Jared Andersen

Jared Andersen

Lamb Lab

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.

 

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.

Andrew Baessler

Andrew Baessler

Hale Lab

I’m originally from Colorado where I obtained a B.S. in biology at the University of Colorado Denver. After obtaining my undergraduate degree I worked as a research assistant in the lab of Dr. Eric Clambey at the Anschutz Medical Campus in Aurora Colorado. It was there that I developed a strong interest in immunology and decided to pursue a PhD. When deciding on where to apply for graduate school I was most drawn the University of Utah. During the interview weekend it was clear that the graduate students were genuinely excited about their research and happy to be at the U. That combined with the collaborative environment and the high quality of research made it an easy choice for me. After joining the program I chose to do my thesis research in the lab of Dr. Scott Hale where I am currently investigating the impact of DNA methylation changes on helper T cell differentiation and function.

Kaylyn Bauer

Kaylyn Bauer

O'Connell Lab

I grew up outside of St. Louis, Missouri, completing a B.S. in Biochemistry and Biotechnology at the University of Missouri – St. Louis. I have been pursuing my interest in research since high school, working with everything from cyanobacteria to plants to organic chemistry. Upon completing my degree, I knew that I wanted to continue forward in research and complete a Ph.D. I decided to move to Salt Lake City, after falling in love with the city and work-life culture of the U after interviewing here. The umbrella structure of the program allowed me to find a great lab with Dr. Ryan O’Connell in the Pathology department after rotating through both the neuroscience and genetics department as well. My thesis research is centered around understanding the transfer of small non-coding RNAs, termed microRNAs, through extracellular vesicles, which are small lipid nanovesicles within the immune system, specifically in the intestinal microenvironment. We are focused on understanding their role in 3 contexts, at homeostasis, during acute colitis challenge and within colorectal cancer. 

Joe Bednarek

Joe Bednarek

Brown Lab

I graduated from the University of Wisconsin with a B.S. in microbiology. After college, I ventured west for work and inadvertently fell in love with the mountains. Eventually, I moved to Utah for graduate school and joined the lab of Jessica Brown. We study the pathogenic fungi Cryptococcus neoformans, a fascinating organism that evades the immune system by a number of different mechanisms. My research focuses on one such mechanism, cell size pleomorphism. Upon infection, the fungal population undergoes a dramatic diversification in cell size resulting in discrete morphotypes. I am actively working to understand these morphotypes and how the immune system eliminates them. In my free time, I enjoy hiking with my dogs, experimenting in the kitchen, and riding my motorcycle.

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.

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.
Hilda Echelibe

Hilda Echelibe

Matt Bettini Lab

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.

Mike Faust

Mike Faust

Evavold Lab

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!

Arevik Ghazaryan

Arevik Ghazaryan

O'Connell Lab

I am originally from Armenia. I was born and raised in Yerevan, and moved to the USA in 2012 to get my bachelors degree in Biology and further pursue my PhD degree. In 2018, I joined the O'Connell lab where I study the role of miRNAs in Myeloid malignancies, specifically Acute Myeloid Leukemia. Patients with Acute Myeloid Leukemia have a very high rate of mortality and they still need less toxic and more effective drugs, so I am working in understanding how miRNAs can change the disease pathology and try to find new ways of treating the patients. 

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

I am originally from Santa Fe, NM and received a B.S. in Biology from the University of New Mexico. I have always been fascinated by human biology and disease and had the opportunity to volunteer in a biomedical engineering lab studying the 3D tumor microenvironment at UNM. Soon after, I was afforded the opportunity to continue my training at Los Alamos National Lab where I worked with a diverse group of scientists developing an RNA sequencing platform to detect microbes in human clinical samples. There, I discovered that I enjoyed engaging in clinical translational research that will have a global/public health impact. I was drawn to the University of Utah because of its collaborative environment and excellent interdisciplinary research. I joined the Planelles Lab in the Pathology department where my thesis research focuses on the effects of anti-proliferative therapeutics on the latent HIV-1 reservoir. My hope is that this research provides evidence for use of anti-proliferatives in clinical trials as an HIV-1 cure strategy. I love living in Salt Lake City for its easy access to the mountains (where I climb and hike), small city community (for yoga, dance, and coffee), and the outstanding research and academic opportunities at the University of Utah.

 

Anne Jensen

Anne Jensen

Lamb Lab

I am from Copenhagen in Denmark, where I completed an M.S. in Biology at the University of Copenhagen. I knew I had a passion for parasitology, so during my master's thesis, I went to Tanzania to conduct fieldwork to research hookworms in people and their domestic dogs. I became very passionate about this work and decided to pursue a Ph.D. to continue my education. My interest in parasites and people brought me to Tracey Lamb's lab in Utah. I was drawn to the Lamb lab because of our research on malaria in both mice models and humans in Cameroon. This gives me a unique opportunity to form hypotheses based on our mice work and determine if they are valid in humans. Currently, I'm investigating the factors of the innate immune system responsible for causing asymptomatic malaria in children. Furthermore, I'm investigating whether genetic factors in the Plasmodium parasite contribute to disease severity. I'm very fortunate to be doing this work here at the University of Utah and with our excellent collaborators at the Centre Pasteur in Cameroon. 

Owen Jensen

Owen Jensen

Leung Lab

I grew up in a small town in central Connecticut and then attended the University of Vermont where I received a B.S. in Microbiology. During my undergraduate career I did research in the lab of Dr. Aimee Shen, studying spore germination in the nosocomial gut pathogen, Clostridium difficile. Following graduation, I spent three years working as a research technician studying Vibrio cholerae pathogenicity under Dr. Jun Zhu at the University of Pennsylvania, and intestinal inflammation and autoimmunity under Dr. Eoin McNamee at the University of Colorado, Denver. Through these experiences I became very interested in mucosal immunity and decided to pursue a PhD in Immunology. I came to the University of Utah via the Molecular Biology Program, and joined Dr. Daniel Leung’s lab through the Department of Pathology. I am currently investigating the role of mucosal-associated invariant T (MAIT) cells in B cell help and mucosal humoral immunity. Our primary goal is to target MAIT cells to improve mucosal vaccines against bacterial pathogens. When I’m not in lab I enjoy Telemark skiing, mountain biking, and exploring the incredible mountains and deserts of Utah.

Kendra Klag

Kendra Klag

Round Lab

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.

Daniel Labuz

Daniel Labuz

Leung Lab

I grew up in Upstate New York and have always been a big nature person, making coming to Utah an easy decision. I grew up with the Adirondacks, and those mountains will always be my favorite, but Utah mountains are pretty good as well. I stayed in New York to obtain my degrees in Business Administration A.S., Biochemistry B.S., and Biochemistry & Cell Biology M.S. Although trained as a biochemist, I chose to get a Ph.D. in Microbiology and Immunology because I am motivated by learning new research areas and techniques and always strive to have a diverse set of skills as possible.  My research in Dr. Daniel Leung’s lab focuses on understanding the epigenetic changes in mucosal-associated invariant T-cells and how it affects their function. Outside of research, I enjoy spending time with my partner and our poodle Siro, following A.C. Milan to an unhealthy amount, cooking for friends, and playing soccer.

 

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.

Gabriel Leung

Gabriel Leung

Beaudin Lab

As an undergraduate at the University of California Santa Cruz, I became interested in molecular biology and began studying chromatin remodeling as an undergraduate research assistant to Dr. Grant Hartzog. After my undergraduate studies concluded, I wanted to explore the world outside of science and I stepped away from the traditional path to a career in science. For a period of seven years I worked in bakeries, hotels, and pastry shops, and it was during this time in the baking industry where I learned to work hard in pursuit of a goal, and practiced perseverance in the face of adversity. I have returned to science and am applying these skills to investigating the developmental pathways of the fetal immune system in conjunction with my advisor, Dr. Anna E. Beaudin, and the Beaudin lab. When I heard about the work that the Beaudin lab was doing in developmental hematopoiesis I was fascinated, despite having a background in molecular biology and transcription, rather than immunology. Our lab has made the novel finding that tissue-resident macrophages express the interleukin-7 receptor (IL7R) during fetal development and currently I am investigating how this signaling pathway regulates the development of tissue-resident macrophages.

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.

Diego Lopez

Diego Lopez

Beaudin Lab

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.

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.

O'Connor Matthews

O'Connor Matthews

Mulvey Lab

While pursuing my undergraduate degree at California State University, Monterey Bay, I became interested in the interactions between a pathogen and host that lead to disease. As I lived near a food-producing capital of the United States at the time, I was focused on host-pathogen interactions in the context of plant pathology - agriculture and crop loss. After graduation I worked in a plant pathology and fungal genomics lab studying Phytophthora cinnamomi, where I learned and practiced fundamental techniques of molecular biology. In 2018, I moved to Salt Lake City and began work as a lab technician in the department of pathology. It was here I fell in love the collaborative science at the U, microbial pathogenesis in human disease, and Utah’s natural beauty. As a graduate student I joined Matthew Mulvey’s lab, where I now study genetic diversity in regards to the virulence of pathogenic E. coli – a shockingly diverse organism.

 

Becca Mellema

Becca Mellema

Petrey Lab

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).  

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.

Michael Olson

Michael Olson

Welm Lab

I grew up in southern Wisconsin where I attended the University of Wisconsin – Whitewater for my undergrad.  My first research experience was in Dr. Pete Mesner’s lab at Whitewater. Dr. Mesner was an excellent professor and mentor – his passion for science was infectious and sparked my interest in research. Following my graduation, I worked as a technician in Dr. Lily Wang’s lab at the Medical College of Wisconsin where I studied cancer immunotherapy, specifically the negative immune checkpoint protein VISTA. It was during my work in the Wang lab that I became interested in the rapidly growing field of cancer immunotherapy and I knew that I wanted to continue to expand my understanding of the field in graduate school. I began grad school at the University of Utah in 2017. I joined Dr. Djordje Atanackovic’s lab in order to learn more about adoptive cellular therapy for the treatment of hematological malignancies. My projects involve studying CAR T cell therapies in the context of B cell lymphoma. Outside of the lab I am enjoy biking and skiing in this beautiful state.

Stephanie Orozco

Stephanie Orozco

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.

Kelly Otsuka

Kelly Otsuka

Beaudin Lab

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.

Bryant Perkins

Bryant Perkins

Hale Lab

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!

Viva Rase

Viva Rase

Evavold Lab

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.

Amanda Richards

Amanda Richards

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.

Marshall Roedel

Marshall Roedel

Lamb Lab

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.

Faraz Salehi

Faraz Salehi

Haecker Lab

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.

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.

Willliiam Tang

Willliiam Tang

O'Connell Lab

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!

Jacob Thompson

Jacob Thompson

O'Connell Lab

I am a Utah native, born and raised just north of Salt Lake City. I have always loved the unique blend of having access to both beautiful outdoor adventures and a world-class symphony within minutes of each other here in Salt Lake. While studying microbiology at Weber State University, I developed an interest in a career in basic research and decided to transfer to the University of Utah to gain research experience as an undergraduate. After graduating, I stayed at the UofU, where I worked as a research specialist before entering the Molecular Biology Ph.D. program and joining Ryan O’Connell’s lab. I am interested in how the expression of non-coding RNAs modulates neuroinflammatory diseases. My project involves looking at the cell-specific role that a microRNA, miR-155, plays in a mouse model of multiple sclerosis. I am very happy with my decision to be at the University of Utah for my Ph.D. Having a family and working on a Ph.D. is not easy, but the strong support and collaborative atmosphere here have made it more than possible to accomplish.

Beth Williams

Beth Williams

Planelles Lab

I am originally from Branford, CT. I earned a BA in Anthropology from Drew University in Madison, NJ and a MA in Physical Anthropology from Texas Tech University in Lubbock, TX. I focused my masters research on human osteology and paleopathologies. After completing my master’s degree, I realized that my research interests had changed and that I needed to seek a molecular approach to studying the interactions between humans and their pathogens. Currently, I am pursuing a PhD in Microbiology and Immunology and am focusing my research on interactions between the innate immune system and HIV. Specifically, the mechanisms through which our cells protect themselves from infection and how to pharmacologically induce a greater level of protection. Additionally, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, my research has shifted to include studying the innate immune response to SARS-CoV-2 and the immunological etiology of the post-acute sequelae of SARS-CoV-2 that continues to affect approximately 10-15% of individuals who have recovered from SARS-CoV-2 infection.

Both my husband and son (now 6) moved to Salt Lake City with me in 2016. We love it here. It is a wonderful place to have a family. We enjoy hiking with our dog, Remi, and spending as much time outside as possible. Coming from a town on the water, we still find the views of the mountains stunning.

Yifan Wu

Yifan Wu

Tantin Lab

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.