Skip to main content

Student Directory

Daniel Arens
MMBIO/danielArens copy.jpeg
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
MMBIO/davidBates copy.jpeg
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.
Alexander Benedict
MMBIO/alexanderBenedict copy.jpg
PhD Student
Research Lab: Griffitts
Research Description: Sinorhizobium meliloti is a species of bacteria that is best known for its ability to engage in a symbiotic relationship with legume plant hosts. It also has a remarkable metabolic capacity that enables it to thrive in nutrient-limited soils. My research is focused generally on learning which genes contribute most to the fitness of this organism and, more specifically, on a subset of bacterial genes called peptidases that have the potential to modulate symbiotic outcome.
Timothy Call
MMBIO/rsz_timothy_call.jpg
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
MMBIO/DianaCalvopina.jpg
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.
John Carter
MMBIO/johnCarter copy.jpg
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.
Jessica Hawkins
MMBIO/JessicaHawkins.jpg
PhD Student
Research Lab: McCleary
Research Description: I am interested in studying how PhoE-dependent phages interact with their hosts. PhoE is an outer membrane porin that allows for phosphate to be transferred across the inner membrane of E. coli and has been shown to be a receptor for a few known phages. Little, however, is known regarding which PhoE sites are necessary for phage attachment and which phage genes encode for the receptor binding protein. We also want to analyze the impact phage receptor binding proteins have had on their 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.
Jacob Herring
MMBIO/jacobHerring copy.jpeg
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
MMBIO/taalinHoj copy.jpg
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. 
Kyson Jensen
MMBIO/KysonJensen.jpeg
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.
Antonio Solis Leal
MMBIO/antonioSolisLeal copy.jpeg
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
MMBIO/AshleyMiller copy.jpg
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.
Melinda Moss
MMBIO/MelindaMos.jpg
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.
Colleen Newey
Colleen Newey.jpg
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.
Michael Olson
Michael Olson
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
MMBIO/ElizabethPorter copy.jpg
Masters Student
Research Lab: Robison
Research Description: I am interested in how Yersinia pestis has evolved over time and space. I study the nucleotide variances of Y. pestis in specific regions within a period of time looking at how these changes vary in different regions of the world. I have employed Illumina as well as bioinformatic tools to parse through and evaluate the genetic evolution of the bacterial genomes.
Khin Zar Win Pyae
Khin Pyae.jpg
Masters Student
Research Lab: Griffitts
Research Description: For my MS project, I am interested in learning the mechanisms of stress adaptation in soil bacteria. And how specific genes can result in higher tolerance to heavy metal stress. To answer that question, I imposed heavy metal (Nickel) stress to bacteria, and then I employed next generation sequencing to hunt for Single Nucleotide Polymorphisms (SNPs) and other genetic variations in the stress-tolerant mutants.
Abraham Quaye
AbrahamQue.jpg
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.
Daniel Thompson
MMBIO/danielThompson2 copy.jpg
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.

Edwin Velazquez
MMBIO/edwinVelazquez copy.jpeg
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
MMBIO/kiaraVaden copy.jpeg
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.
overrideBackgroundColorOrImage= overrideTextColor= overrideTextAlignment= overrideCardHideSection= overrideCardHideByline= overrideCardHideDescription= overridebuttonBgColor= overrideButtonText=