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Headshot of JJ Adler

Jacob (JJ) Adler

Undergraduate Institution: New York University

Research: My undergraduate research was in computational chemistry in the Arora Group at NYU. Peptides are chemically synthesized using solid phase peptide synthesis (SPPS), a highly wasteful and costly process. Previous work in the Arora Group developed an intermolecular dual catalyst system to decrease waste produced from SPPS. I focused on developing a single-structure, intramolecular catalyst for more efficient peptide synthesis. Utilizing density functional theory, a quantum mechanic modeling method, I developed a computational workflow to analyze reaction energetics of various organocatalysts and predict catalytic efficiency. At SLU, I plan to pursue my Ph.D. in molecular microbiology and immunology. 

Headshot of Yasser Hussaini

Yasser Hussaini

Undergraduate Institution: University of Washington, Seattle

Research: Previously, in the Bruce Clurman lab at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center in Seattle, I investigated cancer therapeutics and biochemistry at the intersection of the cell cycle. Our group rectified an incomplete model of c-MYC degradation by the E3 ubiquitin ligase FBXW7, the former being a notorious proto-oncogene. My work also involved assessing therapeutic responses in-vitro and in-vivo to targeted therapies, for example against the WEE1 kinase (whose dysregulation is implicated in a number of cancers), as well as any corresponding inflammatory signaling changes in murine tumor grafts. Currently at SLU, I’m rotating in the Department of Biochemistry with an interest in cryo-electron microscopy and Rosetta/Robetta Modeling as structural tools for metamorphic protein design, with an end goal of implementing proteins in the treatment of diseases like cancer.

Headshot of Lily McMorrow

Lily McMorrow

Undergraduate Institution: Georgetown University

Research: I studied Justice and Peace Studies, where I was trained in community-based participatory research methodologies. My undergraduate research culminated in evaluation of western-funded education initiatives in post-colonial subsaharan Africa as a mechanism of modern-day colonialism. During my post-graduate work at the Lupus Clinic at Washington University, I engaged in multiple research projects focusing on addressing the impact of social determinants of health. I developed guidance for clinical use of patient-reported outcome measures as a way to improve treatment concordance and initiate a cultural shift focusing on health-related quality of life. I hope to continue my work evaluating and addressing the impact of social and structural inequity on health by applying an intersectional feminist lens to my research.

G1 Students
Zachary Foulks

Zachary Foulks

Undergraduate Institution: Missouri University of Science and Technology

Graduate Department: Biochemistry and Molecular Biology
Research Mentor: Kyle McCommis, Ph.D.
Research: My undergraduate research, conducted in the lab of Honglan Shi, Ph.D., primarily involved characterizing the biosynthetic pathway of pteridines in human epithelial breast cells with the final goal of identifying trends of these compounds in urine that can be used to detect and diagnose breast cancer. I also led a project to identify pheromones and other signaling biomolecules used by brown recluse spiders with an ultimate goal of spider population control. At SLU, I am in the lab of Kyle McCommis, Ph.D., where I am using cellular and mice models to investigate the role of diet and mitochondrial pyruvate carrier protein mutations in the development of liver and heart disease.

Samantha Cooke

Samantha Cooke

Undergraduate Institution: Carleton College

Graduate Department: Molecular Microbiology and Immunology
Research Mentor: Elise Alspach, Ph.D.
Research: I am currently working with Dr. Elise Alspach in the Department of MMI where we are studying sex differences in tumorigenesis and mechanisms, such as T-cell responses, which may be driving these differences. 

Carter Gottlieb

Carter Gottlieb

Undergraduate Institution: University of California, Los Angles

Graduate Department: Molecular Microbiology and Immunology
Research Mentor: Ryan Teague, Ph.D.
Research: Under John Adams, I produced a high-throughput cathelicidin bioassay via CRISPR-Cas-9 directed knock-in of a fluorescent protein in a human monocytic cell line, assisted in elucidating the mechanism by which Mycobacterium lepra evades the host innate immune response, and investigated the role of exosomes in the regulation of the Toll-like receptor-mediated immune response. In Karen Lyons' lab, I performed micro-CT analysis of destabilized mouse knee joints as a model for osteoporosis. I also worked on a method to measure the mechanical properties of rat Achilles tendon to calcaneus enthesis to yield applicable data in designing a novel 3D-printed scaffolding for enthesis repair.

G2 Students
Headshot of Steven Schmidt

Spencer Schmid

Undergraduate Institution: University of Michigan

Graduate Department: Health Care Ethics
Research Mentor: Erica Salter, Ph.D.
Research: My undergraduate research was conducted at the University of Michigan's Center for Bioethics and Social Sciences in Medicine. I was fortunate enough to be engaged in a wide variety of research projects, including studying gendered differences in health care-provider burnout, end-of-life care policies involving terminally ill cancer patients, community-based participatory research initiatives studying allocation of scarce health care resources, and educational outreach related to chronic kidney disease. At SLU, I am pursuing my Ph.D. in health care ethics and am hoping to build upon the work I did in my undergraduate philosophy degree in the spheres of end-of-life decision-making, the appropriate role of genetic technologies in preventative medical care, deontological approaches to public health and more. 

G3 Students
Elizabeth Demarco

Elisabeth DeMarco

Undergraduate Institution: Purdue University

Graduate Department: Health and Clinical Outcomes Research
Graduate Mentor: Leslie Hinyard, Ph.D.
Research: My undergraduate research with Estuardo Robles, Ph.D., characterized the normal development of neuronal dendritic spines in vivo using a transgenic zebrafish line and explored the use of this tool to model spine development in mutant models. At SLU, I will be pursuing research related to Parkinson's disease, mental health, quality of life, and the experience of patients and care partners. My training will include assisting clinicians and researchers as part of SLU's AHEAD Institute, learning methodology and statistical techniques, and exploring data science.

Regan McGuff

Reagan McGuffee

Undergraduate Institution: Millsaps College

Graduate Department: Biochemistry and Molecular Biology
Research Mentor: David Ford, Ph.D.
Research: My undergraduate research was conducted in the lab of Wolfgang Kramer, Ph.D., where I synthesized photoactivatable N-alkoxy-substituted heteroaromatic compounds as photodynamic therapy (PDT) drug candidates aimed at treating certain cancers. My Ph.D. work at SLU is being performed under the guidance of David Ford, Ph.D. My project involves utilizing lipidomics, various cell imaging techniques, and animal models to investigate the anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties of plasmalogens in the setting of sepsis. This research can lead to a better understanding of the role(s) of these lipids in sepsis, particularly in the modulation of cellular reactive oxygen species levels, and it may suggest benefits to their administration alongside the standard of care.

Lindsay (Lou) Vinarcsik

Lindsay (Lou) Vinarcsik

Undergraduate Institution: Cornell University

Graduate Department: Health Care Ethics
Research Mentor: Erica Salter, Ph.D.
Research: Through my previous work conducting research in both biomedical and humanities contexts, I have come to recognize the imperative to build more robust historical and philosophical frameworks undergirding contemporary medical practice. My experiences in cooperative living and the provision of “indigent care,” as well, have spurred my commitment to understanding the possibilities and pitfalls of community-based medicine. To these ends, my work in the Healthcare Ethics Department will focus on the history of medicine in the United States during the 20th century, with an eye toward the conceptual and political formations that informed (and continue to shape) the development of free clinics. I intend for my approach to be both theoretical and practical, and hope that my dissertation will inform my future practice as a community physician. As a primary care practitioner, I will provide accessible, quality care with an emphasis on comprehensive sexual and reproductive health care. 

G4 Students
Stella Hoft

Stella Hoft

Undergraduate Institution: Pitzer College

Graduate Department: Molecular Microbiology and Immunology
Research Mentor: Richard DiPaolo, Ph.D.
Research: My Ph.D. work at SLU is conducted under Richard DiPaolo, Ph.D., within the Department of Molecular Microbiology and Immunology. My thesis work is focused on understanding how chronic gastric inflammation, either induced by autoimmunity or infection, instigates metaplastic changes in the tissue and ultimately drives gastric carcinogenesis. Using cutting-edge techniques like single-cell and spatial transcriptomics I am capable of understanding at the transcriptional level how the immune response triggers distinct epithelial cell transformations.

Robert Kousnetsov

Robert Kousnetsov

Undergraduate Institution: Santa Clara University

Graduate Department: Molecular Microbiology and Immunology
Research Mentor: Daniel Hawiger, M.D., Ph.D.
Research: My research focuses on the use of single-cell technologies to better understand the functions of dendritic cells and T cells in the regulation of immune responses.

Alexandar Piening

Alexander Piening

Undergraduate Institution: Rockhurst University

Graduate Department: Molecular Microbiology and Immunology
Research Mentor: Ryan Teague, Ph.D.
Research: A key development in the field of cancer treatment has been the development of immunotherapies, biologic molecules that prime the immune system to specifically combat tumor cells. While checkpoint blockade immunotherapy has revolutionized cancer treatment, some patients still show no clinical response, and the mechanisms dictating therapeutic success remain largely unknown. My research in Ryan Teague’s lab broadly focuses on delineating factors that influence responses to immune checkpoint blockade therapy. Specifically, we are interested in understanding how diet, obesity, and obesity-associated comorbidities impact responses to anti-PD-1/CTLA-4 combination therapy in melanoma.

G5 Students
Monica Goodland

Monica Goodland

Undergraduate Institution: Missouri State University

Graduate Department: Pharmacology and Physiology
Research Mentor: Susan Farr, Ph.D.
Research Interests: In our lab, we use the SAMP8 mouse model of Alzheimer's disease to study the effects of various drugs on behavior and cognition with hopes to identify novel therapies for the debilitating disease. We also study traumatic brain injuries, chemotherapy-induced cognitive impairment, and fronto-temporal lobar dementias in collaboration with other labs.
Research: Our lab studies many conditions that cause cognitive impairment including traumatic brain injury, depression, chemotherapy, diabetes, frontotemporal dementia and Alzheimer's disease. We use disease models to investigate the underlying causes of cognitive impairment and test potential drug compounds. I am interested in exploring the molecular links between traumatic brain injury and Alzheimer's disease, as many epidemiological studies have revealed TBI as a risk factor for developing Alzheimer's later in life. Understanding these disease processes and their similarities will be critical in developing effective targeted therapies for the millions of people affected.

Di (Andy) Wu

Di (Andy) Wu

Undergraduate Institution: University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Graduate Department: Molecular Microbiology and Immunology
Research Mentor: Rajeev Aurora, Ph.D.
Research: My work in Rajeev Aurora’s lab focuses on osteoimmunology, which is the interplay between the skeletal and immune system. Ovariectomized (OVX) mice is a well characterized mice model for post-menopausal osteoporosis. Previous work in the lab has shown that osteoclasts (OC) can induced CD8+ regulatory T-cells (Tcreg), which has a bone anabolic effect in OVX mice. I am interested in how inflammation affects osteoblasts (OB) and how this contributes to bone loss in OVX mice. The goal is to identify cellular pathways that can be potential targets for new therapeutics.

M4 Students
Emily Cybulla

Emily Cybulla, Ph.D.

Undergraduate Institution: Loyola University Chicago

Research Mentor: Alessandro Vindigni, Ph.D.
Graduate Department: Biochemistry and Molecular Biology
Research: Mutations in the breast cancer susceptibility genes BRCA1 and BRCA2 confer an increased lifetime risk of breast and ovarian cancers. Clinically, BRCA-mutated cancers are susceptible to PolyADP-Ribose Polymerase inhibitors (PARPi) and platinum-based agents, but emerging PARPi resistance has become a critical challenge for treating these tumors. The Vindigni Lab is focused on characterizing DNA replication stress response and repair pathways that are activated by cancer cells upon treatment with DNA-damaging agents, with the ultimate goal of targeting these responses to improve chemotherapeutic efficacy. Our lab is also generally interested in topics encompassed by the fields of DNA replication and repair, genome stability, cancer biology, and precision cancer medicine. My specific work centers on elucidating the replication stress response mechanisms utilized by BRCA1-deficient breast and ovarian cancers. Moreover, I aim to determine whether targeting these pathways can improve chemoresponse in BRCA1-mutated cancers.

Zachary Grese

Zachary Grese, Ph.D.

Undergraduate Institution: Marquette University
Graduate Department: Biochemistry and Molecular Biology
Research Mentor: Yuna Ayala, PhD.
Research Interests: Our research is focused on the RNA-binding protein TDP-43. TDP-43 forms cellular aggregates in a variety of neurodegenerative diseases such as ALS and FTD. Using both in vitro and cellular models, I am investigating the role that RNA plays in maintaining the solubility of TDP-43. We hope to use insights from what we learn to help develop therapeutics for currently-incurable neurological disorders.

Headshot of Jessica Borque

Jessica Bourque, Ph.D.

Undergraduate Institution: Stevens Institute of Technology 
Graduate Department: Molecular Microbiology and Immunology
Research Mentor: Daniel Hawiger, M.D., Ph.D. 
Research: My research in the Hawiger lab focuses on elucidating the molecular mechanisms by which various dendritic cell (DC) subsets influence T cell responses. Previous work in our lab has shown how a particular subset of tolerogenic DCs promotes the differentiation of peripheral regulatory T (pTreg) cells that are protective against autoimmunity. I am interested in identifying and characterizing additional pathways utilized by specific populations of DCs and T cells that may potentially be targeted for the development of novel immunotherapies for the treatment of cancer, autoimmunity and infection.

Headshot of Valerio Rosi

Valerio Rasi, Ph.D.

Undergraduate Institution: University of Florida
Graduate Department: Molecular Microbiology and Immunology
Research Mentor: Dan Hoft, M.D., Ph.D.
Research: My doctoral work in Dan Hoft’s lab focused on understanding how Granzyme A (GzmA) mediates the clearance of Mycobacterium tuberculosis (Mtb) within human macrophages. Previous work in the lab showed that gamma delta T cells secrete GzmA in response to Mtb infection, but the mechanism of inhibition was unknown. My studies identified a novel role for GzmA’s inhibitory activity, which led to an intellectual property patent application and three first-author articles. The patent protects the use of a modified version of GzmA that lacks potential for off target effects (and potential medical side effects), and its use as novel host-directed immunotherapeutic in Mtb-infected patients. This work has also been funded by a predoctoral fellowship F30 award through the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) within the NIH, which has supported my PhD and MD studies.

Headshot of Megan Murrary

Meghan Murray, Ph.D.

Undergraduate Institution: Saint Louis University
Department: Pharmacology and Physiology
Mentor: Tom Burris, Ph.D.
Research: The Burris lab is focused on using chemical biology approaches to characterize the physiological roles of nuclear receptors. The lab also develops drugs targeting nuclear receptors for the treatment of diseases including type 2 diabetes, heart disease, cancer, liver diseases, muscular dystrophy, autism, Alzheimer's disease, and more. One particular area of concentration is identifying the ligands for a group of these nuclear receptors known as orphans. The “hormones” that bind to these orphan receptors have yet to be discovered.

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