Skip to main content
Dual Degrees

Current Students

Students currently working toward a dual MD-PhD through the Medical Scientist Training Program at IU School of Medicine are pursuing a wide range of medical research studies at labs in both Indianapolis and West Lafayette.


  • Kelly Hartigan
    Undergraduate Institution: Washington University in St. Louis
    Graduate Department: N/A

    Research: My undergraduate research focused on modeling neurodevelopmental delays and abnormalities in patients with the disease Neurofibromatosis Type 1 utilizing a cerebral organoid model of the developing human brain.  Broadly, I am hoping to continue studying, and modeling human brain development with the goal of better understanding the mechanisms underlying, neurological disease. 

  • Cortland Johns
    Undergraduate Institution: University of Oklahoma
    Graduate Department: N/A

    Research: With a background in Mechanical Engineering, I am extremely interested in applying biomechanics principles to understand how the human body functions. Previously my research focused on heart valve biomechanics, but I am excited to branch into orthopedic biomechanics and develop a better knowledge of cell growth and mechanics. Having worked as a data scientist, I also hope to integrate my knowledge of data analytics and computational modeling into biomechanics.
  • Jenna Koenig
    Undergraduate Institution: University of Notre Dame
    Graduate Department: N/A

    Research: I was involved in translational breast cancer research. I also have experience in immunology research and am interested in becoming a physician-scientist to improve treatment options for patients I will see in clinic through discoveries in the lab and especially have interest in the intersections of targeted cancer therapeutics and cancer immunology.
  • Christopher Schorr

    Undergraduate Institution: Purdue University
    Graduate Department: Biomedical Engineering 

    Research: As an undergraduate at Purdue University, I worked in two cancer research laboratories to develop a better understanding of cancer pharmacology and create more efficient drug delivery mechanisms to treat difficult-to-reach cancers such as head-and-neck cancer. My work studying cancer cell mechanotransduction and designing radio-luminescent nanoparticles that stimulate tumor cell death has led me directly to pursue a path as a physician-scientist. I am excited by the prospect of a career working at the confluence of clinical medicine and scientific research, allowing me to make an impact in translating basic scientific discoveries into novel diagnostic tests and therapeutics for cancer patients.

  • Hannah Wilson

    Undergraduate Institution: Indiana University-Bloomington
    Graduate Department: N/A 

    Research: My undergraduate research focused on analysis of food access disparities in Indiana and meta-analysis of nutrition education literature on energy balance. My primary graduate research interests lie in diabetes, obesity, and metabolic diseases. I hope to investigate the molecular pathways responsible for the pathogenesis of these diseases and develop novel prevention strategies accordingly. I also hope to learn how utilization of bioinformatics can enhance physician understanding of chronic disease development.


  • Matt Austin

    Undergraduate Institution: Brigham Young University

    Research: As an undergraduate I worked in a diabetes research lab that focused on defining molecular pathways to enhance β-cell proliferation, increase glucose stimulated insulin secretion and protect against β-cell death. I am interested in continuing to conduct diabetes research during my training and future career. Alternatively, I am broadly interested in immunology with specific research interests in allergy, autoimmunity and cancer immunotherapy.

  • Alexandria Carter

    Undergraduate Institution: The Ohio State University

    Research: My current research interests lie in microbiology and immunology. Specifically, I aim to conduct immunology and disease pathogenesis research on pathogens prevalent in the developing world. I also am striving to combine these benchtop lab techniques with the field of epidemiology, using the strengths of each field to develop innovative infectious disease treatments and prevention strategies. Combining these perspectives early in the research process will help streamline intervention development, ultimately providing developing nations with tools and information to quickly combat infectious diseases.

  • Maya Krishnan

    Undergraduate Institution: Stanford University

    Research: At Stanford, I worked in an Oncology lab with Dr. Dean Felsher who studies several pathophysiological aspects of the oncogene MYC that is commonly overexpressed in hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC). Some of my projects in this lab included a proteomic biomarker study for micro and macrovascular invasion in patients with advanced HCC as well as a MYC and p21 co-overexpressing mouse model that initiates a senescence mechanism to mitigate tumor growth. I am interested in the MSTP because I hope to pursue a career in Oncology, wherein research evolves quickly and is instrumental for unique patient care.

  • Rada Malko

    Undergraduate Institution: North Park University

    Research: My undergraduate research and publications focused on growing health awareness of dietary supplements derived from plants and marine sources. The studies serve as a nutritional guide to consumers by identifying the lipid composition of common supplements and cooking oils. My current research interests are in the mechanisms involved in cancer. I’m interested in investigating the biochemistry, epigenetic effects and molecular pathogenesis of cancers.

  • Evan Messenger

    Undergraduate Institution: Indiana University-Indianapolis
    Graduate Department: N/A

    Research: While at IUPUI, I worked with Dr. Michelle Block investigating how environmental factors contribute to persistent microglia-mediated CNS inflammation and neurodegeneration, particularly in Gulf War Illness and Alzheimer’s Disease. I used animal models, microglial cell lines, and immunofluorescent microscopy to explore molecular and morphological changes to microglia following pro-inflammatory exposures that mimicked everyday air pollution or other environmental hazards. My current interests are in the inflammatory mechanisms that underly neurological damage and how they can be translated to clinical situations.

  • Olivia Murray

    Undergraduate Institution: Washington University in St. Louis

    Research: My undergraduate research with Jonathan Peelle at Washington University in St. Louis focused on the neurobiology and psychology of speech comprehension, working toward a model of cochlear implant speech adaptation. My current research interest is the neurobiological diagnosis and treatment of psychiatric disorders.

  • Xiyu (Grace) Wang
    Undergraduate Institution: Earlham College

    Research: My undergraduate research focused on evaluating the adverse cardiovascular side effects of marketed prescription drugs in silico. Upon graduation, I joined Dr. Anirban Banerjee’s lab, a former post-doctoral fellow with Nobel Laureate Dr. Roderick MacKinnon, studying the molecular mechanisms of membrane proteins and biological drug targets.

  • Emily White
    Undergraduate Institution: Purdue University

    Research: I have always been intrigued by the role that molecular pathways play in the progression and metastasis of cancer. For my undergraduate thesis, I conducted pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma research characterizing a signaling pathway receptor and molecular mutations that contributed to malignancy. In my PhD research, I hope to continue to identify novel therapeutic targets in molecular pathways that can contribute to personalized treatment strategies and improved survival outcomes in cancer patients.

  • Adam Wright

    Undergraduate Institution: Milwaukee School of Engineering  

    Research: I am interested in researching functional imaging techniques to greater understand organ function in-vivo. I want to research the application of these imaging techniques so they can be used to detect organ dysfunction and disease progression. My goal is to combine my passion for both engineering and medicine to answer pertinent clinical questions.


  • Olivia Bednarski

    Undergraduate Institution: University of Colorado – Boulder

    Research: My current research interests lie in diabetes and metabolism.  I hope to integrate many fields, like engineering and other departments to have collaborative and well-rounded research. I plan to apply my research and training to a global perspective, like working to prevent diabetes or improve nutrition in third world countries.

  • Caylin Billingsley
    portrait of Caylin BillingsleyUndergraduate Institution: Indiana University-Indianapolis

    Research: My undergraduate research experiences involved understanding the genetic aspects of metabolic bone diseases. My research interests lie in discovering the genetic pathophysiology underlying disorders. As a physician-scientist, I aim to utilize research to develop and improve treatment options for patients.

  • Breanne Burgess
    Undergraduate Institution: North Carolina State University

    Research: For the past few years I’ve been researching signaling pathways in pediatric sarcomas.  I want to continue researching methods of pharmacological or immunological inhibition of oncogenic drivers to better treat pediatric cancers.
  • Cristie Contreras
    Undergraduate Institution: Massachusetts Institute of Technology
    Graduate Department: NCI: Department of Oncology, University of Oxford

    Research: My work evaluates the properties of myeloid cells in metastatic solid tumors which can exhibit dichotomous roles of immune surveillance or suppression. Through functional and transcriptional studies, I am evaluating various mechanisms involved in myeloid-tumor interactions. Ultimately, I seek to identify targets that can help reprogram the immune compartment of the tumor microenvironment and increase anti-tumor activity.

  • Justin Couetil
    Undergraduate Institution: Purdue University
    Graduate Department: Medical and Molecular Genetics

    Research: I am interested in experimental design, data science, biostatistics, and oncology. I want to organize clinical trials that take advantage of big data and machine learning technologies. My background is in translational research, focusing on pathogen detection in food systems.

  • Jonathan Huang

    Undergraduate Institution: Washington University in St. Louis

    Research: My research interests revolve around leveraging computer and data science to investigate methods of modeling tumor evolution and response to improve timing and outcomes of clinical intervention. Previously, my research has been focused on tumor monitoring through genomics and other biomarker compartments which has ranged from evaluating the predictive and prognostic potential of KRAS in liquid biopsies of pancreatic cancer patients to deconvoluting heterogeneity within both epithelial and tumor microenvironment populations by digitally micro-dissecting single cell sequencing data.

  • Madeline McLaughlin

    Undergraduate Institution: Purdue University

    Research: I am currently interested in researching alternative treatments for Type 1 diabetes, specifically those that allow patients to be completely insulin independent.

  • Nikhil Shah

    Undergraduate Institution: Indiana University

    Research: My prior research in Ken Mackie’s endocananbionid lab at IU Bloomington consisted of both basic (localizing endocannabinoid proteins FAAH and Crip1a) and applied science (investigating effects of perinatal exposure to WIN 55,212-2). This background has given me a driving curiosity to answer basic science questions and the motivation to export such findings from lab for clinical application. I am broadly focused on psychopathology with particular focus on mood disorders, autism, and addiction. In addressing these disorders I hope to contribute to the development of novel therapeutics as well as a growing of the fundamental cognitive processes (e.g. affective regulation, social cognition, motivational processes) that are aberrant in such disorders.

  • Niraj Shah

    Undergraduate institution: Emory University

    Research: My undergraduate research was focused on schizophrenia associated microRNA miR-137 and its impact on neurodevelopmental signal transduction. After graduating, I conducted research in a large-scale neuroimaging lab that studied brain development and functionality in youth with PTSD, substance abuse problems, and various disruptive behavior disorders.

  • Kaylee Tutrow
    Undergraduate Institution: Indiana University - Indianapolis
    Graduate Department: N/A

    Research: My prior research experiences have mostly centered around neuroscience, including the role of inflammatory pathways in depression, addiction, and traumatic brain injury. More recently, I have focused on molecular signaling involved in the hypoxic response and the predictors of heart failure in pediatric populations. I hope to further investigate genetic variants of significance in neurologic disease.


  • Jonathan Alessi
    Undergraduate Institution: University of Dayton
    Graduate Department: Medical Neuroscience 

    Research Mentor: David Kareken

    Research: My current research interests center around functional reward circuitry imaging of the human brain and how it relates to common human vices.

  • Luke Brennan
    Undergraduate institution: University of Michigan
    Graduate Department: Biomedical Engineering
    Research Mentor: Jacqueline Linnes, PhD / Natalia Rodriguez, PhD (Purdue University)

    Research: I am interested in designing methods and devices for the sustainable, scalable management of infectious diseases, particularly in resource-constrained environments. Many people suffer due to a lack of proper treatment for very preventable and/or treatable conditions (such as STIs, Cholera, respiratory infections etc…) while at the same time antibiotic resistance is becoming a formidable complication to treatment around the world. Accessible technologies for rapid, accurate screening and diagnosis allow health departments to mount effective responses, connecting patients to the right care. Much of the required technology for these tools already exists in hospital labs but require many resources like trained personnel, expensive equipment, highly processed samples, sterile conditions, and time. I am interested in adapting these technologies to make diagnostic and screening tools for health departments/ministries without these resources to still offer effective care to patients and populations dealing with infectious diseases.
  • Michelle Chu
    Undergraduate institution: Grove City College
    Graduate Department: Microbiology & Immunology
    Research Mentor: Mark Kaplan, PhD

    Research: Current research interests involve discerning the roles that tissue resident memory T cells, particularly ones that secrete the cytokine IL-9, play in allergic airway responses.
  • Conner Earl
    Undergraduate Institution: Brigham Young University
    Graduate Department: Biomedical Engineering
    Research Mentor: Craig Goergen, PhD (Purdue)

    Research: I am currently conducting my PhD work in the Biomedical Engineering department at Purdue in the Cardiovascular Imaging Research Laboratory with Dr. Craig Goergen. As an engineer by training, I am fascinated by the many complex and intricate ways the heart functions as an electrical, chemical, and biomechanical machine to perform its life-essential activity. My research interests lie in cardiovascular imaging and understanding the complex mechanisms of disease and pathology that underly some of the most devastating and common medical problems of the day. I hope to develop cardiac imaging methods that would allow not only for early recognition of pathology, but would also serve to better understand and treat the underlying conditions affecting the cardiovascular function of so many patients today.

  • Neal Patel
    Graduate Department: Biomedical Engineering
    Research Mentor: Vitaliy L. Rayz, PhD (Purdue University)

    Research: My research interests involve leveraging date from current imaging techniques to create and determine parameters that allow for risk stratification in a given patient population. I am attempting to use machine learning methods to augment 4D flow MRI data in cerebral aneurysms. The ultimate goal is to be able to accurately determine parameters that influence rupture of these aneurysms.

  • Alexa Petrucciani
    Undergraduate Institution: Purdue University
    Graduate Department: Biomedical Engineering
    Research Mentor: Elsje Pienaar, PhD (Purdue)

    Research: My current research interests involve computational modeling of infectious diseases. I am currently working on agent based simulations of an in vitro tuberculosis granuloma model. I hope to incorporate data from many sources into a multiscale model to help elucidate pathophysiology of TB to assist in drug and regimen design.

  • Raizel Sandler
    Undergraduate Institution: Ithaca College
    Research: Medical Neuroscience
    Research Mentor: Woody Hopf, PhD / David McKinzie, PhD  

    Research: My research uses cutting edge methodologies to elucidate the role of the anterior insula-- a brain region in the frontal cortex-- in anxiety behavior using rodent models. This work will help us better understand the pathophysiology of anxiety, which is both vital to survival and the most common psychiatric ailment when present in excess. I also investigate how anxiety may lead to compulsive alcohol drinking. My overall career goals are to practice psychiatry and further our scientific understanding of psychiatric disorders and neuroscience. 

  • Andrew Sivaprakasam
    Undergraduate Institution: University of Pittsburgh
    Graduate Department: Biomedical Engineering
    Research Mentor: Michael Heinz, PhD

    Research: I am studying translational approaches to Cochlear Synaptopathy, also known as "hidden hearing loss." By integrating signal processing, systems neuroscience, auditory neurophysiology, and behavior we can more comprehensively understand hearing loss, deriving better diagnostics and investigating potential treatments.
  • Sagara Wijeratne
    Undergraduate institution: Rutgers University-New Brunswick
    Graduate Department: Biochemistry and Molecular Biology/Medical Neuroscience
    Research Mentors: Amber Mosley, PhD / Jungsu Kim, PhD

    Research: My undergraduate and post-undergraduate research focused on transcriptional and post-transcriptional regulation of different systems. My first lab experience focused on the effects of RNA-binding proteins on the development of the neocortex. Afterwards, I joined a bioinformatics lab focusing on the RNA translation of Dengue virus infected cells and, on a different project, colon cancer. I hope to integrate multi-omics (proteomics, transcriptomics, genomics) studying relevant genes and proteins to neurological diseases.


  • Gregory Grecco

    Undergraduate Institution: Bowling Green State University
    Graduate Department: Medical Neuroscience
    Research Mentor: Brady Atwood, PhD

    Research: My research examines the impact of prenatal opioid exposure on neurobehavioral outcomes including the susceptibility for addiction-related behaviors and drug-induced neuroadaptations.

  • Emma McBride

    Undergraduate Institution: University of Pittsburgh
    Graduate Department: Biomedical Engineering
    Research Mentor: Sherry Harbin, PhD (Purdue University)/Carmella Evans-Molina, MD, PhD (Indiana University)

    Research:Interests include tissue engineering and regenerative medicine, and current projects are focused on the field of diabetes. More specifically, Emma will be developing a microphysiological system for pancreatic islets to more closely mimic the native microenvironment than standard culture conditions, aiming to reduce the gap between in vitro and in vivo models. Oligomeric collagen will be used to encapsulate the islets and provide critical extracellular matrix support and signaling. Furthermore, electrochemical sensors will be integrated into this device to immediately detect hormone secretion, reducing the time and cost associated with evaluating islet function. After verification of the device functionality, different applications at the forefront of diabetes research will be explored.

  • Jordanna Payne
    Undergraduate Institution: University of Nevada-Reno
    Graduate Department: Biomedical Engineering
    Research Mentor: Luis Solorio, PhD (Purdue University)

    Research: My undergraduate research experiences focused on using non-invasive optical coherence tomography, constructing and testing electrodes for Ca++ measurements to generating lentiviruses encoding bone morphogenic protein-2.
  • John Ryan
    Undergraduate Institution: Indiana University-Bloomington
    Graduate Department: Microbiology and Immunology
    Research Mentor: David Nelson, PhD

    Research: My research focuses on the sexually transmitted bacterium, Chlamydia trachomatis, and its pathogenesis in the male and female reproductive tracts. Specifically, I am interested in understanding the virulence strategies by which C. trachomatis establishes and maintains human infection and evades detection by the innate immune system.
  • Daniel Smith
    Undergraduate Institution: Ball State University
    Graduate Department: Medical Neuroscience
    Research Mentor: Jungsu Kim, PhD

    Research: My work explores the function on microglia in regulating and responding to Alzheimer’s disease (AD) pathology, and in metabolic dysfunction. Particular focus is given to rare coding variants that lead to increased AD risk. Our lab uses various genetically modified mouse models, in vitro systems, and human samples to explore these areas of interest.
  • Nathaniel Smith
    Undergraduate Institution: DePauw University
    Graduate Department: Biomedical Engineering
    Research Mentor: Gary Hutchins, PhD (IU)/Craig Goergen, PhD (Purdue)

    Research: I worked in a variety of labs as an undergraduate at DePauw and at IU School of Medicine in the O’Brien Center for Advance Microscopic Analysis. A common theme in laboratory experiences was optimizing various facets of various parameters integral to imaging, including creating optimal environments, contrast agents and coding.
  • John Wells
    Undergraduate Institution: Purdue University-Indianapolis
    Graduate Department: Medical and Molecular Genetics
    Research Mentor: Stephanie Ware, MD, PhD

    Research: I have a long-standing interest in biomedical research having worked in Janice Blum’s laboratory and most recently in Dr. Stephanie Ware’s laboratory where efforts focused on identifying genes associated with X-linked heterotaxy, a syndrome caused by disturbed specification of the left-right asymmetry during embryonic development.


  • Sarah Burns
    Undergraduate Institution: Bowdoin College
    Graduate Department: Medical and Molecular Genetics
    Research Mentor: Reuben Kapur, PhD

    Research: Currently rotating through research labs at IUPUI, Sarah Burns is interested in studying the mechanisms underlying genetic diseases, cancer and neurological disease.
  • Kaitlyn Collins
    Undergraduate institution: Indiana University-Bloomington
    Graduate Department: Biochemistry and Molecular Biology
    Research Mentor: Dr. Shannon Hawkins, MD, PhD

    Research: Interested in pathologies of the female reproductive system, specifically, reproductive cancers. In my work with Dr. Hawkins, I plan to study ovarian cancer in models with concurrent endometriosis. Previously, my research focused on the effects of stress on the brain with a particular interest in sex difference of neuronal and microglial morphologies in the orbitofrontal cortex of Sprague Dawley rats. In my future career, I aspire to help determine better modalities for ovarian cancer detection, target treatments, and improvement in patient quality of life.
  • John Damrath
    Undergraduate Institution: University of Michigan
    Graduate Department: Biomedical Engineering
    Research Mentor: Joseph Wallace, PhD

    Research: My research utilizes a combination of in vitro and in vivo models to understand the effects of mechanical stimulation and pharmaceuticals on bone quality. In particular, I am interested in applying multiscale biomechanics to study how calcimimetic drugs alter bone architecture, composition, and material properties in animal models and patients with chronic kidney disease (CKD). My long-term goal is to translate these findings into novel approaches for reducing fracture-related mortality in CKD patients, an urgent medical need in this population.
  • Hayley Drozd
    Undergraduate Institution: Purdue University
    Graduate Department: Medical Neuroscience
    Research Mentor: D. Wade Clapp, MD 

    My primary research interest is in developmental disorders. During my undergraduate education, I had the opportunity to do research as part of the Purdue Autism Cluster. With Dr. Schwichtenberg, I studied familial risk of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and the interaction between sleep and development in children. With Dr. Chubykin, I studied neural plasticity in the visual cortex in the context of a preclinical model of ASD.

    For my thesis project, I am working with Dr. Anantha Shekhar and Dr. D. Wade Clapp to develop comprehensive treatment strategies for patients with Neurofibromatosis Type 1 (NF1). NF1 is a common genetic disorder which manifests to a variety of degrees including symptoms such as malignancies, non-malignant tumors, neurocutaneous symptoms, and developmental disorders. My research project primarily focuses on the developmental disorders aspect of NF1.

    Cognitive deficits such as attentional deficits affect up to 90 percent of patients, with diagnosis of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) estimated at 70 percent in NF1 patients. Despite frequent diagnoses, the underlying mechanisms contributing to cognitive deficits in NF1 are unknown, and no available treatments target the molecular pathway involved.

    My thesis project investigates neural mechanisms of behavioral inhibition, a key component of ADHD, and characterizes a novel treatment target to alleviate cognitive, tumor, and neurocutaneous symptoms of NF1 through one pharmacologic rescue.

  • Elizabeth Fernander
    Undergraduate Institution: Purdue University
    Graduate Department: Microbiology and Immunology
    Research Mentor: Chandy John, MD

    Research: Interested in studying infectious diseases, especially those that have the greatest impact in developing countries, I work with the John Lab to study the pathogenesis and immune response to P. falciparum, a species of the parasite causing malaria.  The lab obtains samples from children in Kenya and Uganda with different clinical manifestations of malaria to better understand the variation in both humoral and cellular immune responses of infected children.  The lab also looks at pathogenesis of the parasite by looking at antigen variation in the PfEMP1 protein and changes in var gene expression between various study groups.
  • Hannah Kline
    Undergraduate Institution: Indiana University-Bloomington
    Graduate Department: Medical Neuroscience
    Research Mentor: Bryan Yamamoto, PhD

    Research: Interest in the development of addiction in adolescent females, specifically, the comorbidity between methamphetamine and alcohol use. I approach addiction from a behavioral perspective with a foundation in pharmacology, producing a well-rounded understanding of drug dependence and adolescence. I previously studied thermoregulation and methamphetamine abuse, music and alcohol dependence, the physiology of addiction and heart failure, nicotine and methamphetamine comorbidity in c. Elegans worms, and depression and anxiety phenotypes after isolation. I hope to identify changes that drug use can produce in the adolescent brain to promote long term craving and addiction to the substance. By expanding our medical and scientific understanding of addiction, treatment can be improved and adjusted to suit the needs of the patients.
  • Sarah Lipp
    Undergraduate Institution: University of Texas at Austin
    Graduate Department: Biomedical Engineering
    Research Mentor: Sarah Calve, PhD (Purdue)

    Research: The extracellular matrix, a network of proteins and glycosaminoglycans, is a critical but understudied component of development. Using 3D imaging and proteomic techniques developed in the Calve lab, Sarah Lipp is studying how ECM changes and contributes to tissue development in the kidney and musculoskeletal system. This information can be used to tailor tissue engineering scaffolds. Long term, Sarah Lipp aspires to be a pediatric nephrologist and aims to improve the care of patients with kidney disease by researching renal development and pathophysiology.
  • Jared Smith
    Undergraduate Institution: University of Alabama at Birmingham
    Graduate Department: Medical Neuroscience
    Research Mentor: Fletcher White, PhD

    Research: Jared worked with Dr. Fletcher White for the year prior to the start of MS1 on the role of carbamazepine in treating oxaliplatin-induce peripheral neuropathy. Jared also works on other projects dealing with  electroacupuncture as a therapy post nerve injury and  neuropathic pain as a result of TLR4 downstream signaling in response to endogenous inflammatory mediators and cytokines.
  • Baleigh Schuler
    Undergraduate Institution: Central Michigan University
    Graduate Department: Microbiology and Immunology
    Research Mentor: Stacey Gilk, PhD

    Research: The Gilk lab studies the intracellular human pathogen Coxiella burnetii, the causative agent of Q fever. Inside the host cell, Coxiella lives within a specialized organelle called a parasitophorous vacuole. I am working to characterize membrane contact sites between the parasitophorous vacuole and the host endoplasmic reticulum. Previous work in our lab suggests that these membrane contact sites may play a role in the manipulation of cholesterol trafficking by the pathogen. The elucidation of mechanisms by which Coxiella manipulates its host cell has the potential to yield therapeutic targets.
  • Ravinderjit Singh
    Undergraduate Institution: Georgia Institute of Technology
    Graduate Department: Biomedical Engineering
    Research Mentor: Hari Bharadwaj. PhD (Purdue)

    Research: I utilize single neuron recordings, scalp EEG recordings, and behavioral data to investigate temporal coding and sensory binding in the auditory system. By better understanding fundamental sensory mechanisms, I hope to develop tools to improve treatments for those with sensory impairments. Another application of my work I am pursuing is leveraging understanding of sensory neuroscience to better understand neuropsychiatric diseases. Physiological and behavioral assessment of sensory abilities can serve as a window to selectively test for certain disabilities in the brain providing the potential to improve diagnostics for neurological diseases."
  • Matthew Steinhart
    Undergraduate Institution: Johns Hopkins University
    Graduate Department: Medical Neuroscience
    Research Mentor: Dr. Karl Koehler

    Research: I am interested in developmental biology questions about the patterning of the cranial nervous system. I am currently investigating the development of inner ear sensory epithelium using human pluripotent stem cells in 3D culture.


  • Hendrik Greve
    University of Tennessee at Chattanooga
    Graduate Department: Medical Neuroscience
    Research Mentor: Michelle Block, PhD

    Research: Current research interests lie in neurodegenerative disease and neurotoxicology. In particular, Hendrik Greve is interested in studying the mechanism of how chronic exposure to environmental pollutants, such as diesel exhaust, contribute to the formation of neurodegenerative disease.
  • Cyrus Takahashi

    Undergraduate Institution: Johns Hopkins University
    Graduate Department: Biochemistry and Molecular Biology
    Research Mentor: Thomas Hurley, PhD

    Research: Cyrus Takahashi recently completed two research rotations over the summer of 2016. The first was in the lab of Jian-Ting Zhang, PhD, in the Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology at IU School of Medicine, where he investigated possible signaling pathways involving a member of the platelet-derived growth factor family and its potential role in contributing to the extensive drug resistance seen in pancreatic cancer. The second rotation was in the lab of Thomas Hurley, PhD, in the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, where he was involved in screening the activity of novel inhibitors of the metabolic enzyme ALDH1A1 and other related aldehyde dehydrogenases due to further elucidate its potential contribution to chemoresistance in various cancer types.


  • James Baek
    Undergraduate Institution: Washington University-St. Louis
    Graduate Department: Pharmacology and Toxicology
    Research Mentor: Bryan Yamamoto, PhD

    Research: Methamphetamine (Meth) is a highly addictive psychostimulant with no effective treatments for Meth use disorder. Phosphodiesterase inhibitors have shown some promise in reducing drug-taking behaviors in pre-clinical models, but most studies have focused on reducing the learning of drug-taking behavior, and few studies have addressed their efficacy against an established substance abuse disorder and relapse to drug-taking. Our work seeks to address this major clinical challenge by using known and novel pharmacological tools in this class to better understand the mechanism of Meth addiction and discover new treatments.
  • Steven Chen
    Undergraduate Institution: Dartmouth College
    Graduate Department: Medical and Molecular Genetics
    Research Mentor: Yunlong Liu, PhD

    Research: Interested in the intersection of molecular biology, genomics and oncology, Steven completed a rotation with Yunlong Liu, PhD, which exposed him to using computational techniques to elicit significant alternative splicing patterns using clinical data from cancer patients (TCGA).
  • Geneva Cunningham
    University of Oklahoma
    Graduate Department: Medical and Molecular Genetics
    Research Mentor: Bryan Schneider, MD

    Research: Interested in identifying biomarkers that may predict the therapeutic responsiveness and risk versus benefit of chemotherapeutic agents used to treat patients with cancer. The use of next-generation sequencing technology in translational oncology thereby supports the personalization of medicine and allows patients to become more empowered in their own health.
  • Frederick Damen
    Undergraduate Institution: Georgia Institute of Technology
    Graduate Department: Biomedical Engineering
    Research Mentor: Craig Goergen, PhD(Purdue)

    Research: Research interests lie in multi-modal cardiovascular imaging with Craig Goergen, PhD, at Purdue University, specifically developing new methods for characterizing the dynamic properties of cardiovascular tissue in vivo. The Cardiovascular Imaging Research Laboratory (CVIRL) as a whole is focused on studying the disease progression of various cardiomyopathies, abdominal aortic aneurysms and atherosclerosis using high frequency ultrasound, high field MRI and other imaging techniques. Frederick Damen’s current research is aimed at furthering development of a 4-dimensional volumetric ultrasound technique to study hypertrophic cardiomyopathy in both murine and clinical models.
  • Victoria Alexe Engel
    Undergraduate Institution: University of Missouri
    Graduate Department: Biochemistry and Molecular Biology
    Research Mentor: Quyen Hoang, PhD
    Research: Objective of research project is to understand the mechanisms of Parkinson’s disease to aid in the development of therapeutics. Parkinson’s Disease (PD), a major neurodegenerative disease, affects about one million people in the United States and the prevalence is expected to triple by 2050 due to a global increase in life expectancy. Currently there is no cure or effective therapy, thus there is a desperate need for novel treatment development which requires a detailed understanding of the disease mechanism.

    The molecular etiology of PD remains unknown, however, it is associated with the presence of abnormal alpha-synuclein-rich inclusions known as Lewy bodies, which are the pathological hallmark of PD. In addition, oxidative stress has been implicated in the pathogenesis of PD for decades, and chemicals that generate mitochondrial ROS, such as the neurotoxin MPTP (1-methyl-4-phenyl-1,2,3,6-tetrahydropyridine), have been shown to directly cause Parkinson’s disease. Moreover, mutations in different mitochondrial proteins are associated with the pathogenesis of familial PD. Nevertheless, the mechanisms by which mitochondrial ROS cause PD and alpha-synuclein aggregation remain unknown, and Victoria Alexe’ Engel’s project is to investigate inflammation and alpha-synuclein aggregation and to determine the structure of a mitochondrial-associated kinase to isolate which interactions are responsible for disease-associated effects.
  • Sotirios Karathanasis
    Undergraduate Institution: Northwestern University
    Graduate Department: Medical Neuroscience
    Research Mentor: Anantha Shekhar, MD, PhD

    Research: Interested in unearthing the roots of and developing treatments for diseases affecting the brain, spinal cord and nerves. Previous research focused on signaling in neural stem cells and worked on spinal cord injury recovery. Rotating in the lab of Jinhui Chen, MD/PhD, Sotirios Karathanasis is discovering methods to prevent neuronal death following traumatic brain injury. Sotirios would like to learn about the immune system in greater detail, especially how its activity impacts the nervous system in both health and disease.

  • David Sohutskay
    Undergraduate Institution: The Ohio State University
    Graduate Department: Biomedical Engineering
    Research Mentor: Sherry Harbin, PhD (Purdue)

    Research: Work focuses on the engineering design of collagen dermal replacements for treatment of difficult to heal wounds. We use in vitro biophysical analysis, animal models, and computational studies to understand the effect of scaffold mechanics and microstructure on wound healing. Our long term goal is to develop and translate biomaterial therapies for regenerative medicine applications. Interests in tissue engineering, continuum mechanics, finite elements, uncertainty quantification.
  • Paul Sohn
    Undergraduate Institution: Dartmouth College
    Graduate Department: Cellular and Integrative Physiology
    Research Mentor: Carmella Evans-Molina, MD, PhD

    Research: Associated with insulin resistance and inflammation, obesity is an ever-increasing metabolic disorder reaching epidemic levels worldwide. Further, insulin resistance is associated with type II diabetes, atherosclerosis, hypertension and other vascular complications. Paul Sohn is interested in the link between obesity, inflammation, lipid metabolism and diabetes at molecular, biochemical and physiological levels.

  • Thao Trinh
    Undergraduate Institution: University of Nebraska–Lincoln
    Gradate Department: Microbiology and Immunology
    Research Mentor:  Hal Broxmeyer, PhD

    Research: As an undergraduate, I studied the effects of biotinylation on one of the key glycolytic enzymes, Enolase 1. It is well-known that cancer cells rely heavily on hypoxic glycolysis for their energy sources, hence we hypothesized that down-regulation of Enolase 1 epigenetically by biotin binding might restrict cancer cell growth. During my first year in PhD, I joined Dr.Maria Grant’s Lab in which I was assigned two different projects – 1) Ex vivo expansion of acupuncture-mobilized mesenchymal stem cells for arthritis treatment using equine models; 2) The potential therapeutic effects of SIRT1-LXR axis in reversing bone marrow dysfunction in murine diabetic mice. Upon Grant’s Lab relocation, I transferred to the laboratory of Dr.Hal Broxmeyer and focused my PhD thesis on the functional roles of Leptin-Leptin Receptor axis in both human and murine hematopoiesis.


  • Megan Bernath
    Undergraduate Institution: University of Michigan
    Graduate Department: Medical and Molecular Genetics
    Research Mentor: Andrew Saykin, PsyD

    Research: Research focuses on the functional and molecular substrates of cognitive deficits in Alzheimer’s disease (AD) and memory, Parkinson’s disease (PD) and brain cancer. Investigates the relationships among brain, gene and protein networks in diseases affecting memory and under normal conditions. Megan Bernath will primarily focus on biomarker phenotypes and imaging to provide a better understanding of early stage AD to facilitate therapeutic development.
  • Sara Ibrahim
    Undergraduate Institution: Indiana University-Indianapolis
    Graduate Department: Biochemistry and Molecular Biology
    Research Mentor: Emily Sims, MD

    Research focuses on the pathophysiology of diabetes development. Specifically, the role of microRNA-21 (miR-21) on β cell development, identity, and dysfunction is elucidated.
  • Jennifer Martynowicz
    Undergraduate Institution: University of Notre Dame
    Graduate Department: Microbiology and Immunology
    Research Mentor: William Sullivan, PhD

    Research: Working in a combined Pharmacology/Toxicology and Microbiology/Immunology lab, Jennifer is studying the obligate intracellular parasite Toxoplasma gondii. Jennifer has several projects, but the main focus of research is AP2IX7 and AP2X8, which are part of a large lysine acetyltransferase recruiting complex called GCN5b. Little is known about their role in the complex and since GCN5b an essential protein it is important to explore the roles of the proteins with which GCN5b associates.
  • Ben Ulrich
    Undergraduate Institution: Purdue University
    Graduate Department: Microbiology and Immunology
    Research Mentor: Mark Kaplan, PhD

    Research: As a graduate researcher in the Kaplan Laboratory, Ben focused his efforts on the development and function of IL-9-secreting T helper cells during chronic and allergen recall-induced allergic airway disease. In initial investigations, he provided a mechanistic understanding to the maintenance of the IL-9-secreting phenotype in CD4+ T cells and was able to apply these findings to characterize IL-9-secreting CD4+ T cells found in allergic airways in asthma-like disease. Ben is passionate and committed to pursuing a career as a physician scientist who will apply the field of immunology to provide new translational therapies to help modulate inflammation in allergic disease and cancer.