Student Directory

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Alexander Benedict
Masters Student

Research Lab
Griffitts

Research Description

The plant symbiont Sinorhizobium meliloti has a unique genome that’s organized into 3 large DNA replicons. The largest of the three, the chromosome, contains virtually all the organism’s essential genes. I’m trying to understand which of those genes are essential and how the three DNA replicons interact genetically within the cell.

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Ann-Aubrey Reid
Masters Student

Research Lab
Robison

Research Description

The causative agent of Lyme disease, Borrelia burgdorferi, is an understudied spirochete that can establish chronic infection in individuals with a healthy immune system. These bacteria potentially can occupy immune cells to modify and evade immune responses. I am investigating cellular attachment and intracellular invasion of human B lymphocytes.

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Ashlin Cowger
Masters Student

Research Lab
Weber

Research Description

I study the role of dust mites and endotoxin in asthma.

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Brooke Roark
Masters Student

Research Lab
Grose

Research Description

I worked on a genetic circuit to be expressed in E. coli that would cause the bacteria to express an indicator, such as a fluorescent protein, only in the presence of three specific inputs.

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Daniel Thompson
Masters Student

Research Lab
Grose

Research Description

Research involves phage biology, and the relationship between phage and host bacterium and how resistance is achieved; either by mutation accumulation or by CRISPR methods.

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Devan Bursey
Masters Student

Research Lab

Research Description

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Eliza Bitter
Masters Student

Research Lab
O'Neill

Research Description

My main focus is understanding tumor surface markers present on various hematological malignancies, lymphomas, and other cancer types which include leukemia, breast and lung . 

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Jenny Pattison
Masters Student

Research Lab
Grose

Research Description

I am working the a protein kinase called PAS kinase that regulates cellular respiration.  I am studying how this can be used as a target for metabolic disease in both yeast and mouse models.

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Jeralyn Franson
Masters Student

Research Lab
Bridgewater

Research Description

Your diet feeds not only yourself, but the bacteria that live in your gut. I am looking specifically at the role a western diet, high in fats and sugars, plays in the development of insulin resistance and obesity, and the changes in gut bacteria that result from diet. 

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Joseph Thiriot
Masters Student

Research Lab
Robison

Research Description

Burkholderia pseudomallei is a highly virulent bacteria, and is hard to diagnose and treat. The mortality rate of those infected remains very high. I work with a set of its genes to characterize their role in reducing the bacteria's virulence. Through this research, we hope to contribute to future treatments.

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Kevin Adams
Masters Student

Research Lab
Johnson

Research Description

I study the epigenetic regulation of macrophage polarization. Using high-throughput DNA sequencing technology I am working to identify gene targets responsible for phenotypic switching. Eventually, we hope to gain control of the process so we can drive macrophage polarization for therapeutic benefit.  

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Shalee Killpack
Masters Student

Research Lab
Wilson

Research Description

My research is focused on understanding how the pathogen Staphylococcus aureus acquires iron in the mammary gland.  This is of interest as S. aureus is the leading cause of human mastitis, an infection of mammary gland tissue. I aim to elucidate which genes are essential in obtaining iron in the unique environment of mammary tissue and milk, and thus could be important virulence factors in mastitis.

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Shreena Mody
Masters Student

Research Lab
Robison

Research Description

Honey is used as an alternative agent to cure infections of wounds, burns, ulcers etc. Researchers have shown some of the antimicrobial properties of honey when used as an ointment. The purpose of this study is to examine the antimicrobial properties of honey from Utah and other locales, and to identify promising antimicrobial activities that could be useful in treating infections caused by resistant bacteria.

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Taalin Hoj
Masters Student

Research Lab
Robison

Research Description

I study mechanisms of carbapenem resistance in CREs. 

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Josie Tueller
Masters Student

Research Lab
Weber

Research Description

CAR (chimeric antigen receptor) T cells are immune cells targeted to fight cancer. My research focuses on understanding how different combinations of receptors can influence the response, specifically looking at metabolism and energy utilization of these unique engineered T cells.

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Elise Melhado
Masters Student

Research Lab
Grose

Research Description

I study the relationship between PAS Kinase and stress granules in cells, focusing on Ataxin-2. These interactions could lead to potential treatments for ALS.  

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Trever Thurgood
Masters Student

Research Lab
Grose

Research Description

I have a research emphasis on bacteriophage protein identification and characterization. This research is useful in a clinical setting because it can identify potential therapeutic targets in phage therapy as well as identify harmful genes and proteins to avoid using in human treatments, such as those encoding for toxins or antibiotic resistance.

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John Carter
PhD Student

Research Lab
Johnson

Research Description

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Antonio Solis Leal
PhD Student

Research Lab
Berges

Research Description

I study a therapy to fight AIDS. To do so, I'm introducing a gene in Hematopoietic Stem Cells, which are the ones that produce CD4 T cells. This gene codes for a nuclease that specifically disrupts the HIV promoter. Thus, when an organism is exposed to HIV, there will be a resistant CD4 T cell population and the organism will be resistant to develop AIDS

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Claudia Freitas
PhD Student

Research Lab
Weber

Research Description

I study T helper cells, important in adaptive immunity, with different CD5 expression. CD5 regulates T cell response. I am interested in the role that CD5 has upon activation by evaluating Ca2+ mobilization and metabolic response. I also study the molecular basis of immune dysfunction in nBMP2 mutant mice that suggest to have a defect in intracellular Ca2+ mobilization, important in immune response.

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Daniel Arens
PhD Student

Research Lab
Grose

Research Description

I study two proteins, PAS-Kinase and USF1, and their roles in metabolic diseases. As we learn more about their mechanisms, interacting partners, and how to manipulate them we will be able to develop treatments and therapies for diabetes, obesity, and hyperlipidemia.

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David Bates
PhD Student

Research Lab
Johnson

Research Description

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Deborah Johnson
PhD Student

Research Lab
Weber

Research Description

Helper T cells are activated when their T cell receptor (TCR) recognizes its specific peptide. I research how TCR-peptide affinity influences T cell proliferation and specificity through a panel of high affinity TCRs. I also investigate CD5—a coreceptor— role in T cell activation. This work has application for vaccine and immunotherapy development.

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Edwin Velazquez
PhD Student

Research Lab
O'Neill

Research Description

I work developing new cell adoptive therapies for cancer immunotherapy and doing tumor target discovery. My work consists of genetically engineering human immune system cells with tumor targeting receptors to selectively eliminate tumor cells.

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Israel Guerrero
PhD Student

Research Lab
Robison

Research Description

My research focuses on uncovering the pathogenesis mechanisms of Chikungunya virus (CHIKV). CHIKV is a mosquito borne alphavirus which causes chronic arthritis. In the Robison lab we are interested in understanding how CHIKV evades the immune system and how this leads to chronic arthritis.

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Jacob Herring
PhD Student

Research Lab
Tessem

Research Description

Diabetes is characterized by a decrease in functional β-cell mass. Nuclear hormone receptor 4a1 plays a role in the regulation of functional β-cell mass. My research focuses on the mechanism of Nr4a1 in the β-cell.

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Kai Li Ong
PhD Student

Research Lab
Grose

Research Description

My research focuses on AMPK-oxysterol binding protein signaling pathway in controlling apoptosis, mitochondria morphology, and functions using yeast as a model organism. This would help in identifying a new drug target in treating metabolic diseases and cancer.

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Kiara Vaden
PhD Student

Research Lab
Weber

Research Description

My research focuses on studying T cells. One project focuses on studying how altered peptides affect helper T cell activation in response to L. monocytogenes, a common food-borne pathogen. My other project focuses on developing antibodies that specifically target a novel cancer cell surface marker. This research can be applied to vaccine and immunotherapeutic design.

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Michael Olson
PhD Student

Research Lab
Erickson

Research Description

I am interested in how bacterial pathogens evolve and adapt to survive in different conditions. I study what genes mammary pathogenic Escherichia coli needs to survive in the harsh environment of the mammary gland. I have employed genome-wide transposon insertion site sequencing to identify putative virulence factors needed to survive in diverse conditions.

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Ruchira Sharma
PhD Student

Research Lab
Grose

Research Description

I work with bacteriophages, viruses that infect bacteria. I isolate and characterize novel bacteriophages that infect Erwinia amylovora, a bacteria that is known to cause a devastating disease called fire blight in fruit trees of rosaceae family.

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Stewart Morley
PhD Student

Research Lab
Nielsen

Research Description

I study DNA replication in plant organelles. Compared to nuclei, their interactions and mechanisms are most likely much simpler, but this has yet to be well studied. Using bacterial and yeast cloning in conjunction with next generation sequencing, we hope to soon illustrate the interactions of plant organelle DNA replication proteins and their mechanisms.