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OxCam Student Profiles - Class of 2017

Adriano Bellotti
Steven Castellano
Charles Coomer
Bridget Larman
Hannah Mason
Nicole Mihelson
Jyothi Purushotham
Ramiro Andrei Ramirez-Valdez

Track 1 MD/PhD starting PhD Training Phase

Victoria Avanzato
Jonathan Liang
Allison Meadows
Michael Metrick
Zinan Zhang

Vicky Avanzato

Victoria Avanzato
NIH Oxford Scholar
MD/PhD

Mentors:
Dr. Vincent Munster (NIAID-RML) &
Prof. Thomas Bowden (Oxford)

Degrees: The Pennsylvania State University, B.S. in Immunology and Infectious Diseases (with honors) and B.S. in Toxicology (minor in French Horn Performance), 2015; Medical student at Emory University School of Medicine (in progress)

Research Interests: virology, emerging pathogens, tropical medicine/infectious disease

 

Vicky graduated with highest distinction and honors from The Pennsylvania State University, Schreyer Honors College, earning dual degrees in Immunology and Infectious Disease, and Toxicology, with a minor in French Horn Performance. She worked in the lab of Dr. Girish Kirimanjeswara, where she completed her honors thesis. Her research tested small molecule inhibitors of the trans translation pathway used by Francisella tularensis and evaluated virulence factors in a mutant strain as a potential for a vaccine lead. Vicky spent a summer working with Dr. Kah Whye Peng at the Mayo Clinic evaluating oncolytic virus therapy against endometrial cancer. The following summer, she worked with Dr. Nikos Vasilakis at the University of Texas Medical Branch characterizing the immune response to dengue fever and optimizing detection techniques. Additionally, she coauthored four publications and presented two posters at the American Society for Microbiology Annual Meeting.
As an undergraduate, Vicky traveled to Panama, Ghana, and Nicaragua with the Global Medical Brigades. These trips fueled her interest in global health and tropical medicine, leading her to pursue a medical degree at Emory University School of Medicine. At Emory, Vicky served as the president for Emory Health Against Human Trafficking (EHAHT) and led a trip to Thailand to volunteer at a children’s shelter and build relations with local hospitals.
Outside the classroom, Vicky is very passionate about playing the French horn and performed with multiple ensembles at PSU, as well as the orchestra at Emory.
As a clinician scientist, she hopes to research emerging viral pathogens, particularly understanding the factors that lead to cross species transmission and drivers of human outbreaks. Clinically, she wants to combine her research interests with the treatment of infectious diseases, specializing in tropical medicine and global health.

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Adriano Bellotti

Adriano Bellotti
NIH Gates-Cambridge Scholar

Mentors: Dr. Dax Hoffman (NICHD) &
Dr. Timothy O'Leary (Cambridge)

Degrees: North Carolina State University, B.S. in Biomedical Engineering (minor in Biological Sciences), 2015; Medical student at University of North Carolia (in progress)

Research Interests: Computational modeling, Neuroscience, Biomedical Engineering

 

As an undergraduate at North Carolina State University, Adriano began to appreciate the pragmatic perspective and mathematical methods of research in biomedical engineering, and sought to apply this empirical approach to medicine. This lead him to pursue an MD-PhD dual-degree with the University of North Carolina in hopes of leading medical researchers in facilitating the translation of new treatments and technologies into the clinic. He is particularly interested in studying neurophysiology through computational modeling, specifically with regard to neuroplasticity in both a single neuron as well as across neuronal circuits. Gaining a basic mechanistic understanding of neuronal regulation has great implications for understanding and treating various neurological disorders and pathologies. The ideal solution to any illness, especially neurodegenerative diseases, involves input from all applicable fields, including basic science, clinical science, epidemiology, sociology, and psychology, among others. The OxCam program in combination with the Gates Cambridge community promote collaboration across this wide range of disciplines, and Adriano hopes to apply his engineering background and clinical experiences to his graduate work and many future projects. With careful consideration of all these viewpoints, we can achieve our ultimate goal of providing the best possible patient care.

 

 

 

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Steven Castellano

Steven Castellano
NIH Oxford Scholar

Mentors:
Dr. Antonina Roll-Mecak (NHLBI/NINDS) &
Prof. Dame Carol Robinson (Oxford)

Degrees: Columbia University, B.A. in Biophysics (minor in Mathematics), 2013

Research Interests: Biophysics, Thermodynamics, Immunology

 

Steven graduated from Columbia University with a B.A. in Biophysics and Mathematics. While at Columbia, he worked in the Yang Lab studying the structure of Transient Receptor Potential channels, a class of ion channels in the brain. He also mentored underclassmen and wrote policies as the Academic Affairs Representative that created an honor code for the university and addressed mental health issues impacting students. His dedication to the student body was recognized by the Alumni Achievement Award, given to the member of the graduating class "judged to be most outstanding for qualities of mind, character, and service to the college." He since worked in antibody design at Boehringer-Ingelheim Pharmaceuticals, where he engineered antibodies with pH-dependent binding properties, and subsequently started an MD-PhD at Duke University. Steven hopes to use his experiences during the program to make connections between diverse fields.

 

 

 

 

 

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Chad Coomer

Charles (Chad) Coomer
NIH Oxford Scholar

Mentors: Dr. Alex Compton (NCI) &
Dr. Sergi Padilla-Parra (Oxford)

Degrees: Western Kentucky University, B.S. in Biology and Chemistry (minor in Music), 2014; University College London, M.Sc. in Infection and Immunity, 2015

Research Interests: HIV persistence, HIV Reservoir, Virus-Host Interaction

 

Charles “Chad” Coomer, a native of Louisville, Kentucky, graduated summa cum laude from the Honors College at Western Kentucky University (WKU) in 2014 as the Ogden Foundation Scholar with degrees in biology and chemistry and a minor in music. As a Goldwater Scholar, Chad completed an honors thesis to investigate the utility of bacterial viruses as a sustainable alternative to antibiotic treatment in the biofuel industry. While attending WKU, Chad developed an ambassadorial organization for the campus scholar development office, performed with the WKU Symphony as a violinist, which toured to China in the summer of 2013, and completed an internship and fellowship at the National Cancer Institute (NCI). While at the NCI, Chad addressed questions regarding HIV persistence and compartmentalization, using RT-SHIV-infected rhesus macaque and single genome sequencing. As a Fulbright Scholar, Chad organized outreach organizations designed to engage under-represented students in biomedical research, while completing an MSc in Infection and Immunity at University College London. While at UCL, he investigated Gag-mediated protease inhibitor resistance with Drs. Ravi Gupta and Katherine Sutherland utilizing genotypic and phenotypic analyses of patient-derived, non-subtype B Gag-Pro HIV clones. Upon completion of his MD and DPhil, Chad hopes to become a physician-scientist investigating the HIV reservoir, curative strategies, and pediatric infectious disease.

 

 

 

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Bridget Larman

Bridget Larman
NIH Cambridge Scholar

Mentors: Dr. Ted Pierson (NIAID)

Degrees: University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, B.S. in Chemistry (minors in Biology and Spanish), 2015

Research Interests: Infectious Disease, Virology, Immunology

 

Bridget was a Morehead-Cain Scholar and graduated with distinction from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill with a B.S. in Chemistry and minors in Biology and Spanish. At UNC she worked for three years in the laboratory of Dr. Kevin Weeks as part of the Undergraduate Transcriptome Project. Bridget’s research focused on applying novel chemical probing techniques to investigate the three-dimensional structure of the satellite tobacco mosaic virus genome. Her work indicated that the structure of the RNA genome plays an important role in assembly of the viral particle. This culminated in a first author publication in Biochemistry which was selected as an ACS Editors’ Choice article.
In addition, Bridget spent a summer working for Dr. William Messer at the Oregon Health and Science University. She explored the function of a distinctive RNA structure in the dengue virus genome. This sparked her interest in infectious disease and virology. The following summer she worked at PharmaMar, a biotechnology company in Spain, investigating the molecular mechanism of an antitumor drug.
After graduation, Bridget joined the laboratory of Dr. Richard Proia in the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases as an NIH Postbaccalaureate Fellow. Her research focused on Sandhoff disease, a genetic lysosomal storage disease mainly affecting the brain. She used cerebral organoids generated from patient induced pluripotent stem cells to study the disease progression in a developing brain.
As an NIH OxCam scholar, Bridget plans to investigate viral pathogenesis and host immune response.

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Jonathan Liang

Jonathan Liang
NIH Cambridge Scholar
MD/PhD

Mentors: Dr. Iain Fraser (NIAID) &
Prof. Clare Bryant (Cambridge)

Degrees: Yale University, B.S. in Molecular Biophysics and M.S. in Biochemistry, 2013; University of Cambridge, MPhil in Computational Biology, 2014; Medical student at Yale School of Medicine, in progress

Research Interests: Innate immunity, inflammation, oxidative stress

 

Jonathan graduated summa cum laude from Yale University in 2013 with a joint B.S./M.S. degree in Molecular Biophysics & Biochemistry. His interest in immunity and systems biology began years earlier, though, when in his final year of high school he worked in the lab of Dr. O'Shea (NIH/NIAMS), helping to understand gene expression changes that drive helper T cell differentiation.
While at Yale, Jonathan explored diverse areas of molecular biology. He joined the laboratory of Dr. Ronald Breaker to study riboswitches, bacterial RNA structures that act as sensors of small molecules and, over two years, discovered and characterized a new riboswitch class. He also spent a summer at the Broad Institute's Cancer Program, implementing an algorithm to identify gene expression "signatures" in cancer cells related to mutation of the oncogene K-RAS. In part due to this research, he was recognized as a Goldwater Scholar in 2012.
After graduating, Jonathan spent a year as a Churchill Scholar in the Computational Biology MPhil course at the University of Cambridge, gaining further experience with computational methods and their applications in the study of genome regulation. He then returned to Yale to begin clinical training, developing a particular interest in pediatrics.
As an NIH-Cambridge Scholar, Jonathan will return to his first interest in immunology, investigating the molecular machinery that allows macrophages to respond to inflammatory stimuli by producing cytokines. He is particularly interested in studying the role of macrophages in responding to non-traditional inflammatory stimuli, such as intracellular pathogens and metabolic dysregulation.

 

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Hannah Mason

Hannah Mason
NIH Oxford Scholar

Mentors: Dr. Dorian McGavern (NINDS) & Prof. Daniel Anthony (Oxford)

Degrees: University of Georgia, B.S. in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology and B.A. in Spanish, 2017

Research Interests: Neuroinflammation, neurodegeneration

 

Hannah first became interested in neurodegeneration when her high school lacrosse coach was diagnosed with ALS. Determined to learn more about his disease and others like it, Hannah joined the laboratory of Dr. Lohitash Karumbaiah at the University of Georgia’s Regenerative Bioscience Center during her freshman year. Her research investigated using chondroitin-sulfate glycosaminoglycan hydrogels containing neural stem cells to treat traumatic brain injuries in rats. During her time in Dr. Karumbaiah’s laboratory, Hannah presented her research at the World Stem Cell Summit and was named an honorable mention for the Barry Goldwater Scholarship in 2016.
In the summer of 2015, Hannah was awarded the Oregon National Primate Research Center’s Summer Undergraduate Fellowship. She spent 10 weeks studying freezing of gait in Parkinson’s disease under the mentorship of Dr. Fay Horak at the Balance Disorders Laboratory. While in Portland, she also spent time shadowing Dr. Donald Girard, leading her to the realization that she wanted to pursue a career as a physician-scientist.
Hannah is excited to begin her graduate studies through the NIH Oxford-Cambridge Scholars Program under the guidance of Dr. Dorian McGavern. She will be investigating how neuroinflammatory responses post-traumatic brain injur affect plaque deposition and looks forward to learning more about how neuroinflammation affects neurodegeneration long-term.
When she is not in the laboratory working with her mice, Hannah enjoys cooking, running, and spending time with her family. After finishing her graduate studies, she will attend medical school at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia.

 

 

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Allison Meadows

Allison Meadows
NIH Cambridge Scholar
MD/PhD

Mentors: Dr. Michael Sack (NHLBI) &
Prof. Jules Griffin (Cambridge)

Degrees: University of Virginia, B.A. in Human Biology, 2015; Medical student at Medical University at South Carolina, in progress

Research Interests: Metabolomics, Lipidomics, Mitochondrial Biology

 

Allison graduated from the University of Virginia in 2015 with a B.A. in Interdisciplinary Human Biology. As an Echols Scholar and College Science Scholar, she had the opportunity to design her own course of study in which she integrated her interests in scientific research, health policy, and bioethics. During this time, she pursued research in the lab of Dr. David Kashatus in the Department of Microbiology, Immunology, and Cancer Biology of the University of Virginia School of Medicine. She studied mitochondrial dynamics and dysfunction, specifically applying her work to novel diagnostic and therapeutic techniques in pancreatic cancer. This work became the foundation for her undergraduate thesis, which received the honor of Highest Distinction upon completion.
Allison also sought to broaden her research exposure through summer internship experiences. She studied T cell signaling in the Lab of Cellular and Molecular Biology at the National Cancer Institute for several consecutive summers, then studied cardiac adrenergic signaling in the lab headed by Dr. Peter Mohler at the Ohio State University’s Heart and Lung Research Institute. Her work on the role of PP2A in cardiac phosphatase signaling ultimately led to a publication in Science Signaling.
While an undergraduate, Allison had the opportunity to work as a student member of the Bioethics Consult Service in the University of Virginia Hospital System, specifically focusing her interest on cases in the neonatal intensive care unit. This experience inspired her to pursue a career in academic medicine, merging her passion for research with her drive to care for others. She has since completed her preclinical medical education as a MSTP student at the Medical University of South Carolina, and will return for the clinical portion of her training after completion of her PhD.
As a NIH-Cambridge Scholar, Allison will divide her time between the Lab of Mitochondria and Metabolism at the NIH and the Metabolomics Group at the University of Cambridge. Using a systems-based approach, she plans to study the role of mitochondrial acetylation-dependent retrograde signaling in regulating lipid and cholesterol biology.

 

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Jacob Levenstein

Michael Metrick
NIH Cambridge Scholar
MD/PhD

Mentors: Dr. Byron Caughey (NIAID-RML) & Prof. Michele Vendruscolo (Cambridge)

Degrees: James Madison University, B.S. in Chemistry and Biotechnology, 2013; Medical student at University of Illinois - Chicago, in progress

Research Interests: Neurodegeneration, protein misfolding, biophysics

 

Michael began his research career as a junior wandering into the lab of Gina MacDonald at James Madison University. What initially began as a means of filling out a requirement to graduate with honors quickly evolved into curiosity about the fundamentals of how proteins fold and misfold. He and Gina were interested in a simple question, how the enigmatic Hofmeister series of anions and cations affects the folding and misfolding of model proteins myoglobin and lysozyme, and what makes the protein RecA adopt an inverse Hofmeister stabilization profile. To investigate this, they used many biophysical and spectroscopic techniques focused around thermal unfolding of the proteins in various salt environments. Upon graduating and completing my thesis, Michael was awarded the Dean’s Award for Academic Excellence in Chemistry, the Excellence in Biotechnology Award, the Margaret A. Gordon Memorial Scholarship, and the Frank A. Palocsay Award in Undergraduate Chemistry Research. His time at JMU prepared him for a brief postbaccalaureate IRTA in Peter Schuck’s lab at NIBIB where I studied protein-protein interactions with analytical ultracentrifugation. Outside of academics and studying, he’s an avid reader of political news, local concert-goer, chicago-explorer, runner, and swimmer.
As an NIH Cambridge scholar, he plans to explore mechanisms prion disease propagation and how the physiological microenvironment interacts with misfolded aggregates in the brain.

 

 

 

 

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David Morse

Nicole Mihelson
Rhodes Scholar
NIH Oxford Scholar

Mentors: Dr. Romina Goldszmid (NCI) &
Prof. Len Seymour (Oxford)

Degrees: Johns Hopkins University, B.S. in Neuroscience, 2016

Research Interests: Cancer biology,
immuno-oncology, virotherapy

 

Nicole Mihelson graduated from Johns Hopkins University in December 2016 with a degree in Neuroscience. She attended Hopkins on the Hodson Trust Merit Scholarship. In her first year, she sought out research opportunities with Dr. John Laterra, the co-director of the Johns Hopkins Brain Cancer Program. Under his mentorship, Nicole researched the cellular networks that drive the expression of stem cell-like phenotypes in Glioblastoma multiforme. In addition, Nicole sought out opportunities to train under public health scientist, Dr. Sara Johnson, researching the social determinants of maternal mental well-being and child health outcomes. This work on both fronts led to several research awards, national presentations and peer-reviewed journal publications. Outside of her research, Nicole volunteered extensively in the Baltimore community, focusing specifically on STEM and health education in public elementary schools. In addition, Nicole chaired the largest student-run organization at Hopkins, the Milton S. Eisenhower Speaker Symposium. In this role, she showcased some of today’s most challenging perspectives and sparked campus-wide debates around issues at the forefront of the nation’s conscience. In her junior year, Nicole was elected to Phi Beta Kappa and named a Goldwater Scholar. Subsequently, she was recognized as a Marshall Scholar-Elect and Rhodes Scholar to pursue doctoral studies at the University of Oxford. Since graduating from Johns Hopkins, Nicole has worked at Bridgewater Associates, a global macroeconomic hedge fund, and Vida Ventures, a Boston-based venture capital firm focused on breakthrough companies in the life sciences. Upon completion of her DPhil, Nicole plans to attend medical school. Ultimately, she aims to lead a laboratory at an academic hospital and develop effective therapeutics for neurological cancers that both extend life expectancy and improve patients’ quality of life.

 

 

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Will Nathan

Jyothi Purushotham
NIH Oxford Scholar

Mentors: Dr. Vincent Munster (NIAID-RML) & Prof. Sarah Gilbert (Oxford)

Degrees: University of Rochester, B.S. in Molecular Genetics (minor in Anthropology), 2013; University of Oxford, MSc in International Health & Tropical Medicine, 2017

Research Interests: Infectious Disease, Vaccine Development, Immunology

 

In 2013, Jyothi graduated summa cum laude from the University of Rochester with a BS in Molecular Genetics and a minor in Anthropology. She was awarded a Fulbright Scholarship to conduct research at the L V Prasad Eye Institute in Hyderabad, India. In partnership with Dr. Virender Sangwan and Dr. Indumathi Mariappan, she developed a protocol to apply mesenchymal stem cells from the corneal limbal stroma towards the treatment of ocular surface injuries and corneal scarring. Jyothi’s efforts resulted in two co-authored publications, and the protocol is undergoing testing in a phase II clinical trial.
Subsequently, Jyothi joined a population health research team led by Dr. Rajeev Ramchandran at the University of Rochester. There, she created a web-based educational tool that offered personalized diabetes-management recommendations to members of the low-income community. Jyothi also designed and led a pilot study to measure health behavior change amongst users.
Integrating her passion for biology and global health, Jyothi began studies towards an MSc in International Health & Tropical Medicine at the University of Oxford in 2015, through a Clarendon Scholarship. Jyothi’s dissertation research—carried out under the mentorship of Dr. Sarah Gilbert—focused on enhancing the large-scale production capacity of the Modified Vaccinia Ankara viral vaccine vector for clinical use, using recombination-mediated genetic engineering to create mutants with improved yield, growth characteristics, and immunogenicity.
Jyothi hopes to continue investigating safe and efficacious vaccine approaches against infectious diseases endemic to low-resource settings as a doctoral student and in the long term.

 

 

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Ryan Prestil

Ramiro Andrei Ramirez-Valdez
NIH Oxford Scholar

Mentors: Dr. Robert Seder (NIAID/VRC) &
Prof. Benoit Van den Eynde (Oxford)

Degrees: University of Cambridge, B.A. in Natural Sciences, 2015

Research Interests: Immunology,
Cancer Biology, Genetics

 

Andrei’s interest in a scientific career began in high school when he undertook a month-long research experience placement at the Department of Pathology at the University of Cambridge under the supervision of Professor Jim Kaufman. Here, he contributed to the understanding of the tissue distribution of splice variants of BG0 in chickens. Following this positive experience in the lab, Andrei went to Jesus College at the University of Cambridge to study Natural Sciences. During his second year, he was awarded both the JRS Fincham Bursary by the Department of Genetics and the Sir Robbie Jennings Award by Jesus College to help fund a summer internship at the Technical University of Munich. During this internship, he worked on acquired drug resistance of colorectal cancer cells under the supervision of Professor Roland Rad. He then returned to University to complete his degree and opted to specialize in Genetics in his final year of studies. He graduated in 2015 with a First Class degree and shortly thereafter started working at the Francis Crick Institute in London where he spent 10 months. During this time, he became increasingly interested in cancer immunotherapy and applied to the NIH Post-Baccalaureate Intramural Research Training Award program to work at the Vaccine Research Center with Dr Robert Seder. Whilst at the NIH, he has been working to develop a novel personalized cancer vaccine platform. He aims to continue working in the field of cancer immunotherapy, with a specific focus on the interface between T cells and the tumor.

 

 

 

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Jorge Rodriguez-Gil

Zinan Zhang

NIH Cambridge Scholar

MD/PhD

Mentors: Dr. Michael Lenardo (NIAID) &
Prof. Ken Smith (Cambridge)

Degrees: Princeton University, A.B. in Chemistry, 2014; Medical student at Harvard Medical School, in progress

Research Interests: Immunology, cancer biology, neurodegeneration

 

Zinan is a MD-PhD student at Harvard Medical School and will complete his medical degree upon completion of his PhD. He graduated summa cum laude in Chemistry with certificates in Neuroscience and Global Health and Health Policy from Princeton University. His thesis: “Modulation of Quorum Sensing and Pyocyanin in Pseudomonas aeruginosa” was a culmination of three years of research in Dr. Martin Semmelhack’s, Dr. Frederick Hughson’s, and Dr. Bonnie Bassler’s labs. Based on his thesis and exceptional performance in organic chemistry, he was awarded the Everett S. Wallis Prize in Organic Chemistry. During his college years, he also received various scholarships to do organocatalysis research at the University of Edinburgh and optogenetics research at the Ludwig-Maximilians University of Munich. His research has been published in ACS Chemical Neuroscience and Journal of Medicinal Chemistry. To bridge his synthetic chemistry and biomedical interests, he spent the year after college learning electrophysiology and x-ray crystallography of membrane proteins at NIH and doing cancer drug discovery at the Dana Farber Cancer Institute.
He is excited about the future of chemical biology and aspires to be a physician-scientist working on developing novel therapeutics to combat neurodegeneration or cancer.

 

 

 

 

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This Page Last Reviewed on June 29, 2017