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Graduate Student Directory

Sakhawat Ali

Sakhawat Ali
PhD Student
Research Lab: Grose
Research Description: My research focus is to investigate the role of PAS kinase in the regulation of NAD kinase and cellular NAD(P) levels. NAD kinase controls the cellular levels of NAD(P)(H), the sole source of cellular energy metabolism, and is required for over 300 reactions in the cell including macromolecular biosynthesis (nucleotides, proteins and fatty acids) as well as reactions that neutralize reactive oxygen species (ROS) produced as a result of high metabolic activity in highly proliferating cancerous cells. Due to the clear central importance of NAD(P)(H) in cellular proliferation, we propose that NAD kinase is a key potential target in cancer treatment.
Email: sakhawatali0510@gmail.com

Ashley Ball

PhD Student
Research Lab: Berges
Research Description: I am studying horizontal gene transfer (HGT) in S. aureus biofilms. S. aureus is constantly developing resistance to antibiotics, making it increasingly harder to treat these infections. I wanted to look further into the mechanism by which S. aureus acquires resistance by studying how DNA content in the biofilm affects the rate of HGT.
Email: dashleyb2016@yahoo.com

David Bates

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PhD Student
Research Lab: Johnson
Research Description: I study chromatin architecture by looking at nucleosome positioning and its relation to the underlying DNA sequence in the genome.
Email: dabates06@gmail.com

Lucy Bowden

Lucy Bowden
PhD Student
Research Lab: Hope
Email: bowden.lucy.c@gmail.com

Olivia Brown

Olivia Brown
PhD Student
Research Lab: Robison
Email: olivia.tateoka.brown@gmail.com

Tyler Brown

PhD Student
Research Lab: Wilson
Research Description: My research is centered on Staphylococcus aureus' ability to survive in a host that employs various nutritional immunity factors. We are especially interested in iron utilization and how Staph accesses sequestered host iron sources.
Email: browntyler55@gmail.com

Will Brugger

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Masters Student
Research Lab: Davis
Email: steven.w.brugger@gmail.com

Diana Calvopina

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PhD Student
Research Lab: Griffitts
Research Description: I am studying a molecular machine that makes the antimicrobial peptide Micrococcin. This molecular machine is made of 3 proteins, and we call it the IJN machine. We want to understand more about the IJN complex, so we can use it to make alternative peptides with biological properties, and potential medical applications such as antibiotics.
Email: dianag.calvopina@gmail.com

John Carter

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PhD Student
Research Lab: Johnson
Research Description: I study chromatin architecture by looking at nucleosome positioning and its relation to the underlying DNA sequence in the genome.
Email: jlawcar@gmail.com

Spencer Ellsworth

Spencer Ellsworth
Masters Student
Research Lab: Grose
Research Description: Improper glucose allocation is at the heart of most metabolic diseases like diabetes, obesity, and cancer. I am studying the proteins involved in this glucose allocation, like PAS kinase and Cbf1, to better understand how the cell makes decisions regarding glucose and what we can do to remedy these diseases.
Email: ellsworthspencer1@gmail.com

Kenneth Ewool

Kenneth Ewool
PhD Student
Research Lab: Grose
Research Description: My research work focuses on two different subjects, the Dynamics of PAS kinase and the use of bacteriophages for human benefit. PAS kinase is a kinase that has been found to be at the pivotal point of glucose allocation to either metabolic respiration or lipid biosynthesis. PAS kinase acts on other kinases and transcription factors to bring about this effect. One of these is USF1, a global transcription factor, implicated in the development of dyslipidemias. Much research has been done on the involvement of USF1 in dyslipidemia. However, little to nothing is known about its effects on respiration under the influence of PAS kinase. My research focuses on how respiration is affected by USF1 in mammalian cells and how this can be leveraged for human benefits in metabolic diseases.
Email: kwaakyekenneth8@gmail.com

Jacob Fairholm

Masters Student
Research Lab: Berges
Research Description: I study how different mutations in a protein produced by HIV affect the virus's ability to cause AIDS. This is done by measuring how T cells die both in cell culture and in vivo. To test in vivo, we inject mice with human immune stem-cells in order to create "humanized" mice.
Email: jacob.fairholm1@gmail.com

Iqra Farooq

Iqra Farooq
PhD Student
Research Lab: Nielsen
Research Description: A major goal of my proposed work is to determine changes in plant gene expression in response to inoculation with halophilic bacteria (salt-tolerant), when the plants grow in the presence or absence of salt and to identify the bacterial properties that contribute to plant growth enhancement. For this purpose, I'm working on the Alfalfa crop (salt sensitive) to analyze the response of halophilic bacteria in salty conditions. In Utah, where BYU is located, alfalfa is the major top crop produced. The use of halophilic bacteria inoculant to stimulate alfalfa crop productivity in saline soil would thus be of great benefit.
Email: iqrafarooq6666@gmail.com

Jonatan Fierro Nieves

Masters Student
Research Lab: Berges
Research Description: My research is focusing on analyzing the response to chikungunya virus infection in a mouse model that harbors a reconstituted human immune system (Humanized mice). We are trying to identify the participation of human cellular components in the progression of the disease from the acute phase to the chronic phase.

Email: jonatan.fini@gmail.com

Evan Harris

Evan Harris
Masters Student
Research Lab: Grose
Email: harrisevan715@gmail.com

Topher Haynie

Topher Haynie
Masters Student
Research Lab: Weber
Email: christopher.j.haynie7@gmail.com

Jacob Herring

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PhD Student
Research Lab: Tessem
Research Description: Diabetes is characterized by a decrease in functional β-cell mass. Nuclear hormone receptor 4a1 plays a role in the regulation of functional β-cell mass. My research focuses on the mechanism of Nr4a1 in the β-cell.
Email: herrin06@gmail.com

Taalin Hoj

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PhD Student
Research Lab: Robison
Research Description: It has been estimated at 70% of bacterial infections are resistant to at least one commonly prescribed antibiotic, prompting CDC to announce that humanity has entered the “post-antibiotic era.” Among the most serious of these infections are caused by carbapenem-resistant Enterobactericeae (CRE), bacteria resistant to even last-line antibiotics. I study mechanisms of resistance in CREs, the stability and evolution of carbapenem resistance, and methods of treating septicemia caused by CREs.
Email:
taalinrasmussen@gmail.com

Weston Hutchison

PhD Student
Research Lab: Erickson
Research Description: Bovine mastitis is the infection of a cow's udder with bacteria or other infectious materials. Most of these are caused by E. coli. In order to cause mastitis, bacteria must evade the immune system and adhere to the cells in the udder. I study the way that certain strains of E. coli isolated from severe cases of mastitis adhere to and invade epithelial cells.

Email: westondhutchison@gmail.com

Kyson Jensen

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PhD Student
Research Lab: Griffitts
Research Description: The ability of microorganisms to adapt to environmental stressors is the key to their ability to occupy different ecological niches. No one microorganism can specialize to cope with every possible environmental stressor. This principle accounts for much of the diversity and niche specialization we commonly see in bacteria. The overall objective of my project is to understand the mechanism by which microorganisms adapt to environmental stressors, specifically towards toxic heavy metals. We have previously isolated closely related bacterial strains of the genus Mesorhizobium from both regular soils and heavy metal (serpentine) soils in northern California. While isolated strains are closely related, those from serpentine soils are significantly more tolerant to Ni. The aim of this project is to examine and identify molecular contributors to metal tolerance and evaluate how these tolerance mechanisms influence fitness in the absence of metal stress. This work will enhance our understanding of mechanisms of heavy metal tolerance and may provide clues about evolutionary pathways giving rise to this trait.
Email: kysonjensen@gmail.com

Daniel Johnson

Daniel Johnson
Masters Student
Research Lab: Wilson
Email: danielj96dj@gmail.com

Andrea Kokkonen

Masters Student
Research Lab: Evans
Research Description: I am looking at the evolutionary history of 9 subspecies of cutthroat trout. These fish are a popular native fish of western North America and their relationships to each other are still unresolved despite years of studies. I am looking to delineate these subspecies, specifically those in the Great Basin interior, by using RNA-seq to both examine expressed gene sequences and create a phylogenetic tree that finally resolves a centuries-long debate.

Email: andrealeenak@gmail.com

John Krapohl

Masters Student
Research Lab: Pickett
Research Description: Orthohantavirus (hantavirus) is a genus of potentially deadly zoonotic pathogens that can be passed from rodents to humans. Depending on the species of virus, humans can develop HFRS (hemorrhagic fever with renal syndrome) or HPS (hantavirus pulmonary syndrome),or have no disease at all. My goal is to characterize hantavirus infection through host transcriptional response, so that we might better understand how hantavirus causes disease in humans.
Email: jlkrapohl@gmail.com

Jessica Lewis

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PhD Student
Research Lab: McCleary
Research Description: I am interested in studying how phages interact with their hosts and am focusing on mapping the regions important for phage attachment in FhuA and PhoE-dependent phages. These phage receptors are outer membrane transporters that transport iron and inorganic phosphate into the cell, both of which are important for cell growth. Some well studied phages (T1 and T5) target FhuA and we are interested in comparing the binding sites utilized by our phages. Little, however, is known regarding which PhoE sites are necessary for phage attachment and which phage genes encode for a PhoE-dependent receptor binding protein. We are also interested in analyzing the impact phage receptor binding proteins have had on phage evolution. Better understanding how phages attach to their hosts, and what tactics they use to evolve, could aid in the development of more advanced phage therapeutics.
Email: lewisjessica919@gmail.com

Kayla Maas

Kayla Maas
Masters Student
Research Lab: Evans
Email: kaylamaas1253@gmail.com

McKay Meinzer

McKay Meinzer
Masters Student
Research Lab: Nielsen
Research Description: My research is on halophilic bacteria. A lot of the crop plants in the world grow poorly when in the presence of salt but since halophilic bacteria grow in a medium that has a high salt concentration, some halophilic bacteria are able to help plants grow in saline soils. We have previously shown that inoculating plants helps those plants to grow in saline conditions. I am studying the bacteria to determine if there are specific bacterial genes in these halophilic bacteria that allow them to aid in plant growth.
Email: mckaymeinzer@gmail.com

Ashley Miller

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Masters Student
Research Lab: Nielsen
Research Description: Did you know that we can inoculate plants against abiotic stressors like salt? I study an incredible interaction between alfalfa plants and select salt-loving bacteria called halophiles. Alfalfa (like most crop plants) is salt-sensitive. However, when salty soil with alfalfa seedlings is inoculated with special halophiles like H. Elongata 1H9 the alfalfa grows an average of 8X more plant mass than plants grown in salty soil without bacterial inoculation. In our lab we seek to find out how this interaction leads to increased growth. I am particularly interested in how 1H9 (bacteria) + salt influences gene expression within alfalfa root and shoot tissues. I hope that our research will be instrumental in improving agriculture productivity in the increasingly salty soils around the world.
Email: miller.ashley.kay@gmail.com

Carlos Moreno

Masters Student
Research Lab: Weber
Research Description: CD5 is a co-receptor on T cells that is currently being investigated as a potential target for cancer therapies and inflammatory disease. Our lab has recently discovered that CD5 inhibits T cell metabolism. One of my projects focuses on how CD5 inhibits T cell metabolism and the expression of metabolite transporters and metabolic enzymes, thus affecting T cell function and survivability. My hypothesis is that targeting CD5 improves T cell antitumor activity by enhancing the metabolic profile of T cells in tumor microenvironments. Within tumor microenvironments, tumor cells can inhibit the function of immune cells by hoarding nutrients and creating a nutrient scarce environment. If CD5 inhibits T cell metabolism, then blocking CD5 may enhance T cell metabolism and give these immune cells a fighting chance to survive and kill tumor cells in those nutrient scarce environments. Understanding how CD5 regulates T cell metabolism and function can provide important insight into immunotherapies. I’m also working on a project in which we are investigating whether CD5 is a good target to reduce inflammation in periodontal disease, a disease that affects 20-50% of people worldwide. Understanding how CD5 affects inflammation in periodontal disease may very well help with the treatment of this shockingly prevalent disease.

Email: carlosmoreno943@gmail.com

Melinda Moss

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PhD Student
Research Lab: Griffitts (MMBIO) & Taylor (NDFS)
Research Description: Lactose is a by-product of cheese and whey protein manufacturing that is generally considered a low-value ingredient in the food industry. Rare sugars on the other hand are highly valued due to their low-glycemic index and reduced calories, and in recent years a lot of work has been done to find and understand the enzymes that can convert abundant sugars like fructose to rare sugars. The goal of my project is to optimize the conversion of dairy lactose to rare sugars by cloning and expressing the enzymes required to hydrolyze the lactose and subsequently convert the resulting glucose and galactose into the rare sugars allulose and tagatose respectively.
Email: melinda_moss@hotmail.com

Colleen Newey

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Masters Student
Research Lab: Grose
Research Description: My research is investigating the role of the protein PAS Kinase in the development of stress granules, which are involved in a variety of diseases included ALS and cancer. I hope to better understand this pathway so it could be used as a target against these diseases.
Email: colleennewey@gmail.com

Abraham Quaye

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PhD Student
Research Lab: Poole
Research Description: Hemorrhagic enteritis is a viral disease of turkeys characterized by bloody diarrhea and immunosuppression caused by turkey hemorrhagic enteritis virus (THEV). An avirulent THEV strain called VAS that does not cause the disease in turkeys but retains some immunosuppressive ability is currently used as a live vaccine. Due to the immunosuppressive traits of VAS, vaccinated turkeys are more susceptible to secondary bacterial infections than unvaccinated cohorts, leading to substantial economic losses. My research focuses on identifying the VAS genes mediating its immunosuppressive traits and studying the mechanism of action of such genes. Ultimately, we hope to engineer a novel THEV strain with no immunosuppressive characteristics to be used as an improved vaccine.
Email: quayeabraham29@gmail.com

Joshua Ramsey

Joshua Ramsey
Masters Student
Research Lab: Berges
Email: sonofachef@hotmail.com

David Redd

Masters Student
Research Lab: Poole
Research Description: Vaccine hesitancy is an issue of great concern for public health officials and medical professionals. In order to better understand what factors affect vaccine hesitancy, I am crafting and distributing a series of surveys assessing history, attitudes, and knowledge of vaccination. Understanding what factors affect vaccine hesitancy will improve educational efforts and allow clinicians to better address concerns. Currently I am researching parental attitudes and other factors that influence adolescent HPV vaccine uptake.

Email: dsr.1991@gmail.com

Naomi Sharman

PhD Student
Research Lab: Pickett
Research Description: Balanced inflammation is a crucial process for protecting our bodies against threats. However, when inflammation becomes dysregulated, illnesses such as cancers and autoimmune diseases can develop. I'm using bioinformatics to compare gene expression in cancer and autoimmune disease to gain more insights about inflammation, and hopefully improve current treatments. In addition to a broad transcriptomic survey of inflammation, I'm specifically investigating anti-inflammatory lifestyle modification as a potential cancer-prevention treatment.

Email: naomi.rapier.sharman@gmail.com

Daniel Thompson

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PhD Student
Research Lab: Grose
Research Description: I am a third year PhD student currently researching phage biology. I received my undergraduate degree in Molecular Biology. I am interested in antibiotic resistant and spore forming bacteria, phage therapy and microbiome replacement research. I am currently working on novel treatments to improve Honey Bee health.
Email: d.william.thompson@gmail.com

Kiara Whitley

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PhD Student
Research Lab: Weber
Research Description: 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 the role of CD5, an inhibitory T cell co-receptor, in regulating T cell metabolism.
Email: kvwhitley17@gmail.com
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