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Current Students

MS1 Students
Elisabeth DeMarco
Elisabeth DeMarco

Undergraduate Institution: Purdue University
Research: While working with Dr. Estuardo Robles, my undergraduate research characterized the normal development of dendritic spines in vivo using a transgenic zebrafish line and explored the use of this tool to model spine development in mutant models.


Reagan McGuffee
Reagan McGuffee

Undergraduate Institution: Millsaps College
Research: My undergraduate research was conducted in the lab of Dr. Wolfgang Kramer. The goal of the research was to synthesize photoactivatable N-alkoxy-substituted heteroaromatic compounds which could serve as both novel DNA-cleaving reagents and as photodynamic therapy (PDT) drug candidates to combat cancer. I am planning for a rotation in Dr. David Ford's lab this summer in the Department of Biochemistry & Molecular Biology at SLU.


Lindsay Vinarcsik
Lindsay Vinarcsik

Undergraduate Institution: Cornell University
Research: My undergraduate research took multiple forms but remained centered on Alzheimer’s disease. My research began in Cornell University’s Schaffer-Nishimura lab with an Alzheimer’s disease drug development project (results published in the Nature Neuroscience article entitled, “Neutrophil adhesion in brain capillaries reduces cortical blood flow and impairs memory function in Alzheimer’s disease mouse models”). After the project’s completion I changed the lens through which I researched Alzheimer’s disease and began to re-evaluate the work I had done in the lab with Professors from various interdisciplinary fields (Dr. Courtney Roby in Classics, Dr. Stacey Langwick in Medical Anthropology, and Dr. Malte Ziewitz in Science and Technology Studies). This re-evaluation led to an honors thesis that critically analyzed the ways in which biomedical care and citizen science can shape the way that patients and families conceptualize lived experiences of Alzheimer’s disease.


 

MS2 Students
Alexander Piening
Alexander Piening

Undergraduate Institution: Rockhurst University
Research: My undergraduate research focused on examining the efficacy of monoclonal antibody glycosylation profile mapping techniques when applied to cancer and autoimmune immunotherapy drugs. In addition, I have just completed a rotation in Dr. Daniela Salvemini’s lab where I was helping to research neuropathic pain pathways related to chronic constriction injury (CCI) and spared nerve injury (SNI) pain models in mice.


Stella Hoft
Stella Hoft

Undergraduate Institution: Pitzer College
Research: Most of my previous research experience is in various realms of infectious disease. In the past, at Saint Louis University, I worked on drug development for Herpes Simplex Virus under Dr. Lynda Morrison. Before matriculating into SLU’s MD/PhD program I completed a post-baccalaureate fellowship at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease under Dr. Daniel Barber, where we worked toward understanding the pulmonary CD4 T cell response toMycobacterium tuberculosis in mouse, non-human primate, and human models. For my first lab rotation at SLU I worked with Drs. James Brien and Amelia Pinto to identify the progression of the B cell response to ZIKV infection in a specified mouse model. I currently hope to complete my PhD in the Molecular, Microbiology, and Immunology department, focusing on the immune response to globally relevant infectious diseases.


Robert Kousnetsov
Robert Kousnetsov

Undergraduate Institution: Santa Clara University
Research: My undergraduate research took place in the lab of Dr. Leilani Miller, where I investigated the properties of a transcription factor that is part of a gene regulatory circuit controlling vulval cell fate execution in the model organism Caenorhabditis elegans. For my first summer at SLU, I rotated in the lab of Dr. Daniel Hawiger, where I studied the interactions between dendritic cells and T cells in the context of immune tolerance. While pursuing a PhD in the department of Molecular Microbiology and Immunology, I wish to explore the dynamics of the immune system with respect to cancer (in the service of immunotherapy).


G1 Students
Monica Goodland
Monica Goodland

Undergraduate Institution: Missouri State University in Springfield
Research: My previous master's thesis research focused on a mouse model of Alzheimer's disease and characterizing their oxygen consumption at rest and during physical activity; this work was primarily exercise physiology based, focusing on metabolic differences between these mice and similarly aged matched control mice. My education background is in cell and molecular biology with extensive teaching experience in human anatomy at the undergraduate and graduate levels. I am currently in a summer rotation with Dr. Ayala's group and I am interested in neurodegenerative disorders, like Alzheimer's disease and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. During this rotation, I am using fluorescent tagged antibodies to examine where the TDP protein (affected in ALS) with different point mutations localizes in this cell line under normal and stressful conditions. Hopefully this will bring more insight into which mutations of this protein are harmful and which are beneficial.


Di (Andy) Wu
Di (Andy) Wu

Undergraduate Institution: University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Research: My senior thesis research in undergraduate focused on the pathogenesis of Salmonella Typhimurium, specifically it’s ability to survive within macrophages. The goal is to investigate superoxide-mediated killing of Salmonella and provide insight for new antibiotics. My current interests are in immunology and will be doing two more rotations in the Department of Molecular Immunology and Microbiology this upcoming summer


G2 Students
Emily Cybulla
Emily Cybulla

Undergraduate Institution: Loyola University Chicago
Research: My previous research experiences have been focused on medicinal synthetic chemistry, but moving forward, I am interested in exploring research related to the biochemical pathways and mechanisms responsible for aging and for cancer progression. My first research rotation with Dr. Susana Gonzalo allowed me to evaluate the effects of vitamin D on the pathways involved in rapid aging in progerin-expressing cells.


Zachary Grese
Zachary Grese

Undergraduate Institution: Marquette University
Graduate Department: Molecular Microbiology and Immunology 
Research Mentor: Daniel Hoft M.D., Ph.D


 

G3 Students
Jessica Bourque
Jessica Bourque

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.


Valerio Rasi
Valerio Rasi

Undergraduate Institution: University of Florida
Graduate Department: Molecular Microbiology and Immunology
Research Mentor: Dan Hoft, M.D., Ph.D.
Research: After taking a graduate level course in Immunology, I developed an interest in this subject. When I joined the M.D./Ph.D. program at Saint Louis University, I decided to look for a mentor in Immunology, who also had clinical expertise in this field. For my summer rotation, I have worked in Dr. Daniel Hoft's laboratory. Dr. Hoft conducts research on gamma delta T cells and their immunity against Mycobacterium tuberculosis. Dr. Hoft has previously shown that Granzyme A induces this immunity. My rotation's project was to purify this protein first, and then inspect the pathway in which Granzyme A induces macrophage activation and Mycobacterium tuberculosis clearance. 


 

G4 Students
 
Stephen Grote
Stephen Grote

Undergraduate Institution: Purdue University 
Graduate Department: Pharmacology and Physiology
Research Mentor: Gina Yosten, Ph.D.
Research: I am investigating the role of C-peptide in the health and metabolism of the retinal pigment epithelium (RPE). The RPE is integral to the retina and its pathology may be important to the development of diabetic retinopathy. C-peptide is cleaved from the proinsulin molecule and released with insulin from the β cell, but its biological function is poorly understood. With the identification of a putative C-peptide receptor  GPR146) in our lab, I am also looking to determine the interactions and function C-peptide has with its responsive tissues, in particular RPE cells.


Daniel Pike
Daniel Pike

Undergraduate Institution: Saint Louis University
Graduate Department: Biochemistry and Molecular Biology
Research Mentor: David Ford, Ph.D.
Research: I have just joined the Biochemistry Department in Dr. Ford’s lab. My initial research will involve investigating the link between the production of chlorinated lipids during the respiratory burst of the immune system in response to systemic infection and the sepsis phenotype, including, but not limited to, changes to the microvasculature and organ dysfunction.


Nickolas Steinauer
Nickolas Steinauer

Undergraduate Institution: Saint Louis University
Graduate Department: Pharmacology and Physiology
Research Mentor: Jinsong Zhang, Ph.D.
Research: Our lab is interested in the mechanisms by which leukemia fusion proteins alter the transcriptome of hematopoietic cells to induce a leukemic state. Of particular interest to us is the t(8;21) translocation and the aberrant transcription factor produced by this translocation, AML1-ETO. By studying the transcriptional corepressors, coactivators, and epigenetic modulators that bind to AML1-ETO and allow it to both activate and repress specific genes, we hope to uncover potential interactions for targeted therapy. 


Meghan Murray
Meghan Murray

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.


G5 Students
 
Michelle Bach
Michelle Bach

Undergraduate Institution: Agnes Scott College
Graduate Department: Health Care Ethics
Mentor: Jeffery Bishop, M.D., Ph.D. 
Research: My work focuses on using insights from philosophy of science, feminist bioethics, and theology to explore topics in psychiatric ethics such as personality disorders and violence. 


Kevin Bockerstett
Kevin Bockerstett

Undergraduate Institution: Spring Hill College
Graduate Department: Molecular Microbiology and Immunology
Research Mentor: Rich DiPaolo, Ph.D.
Research: Gastric cancer is the 5 th most common cancer and 3 rd leading cause of cancer-related death in the world. While chronic inflammation is strongly associated with the development of gastric cancer, the mechanism of this relationship is poorly understood. My goal is to define how cytokines produced by the immune system during the inflammatory response, such as interferon gamma and interleukin 17A, influence carcinogenesis. To date, I have found that the gastric epithelium expresses the receptors for certain immune cytokines that these cytokines are critical for cancer development in vivo, suggesting an unexplored direct effect of the immune system on the gastric epithelium that potentiates  cancer development. It is my hope that a better understanding of this interaction between the immune system and the stomach will provide new insight into gastric cancer development and create new areas of investigation for diagnosis and therapies.


MS3 Students
 
Catherine Cai
 Catherine Cai

Undergraduate Institution: Emory University (Atlanta, GA)
Graduate Department: Molecular Microbiology & Immunology
Research Mentor: Daniel Hoft, M.D., Ph.D.
Research: My research seeks to understand the factors that drive protective immunity versus immunopathology during Trypanosoma cruzi infection. Chronic T. cruzi infection results in Chagas disease, a major infectious cause of heart failure. We recently discovered that CD4+ Th17 cells are highly protective against T. cruzi infection and characterized the mechanisms of protection. Ongoing work involves studying the role of Th17 cells in T. cruzi-related cardiac pathology. Broadly speaking, my research interests lie in immunology, infectious diseases, global public health and vaccine development.


MS4 Students
 
Ananthi Rajamoorthi
Ananthi Rajamoorthi

Undergraduate Institution: Temple University
Graduate Department: Biochemistry & Molecular Biology
Research Mentor: Ángel Baldán, Ph.D.
Research: Our lab is interested in the molecular mechanisms that regulate whole-body lipid homeostasis. We are currently studying the role of hepatic CIDEC/Fsp27, a lipid-droplet associated protein, in diet-induced steatohepatitis, VLDL secretion, and the progression of atherosclerosis. Our long-term goals are to characterize the functional consequences of hepatic CIDEC/Fsp27 in the clinically relevant setting of metabolic syndrome.


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