Dr. Virginia Pensabene


I am an Associated Professor of Electronics and Biomedical Engineering. I work across the School of Electronic and Electrical Engineering in the Faculty of Engineering and the School of Medicine, Leeds Institute of Medical Research (LIMR) at St. James's University Hospital.

My research is focused on developing enabling technology for understanding and preserving female fertility, on translating these in commercially available effective therapeutic solutions and accurate analytical methods. 

I am also motivated to educate new generations of engineers, scientists and the wider community about challenges and threats for human health specifically due to lifestyle, environmental toxin exposure and lack of regulations. I am interested in developing safe in vitro devices (IVD), reliable in vitro models and sustainable manufacturing process for these. 

My career started with my graduation in 2004 in Electronic Engineering from the University of Pisa and I hold a PhD in Humanoid Technologies from the University of Genova and the Italian Institute of Technology in Italy. My PhD thesis received the National award “Alberto Mazzoldi”, issued by Interdepartmental Research Center "E.Piaggio, Bioengineering and Robotics Research Center”, Faculty of Engineering, University of Pisa.

In 2008 I was Exchange Researcher at the Department of Life Science Medicine Bioscience of TWIns, Waseda University, Tokyo, Japan. I worked with Prof. Shinji Takeoka and Dr. Toshinori Fujie to develop a magnetic ultrathin film for biomedical application.

I was Postdoctoral Research Associate in the Department of Biomedical Engineering at Vanderbilt University, Nashville (TN, USA) from 2011 to 2015, where I worked on the development of an organ-on-a-chip model of the blood brain barrier and on the design of novel biocompatible permeable membranes. As Principal Investigator, I carried out extensive work on the use of ultrathin film for suturing foetal membranes and for in utero repair of myelomeningocele. 

In 2015 I became Research Assistant Professor at Vanderbilt University, working with the Women Reproductive Health Research Center at the Vanderbilt University Medical Center. In the framework of projects funded by the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Veterans Affairs, I developed microfluidic models of the human endometrium and of the foetal membranes for reproductive toxicology studies.

In 2003 I co-founded a successful medical start-up (WinMedical, www.winmedical.com) and served as CEO for 2 years.I have been a Marie Curie Fellow from June 2017 to June 2019 and my reserach is now supported by NC3Rs, MRC, EU and Grow Med Tech.


  • Module leader of ELEC2130

Research interests

My academic activity is characterized by an interdisciplinary approach and by a profound interest in medical science.

My most recent awarded projects are:

  • From challenge to solution: definition of the characteristics of a new disposable product to improve murine embryos handling and trasfer procedures. NC3Rs Business Growth Scheme, 12 months (+extension due to COVID) (PI). 
  • Sensorised, microfluidic culture device for the non-invasive monitoring of embryo quality during assisted conception, Northern Triangle Initiative, CCF Proof of Principle, 9 months (PI)
  • Integrated oxygen sensor to assess preimplantation embryo quality, EPSRC Impact Acceleration, 7 months (PI)
  • Microfluidic embryo culture as a device to improve the efficiency of infertility treatments in humans, Grow Med Tech Proof of Concept, 12 months, (PI)
  • Next-Generation Material for high-volume production of Sustainable, Biocompatible Organ-On-Chip devices, EPSRC TTL Organ-on-a-chip Network Sabbatical project, 6 months, (as Co-I)
  • Microfluidic model of human pulmonary artery: vascular cell positioning under flow, EPSRC TTL Organ-on-a-chip Network Sabbatical project, 6 months, (as Co-I).
  • Integration of nano- sensing in microfluidics to improve success of fertility treatments,  MRC Confidence in Concept, 12 months, (as Co-I).
  • Single-Entity Nanoelectrochemistry, H2020-MSCA-ITN-2018, 4 years, (as Co-I).
  • Pregnancy and Reproduction Organ-on-a-chip Models, H2020-MSCA-IF-2016, 24 months, (as PI).
  • Design, Fabrication and Testing of a Mouse Embryo Culture Chip, NC3Rs CRACK-IT Challenge, 14 months, (as PI).


Research groups and institutes

Current postgraduate researchers


Postgraduate research opportunities

I offer BSc, MSc, and PhD research projects in the following areas: microphysiological systems, organs-on-a-chip, single cell sensor development, In Vitro Devices, sustainable polymers and safe manufacturing.  Please contact me to enquire about current projects on offer. I welcome enquiries from motivated and qualified applicants from all around the world who are interested in PhD study.

<h4>Research projects</h4> <p>Any research projects I'm currently working on will be listed below. Our list of all <a href="https://eps.leeds.ac.uk/dir/research-projects">research projects</a> allows you to view and search the full list of projects in the faculty.</p>


  • Laurea in Electronic Engeneering
  • PhD in Bioengineering
  • Fellow of the Higher Education Academy (FHEA), UK

Student education

I have teaching activities within the theme of electronic circuit and medical electronics, both at Leeds and at the joint Leeds/Southwest Jiaotong University engineering school in Chengdu, China.  I supervise final individual student projects at Leeds. I am also a personal tutor to undergraduate and master students in the School of Electronics and Electrical Engineering throughout the degree programme. I am also Personal tutor for students undertaking the MSc Clinical Embryology and ART.

I am a member of the School of Equality and Inclusion Committee within the School of Electronic and Electrical Engineering.

Research groups and institutes

  • Pollard Institute
<h4>Postgraduate research opportunities</h4> <p>We welcome enquiries from motivated and qualified applicants from all around the world who are interested in PhD study. Our <a href="https://phd.leeds.ac.uk">research opportunities</a> allow you to search for projects and scholarships.</p>