Funding of Graduate and Undergraduate Students


Graduate Fellowships

Jacob Barrett (Biology PhD student), mentor Josh Currie
Drivers of cellular de-differentiation in Salamander limb regeneration

Kevin Coffey (Biology PhD student), mentor Regina Cordy
Differential Gene Expression of Plasmodium falciparum in Various Oxygen Environments

Megan Gerber (Biology PhD student), mentor Gloria Muday
Determination of Auxin Response Factor19 Gene Regulatory Networks
(declined as she received T32 support)

Sara Nichols (Biology PhD student), mentor Sarah Esstman Investigating Liquid-Liquid Phase Separation via Rotavirus Viral Factory Biogenesis
(declined as she received T32 support)

Dizhu Wu (Physics PhD student), mentor Freddie Salsbury
Investigating Dynamic Allostery in Thrombin Complexes with Molecular Dynamic Simulations

Undergraduate Summer Fellowships

Eric Wang (Biology major), laboratory of Gloria Muday in Biology.
The role of flavonols in protecting fertilization during high-temperature stress

Jack Watke (BMB major), laboratory of Rebecca Alexander in Chemistry.
Understanding the role of the C-terminal domain of the tRNA lysidine synthetase

Neesha Kuntamukkala (BS BMB), laboratory of Jason Grayson in Microbiology and Immunology. Investigation of the relationship between T-cell function and cognitive impairment in β-amyloid positive individuals.

Mai Soliman, laboratory of Emmanuel C. Opara in the WFU Center for Regenerative Medicine. Characterization of Exosomes Isolated from Urine-derived Stem Cells of Healthy and Diabetic Patients


Graduate Student Fellowships

Alipour, Elmira. The Combination Effect of Nitrite and Far-Red Light on Clot Formation. Advisor: Daniel Kim-Shapiro, Physics

De la Cerda, David. Epigenetic Silencing: RNA-Seq Profiling of Heterochromatin Regulatory Genes dhp1-1 and lsd1/2. Advisor: James Pease, Biology

Postiglione, Anthony. Determine the interactions between ROS and MAP Kinase signaling in guard cell closure. Advisor: Gloria Muday, Biology

Sullivan, Owen. Inter-molecular Signaling Critical for Rotavirus Polymerase Activation by the Core Shell Protein. Advisor: Sarah McDonald, Biology

Undergraduate Student Fellowships

Callum Brazier. Chemistry Major. Does nitroxyl react similarly as formaldehyde with the cofactors known to mediate formaldehyde’s reactivity. Advisor: Bruce King, Chemistry

Sarah DeHorn, Medicinal Chemistry Major. Functional comparison of two TilS homologs. Advisor:  Rebecca Alexander, Chemistry, cosponsored by NSF

Danielle Farinella, Biochemistry and Molecular Biology Major. The effects of plasmodium parasites on the gut. Advisor: Regina Cordy, Biology

Benton Lietz. Philosophy Major and Biology Minor. Characterization of chromosome motions. Advisor: Pierre Vidi, Cancer Biology, cosponsored by NIH

Tucker Loy. Biophysics Major. Characterization of the DNA damage response on stiff and soft matrices using live cell imaging. Advisor: Pierre Vidi, Cancer Biology, Cosponsored by NIH

Hannah Watson. Biology major. Chemical irritation in newly hatched earthworms. Advisor: Wayne Silver, Biology

Michael White, Biochemistry and Molecular Biology Major. The role of SPARC in the proliferative, metabolic, and inflammatory properties of bladder cancer. Advisor: Neveen Said, Cancer Biology, Cosponsored by NIH


Graduate Research Fellowships

Bahjat Fadi Marayati. Loss of Elongation-Like Factor 1 Spontaneously Induces R-loop Mediated Suppressor Mutations in Schizosaccharomyces pombe. Advisor: Ke Zhang, Biology

Jon Nelson. Expression and function of the eclosion hormone receptor in Drosophilia. Advisor: Erik Johnson, Biology

Eric Shuppe. Capacity for androgen signaling and biosynthesis in neural substrates that are linked to the production of an elaborate gestural display. Advisor, Matt Fuxjager, Biology

Undergraduate Researcher Fellowships

Konan Beke, Biology Major, Identification of SAMDH1 protein complexes and their role in DNA Repair, Mentor: Tom Hollis Biochemistry

Nicole Johnsen, Biochemistry and Molecular Biology Major, Creating a library of adenovirus E4orf6 protein variants for the development of AAV cell lines for therapeutic use in gene therapy, Mentor: David Ornelles, Microbiology and Immunology

Miller Ligon, Biology Major, The role of muscle androgen receptors in rapid wing movement, Mentor: Matt Fuxjager, Biology

Suprene Mohamedzein, Biochemistry and Molecular Biology Major, High Temperature Induced Reactive Oxygen Species and Root Hair Formation, Mentor: Gloria Muday, Biology (NSF cosupport)

Zachary Taylor, Chemistry Major with Medicinal Chemistry concentration, TilS as a player in metabolic signaling, Mentor: Rebecca Alexander, Chemistry


Graduate Research Fellowships

Hannah Carlson. Examining the effects of nucleus accumbens delta and kappa opioid receptors on appetitive and consummatory motivation. Advisor: Wayne Pratt, Psychology

Bree Ann LaPointe. Exploring Arabidopsis thaliana Gene interactions with CHC Genetic Algorithms. Advisor: David J. John, Computer Science

Jiajie Xiao. Uncovering Thrombin’s Allosteric Responses via Molecular Dynamics Simulations. Advisor: Freddie Salsbury, Physics

Chenkang Zheng. The interaction between iron-sulfur clusters and ribosomes  Advisor: Patricia Dos Santos, Chemistry

Undergraduate Researcher Fellowships

Alden Caron-O’NeilComputer Science Major, Modeling of biological based time course data using a traditional genetic algorithm, David John and Jim Norris, mentors

John Evans, Biochemistry and Molecular Biology Major, Analysis of Conserved Tryptophan Residue in Drosophila AKHR using Constitutively Active Mutant Variants, Erik Johnson, mentor

Eileen ReedBiology Major, The Search for Chemoreceptors in Earthworms using Behavioral and Histochemical Assays, Wayne Silver, mentor

Samantha Schoenl. Drug and Disease Interactions with Diabetes. Peter Antinozzi, Biochemistry


Everett Altherr. Analysis of the hedonic component of motivated feeding and its neural underpinnings in rats. Advisor: Wayne Pratt, Psychology

Summary: The obesity epidemic is one of the most prevalent and costly problems facing the United States today. One of its many causal origins is the role that the palatability of foods plays on the motivation to eat to excess. This project seeks to isolate and evaluate the hedonic component of food motivation utilizing pharmacological and behavioral techniques in a rat model. We aim to establish a new behavioral analysis procedure in our laboratory and use it to test a theorized interaction between acetylcholine and opioid systems in the Nucleus Accumbens (NAcc) shell, and to test if stimulation/blockade of serotonin receptors of the NAcc impacts hedonic evaluation of sucrose solutions.

Katherine Black. Expanding the roles of tRNA thiolation in bacteria: Potential involvement of 2-thiouridine tRNA in signaling bacterial sulfur metabolism. Advisor: Patricia Dos Santos, Chemistry

Summary: Post-transcriptional modifications of tRNA are found in all three domains of life and arecritical for the structure and function of these adaptor molecules in decoding the genetic information during protein synthesis. 2-thiouridine (s2U) modification at the wobble position of tRNAGlu, Gln, Lys is required for accurate and efficient protein synthesis and its absence impacts cellular viability. In addition to its role in translation, a breakthrough study in yeast revealed that the s2U modification is used as a sensor to gauge nutrient availability and regulate translational capacity and amino acid homeostasis accordingly. Our working hypothesis is that in bacteria, sulfur nutrient availability dictates the levels of s2U and its deficiency affects expression of certain genes, providing a link between sulfur metabolism and central metabolic processes. Therefore, we propose to investigate s2U’s role in metabolic homeostasis and translation regulation as a sensor of sulfur availability in B. subtilis.

Rebecca Perry. Functional Mapping of the Adipokinetic Hormone Receptor and its Downstream Targets in Drosophila melanogaster Advisor: Erik Johnson, Biology

Summary: Adipokinetic hormone (AKH) is the insect functional equivalent of glucagon, a hormone vital in the mobilization of stored energy under low energy conditions. Under conditions of metabolic stress, AKH secretion results in an increase in locomotor activity, which is thought to assist in foraging behavior. The first aim of this study is to map AKH receptor expression using genetics and physiological methods. The goal is to determine which tissue or tissues are responsible for AKH- dependent phenotypes and to appreciate the scope of AKHR expression. Upon AKHR activation by AKH, the receptor activates both cAMP and calcium pathways. It is unclear the extent to which either of these second messenger systems are responsible for energy mobilization or for hyperactive phenotypes. The second aim of my studies is to use RNAi elements to specifically target elements of the cAMP and calcium signaling pathways and assess behavioral and physiological phenotypes. The goal of this aim is to discern the relevant downstream signals from the AKHR that are ultimately responsible for AKH actions.

James Tucker. Defective 5’-3’ exonuclease Dhp1/Xrn2 impairs epigenetic silencing in Schizosaccharomyces pombe. Advisor: Ke Zhang, Biology

Summary: Epigenetic gene silencing prevents the expression of certain genomic regions. It is crucial to regulate when, where and how an organism uses the information stored in its DNA sequence and are essential to many cellular processes, from regulation of gene expression to cell-fate determination. We have discovered a new epigenetic silencing pathway mediated by 5’-3’ exonuclease Dhp1/Xrn2 in Schizosaccharomyces pombe. Partial loss of function of Dhp1 causes defective gene silencing both at pericentromeric regions and the silent mating type locus. We found that Dhp1 is involved in the sequential steps of establishing silencing and is coordinated with other RNA processing machineries, including RNA interference (RNAi) and the exosome. Our analysis suggests that Dhp1 performs an unknown function beyond its established role in transcription termination in the silencing of repetitive regions in the S. pombe genome. Our results provide information of altered gene expression when several RNA processing pathways are impaired.


R. Warren Boger. Chromosomal regulation by a conserved DEAD/H box helicase. Advisor: Ke Zhang, Biology

Jason Braco. Functional Dissection of Dopaminergic Control of Stress Response through Adipokinetic Hormone Signaling in Drosophila. Advisor: Eric Johnson, Biology

Helen Cuffe. The Impact of Free Cholesterol Accumulation on Insulin and Inflammatory Signaling in Adipocytes. Advisor: John Parks, Pathology and Biochemistry, WFUSM

Steven Johnson. Fast Enumerative Algorithm for Modification-Targeted Sequence Analysis. Advisor: William Turkett, Computer Science

Jeremiah Keyes. Modulation of Erk Activity by Reversible Cysteine Modification.  Advisors:  Leslie Poole, Biochemistry, WFUSM

Paul Listrani. Reactive oxygen-mediated endothelial cell dysfunction in diabetic cardiovascular disease. Advisor: Leslie Poole, Biochemistry, WFUSM

Ronald Nelson. Androgen-Independent Prostate Cancer with Novel Phosphatidylinositol 3-Kinase Inhibitors Activated by Prostate Specific Antigen.  Advisor: Mark Welker, Chemistry


Adam Davidson. Structure-communicated interaction between cellular hnRNPs and viral RNA during VSV infection. Advisor: Rebecca Alexander, Chemistry

Monica Jenks. Flavonoid modulation of insulin signaling in fat and muscle cells. Advisor: Gloria Muday, Biology

Chen Liu. The Effects of the Blood Storage Lesion on Nitric Oxide Signaling.  Advisor: Dany Kim-Shapiro, Physics

Mike Rizzo. Dimerization of G-protein coupled neuropeptide receptors.  Advisor: Eric Johnson, Biology

Cody Stevens. GPU-Optimized Network Analysis Toolset for Intramolecular Signaling Network Analysis. Advisor: Sam Cho, Computer Science

Justin Watkins. Modulation of reactive oxygen species signaling in guard cells.  Advisor: Gloria Muday, Biology

Funding of WFRF awards:

Summer of 2014

Erin Currey Investigations on Promoter Directionality Advisor: Ke Zhang, Biology

Angela Harper Core Validation of Peroxiredoxin Superfamily. Advisor: Jacque Fetrow, Computer Science/Physics

Aishwarya Nagar Genetic Dissection of Nociceptive Behavior in Drosophila. Advisor: Erik Johnson, Biology

Paul Okoyeh Functional Mapping of Genes Associated with Diabetes. Advisor: Peter Antinozzi, WFUSM Biochemistry

Cecilia Rambarat All-Atom MD simulation of RNAse-P with added TMAO. Advisor: Sam Cho, Computer Science/Physics

Summer of 2013

Nick Koutlas Flavonoid effects on protein oxidation and activity. Gloria Muday, Biology

Junseo Lee The Effects of Different Rearing Conditions on the Levels of Ecdysteroids in Adult Honeybees. Susan Fahrbach, Biology

Aishwarya Nagar Ethylene Dependent Flavonoid Production in Tomato Plants. Gloria Muday, Biology

Theresa Patton Binding interactions of CRIP1a protein. Allyn Howlett, Physiology and Pharmacology, WFUSM

Gabrielle Shea Erk (1-3) proteins. Jacque Fetrow, Computer Science/Physics

Eric Voyles The properties of mixed electrospun fibers for tissue engineering applications. Martin Guthold, Physics