For a better experience, click the Compatibility Mode icon above to turn off Compatibility Mode, which is only for viewing older websites.

Department of Microbiology & Immunology Current Students

First-Year Students

Hayley Klingenberg

Undergraduate: BS, Molecular and Medical Microbiology, University of California, Davis
Email: hjk53@drexel.edu
Advisor/Mentor: James Burns Jr., PhD
Background and Interests: I have always been interested in the immune system and the effect that different pathogens can have on the immune response. During my undergraduate years, I was unable to get the research experience I was hoping for. I applied to the master's program to gain hands-on research experience and further my knowledge of microbiology and immunology. Currently, I am most interested in host immune responses, specifically regarding vaccine development.


Joanna Jones

Undergraduate: BS, Microbiology and Cell & Molecular Biology, West Chester University
Email: jj993@drexel.edu
Advisor/Mentor: Michael Nonnemacher, PhD
LinkedIn
Background and Interests: After completing my bachelor’s degree, I worked in the microbiology lab at Terumo Cardiovascular in Elkton, Maryland, where I was responsible for testing and verifying the safety of medical devices used in heart surgery and related procedures. In the Nonnemacher Lab, I am focused on investigating CRISPR/Cas9 as a cure strategy for HIV. Later in my career, I hope to work in translational research and clinical trials to develop personalized treatment options for people living with chronic and infectious diseases.


Ukamushu Undieh

Undergraduate: BS in Biology with a Biomedical concentration from Messiah University
Email: uau26@drexel.edu
Advisor/Mentor: Sandhya Kortagere, PhD
LinkedIn
Background and Interests: During my undergraduate training, I developed various skills working in the generation of monoclonal antibodies for the restoration of a lab under the Microbiology course. Since then, I have broadened my research interests through rotating in labs at Drexel University. Some of these interests include evaluating the genomic diversity within the integrated HIV provirus, and elucidating the roles of gut microbiota in the pathogenesis of neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson’s disease. My current research interests lie in understanding the gut-CNS-immune axis to probe into novel avenues for curative strategies of various diseases and neurocognitive impairments.


James Johnson

Undergraduate: University of Alabama
Email: jaj376@drexel.edu
Advisor/Mentor: Olimpia Meucci, MD, PhD
LinkedIn
Background and Interests: During my undergraduate education, I studied the interactions among commensal and pathogenic urinary bacteria. The aim of these studies was to better understand how the urinary microbiome plays a role in urinary tract infections (UTIs). Since starting the Microbiology and Immunology program here at Drexel, I have become interested in the pathogenesis of HIV. In particular, I have an interest in understanding the neuropathogenesis of HIV and the mechanisms of the central nervous system that may have an effect on HIV-associated neurocognitive disorders (HAND).


Evangeline Williams

Undergraduate: BA, Biology, Earth Science concentration: Environmental Science, University of Pennsylvania
Email: emw366@drexel.edu
Advisor/Mentor: Josh Chang-Mell, PhD
LinkedIn
Background and Interests: Previously, I worked at the Philadelphia Zoo, as I have always been interested in studying animals as well as zoonotic diseases. I spent time characterizing retrovirus-host interactions in non-human primate models of HIV at The Ohio State College of Veterinary Medicine. Currently, I am interested in taking a bioinformatic approach to studying genomics and evolution in pathogens to have a better understanding of health and medicine.


Brenna Duffy

Advisor/Mentor: Sandhya Kortagere, PhD, and Michael Nonnemacher, PhD


Ijeoma Okoye

Undergraduate: BA, Biochemistry, Vassar College
Email: ico32@drexel.edu
Advisor/Mentor: Akhil Vaidya, PhD
Background and Interests: I am particularly passionate about infectious diseases that disproportionately affect sub-Saharan African countries. So, for my undergraduate thesis, I studied the bioactive compounds in herbs used as antimalarials in malaria-endemic regions. Now at Drexel, I am interested in investigating novel drug targets of Plasmodium falciparum that can be exploited for the development of new antimalarial drugs.


Kenneth Kim

Undergraduate: BS, Biology, Pennsylvania State University; MS, Biomedical Science – Immunology/Virology, Hood College
Email: kmk467@drexel.edu
Advisor/Mentor: Christopher B. Rodell, PhD
LinkedIn
Background and Interests: During my undergraduate years, I worked in a biomedical engineering lab focusing on enhancing the visualization of the retinal and choroid blood vessels under diabetic retinopathy conditions using magnetic resonance imaging. Then, I worked at the National Cancer Institute as a Cancer Research Training Award (CRTA) post-baccalaureate research fellow where I also received a master’s degree in biomedical science concentrating on immunology and virology at Hood College. My master's thesis focused on elucidating the molecular function of SERINC protein using the Drosophila model to find the significance of this novel protein in HIV. My research interests are translational and clinical applications focusing on immune engineering, immunology, vaccinology and delivery mechanism aspects.


Lindsay Barger

Undergraduate: BS, Biotechnology, minor in Microbiology, Pennsylvania State University
Email: lnb56@drexel.edu
Advisor/Mentor: Gabriel Romano, PhD
LinkedIn
Background and Interests: My research background is relatively broad. I worked for three years as a student at Penn State in the Department of Animal Science. I have had internships generally focused on research and drug development at Genesis Biotechnology and GlaxoSmithKline. At Genesis, I studied proteins involved in bladder cancer. At GSK, I screened small drug molecules in the bioanalytical department of drug manufacturing and pharmacokinetics (DMPK). At Drexel, my primary interest is in onco-immunology.


Abigail Onufer

Undergraduate: BS, Biotechnology, Biology, East Stroudsburg University of Pennsylvania
Email: apo38@drexel.edu
Advisor/Mentor: Alison Carey, MD
LinkedIn
Background and Interests: During my undergraduate studies, I worked in a wildlife lab designing assays used for pathogen identification in ticks. Following the completion of my degree, I spent two years in the biotech industry. My work mainly focused on ELISA and 2D-DIBE assay development for use in downstream drug processing. My current interests include understanding the immune response to pathogens and development of immunotherapies.


Ikechukwu Nwankwo

Undergraduate: BSc, Zoology (Parasitology Major), University of Lagos, Nigeria
Email: icn32@drexel.edu
Advisor/Mentor: Hangjun Ke, PhD
LinkedIn
Background and Interests: My undergraduate study was focused on better understanding the biology of parasitic diseases in designing effective control and elimination interventions. For my underground dissertation, I assessed the utilization and efficacy of artemisinin-based combination therapies (ACTs) in treating malaria among outpatients at the University of Lagos Medical Center. We discovered that antimalarial drugs were administered to patients before diagnosing them. Upon completing my undergraduate education, I interned at the Malaria and Genomic Centre, Nigerian Institute of Medical Research, undertaking research projects focused on the molecular investigation of Plasmodium falciparum, identifying genes and proteins associated with antimalarial drug resistance. My current interest is centered on understanding the biology of P. falciparum in identifying parasites' genes and proteins that could be considered a potential drug target in the design and development of a new antimalarial drug with the emergence of resistance to ACTs, WHO-recommended drugs against uncomplicated malaria.


Emily Konopka

Undergraduate: BS, Cell and Molecular Biology, Lycoming College
Email: ek845@drexel.edu
Advisor/Mentor: Michele Kutzler, PhD
LinkedIn
Background and Interests: During my undergraduate research, I worked on identifying a novel Moraxella species isolated from clinical cases of keratitis. These experiences directed my growing interests in host-pathogen interactions and translational research for infectious diseases.

 Back to Top

Second-Year Students

Alexis Brantly

Microbiology & Immunology PhD Program
Undergraduate: BA, English, University of Florida; MS, Microbiology and Cell Science, University of Florida
Email: ab4532@drexel.edu
Advisor/Mentor: Mike Nonnemacher, PhD
LinkedIn
Background and Interests: My research background primarily focuses on cancer and cancer virology. During my undergraduate studies, I was involved in studying the DNA damage response in the context of cancer development. During my masters studies, I examined the effect of novel STAT3 inhibitors on Epstein - Barr Virus-derived cancers. After graduating with my masters, I went on to work with Human Papillomavirus, looking at the effect of PTPN14 in promoting a cancer phenotype in HPV positive keratinocytes. My current project in Dr. Nonnemacher’s lab involves understanding the molecular mechanisms of HIV/HBV coinfection, and how this predisposes people with HIV to developing hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC).


Mackenzie Collins

Microbiology & Immunology PhD Program
Undergraduate: BS, Clinical Laboratory Science, BA, Biology; University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Email: mc4289@drexel.edu
Advisor/Mentor: Mike Nonnemacher, PhD
LinkedIn
Background and Interests: My background in clinical laboratory science and diagnostics has fueled an interest in developing and accessing molecular assays to address gaps in knowledge and improve care. My research at Drexel focuses on the latency and genetic variability of HIV-1 infection and understanding how viral transcripts and proteins can continue to cause pathogenesis within viral reservoirs, such as the central nervous system, of persons living with HIV-1 in the context of long-term antiretroviral therapy.


Adam Glass

Microbiology & Immunology PhD Program
Undergraduate: BS, Biology, Washington College
Email: ag3894@drexel.edu
Advisor/Mentor: Sonia Navas-Martin, PhD
LinkedIn

Background and Interests: Upon completion of my undergraduate education, I worked for two years as an ORISE post-baccalaureate research fellow at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. My research was focused on bacteriophage therapy, specifically for the nasal decolonization of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus in a mouse model. Currently, my work in the Navas-Martin laboratory is centered on elucidating the roles of toll-like receptors (TLRs), TLR adaptors, and associated signaling components during RNA virus infection, including coronaviruses and flaviviruses. Broad research interests of mine include host-pathogen interactions and emerging pathogens, with a particular focus on viruses.


Kyra Woloszczuk

Microbiology & Immunology PhD Program
Undergraduate: BS, Microbiology, University of the Sciences; MS, Infectious Disease and Immunity, Temple University
Email: kw959@drexel.edu
Advisor/Mentor: Elias El Haddad, PhD
LinkedIn
Background and Interests: Immune memory against severe SARS-CoV-2 infection is a determining factor in disease risk, clinical severity and clinical outcomes. In addition, duration of immunological memory in patients who were hospitalized with severe SARS-CoV-2 infection is not fully understood, nor is the role of vaccination on immunological immunity in patients who also had severe SARS-CoV-2 infection. In the Haddad lab, we hope to correlate clinical outcomes with immunological memory to potentially find markers of clinical severity. We also aim to find differences between B-cell memory, antigen specific T-cell responses, B and T cell interactions, innate lymphoid cells and the soluble factors released by these cells.


William Stump

Microbiology & Immunology Master's Program
Undergraduate: BS, Biology, Gettysburg College
Email: ws454@drexel.edu
Advisor/Mentor: Jim Burns, PhD
LinkedIn
Background and Interests: My past research experience focused on characterizing bacteriophage genomics and host-pathogen interactions between phage and their bacterial hosts. In the Burns Lab, I am focused on the design and evaluation of the antibody responses to a Plasmodium falciparum circumsporozoite protein-based malaria vaccine that is modeled from the recently approved RTS,S/AS01 malaria vaccine. With our recombinant protein constructs we seek to improve the magnitude and diversity of the vaccine induced antibody response.


Julia Sutter

Microbiology & Immunology PhD Program
Undergraduate: BS Biochemistry, University of New Haven
Email: js4932@drexel.edu
Advisor/Mentor: Fred Krebs, PhD, and Vandana Miller, MD
LinkedIn
Background and Interests: My current research focuses on nonthermal plasma (NTP) as a potential therapeutic alternative for viral infections and cancer. This includes not only the antiviral and anticancer effect of NTP, but also how NTP can contribute to immunomodulation.

 Back to Top

Third-Year Students

Erik Carter

Microbiology & Immunology PhD Program
Undergraduate: BS, Pathobiology, University of Connecticut
Email: ec899@drexel.edu
Advisor/Mentor: Irwin Chaiken, PhD
LinkedIn

Background and Interests: Following my undergraduate education, I spent six years working, both in academia and industry, in molecular virology, viral immunology and vaccine development. My interests are primarily in the areas of virus-host interaction and vaccine design, particularly as they pertain to RNA viruses. My project focuses on a highly conserved region of the HIV-1 envelope protein called the membrane proximal external region (MPER). My goal is to understand the conformational structure of this region and explore ways of using it as a vaccine antigen.


Gina Cusimano

Microbiology & Immunology PhD Program
Undergraduate: BS, Biotechnology, Elizabethtown College; MS, Molecular Medicine, Drexel University
Email: gc468@drexel.edu
Advisor/Mentor: Dr. Michelle Kutzler
LinkedIn

Background and Interests: I have a BS in biotechnology and MS in molecular medicine. Following my masters, I spent three years working at Merck Co. & Inc. where I supported vaccine commercialization, manufacturing optimization and batch release. My overall interests are in immune modulation and how our understanding of immune modulation can be applied to vaccine/ adjuvant development as well as cancer immunotherapy development.


Ben Haslund-Gourley

Microbiology & Immunology PhD Program
Undergraduate: BA, Biology, University of California at Santa Barbara within the College of Creative Studies
Email: bsh62@drexel.edu
Advisor/Mentor: Dr. Mary Ann Comunale and Dr. Joris Beld
LinkedIn

Background and Interests: I am a candidate in Drexel’s MD/PhD program and will complete my PhD in Microbiology and Immunology. Throughout my undergraduate education and during my two gap years before medical school, I gained extensive background in human sepsis, glycobiology and enzyme assay optimization. Under the direction and mentorship of Dr. Mary Ann Comunale and Dr. Joris Beld, I will employ multiple protein fractionation techniques, mass spectrometry (MALDI imaging), HPLC, and other glycoproteomic tools to characterize aberrant glycosylation and identify potential biomarkers that will improve Lyme disease diagnostics and inform on disease resolution. After completing Drexel’s MD/PhD program I plan to pursue a research career in immunology, translational medicine and diagnostics.


Julie Joseph

Microbiology & Immunology PhD Program
Undergraduate: BS, Biology, St. John’s University; MS, Cellular and Molecular Biology, University of New Haven
Email: jj932@drexel.edu
Advisor/Mentor: Dr. Pooja Jain
LinkedIn

Background and Interests: My overall interest is in understanding the cellular and molecular mechanisms that dictate immunological responses to infection, disease and autoimmune disorders. My past research experience focused on identifying T- cell populations that may be responsible in the generation of food-specific antibodies as well as assisting in characterizing a sub-population of T follicular helper cells that drive anaphylactic IgE. Currently, my primary research focuses on understanding the mechanisms that underlie HTLV-1 associated myelopathy/ tropical spastic paraparesis (HAM/TSP) and the role exosomes and immune checkpoint mediators play in the overall anti-viral immune response associated with this debilitating neuroinflammatory disease.


Abhisek Rao

Microbiology & Immunology PhD Program
Undergraduate: BE, Instrumentation Engineering, Vishwakarma Institute, Pune, India; MS, Biomedical Engineering, Drexel University
Email: asr56@drexel.edu
Advisor/Mentor: First-year rotations in progress
LinkedIn


Dominic J. Sales

Microbiology & Immunology PhD Program
Undergraduate: BS, Biology, James Madison University
Email: djs487@drexel.edu
Advisor/Mentor: Pooja Jain, PhD
LinkedIn

Background and Interests: My background involves a general aptitude for all things science, specifically cellular and molecular biology. I have always been interested in the interplay between self and non-self, and how biological processes can lead to disease. During my undergraduate education at James Madison University, I was part of a lab that investigated migrational aspects of immortalized tumor cells within extracellular matrices. After graduation, I worked as a laboratory technician at Thomas Jefferson University where I studied a model of pulmonary fibrosis and senescence both in vitro and in vivo. I am currently in Dr. Jain’s lab whose focus is on understanding the mechanisms driving disease pathology during HTLV-1 infection and understanding the role that dendritic cells play in orchestrating the immune response. My project aims to better understand the crosstalk between different populations of immune cells, the impact of this crosstalk on neuroinflammation, and how we can modulate this to develop more effective treatment modalities for patients with neuroinflammatory conditions such as multiple sclerosis.


Neeta Shadija

Microbiology & Immunology Master's Program
Undergraduate: BE, Biotechnology, University of Mumbai
Email: ns3338@drexel.edu
Advisor/Mentor: Hangjun Ke, PhD
LinkedIn

My undergraduate research focused on the bioremediation of petroleum hydrocarbons in soil using the indigenous bacteria and fungi. During my undergraduate studies, I presented a review seminar on using Batroxobin, a venomous component of the snake Bothrops atrox moojeni, as an alternative to thrombin for blood clotting. I also have experience in a pharmaceutical company as an industrial trainee where I drafted dossiers for the company’s exported products.

My current research study focuses on the V-type ATPase and the mitochondrial fission of Plasmodium falciparum. V-type ATPases are highly conserved multi-subunit enzymes found in all eukaryotic organisms. It is present in the intracellular membranes of various organelles such as lysosomes, endosomes and secretory vesicles. It has been known that V-type-ATPase works as an ATP-driven rotary proton pump that causes acidification of intracellular vesicles such as endosomes and lysosomes and is thus crucial for various processes. Another unique feature of this machinery is the reversible assembly/disassembly of its V1 and Vo domains, regulating the organelle acidification in response to extracellular conditions. This machinery is evolutionarily conserved in malaria parasites; however, its biological significance has been under-appreciated. The project aims to understand the localization, composition, mechanism and regulation of this proton-pumping machinery in an early divergent eukaryotic organism (malaria parasite).

Apicomplexan protozoans (in general) have a single mitochondrion per cell, which is essential for all life cycle stages. Once in erythrocytes, the malaria parasite grows and divides via a unique reproduction mechanism termed schizogony, which gives rise to 8-32 progeny by dividing the single multinucleated schizont at the end of the asexual lifecycle. Hence, during the process of schizogony, the single mitochondrion of the parasite is also split into 8-32 pieces, which is known as mitochondrial fission. However, neither the mitochondrial fission machinery nor the mechanisms of fission are known in malaria parasites. Using Plasmodium falciparum as a model, the goal of this project is to identify the essential components of the mitochondrial fission machinery.


Omobukola Solebo

Microbiology & Immunology Master's Program
Undergraduate: BS, Biology, The College of New Jersey
Email: os337@drexel.edu
Advisor/Mentor: Hangjun Ke, PhD
LinkedIn

Background and Interests: During my undergraduate experience, I identified microbiology and education to be my two primary interests and have spent time exploring both avenues. After working on Mycobacterium tuberculosis for a period of time and teaching high school biology, I decided to return to obtain my master's in microbiology and immunology to work toward the goal of more closely bridging these two fields. It is my goal to conduct the critical science and provide the vital health information that protects the public and informs and transforms health security. This, I believe, would be the best way to merge my two passions together to have just as an impactful effect as teaching.

 Back to Top

Fourth-Year Students

Matthew Bell

Microbiology & Immunology PhD Program
Undergraduate: BS, Biology, Gwynedd Mercy University
Email: mrb433@drexel.edu
Advisor/Mentor: Michele Kutzler, PhD

Background and Interests: During my time at Gwynedd Mercy University, I studied the relationship between Quercus spp and members of the root microbiome. I also aided in the isolation and characterization of an endophytic bacterium, Serratia marcescens, that produced prodigiosin, a secondary metabolite that shows antibiotic and antitumor properties. Currently, in Dr. Kutzler's lab, my research focuses on studying the impacts of immunosenescence on both the innate and adaptive immune responses in the context of C. difficile infection as well as the immune response to a DNA vaccine for C. difficile.


Elijah H. Davis

Microbiology & Immunology PhD Program
Undergraduate: BS, Biological Sciences, University of Maryland Baltimore County
Email: ehd43@drexel.edu
Advisor/Mentor: Sonia Navas-Martin
LinkedIn

Background and Interests: Shortly after graduating for UMBC, I accepted a position within Virginia Commonwealth University’s post-baccalaureate research education program. During this year, I worked in VCU’s Immunology & Microbiology Department, conducting research with Dr. Rebecca Martin and Dr. Daniel Conrad. Our study investigated how helminth infections could confer protection against allergic pathologies. We discovered that B1 cell-derived IgE can enhance parasite survival and may play a role in reducing allergic conditions. We were able to publish these results and present them at national conferences.

Currently, I am part of Drexel’s Department of Microbiology and Immunology and work with Dr. Sonia Navas-Martin. Our lab is focused on understanding novel Toll-like receptor signaling pathways and their role in inflammation. My project examines the relationship between Toll-like receptors and exosomal responses within microglia. My other research interests include autoimmune diseases, hypersensitivity disorders, and neuroinflammation.


Dema Ghaban

Microbiology & Immunology PhD Program
Undergraduate: MD, Medicine, Taibah University, Saudi Arabia; MSc, Immunology and Allergy, University of Nottingham, United Kingdom
Email: dmg384@drexel.edu
Advisor/Mentor: Alexander Muller, PhD

Background and Interests: Part of my work in the U.K. focused on multiple sclerosis (MS) which has high prevalence in the U.K. and is one of the most common causes of neurological disability in the younger population. In one project, we looked for the role of multiple sclerosis-associated retrovirus envelope (one of the two main elements encoded by the W family of human endogenous retroviruses) in the pathogenesis of MS. We also studied which immune cells are involved in this process.


Theodore E. Gurrola

Molecular & Cell Biology & Genetics PhD Program
Undergraduate: BS, Biochemistry, Cell, and Molecular Biology, Drake University
Email: teg65@drexel.edu
Advisor/Mentor: Brian Wigdahl, PhD, and Michael Nonnemacher, PhD
LinkedIn

Background and Interests: My undergraduate research involved elucidating the structure and mechanism of contraction of one of the fastest organisms in the world, the ciliated protozoan Tetrahymena thermophila. My job was to isolate, purify and prepare the protein thought to give the protozoan its contractile ability, Tcb2, for NMR analysis as well as elucidate the structure of the protein with NMR. This work helped me develop the skills necessary to become a scientist. My professors and what I learned in undergraduate led me to pursue gene editing and its applications as a career, which has led me to the Wigdahl Llab. My current research interests are to use gene editing technologies to treat and potentially cure HIV-1 infection.


Doug Krauth

Microbiology & Immunology PhD Program
Undergraduate: BS, Cellular and Physiological Biology, University of Louisville
Email: dmk357@drexel.edu
Advisor/Mentor: Sonia Navas-Martin, PhD

Background and Interests: After completing my undergraduate biology degree, I joined the Bagaitkar Lab in the University of Louisville’s Oral Immunology and Infectious Disease Department. There, my research focused on delineating the role NADPH oxidase-derived oxidants have in immune-regulation. Specifically, I worked to understand how NOX-deficient neutrophils contributed to the hyper-inflammatory response seen in patients with chronic granulomatous disease (CGD) and the role ROS plays in modulating neutrophil effecter functions. More recently, my research interests focus on understanding how neurotropic viruses spread within the CNS and how immune responses to viral infection differ in the brain and the periphery.


Richa Pande

Microbiology & Immunology PhD Program
Undergraduate: Bachelor of Dental Surgery (BDS), India
Email: rp834@drexel.edu
Advisor/Mentor: Seena Ajit, PhD
LinkedIn

Background and Interests: My previous research experience at NYU Langone Medical Center involved studying ubiquitination and its modification in the cell cycle, including its role in circadian rhythm. After relocating to Philadelphia, I pursued research at the University of Pennsylvania in an immunology laboratory that focused on the mechanisms that lead to impaired fracture healing and connective tissue and bone loss in diabetes via altered transcription factor activity and cytokine dysregulation.

The Ajit Lab investigates the molecular mechanisms of pain with emphasis on epigenetics. At present, my project involves studying microRNA has-miR-605 and its role in regulating the pro-inflammatory chemokine CXCL5 in CRPS patients. Another project involves studying the role of macrophage-derived small extracellular vesicles (sEVs) on helper T cell activation during inflammation. This study will help elucidate the contribution of these immune cell subtypes in sEVs-induced attenuation of inflammatory pain.

 Back to Top

Fifth-Year Students

Ian Lamb

Microbiology & Immunology PhD Program
Undergraduate: BS, University of Iowa
Email: iml28@drexel.edu
Advisor/Mentor: Akhil Vaidya, PhD

Background and Interests: Before starting my PhD at Drexel University College of Medicine, I spent two years as a technician at the University of Iowa looking at immune responses in dogs naturally infected with the protozoan parasite Leishmania infantum. I then moved to New York City, where I was a lab manager for a joint laboratory at Weill Cornell Medical College for two years. The lab investigated DNA damage responses in yeast and mammalian cells with a focus on VDJ recombination in developing B cells. At Drexel, I joined Dr. Akhil Vaidya’s laboratory. The lab studies basic aspects of the malaria parasite Plasmodium falciparum’s molecular physiology with particular attention to the mitochondrion. Since malaria parasites and humans are both eukaryotes, antimalarials often interfere with human protein function and therefore cause side effects. However, given the extreme divergence of mitochondria between P. falciparum and humans, selective toxicity to the parasite is possible. This is highlighted by the antimalarial Atovaquone, which inhibits the parasite bc1 complex of the electron transport chain, thus causing parasite demise. My project focuses on characterizing the function of mitochondrial proteins in P. falciparum that are essential to parasite viability but have no annotated function. The long-term goal is to identify novel protein targets for antimalarials.


Jill M. Lawrence

Molecular & Cell Biology & Genetics PhD Program
Undergraduate: BS, Neuroscience (magna cum laude, with departmental honors), Ursinus College
Email: jl3785@drexel.edu
Advisor/Mentor: Michael Nonnemacher, PhD
LinkedIn

Background and Interests: At Ursinus College, I participated in microbiology research identifying mutations that conferred antibiotic resistance in Enterococcus strains isolated from samples provided by a local sewage treatment plant. I also conducted an independent neuroscience research project that involved extensive neurobehavioral testing and analyses of a mouse model of prenatal ethanol exposure and fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD). I served as a teaching assistant for several biology labs during my time at Ursinus, and currently tutor for biomedical courses at Drexel University College of Medicine. I am now a PhD candidate performing neurovirology research in the lab of Dr. Michael Nonnemacher. We investigate the relationship between changes in blood-brain barrier permeability, neuroglia cell activation and the neuropathology underlying development and progression of HIV-associated neurocognitive disorders (HAND) in HIV-infected patients.


Teresa M. LuPone

Microbiology & Immunology PhD Program
Undergraduate: BS, Microbiology, BS, Health Sciences, BA, Journalism and Mass Communications, MS, Science of Healthcare Delivery, Arizona State University; MS in Microbiology and Immunology, Drexel University College of Medicine
Email: tml86@drexel.edu
Advisor/Mentor: Sonia Navas-Martin, PhD

Background and Interests: My undergraduate research focused on understanding genetic alterations in response to DAMPs and developmental delays in Drosophila melanogaster. My job was to perform expression studies and monitor developmental timing. Throughout my research and coursework at Arizona State University, I became interested in following a path into medically relevant research specifically in the field of virology. As such I am interested in aspects of virology and immunity particularly in host pathogen interactions, how viruses escape the host immune system, and building a deeper understanding of the complexities of the immune system.


Kayla M. Socarras

Microbiology & Immunology PhD Program
Undergraduate: BS, Biological Sciences, University of Saint Joseph; MS, Cellular Molecular Biology, University of New Haven
Email: kms58@drexel.edu
Advisor/Mentor: Garth D. Ehrlich, PhD
LinkedIn
ResearchGate

Background and Interests: Kayla Socarras is a PhD student in Garth Ehrlich’s lab within the Department of Microbiology & Immunology at Drexel University College of Medicine. Prior to joining Drexel University, Kayla received her bachelor’s degree in biological sciences at the University of Saint Joseph. Afterwards, she continued her education at the University of New Haven for a master’s degree in cellular molecular biology. During her master’s, Kayla participated in several ongoing studies on the pathogenesis of Borrelia burgdorferi, the causative agent of Lyme borreliosis, alternatively known as Lyme disease. Lyme borreliosis is globally one the most common bacterial vector-borne diseases and has become more prevalent due to climate and ecological changes over the past decades. For her master’s thesis, Kayla tested several antimicrobials for their efficiency on destroying Borrelia burgdorferi in vitro as well as their potential efficacy as a therapeutic treatment. After completing her master's thesis, Kayla also did a post-graduate research fellowship at the University of New Haven. During her fellowship, Kayla studied the pathogenesis of Borrelia spp in causing Borrelial lymphocytoma, a cutaneous infection that occurs primarily within individuals infected with Borrelia spp in Europe.

Currently, at Drexel University College of Medicine, Kayla is continuing her research on the pathogenesis of Borrelia spp within the Center for Advanced Microbial Processing, with an emphasis on characterizing the complex dynamics of tick-borne disease microbes within the tick microbiome. In addition to her research studies, Kayla has presented her research in local meetings and conferences and her work on tick-borne diseases has been spoken about at several media outlets. Her media outreach encompasses traditional news outlets such as television, newspapers and radio as wells as social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter.


Yih-Ping Su

Microbiology & Immunology PhD Program
Undergraduate: BS, Life Sciences, National Chung-Hsing University
Email: ys646@drexel.edu
Advisor/Mentor: Garth Ehrlich, PhD
LinkedIn

Background and Interests: After obtaining my BS in life sciences at National Chung-Hsing University, Taiwan, I worked as a junior research fellow at the Baruch S. Blumberg Institute, focusing on the development of a non-invasive screening approach for the early detection of hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC). My current research interest at Drexel is to investigate the impact of hepatitis B virus (HBV) genotypes, mutations and integration on liver carcinogenesis, with an aim to develop an HCC risk prediction program for the management of the disease.

 
 Back to Top

Enlarged view of human cells, translucent high color.