges and buildings would fail. As a college athlete, I became incredibly interested in how engineering principles applied to the human body, ultimately sparking my interest in orthopedics and biomedical engineering. While pursuing my master's and doctorate degrees I studied how we can engineer tissues using cells and scaffolds, as well as biomechanics of the spine.  After my doctoral degree, I completed my postdoctoral research examining how biomaterials can modulate nerve growth. Taken together, these have shaped my future work in biomaterials targeted at low back pain. 

What is your position at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln? 

I am an assistant professor and biomedical engineer in the Biological Systems Engineering Department with appointments in teaching and research. My research focuses on creating natural biomaterial scaffolds to reduce or eliminate low back pain and other types of orthopedic pain. I look forward to teaching courses in biomaterials, rehabilitation engineering, thermodynamics and clinical orthopedics. 

What drew you to the University of Nebraska–Lincoln? 

I was drawn to UNL because it is a large public land-grant university with a strong focus on excellence in teaching and research. My experiences at the University of Florida as a postdoctoral researcher made me appreciate the amazing opportunities for teaching and research that are available in this type of school, such as diverse students and collaborators, as well as amazing core facilities and centers. I am excited that UNL and IANR put an emphasis on cross-disciplinary collaborations which will enable me to form unique collaborations and have impacts to the world outside of the healthcare sector.

Also, since I am originally from N.Y., I am excited to return to a place where there are seasons and snow!  

What aspect of working in an educational setting do you enjoy the most? 

Two major aspects inspire me: 1) watching students learn and grow, and 2) having the flexibility to pursue unique research directions. During their undergraduate and graduate education, students figure out who they are and what they are passionate about. I thoroughly enjoy being a part of this process and helping them find their path. In addition, I love that I have the opportunity to pursue any research, idea given I can demonstrate impact and secure funding. 

What do you consider your greatest achievement? 

Finding a career where I can pursue my passions. Throughout my life I have had many different jobs and roles. However, it wasn’t until I identified my two passions: watching students learn and leading my own research, that I was able to find my ideal position. I am truly amazed each day that this is my job!

What is something that most people don't know about you? 

I played basketball in college at Worcester Polytechnic Institute for my entire undergraduate career. After college, I coached college and youth basketball while pursuing my master's and doctoral degrees. I look forward to finding some youth basketball coaching opportunities in Lincoln. 

What is your life like outside of work? 

Outside of work, my husband and I love exploring new places both near and far. Our next international venture will be vacationing in Australia! We are also excited to explore the Midwest parks and historical sites. We have two rescue dogs, Maggie and Ziva, that we enjoy walking and hiking with. I also enjoy playing tennis in various leagues around Lincoln, and I am currently learning how to play singles.