I was born and raised in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. In 2010, I moved to Montgomery, Alabama; shortly after I moved to Colorado where I received both my B.S. and M.S. degrees in Biological Sciences from the University of Northern Colorado. During my M.S. years, I studied various Liver diseases. One in which I looked at how fatty diet impact the methylation status of liver core clock genes and clock-controlled genes. Then, in collaboration with another lab, I looked at how creatine monohydrates supplementation can alleviate doxorubicin-induced hepatotoxicity. And Last, I worked on how low dose of Cannabigerol (CBG) can reduce hepatic fibrosis and inflammation in Non-Alcoholic Steatohepatitis-induced mice. Currently, I am working in Dr. Maria Bettini’s lab, where my project focuses on understanding Regulatory T cell stemness in Type I Diabetes. In my free time, I enjoy drinking tea, gardening, cooking, and reading books.
After growing up across the United States and Germany, I graduated from the University of Utah with a B.S. in Chemistry and Philosophy. I was initially attracted to the University of Utah’s strong research record and found a place studying gene regulation networks as an undergraduate that developed skills I used when I started working as a software engineer for Myriad Genetics after graduation. The use of genetic sequencing information to inform biological knowledge and generate actionable interventions inspired me to pursue a career in bioinformatics. I returned to the University of Utah to purse an M.S then PhD in Biomedical Informatics and found a place in Dr. Tracey Lamb’s laboratory which allowed me to explore this relationship through the lens of malaria. I am currently analyzing RNA sequencing data to explicate the transcriptome of germinal B center subsets in Plasmodium infection and investigate the role of T cell expressed ephrin B ligands in experimental cerebral malaria. Additionally, I am interested in developing computational tools to enhance the interpretability of single-cell sequencing data in the immune system. Most importantly, however, I hope to use this opportunity to highlight the mutual dependence between informatics and biology and how communication between these two fields is imperative to describe biological reality.
I grew up in northwest Ohio and then went to school in central Ohio. I graduated from Ohio Wesleyan University in 2022 where I studied biochemistry and psychology, and I immediately moved to Utah to start my Ph.D. At OWU, I did bioremediation research to study how aquatic plants remove pesticides from water sources, with an additional undergraduate research study at the University of Illinois at Chicago in natural products and drug discovery. I knew I wanted to do health-based research at the University of Utah, but I had no idea how to use my chemistry background to achieve my goals. I began in the BC side of the Bioscience Ph.D. program where I found my immense interest in virus research. I now work in Jarrod Johnson’s lab, where I use biochemical techniques to study HIV-1 and sensing of reverse-transcribed DNA by the cGAS-STING pathway during infection. Outside of lab, I enjoy hiking, skiing, traveling, reading, and playing the piano.
Originally from Salt Lake City, I earned my bachelor’s degree in Philosophy of Science from the University of Utah. I became intrigued by cancer biology through an honors course, and followed this interest to laboratory of Dr. Martin McMahon at Huntsman Cancer Institute. During my time in the McMahon lab, I helped develop pathway targeted therapies and biomarkers for RAS-driven cancers, such as melanoma, pancreatic cancers, and lung cancers. Throughout this experience with translational research, I became interested in the immune system and its therapeutic potential for resolving challenges in treating chemotherapeutically-resistant disease. My clinical and scientific mentors during this time helped me decide to pursue a career as a physician scientist, with the goal of translating basic research findings into therapeutic advances. After earning graduation, I joined the University of Utah MSTP, where I am currently a graduate student in Dr. Ryan O’Connell’s laboratory. I study the role of microRNAs in T cells in the context of anti-tumor immune responses to acute myeloid leukemia and the use of novel methods to better engage the immune system to selectively target malignant cells. When I am not in the lab, I enjoy getting outside with my two dogs, skiing, and climbing.
I was born and raised in Louisiana, right outside of New Orleans. I completed my B.S in biology with a concentration in microbiology in Thibodaux, Louisiana. This is where I discovered my love of microbiology and pathology. After visiting Salt Lake City and the University of Utah, I knew that this was the perfect place for me. I think being surrounded by mountains was the first sign that this was it. When I met the other graduate students for the first time it was clear that they were not only passionate about the research that they were doing, but also happy to be there. I think this was one of the most important things to me because I have never been somewhere where it seems like everyone not only cares so much but are actually happy to be doing it. Currently I am working with Mycobacterium Avium and their tolerance against certain drugs. I enjoy nature, being active, and exploring.
I grew up in Ogden, Utah, and started my college career at Utah State University as a Biological Engineering major. For my first experience in research, I worked on a study that investigated the effects of day versus night irrigation on plant quality and water conservation. While I enjoyed this research, as I took more classes I discovered that my favorite topic to learn about is the incredibly complex machinery that creates life - in other words, molecular biology and physiology. To pursue this in its clinical application, I transferred to the University of Utah to study Medical Laboratory Sciences. Through the ACCESS Scholars program, I also began research in Dr. Tracey Lamb’s lab where I studied the relationship between platelets and malaria immunopathogenesis. I fell in love with the process of running experiments, analyzing data, and piecing together the story that the research told. These experiences further focused my interests in the field of immunology and helped me decide to pursue a career in medical research. I’m currently exploring labs as a rotation student, but I have a broad interest in discovering mechanisms underlying pathology for rational therapeutic design. When I’m not in the lab, I’m with my husband (who is also a PhD student at the U) and our baby girl.
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.
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.
I am from Anambra, Nigeria but I was born and raised in Lagos, Nigeria. I received my B.S. in Biology from Lincoln University of Pennsylvania. I just graduated with my M.S. in Biotechnology. My master’s thesis was centered on identifying genes for antibiotic synthesis in a Pseudomonas isolate using transposon mutagenesis. The region containing the gene were also examined for a biosynthetic gene cluster using the antibiotics and secondary metabolite analysis shell (antiSMASH). My love for research prompted me to continue my education and pursue a PhD in Microbiology and Immunology. My goal is to be a tool for innovation, whilst using my scientific knowledge and skills to improve the life of others. I chose Utah because I know the program will equip me with a myriad of real-world learning experiences and the theoretical and practical background needed to solve emerging problems. The students and faculty at the U were very welcoming during my interview process and my tour. This also influenced me to choose the U.
I was born and raised in Belgium, which is also where I graduated from the KULeuven with a B.S. in Biomedical Sciences in 2021 and a M.S. in Basic and Translational Research in 2023. For my Master’s thesis I got to work in the lab of both Dr. Philippe Van den Steen and Dr. Tracey Lamb, which gave me the amazing opportunity of spending a semester abroad at the University of Utah. I studied the role of platelets and CD8+ T cells in different complications of severe malaria. This really increased my interest in both parasitology and immunology and made me realize I wanted to pursue a PhD in this topic. Since I had a wonderful time in Salt Lake City, both working in the lab and exploring all the amazing nature Utah has to offer, I really wanted to come back. I decided to join the joint lab of Dr. Tracey Lamb and Dr. Brian Evavold where I will further study the role of CD8+ T cells in severe malaria complications. I really valued the collaborative aspect of my Master’s thesis, which is why I will also work with Dr. Philippe Van den Steen at KULeuven throughout my PhD.
Outside of the lab, I am very excited to further discover of all the wonderful things Utah has to offer, as I absolutely love hiking, skiing and climbing.
Junhong graduated from South China Normal University with a bachelor’s degree in Biotechnology. He conducted Cancer Biology research at the University of Pennsylvania and obtained a master’s degree in Biotechnology. He joined the Molecular Biology Ph.D. program in 2021 and the Tantin Lab in 2022. In the lab, his research focuses on tumor immunity and autoimmunity. He enjoys working in the lab and wants to make progress in cancer immunotherapy.
I`m originally from Cameroon, West Africa where I had a B.S in Biochemistry at the University of Yaoundé 1 and M.S in Microbiology and Immunology at the Catholic University of Central Africa. For my masters, I studied the influence of schistosomiasis/malaria co-infection on Plasmodium falciparum hrp2 mutations in school-going children living in remote areas. Right from my high school days I have always had a passion for biology and public health. Upon completion of my undergraduate level, I found fulfilment in engaging into scientific research with a special interest in immunology. After my masters, I volunteered as a lab technician and student administrative assistant. I was opportune to attend courses offered annually by faculty members from the University of Utah in Yaoundé, Cameroon. I was fascinated by their friendliness, humility and extensive scientific knowledge, then I decided to further my studies at the U. In 2019, I was accepted in University of Utah through the Molecular Biology PhD program. As a first-year student, it was easy to overcome the cultural shock in the diversified, respectful, friendly and studious environment. Moreover, Salt Lake City is a peaceful and beautiful place. I currently research in Dr. Matthew Bettini`s lab at the department of Pathology, where cutting-edge translational research on immunological mechanisms in cancer and type 1 diabetes (T1D) is done. For the cancer-related project, I study the role of CD3 ITAM diversity in Human Chimeric Antigen Receptor (CAR) T cell signaling, aiming to improve CAR T-cell immunotherapy. For the T1D project, I research on the induction of maternal-mediated tolerance in neonates predisposed to T1D.
I was born and raised in Fez, Morocco, where a woman founded the first university in the world. Therefore, my interest in both, feminism, and science. I moved to Fort Myers, FL, in the summer of 2017. I received a B.S. in Biology and Chemistry from Florida Gulf Coast University. As an undergraduate, I had the chance to work on two research projects. The first research project’s aim was to investigate the stability of ionic liquid molecules present in the lipid bilayer of the cell in a computational model. The second project explored the antibacterial properties of various cytokine mimetic peptides. I evaluated the peptides on Staphylococcus aureus and Escherichia coli. The drive and dedication I have to scientific research drove me to apply and receive Brodie Foundation Life Sciences Research Scholarship, which allowed me to broaden my research from bacterial peptides to antiviral and antifungal peptides as well. That project was published as my undergraduate Honors thesis. Then, I realized that I wanted to explore more the unity and complexity of the immune system. My research interest developed more towards adaptive immunity and T-cells interactions with antigens, which is why I decided to join Dr. Brian Evavold’s lab at the University of Utah. My love for mountains, adventures and four seasons complemented my choice. In my free time, I enjoy reading books, doing Pilates, learning new languages, and discovering novel places. Also, I particularly enjoy trying new coffee shops, after all, coffee is like a hug in a mug. I am looking forward to what the future holds and where this new adventure will take me.
I’m originally from Philadelphia, but I went to Kalamazoo College in Michigan for my undergraduate studies. I received my BA with a major in chemistry and a concentration in biochemistry. I decided to enter graduate school after my summer internships at Thomas Jefferson University before my junior year and The University of Pennsylvania prior to my senior year. Although I was unsure what field I wished to pursue, I decided to attend The University of Utah due to its vast array of science executed by PI’s who are passionate about collaborating (oh yeah, the mountains helped, too!). Before joining Brian Evavold’s lab, I was part of the BC branch of the MB/BC Biological Sciences PhD Program. After a brief introduction to immunology during my rotation, I became very interested in how the body is naturally able to fend off disease and decided to join the lab. My current project involves studying the CD8 T cell response during EAE, a mouse model of multiple sclerosis.
I played football throughout my four years in undergrad, and so leading a healthy, fitness-inspired lifestyle has always been a critical component of my life. Living in Utah has so far allowed me to develop and pursue new passions, such as hiking and skiing! I also helped begin The Student Powerlifting Club here at The U. I truly love living in Salt Lake City as I think it provides the perfect balance of urban and outdoorsy lifestyles, which has been great for helping manage a work/life balance! It’s also conveniently located near several National Parks, which is great for quick much-needed getaways! In fact, my picture was taken at Zion’s Observation Point!
I received my B.S. in Molecular Biology from Cedarville University in Ohio. Following graduation, I worked in the lab of Masako Shimamura at Nationwide Children's Hospital in Columbus. We studied the immune profile of infants born with congenital cytomegalovirus and also examined how CMV infection mediated graft rejection in kidney and bone marrow transplants. My time at Nationwide helped further develop my interest in the host-pathogen immune response, particularly in T cells and I was encouraged to pursue further education. I was excited about the variety of T cell research taking place at the University of Utah and I also appreciated the welcoming environment created by the students and faculty. Outside of the lab, I enjoy hiking, baking, and playing soccer!
Paola Fonseca Romero
I was born and raised in Fajardo, Puerto Rico. During my undergrad in the summer of 2019, I took part in a research internship with the University of Utah Department of Infectious Disease in Dr. Anne Blaschke's lab is studying complicated pneumonia in children using a Multiplex PCR. In 2020, I received a fellowship to work with Dr. Juan Gonzales at Universidad Universidad Ana G Mendez, Carolina Campus(UAGM) studying nanoparticle properties to develop more efficient peacemakers. In 2021 I received my B.S. in Microbiology from UAGM where I was a Pfizer honor scholar. During this experience, I developed a strong interest in assay development and decided to pursue a Ph.D. with the Department of Pathology and a master's in Clinical Investigation (MSCI). The collaborative environment and the great experience from the past made my decision to come back easy. Now I am currently in Dr. Leung’s lab working in global health directed Shigella spp. prediction modeling, as well as potential biomarkers and microbial targets for this infection.
I grew up hiking and camping in the Rocky Mountains of Wyoming and Colorado. While completing my B.S. in Biology at the U. of Northern Colorado, I discovered my fascination with immunology during microbiology and immunology courses. I moved to Seattle to pursue a career in immunology research at the Benaroya Research Institute. I quickly realized that the next step in my career would include graduate school. While interviewing, I gained an appreciation for the culture of the program and department. I also realized the U’s environment was the one where I would be challenged to think and grow as a scientist. My thesis project is under the guidance of Dr. Scott Hale, investigating how DNA methylation impacts T cell responses and the adaptive immune response. The applications of which will impact our understanding of chronic infection and lymphoma.
I still enjoy hiking, now throughout Utah and adjacent states. I keep a collection of various plants that I find on the trails. I also love cooking and exploring the cuisine opportunities available in Salt Lake City. I have immense enthusiasm for what the future will bring at the University of Utah.
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.
Abigail Ajanel Gomez
I’m originally from Guatemala, but I went to College in Puerto Rico where I received my B.S. in biology. I later obtained my M.S. in Biology from California State University, Fresno, where I studied the mechanisms of formation of tunneling nanotubes (TNTs). I am currently studying the cellular mechanisms that lead to the formation of procoagulant platelets. In my free time I enjoy hiking and trail running. The U combines all my passions, research, hiking and running. There is no better place to be!
Growing up in Blackfoot, Idaho, I was determined that I would never have a career in science. Thanks to wonderful high school science teachers, I quickly changed my mind. This interest led me to pursue my B.S. in Microbiology at Idaho State University. In my last year of my undergrad, I decided to further my education and was excited about The University of Utah’s Microbiology and Immunology research. The students and faculty were also happy and inviting, solidifying my decision to come here. Growing up in Idaho, I was accustomed to having mountains in my backyard, so the backdrop of Salt Lake City helped me feel at home. Though I am a rotational student and still identifying a lab, I have research interests in cancer immunology. When I’m not at school, I enjoy playing the piano and reading books.
I grew up in rural Kansas with an innate fascination for the universe around us but no role models to show me research was a career. I attended Rockhurst University in Kansas City, MO as a student-athlete. I was Pre-med focused, but after I obtained my bachelors, I was introduced to the world of research at the Stowers Institute for Medical Research. There, I worked in the Electron Microscopy core facility, where I had a lot of fun imaging a diverse array of model organisms from planaria to sea anemones. Working in the core facility really solidified my love for research and pushed me to pursue a PhD. The University of Utah was attractive to me due to its world-renowned researchers and proximity to the mountains, which makes it extremely easy to do the things I love outside of science – trail running and skiing. Currently, I am working in the Round lab studying how the inhibitory immune receptor, Clec12A, regulates the intestinal immune response to the microbiota. I find my interest in the microbiota stems from the same things that drove me to be obsessed with the universe’s inner workings – vast complexity and unknowns.
I was born and raised in Texas. I received my Bachelor of science in Biochemistry at Texas Tech University in Lubbock, TX. My interest in research began as an undergraduate in Dr. Peter Keyel’s laboratory. We studied the development of Systemic Lupus Erythematosus in mice by monitoring the development of autoantibody formation in a conditional knockout model. I continued my education at TTU Health Sciences Center in Abilene, TX where I obtained a Master of Science degree in biotechnology. I was mentored by Dr. Lawrence Wood and studied the role of interferon signaling in renal cell carcinoma. I am excited to continue my scientific training at the University of Utah to study the potential of Immunotherapeutics to improve patient outcome. In my free time I enjoy hiking, craft beers, and spending time with my family.
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.
I was born in the Caribbean, but moved to Houston, Texas when I was seven. Throughout my childhood, I spent quite some time in and out of hospitals for orthopedic surgery and got to witness health disparities in various countries which made me believe that I wanted to go into medicine. In pursuit of this I did my undergrad at Houston Baptist University and graduated with a B.S. in Biology after switching from being a Nursing major. During my undergrad, I took classes in Microbiology, Immunology, and Molecular genetics which captured my attention and made me want to study these subjects further. After undergrad I participated in a post-bac program here at The University of Utah and felt that it would be a good fit, so I applied to the Microbiology and Immunology PhD program. I ultimately hope to study the genetic determinants that confer antibiotic resistance to certain microbes.
Living in Utah has been great. I love the peacefulness of Salt Lake City especially. Coming from such a big city like Houston, I can appreciate the calm that comes with being in Salt Lake. In my spare time I like to lead a sedentary life. Although I take the occasional long walk, my hobbies include writing, 3D puzzles, painting, and cooking.
I grew up in Portland Oregon and thanks to some after school programing started working in a research lab studying the development of the inner ear at OHSU. After working in that lab for 3 summers I went to Whitman College and earned a B.A. in Biochemistry, Biophysics, and Molecular Biology. While at Whitman I continued to pursue my curiosity for scientific research by studying the molecular biology of plant development using Arabidopsis thaliana as a model organism. After graduating from Whitman, I sought out more research and medical experiences to help me solidify my commitment to and competitiveness to apply to MD PhD programs. I got my EMT, joined the Mt. Hood volunteer ski patrol, and worked as a research assistant at Shriner’s Hospital for Children in Portland investigating bone growth. In applying widely for MD PhD programs Utah’s program stood out to me not only because they took us skiing on our interview but, because its students seemed genuinely happy, had diverse interests in and outside of school, and there were a number of faculty that I was passionate about working with. After completing the first two years of medical school I decided to join the lab of June Round PhD because of the broadly translational potential of her lab’s work to the practice of medicine, and because of the collaborative culture in her lab and the Pathology Department. In the Round lab we seek to understand which members, and how these different members of the microbiota can protect from different diseases or exacerbate them. Specifically, I study how certain bacteria in the gut microbiota protect from features of metabolic disease like obesity and diabetes. While in Utah I have also been able to continue my love for skiing and providing medical care by working as a volunteer ski patroller at Brighton.
I graduated from the University of Northern Colorado in 2018 with a B.S. in biology. I decided I enjoyed the research environment and wanted to also pursue a M.S. at University of Northern Colorado focusing on reproductive endocrinology and steroidogenesis. I began my Ph.D. at Anschutz Medical Campus in Denver Colorado looking to study reproduction and fertility. Eventually I realized it was not the best fit and decided to come to the University of Utah to work with Dr. Anna Beaudin. My project is currently investigating the effects of maternal folic acid on prenatal hematopoietic stem cell function and output.
My journey to the fascinating world of immunology was more circuitous than most. I received my bachelor's degree from UC Berkeley in Environmental Earth Science, but after graduation I wasn't sure where I wanted to take my career, and I spent the next several years working in multiple technical fields including asbestos microscopy, solar power analytics, and pharmacy. A longstanding passion for laboratory work and a newfound interest in medicine eventually led me to the biotechnology industry, where things immediately clicked. I fell in love with the work, and soon obtained a role manufacturing synthetic DNA for insertion into T cells in order to engineer TCRs that could recognize specific cancer neoantigens. I thought that was the coolest thing I had ever done in my professional life, and I decided to devote my career to the study of cancer immunology. I chose the University of Utah's Microbiology & Immunology program to pursue my PhD because of its faculty full of amazing cancer immunologists and T cell immunologists, and its close partnership with the Huntsman Cancer Institute (though its close proximity to the Wasatch Mountains didn't hurt either). My primary areas of interest include the dynamics of neoantigen escape and the causal factors of cytotoxic T cell suppression in the tumor microenvironment. Multiple important people in my life have been affected by cancer, and I view the emerging field of immuno-oncology as an important and potentially elegant addition to current clinical oncology techniques.
I was born and raised in California’s Central Valley. After high school I attended Modesto Junior College and enrolled in a few sciences classes, including an introductory microbiology lab course. It was there that I began to develop a strong interest toward biology and decided to pursue it further when I transferred to California State University, Stanislaus. I had the opportunity to work in Dr. Choong-Min Kang’s lab and helped develop cell fusion hybrids of Saccharomyces cerevisiae (brewing yeast) using CRISPR. The experience and confidence I gained under Dr. Kang’s mentorship motivated me to apply to a Ph.D program after I graduated with my Bachelor of Science degree. I joined the lab of Dr. Anna Beaudin, initially at the University of California Merced, now here at the University of Utah. I was immediately drawn to the exciting work ongoing in Dr. Beaudin’s lab which lies at the intersection of development, hematopoiesis, and immunology. I currently investigate the impact of maternal immune activation (MIA) on neonatal lung type-2 innate lymphoid cells (ILC2) and asthma susceptibility into adulthood.
I am originally from Colorado where I obtained a B.S. in Molecular Cellular Developmental Biology at the University of Colorado Boulder. After completing my undergraduate degree, I pursued my passion of skiing in Summit County Colorado. From there I moved to Seattle, Washington and began my work at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center. It was there I developed my interest in immunology while working in a translational research lab. My work at Fred Hutchinson inspired me to continue my education and pursue a PhD in immunology. I decided to attend the University of Utah due to its collaborative environment and prestige in T-cell immunology. Before joining Dr. Matthew Williams’ lab, I was a member of the MB Biological Sciences PhD Program. I will be studying the function of TCR signaling in tumor infiltrating lymphocytes. In my free time I enjoy golfing and skiing.
My brothers and I used to try and outdo each other with our random science knowledge at the dinner table. My love for science eventually led me to obtain my undergraduate degree in Biochemistry, Biophysics, and Molecular Biology (BBMB) at Whitman College. Life then took a few twists and turns (as life does) after graduation that led me to work as both a lab technician and volunteer in multiple labs at the University of Washington, including the Frevert Lab. I couldn’t get enough of the curious questions and passion for immunology of my fellow lab mates. Multiple mentors suggested the Molecular Biology Ph.D program at the U as the perfect fit for me as I pursued my Ph.D; they were spot on with their assessment. Despite the manic year that was 2020, I managed to find my place in the Petrey lab, where I currently am studying the molecule hyaluronan and its interaction with platelets during inflammation, specifically inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). I could not have asked for a more amazing lab.
When I am not working in the lab, I am exploring Utah by cycling up the canyons, hiking up the mountains, or running the trails. My “indoor life” consists of intense, nail-biting game nights with my friends (Settlers of Catan is cutthroat, I tell you).
I was born and raised in San Juan, Puerto Rico where I completed my B.S. in Cellular Molecular Biology. As an undergrad, I was lucky enough to join a hematology research lab that focused primarily in platelet biology, more specifically, a platelet specific receptor called TREM-like Transcript 1 (TLT-1). Upon completion of my B.S., I acquired a Medical Laboratory Scientist (MLS) certification/license and worked in several clinical laboratories during the COVID19 pandemic. During this time I routinely conducted basic clinical tests as well as COVID19 serological and molecular tests which motivated me to continue my graduate studies. The following year, I was admitted to Oakland University in Rochester, Michigan where I completed my Master’s in Biology and continued my research in platelets. My research as well as the students and faculty really motivated me to continue my graduate studies and so I joined the University of Utah. I was fascinated by the cutting-edge research at the U and also the friendly and welcoming environment emanated by the students and faculty. Salt Lake City is also a wonderful place to pursue my passions such as hiking, exploring, and skiing. So far my time here has been great and I can’t wait to see what my future has in store.
I earned a B.S. in Biology-Chemistry and a minor in science business from Point Loma Nazarene University in San Diego, California. My research career began as an undergraduate in the Dorrell-Woelbern Lab, where I worked on identifying regions of the E7 protein which may cause various levels of cancer risk in HPV patients. My undergraduate Honors Research Project focused on characterizing the interaction between glioblastoma tumors and tumor-associated macrophages within the tumor microenvironment. After graduating, I worked at the Lowy Medical Research Institute, where I used human retinal organoids to study the mechanisms governing toxicity in Macular Telangiectasia Type II, a rare genetic form of macular degeneration. Since a young age, I have always been drawn to immunology, inspired by the fact that immune cells have an innate ability to differentiate between self and non-self, targeting and eliminating foreign entities. My specific interest is in immunoregulation, focusing primarily on regulatory t cells and the mechanisms through which they interact with and regulate other immune cells. Outside of science, I enjoy doing anything outdoors (hiking, camping, etc.). When I’m not outside, I enjoy yoga, reading, propagating plants, cooking, and playing the violin.
Originally from St. Louis, MO, I received a dual degree in Microbiology and Biochemistry from the University of Oklahoma (Boomer Sooner!). While there, I worked in Dr. Robert Cichewicz’s lab on developing more targeted & high-throughput assays for screening plant & fungal extracts for bioactive natural products. My interests slowly evolved from finding novel ways to kill bacteria to understanding how commensal microorganisms impact health and can be leveraged to influence well-being. Thus, I was extremely interested in Dr. June Round’s lab here at Utah and am happy to say that’s where I ended up! I am now working on discerning how colitis and specific gut microbiota members interact with the brain, and I couldn’t ask for better lab mates to be doing it with. As a lifelong and competitive rock climber, I was also looking for an upgrade from the flat topography of Oklahoma. My partner Dylan and I definitely found that here along with so many other opportunities for outdoor recreation & exploration. When I’m not climbing or doing science, I enjoy cooking and baking (and eating!), working out, traveling, & playing disc golf with Dylan.
Nguyen Nguyen (Nick)
I was born Ho Chi Minh city, Vietnam. Fortunately, I was given the opportunity to study abroad in the United States where I received a B.S. in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology from the University of Nevada, Reno. During my undergraduate career, I found an interest in scientific research working under Dr. Thomas Kidd. Studying axon development in Drosophila model started guiding me toward a potential career in research. I decided to further pursue this path by completing a Master's thesis project at the University of Utah. After taking Basic Immunology course with its many exciting lectures, I knew Immunology would be something I will enjoy studying for the next course of my career. That’s why I decide to continue pursuing a Ph.D. study here at Utah. As a graduate student, I continue my master's research work in Scott Hale’s lab, where I study T follicular helper cells response in plague subunit vaccine.
I am from a small town in California called Mojave. I graduated Valedictorian of my class and went on to earn my B.S. in Molecular Cell Biology and Physiology with a Chemistry minor at California State University, Long Beach. At CSULB, I was in the University Honors Program which gave me the opportunity to write an Honor thesis. In my thesis, I examined the effects on viral pathogenesis of HIV-1 in CRISPR-Cas9 knockout cell lines, specifically for the redox protein Thioredoxin. I worked in Dr. Peter Ramirez’s lab from July 2021 to July 2022. Working in this research lab, I gained a strong sense of independence, adaptability, and resourcefulness. Being a first generation college student, graduate school did not seem like a possibility. However, my experience in Dr. Ramirez’s research lab encouraged me. Before graduating from CSULB, I also served in numerous student-led organizations such as being a Resident Assistant for Housing and Residential Life, Suicide Prevention Peer Educator for Counseling and Psychological Services, Honors Peer Mentor for the University Honors Program, Vice President of MEDLIFE, and Community Service Chair of Hermanas Unidas de Long Beach, amongst other activities. I am very grateful and excited to be pursuing a PhD at the University of Utah! Throughout my time at the U, I am interested in examining bacterial resistance to antibiotics or T cell biology, therefore I hope to rotate through Dr. Matt Bettini’s and Dr. Allison Carey’s laboratories.
My name is Pauline Oloo from Kenya, I did my B.sc in Biotechnology at the Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology. I immediately followed it up with master’s degree in Microbiology and Immunology at the University of Chinese academy of sciences, Institute Pasteur Shanghai, under the Immunity and Pediatric Infectious Diseases group. My project aimed at investigating the impact of immunoglobulins produced by innate like newborn B cells (CD5hiCD10low) in shaping gut microbiota colonization. I graduated in June 2022 and decided to take a gap year before continuing my studies. During this one year, I worked at Shanghai Hongene Biotech a research lab that majored on production of mRNA vaccine for pancreatic cancer patients. My main responsibility was get an in-depth understanding of what happens to the immune cells of cancer patients following mRNA vaccine administration. After one year, I was still interests in mucosal immunity and microbiota studies. I therefore decided to shift to academia and started hunting for available PhD scholarships. During my quest for PhD, I happened to attend a virtual program organized by the university of Utah where I got a chance to listen to a presentation from Dr. Gianna Hammer on the interactions between gut microbiota and gamma delta T cells and I was so enthusiastic and fascinated with her work and reached out to apply to her lab. As of now, I am a direct admit PhD student in Dr. Gianna Hammer’s lab under Microbiology and immunology at the U. My PhD thesis will be focused on understanding mechanisms underlying the elevation of gd17 cells in the epithelium and colon upon inflammation; whether they are driven by gut microbiota or TCR engagement.
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.
I am originally from California, where I attended University of California, Davis and received a B.S. in Microbiology. I worked as a research associate for 2 years in Drug Metabolism and Pharmacokinetics in small molecule drug discovery for a cancer immunotherapy company. I moved on to a position in Immunology at biotech company focused on immunotherapy clinical trials. My time in industry helped develop my passion for immunology and drove my decision to continue my education and pursue a PhD. In the Beaudin Lab, I am currently researching the effect of congenital CMV infection on fetal-derived immune cells, and the consequences of these perturbation on future hearing outcomes.
I'm originally from eastern Pennsylvania and loved my experience at Elizabethtown College where I achieved a B.S. in Biotechnology. Because of my supportive and enthusiastic mentors there (so much so that one of my professors and I have a matching research-related tattoo), I decided to pursue my Ph.D in microbiology! While coming to Utah was a big change, I have never regretted that decision! I enjoy learning more about the unseen and often unknown world of microbiology, and I can't wait to see where my studies will take me. Outside of the lab, I love to read, hike, and paint, so the breathtaking views that Salt Lake City provides are an extra bonus.
I am originally from Sanford, Maine and graduated from Bates College with a B.S. in Biochemistry. I spent a few years working in Nadia Rosenthal’s Lab at the Jackson Laboratory, where we researched cardiac autoimmunity. It was during this time that I decided to pursue a Ph.D. in immunology, in part because of the wonderful mentorship from multiple members of the Rosenthal Lab. I chose to attend the University of Utah because of the collaborative work environment, many interesting research labs, and the great work life balance. As an added bonus, I was attracted to the diverse, natural beauty of Utah. I am currently a student in Scott Hale’s Lab where we research changes in DNA methylation that occur during CD4 T cell differentiation. Specifically, I am interested in the DNA methyltransferase Dnmt3a and understanding how it is recruited to sites in the genome of different T cell subsets. I am grateful for the opportunity to conduct my research in the Hale lab and for the support that I receive from the community. In my free time, you can find me hiking, skiing, or climbing in the Wasatch Front and desert of Southern Utah!
I was born and raised in Fort Collins, Colorado. I attended Colorado State University where I graduated with a B.S. in Microbiology in 2017. I then completed a 5-year post-baccalaureate fellowship at the Centers for Disease Control, in the Arboviral Disease Branch, in Fort Collins, Colorado. Growing up in Colorado, I have always loved being outdoors, so I partly chose Utah because of the access to outdoor activities, whether that be skiing or hiking. I also chose to come to Utah because I felt welcomed by the faculty and students during my interview and subsequent visit. I knew that UofU would be a great environment to learn and grow as a scientist. As a first year M&I rotational student I hope to continue to study infectious disease, specifically viruses and their interactions with the immune system.
I was born and grew up in Denver, Colorado, before moving to Greeley, Colorado, where I got my B.S. and my M.S. in biological sciences at the University of Northern Colorado. As a master’s student, I studied cancer immunology. Specifically, my research was focused on interactions between type III T helper cells, myeloid derived suppressor cells, and mammary carcinoma. During this time, I was lucky enough to have two mentors, Dr. James Haughian and Dr. Nicholas Pullen, who helped me realize my interest in research and T cell immunology. I chose to come to the University of Utah to pursue a PhD because I wanted to join Dr. Brian Evavold’s lab. I am interested in how T cells interact with antigen to trigger activation in both autoimmunity and cancer. I also enjoy learning about mast cells. Outside of science I like art and making pottery.
I grew up here in Salt Lake City, but for my undergraduate studies, I attended Davidson College in North Carolina and received a B.S. in Biology. During my time there, I spent two years researching in Dr. Karen Bernd’s lab, where I studied the cytotoxic effects of hookah pipe smoking. Specifically, I examined how altering smoking conditions, such as hose/pipe size and shisha tobacco flavorings, affected the level of alveolar cell damage and death post-exposure. We worked jointly with Dr. Cindy Hauser’s lab in an effort to develop a high-throughput assay that could be used to rapidly screen tobacco products according to NIH safety standards before they went to market. Upon graduation, I attended Georgetown University, where I received an M.S. in Biohazardous Threat Agents & Emerging Infectious Diseases. I knew I wanted to pursue research, and I found the Molecular Biology (MB) Biosciences Program here at the University of Utah. I have now joined the Department of Pathology, where I jointly work in the labs of Dr. Tracey Lamb and Dr. Brian Evavold. My current research focus centers on malarial coinfections and understanding their immunological and pathological impact. When I’m not in the lab, I enjoy hiking, skiing, and dance. I also worked as an honors intern with the federal government for three years during my undergraduate and early graduate career, and I hope to one day return to government service.
I am originally from Georgia where I obtained a B.S. in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology from the University of Georgia. After graduating, I moved to Bethesda, Maryland where I completed a 2-year postbac with the NIH IRTA program. At the NIH, I realized my love for both science and medicine and was encouraged to apply to MD/PhD programs across the country. I chose to attend the University of Utah for my training due to the collaborative nature of the faculty, the diverse range of patients that come from across the mountain west and the work/life balance that is easily achieved when the mountains are so close by. Throughout my first two years of medical school, autoimmunity stood out as one of my main clinical interests and I decided to study it further in the lab of Matt Bettini within the M&I division of Utah's Molecular Biology PhD program. Now I focus on how early microbial colonization influences thymic T-cell development and autoimmune disease onset in the context of Type 1 Diabetes Mellitus using the NOD mouse model.
I grew up in Boise Idaho and got my BS in Neuroscience at BYU in Provo. As an undergraduate research technician I studied the interaction between stimulus features and recollection and familiarity. Since then I have worked as a technician studying topics as diverse as iron metabolism and lithium induced diabetes insipidus. I am currently in Tracey Lamb's lab, and I am interested in cerebral malaria. Cerebral malaria results when the blood brain barrier becomes more permeable during Plasmodium infection. Specifically I am interested in the role astrocytes and pericytes, two cell types that are part of the neurovascular unit and help maintain the blood brain barrier in healthy conditions, in cerebral malaria.
In addition to enjoying the atmosphere of curiosity and enthusiasm in the Pathology Department at the University of Utah, I also enjoy the outdoor activities that Salt Lake City offers. My hobbies include hike, rock climbing, and wildlife photography.
I received my master’s degree in Microbiology from Shahid Beheshti University, Tehran, Iran, where I studied pre-existing resistance mutations in the hepatitis C virus. After graduation, I continued my research on HCV genome variations and phylogeny. I joined the MB program in 2019, and I am working in the Haecker lab at the Department of Pathology. Our lab has developed several immortalized hematopoietic progenitor cell lines that facilitate studying the immune system both in vitro and in vivo. I am studying hematopoietic stem cells and progenitors and how they differentiate into different cell types of the immune system.
Outside of the lab, I enjoy skiing, mountaineering, hiking, and cycling.
I was born in Columbus, Ohio, where I lived for about 9 years before moving to
Bangalore, India with my family. We were there for 3 years and upon our return, my family
relocated to Sacramento, California. I recently graduated from California State University, Long
Beach with a B.S. in Molecular Cell Biology & Physiology, as well as a minor in Chemistry. I
began my research journey in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic by joining a virtual
research group focused on digitizing and geolocating herbarium records. Upon returning back
to campus, I chose to pivot my focus and volunteered as a research assistant in an innate
immunology lab. My project focused on C1q induction of autophagy as a means of NLRP3
inflammasome activation, thereby suggesting a novel mechanism for cytokine production. Due
to the strong sense of mentorship I received throughout my time in the lab, I was able to
recognize my passion for research, which led me to apply for Ph.D. programs during my senior
After visiting the U and interviewing with the M&I program, I knew it was the perfect fit for
me. I admire the strong sense of collaboration and encouragement that is modeled by the
faculty and students, and am excited to expand my skill set during my time here. I also love
having the mountains so close to me, and in my free time I often try to find new hiking trails or
outdoor activities in the area. I also love thrifting, going to the gym, crocheting and finding new
coffee shops to try.
I am currently a rotation student, and still have a lot to learn! I am excited to identify a
lab home for myself in the coming months, and am excited to refine my project focus moving
forward. My current rotation project observes the interaction between platelets and monocytes
in colitis models.
I'm a third year MD-PhD student at the University of Utah MSTP. Prior to starting graduate school, I studied chemistry as an undergraduate at Vassar College where I developed a passion for science and interest in translational research. After college, I joined a medicinal chemistry lab at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center where I synthesized novel chemical probes for antibiotics research and analyzed the structural properties of widely used small molecule medications. My research interests lie at the intersection of pharmacology and immunology. In the Young lab, I am studying the interaction between mental health medications, such as SSRIs, and the efficacy and toxicity of checkpoint inhibitor immunotherapies for cancer.
Outside of lab, I enjoy hiking, skiing, and camping with my Border collie rescues Chia and Finn. I used to be a collegiate swimmer and loves to swim at some of the beautiful alpine lakes in Utah.
I was born and raised in California and received my B.S. in Cell Biology and Biochemistry from the University of California, San Diego. As an undergraduate student, my interest in international public health policy and scientific research led me to Dr. Sujan Shresta's laboratory, where I studied Dengue and Zika viruses. After graduating, I continued studying host-pathogen interactions, and my passion for scientific discovery flourished as I learned the capacity of basic science to address seemingly untreatable illnesses. Eventually, it became my career goal to improve various patient populations' lives through my work in the laboratory setting. Currently, I am continuing down this path at the University of Utah in Dr. Ryan O'Connell's laboratory, studying the role of microRNAs in T cells in the context of colon cancer immunity. Outside of the lab, I enjoy going on outdoor adventures with my family!
I was born and raised around Dallas, Texas but obtained my B.S. and M.S. in Biological Sciences at the University of Alabama. During my second year at UA, I took a research-based honors class about paleohydrology and have been hooked on research ever since. My undergraduate research experience spans across multiple fields, from paleohydrology in that honors class to endocrinology and behavior research in the Earley lab. During my master's, I studied microRNAs and Drosophila aging antiviral immunity in the Chtarbanova lab.
Coming to Utah, I decided to rotate in three departments to see what I was interested in pursuing for 5+ years, but was always drawn back to microRNAs. This led me to rotate in the O'Connell lab, and I ended up co-mentored by both Dr. Ryan O'Connell and Dr. June Round. My project focuses on mechanisms by which intestinal epithelial cell exosomes can regulate the gut microbiota in homeostasis and disease, bringing together my interest in (exosomal) microRNAs with a new research area for me, the microbiota. When not in lab, I read as many books as possible, particularly fantasy novels.
I was born and raised in Hanoi, Vietnam. In 2012, I went to the U.S to get my B.S in Biochemistry at the University of Washington, Seattle, where I was first exposed to research. During undergraduate studies, I joined the lab of Dr. Susan Brockerhoff and Dr. James Hurley to study protein trafficking and metabolism in photoreceptors. I soon realized that I enjoyed doing research but had not yet found the area of research that interest me. Growing up in an environment prone to infectious diseases, I believed our immune system would only protect us from pathogens. However, while attending an introductory immunology course, I soon learned about the intricacies of autoimmune diseases and how immune tolerance is maintained - further piquing my interest in immunology. I later joined Dr.Natalia Giltiay lab, where I studied the role of B-cells and plasmacytoid dendritic cells in autoimmune disease, specifically systemic lupus erythematosus and rheumatoid arthritis. The opportunity of working as an independent researcher, going through constant trial-and-error, and gaining excitement from exciting results and discoveries made me realize the value of pursuing a PhD in Immunology. This led to my decision to join the Bioscience PhD program at the University of Utah. The flexibility of the MB/BC program at the University of Utah along with a collaborative multidisciplinary environment and a plethora of impressive faculty members were what draw me to the U. I am now a member of Ryan O’Connell’s lab, studying the role of extracellular vesicles and microRNAs in the immune system within intestinal microenvironment.
I am from a small town called Moraga in Northern California. I went to school at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York and majored in Nutritional Sciences. As an undergrad, I studied the effects of iron, zinc, and polyunsaturated fatty acid supplementation on infant cognition. After graduating in May of 2020, I worked for a couple years picking up lab skills- doing COVID-19 testing/research and sequencing for HIV clinical trials. As I was applying to graduate programs, I came across Dr. Anna Beaudin’s work and was fascinated. I have always been interested in how extrinsic factors during pregnancy affect post-natal development. My project is still developing, but it is broadly examining how prenatal inflammation affects hematopoietic stem cell output and function in adulthood. Outside of lab, I enjoy rock climbing, running, and playing the piano.
I obtained my undergraduate degree from South China University of Technology and the University of Edinburgh, and my master’s degree from the University of Southern California. I joined the Molecular Biology Ph.D. program in 2019 and joined the Tantin Lab in the next year. I currently focus on the role of Oct1 in embryonic stem cell development and Oct1-mediated interchromosomal interactions in immune cells. I am very excited about the ongoing research and looking forward to making more progress in the Ph.D. at the University of Utah.