14th Annual Utah Conference on Undergraduate Research at USU

February 7, 2020
Utah State University Main Campus

2020 Speaker: Elizabeth Vargis

Elizabeth Vargis is an Assistant Professor of Biological Engineering at Utah State University. She has been awarded Outstanding Teacher and Outstanding Researcher of the Year in the biological engineering department, and was the College of Engineering 2019 Graduate Mentor of the Year.

Dr. Vargis studies mechanisms of disease by developing realistic, in vitro models of human tissue and has been supported by the NIH, the Department of Energy, and the Utah NASA Space Grant Consortium. Since 2013, Dr. Vargis has published 17 articles, 9 of them with her graduate and undergraduate students.

Dr. Vargis serves as the faculty advisor for the Biomedical Engineering Society and the Society of Women Engineers, has mentored 11 students through Undergraduate Research & Creative Opportunity grants, and has an active lab of undergraduates, grad students, and post-doctoral researchers. She is known for her dedication to her students’ progression in research and helping them achieve their academic and professional goals. She is also considering renaming this lab the Batman Lab, and is currently accepting suggestions for an excellent acronym.

Dr. Vargis currently lives in Logan, Utah with her partner, children and dogs. They enjoy hiking, eating, dancing… and eating some more.

TEDxUSU Talk: Building Muscles and Mentors


Late 2016, Dr. Vargis had the opportunity to speak at the TEDx conference held at USU.

“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 Dr. Vargis, 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.