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College of Engineering and Computing

Faculty and Staff

Susan M. Lessner

Title: Associate Professor, School of Medicine
Department: School of Medicine, Biomedical Engineering
College of Engineering and Computing
Phone: 803-216-3819
Fax: 803-216-3846

School of Medicine   
Bldg 1   
Room C-38   
6439 Garners Ferry Road   
Columbia, SC 29209

Susan Lessner

Experience and Education

  • Associate Professor, Cell Biology and Anatomy, University of South Carolina School of Medicine, 2013-present
  • Assistant Professor, Cell Biology and Anatomy, University of South Carolina School of Medicine, 2006-2013
  • Research Assistant Professor, Cell Biology and Anatomy, University of South Carolina School of Medicine, 2005-2006
  • Postdoctoral Fellow, Emory University School of Medicine, Division of Cardiology, 2000-2003
  • Ph.D., Chemical Engineering, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 2000
  • B.S.E., Chemical Engineering, Princeton University, 1983


Dr. Lessner’s work focuses on the vascular biology and biomechanics of atherosclerosis, with an emphasis on mechanical failure (plaque rupture) and intraplaque angiogenesis. Atherosclerotic plaque rupture is a leading cause of acute cardiovascular events such as heart attack and stroke. Evidence suggests that plaque rupture results from an adverse interaction between biomechanical and biological factors. Our research focuses on understanding the interplay between both these types of factors, in order to develop methods to reduce the incidence of plaque rupture.  On the biological side, we are particularly interested in intraplaque angiogenesis, or new blood vessel growth, as a destabilizing factor in plaque progression. We use transgenic mouse models and human endarterectomy specimens to examine the relationships between mechanical loading environment, matrix organization, and mechano-sensitive gene expression. On the biomechanics front, we study micromechanics of arterial tissue failure in plaque rupture and arterial dissection, and we aim to develop methods to identify patients at elevated risk of acute cardiovascular syndromes where material failure plays a major role. We use both experimental and computational approaches to understand artery wall failure mechanisms. I collaborate with faculty in Mechanical Engineering at UofSC, together with vascular surgeons at Greenville Hospital, Palmetto Health, and MUSC.


  • BMEN 723/589V Anatomy and Physiology for Biomedical Engineers
  • MCBA D602 Medical Microscopic Anatomy

Honors and Awards

  • Rising Star Research Award, University of South Carolina, 2010
  • Centenary Assistant Professor award, University of South Carolina, 2005-2008
  • NRSA Ruth Kirschstein Individual Postdoctoral Fellowship (F32), National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, 2001-2003

Challenge the conventional. Create the exceptional. No Limits.