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.


  • Eli Hagedorn
    Undergraduate Institution: The University of Alabama

    Research: As an undergraduate researcher, I compared the antiviral responses of young and aged individuals using Drosophila melanogaster. My thesis work and clinical experiences also cultivated my interests in the mechanisms of metabolism and diabetes. I am broadly interested in the interaction between metabolism, the immune system, and the aging process. I hope to integrate these interests to improve the understanding and treatment of autoimmunity, diabetes, and biological aging.

  • Benjamin Johnson
    Undergraduate Institution: Brigham Young University

    Research: As an undergraduate, I worked with a tissue engineering group to create an improved model of lung disease. Because of this experience, I am excited about the incredible potential of tissue engineering to improve drug discovery, enable personalized treatment of disease, and restore the function of organs. I also worked in an entrepreneurship team attempting to bring less expensive insulin to the market as well as with a Harvard Medical School professor to develop education materials for medical students and residents. My experiences drive me to pursue research grounded in the experiences of patients while looking towards translation.

  • Kali Konstantinopoulos
    Research: My undergraduate research centered on collective cell dynamics and cell-environment interactions in breast and colorectal cancer. I have also developed software for simulating cell shape, mechanics, and adhesion. As an aspiring physician-scientist, I am interested in applying computational tools to study disease progression and treatment, working towards precision medicine based on individual patients’ disease patterns and data. 
  • Alexander Kritikos

    Undergraduate: Case Western Reserve University

    Research: As an undergraduate, my research was focused on understanding the role of iron in the pathogenesis of glaucoma, age related macular degeneration, and Alzheimer’s disease, and the relationship between the diseases. Now, I am broadly interested in studying the pathogenesis and molecular mechanisms of diseases, especially those that significantly affect patient quality of life, including cancers and ocular disorders. I am particularly interested in using microscopy and other imaging methods to study the pathology of these diseases.

  • Katherine Lipsius
    Undergraduate Institution: University of Maryland Eastern Shore

    Research: As an undergraduate, I worked in multiple labs dedicated to the environmental influences on health, the information that could be discovered about solute transport, and diabetes using the Zebrafish and organic solutions to pest control. After graduating I spent three years as a Post-baccalaureate Mishoe Fellow at the NHLBI/NIH where my work shifted to the study of the crosstalk and development of the sympathetic nervous system and the vascular system in mice. I am interested in continuing work with integrative clinical neuroscience and the crosstalk between the nervous system and other biological systems.

  • Hannah Rondon
    Undergraduate Institution: Purdue University

    Research: With a background in Neurobiology and Biochemistry, I am extremely interested in studying neurodegenerative diseases from a biochemical standpoint. Previously my research focused on studying the implication of the dysregulation of human deubiquitinate enzymes in neurodegenerative diseases and cancer. As a future physician-scientist, I hope to contribute to our understanding of the molecular mechanisms underlying neurodegeneration and advance our therapeutic strategies for neurologic disease.

  • Cameron Rostron
    Research: I was very fortunate to have amazing undergraduate research opportunities studying sex differences in circadian rhythms and metabolism, as well as tobacco use and control among college students. During the MSTP program, I hope to study the biology of pancreatic β-cells and the autoimmune response that causes Type I Diabetes in order to better understand, prevent, and treat this disease.
  • Selena Wang
    Undergraduate Institution: University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC)

    Research: My previous research has focused on fetal neurodevelopment in the context of maternal immune activation and the gut microbiome, which have been epidemiologically linked to autistic and schizophrenia-like behavior in offspring. I have also performed research on the brain-gut axis, focusing on the impact of dietary fiber on pro-inflammatory microglia in an aged mouse model.  I aim to study more about the mechanisms of neurological disease to develop therapeutics that can be brought to the patients' bedside.

  • Damen Wilson
    Undergraduate Institution: Purdue University

    Research: My undergraduate research focused on utilizing signal processing with the electrocardiogram and electrogastrogram for developing algorithms of autonomic activity tracking and real-time closed loop vagal nerve stimulation. Broadly, I am interested in continuing research to further the translational neural engineering field. I hope to learn and grow as a researcher, combining areas of engineering research with treating neurological diseases and disabilities.

  • Emily Yang
    Undergraduate Institution: Cornell University

    Research: My undergraduate research focused on CRISPR/Cas9 gene drives as strategies to control vector borne disease. I have also studied neural circuits of skilled motor movement, particularly how cortical inputs modulate the corticospinal tract, to understand spinal cord injury and movement disorders. I'd like to continue studying neuroscience from a genetic and molecular perspective with translational goals. 


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

    Research: My previous research focused on modeling mutational specificity in Neurofibromatosis Type 1 using human iPSC-derived cerebral organoids. Broadly, I am interested in using humanized models to understand the mechanism and uncover treatment options for 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, and I am excited to further my understanding of the cardiovascular system through the integration of non-invasive imaging. Additionally, I wish to develop a better knowledge of cell growth and mechanics. Having worked as a data scientist prior to medical school, 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: My research interests lie at the intersection of oncology, pediatrics, neurology, and immunology. Throughout undergrad, I was involved in translational and clinical breast cancer research. I also have experience in immunology research and am especially excited about cancer immunology and immunotherapies, neuro-oncology, and targeted cancer therapeutics. I am interested in becoming a physician-scientist to improve treatment options for patients I will see in clinic through discoveries in the lab.
  • Christopher Schorr

    Undergraduate Institution: Purdue University
    Graduate Department: Biomedical Engineering 

    Research: As an undergraduate, I strived to better understand cancer pathology and pharmacology by working alongside two scientific mentors: Dr. Sophie Lelièvre and Dr. You-Yeon Won. My work on breast cancer therapeutic resistance and chemo-nanoparticle design gave me great insight into the challenges of treating cancer both at an intracellular and extracellular level. I am interested in a career as a physician-scientist to be better positioned to help elucidate and address cancer's many mechanisms of immune-evasion and treatment-resistance.

  • Hannah Wilson

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

    Research: My undergraduate research focused on analyzing food access disparities in Indiana and communication errors in nutrition education materials. My primary graduate research interests lie in the connection between chronic disease and the gut microbiome. I hope to investigate how the microbiota are involved in the pathogenesis of obesity and long term illness such as chronic kidney disease. I also seek to explore how modulation of the microbiome can affect patient outcomes/prognosis.


  • Matt Austin
    Undergraduate Institution: Brigham Young University
    Graduate Department: Biochemistry and Molecular Biology
    Research Mentor: Amelia Linnemann, PhD

    Research: My primary research interest is studying the mechanisms of autoimmune targeting of beta cells in Type 1 Diabetes. Particularly, I am interested in studying how defects in the autophagy pathway of beta cells alters the immunopeptidome presented to cytotoxic T cells.

  • Alexandria Carter
    Undergraduate Institution: The Ohio State University
    Graduate Department: Microbiology & Immunology
    Research Mentor: Martin Richer, PhD
    Contact Information: 

    Research: I am currently conducting research in the Microbiology and Immunology Department at IUSM with Dr. Martin Richer. Having curated research experiences in molecular biology, global public health, epidemiology, and clinical infectious diseases, I strive to combine these research disciplines to understand and counteract global emerging viral pathogens. Specifically, I am investigating the viral immunopathogenesis of Zika virus infection and elucidating methods Zika virus utilizes to evade and counteract host immune responses. By uncovering the immunopathogenesis of Zika virus, I hope to improve our clinical understanding of Zika infection and provide developing nations with the knowledge to counteract Zika outbreaks.

  • Maya Krishnan

    Undergraduate Institution: Stanford University
    Graduate Department: Microbiology and Immunology
    Research Mentor: Mark Kaplan, PhD

    Research: My research focuses on the characterization of cell surface targets in hematological malignancies, primarily acute myeloid leukemia and multiple myeloma. I am working to delineate the mechanism of these target antigens which were identified using mass spectrometry and RNA sequencing. We hope to use these targets to develop and test chimeric antigen T cell receptor (CART) therapies and/or other T cell driven therapies such as bi-specific T cell engagers (BITE).

  • Rada Malko
    Undergraduate Institution: North Park University
    Graduate Department: Medical and Molecular Genetics
    Research Mentor: Karen Pollok, PhD

    Research: My undergraduate research and publications focused on growing health awareness of dietary supplements derived from plants and marine sources. My current interests are in personalized medicine from studying human genes in different cancers. Pollok lab aims to build upon the standard-of-care therapy for sarcoma by modulation of dysregulated signaling networks and focuses on developing novel curative and maintenance therapies for pediatric sarcomas.

  • Evan Messenger

    Undergraduate Institution: Indiana University-Indianapolis
    Graduate Department: Medical Neuroscience
    Research Mentor: Bruce Lamb, PhD

    Research: My current research interests involve using mouse models and human data to better understand genetic contributions to Alzheimer's Disease (AD). Specifically, we are investigating novel variants of PLCG2, a phospholipase which, in the brain, is found exclusively in microglia and has important functions in immune receptor signaling and microglial activation in AD. This work could reveal novel targets for therapeutic intervention through up- or downregulation of PLCG2 in patients with AD.

  • Olivia Murray

    Undergraduate Institution: Washington University in St. Louis

    Research: My undergraduate research focused on the neurobiology and psychology of speech comprehension, working toward a model of cochlear implant speech adaptation. I am broadly interested in the neurobiological diagnosis and treatment of psychiatric disorders. My current research utilizes neuroimaging to evaluate the brain basis for the development of risky drug use and sexual behaviors in adolescents.

  • Xiyu (Grace) Wang
    Undergraduate Institution: Earlham College

    Research: My PhD work in Dr. Xiongbin Lu's lab focuses on the identification of therapeutic targets for treating Triple Negative Breast Cancer. Specifically, we intend to exploit the immune defense mechanisms against cancer and to identify biological targets that may improve T-cell cytotoxicity towards solid tumors.

  • 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 graduate project looks to describe how the microbiome provides protection against severe malaria in Ugandan children. I assess bacterial sequencing data as well as immune cell sequencing and functional tests to reveal what impact the microbiome has immunological outcomes. 

  • Caylin Billingsley

    portrait of Caylin BillingsleyUndergraduate Institution: Indiana University-Indianapolis
    Graduate Department: Microbiology and Immunology
    Research Mentor: Rachel Katzenellenbogen, MD

    Research: My research interests are focused on elucidating the cellular mechanisms involved in Human Papillomavirus (HPV) type 16 infections. HPV is responsible for a range of clinical manifestations and is the cause of nearly all cervical cancers; however, there are currently no therapeutics available that target the virus specifically. My research aims to understand how HPV 16 utilizes cellular machinery and alters gene expression to establish and maintain infection.

  • Breanne Burgess
    Undergraduate Institution: North Carolina State University

    Research: I am investigating the role of AXL receptor tyrosine kinase in tumor initiation and maintenance of tumors of Neurofibromatosis Type I, a cancer predisposition syndrome.
  • 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. My current research is on histopathological image analysis for melanoma metastasis prediction and the use of transfer learning to map patient-level clinical characteristics onto cell-level data.

  • 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
    Graduate Department: Biomedical Engineering
    Research Mentor: Carmella Evans-Molina, MD, PhD (Indiana University) and Fang Huang, PhD (Purdue University)

    Research: My research interests lie in diabetes, specifically in gaining a better understanding of how the pancreatic beta cells fail to try to slow or halt the progression of diabetes as well as create new therapeutics targeted at beta cell health. I am currently researching how estrogen may play a role in beta cell identity and function and how it may therefore contribute to the pathophysiology of type 2 diabetes. Additionally, I am applying super-resolution microscopy to the beta cell in order to characterize the ultrastructural architecture of the organelles of the β-cell under healthy and diabetic conditions to correlate the relationship between structure and function and potentially identify new treatment options for this disease that targets organelle health.

  • Nikhil Shah
    Undergraduate Institution: Indiana University
    Research Mentor: AJ Baucum, PhD

    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.

  • Kaylee Tutrow

    Undergraduate Institution: Indiana University - Indianapolis
    Graduate Department: Medical and Molecular Genetics

    Research: My prior research experiences have mostly centered around neuroscience, including the role of inflammatory pathways in depression, addiction, and traumatic brain injury. My current research involves modeling Alzheimer's Disease using an in vitro human stem cell model. Specifically, I am working to determine the impact of a single nucleotide variant in the CX3CR1 gene on microglia function and possible neurodegenerative effects related to Alzheimer's 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: My research interests and ambitions are to help the pediatric patient population by using cardiovascular imaging to better characterize the complex mechanisms of disease and pathology that underly heart conditions. Recently, I have been working with Dr. Larry Markham at Riley Children's Hospital to develop biomechanical and machine learning methods to detect and track cardiomyopathy progression in children with Duchenne muscular dystrophy using cardiac magnetic resonance imaging.

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

    Research: My work examines the relation of autonomic nervous system function, measured through heart rate variability, in promoting alcohol drinking and anxiety behavior. I also look at how chronic alcohol drinking may alter the balance of the two opposing branches of the autonomic nervous system. Finally, I aim to determine the role of the anterior insula-- a brain region critical for motivated behavior, interoception, and emotion-- in these contexts. My overall career goals are to practice psychiatry and further our scientific understanding of psychiatric disorders and neuroscience.

  • 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.

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

    Research: I am utilizing my background in engineering, signal processing, and music to study the processing of pitch by the auditory system-- particularly in sensorineural hearing loss (SNHL). By leveraging controlled animal models of SNHL, I can better interpret our behavioral and electrophysiological findings in human listeners, hopefully leading to an improved understanding of pitch processing and better diagnostics and assistive technology.
  • 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.


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

    Research: My research interests are broadly in tissue engineering. My current projects include investigating the role of fibronectin and wound healing on dormant breast cancer cells and metastasis.
  • 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: In the surgical excision of prostate cancer, postsurgical complications could be avoided by improved presurgical risk stratification for extraprostatic tumor extension. Nathaniel's research aims to develop and validate image analysis methods to improve presurgical definition of the location and extent of disease with the tumor-targeted PET agent, [68Ga]Ga-PSMA-11. These analysis methods will allow PSMA-targeted PET to better inform treatment decisions and improve quality-of-life for high-risk prostate cancer patients.
  • Emma Vanderlaan

    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 an advanced microphysiological system for pancreatic islets featuring dynamic perfusion and 3D culture to provide a pro-survival microenvironment for evaluation of beta-cell function over time. 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 glucose-stimulated insulin secretion. After validation of device functionality, different applications at the forefront of diabetes research will be explored.

  • John Wells
    Undergraduate Institution: Purdue University-Indianapolis
    Graduate Department: Medical and Molecular Genetics
    Research Mentor: Stephanie Ware, MD, PhD

    Research: My research in Dr. Stephanie Ware's lab regards understanding the genetic causes of heterotaxy, a syndrome caused by disturbed specification of left-right asymmetry during embryonic development. This abnormal left-right patterning leads to severe congenital heart defects as well as abdominal and/or thoracic organ abnormalities. Currently, mutations in Zinc finger of the cerebellum 3 (ZIC3) are the only known cause of X-linked heterotaxy. In one family with X-linked heterotaxy without a coding mutation in ZIC3, we identified a novel ZIC3 intronic variant predicted to result in abnormal RNA splicing of ZIC3. Therefore, we hypothesize a subset of X-linked heterotaxy cases may be caused by noncoding mutations in ZIC3 altering its RNA splicing. In addition, we hypothesize that non-coding mutations in enhancer regions controlling the expression of ZIC3 during early development may also cause X-linked heterotaxy. We are working to characterize these potential enhancer regions using multiomic approaches.


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

    Research: I am interested in the factors driving cancer pathogenesis and the development of novel therapies. Previously, I investigated the mechanisms underlying the cancer predisposition syndrome neurofibromatosis type 2 (NF2) and developed potential therapies for NF2 patients with Dr. Long-Sheng Chang and Dr. D. Bradley Welling at Nationwide Children’s Hospital and The Ohio State University. Studying NF2 inspired an interest in the genetic alterations that influence cancer development and progression and the aspects that make each patient’s disease process unique. To further explore the factors that promote oncogenesis, I am conducting my graduate research in the lab of Dr. Reuben Kapur. Using genetically-engineered and transplant mouse models, I am investigating the contributions of inflammatory signaling pathways to leukemogenesis and exploring the possibility of targeting these pathways for therapeutic intervention.
  • 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.
  • 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.


  • 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 long-term goal is to be an independently funded pediatrician-scientist using computational neuroscience approaches to better understand neurodevelopmental disorders. I completed my PhD in medical neuroscience with Dr. Anantha Shekhar and Dr. Wade Clapp studying Neurofibromatosis type 1, a genetic disorder which often presents with neurocutaneous lesions and developmental disorders. My research uses optogenetics and awake-behaving neural recordings to investigate neural mechanisms underlying impulsivity and social memory, examining how these preclinical phenotypes relate to ADHD and autism spectrum disorders. 

  • 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.
  • 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.

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

    Research: Hendrik's work focused on how components of air pollution impact the neurodegenerative process in Alzheimer's disease through the lung-brain axis. This work focused on how pulmonary insults impact the peripheral immune system leading to circulating signals that then impact the microglia, the innate myeloid cell of the brain parenchyma, leading to exacerbated Alzheimer's pathology.
  • 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: Sarah Lipp is excited to reenter medical training and aspires to be a pediatric nephrologist aiming to improve the care of patients with kidney disease by researching renal development and pathophysiology. Sarah Lipp's thesis work involved an investigation of extracellular matrix (ECM) in the kidney and musculoskeletal system. The ECM, 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 studied how ECM changes in kidney development and the role of kidney stromal cells. Additional studies included investigating the implications of the presence of muscle, muscle contraction, and muscle patterning on myotendinous junction development. This information can be used to tailor tissue engineering scaffolds.
  • 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.
  • Cyrus Takahashi

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

    Research: The aldehyde dehydrogenase (ALDH) 1A subfamily of enzymes has a critical, albeit poorly defined role in cancer stem cells in several cancer types. Cancer stem cells promote disease recurrence, metastasis, and treatment resistance, representing a major challenge in cancer therapy. My research utilized small molecule ALDH1A inhibitors in conjunction with global transcriptomic, proteomic, and metabolomic analyses to identify pathways that could potentially link ALDH1A activity and cancer stem cell survival in a triple-negative breast cancer model. A greater understanding of cancer stem cell biology and the functional role of ALDH1A therein could aid the development of more effective cancer therapies in the future.


  • 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
    Steven Chen is a fourth-year medical student at Indiana University School of Medicine. He graduated from Dartmouth College in 2015 where he studied Biology, Mathematics, and International Relations. He plans to apply to Otolaryngology (ENT)-Head and Neck Surgery for residency. Steven has a commitment to research and completed his dissertation with Yunlong Liu, PhD, in the field of genetics and bioinformatics. He studied alternative splicing regulation in Alzheimer's Disease and cancer. His research resulted multiple publications in journals such as Human Mutation and Nature Communications. Steven also served as part of the Dean's appointed Student Research Committee to promote research opportunities for students in the summer between their first and second years and beyond. Steven is a dedicated leader, having served as chair of the Council of Student Members for the American College of Physicians in addition to representing medical students on ACP's Board of Regents, Board of Governors, and Education Committee. He also represented ACP in the House of Delegates for the American Medical Association. Locally, Steven was chair of his school's internal medicine and technology in medicine interest groups. Steven is an avid hiker, runner, and snowboarder. He has trekked to Everest base camp through Tibet and summited Mt. Kilimanjaro. He also finished several races, including the Berlin Marathon and the New York City Half Marathon.
  • Geneva Cunningham
    University of Oklahoma
    Graduate Department: Medical and Molecular Genetics
    Research Mentor: Bryan Schneider, MD

    Research: As a graduate researcher in the Schneider laboratory, Geneva focused on characterizing the impact of SBF2 on taxane-induced peripheral neuropathy in breast cancer patients. Her work culminated in establishing the foundation for a major National Cancer Institute-sponsored clinical trial for female patients of African descent being treated with taxanes. Geneva is passionate and committed to pursuing a career as a physician scientist in the field of oncology to uncover novel therapeutic genetic targets and to identify predictive biomarkers with the potential to aid in assessing a patient's responsiveness to treatment versus the risk of adverse effects.
  • Frederick Damen
    Undergraduate Institution: Georgia Institute of Technology
    Graduate Department: Biomedical Engineering
    Research Mentor: Craig Goergen, PhD(Purdue)

    Research: Working in the Cardiovascular Imaging Research Laboratory (CVIRL) under Dr. Craig Goergen at Purdue University, Frederick's research revolved around the development of novel imaging techniques to better characterize cardiovascular disease. His thesis work specifically focused on the development and application of four-dimensional ultrasound techniques to better understand cardiac dysfunction progression in mouse models of hypertrophic cardiomyopathy. Since completing his PhD training, Frederick has further expanded his research endeavors to study pediatric aortopathies through advanced analysis of routine echocardiography data.
  • 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.

  • 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.

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

    Research: Completed his PhD thesis work on the engineering design of collagen dermal replacements for treatment of difficult to heal wounds. Used in vitro biophysical analysis, animal models, and computational studies to understand the effect of scaffold mechanics and microstructure on tissue regeneration. Our long term goal is to develop and translate new therapies for injuries and degenerative disease. Interests in biomaterials, stem cells, continuum mechanics, computational modeling.
  • 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.