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Student Directory

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.
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.
Ashlin Cowger
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Masters Student
Research Lab: Weber
Research Description: I study the role of dust mites and endotoxin in asthma.
Daniel Thompson
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Masters Student
Research Lab: Grose
Research Description: Research involves phage biology, and the relationship between phage and host bacterium and how resistance is achieved; either by mutation accumulation or by CRISPR methods.
Eliza Bitter
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Masters Student
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 .
Jenny Pattison
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Masters Student
Research Lab: Grose
Research Description: I am working the a protein kinase called PAS kinase that regulates cellular respiration. I am studying how this can be used as a target for metabolic disease in both yeast and mouse models.
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.
Taalin Hoj
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Masters Student
Research Lab: Robison
Research Description: I study mechanisms of carbapenem resistance in CREs.
Josie Tueller
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Masters Student
Research Lab: Weber
Research Description: CAR (chimeric antigen receptor) T cells are immune cells targeted to fight cancer. My research focuses on understanding how different combinations of receptors can influence the response, specifically looking at metabolism and energy utilization of these unique engineered T cells.
Elise Melhado
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Masters Student
Research Lab Grose
Research Description I study the relationship between PAS Kinase and stress granules in cells, focusing on Ataxin-2. These interactions could lead to potential treatments for ALS.
Trever Thurgood
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Masters Student
Research Lab: Grose
Research Description: I have a research emphasis on bacteriophage protein identification and characterization. This research is useful in a clinical setting because it can identify potential therapeutic targets in phage therapy as well as identify harmful genes and proteins to avoid using in human treatments, such as those encoding for toxins or antibiotic resistance.
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.
John Carter
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PhD Student
Research Lab: Johnson
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
Kai Li Ong
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PhD Student
Research Lab: Grose
Research Description: 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.
Kiara Vaden
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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 developing antibodies that specifically target a novel cancer cell surface marker. This research can be applied to vaccine and immunotherapeutic design.
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.
Ruchira Sharma
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PhD Student
Research Lab: Grose
Research Description: 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.
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