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Student Directory

Daniel Arens
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PhD Student
Research Lab: Grose
Research Description: 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.
David Bates
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PhD Student
Research Lab: Johnson
Alexander Benedict
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Masters Student
Research Lab: Griffitts
Research Description: 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.
Eliza Bitter
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Masters Student
Lab: O'Neill
Research Description: My main focus is understanding tumor surface markers present on various hematological malignancies, lymphomas, and other cancer types which include leukemia, breast and lung .
Timothy Call
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Masters Student
Research Lab: Berges
Research Description: My research involves the study of Staphylococcus aureus and the accompanying virulence factors. Currently I am researching S. aureus biofilm mechanisms and characteristics by investigating the genes and proteins involved. By studying S. aureus biofilm, I hope to find novel remedies and disruptors.
Diana Calvopina
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PhD Student
Research Lab: Griffitts
John Carter
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PhD Student
Research Lab: Johnson
Israel Guerrero
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PhD Student
Research Lab: Robison
Research Description: 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.
Jessica Hawkins
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PhD Student
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.
Taalin Hoj
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PhD Student
Research Lab: Robison
Research Description: I study extensively antibiotic-resistant bacteria.
Kyson Jensen
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PhD Student
Research Lab: Griffitts
Deborah Johnson
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PhD Student
Research Lab: Weber
Research Description: 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.
Shalee Killpack
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Masters Student
Research Lab: Wilson
Research Description: My research is focused on understanding how the pathogen Staphylococcus aureus acquires iron in the mammary gland. This is of interest as S. aureus is the leading cause of human mastitis, an infection of mammary gland tissue. I aim to elucidate which genes are essential in obtaining iron in the unique environment of mammary tissue and milk, and thus could be important virulence factors in mastitis.
Antonio Solis Leal
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PhD Student
Research Lab: Berges
Research Description: 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
Ashley Miller
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Masters Student
Research Lab: Nielsen
Melinda Moss
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PhD Student
Lab: Tessem
Michael Olson
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PhD Student
Research Lab: Erickson
Research Description: 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.
Elizabeth Porter
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Masters Student
Research Lab: Robison
Abraham Que
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PhD Student
Ann-Aubrey Reid
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Masters Student
Research Lab: Robison
Research Description: 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.
Daniel Thompson
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Masters Student
Research Lab: Grose
Research Description: I am a second year Masters student researching phage biology. I received my undergraduate degree in Molecular Biology. I am interested in antibiotic resistant bacteria and phage therapy and microbiome replacement research. I am currently working on novel treatments to improve Honey Bee health.
Edwin Velazquez
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PhD Student
Research Lab: O'Neill
Research Description: 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.
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.
Ya Zhang
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Masters Student
Research Lab: Erickson
Research Description: I am engineering E.coli to make it more antibiotic resistant and less in virulance. This can be achieved by inserting a gene by tranposon or knock out by gene recombination. In the same time, I am investigating more efficient ways for bacteria genome engineering, for example, applying CRISPR to introduce mutation, insertion or truncation.
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