Project Description

Building muscles and mentors

The Talk

If your muscles aren’t stressed, you’ll lose them. Yet, we’ve been told to avoid stress, stress kills, stress causes cancer, meditate to decrease stress, etc. But to our muscles, that’s a different story. When astronauts are in space, experiencing freefall, they lose almost 40% of skeletal muscle and 12% of cardiac muscle after only 180 days. That’s a lot! We’re figuring out how to stop or slow down that muscle loss: because colonizing Mars? It’s going to happen.

To Elizabeth, being in engineering felt like she was trapped in her own personal freefall. The major, the classes, and the lack of gender, racial, and ethnic diversity left her drifting in space. How did she return to 1 g? Her mentors. Female mentors: female, Indian mentors.

About Elizabeth

Elizabeth Vargis is an Assistant Professor of Biological Engineering at Utah State University. One dream of hers is to name her lab the Batman Lab, and is currently accepting suggestions for an excellent acronym. She began her studies at UC Berkeley, receiving Bachelor’s degree in Bioengineering while working at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. Her education then took her southeast to Vanderbilt University to get a Master’s and PhD, both in Biomedical Engineering.


She completed her postdoctoral appointment at Oak Ridge National Lab in the Center for Nanophase Materials Sciences and at UT Knoxville at the Joint Institute of Biological Sciences.

Dr. Vargis currently lives in Logan, UT with her partner, daughter and dogs. They enjoy hiking, eating, dancing… and eating some more. She is well known for her dedication to her student’s progression in research and helping them achieve their career goals.