Students

Magali Ayala

Magali Ayala

Brown Lab

I am originally from Texas where I completed an M.S. in Biology at the University of Texas Rio Grande. It was during my time there that I developed my true passion for research and made the decision to continue my education and pursue a Ph.D. After visiting the University of Utah, I knew it was the place for me. The faculty and students at this institution are truly inspiring, supportive, collaborative, and friendly. It was a place where I felt I could truly grow. Among other things, I was attracted to the positive environment and the diversity of research currently being conducted at the U. It was during my first year in the Molecular Biology Ph.D. program that I decided that I wanted to be part of the Department of Pathology. I was drawn to Jessica Brown’s lab because of my interest in pathogen interactions as well as the different mechanisms involved in the infection process. Currently, I am studying Cryptococcus neoformans, an opportunistic fungal pathogen that can cause cryptococcal meningitis in immunocompromised individuals. I am currently researching the molecular mechanisms behind synergistic interactions of small drug molecules in Cryptococcus neoformans. I am very fortunate and proud of being part of such an incredible, diverse, and collaborative institution.

Cindy Barba

Cindy Barba

O'Connell Lab

I was raised in Southern California and I have always had an interest in medicine and science. After high school I decided to take some science classes at Palomar Community College. There, I was fortunate to have professors reach out and expose me to scientific research. I decided to transfer to California State University, San Marcos and explore translational research with Dr. Julie Jameson. It was through her mentorship and willingness to let me explore my passions that I decided to pursue a Ph.D in immunology at the University of Utah. Currently, I am investigating the role of IFNs (interferons) ability to induce metabolic genes that promote melanoma tumor growth in Ryan O’Connell’s laboratory. In addition to my research, I enjoy watercolor painting and have a desire to explore scientific illustration as a career.

Garrett Brown

Garrett Brown

Round Lab

I am originally from Louisville, Kentucky, where I completed a B.S. in biology at the University of Louisville. As an undergraduate, I participated in research relating to the evolution & ecology of the Pseudomonas genus of bacteria. When applying for graduate school, I was unsure of what specific line of research I wanted to pursue. My uncertainty drew me to the University of Utah; the diversity of research here is incredible, and I knew that continuing my education here would certainly allow me to find a niche that fascinated me. After completing a year of rotations, I decided to join the Round Lab, which is generally focused on how the gut flora of mammals, the microbiota, influences various aspects of health and disease. Specifically, I plan to research how bacteriophages can be used to modulate bacterial community structures and the effects that this can have on the mammalian host.

Krystal Charley

Krystal Charley

Williams Lab

I am from a small town on the Diné (Navajo) reservation called Round Rock, AZ. I completed my B.S. in Biology at the University of New Mexico. As an undergraduate at UNM with an interest in microbiological sciences, I studied deep cave bacteria found in extreme nutrient limited environments. Upon completion of my B.S., I took a year to study how filovirus glycoprotein-based vaccines affect the activation of dendritic cells. It was during this year that I developed an interest in immunology. The following year, I came to the University of Utah through the Molecular Biology Program. It was an easy decision to come to the U after witnessing the strong collaborative environment, cutting-edge research, the wide variety of research areas, welcoming/friendly atmosphere, and of course, the beautiful mountains that made me feel at home. I chose to do my PhD thesis in Dr. Matthew Williams’ Lab not only because of my growing interest in immunology, but because I will be able to take what I learn to improve the health of indigenous communities. I am currently researching T cell differentiation, memory, and response to infections and tumors.

Olivia Cheng

Olivia Cheng

Leung Lab

I went to the University of California, Los Angeles and received a B.S. in Microbioloy, Immunology and Molecular Genetics. I worked as a research assistant at biotech companies for three years and was involved in projects on biofuel production and cancer vaccine development. I came to the University of Utah through the Molecular Biology program and I have been enjoying both the research and the friendly atmosphere here.

I am currently in Daniel Leung’s lab and we are interested in Mucosal-Associated Invariant T (MAIT) cells. Specifically, I am interested in the regulation of MAIT cells cytotoxicity upon activation.

Ty Chiaro

Ty Chiaro

Round Lab

After graduating from the University of California, Davis with a B.S. in Microbiology I moved to Salt Lake to take a job at ARUP Laboratories, a national reference laboratory and subsidiary of the Department of Pathology, here at the University of Utah. While working as a clinical scientist, I completed a second B.S. in Medical Laboratory Science and an M.S. degree in Laboratory Medicine and Biomedical Research. During my M.S. degree I gained a true passion for biological discovery and desire to continue my research career. I am now a student in Dr. June Round's Lab where we are interested in the intestinal microbiota and its influence on host immunity and chronic disease. Specifically, I am interested in resident eukaryotes of the gut, namely fungi, which have largely been ignored in the context of microbiota research. We intend to highlight this underrepresented microbial population by elucidating the host’s ability to recognize and control fungal species in the gut and by examining fungal ecology and the impact it has on prokaryotic community structure. The University of Utah's Department of Pathology offers unique opportunities to not only investigate basic science utilizing animal models, but also to collaborate with medical directors from ARUP, who are Department of Pathology faculty, and explore how those mechanisms directly relate to clinical samples. Expediting bench side science to bedside manner. GoUtes!
Krystal Chung

Krystal Chung

Brown Lab

While I am originally from San Diego, California, I attended Southern Illinois University Carbondale where I obtained a B.S. in Microbiology. In my undergraduate I discovered my passion for research and when it came time to apply for graduate school, the University of Utah was an easy decision. I joined the Molecular Biology Ph.D. program here at the U due to the focus placed on collaboration and maintaining a healthy work-life balance, which allows me to explore the beautiful mountains we live next door to.

Beyond exploring the great outdoors, I am also discovering the fascinating microbial world around us in Jessica Brown’s lab where we studyCryptococcus neoformans. C. neoformans is a fungal pathogen found ubiquitously throughout nature that primarily causes diseases in immunocompromised individuals. Within the lab my focus is on exopolysaccharide regulation and how C. neoformansis able to disseminate to multiple organs throughout the body.
Steven Denham

Steven Denham

Brown Lab

I received a B.S. in Microbiology from Colorado State University in 2013 before coming to Utah the following year. I was attracted to the University of Utah for the same reasons that a lot of people are. The program is very committed to student success, and the wide breadth of research and high degree of collaboration makes for a great research environment. On top of that, the outdoors here are just as amazing and accessible as they are in my home state. It takes less than a minute for me to leave lab and start running the trails.

In Jessica Brown’s lab I work with Cryptococcus neoformans, an opportunistic and ubiquitous fungal pathogen responsible for severe morbidity and mortality in immunocompromised individuals. Infection is predominantly initiated via inhalation and pulmonary infection, but because the fungus is able to escape the lungs and has a strong predilection for the CNS, meningoencephalitis is often the cause of death. The process by which C. neoformans disseminates and the mechanisms behind its neurotropism are still largely unknown. I’m interested in learning more about these phenomena by using a mouse model of infection to identify novel genetic factors involved in dissemination.

Alicia Eustes

Alicia Eustes

Weyrich Lab

I completed my Bachelor’s degree at the University of Wyoming in microbiology. I fell in love with science and wanted to continue my education in graduate school. Coming to the University of Utah was the right choice for me because everyone here is welcoming and passionate about their research. I also love having the mountains at my back door.

I work in the Weyrich lab where we work with platelets and megakaryocytes. During my studies I will look at the production of microparticles and exosomes during different disease conditions, such as dengue and sepsis.

Michael Faust

Michael Faust

Evavold Lab
Lisa Gibbs

Lisa Gibbs

Fairfax Lab

I grew up in New Jersey with the idea that I wanted to become a veterinarian when I grew up. This drove me to attend Purdue University for my undergraduate degree in hopes of being able to attend their vet school after I graduated. After I graduated with a B.S. in Biology, I took a year off to improve my resume really think about if vet school was for me. I eventually ended up working in industry before returning back to academia as a lab technician in Dr. Keke Fairfax’s lab. I quickly became intrigued by both the projects being worked on and the techniques being used. My interest in immunology, and more specifically parasites, soon followed. I then realized that research is really what I wanted to do.

After almost a year as her lab technician, she decided to move the lab to the University of Utah and asked me to move with her. I agreed and soon began to take on more responsibility in the lab. Shortly after this, she asked if I would be interested in pursuing a PhD in her lab. I agreed and quickly got directly admitted into the program.

The transition between lab technician and grad student has been tough, but the university has so many great faculty and staff members and what seems like an endless amount of resources that I’m glad I made the decision I did.

I am currently looking at the effect of a maternal Schistosomiasis infection on B and T cell dysfunction in children challenged with common infections.

Erik Hughes

Erik Hughes

Tantin Lab

I was born in Salt Lake City and quickly fell in love with the beautiful Wasatch mountains and Utah desert. I attended undergrad at Westminster College where I studied biological sciences. After my undergraduate, I worked in the life science industry for several years developing iPSC based tools and technologies. Through my industry experience, I found a desire to expand my scientific knowledge to advance the quality and impact of my work.  I joined the Molecular Biology Ph.D. program and have thoroughly enjoyed the collaborative environment and strong research being conducted.

I am working in the Tantin Lab where I am researching the transcriptional cofactor OCA-B and its impact on autoimmune diseases such as multiple sclerosis and type 1 diabetes. I'm grateful for this opportunity to work with all of the amazing people here at the University of Utah.  

Emily Innis

Emily Innis

Planelles Lab
Owen Jensen

Owen Jensen

Leung Lab
Kendra Klag

Kendra Klag

Round Lab
Daniel Labuz

Daniel Labuz

Leung Lab
Erin Larragoite

Erin Larragoite

Planelles Lab

I am originally from Albuquerque, NM and received a B.S. in Biology from the University of New Mexico in 2014. I was attracted to the University of Utah because of the interesting research, collaborative environment, and friendly atmosphere. The students and faculty members that I met during my interview process expressed a genuine happiness at living in Salt Lake City and conducting research at the University of Utah. As a graduate student at the University of Utah, I have been able to experience the best of both worlds by having the opportunity to conduct cutting edge research and having the great outdoors right at my doorstep. I am currently in Vicente Planelles’ lab where I am researching HIV latency reversal in order to determine a mechanism to purge latent HIV reservoirs. Specifically, my project focuses on dampening T cell activation induced by HIV latency reversing drugs.

Jinze Li

Jinze Li

Weis Lab

I came to the United States in the fall of 2008 and received my bachelor degree in Cell/Molecular Biology from Humboldt State University in Northern California. As an undergraduate student, I did research in studying the effects of endosymbiont Rickettsia phylotype G021 on Ixodes pacificus reproductive fitness by using selective antibiotic treatment. During my senior year in college, I applied for the 12-month California Institute of Regenerative Medicine (CIRM) bridges internship and took the internship position at Stanford University Center for Human Embryonic Stem Cell Research and Education.

I got into University of Utah through Molecular Biology Program in 2014 and chose to do my PhD thesis in Dr. Janis Weis’ lab in the Department of Pathology. I fell in love with Salt Lake City and felt at home immediately when I came here for the interview, and I have always been very glad about coming to the University of Utah for graduate school. I am currently working on the molecular regulation of INFβ in Lyme arthritis.

Yong Lin

Yong Lin

Matt Bettini Lab

I received my B.S. in Engineering Science from the University of Virginia, with a concentration in Nanomedicine Engineeing. During my senior year I worked in a tissue engineering lab and worked on modulating S1P gradient via molecular agonists and antagonists of the S1P signaling pathway such as FTY720 in bone defects as a way to improve bone regeneration after injury. This initiated my interest in Immunology and autoimmunity. I became interested in how a healthy body can mount an immune response toward foreign substances while leave the self unharmed, and so I joined Dr. Matthew Bettini's lab to study the thymus, an organ situated above the heart where all the T cells develop. My project involves delivery of known autoantigens to specific antigen-presenting cells in the new born thymus to investigate whether it can alter disease development. 

Outside of research I enjoy playing tennis and watching anime.

Shubhabrata Majumdar

Shubhabrata Majumdar

Matt Bettini Lab

I come from Kolkata, India. I did an Integrated Master’s course in Biotechnology from St. Xavier’s College, Kolkata. This is where I really became interested in understanding how cells communicate with each other and the complexities of the immune system seemed like an ideal area of study. Before joining graduate school, I also spent some time at the National Centre for Biological Sciences, Bangalore, India, where I was studying the role of a lipid kinase PI5P4K in the regulation of glutamate receptor levels in the context of the Drosophila larval neuro-muscular junction.

I am currently in Dr. Matthew Bettini’s lab. I have two different studies that I am involved in. In one I am trying to understand how intestinal microbiota might influence T-cell development in the thymus. My other study is about trying to understand the importance of CD3 zeta ITAM diversity in chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) signaling in T-cells.

Franklin Maloba

Franklin Maloba

Lamb Lab

Originally from Cameroon and a holder of master’s degree in Microbiology and Immunology and, Bachelor in Medical Laboratory Science. Have over nine years of professional experience in routine Clinical laboratory analysis/management and field epidemiological studies. Love serving humanity and saving lives. Currently working as a Graduate Research Assistant at Lamb lab with interest in infectious diseases research, especially malaria. Malaria is the main cause of hospitalization and mortality in my country. Despite the enormous efforts by government and non-governmental organization to control and prevent the infection especially in children, it’s prevalence is still high and its complications like cerebral malaria are still rampant. The University of Utah department of pathology offers a wide array of research disciplines with state-of –the –art equipment and research experts to stimulate innovative research and, to extend knowledge of the mechanisms of disease, especially at the molecular level.

I have chosen my PhD in Microbiology and Immunology under Tracey Lamb, with focus on defining the roles of Astrocytes and Pericytes in the pathogenesis of cerebral malaria. The role of these cells in the protection or disruption of the blood brain barrier in cerebral malaria can only be effectively studied using the mouse model. Information from this study will hopefully lead to improved diagnosis, treatment, and eventually, prevention of cerebral malaria especially in children.

Morgan Nelson

Morgan Nelson

O'Connell Lab

I grew up in Utah and attended BYU as an undergraduate where I earned my BS in Molecular Biology. I worked as a genetic sequencing technologist at ARUP laboratories before beginning my PhD. I was drawn to the Pathology Department and ended up joining Ryan O’Connell’s lab, which focuses on miRNAs in the immune system. My research is on the cross-talk between metabolic programming and miRNA function in macrophages, with a disease focus on diet-induced obesity. I gave birth to my first child while in my third year in the program, and my mentor and the department have been extremely supportive. The University of Utah is a great place for me and my family and I feel that I can be successful in both work and family life. I really enjoy living in Utah and I appreciate the strong research being performed here.

Stephanie Orozco Figueroa

Stephanie Orozco Figueroa

Matt Bettini Lab

I am originally from Chihuahua, Mexico. I moved to El Paso, Tx the summer of 2007. I received my Bachelor of Science in Biology from St. Mary’s University with a chemistry minor in 2016. During my senior year of college, I took an introduction to Immunology course, which sparked my interest in the subject. At this time, I also participated in an undergraduate research program at the University of Health Science Center in San Antonio, Tx. (UTHSCSA), in the Department of Microbiology, Immunology and Molecular Genetics (MIMG) in the laboratory Dr. Paolo Casali. Dr. Casali’s laboratory studies the development and function of B cells and immunoglobulins; my project was about a small GTPase named “CID,” which blocks Rab7, an endosome-localized small GTPase upregulated in murine lupus. Blocking Rab7 leads to an impairment of class-switched recombination and impair survival of plasma cells in the MRL murine model of systemic lupus erythematosus. The summer of 2017, I joined the Master’s in Immunology program at UTHSCSA, and that fall, I joined the laboratory of Dr. Ann Griffith. Dr. Griffith’s lab studies the lymphopoietic stromal microenvironment, and the cross-talk that occurs between thymic epithelial cells and developing thymocytes. My time at the Griffith lab lead to a co-author publication in Cell Reports, 2018. It was during my time as a Master’s student that I fell in love with research. I graduated with a Master’s of Science in Immunology and Infection the summer of 2018, and the fall of 2018, I joined the Immunology Ph.D. program at Baylor College of Medicine, where I joined the laboratory of Dr. Matthew Bettini. The fall of 2019, the Bettini lab moved institutions to the University of Utah, and I transferred here to study Type One Diabetes (T1D). The Bettini lab studies the onset and development of autoimmune T1D in the context of T cell central tolerance dysfunction. My projects explore the role of antigen-presenting cells in failed central T cell tolerance in T1D and mechanisms by which we can rescue tolerance. Outside of the lab, I enjoy dancing, reading, shopping, and cooking.

Michael Olson

Michael Olson

Atanackovic Lab

Arielle Raugh

Arielle Raugh

Maria Bettini Lab

I am originally from Hershey, Pennsylvania and received a B.S. in Molecular Biology from Messiah College in 2017. As an undergraduate I studied the responses of CD4 T cells to modified SV40 T antigen, which began my interest in immunology. From there I entered the Translational Biology and Molecular Biology program at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, TX where I joined the lab of Maria Bettini. My thesis research focuses on the role of EGFR ligand, amphiregulin (Areg), in type 1 diabetes. We are exploring potential roles that Areg derived from regulatory T cells may have in protecting or maintaining islet function during autoimmune diabetes. Outside of lab I enjoy activities such as fencing, baking and crafting, and I am excited for all the outdoor opportunities that living in Utah will bring!

Eduardo Reyes-Vargas

Eduardo Reyes-Vargas

Jensen Lab

I graduated from the University of Utah with degrees in Physics, Chemistry and Mathematics. I consider myself a general scientist who studies any topic that interests me without reservation. Although I had a variety of options in the discipline to pursue, it was not a difficult decision to continue my graduate education in Microbiology and Immunology. The University of Utah excels in medical science and the Department of Pathology is unrivaled within an already remarkable school. Under the guidance of Dr. Peter Jensen, I utilize a multidisciplinary approach to better understand immune surveillance in the context of antigen presentation and its relevance to human disease.

Amanda Richards

Amanda Richards

Matt Mulvey Lab

I originally grew up here in Salt Lake City but went to Montana State University in Bozeman, Montana to complete a B.S. in microbiology. As an undergraduate I knew that I wanted to pursue research as a career but did not know exactly what I would find most interesting. I ended up working in a bacterial genetics and physiology lab studying the formation of Pseudomonas aeruginosa biofilms and immediately knew that I wanted to continue work with bacteria. This led me back to Salt Lake City where the Molecular Biology program offers a vast number of diverse labs to discover your niche at the university.

I work in Matthew Mulvey’s lab where we are particularly intested in Extraintestinal Pathogenic Escherichia coli (ExPEC). Specifically, I am looking at the diverse virulence genes within ExPEC that cause lethality within a zebrafish model of local and systemic infection.

John Sanchez

John Sanchez

Fujinami Lab

After graduating from California State University Los Angeles with a B.S. in biology, I chose to pursue physician scientist training through the MD-PhD program at the University of Utah. The University of Utah Hospital serves one of the largest catchment areas of any academic medical center in the nation, which leads to top notch clinical training. The Department of Pathology at University of Utah, from the wide array of expertise within the department to stimulate multidisciplinary investigation to the strong clinical ties of the department that provides avenues for translational research, encourages the best scientific training possible. Even the setting of Utah itself, with its access to hiking, climbing, skiing, and biking, promotes a work hard-play hard ethic that invigorates my work.

I have chosen to do my PhD under Robert Fujinami, focusing on cellular and molecular mechanisms of virus-mediated axon damage in pre-clinical models of multiple sclerosis. I am interested in improving the care of patients with neurodegenerative disease and am confident that the training I receive here at the University of Utah will provide an excellent foundation to do so.
Linda Sircy

Linda Sircy

Hale Lab

Originally from Nashville, TN, I graduated from the University of TN at Chattanooga with a B.S. Biology. After working for an NCI-funded human tissue biorepository at Vanderbilt University for two years I returned to graduate school. I graduated from Middle Tennessee State University with a M.S. Biology, where my research was focused on host-pathogen interactions with the fungal pathogen Cryptococcus neoformans. I decided to attend the University of Utah due to my interest in the microbiology/immunology-focused research of the Pathology department faculty and the collaborative and welcoming atmosphere of the MB/BC program and the Pathology department. In Scott Hale’s lab, I study CD4 T cell responses and changes in DNA methylation during viral infection and viral protein immunization.
Dominic Skinner

Dominic Skinner

Lane Lab

During my undergraduate studies, I double majored in Molecular/Cellular Biology and Economics receiving my B.S. from the University of Puget Sound in Tacoma, WA. I joined the Neuroscience program here at the U the following year because of its proximity to amazing outdoor activities and breadth of research opportunities. 

I then joined Tom Lane’s lab where we study Multiple Sclerosis using a viral model of demyelination. I chose the Lane lab to carry out my dissertation research because of the translational research aspects and overlap between neuroscience and pathology. I am currently studying how chemokine signaling affects disease progression using the JHMV model of Multiple Sclerosis.

Jacob Thompson

Jacob Thompson

O'Connell Lab
Morgan Wambaugh

Morgan Wambaugh

Brown Lab

I am from a small town in Pennsylvania and got my BS from Ursinus College. I came to the University of Utah because of its emphasis on collaborations as well as the amount of support given to the students here from various faculty and staff. I am in Jessica Brown’s lab working on finding synergistic drug combinations that can better treat pathogens, with an emphasis on the opportunistic fungal pathogen Cryptococcus neoformans.

Contact Us

Coordinating Faculty: Brian Evavold, PhD
Email: brian.evavold@path.utah.edu

Supporting Staff: Kim Springer
Email: kim.springer@path.utah.edu

Phone Number: 801-213-3717
Location: 1100 Emma Eccles Jones Medical Research Building (JMRB)