Class of 2010
Track 1 MD/PhD
Degrees: Indiana University: B.S. Biology (Honors), B.S. Cognitive Science, B.A. History, certificate in the Liberal Arts and Management Program, 2008, M.B.A. Entrepreneurship and Corporate Innovation, 2010
Research Interests: Computational neuroscience, computational modeling, dynamical systems, systems neuroscience, cellular neuroscience
Jeff's central interest is how the dynamics of a complex system are shaped by the behavior of its individual components. As a researcher, Jeff initially examined this principle in the context of animal behavior, teasing apart the environmental factors that determine the exploratory behaviors of rats with IU professor William Timberlake. Jeff then joined IU professor Olaf Sporns in the field of systems computational neuroscience, examining the effects of localized brain damage on the activity of the rest of human cortex. Both research projects produced conference presentations and first author publications. While at the NIH and the University of Cambridge, Jeff will continue in computational neuroscience; he would like to identify what features of neuron models are necessary to produce whole brain models with systems dynamics similar to those seen in humans.
Academically, Jeff has studied the ramifications of individual components on a larger system in a variety of fields besides the life sciences, including comparative history, macroeconomics, and organizational studies. While completing degrees in many of these subjects from Indiana University, he has studied on exchange at the Australian National University and Fundação Getulio Vargas in Brazil. In addition to practicing Spanish and Portuguese, Jeff enjoys playing all varieties of games, athletics, and spending far too much time reading things on the Internet.
Degrees: University of Cambridge: MPhil Pathology, 2010; University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill: BA Chemistry (Highest Honors and Distinction), 2009
Research Interests: Biochemistry, RNA biology, structural biology, mechanisms of control of gene expression
Katie Deigan graduated from the University of North Carolina - Chapel Hill in 2009 with a Bachelor of Arts in Chemistry. As an undergraduate researcher, she spent three years in the lab of Dr. Kevin Weeks examining the problem of accurate predictions of RNA structure. The Weeks lab invented a technology for probing RNA structure, SHAPE chemistry, that allows for the analysis of the flexibility of each nucleotide in an RNA. One of her main projects involved incorporating quantitative data from a SHAPE experiment into an RNA folding algorithm to more accurately predict the structure of large RNA molecules. With this technology, she was able to predict the secondary structure of the E. coli 16S rRNA (1542 nucleotides) and a set of smaller RNAs (75-155 nucleotides) with accuracies of up to 96-100%.
Katie published the results of this work in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science in early 2009. She also presented her work at the annual meeting of the RNA Society in Berlin, Germany in 2008, at the Beckman Scholars Symposium in Irvine, CA in 2009, and at the annual meeting of the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology in New Orleans, LA in 2009, where she won the poster prize for RNA: Processing, Transport, and Regulatory Mechanisms. Her undergraduate thesis was awarded highest honors and distinction.
Katie's undergraduate education and research was funded by a National Merit Scholarship, several undergraduate research awards through UNC Office of Undergraduate Research and the UNC Chemistry department, and a Beckman Scholarship.
In 2009, Katie received a Churchill Scholarship, and is currently pursuing an MPhil in Pathology at the University of Cambridge. Her current research focuses on the structure of an RNA readthrough signal in retroviruses. Katie is very interested in RNA in general, and especially how it can form complex structures that allow it to carry out so many diverse functions. For her PhD, Katie hopes to investigate the chemistry and structural biology of riboswitches.
Katie studied abroad on a UNC Honors semester in London, England, where she studied art, history, music, and British politics. Katie enjoys cycling around Cambridge and currently rows for Churchill College for the Women's First boat. Katie also enjoys the ease of travelling (both in the UK and abroad) that comes with studying in Cambridge.
Degree: Virginia Polytechnic Institute, B.S. Mechanical Engineering, 2010
Research Interests: Cancer research (specifically breast cancer), biomedical engineering, nanotechnology
Thao Do will graduate in May 2010 with a Bachelor of Science in mechanical engineering. She is a native of Vietnam, currently living in Springfield, VA. Through undergraduate research experiences at Virginia Tech, Harvard University, and the Naval Research Laboratory in Washington, D.C., Do stumbled into the field of biomedical engineering while developing applications for micro and nanotechnology. She learned that these technologies can be used to image and treat cancer in non-invasive methods, which can dramatically improve the quality of life for patients.
Her ultimate career goal: Find non-invasive methods to diagnose and treat breast cancer and work with biomedical engineering researchers around the globe, especially her native country, Vietnam. After she earns a doctorate degree, she is planning to teach science and engineering courses by incorporating techniques used by actors, musicians, and artists.
Degree: Johns Hopkins University, B.S. Biomedical Engineering, 2009, Minor in Economics
Research Interests: Biosensing, Synthetic Biology
Ryan, a Baltimore City native, graduated from Johns Hopkins University in 2009. His primary research interest is biosensing, with an emphasize on electrochemical and whole-cell sensing methods. Other interests include molecular recognition and rational protein design.
He is currently a DNA Hacker at Ginkgo Bioworks, a Boston-based synthetic biology startup where he develops software to support the rapid prototyping of engineered biological systems. Ryan's academic home however, has been the laboratory of Dr. Jeffrey Gray at Johns Hopkins University, where he began working in 2003.
As a member of the Gray lab, he served as a developer for the Rosetta Protein Structure Prediction Suite modeling pH-sensitive proteins and protein-protein interactions. His diverse research interest have also brought him to a variety of companies and research institutions including Ion Torrent Systems, Weill Cornell Medical College and the National Institute of Material Science (Tsukuba, Japan). He has two patents pending, one for a multi-functional neck brace; the other for the synthesis of an insulated conducting polymer.
Outside the lab, Ryan enjoys serving as a light designer and sound technician for student and community theater.
NIH-Oxford and Marshall Scholar
Degrees: BS and MS in Chemistry, Yale University, 2010
Research Interests: Synthetic organic chemistry, computational chemistry, pharmaceutical discovery
A native of New York City, James Luccarelli will graduate Phi Beta Kappa from Yale University with B.S. and M.S. degrees in Chemistry. James began his research career in the lab of Professor David Sulzer at Columbia University. While he spent most of his time trying not to break anything, his project investigated developmental signals for dopaminergic neurons. At Yale, James developed an interest in computational chemistry in the lab of Professor William Jorgensen. For his thesis, he worked to evaluate the accuracy of computational techniques for modeling drug binding. With funding from the Marshall Scholarship; Oriel College, Oxford; and the NIH, he will design and synthesize small molecule inhibitors of protein-protein interactions in the lab of Professor Andrew Hamilton at Oxford.
Outside the lab, James is an Emergency Medical Technician. As Chief of Yale's student EMS service, he oversaw the implementation of a scholarship program and a migration to electronic medical records. He also trained in WMD response with the US Army and Department of Homeland Security. For three years he competed in national and international debates as a member of the Yale Debate Association. He was also a coxswain for the Yale heavyweight crew team, and is excited to return to a crew shell at Oxford.
James is a Track 3 M.D./Ph.D. student, and will enter the HST program of Harvard Medical School upon completing his D.Phil.
Degree: University of Alabama at Birmingham, B.S. in Biology with Molecular Biology Concentration and Honors in Science and Technology, 2010
Research Interests: Infectious Diseases, Parasitology, Microbial Pathogenesis
Aaron Neal graduated magna cum laude from the University of Alabama at Birmingham in 2010 with a Bachelor of Science degree in Biology, concentrating in Molecular Biology, and Honors in Biology and Science and Technology. A native of Huntsville, Alabama, Aaron left the NASA engineering town for the biomedical research environment of Birmingham. Through UAB’s Science and Technology Honors Program, he began conducting research his sophomore year in the Geographic Medicine laboratory of Dr. Julian Rayner. Aaron’s honors thesis considered the genetics of the malaria vaccine candidate Plasmodium falciparum Merozoite Surface Protein 6, a dimorphic protein expressed during the asexual stage of P. falciparum malaria. His project utilized parasite DNA collected from blood samples provided by infected patients enrolled in an ongoing longitudinal cohort study in the Peruvian Amazon. Aaron’s research allowed him to travel to the Amazon, present at many conferences, win a 2009 Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship, and publish a first author manuscript in Malaria Journal.
After completing his project in Dr. Rayner’s laboratory, Aaron spent the following summer working with Dr. Magnus Höök at the University of Texas Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences at Houston. His project examined the interactions between the αM I-domain of neutrophil surface integrin αM-β2, fibrinogen, and the Staphylococcus aureus secreted protein Extracellular Fibrinogen-binding Protein. Specifically, Aaron was tasked with generating four recombinant αM I-domain mutants to assess the binding affinities of αM-β2 and Efb to fibrinogen in ELISA-type assays.
From his experiences in the lab and in the field, Aaron has developed a great interest in infectious diseases of global importance. He is fascinated by the complexities of parasitic diseases, particularly the resilient and elusive nature of the causative eukaryotic pathogens. For his doctoral research, Aaron hopes to continue in the malaria field through the NIAID Laboratory of Malaria and Vector Research. Away from the lab, Aaron is passionate about science education and teaches at local elementary schools, high schools, and at UAB. He also enjoys listening to classical music, creating art, playing soccer, and traveling.
Degree: Michigan State University, B.S. Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, 2010
Research Interests: Neurodegeneration, signal transduction, neuron-glia interactions, apoptosis
Catherine Nezich graduated with Honors from Michigan State University in 2010 with a Bachelor of Science degree in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology. A native of Marquette in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, Catherine was first introduced to international science when the National Science Foundation chose her as one of twenty-five U.S. participants for their Youth Science Leadership Institute in 2006. At MSU, she began conducting research her freshman year through a Professorial Assistantship awarded by MSU’s Honors College. She worked for a year in Dr. Beronda Montgomery-Kaguri’s plant biochemistry laboratory where she contributed to mutational studies of a cyanobacterial photoreceptor and then spent her sophomore year in the organic chemistry laboratory of Dr. Robert Maleczka. There, she worked to optimize the oxidation of borylated arenes by direct iridium-catalyzed C-H functionalization.
Catherine pursued a summer internship in 2007 at the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism and explored the effects of ethanol and glucose deprivation on the in vitro cytosolic redox state of liver cells and activity of SIRT1, an NAD-dependent histone deacetylase, under the supervision of Dr. Richard Veech. The following summer, Catherine worked with Dr. Fred Fleitz as an intern at Merck Chemical Co., Inc. in Rahway, NJ as part of the Biocatalysis Group in the Process Research division. She was responsible for analyzing the oxidation activity of several BM3 bacterial enzyme variants on model pharmaceutical compounds, with the hope of developing faster, easier, and less expensive ways to synthesize common and unique oxygenated compounds for further drug development. Catherine’s current research project with Dr. Christina Chan at MSU, initiated in the fall of 2008, concentrates on studying the biophysical role of saturated free fatty acids in cell signaling, and how they are involved in ER stress, particularly the Unfolded Protein Response. She has presented two posters at the NIH and MSU, and contributed to one full peer-review article that is in review. During her undergraduate years, she was the recipient of various honors including a Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship as a sophomore, an Honorary Cambridge Overseas Trust Scholarship, and the Dean’s List every semester.
For her PhD, Catherine is interested in studying signaling pathways associated with neurodegeneration, particularly Alzheimer’s Disease, seeking to slow or prevent neuron loss. In the future, Catherine aims to expand our understanding of cell-environment interactions during disease pathologies and thereby be better positioned to discover compounds that can inhibit or reverse deleterious alterations that occur. Away from the lab, she has served as a Resident Mentor (RA) for two years in a science residential dorm as well as a biochemistry tutor and course assistant. She was on the executive board of Tower Guard, an honor society that assists students with disabilities, and is an active member of her church, having both participated in or student led three alternative spring break trips to Puebla, Mexico and Decatur, Alabama. She also enjoys playing soccer and basketball, running, cycling, reading, and traveling.
Degree: University of Florida, B.S. Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, 2010
Research Interests: Metabolomics, Molecular diagnostics, Induced pluripotency
Steven Robinette is a senior at the University of Florida and will graduate summa cum laude in May 2010 with a B.S. degree in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology. Son of an Air Force flight surgeon, Steven grew up across the United States and abroad, living in six US States and Okinawa Japan before graduating from high school in Niceville, FL. As an undergraduate, Steven has pursued research projects in the field of metabolomics with UF’s Professor Art Edison and has been extensively supported by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute funded Science for Life program. He has published six peer-reviewed publications during his time as an undergraduate. Steven spent his junior year as a Barry M. Goldwater scholar at Imperial College working with Jeremy Nicholson’s group developing computational methods in metabolomics and will return to Imperial as a Marshall Scholar in September 2010.
Steven’s research experience consists of a heterogeneous combination of topics and projects unified by his focus on metabolic profiling by nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) and statistical and bioinformatic data analysis. In 2008, Steven developed the Complex Mixture Analysis by NMR (COLMAR) web server platform for metabolic profiling with Rafael Bruschweiler at Florida State University. At Imperial College in 2009, Steven developed Cluster Analysis Statistical Spectroscopy (CLASSY) as a method to characterize quantitative trajectories of metabolites from 1D 1H NMR spectra of complex mixtures. Together, CLASSY and COLMAR have provided a platform for Steven to profile sets of metabolites in human and animal biofluids and tissues and quantitatively characterize changes in metabolite levels due to stressors such as toxicity, parasitic infection, mutations, and drug action.
Steven will continue his work in computational metabolomics as a Marshall Scholar at Imperial College. In partnering with the NIH, Steven plans to apply his work in ‘omics to a more focused set of biomedical problems. His interests include molecular diagnostics and integration of genetic and metabolic information to assess disease progression and predict therapeutic response. Steven is also interested in stem cell biology, especially the use of induced pluripotent stem cells as an in vitro model of human disease. Steven will be funded by an NSF graduate research fellowship while at the NIH. Outside of the lab, Steven volunteers at Art Edison’s 4-H Science Club for elementary students. An avid rock climber, Steven looks forward to exploring the granite of Cornwall and the gritstone of the Peak District in the UK.
Degrees: University of Oxford: M.Sc in Integrative Bio-Science, 2010; California State University Los Angeles: B.S. in Biology, 2008
Research Interests: Genetics
Natasha is interested in applying an improved understanding of genetics to problems with health relevance. She is now studying at Oxford for a Master’s degree in Integrative Bio-Science. Currently, she is finishing her first Master’s project in the Hal Drakesmith lab on the putative links between viral infection and iron metabolism control. A native of Los Angeles, Natasha graduated California State University Los Angeles in 2008 magna cum laude at the age of undergraduate research eighteen after having attended CSULA through the Early Entrance Program. Her project was in the Andrew Charles laboratory of UCLA, where she studied the effects of adenosine on neurons during their development using confocal microscopy and video analysis.
During her undergraduate years, she was the recipient of various honors including a Phi Kappa Phi Fellowship, the Beta Beta Beta Biological Honor Society, and the Dean’s List on multiple occasions. She was and continues to be involved in a range of student clubs and organizations. In a year off prior to attending Oxford, Natasha volunteered at nearby hospitals, taught MCAT preparation classes to pre-med students, improved her classical cello skills, and trained as a scuba diver. Apart from research, Natasha enjoys comedy, debating, travel, and cooking. She is excited to be joining the NIH OxCam Scholars Program this year.
Degrees: Texas Christian University, B.A. Biology and Chemistry, 2008; UT Southwestern Medical School, M.D. candidate, in progress.
Research Interests: Autophagy, Immunology, Global Health
Born and raised in Omaha, Nebraska, Bennett Waxse left for Forth Worth, Texas in 2004 to study biology at TCU. Although focused on becoming a practicing physician, he kept an open eye toward research throughout his undergraduate career, participating in a variety of projects along the way. Specifically, after his freshman year, he joined the lab of Joe Sisson, MD at the University of Nebraska Medical Center to help investigate signaling pathways that underlie ciliary beating in bronchial epithelial cells. Throughout the latter half of his undergraduate career, Bennett participated in two concurrent honors theses under the guidance of Ginelle Gellert, PhD
in immunology and Onofrio Annunziata, PhD in physical chemistry. Under the guidance of Dr. Gellert, Bennett identified the expression of various A Disintegrin and Metalloproteinase (ADAM) proteins in Natural Killer Cells and with Dr. Annunziata, he developed and characterized two novel preparations of albumin crosslinking using polyvinyl alcohol and dextran. After four seemingly brief years, he graduated Phi Beta Kappa from TCU in 2008 with a degree with honors in biology and chemistry.
With sights still locked on medicine, Bennett chose to attend UT Southwestern Medical School in Dallas, TX. Prior to matriculation, he worked on IRIDESCENT (a collection of php-based algorithms) to identify potential candidates for Multiple Sclerosis drug repurposing in the laboratory of Harold “Skip” Garner, PhD. After a year of medical coursework, he began his most recent research appointment in the laboratory of Joseph Hill, MD, PhD. Under the guidance of Dr. Hill and postdoctoral fellow Andrew Blagg, PhD, Bennett investigated the importance of autophagy in the heterotopically transplanted murine heart (a model of cardiac atrophy). Launching from preliminary data that was collected before his arrival, Bennett further elucidated the upregulation of autophagy in cardiac atrophy using markers of autophagy-dependent processes (e.g., mitochondrial degradation, aggregate degradation, etc.). Also, he began to establish in vivo pharmacological models of altered autophagy that could accompany previously developed genetic means. Both projects conducted at UT Southwestern culminated in a campus-wide symposium of medical student research and for his project in cardiac autophagy, Bennett was selected as one of eight students to present his work at the symposium.
Since his first medical school lecture, Bennett has spent a great deal of time realizing the importance of scientific discovery, not only in the practice of medicine, but also in his professional life as a physician scientist. As he looks onward with great anticipation, areas of interest unsurprisingly include a continued study of autophagy. Now that robust techniques are available to concretely identify changes in autophagy, both malicious and beneficial effects will soon jump into focus, and Bennett is eager to see where resultant pharmacological manipulations take medicine. In addition, with a research past of repeated variety, he is also interested in other projects that might align with a newly discovered clinical interest in infectious disease. Besides sitting at a bench or medical school carrel, Bennett has also spent a great deal of time realizing the importance diversity and balance play in a fulfilling life. Over the last year, he helped manage a student-run free medical clinic, organized an orientation weekend for incoming students and chaired a campus-wide health fair for the underserved and uninsured of North Dallas. To get his blood pumping, Bennett played on an intramural volleyball team (the aptly named “Ace Inhibitors”) and will always enjoy laying out for a disc in Ultimate Frisbee. Musical obsessions and website creation also vie for free time when it rears its head.
Degrees: University of California, San Diego, B.S. General Biology, B.A Computer Arts, 2007; Medical school: Johns Hopkins School of Medicine entering class of 2008
Research Interests: Neuronal migration, nerve regeneration, neuro-oncology
Luke Wylie's academic career began in the arts as an aspiring music composer. However, after watching his father go through the trials of cancer chemotherapy, his career goals shifted toward medicine. As an undergrad at UCSD, Luke worked with Dr. Jacopo Annese to develop novel techniques to image neural fiber orientation based on polarized light microscopy. His growing interest in basic neuroscience research then led him to study with Dr. Terrence Sejnowski at the Salk institute where he expanded on his previous knowledge in imaging to develop methods to visualize activity of large populations of neurons based on two-photon microscopy and calcium sensitive dyes. At the Salk, Luke saw firsthand the potential that research had to positively impact society on a large scale.
In his first year of medical school at Johns Hopkins, while working in the laboratory of Dr. Shanthini Sockanathan, Luke was awarded the American Academy of Neurology Medical Student Research Scholarship. This enabled him to to explore whether genes required to properly organize the neural circuitry within the developing fetus have a role within the adult after acute nerve injury. At the project's end, Luke had identified two interesting candidates that may activate axonal outgrowth after acute nerve regeneration. In addition these candidates may also erroneously become activated in subtypes of glioblastoma contributing to its invasive spread throughout the brain. As a Cambridge scholar Luke hopes to continue his exploration of neurodevelopmental genes' role in the adult and to search for potential therapies to activate these genes in nerve regeneration and to dampen their response in neuronal malignancies.
Luke continues to write music, is an avid photographer and triathlete, and is looking forward to picking up rowing in the United Kingdom.
The following students have been accepted into Track 1 of the NIH MD/PhD Partnership Training Program. They will begin their full time PhD research in the summer of 2011.
Degrees: University of Akron, B.S. Natural Sciences, 2009; Northeastern Ohio Universities College of Medicine, M.D. candidate, entering class of 2009
Research Interests: Stem cell biology, Tissue engineering/reprogramming, Neuroscience, Global health
Stan Wang graduated summa cum laude from the University of Akron in 2009 with a Bachelor of Science degree in Natural Sciences, along with minors in Spanish and Chemistry. In addition to being the University of Akron’s first Rhodes Scholar finalist, Stan’s long list of accolades includes a Golden Key Graduate Scholar Award, Tylenol Scholarship, and Mortar Board National Foundation Fellowship. Stan received a Laura W. Bush Traveling Fellowship via the U.S. Department of State and UNESCO to help oversee a public health pilot program he began to improve child and maternal health in rural Ghana, for which he has also been recognized as a New Investigator in Global Health by the Global Health Council.
During college, Stan served as the president or vice-president of three campus organizations. He also founded and served as a team leader for the University’s first international alternative spring break project to work with orphans in the Dominican Republic. Since beginning medical school, Stan has taken on leadership roles in several national and international organizations, including being a current National Officer on Research Exchange for the American Medical Student Association and a member of its International Advisory Council. Stan is continuing his passion for grassroots service and understanding the progressive interrelationship of poverty, hunger, and disease by serving on the board of two non-profit organizations.
As an undergraduate, Stan’s clinical research with Dr. Gonzalo Gonzalez-Stawinski at the Cleveland Clinic involved analyzing the associated morbidities and mortalities of heart transplantation as a reoperative surgery, along with understanding the long-term impact of ventricular assist device-associated infections in patients bridged to transplantation. Stan’s senior honors thesis, undertaken with Dr. Marc Penn at the Cleveland Clinic, aided in implementing a system to enhance the differentiation of cardiomyocytes from mouse embryonic stem cells through the delivery of transcription factors via cell-penetrating peptides. He has presented his work at over ten conferences worldwide. Stan’s current research to better elucidate the mechanisms underlying neointimal response to stents includes a collaborative project in vascular and neurological surgery between Brigham and Women’s Hospital, the Massachusetts General Hospital, and Harvard Medical School.
For his Ph.D. work starting in 2011, Stan aims to utilize stem cell processes to discover novel methods for modeling and innovating treatments for neurodegenerative diseases and other neurological conditions. In his spare time, Stan is an avid traveler and has explored more than twenty different countries across five continents. He also enjoys playing piano and composing music, participating in triathlons, along with learning new languages and about cultures while traveling the world.
The following students have been accepted into Track 1 of the NIH MD/PhD Partnership Training Program. They will begin their full time PhD research in the summer of 2012.
Degree: University of Washington, B.S. in Biochemistry, B.A. in Chemistry
Research Interests: Immunology; Infectious disease; Global health
Andrew Ishizuka grew up just outside Seattle on Mercer Island, WA, graduating with Honors from the University of Washington in 2010 with degrees in Biochemistry and Chemistry. Andrew’s professional interests continue to evolve. Ultimately, he aims to combine his passion for understanding the fundamental rules that govern the natural world with his ideals of global equality. Andrew has spent time in rural Sierra Leone researching challenges to economic development, and also spent time in Peru working in a small health clinic. For three years, Andrew has worked in the lab of Dr. Patrick Duffy at Seattle Biomedical Research Institute, searching for protective antigens in a mouse model of malaria. In the NIH-Oxford Graduate Partnership Program, Andrew plans to continue working on viral vectors for a malaria vaccine.
Andrew was elected to Phi Beta Kappa as a sophomore and has received numerous awards from the Department of Chemistry including the CRC Freshman Achievement Award, the Hyp Dauben Award, and the Merck Index Award. Additionally, Andrew is the recipient of the Henry K. Benson Scholarship in Chemistry, two Mary Gates Research Fellowships, the Astronaut Scholarship Foundation Award, and Honorable Mention for the Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship. Andrew is a Track 1 MD-PhD student and will begin studying clinical medicine at Duke University in August 2010. In September 2012, he will begin graduate work in the NIH-Oxford GPP. Outside the lab, Andrew maintains interests in cooking, photography, and a number of sports.
Degree: University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, B.S. Molecular and Cellular Biology, Chemistry, and Spanish, 2009
Research Interests: Cancer therapeutics, organic synthesis, drug development
Linda Marie Johnson graduated summa cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa with a Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign with majors in Chemistry, Molecular and Cellular Biology, and Spanish. At Illinois, Linda was an organic chemistry TA and physiology tutor and graduated with many honors, including the Senior 100 Award for outstanding leadership and extracurricular participation on campus.
At the University of Illinois, Linda participated in organic chemistry research with Professor Martin Burke and physiology research with Professor Esmail Meisami. In Professor Burke’s lab, Linda studied Amphotericin B, an antifungal drug naturally produced by the bacterium Streptomyces nodosus. By gaining a greater understanding of AmB’s antifungal activity via channel formation, the Burke lab hopes to synthesize derivatives of AmB with less severe side effects and greater efficacy. Specifically, the hydroxyl group on carbon 35 in AmB is thought to play a key role in forming dimers spanning the lipid bilayer. To prove the structure-function relationship between this hydroxyl group and channel formation, Linda worked to synthesize a derivative of AmB missing the C35 hydroxyl group to test ion channel formation of the derivative. Linda also studied the effects of hypothyroidism on the brain with Professor Esmail Meisami in the physiology department at the University of Illinois. After graduating from Illinois in May 2009, Linda worked for one year as a Cancer Research Training Award Fellow at the National Cancer Institute. Working with Dr. Ronald Gress, Linda studied how the different cell types of the thymus interact to regulate thymopoiesis, which is important in improving thymic function after organ damaging procedures such as irradiation and chemotherapy.
Linda is a Track 1 MD/PhD student; she will begin studying medicine at Washington University in St. Louis in August 2010 and will begin graduate work at The University of Oxford and the NIH in September 2012. Outside the lab, Linda loves sports, especially long distance running and has completed several marathons.
Degree: University of Virginia, BS Chemistry
Research Interests: Genetics and Infectious Disease
Monica Kasbekar attended the University of Virginia as a Jefferson Scholar, graduating with highest distinction in 2010 with a Bachelor of Science in Chemistry and a minor in Spanish. As an undergraduate, Monica became interested in synthetic chemistry and joined the group of Professor W. Dean Harman, whose laboratory specializes in the dearomatization of aromatic molecules. The techniques developed in his lab provide a useful tool for synthesizing complex organic structures from aromatic precursors under benign conditions. Monica’s investigations focused on the synthesis, isolation, and manipulation of a metal complex containing a dearomatized 1-methylindole ligand, a relative of the tryptophan side chain. Her work resulted in co-authorship of a publication in Organometallics.
Before graduating from UVA, Monica was inducted into Phi Beta Kappa and received the American Chemical Society Virginia Section Award and the Francis Carey Undergraduate Teaching Award for her work with honors chemistry students. Monica aspires to be a physician scientist, and she is now a student in the Track 1 MD/PhD program. She is studying medicine at Washington University in St. Louis and will conduct her PhD with Dr. Craig Thomas (NIH/NCATS) and Professor Chris Abell (University of Cambridge). Her work will involve the design and synthesis of small molecule therapeutics directed against cells infected with Mycobacterium tuberculosis. Outside of the lab, Monica enjoys traveling, swimming, and reading.
Degree: Yale University, BS Molecular Biophysics and Biochemistry
Research Interests: Infectious Diseases
After growing up in rural Virginia and the Pacific Northwest, Sun returned to the east coast to study Molecular Biophysics and Biochemistry at Yale University. During this time, she had the opportunity to cultivate her interests in the sciences and women's health. Traveling to the Amazonian rainforest, Sun had the chance to work with indigenous botanists to search for plants that might yield therapeutic agents for the treatment of preterm birth, a leading complication of pregnancy. This work led to the discovery of a bioactive novel genus of fungus that lived in symbiosis with a carnivorous plant.
Sun's undergraduate experience solidified her interest in obstetric disease. However, it also highlighted the lack of scientific study into the etiologies and treatments of diseases affecting women and pregnancy. Given that pregnancy affects every person born, and that pregnancy complications disproportionately affect our world's most vulnerable populations, she found this lack of inquiry unsatisfactory.
As a result, Sun chose to pursue a career as an obstetrician physician-scientist and is currently an NIH-Cambridge MD/PhD Scholar at Harvard Medical School. Her PhD project will be a collaboration between Dr. DS Charnock-Jones' lab in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology and Dr. Patrick Duffy's lab in NIAID, and will examine how malarial infection of the placenta leads to poor outcomes for mothers and infants.
Outside of the lab, Sun is an avid oboe player and a big fan of opera. She particularly enjoys Mozart, including his many delightful operatic works, in addition to other music from the early and classical eras. She also loves good food, great company, and going on new adventures!
Degree: Central Michigan University, BS Biomedical Science and Neuroscience
Research Interests: Genetics and Infectious Disease
Steven Witte graduated from CMU (2010) with majors in both Biomedical Science and Neuroscience. During his training in the NIH Oxford Cambridge Scholars Program, Steve hopes to apply his experience molecular genetics, computational biology, and cell biology to understanding the mechanisms of autoimmune diseases. His lifelong interest in scientific research began to take hold his first year of college in the lab of Dr. Eric Linton, where he studied the molecular evolution of members of the Euglenoid genus. Soon after, Steven became focused on translational research, and began investigating the potential of iPS cells as a therapy for Huntington’s disease in the lab of Dr. Gary Dunbar. Steven also spent time working with mathematician Dr. Leela Rakesh computationally analyzing the folding and structure of large RNA molecules, and was also a summer student at the NIH in the lab of Dr. John O’Shea, where he gained experience in the complex field of cytokine immunoregulation.
Steven will conduct his Ph.D work in the NIH Oxford Cambridge MD/Ph.D Program by working on a collaborative project between Dr. Stefan Muljo (NIAID/NIH) and Dr. Allan Bradley (Sanger/University of Cambridge). He will be developing methods to analyze large genomic datasets for non-coding RNA that may play important roles in human development and disease, and will study their function in vivo using targeted knock-out mouse models. As part of the program, Steven will also attend medical school at the University of Alabama at Birmingham.
Steven has also maintained an avid interest in global health and has worked hard to decrease the access to medicines crises. He has been an active member of the student organization Universities Allied for Essential Medicines (UAEM), founding and presiding over chapters at both Central Michigan University and the University of Alabama at Birmingham. Steven has also worked on campaigns at the national level with UAEM by serving as the leader of a policy working group.
Steven also enjoys music and rockclimbing. He has studied piano under Russian pianist Yakov Kasman and was also part of a jazz ensemble while at CMU. Steven was also a collegiate debater, and has won awards at both the state and national level.