Current Graduate Students

Sweta BatniSweta Batni

Sweta is a PhD candidate in the Global Infectious Diseases Program working in Dr. Heidi Elmendorf’s Lab in the Department of Biology. Her current research focuses on examining the relationship between Giardia lamblia infection and malnutrition.

Prior to matriculating at Georgetown University in 2010, Sweta worked as an analyst researching issues at the nexus of global health security and international health policy. Originally from Phoenix, Sweta moved to Baltimore in 2003 and earned joint Master of Health Science (MHS '05) and Master of Arts (MA '09) degrees in Infectious Disease Epidemiology and International Health Policy from Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and Johns Hopkins Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies.

Outside of the laboratory, Sweta enjoys going to live music shows and cooking.

Amy Battocletti Amy Battocletti

Amy is a second year PhD student in the Biology program with an interest in population and ecological genetics. In 2013, she received her BS in Wildlife and Conservation Biology and BS in Marine Biology from the University of Rhode Island. Amy will be conducting her research in a salt marsh ecosystem and is being co-advised by Drs. Matthew Hamilton and Gina Wimp.  She received an NSF graduate research fellowship. 

Outside of the lab, Amy enjoys traveling, hiking, scuba diving, and spending time outdoors. She is also having fun visiting the many sites around DC.

Zachary Batz

Zach earned a BS in Biology from the University of Pittsburgh in 2012. As an undergraduate, he worked with Dr. Sam Donovan developing educational resources to facilitate open-ended exploration of phylogeny malarial parasites in great apes. Following his interest in science outreach, Zach then moved to Dr. Michelle Smith's lab at the University of Maine where he earned an MS in Biology Education in 2014. His master's thesis demonstrated a novel method for monitoring student engagement in large undergraduate science courses. In 2014, Zach returned to traditional biology and joined Dr. Peter Armbruster's lab to study the evolution and molecular mechanisms of overwintering mechanisms in the Asian tiger mosquito.

Outside the lab Zach enjoys cooking, racquetball, and going to concerts. 

Allison Brackley 

Allison Brackley is a first year PhD student working in Dr. Martha Weiss' lab, and she is also co-advised by John Lill at George Washington University. She earned her B.S. in Biology from the University of Illinois at Chicago, where she completed several semesters of research studying the architecture of pollination networks as well as the interaction between an invasive shrub and its detritovores. During the summer of 2014, she participated in the Research Experience for Undergraduates program at the Chicago Botanic Garden, where she investigated the impact of bio-control weevils on an endangered plant native to the Wisconsin dunes. Her primary research interests are in understanding species interactions and community-level dynamics.

Kelly Chamberlain Kelly Chamberlain

Kelly earned her B.S. in Biology from James Madison University in 2010 where she investigated the development and organization of the inferior colliculus in mice under Dr. Mark Gabriele. She then moved to Janelia Farm Research Campus to the lab of Dr. Tim Harris, where she worked to apply a high-resolution imaging technique known as array tomography to investigate synaptic circuitry in Drosophila.

Kelly is currently (2014) a third year PhD candidate in the Interdisciplinary Program in Neuroscience working in Dr. Jeffrey Huang’s lab in the Department of Biology. Her current research focuses on investigating oligodendrocyte-neuronal interactions in the central nervous system, focusing on animal models of multiple sclerosis.

Chao ChenChao Chen

Chao received her Bachelor's degree from Wuhan University in China. She is now working on the project of SoxC genes' role in cerebral cortex development in the lab of Dr. Maria Donoghue. The Sox gene family encodes a large group of transcription factors, classified by sequence homology into groups A through E. All Sox proteins contain a high mobility group (HMG) box, a region responsible for protein-protein interactions as monomers form dimers in order to bind DNA. SoxC group genes have been implicated in several processes during neural development, but the specific roles played by SoxC genes in the mammalian cerebral cortex remain unclear. Chao's research focuses on the roles of two SoxC genes, Sox4 and Sox11, in cerebral cortical development.

Dillon Damuth Dillon Damuth

Dillon is in his first year of the PhD program in the Department of Biology, studying early neural development in Dr. Elena Casey's lab. He received his BA in Biology in 2013 from Elmira College (NY), where his research involved quantification and identification of controlled substances in solution via GC-MS, with the eventual goal of studying thermal degradation rates of these substances in synthetic urine. (Unfortunately, this goal was not reached.)

Outside of time spent in the lab or doing coursework, Dillon cares for his several geckos and enjoys spending time outside and traveling.

Marc Fink

Marc is a first year PhD student in the Department of Biology.  He received a B.S. from Loyola University - Maryland and a M.S. from Towson University.  During his time at Loyola, he investigated both bacterial biofilm architecture and antibody production with Dr. Andrew  Schoeffield and Dr. David Rivers.  Then at Towson, his thesis work with Dr. Michelle Snyder studied innate immunity pattern recognition and associated signaling pathways.  Currently, Marc works in the Singer lab and is interested in immune cell regulation and interactions within the gastrointestinal tract.  

Outside of the lab Marc enjoys watching movies, following the Boston Red Sox, and dreaming of playing linebacker for the New England Patriots.

Xin HuangXin Huang

Xin comes from the southern coastal province of Fujian in China. After earning his B.S. at China Agriculture University, he went to Xiamen University for research work on gene expression levels of mouse brain exposed to tributyltin, a commonly used antifouling paint. He joined Dr. Peter Armbruster’s lab in 2011, attempting to address the evolutionary response of the Asian tiger mosquito, Aedes albopictus, to the wide latitudinal range in North America, and the underlying molecular mechanism.

Besides lab work, he enjoys biking, photography, movies, and exploring the new environment of the Greater DC area.

Jing JinJing Jin

Jing comes to Georgetown from Jiangsu, China. After receiving her BS from the University of Science and Technology of China, Jing came to the US to pursue a Ph.D. degree. She is now working in Dr. Elena Casey’s lab focusing on the neural development in Xenopus laevis.


Caitlin Karniski 

Caitlin received her B.S. in Biology with a concentration in Ecology, Evolution, and Behavior from Georgetown University in 2011. She worked as a field assistant in Shark Bay, Australia with Dr. Janet Mann's lab in the fall of 2011 and 2012, and became the lab's Research Associate in 2013. Prior to this she worked on a manatee radiotelemetry project with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Research Institute, and has contributed to projects with World Wildlife Fund, Whale and Dolphin Conservation, Sarasota Dolphin Research Program, and the research lab of Dr. Tim Beach at Georgetown. In 2014 she began her PhD in the Mann lab and plans to study reproductive senescence and the evolutionary mechanisms of menopause in cetaceans.

Outside of the lab she enjoys hiking, music, and good food.

Alyssa King

Alyssa completed her B.S. in biology in 2015 from Bradley University in Peoria, IL. During her time as an undergraduate, she worked under Dr. Melinda Faulkner investigating oxidative stress in the soil bacterium Bacillus subtilis. Her interests include microbial pathogenesis, specifically microbe-host interactions, pathogenic virulence, and host response. She began woking towards her Ph.D. at Georgetown in 2015.

Alyssa’s out-of-lab passions include hanging out with dogs (all dogs, seriously any dog), exploring new places, reading good books, and drinking delicious coffee and wine (though not necessarily at the same time).

Elizabeth Lee 2Elizabeth Lee

Originally from the San Francisco Bay Area, Elizabeth moved to the East Coast to acquire her B.A. in Biological Sciences and French at Cornell University. After graduating in 2010, she moved to DC and worked at the IDA Science and Technology Policy Institute where she supported federal agencies in policy research and data analysis. Elizabeth came to the Global Infectious Diseases program at Georgetown in 2012 to join Dr. Shweta Bansal's lab. Her research explores the spatial and age dynamics of flu through data analysis and epidemic simulations. She hopes to combine her research and policy interests to improve the use of mathematical and statistical models for public health preparedness and response.

Outside of the lab, Elizabeth enjoys biking, training for races, visiting restaurants, cooking, and eating dumplings.

Carrie LeonardCarrie Leonard

Carrie received her B.S. in Health Sciences and Biology from James Madison University in 2009. She then worked in the University of Virginia Pathology Department for two years, studying the effects of dietary compounds on pro-inflammatory pathways.

Carrie is currently a 2nd year in the Interdisciplinary Program in Neuroscience and will be conducting her thesis research in Maria Donoghue's lab, investigating the effects of intercellular signaling molecules on cerebral cortical development.

In her spare time, Carrie enjoys softball, crafting, and karaoke! 

Madison MiketaMadison Miketa

Madison graduated from Brown University in 2010 with a Bachelor of Science degree in Biology, with a focus on Animal Behavior. Her Honors thesis examined the biogeographical patterns exhibited by all shark species worldwide under the guidance of Dr. Dov Sax.

Her previous research experiences include studying navigation in sea turtles (with Dr. Kenneth Lohmann and Dr. Catherine Lohmann), ontogenetic changes in sharks (with Dr. Jamie Seymour), movement patterns in sharks (with Dr. Jonathan Werry), development in Zebra fish (with Dr. Ruth Colwill), learning and problem solving in sea lions (with Dr. Colleen Reichmuth), behavioral responses to seismic surveys in humpback whales (with Dr. Mike Noad and Dr. Rebecca Dunlop), numerical cognition in primates (with Dr. Elizabeth Brannon), and social behavior in lemurs (with Dr. Christine Drea).

Madison joined Dr. Janet Mann's lab as a PhD student in the Fall of 2013. She is excited to study social behavior and cognition in the dolphins of Shark Bay.

Outside of the lab, Madison enjoys playing field hockey, scuba diving, and spoiling her four dogs.

Vivianne Morrison Vivianne Morrison

Vivianne earned her B.A. in Psychology with a concentration in neuroscience at Bard College in 2009, exploring the biological basis of Phantom Limb Syndrome for her Senior Thesis. Upon receipt of her degree, she attended medical school at the University of Lausanne, Switzerland, while remaining active in research in the laboratory of Dr. Isabelle Décosterd at the University of Lausanne (studying the effect of peripheral nerve damage on the central nervous system), which drove her to leave medical school and pursue her passion for neuroscience. She is currently a first year doctoral student in Georgetown's Interdisciplinary Program in Neuroscience and a 2014 Awardee of the National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship Program. She plans to study neuron-oligodendrocyte communication and activity-dependent myelination in the laboratory of Dr. Jeffrey Huang.


Victoria Morrissette

Victoria earned a B.S. in Biochemistry with a minor in Chemistry from Virginia Tech. As an undergraduate, she worked with Dr. Joe Merola synthesizing and evaluating the effect of organometallic amino acid complexes on antibiotic resistance in both TB and MRSA. Victoria also worked as an undergraduate research assistant for Dr. Katharine Knowlton investigating the effect of antibiotics on antibiotic resistance in (dairy) calves. She is very excited to join Dr. Ronda Rolfe’s lab as a first year PhD student. 

In her spare time, Victoria enjoys spending time with her puppy Hugo, hiking, going on adventures, reading, and drinking wine. 

Kevin Mlynek

Kevin received his BS in environmental and marine biology from Millersville University, PA, where he developed a fondness for research.  Using nothing more than a few PVC pipes, zip ties, petri dishes and maybe some duct-tape he studied population dynamics of zooplankton in a small pond focusing mainly on the freshwater cnidarian Hydra.  Spending a lot of time using a microscope, Kevin decided to switch the focus of his studies to microbiology and began studying pathogenic bacteria. He earned a MS in biology from American University, DC, while researching the effects of low-dose antibiotics on MRSA biofilms under Dr. Jeffrey Kaplan’s mentorship.  Kevin’s current research interests focus on the regulation of virulence in microbes and how that relates to biofilm formation and antibiotic resistance.

In his free time, Kevin enjoys being outside taking in some fresh air. 

Ricardo Gutierrez-OzunaRicardo Gutierrez Ozuna

Originally from the Mexican state of Chiapas, whose entire area is part of the Mesoamerica hotspot, Ricardo joined Prof. Matthew Hamilton's Lab in 2011, after earning a Masters degree in Biological Sciences from the Institute of Ecology at Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Mexico (UNAM). For his Master's degree, he studied the clonal structure of invasive buffelgrass (Pennisetum ciliare) in north-western Mexico, under the advising of Dr. Francisco Molina-Freaner. Plants are his passion, and he is broadly interested in population genetics of these organisms. Particularly, he is interested in studying how some of today's concerning factors such as habitat fragmentation or climate change are affecting the genetic structure of populations.

Trey PicouTheodore J. Picou III

Theodore (Trey) earned his B.S. from Georgetown University in 2011 and is now a PhD student in Dr. Heidi Elmendorf’s lab. His undergraduate research involved studying the attachment dynamics of the intestinal parasite Giardia lamblia and he intends to pursue this area during the coming years. Specifically, he researches the parasite’s interaction with fluid and how the resulting fluid mechanics facilitate attachment. In general, he is interested in the intersection of biology and physics and searches for the physical principles responsible for biological phenomena. Outside of the laboratory he enjoys computer science and ardently follows the New Orleans Saints. The latter comes as no surprise considering he was born and raised in New Orleans, Louisiana.

Pablo Silva Rodríguez

Came from Guatemala. He obtained a BS in Biology in 2010 and a Licentiate degree in Biology in 2013 at Universidad del Valle de Guatemala. He completed his undergraduate research work with gram-positive pathogens of tomato, specifically Clavibacter michiganensis subsp. michiganensis. In 2012, and obtained a MS in Molecular Medicine at the University of Sheffield, UK. His masters research project was entitled: Transcriptional regulation of the neuronal function in the developing zebrafish central nervous system, supervised by Dr. Vincent Cunliffe at the MRC Centre for developmental and biomedical genetics. In 2013 he did a short (due to personal reasons he had to return to Guatemala earlier than expected) internship at University of Chile, under supervision of Dr. Miguel Concha that aimed to study cilio-genesis and cilio-pathies using zebrafish as animal model. In 2014 he was awarded with a Fulbright-LASPAU scholarship to pursue a PhD in Biology at Georgetown beginning this 2015. His research interests include, but not limited to, developmental biology, neurobiology, molecular and cellular mechanisms of disease and adaptation, transcriptional regulation and evolutionary biology.  He loves research, also loves travelling, loves playing and listening to music and definitively loves coffee (especially with a good conversation). He also enjoys watching NFL games, discovering new tasty beers (He is a big fan of dark beer) and meeting new people and learning abour different cultures. 

Pratha SahPratha Sah

Pratha comes to Georgetown University from India. She received her Bachelors degree from Pune University, India and Masters degree from The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI) University, New Delhi, India. After earning her Masters degree, she worked as a Project Fellow in the Population Biology Lab at Indian Institute of Science Education and Research (IISER), Pune India for a year. At IISER, Pratha worked on in-silico investigations of controlling complex dynamics of an ecological system by introducing small perturbation schemes. She also used laboratory populations of Drosophila melanogaster for empirical verification of her theoretical models.

Pratha joined Dr. Shweta Bansal's lab in Fall 2012 and is interested in studying the patterns of disease dynamics in network models in response to disease invasion. She is also looking at the effects of network modularity on disease dynamics.

Outside of the lab, Pratha enjoys cooking, reading and traveling.

Kathryn Sanchez

Kathryn Sanchez obtained a B.S in Biology from New Mexico State University in 2015. As an NIH BP ENDURE BRAiN Scholar, she undertook a histological study with Dr.Elba Serrano which examined development of the myelin sheath surrounding the acoustic-vestibular nerve of Xenopus Laevis. During a summer internship at the University of Pennsylvania, Kathryn examined mouse hippocampal metabolism in the laboratory of Dr. John Wolfe. The Wolfe lab explores the lysosomal storage disease Mucopolysaccharidosis Type VII, and was interested in researching ATP synthase in MPS mice. Kathryn established a protocol that assessed the electron transport chain of mouse hippocampal tissue using high resolution respirometry. She presented this work as a poster entitled Development of high resolution respirometry protocol for brain tissue as a form of metabolic analysis for MPS VII mouse models at the Society for Neuroscience meeting in 2013. Additionally, Kathryn explored the pathology of Alzheimer’s Disease at New York University in the lab of Dr.Jorge Ghiso. This project involved the investigation of a novel antibody probe specific to an amino terminus truncated amyloid peptide. She presented this work as a poster entitled “Amyloid beta truncated fragments: Relevance for Alzheimer's disease pathogenesis” at the Society for Neuroscience conference, and received the Leadership Alliance Experimental Biology Fellowship for this work. 

Elizabeth Steidle Elizabeth Steidle

Elizabeth received a BS in biology from Randolph Macon College in 2008 and an MS in biology from James Madison University in 2010. She has joined the laboratory of Dr. Ronda Rolfes to investigate molecular mechanisms of signaling in yeast.

Her outside interests include going to the beach, drinking wine and reading novels (preferably all at the same time). She enjoys listening to good music and playing soccer when she has the chance.


Megan WallenMegan Wallen

Megan earned her B.S. in 2010 at the University of Michigan where she studied Ecology and Evolutionary Biology. She spent the next year working as a field research assistant in Kenya studying the behavior and ecology of the spotted hyena (Crocuta crocuta) for a project through Michigan State University. In the fall of 2011 she joined Dr. Janet Mann’s lab as a Ph.D. student and plans to study the behavior of wild bottlenose dolphins in Shark Bay, Australia. Specifically, she is interested in female social and sexual behavior, maternal strategies, and reproductive success.

After living in a tented camp in the bush for a year, Megan is enjoying being able to explore all the perks of D.C. and city life. When not studying, she likes to hike, read, travel, and follow Michigan football.

Zhirong Wang

Zhirong started his scientific expedition in Dr. Yi Rao’s lab at Peking University/NIBS in 2012 by studying how broken-hearted male Drosophila influences the naïve males on how they chase girls. In 2014, he earned a Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship from The Rockefeller University. He worked in Dr. Leslie Vosshall’s lab, aiming to establish a behavioral paradigm to study how insects could sense repellents merely by touching. In 2015, he earned his B.A. in biology with honors from the University of Utah mentored by Dr. David Gard. Research-wise, he was trained in Dr. Megan Williams’s lab by investigating how Kirrel3, an adhesion molecule, contributes to the form and function of hippocampal mossy fiber synapses. At Georgetown Biology, he is carving his broad interest in developmental neurobiology with the great resources and expertise of the community.

Tanaporn Wangsanut Tanaporn Wangsanut

Tanaporn (Gift) joined the Department of Biology PhD program in the Fall of 2013 with  interests in neurobiology, molecular biology and microbiology. She completed her undergraduate studies in three years, earning a BS in Biology from the University of Virginia. At UVA, Gift was a member of Dr. George Bloom's lab, working on mechanisms that might trigger Alzheimer's Disease. She enjoys exploring the molecular and cellular aspects of the cell, and has joined the Rolfes laboratory for her dissertation project. After completing her PhD degree, Gift hopes to return to her native Thailand and become a college professor.

In her spare time, Gift loves to cook, especially Thai food! She also loves to explore the new restaurants and various types of food.

Shu YangShu Yang

Shu Yang comes from Fuzhou, the capital city of Fujian province in China. After earning his B.S. degree in Biotechnology from Nanjing Agricultural University in 2010, he came to Georgetown University Medical Center to complete a Master’s study in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology. After working as a research assistant in Dr. Anne Rosenwald’s lab for half a year, he formally joined her lab and started his Ph.D.’s study in the Spring of 2012. His research is focused on the regulation of a small G protein, Arl1, and how the regulation can contribute to the control of intracellular vesicle trafficking in baker’s yeast.

Besides doing research, he is also very interested in cooking, coffee DIY, reading and electronic gadgets.