Fikunwa is a mechanical engineering Ph.D. candidate in the cardiovascular Magnetic Resonance Lab (Ennis Lab) in the Stanford Radiology Department. His research, which is at the intersection between medicine and engineering, is focused on developing mechanics-based clinical biomarkers for heart disease. Through his research, he aims to establish a comprehensively validated and clinically viable tool for estimating in vivo heart tissue stiffness to better understand and manage heart failure.

He began his academic journey as a mechanical engineering undergraduate student at Howard University during which time he also worked as a researcher at the FDA’s department of applied mechanics, characterizing the mechanical response of metals used in implantable cardiovascular devices. At Howard, he also supported research in the Applied Mechanics and Materials Lab and Biosensors Lab, as an undergraduate research assistant. Upon completing his undergraduate studies, in 2019, he joined Stanford University’s mechanical engineering department. He is also affiliated with the Radiology departments at Stanford and the Veterans Administration Palo Alto Health Care System. He is deeply passionate about empowering minority students to pursue STEM careers. Additionally, he is a fellow of the Bio-X, Stanford’s Interdisciplinary biosciences institute

Institute Affiliations

Professional Affiliations and Activities

  • Trainee, International Society of Magnetic Resonance in Medicine (2020 - Present)

Education & Certifications

  • Bachelor of Science, Howard University, Mechanical Engineering (2019)
  • Doctor of Philosophy, Stanford University, ME-PHD (2023)
  • Master of Science, Stanford University, ME-MS (2021)
  • MS, Stanford University, Mechanical Engineering (Biomechanics) (2021)
  • BS, Howard University, Mechanical Engineering (2019)

Service, Volunteer and Community Work

  • Summer First, Program Coordinator, Stanford University, Equity and Inclusions Initiatives (2/1/2020 - Present)

    Plan and execute eight-week immersion program for incoming first year students into the Stanford School of Engineering, designed to help students thrive personally and academically


    Stanford, California

  • Vice Provost for Graduate Education, Strategic Vision Team Member, Vice Provost for Graduate Education, Stanford University (9/1/2021 - Present)

    Nominated for and serve on interdisciplinary team of 15 representative graduate students from various schools, setup to critically consider and ideate ways to improve the future of graduate education at Stanford


    Stanford, California

  • Black Graduate Students Association, Stanford University, Co-President, Black Graduate Students Association, Stanford University (6/1/2021 - Present)

    Help organize academic, student life and networking events aimed at promoting community and building a sense of inclusivity in the black student population within the School of Engineering. Led implementation of Stanford Exposure to Research and Graduate Education (SERGE) program for undergraduates within and outside USA. Aims to enhance Stanford’s demographic representation


    Stanford, California

Research Interests

  • Equity in Education

All Publications

  • On the impact of vessel wall stiffness on quantitative flow dynamics in a synthetic model of the thoracic aorta. Scientific reports Zimmermann, J. n., Loecher, M. n., Kolawole, F. O., Bäumler, K. n., Gifford, K. n., Dual, S. A., Levenston, M. n., Marsden, A. L., Ennis, D. B. 2021; 11 (1): 6703


    Aortic wall stiffening is a predictive marker for morbidity in hypertensive patients. Arterial pulse wave velocity (PWV) correlates with the level of stiffness and can be derived using non-invasive 4D-flow magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). The objectives of this study were twofold: to develop subject-specific thoracic aorta models embedded into an MRI-compatible flow circuit operating under controlled physiological conditions; and to evaluate how a range of aortic wall stiffness impacts 4D-flow-based quantification of hemodynamics, particularly PWV. Three aorta models were 3D-printed using a novel photopolymer material at two compliant and one nearly rigid stiffnesses and characterized via tensile testing. Luminal pressure and 4D-flow MRI data were acquired for each model and cross-sectional net flow, peak velocities, and PWV were measured. In addition, the confounding effect of temporal resolution on all metrics was evaluated. Stiffer models resulted in increased systolic pressures (112, 116, and 133 mmHg), variations in velocity patterns, and increased peak velocities, peak flow rate, and PWV (5.8-7.3 m/s). Lower temporal resolution (20 ms down to 62.5 ms per image frame) impacted estimates of peak velocity and PWV (7.31 down to 4.77 m/s). Using compliant aorta models is essential to produce realistic flow dynamics and conditions that recapitulated in vivo hemodynamics.

    View details for DOI 10.1038/s41598-021-86174-6

    View details for PubMedID 33758315

  • Quantitative Hemodynamics in Aortic Dissection: Comparing in Vitro MRI with FSI Simulation in a Compliant Model Functional Imaging and Modeling of the Heart Zimmermann, J., Loecher, M., Kolawole, F., Baumler, K., Gifford, K., Dual, S. A., Levenston, M. E., Marsden, A., Ennis, D. B. 2021: 575–586
  • A Framework for Evaluating Myocardial Stiffness Using 3D-Printed Heart Phantoms Functional Imaging and Modeling of the Heart Kolawole, F., Peirlinck, M., Cork, T. E., Wang, V. Y., Dual, S. A., Levenston, M. E., Kuhl, E., Ennis, D. B. 2021: 305-314
  • Miniature Diamond-Based Fiber Optic Pressure Sensor with Dual Polymer-Ceramic Adhesives SENSORS Bae, H., Giri, A., Kolawole, O., Azimi, A., Jackson, A., Harris, G. 2019; 19 (9)


    Diamond is a good candidate for harsh environment sensing due to its high melting temperature, Young's modulus, and thermal conductivity. A sensor made of diamond will be even more promising when combined with some advantages of optical sensing (i.e., EMI inertness, high temperature operation, and miniaturization). We present a miniature diamond-based fiber optic pressure sensor fabricated using dual polymer-ceramic adhesives. The UV curable polymer and the heat-curing ceramic adhesive are employed for easy and reliable optical fiber mounting. The usage of the two different adhesives considerably improves the manufacturability and linearity of the sensor, while significantly decreasing the error from the temperature cross-sensitivity. Experimental study shows that the sensor exhibits good linearity over a pressure range of 2.0-9.5 psi with a sensitivity of 18.5 nm/psi (R2 = 0.9979). Around 275 °C of working temperature was achieved by using polymer/ceramic dual adhesives. The sensor can benefit many fronts that require miniature, low-cost, and high-accuracy sensors including biomedical and industrial applications. With an added antioxidation layer on the diamond diaphragm, the sensor can also be applied for harsh environment applications due to the high melting temperature and Young's modulus of the material.

    View details for DOI 10.3390/s19092202

    View details for Web of Science ID 000469766800246

    View details for PubMedID 31086036

    View details for PubMedCentralID PMC6539731