Former Graduate Students

2019 Graduates

Caitlin Karniski 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 Janet Mann’s lab group 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 Tim Beach at Georgetown. In 2014 she began her Ph.D. in the Mann lab and plans to study reproductive senescence and the evolutionary mechanisms of menopause in cetaceans.

Congratulations to Caitlin for the successful defense of her dissertation! 

picture of ZachZachary 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.

Congratulations to Zachary for the successful defense of his dissertation! 

Kevin MlynekKevin 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 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, focused on Staphylococcus in Shaun Brinsmade’s lab.

Congratulations to Kevin for the successful defense of his dissertation! 

2018 Graduates

Tanaporn Wangsanut Tanaporn Wangsanut

Tanaporn (Gift) joined the Department of Biology Ph.D. program in the Fall of 2013 with interests in neurobiology, molecular biology, and microbiology. She had completed her undergraduate studies in three years, earning a BS in Biology from the University of Virginia. She enjoys exploring the molecular and cellular aspects of the cell and has joined the Rolfes laboratory for her dissertation project.

Gift defended her dissertation in October 2018 and plans to join the laboratory of Jason Carlyon at Virginia Commonwealth University School of Medicine in the Department of Microbiology and Immunology for post-doctoral work.  

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 Dov Sax. Her previous research experiences include studying navigation in sea turtles (with Kenneth Lohmann and Catherine Lohmann), ontogenetic changes in sharks (with Jamie Seymour), movement patterns in sharks (with Jonathan Werry), development in Zebra fish (with Ruth Colwill), learning and problem solving in sea lions (with Colleen Reichmuth), behavioral responses to seismic surveys in humpback whales (with Mike Noad and Rebecca Dunlop), numerical cognition in primates (with Elizabeth Brannon), and social behavior in lemurs (with Christine Drea). Madison joined Janet Mann’s lab as a Ph.D. student in the Fall of 2013. She is excited to study social behavior and cognition in the dolphins of Shark Bay. 

Madison defended her dissertation in August of 2018.

Stephanie DavisStephanie Davis

Stephanie Davis is a combined MD/Ph.D. candidate, she earned a Ph.D. from the Integrated Program in Neuroscience (IPN). Her thesis research was under the co-mentorship of Jeffrey Huang and Anton Wellstein, and it focused on multiple sclerosis (MS) and the involvement of a novel protein called IL4I1. In line with her clinical interests, Stephanie is the first person in the Huang lab to study MS in human samples. 

Stephanie earned her B.A. in Behavioral Neuroscience from Barnard College, with a minor in French. Growing up between homes in Boston, Mass and Athens, Greece, Stephanie loves traveling and learning new languages. Outside of the lab, she may be found biking, singing at open mics, watching Seinfeld, and is getting increasingly involved in advocacy work focused on medical and social justice issues.

Stephanie defended her dissertation in June of 2018.

2017 Graduates

Amy BattoclettiAmy Battocletti

Amy was a Ph.D. 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.

Congratulations to Amy for the successful defense of her MS thesis! 

Kelly ChamberlainKelly 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 was a Ph.D. candidate in the Interdisciplinary Program in Neuroscience working in Dr. Jeffrey Huang’s lab in the Department of Biology. Her research focuses on investigating oligodendrocyte-neuronal interactions in the central nervous system, focusing on animal models of multiple sclerosis.

Congratulations to Kelly for the successful defense of her dissertation! 

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.

Congratulations to Ricardo for the successful defense of his dissertation on Dec. 19th, 2017! 

Elizabeth LeeElizabeth 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.

Congratulations to Elizabeth for the successful defense of her dissertation on Dec. 8th, 2017! 

Carrie LeonardCarrie Leonard

Carrie received her B.S. in Health Sciences and Biology from James Madison University in 2009. She then worked at 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! 

Congratulations to Carrie for the successful defense of her dissertation in August of 2017! 

Trey PicouTheodore J. Picou III

Theodore (Trey) earned his B.S. from Georgetown University in 2011 and is now a Ph.D. 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.

Congratulations to Trey for the successful defense of his dissertation on April 24, 2017! 

Pratha SahPratha Sah

Pratha comes to Georgetown University from India. She received her Bachelor 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 the lab, Pratha enjoys cooking, reading and traveling.

Congratulations to Pratha for the successful defense of her dissertation on Oct. 16th, 2017! 

2016 Graduates

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.

Congratulations to Megan for the successful defense of her dissertation on Dec. 2nd, 2016! 

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.

Congratulations to Shu for the successful defense of his dissertation on Oct. 17, 2016! 

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.

Congratulations to Xin for the successful defense of his dissertation on Aug. 24, 2016! 

Sweta BatniSweta Batni

Sweta is a Ph.D. 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 the laboratory, Sweta enjoys going to live music shows and cooking.

Congratulations to Sweta for the successful defense of her dissertation on April 4, 2016! 

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.

Congratulations to Elizabeth for the successful defense of her dissertation on February 26, 2016! 

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 worked in Dr. Elena Casey’s lab with the focus on the neural development in Xenopus laevis.

Congratulations to Jing for the successful defense of her dissertation on January 12, 2016! 

2015 Graduates

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.

Congratulations to Jing for the successful defense of her dissertation on May 8, 2015! 

Jenny MaloneyJenny Maloney

Jenny received both her B.S. in 2007 and her M.S. in 2009 in Biology from Middle Tennessee State University. Her Masters work focused on studies on Trypanasoma cruzi in Tennessee. In the summer of 2008, Jenny interned with the Tennessee Department of Health Vector-Borne Diseases Lab. She is interested in studying host-parasite relationships, and is working in the lab of Dr. Steven Singer studying the host immune response to Giardia infection.

In her spare time, she enjoys going to concerts and hiking.  

Congratulations to Jenny for the successful defense of her dissertation on April 10, 2015! She is currently a post-doc for Dr. Singer.

2014 Graduates

Aleksander KeselmanAleksander Keselman

Alex received his undergraduate degree from Franklin and Marshall College. Before Georgetown, he spent two years at the NIA/NIH in Baltimore as a Post-Bacc IRTA. While there he received a reward for a poster session that he did. Alex has joined the Dr. Steven Singer laboratory and is studying the host response to Giardia infection.

His outside interests include playing the guitar and long walks on the beach.

Congratulations to Aleks for the successful defense of his dissertation on April 14, 2014!

Shu TaoShu Tao

Shu comes from the Chongqing Municipality of the People’s Republic of China. After graduating from Beijing Institute of Genomics, Chinese Academy of Sciences, he entered the Ph.D. program in the Department of Biology of Georgetown University in fall 2008. Now he is working in Dr. Chris Elsik’s lab and taking great interest in investigating microRNA targets prediction and how the microRNA targets evolve in insects.

During his spare time, he enjoys swimming, basketball, soccer, and bodybuilding.

Congratulations to Shu for the successful defense of his dissertation thesis on July 29, 2014!

Jean TsaiJean Tsai

Jean joined the Ph.D. program in 2007 with a BS in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology and a BA in Studio Art from the University of Arizona. She is generally interested in spatial patterns, mating systems, animal behavior, herpetology, and conservation ecology. Her previous research experiences include studying factors affecting springsnail distribution (with Dr. A. Elizabeth Arnold and Cheryl Craddock), heat shock effects on aphids (with Dr. Nancy Moran), habitat alteration impacts on brown anoles (with Dr. Erin Marnocha), eastern fox snake population demographics and distribution (with Kristin Stanford), and Costa Rican herps (DANTA, Dr. Thomas LaDuke). Currently, she is working with Prof. Martha Weiss.

Her awards include the Clare Luce Boothe Fellowship (2007-2009), Georgetown University Center for the Environment Grant (2008), Explorers Club Exploration Fund Grant (2008), and the American Society of Mammalogists Grant-in-Aid (2008).

Outside the lab, Jean enjoys eating, practicing martial arts, oil painting, reading, photography, and traveling.

Congratulations to Jean for the successful defense of her dissertation on April 9, 2014!

Niteace WhittingtonNiteace Whittington

Niteace joined the Department of Biology in the Fall of 2008 after receiving her BS degree from Temple University in her hometown of Philadelphia, PA. She has joined the laboratory of Dr. Elena Casey.

Although she loves lab work, Niteace also likes to draw and crochet in her spare time. 

Congratulations to Niteace for the successful defense of her dissertation on April 9, 2014!

2013 Graduates

Ewa KrzyszczykEwa Krzyszczyk

Ewa is from the UK, with well defined Polish roots. She has her BSc in Zoology/Marine Zoology and an MSc in Marine Mammal Science from the University of Wales, Bangor. She has a strong background in cetacean research and has worked in many field sites.

In January of 2006, Ewa started working as a Research Associate and Database Manager for Prof. Janet Mann and the Dolphins of Monkey Mia Research Foundation, where her responsibilities included creating and organizing a new database, incorporating old data into the new database, photo-identification of Shark Bay dolphins, maintaining the organizations website, collection of survey data in Shark Bay and much much more!!

She has recently become a graduate student in Prof. Mann’s laboratory. She is primarily interested in techniques for aging animals and the physiology and behavior of cetaceans in their juvenile period, with specific emphasis on endocrinology.

Congratulations to Ewa for the successful defense of her Ph.D. dissertation in August 2013!

Anna Bennett

Anna received her BS in Animal Science from Purdue University in December 2003 and her MS in Genetics from Iowa State University in August 2006. Anna’s Master’s research involved analysis of differential gene expression in the bone marrow of broiler and layer chickens as a means of investigating bone mineral density differences and osteoporosis in layers. After completing her MS, Anna worked as Research Associate at Texas A&M University for a laboratory which focused on Monodelphis domestica (grey short-tailed opossum) genetics.

Anna joined Dr. Chris Elsik’s lab in January 2008 as a Ph.D. candidate with interests in bioinformatics and computational biology. She is investigating alternative splicing and gene prediction.

Away from school, Anna enjoys baking, homebrewing, traveling, gardening, and work sharing at a local organic farm.

Congratulations to Anna for the successful defense of her Ph.D. dissertation in July 2013!

Lillian PowerLillian Power

Lillian graduated from the University of California, Santa Barbara in 2008 with a B.S. in Zoology and a minor in Art History. She comes to Georgetown after spending the last two years as a field technician for Dr. John Lill at GWU, and a lab technician for Georgetown’s very own Dr. Gina Wimp, where she helped develop a microsatellite library for two insect species in order to investigate the degree to which habitat fragmentation affects genetic variability.

Lillian joined Dr. Martha Weiss’ lab in 2010 and is interested in exploring the crossroads of behavior and genetics in an ecological context. She is particularly interested in the impressive migration of the Monarch butterfly and plans to examine the patterns and mechanisms driving behavioral plasticity in what is generally accepted as a genetically driven behavior.

Lillian has thoroughly enjoyed her move to the east coast and tries to take advantage of all the wonderful things D.C. has to offer. When not studying, she loves to explore the many art museums in the area and spend time with friends.

Congratulations to Lillian for the successful defense of her Master’s Thesis in May 2013!

Banu Saritas-YildirimBanu Saritas-Yildirim

Banu is a Ph.D. student working under the supervision of Dr. Elena Casey. Her studies involve understanding the roles of protein degradation in nervous system development. She was born and raised in Turkey where she got her Bachelor’s of Science degree in both Biology and Biology Education at Middle East Technical University, Ankara. Banu came to Georgetown University after earning a Master’s of Science degree in plant molecular biology at University of Maryland, College Park.

She enjoys going to new places and taking pictures. The “Copper Man” picture representing her here is taken in Quebec City, Canada.

Congratulations to Banu for the successful defense of her Ph.D. dissertation in January 2013!

Andrew VerardoAndrew Verardo

Originally hailing from Long Island, Andrew moved from Western Massachusetts to join the Department of Biology in 2008 and has since joined the lab of Dr. Elena Casey, where he is currently researching pancreatic development in basal chordates for his qualifying exam.

Andrew is a fan of taiko drumming and soon hopes to start brewing his own beer. Yeast labs, beware!

Andrew successfully defended his Master’s Thesis in January 2013 and is now seeking a permanent position in education at the K9-12 level.

2012 Graduates

Eric PattersonEric Patterson

Eric joined the Department of Biology in the fall of 2007 to study the behavior of wild bottlenose dolphins under the direction of Prof. Janet Mann. Eric received his Bachelor’s degree from the University of Colorado, Boulder. As a Ph.D. student in Janet Mann’s laboratory, he will be exploring the social transmission of foraging behaviors.

In addition, he is currently working on the development of a new blow sampling technique to assess wild cetacean diets using fatty acid signature analysis. In his first year at Georgetown, Eric received the Animal Behavior Society Cetacean Behavior and Conservation Award and the American Society of Mammologists Grant in Aid of Research. In 2009, Eric received an Achievement Rewards for College Scientists Fellowship.

Outside of school, Eric has organized and participated in several intramural sports with the department’s team Tenacious DNA including flag football, softball, and volleyball. He also plays for the University of Colorado’s flag football team in Capitol Alumni Network league. Eric enjoys reading, cooking, photography, running, camping, and hiking with his 4-year-old yellow lab, Belle.

Eric successfully defended his Ph.D. dissertation in December 2012 and is now continuing in Professor Mann’s lab at Georgetown University as an Assistant Research Professor.

Christopher WilliamsChristopher Williams

Chris graduated from Frostburg State University in spring of 2006 and started in the Department of Biology Program at Georgetown in the Fall of 2006. He works in Dr. Heidi Elmendorf’s lab and is interested in understanding methods of gene regulation in the intestinal parasite Giardia lamblia. He received the Healy Fellowship (2006-2011) and also was named an ASM Robert D. Watkins Research Fellow (2008-2011).

When Chris is not working on his research, he participates in intramural sports (football, volleyball, and softball), and he is always preparing for his next triathlon.

Let’s go Tenacious DNA!

Chris successfully defended his Ph.D. dissertation in March 2012 and is now a post-doctoral fellow at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in Bethesda, MD.

Meredith Clifford

After graduating from Williams College in 2004, Meredith worked for a few years at the NIMH before starting graduate school at Georgetown in 2006. She is in her fifth year in the Interdisciplinary Program in Neuroscience and is working on her thesis research in Dr. Maria Donoghue’s lab which has its focus on the development of the brain. The goal of her project is to understand the role of intercellular signaling molecules in the process of neuronal maturation in the developing cortex.

Meredith won a 1st place award for her project Eph/ephrin signaling directs dendritic elaboration in the developing neocortex during the Student Research Days competition at the GU Medical School in April, 2011. Outside of the lab, Meredith likes to participate in triathlons and road races.

Meredith successfully defended her Ph.D. dissertation in January 2012 and is now the proud mother of a baby girl!

2011 Graduates

Aaron HowardAaron Howard

Aaron came to Georgetown in 2006 from Grove City College where he received his B.S. in Biology and Education with a minor in History. He works with Edward Barrows on pollinator mediated floral-display evolution in Milkweed plants, and the pollination biology of several locally endangered plants. Aaron has received grants from the Washington Biologists’ Field Club (WBFC), Sigma Xi Grant in Aid, and Blandy Experimental Farm in Boyce, VA.

In his free time, he enjoys playing tennis, basketball, the guitar, Guitar Hero (or Rock Band), Pina Coladas and long walks in the rain.

Congratulations to Aaron for the successful defense of his Ph.D. dissertation in December of 2011!

Maggie StantonMaggie Stanton

Maggie entered the Ph.D. program in 2006 after receiving BS degrees in Biology and Psychology from the University of Maryland. She is generally interested in the complex cognition, behavior, and society exhibited by large-brained animals such as dolphins and primates. As a Ph.D. student of Janet Mann, Maggie is investigating the social development and future fitness consequences of early social patterns of bottlenose dolphin calves (Tursiops sp.). Maggie was named a University Fellow in 2006 and received a Washington Explorer’s Club Exploration and Field Research Grant in 2008.

Before coming to Georgetown Maggie was a research assistant in the New York Aquarium’s Behavioral and Cognitive Research Laboratory and also interned for a field study of bottlenose dolphins in the Lower Florida Keys. When not doing research, Maggie enjoys rock climbing, horseback riding, and going running with her dog.

Maggie successfully defended her Ph.D. dissertation in December 2011 and is now a post-doctoral scientist in the Department of Anthropology at the George Washington University.

Shahram Solaymani-MohammadiShahram Mohammadi

Originally from Iran, Shahram joined the Department of Biology in January 2008. Shahram holds a Bachelors degree in Veterinary Medicine, and a Masters in Medical Parasitology from the School of Public Health and Institute of Public Health Research, Tehran University of Medical Sciences.

Before joining the Department of Biology, he worked as a Visiting Researcher at the University of Virginia Health System in Charlottesville. His work there focused on signal transduction mechanisms in the human pathogen Entamoeba histolytica. He also developed enhanced molecular diagnostic modalities for the rapid diagnosis of human amebiasis. Currently, he works with Dr. Steven Singer on mechanisms of host’s immune responses to infections in the murine models of giardiasis.

Shahram successfully defended his Ph.D. dissertation in September 2011 and is now working as a post-doctoral fellow in the Laboratory of Mucosal Immunology at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine.

Visit Shahram’s Website!

Heather MalloryHeather Mallory

Heather joined Dr. Martha Weiss’ lab in the summer of 2005. Her research is cross-discipline, utilizing both neurobiological techniques and behavior to better understand the learning ability and foraging behaviors of insects. She examines how an animal’s experiences, practically early in life, shape the brain and behavior of the adult animal, using crickets as a model organism. She also studies the foraging behavior of praying mantids, with a focus on their use of olfaction.

Heather graduated from The University of Arizona in May 2002 with a Bachelors of Science in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology. After graduation, she spent several years as a research technician at the U of A. She studied, among other projects, host plant choice in pipevine swallowtail butterflies with Dr. Dan Papaj, and developmental neurobiology with Dr. Lynne Oland in Dr. Leslie Tolbert’s lab.

As an Arizona native, Heather misses the desert and plans to return to the west eventually, but has come to love the seasons and beauty of the DC area. In her free time, she cooks, plays with her boys (two mutts), knits, and tries to enjoy all the great things DC has to offer.

Heather successfully defended her Ph.D. dissertation in August of 2011. She is now an Adjunct Professor at the George Washington University and also works on writing manuscripts and post-doctoral proposals.

Libing (Steve) ShenLibing (Steve) Shen

Libing is from Shanghai, China. He graduated from Fudan University in 2006 and then came to the United States to pursue a Ph.D. degree in biology. Now he is in Professor Chris Elsik’s lab. The research of the laboratory mainly focuses on bioinformatics and genomics.

His personal research interests are molecular evolution and evolution of development (evo-devo). Reading is his biggest hobby, especially history and culture.

Congratulations to Libing for completing his Master’s degree in July 2011!

Jennifer UrbanskiJennifer Urbanski

Jenn entered Dr. Peter Armbruster’s lab in 2005 after receiving a BS in Biology and a minor in Art History from Canisius College in Buffalo. Her current research focuses on the molecular, physiological, and evolutionary underpinnings of photoperiodic diapause in the mosquito Aedes albopictus. Her awards include the Cosmos Club’s Young Scholars Award and the Entomological Society of America’s President’s Prize for the best student oral presentation in physiology, biochemistry, toxicology or molecular biology at the 2007 annual meeting.

Jenn’s outside interests include racquetball, rock climbing, and playing intramural football, softball, and volleyball with the biology grad team Tenacious DNA.

Jennifer successfully defended her Ph.D. dissertation in April 2011 and is currently working as a staff scientist for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

2010 Graduates

Hilary North

Hilary joined the Department of Biology through the IPN program (Interdisciplinary Program in Neurosciences) and worked in the laboratory of Prof. Maria Donoghue. She is interested in the development of the cortex.

Hilary successfully defended her Ph.D. dissertation in September of 2010. She is currently working as a post-doctoral fellow in the Department of Neurology at Northwestern Medical School.

Mary AdedoyinMary Adedoyin

Mary Adedoyin graduated in 2003 from the University College London in the UK. Her BSc degree is in Pharmacology and Physiology. For her research there, Mary worked on the effects of Gabapentin on neuropathic pain following ablation of lamina 1 neurons using in vivo electrophysiology methods. After graduation, she worked as an in vivo neuropharmacology research associate at Dynogen Pharmaceuticals in North Carolina where she conducted research involving cystometry experiments on animal models to investigate the effect of drugs on the bladder in an effort to identify therapies for overactive bladder syndromes. Her main interest is focused on better understanding of the mechanism of chronic pain and its modulation to help develop more efficacious therapeutic drugs with reduced side effects.

She joined Georgetown interdisciplinary program in neuroscience (IPN) program in 2005 because of the parallels of her research interests and those of the scientists in the department. In 2006 for her thesis research she joined Dr. Joseph Neale’s lab in 2006 whose lab focuses on understanding the neurobiology of N-acetylaspartate glutamate (NAAG) and NAAG peptidase function in neuronal function. The focus of Mary’s thesis dissertation is to investigate the role of NAAG in the brain following inflammatory pain using in vitro electrophysiology techniques.

Mary’s other interests involve contributing to her local community by helping to raise funds towards a scholarship for minority students, teaching a group of first graders on weekends, volunteering as a pharmacy assistant at free clinic pharmacies. She also enjoys taking long walks as a personal hobby.

Mary successfully defended her Ph.D. dissertation in June of 2010 and is currently working as a post-doctoral fellow in neurobiology at University of California San Diego (UCSD) School of Medicine, a top 5 biomedical research center.

Haibei LuoHaibei Luo

Haibei is from Fudan University, in the People’s Republic of China. He joined the Department of Biology in August 2003. Most of the time, he is in the laboratory of Dr. Heidi Elmendorf investigating the cellular and biochemistry of Giardia lamblia. He is currently focusing on investigations of cytosolic and cytoskeletal proteins necessary for attachment of Giardia lamblia to solid structures such as slides and cells.

Outside of the laboratory work, Haibei enjoys reading.

Congratulations to Haibei for the successful defense of his dissertation in April of 2010!

Divya UmaDivya Uma

Divya joined the department during the summer of 2004 after receiving a Masters Degree in Biochemistry from the University of Mysore, India. She is interested in examining how both predators and prey use a range of sensory cues to detect each other; and, by identifying these cues to understand how evolution shapes predator-prey interactions. Divya is pursuing her research with Prof. Martha Weiss. Her work has been supported by a Doctoral Dissertation Improvement grant from NSF, grants from Animal Behavioral Society, American Museum of Natural History, American Arachnological Society, Washington Biologists Field Club and Sigma Xi. In August 2009, Divya was awarded the Murray F. Buell Award for the outstanding oral paper presented at the 2009 Ecological Society of America’s annual meeting in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

When not thinking about a new experiment in the lab, Divya enjoys hiking, painting, and playing the veena, an Indian string instrument.

Divya successfully defended her Ph.D. dissertation in April of 2010 and is now a post-doctoral fellow in the Psychology department at the University of Maryland, College Park. She is working in the lab of Dr. Jens Herberholtz, using neural imaging of crayfish to answer questions about behavioral decision-making.

Colleen WallsColleen Walls

Colleen entered the Ph.D. program after spending a year as a technician in Dr. Heidi Elmendorf’s laboratory. Colleen received her AB from Smith College where she studied the molecular biology of parasitic worms. She studied the mechanisms of transcription in Giardia lamblia with Prof. Heidi Elmendorf.

Colleen was named as a University Fellow (2003-2008). She completed her thesis and has begun a post-doctoral fellowship at the UHSUS.

Congratulations to Colleen for the successful defense of her dissertation in March of 2010!

2009 Graduates

Deborah Ladner O’Donnell

Deborah Ladner O’Donnell became a student at Georgetown University in 2005. She graduated summa cum laude from Emory University with a Bachelors of Science in Environmental Studies and earned a Masters of Science in Entomology from the University of Maryland. Ever since she received her first bug bottle as a preschooler, Debbie has been fascinated by insect ecology. Her current research focuses on factors that affect the ability of mosquito populations to transmit pathogens.

She was awarded a Cosmos Grant in 2007 and a National Science Foundation Doctoral Dissertation Improvement Grant in 2008 in support of her research. When she’s not rearing mosquitoes, Debbie loves to travel to new places, brush up on her painting skills or get lost in a captivating novel.

Debbie successfully defended her Ph.D. dissertation in December of 2009 and is now the proud mother of a baby boy!

Tenley ArcherTenley Archer

Tenley returned to us from Marlboro College. She has been working with Prof. Elena Casey as a Ph.D. student since 2003. Her interests are in developmental biology.

Tenley successfully defended her Ph.D. dissertation in March of 2009 and is currently working in the laboratory of Scott Pomeroy at Children’s Hospital, Boston, MA studying the mechanisms of medulloblastoma formation.

Crystal RogersCrystal Rogers

Crystal graduated from UCLA in 2001 where she learned to love all of Biology. She has a strong background in evolution and ecology but has also worked in a neuroscience research group at Cedars Sinai Medical Center.

Crystal has joined the laboratory of Prof. Elena Casey for her research work on neural development in the frog Xenopus laevis. She received the Outstanding Graduate Student in Biology award in October of 2007.

Crystal successfully defended her Ph.D. dissertation in January 2009. She is currently working in Dr. Marianne Bronner’s laboratory at the California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, studying neural crest development.

Audrey ThevenonAudrey Thevenon

Audrey entered the Ph.D. program in 2003 and has joined the laboratory of Prof. Diane Taylor. Audrey is from France and enjoys playing soccer.

Audrey defended her MS in 2006 and her Ph.D. dissertation in 2009. She most recently worked as a Research Assistant and a Post-Doctoral Research Assistant in the Department of Tropical Medicine, Medical Microbiology and Pharmacology at the University of Hawaii.

2008 Graduates

Zhuo (June) Meng

June completed her MS thesis work under the mentorship of Prof. Elena Casey in 2008.  She worked at Systems Biosciences in Mountain View, CA. after completing her degree and is currently (as of 2019) working as a research associate at City of Hope in Los Angeles, CA.  


Ernest Tako-AyukErnest Tako-Ayuk

Ernest entered the Ph.D. program in Jan. 2003 after obtaining an MD from the University of Yaounde in Cameroon. He joined the laboratory of Prof. Steven Singer and completed his dissertation in 2008.  

Ernest completed post-doctoral work and opened a practice in obstetrics and gynecology in Stillwater OK.