Department of Biology

Doctoral Alumni

2021 Graduates

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Taylor Evans

Defended the Thesis: Nov. 17, 2021
Thesis Advisor: Dr. Janet Mann
Thesis Title: Lifetime Stability, Maternal Effects, and Fitness Outcomes of Socio-Ecological Strategies in Wild Bottlenose Dolphins.”

Taylor joined the Biology Ph.D. program at Georgetown in 2016 and is a member of Janet Mann’s lab.  Taylor plans to study the development and ecological consequences of personality in wild bottlenose dolphins. Before coming to Georgetown, Taylor earned a B.S. in Biology from UCLA where she worked in the Blumstein lab studying everything from marmot behavior to sea anemone personality to roadkill ecology. She then worked for the California Department of Fish and Wildlife as a scientific aid collecting data on recreational fisheries. Taylor was also a research assistant for the Ocean Conservation Society studying cetaceans in Santa Monica Bay before moving to Georgetown.

Allison Brackley

Defended the Thesis: June 21, 2021
Thesis Advisor: Dr. Martha Weiss
Thesis Title: ” No Longer Forgotten: Pupation As A Critical Link In The Lepidopteran Life Cycle”

Allison Brackley is a Ph.D. 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 detritivores. 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 research focuses on the behavior preceding the pupal life stage in holometabolous insects.
Currently, a value Communications Writer at Cytel.

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Casey Zipfel

Defended the Thesis: July 21, 2021
Thesis Advisor: Dr. Shweta Bansal
Thesis Title: “The Interplay between Human Behavior and Infectious Disease Dynamics.”

Casey Zipfel graduated from the Pennsylvania State University in 2016 with a BS in Biology and a minor in Health Policy and Administration. At Penn State, Casey worked on gathering social contact data, and modeling infectious diseases, within ant colonies.  Casey was a Ph.D. candidate in Shweta Bansal’s lab, where she used epidemiological modeling and high volume datasets to investigate the interplay between human behavior and infectious diseases.
Currently, Steven M. Teutsch Prevention Effectiveness (PE) Fellow at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

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Victoria

Victoria Morrissette

Thesis Advisor: Dr. Ronda Rolfes
Thesis Title: Inositol pyrophosphates and the stress response in Saccharomyces cerevisiae

Victoria earned a B.S. in Biochemistry with a minor in Chemistry from Virginia Tech in 2015. As an undergraduate, she worked with 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 Katharine Knowlton investigating the effect of antibiotics on antibiotic resistance in (dairy) calves. She is very excited to have joined Ronda Rolfes’ lab to work on metabolism of inositol pyrophosphates.
Currently, a Senior Consultant at Kx Advisors. 

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2020 Graduate

Zhirong Wang

Began working towards his PhD at Georgetown in 2015
Defended the Thesis: November 18, 2020
Thesis Advisor: Dr. Thomas Coate
Thesis Title: Purinergic Signaling Regulates the Form and Function of the Developing Cochlea

Zhirong started his scientific expedition in Yi Rao’s lab at Peking University/NIBS in 2012 by studying how the broken-hearted male Drosophila influences naïve males on how they “chase girls”. In 2014, he earned a Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship from The Rockefeller University, and worked in 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 David Gard. Research-wise, he was also trained in Megan Williams’s lab by investigating how Kirrel3, an adhesion molecule, contributes to the form and function of hippocampal mossy fiber synapses.
Zhirong joined Tom Coate’s lab to investigate cochlear development. He was the lead author or co-author on four manuscripts, including a cover photo in the Journal of Neuroscience. He is doing post-doctoral research in China.
Currently, Postdoctoral Researcher at Institute of Neuroscience (ION), Chinese Academy of Sciences, Shanghai 

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victoria

Kathryn Sanchez

Began working towards her PhD at Georgetown in 2015
Defended the Thesis: August 25, 2020
Thesis Advisor: Dr. Kathleen Maguire-Zeiss
Thesis Title: Studies on Matrix-Metalloproteinase 13 as a Novel Microglial Inflammatory Agent in Familial Synucleinopathy
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 Elba Serrano which examined the development of the myelin sheath surrounding the acoustic-vestibular nerve of Xenopus laevis.
Kathryn joined the laboratory of Kathy Maguire-Zeiss to investigate Parkinson Disease. Her dissertation work was published in Frontiers of Neuroscience in 2020. She is doing post-doctoral research with Kiran Bhaskar, Molecular Genetics & Microbiology, and Gary Rosenberg, UNM Center for Memory, at the University of New Mexico.
Currently, Postdoctoral Research Fellow at The University of New Mexico Health Sciences Center.

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2019 Graduates

Alyssa King

Began working towards her PhD at Georgetown in 2015
Defended the Thesis: December 2019
Thesis Advisor: Dr. Shaun Brinsmade
Thesis Title: Transcription Factors, Sigma Factors, and Regulatory RNAs Coordinate and Integrate the Staphylococcus aureus Cellular Stress Response

Alyssa completed her B.S. in biology in 2015 from Bradley University in Peoria, IL. During her time as an undergraduate, she worked with Melinda Faulkner investigating oxidative stress in the soil bacterium Bacillus subtilis.
Alyssa joined the research group of Shaun Brinsmade. Her dissertation research was published in four manuscripts in PLoS Genetics, Journal of Bacteriology, Molecular Microbiology, and Current Opinion in Microbiology.
She is currently working as a data manager for human clinical research trials at Emmes.

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Marc Fink

Began working towards his PhD at Georgetown in 2015
Defended the Thesis: September 11, 2019
Thesis Advisor: Dr. Steven Singer
Thesis Title: Investigating the Role of Myeloid Cells in Giardia Immunity

He received a B.S. from Loyola University – Maryland and an M.S. from Towson University.  During his time at Loyola, he investigated both bacterial biofilm architecture and antibody production with Andrew Schoeffield and David Rivers. At Towson, his thesis work with Dr. Michelle Snyder studied innate immunity pattern recognition and associated signaling pathways.  

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Zachary Batz

Began working towards his PhD at Georgetown in 2014
Defended the Thesis: July 19, 2019 
Thesis Advisor: Dr. Peter Armbruster
Thesis Title: Molecular Mechanisms and Rapid Adaptation of Photoperiodic Diapause in the Asian Tiger Mosquito, Aedes albopictus 

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.
 
Currently, working as a Biologist at National Eye Institute (NEI)

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Caitlin-Karniski

Caitlin Karniski 

Began working towards her PhD at Georgetown in 2014
Defended the Thesis: July 29, 2019 
Thesis Advisor: Dr. Janet Mann
Thesis Title: Effects of Senescence on Reproduction and Behavior in Bottlenose Dolphins 

Caitlin received her B.S. in Biology with a concentration in Ecology, Evolution, and Behavior from Georgetown University in 2011. She is “Associate Editor at Communications Biology”, with Nature, Springer in New York City. 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.
 
Currently, working as an Associate Editor – Communications Biology at Springer Nature

Kevin Mlynek

Defended the Thesis: July 17, 2019 
Thesis Advisor: Dr. Shaun Brinsmade
Thesis Title: The Role of the Nutrient Sensor CodY in Regulating Nuclease Production and Extracellular DNA Metabolism in Staphylococcus Aureus 

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. 

Currently, working as a Postdoctoral Associate at The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine 

2018 Graduates

Tanaporn Wangsanut

Began working towards her PhD at Georgetown in 2013
Defended the Thesis: October 10th, 2018 
Thesis Advisor: Dr. Ronda Rolfes
Thesis Title: Grf10 transcription factor coordinates nutrient assimilation, metabolism, and morphogenesis in Candida albicans

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. She 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 Miketa

Began working towards her PhD at Georgetown in 2013
Defended the Thesis: August 10th, 2018 
Thesis Advisor: Dr. Janet Mann
Thesis Title: Social and behavioral responses to environmental stressors in bottlenose dolphins in Shark Bay, Australia
Advisor: Dr. Ronda Rolfes

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).

Currently, working as a Wildlife Scientist at Humane Society International

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Stephanie Davis

Began working towards her PhD at Georgetown in 2015
Defended the Thesis: June of 2018
Thesis Advisor: co-mentorship of Dr. Jeffrey Huang and Dr. Anton Wellstein

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.

2017 Graduates

Amy Battocletti

Thesis Advisor: co-advised by Drs. Matthew Hamilton and Dr. Gina Wimp.

In 2013, she received her BS in Wildlife and Conservation Biology and BS in Marine Biology from the University of Rhode Island. Amy conducted her research in a salt marsh ecosystem. She received an NSF graduate research fellowship.

Kelly Chamberlain

Began working towards her PhD at Georgetown in 2011
Defended the Thesis: 
Thesis Advisor: Dr. Jeffrey Huang

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.

Currently, working as a Senior Consultant at Pointe Advisory

Ricardo Gutierrez Ozuna

Began working towards his PhD at Georgetown in 2011
Defended the Thesis: Dec. 19th, 2017
Thesis Advisor: Dr. Matthew Hamilton
Thesis Title: Population genetic differentiation, mating system, and effective population size of the tuliptree (Liriodendron tulipifera L.) in the Mid-Atlantic United States.
Originally from the Mexican state of Chiapas, whose entire area is part of the Mesoamerica hotspot. Earned 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.

Elizabeth Lee

Began working towards her PhD at Georgetown in 2012
Defended the Thesis: Dec. 8th, 2017
Thesis Advisor: Dr. Shweta Bansal
Thesis Title: Epidemiological inference and surveillance with high-resolution medical claims data: the case of influenza
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.

Currently, working as a Faculty Research Associate at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health

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Carrie Leonard

Began working towards her PhD at Georgetown in 2012
Defended the Thesis: August of 2017
Thesis Advisor: Dr. Maria Donoghue

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.

Currently, working as a Postdoctoral Associate at Maryland University.

Theodore J. Picou III

Began working towards his PhD at Georgetown in 2012
Defended the Thesis: April 24, 2017
Thesis Advisor: Dr. Heidi Elmendorf
Thesis Title: The Hydrodynamic Model of Giardia lamblia Attachment

Theodore (Trey) earned his B.S. from Georgetown University in 2011. His undergraduate and graduate research involved studying the attachment dynamics of the intestinal parasite Giardia lamblia. 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. 

Currently, working as 4DBio^3 Research Scientist at The Geneva Foundation

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Pratha Sah

Began working towards her PhD at Georgetown in 2012
Defended the Thesis: Oct. 16th, 2017
Thesis Advisor: Dr. Shweta Bansal
Thesis Title: Interactions Between Social Structure, Contact Networks, and Infectious Disease Spread in Wildlife Populations
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.

Currently, working as an Associate Research Scientist at Yale University

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2016 Graduates

Megan Wallen

Defended the Thesis: Dec. 2nd, 2016
Thesis Advisor: Dr. Janet Mann
Thesis Title: Social Factors Affecting Femail Behaviour, Ecology, and Fitness in Wild Bottlenose Dolphins 

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.

Currently, working as a Program Manager at Wayne State University

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Shu Yang

Began working towards his PhD at Georgetown in 2012
Defended the Thesis: Oct. 17, 2016
Thesis Advisor: Dr. Anne Rosenwald
Thesis Title: The roles of two small GTP-binding proteins Arl1 and Ypt6 in autophagy
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. He worked 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 Spring of 2012.

Currently, working as a Postdoctoral Fellow at Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD).

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Xin Huang

Began working towards his PhD at Georgetown in 2011
Defended the Thesis: Aug. 24, 2016
Thesis Advisor: Dr. Peter Armbruster
Thesis Title: The Molecular Basis of Photoperiodic Diapause in Aedes albopictus
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.

Currently, working as a bioinformatic at University of Pennsylvania

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Sweta Batni

Began working towards her PhD at Georgetown in 2010
Defended the Thesis: April 4, 2016
Thesis Advisor: Dr. Heidi Elmendorf
Thesis Title: Integrating Epidemiological and Molecular Approaches to Study the Transmission and Treatment of Giardia lamblia
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.

Currently, working as a Science and Technology Manager at Defense Threat Reduction Agency

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Elizabeth Steidle

Began working towards her PhD at Georgetown in 2010
Defended the Thesis: February 26, 2016
Thesis Advisor: Dr. Ronda Rolfes
Thesis Title: Siw14 Is A Novel 5-Diphosphoinositol Pentakisphosphate (5pp-Ip5) Phosphatase That Negatively Regulates The Stress Response.

Elizabeth received a BS in biology from Randolph Macon College in 2008 and an MS in biology from James Madison University in 2010.

She was a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at Albert Einstein College of Medicine and is currently a Scientist at Myriad Genetics

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Jing Jin

Began working towards her PhD at Georgetown in 2009
Defended the Thesis: January 12, 2016
Thesis Advisor: Dr. Elena Casey
Thesis Title: Characterization of Sox11 in Neurogenesis.

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.

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2015 Graduates

Chao Chen

Began working towards her PhD at Georgetown in 2009
Defended the Thesis: May 8, 2015
Thesis Advisor: Dr. Maria Donoghue
Thesis Title: The role of Sox4 and Sox11 in cortical development.

Chao received her Bachelor’s degree from Wuhan University in China.

Jenny Maloney

Began working towards her PhD at Georgetown in 2010
Defended the Thesis: April 10, 2015
Thesis Advisor: Dr. Steven Singer
Thesis Title: Giardia lamblia, the Intestinal Microbiome, and Innate Immunity: A Study of the Host-Parasite Relationship during G. lamblia Infection.

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.

2014 Graduates

Aleksander Keselman

Defended the Thesis: in 2014
Thesis Advisor: Dr. Steven Singer
Thesis Title: Host and parasite factors contributing to variation in immunity and pathology in giardiasis.
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.
Currently working as a Research Flow Cytometry Sales Rep at Beckman Coulter

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Shu Tao

Began working towards his PhD at Georgetown in 2008
Defended the Thesis: in 2014
Thesis Advisor: Dr. Steven Singer
Thesis Title: Identification of A-to-I RNA Editing Sites in the Honey Bee (Apis mellifera) Brain Using RNAseq Data
Shu comes from the Chongqing Municipality of the People’s Republic of China. After graduating from Beijing Institute of Genomics, Chinese Academy of Sciences. Worked in Dr. Chris Elsik’s lab and taking great interest in investigating microRNA targets prediction and how the microRNA targets evolve in insects.

Jean Tsai

Began working towards her PhD at Georgetown in 2007
Defended the Thesis: April 9, 2014
Thesis Advisor: Dr. Martha Weiss
Thesis Title: Identification of A-to-I RNA Editing Sites in the Honey Bee (Apis mellifera) Brain Using RNAseq Data

Jean received her 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).

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).

Niteace Whittington

Began working towards her PhD at Georgetown in 2008
Defended the Thesis: April 9, 2014
Thesis Advisor: Dr. Elena Casey.
Thesis Title:Characterization of the Function of Sox21 During Neurogenesis
Niteace received her BS degree from Temple University in her hometown of Philadelphia, PA.

2013 Graduates

Ewa Krzyszczyk

Began working towards her PhD at Georgetown in 2006
Defended the Thesis: August 2013
Thesis Advisor: Dr. Janet Mann
Thesis Title: Age Determination, Life History and Juvenile Behavior in Bottlenose Dolphins (Tursiops sp.) in Shark Bay, Australia
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!!

Anna Bennett

Began working towards her PhD at Georgetown in 2006
Defended the Thesis: in 2013
Thesis Advisor: Dr. Chris Elsik
Thesis Title: Computational Analysis of Difficult-to-predict Genes and Detection of Lineage-specific Genes in Honey Bee (Apis mellifera)
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.
Currently working as a Computational Biologist at USDA-ARS

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Lillian Power

Began working towards her PhD at Georgetown in 2010
Defended the Thesis: May 2013
Thesis Advisor: Dr. Martha Weis
Thesis Title: Exploring Variation in Learning Ability in Pieris rapae, the Cabbage White Butterfly

Lillian graduated from the University of California, Santa Barbara in 2008 with a B.S. in Zoology and a minor in Art History. She came 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.

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Banu Saritas-Yildirim

Began working towards her PhD at Georgetown in 2007
Defended the Thesis: January 2013
Thesis Advisor: Dr. Elena Casey
Thesis Title: Computational and Functional Analysis of F-box Dependent Ubiquitin Ligases in Xenopus Nervous System Development

Banu studies involved 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 the University of Maryland, College Park.
Currently working as a Senior Staff Fellow at FDA

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Andrew Verardo

Began working towards his PhD at Georgetown in 2008
Defended the Thesis: in 2013
Thesis Advisor: Dr. Elena Casey

Thesis Title: Conserved Genetic Mechanisms for Deuterostome Gut Regionalization
Originally hailing from Long Island, Andrew moved from Western Massachusetts.

2012 Graduates

Eric Patterson

Began working towards his PhD at Georgetown in 2007
Defended the Thesis: in 2012
Thesis Advisor: Dr. Janet Mann
Thesis Title: Ecological and Life History Factors Influence Habitat and Tool Use in Wild Bottlenose Dolphins (Tursiops sp.)
Eric received his Bachelor’s degree from the University of Colorado, Boulder. He worked 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.
Currently working as a Fish Biologist at NOAA: National Marine Fisheries Service

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Christopher Williams

Began working towards his PhD at Georgetown in 2006
Defended the Thesis: in March 2012
Thesis Advisor: Dr. Heidi Elmendorf
Thesis Title:

Chris graduated from Frostburg State University in spring of 2006. He received the Healy Fellowship (2006-2011) and also was named an ASM Robert D. Watkins Research Fellow (2008-2011).

*After graduating he works as a post-doctoral fellow at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in Bethesda, MD

Meredith Clifford

Began working towards his PhD at Georgetown in 2006
Defended the Thesis: in March 2012
Thesis Advisor: Dr. Heidi Elmendorf
Thesis Title: Less Is More: The Implications Of Genomic Minimalism On The Regulation Of Gene Expression In The Parasite Giardia Lamblia

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 completed the Interdisciplinary Program in Neuroscience and worked on her thesis research in Dr. Maria Donoghue’s lab which focused on the development of the brain. The goal of her project was 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. 

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

2011 Graduates


Aaron Howard

Began working towards his PhD at Georgetown in 2006
Defended the Thesis: in December of 2011
Thesis Advisor: Dr. Edward M. Barrows
Thesis Title: Fitness, Pollen Dispersal, And Floral-Display Size Evolution In Animal-Pollinated Plants

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

Maggie Stanton

Began working towards her PhD at Georgetown in 2006
Defended the Thesis: in 2011
Thesis Advisor: Dr. Janet Mann
Thesis Title: Social Networks and Fitness Consequences of Early Sociality in Wild Bottlenose Dolphins (Tursiops sp.)
Maggie received her BS degrees in Biology and Psychology from the University of Maryland. 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. 

She works as a post-doctoral scientist in the Department of Anthropology at the George Washington University.

Shahram Solaymani-Mohammadi

Began working towards his PhD at Georgetown in January 2008
Defended the Thesis: in 2011
Thesis Advisor: Dr. Steven Singer
Thesis Title: STRAIN VARIATION IN PATHOGENESIS AND IMMUNITY IN GIARDIA INFECTION

Originally from Iran, 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.

He 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

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Heather Mallory

Began working towards her PhD at Georgetown in summer of 2005
Defended the Thesis: August of 2011
Thesis Advisor: Dr. Martha Weiss
Thesis Title: Learning, brain plasticity, and foraging behavior in hemimetabolous insects

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.

She is now is an Adjunct Professor at the George Washington University and also works on writing manuscripts and post-doctoral proposals.


Libing (Steve) Shen

Defended the Thesis: in July 2011
Thesis Advisor: Dr. Chris Elsik

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.

Jennifer Urbanski

Began working towards her PhD at Georgetown in 2005
Defended the Thesis: April 2011
Thesis Advisor: Dr. Peter Armbruster
Thesis Title: Molecular, physiological and life-history mechanisms of adaptation during range expansion of the mosquito Aedes albopictus

Jenn received her BS in Biology and a minor in Art History from Canisius College in Buffalo. Her research focused 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.

She is currently working as a staff scientist for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

2010 Graduates

Hilary North

Began working towards her PhD at Georgetown in
Defended the Thesis: on September of 2010
Thesis Advisor: Dr. Maria Donoghue

Hilary joined the Department of Biology through the IPN program (Interdisciplinary Program in Neurosciences). She is interested in the development of the cortex.

* She is currently working as a post-doctoral fellow in the Department of Neurology at Northwestern Medical School.


Mary Adedoyin

Began working towards her PhD at Georgetown in 2005
Defended the Thesis: June of 2010
Thesis Advisor: Dr. Joseph Neale
Thesis Title:

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’s interdisciplinary program in neuroscience (IPN), 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.

She 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 Luo

Began working towards his PhD at Georgetown in August 2003
Defended the Thesis: April of 2010
Thesis Advisor: Dr. Heidi Elmendorf
Thesis Title: Investigation of the molecular and mechanistic basis for attachment by Giardia lamblia

Haibei is from Fudan University, in the People’s Republic of China. Most of the time, he was in the laboratory investigating the cellular and biochemistry of Giardia lamblia. He focused on the investigation of cytosolic and cytoskeletal proteins necessary for attachment of Giardia lamblia to solid structures such as slides and cells.


Divya Uma

Began working towards her PhD at Georgetown in summer of 2004
Defended the Thesis: in 2010
Thesis Advisor: Dr. Martha Weiss
Thesis Title: Behavioral ecology of wasp-spider interactions: the role of webs, chemicals, and deception

Divya received her 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 pursued her research with Prof. Martha Weiss. Her work was 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.

She 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 Walls

Began working towards her PhD at Georgetown in
Defended the Thesis: March of 2010
Thesis Advisor: Dr. Heidi Elmendorf.

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.

2009 Graduates

Deborah Ladner O’Donnell

egan working towards her PhD at Georgetown in 2005
Defended the Thesis: December of 2009
Thesis Advisor: Dr. Peter Armbruster
Thesis Title: Ecology and population differentiation of the Asian tiger mosquito, Aedes albopictus
Deborah Ladner O’Donnell 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.

Deborah’s LinkedIn Profile

Tenley Archer

Defended the Thesis: March of 2009
Thesis Advisor: Dr. Elena Casey
Thesis Title: Function of Oct91 and SoxB1 protiens during neural development in Xenopus laevis

Tenley graduated from Marlboro College.  

She joined the laboratory of Scott Pomeroy at Children’s Hospital, Boston, MA studying the mechanisms of medulloblastoma formation. She is a Research Fellow in Neurology at Boston Childrens Hospital.  

Tenley LinkedIn Profile


Crystal Rogers

Defended the Thesis: January 2009
Thesis Advisor: Dr. Elena Casey
Thesis Title: The regulation and function of SoxB1 genes and proteins during neural induction and development in Xenopus laevis
Crystal graduated from UCLA in 2001.
She joined the laboratory group of Dr. Marianne Bronner at the California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, studying neural crest development.  She is a faculty member in the Department of Developmental and Cell Biology at California State University at Northridge.  

Lab-Website

Crystal LinkedIn Profile 

Audrey Thevenon

Began working towards her PhD at Georgetown in 2003
Defended the Thesis: in 2009
Thesis Advisor: Dr. Diane Wallace Taylor
Thesis Title: Inflammatory markers and genetic predispositions to Plasmodium falciparum-associated poor pregnancy outcomes

Audrey received an MS degree in Biology in 2006 and the PhD degree in 2009.  Audrey completed a post-doctoral research assistantship in the Department of Tropical Medicine, Medical Microbiology and Pharmacology at the University of Hawaii. 

She is now a Program Officer at the National Academies of Sciences in Washington, D.C.  

Audrey’s LinkedIn Profile

2008 Graduates

Zhuo (June) Meng

Began working towards her MS at Georgetown in 2008
Defended the Thesis: in 2009
Thesis Advisor: Dr. Elena Casey
Thesis Title: Inflammatory markers and genetic predispositions to Plasmodium falciparum-associated poor pregnancy outcomes

June worked at Systems Biosciences in Mountain View, CA. after completing her degree.

She is currently (as of 2019) working as a research associate at City of Hope in Los Angeles, CA.  

Zhuo’s LinkedIn Profile


Ernest Tako-Ayuk

Began working towards his MS at Georgetown in Jan. 2003
Defended the Thesis: in 2008
Thesis Advisor: Dr. Steven Singer

Ernest obtained an MD from the University of Yaounde in Cameroon.

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

Ernest’s LinkedIn Profile