Ph.D. Students

Daniel Arens

Daniel Arens

I study two proteins, PAS-Kinase and USF1, and their roles in metabolic diseases. As we learn more about their mechanisms, interacting partners, and how to manipulate them we will be able to develop treatments and therapies for diabetes, obesity, and hyperlipidemia.

Caleb Cornaby

Caleb Cornaby

I am studying how the human systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) IRF5 risk phenotype affects primary B cell activation and homeostasis. Collaborating with other researchers, I am investigating how SLE contributes to cancer and depression risk in lupus patients. By utilizing molecular and bioinformatic approaches, I hope to better understand environmental and genetic risk factors that contribute to systemic lupus erythematosus disease development.

Israel Guerrero

Israel Guerrero

My research focuses on uncovering the pathogenesis mechanisms of Chikungunya virus (CHIKV). CHIKV is a mosquito borne alphavirus which causes chronic arthritis. In the Robison lab we are interested in understanding how CHIKV evades the immune system and how this leads to chronic arthritis.

Deborah Johnson

Deborah Johnson

Helper T cells are activated when their T cell receptor (TCR) recognizes its specific peptide. I research how TCR-peptide affinity influences T cell proliferation and specificity through a panel of high affinity TCRs. I also investigate CD5—a coreceptor— role in T cell activation. This work has application for vaccine and immunotherapy development.

Stewart Morley

Stewart Morley

I study DNA replication in plant organelles. Compared to nuclei, their interactions and mechanisms are most likely much simpler, but this has yet to be well studied. Using bacterial and yeast cloning in conjunction with next generation sequencing, we hope to soon illustrate the interactions of plant organelle DNA replication proteins and their mechanisms.

Michael Olson

Michael Olson

I am interested in how bacterial pathogens evolve and adapt to survive in different conditions. I study what genes mammary pathogenic Escherichia coli needs to survive in the harsh environment of the mammary gland. I have employed genome-wide transposon insertion site sequencing to identify putative virulence factors needed to survive in diverse conditions.

Kai Li Ong

Kai Li Ong

My research focuses on AMPK-oxysterol binding protein signaling pathway in controlling apoptosis, mitochondria morphology, and functions using yeast as a model organism. This would help in identifying a new drug target in treating metabolic diseases and cancer.

Antonio Solis Leal

Antonio Solis Leal

I study a therapy to fight AIDS. To do so, I'm introducing a gene in Hematopoietic Stem Cells, which are the ones that produce CD4 T cells. This gene codes for a nuclease that specifically disrupts the HIV promoter. Thus, when an organism is exposed to HIV, there will be a resistant CD4 T cell population and the organism will be resistant to develop AIDS.

Ruchira Sharma

Ruchira Sharma

I work with bacteriophages, viruses that infect bacteria. I isolate and characterize novel bacteriophages that infect Erwinia amylovora, a bacteria that is known to cause a devastating disease called fire blight in fruit trees of rosaceae family.

Claudia Tellez

Claudia Tellez

I study T helper cells, important in adaptive immunity, with different CD5 expression. CD5 regulates T cell response. I am interested in the role that CD5 has upon activation by evaluating Ca2+ mobilization and metabolic response. I also study the molecular basis of immune dysfunction in nBMP2 mutant mice that suggest to have a defect in intracellular Ca2+ mobilization, important in immune response.

Kiara Vaden

Kiara Vaden

My research focuses on studying T cells. One project focuses on studying how altered peptides affect helper T cell activation in response to L. monocytogenes, a common food-borne pathogen. My other project focuses on developing antibodies that specifically target a novel cancer cell surface marker. This research can be applied to vaccine and immunotherapeutic design.

Edwin Velazquez

Edwin Velazquez

I work developing new cell adoptive therapies for cancer immunotherapy and doing tumor target discovery. My work consists of genetically engineering human immune system cells with tumor targeting receptors to selectively eliminate tumor cells.

Non Pictured Students

  • David Bates
  • Michelle Townsend

Master's Students

Alex Benedict

Alex Benedict

The plant symbiont Sinorhizobium meliloti has a unique genome that’s organized into 3 large DNA replicons. The largest of the three, the chromosome, contains virtually all the organism’s essential genes. I’m trying to understand which of those genes are essential and how the three DNA replicons interact genetically within the cell.

Olivia Brown

Olivia Brown

Carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae (CRE) are quickly becoming a public health threat. Carbapenem is an antibiotic used as a last resort drug in treating multi-drug resistant bacteria and CRE strains are becoming more frequent in clinical settings. The objectives of my research are two-fold: to develop a rapid assay for identifying CRE strains and to characterize plasmids that confer carbapenem resistance.

Devan Bursey

Devan Bursey

The aim of my research is to generate novel antimicrobial peptides based on ribosomally synthesized and post-translationally modified peptide (RiPP) scaffolds. These novel antimicrobial peptides are found via an in vivo screen we are pioneering in the Griffitts lab called Massively Parallel Activity Screening (MPAS).

Galen Card

Galen Card

My research focuses on the pathogenesis of an important nosocomial pathogen, Klebsiella pneumoniae. In addition to its acquisition of extreme antibiotic resistance, it has been shown to resist macrophage killing for 48 hours, well past the time most bacteria succumb. I am investigating the genetic mechanism it uses to survive.

Emma Dallon

Emma Dallon

I work in the Griffitts lab on a project focused on discovering novel antimicrobial peptides using a techniqe called Massively parallel Peptide Activity Screening (MPAS). My particular focus is the use of unnatural amino acid incorporation to generate cyclic peptides.

Alex Erikson

Alex Erikson

My research focuses on generating, measuring, and analyzing large (~200,000) peptide libraries for antimicrobial properties, with an emphasis on how computational tools can identify important peptide motifs for further study.

Jeralyn Franson

Jeralyn Franson

Your diet feeds not only yourself, but the bacteria that live in your gut, so I am looking specifically at the role a western diet, high in fats and sugars, plays in anxiety in autism spectrum disorder, and the changes in gut bacteria that result from diet. I am also studying the role diet and gut bacteria play in the development of insulin resistance and obesity.

Shreena Mody

Shreena Mody

Honey is used as an alternative agent to cure infections of wounds, burns, ulcers etc. Researchers have shown some of the antimicrobial properties of honey when used as an ointment. The purpose of this study is to examine the antimicrobial properties of honey from Utah and other locales, and to identify promising antimicrobial activities that could be useful in treating infections caused by resistant bacteria.

Ann-Aubrey Reid

Ann-Aubrey Kaiwilani Reid

The causative agent of Lyme disease, Borrelia burgdorferi, is an understudied spirochete that can establish chronic infection in individuals with a healthy immune system. These bacteria potentially can occupy immune cells to modify and evade immune responses. I am investigating cellular attachment and intracellular invasion of human B lymphocytes.

Hyrum Shumway

Hyrum Shumway

I work on phage therapy on select agents such as anthrax and for dental disease causing bacteria such as Streptococcus mutans. My team researches novel ways to make the world safer from dangerous and harmful pathogens using viruses that are specific to their unique pathogenic bacterial hosts.

Joseph Thiriot

Joseph Thiriot

Burkholderia pseudomallei is a highly virulent bacteria, and is hard to diagnose and treat. The mortality rate of those infected remains very high. I work with a set of its genes to characterize their role in reducing the bacteria's virulence. Through this research, we hope to contribute to future treatments.

Ramesh Vuppada

Ramesh Vuppada

I research to understand the basic molecular mechanisms through which Escherichia coli senses environmental phosphate. I am working to illustrate a novel idea that environmental phosphate levels are sensed through the alternate conformations of the phosphate transporter.

Trevor Wienclaw

Trevor Wienclaw

I study Staphylococcus aureus biofilms. My research focuses on analyzing the variety of biofilms produced by different staph strains, whether they be MRSA, MSSA, clinical isolates, or food contaminates.

Non Pictured Students

  • Kevin Adams
  • Thomas Brady
  • John Carter
  • Jenny Pattison
  • Kylie White