Current Graduate Students

Arifa Ahsan

Concentration: Developmental neurobiology and regenerative processes
Co-Mentor: Dr. Elena Silva and Dr. Jeffrey Huang.
Regents Hall Science Center, 401/411A
Email: asa135@georgetown.edu

Arifa graduated from Brandeis University in 2015 with a B.S. in Biochemistry. Her undergraduate thesis at the Hedstrom Lab focused on protein degradation via small molecule hydrophobic tagging, and she designed compounds to target Bcr-Abl protein, the pathophysiological cause of chronic myelogenous leukemia. Following college, she was involved in a project on chromothripsis with David Pellman’s group at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. (Chromothripsis is a newly discovered mutational phenomenon in certain cancer cells, characterized by extensive genomic rearrangements.) For her graduate work at Georgetown, she has decided to pursue her long-term interests in developmental neurobiology and regenerative processes and will be co-mentored by Dr. Elena Silva and Dr. Jeffrey Huang.

Outside the lab, she enjoys theatre, books, art, and creative writing.


Rita Akinkuotu

Concentration: Study of dynamics of infections investigating how the microbiome is influenced by Giardia lamblia infections
Mentor: Dr. Steven Singer
Regents Hall Science Center, 201
Email: rta18@georgetown.edu

Rita is a Ph.D. student in the Singer Lab. She received her Bachelor’s degree from the Federal University of Technology, Akure, Nigeria. She got her MS from Auburn University, Alabama where she worked on the Interaction of Chromobacterium species with Chytrid fungus in the Mendonca lab. She is now interested in the dynamics of infections investigating how the microbiome is influenced by Giardia lamblia infections. 

In her spare time, She enjoys cooking various Nigerian dishes and trying out American, Asian and Mexican recipes. 


Shahad Alqahtani 

Concentration: CodY’s role in activating the SaeR/S Two Component System
Mentor: Dr. Shaun Brinsmade.
Regents Hall Science Center, 301/311A
Email: saa354@georgetown.edu

Shahad Alqahtani comes to us from Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. She earned her B.S. in Microbiology from King Abdulaziz University in 2012 and subsequently her M.S. in Cellular and Molecular Regulation at St. Louis University. Her M.S. thesis research focused on Group B streptococcus (GBS) and its reliance on glutathione to defend itself against reactive oxygen species (ROS). Shahad recently received a scholarship from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to pursue her Ph.D. in the Brinsmade lab, where she will focus on CodY’s role in activating the SaeR/S Two Component System. When not in the lab, Shahad enjoys walking, cooking, and dancing with her son.


Phillip Gross

Concentration: CodY’s role in activating the SaeR/S Two Component System
Mentor: Dr. Shaun Brinsmade.
Regents Hall Science Center, 301/311A
Email: psg35@georgetown.edu

Phil graduated from the University of Maryland- College Park in May 2016 where studied biology and neuroscience. As an undergraduate, Phil interned for a summer at AstraZeneca, where he was brought on part time during his senior year. There, he studied the effects of various cytokines on the propagation of co-cultured leukocytes to further autoimmune research. After graduation, Phil moved to Houston to join the Neuroimmunology Laboratory at University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, where he worked under Dr. Robert Dantzer. There he studied how neuroinflammation contributes to cancer and cancer-treatment related symptoms, such as fatigue, depression, and cognitive dysfunction. He has joined the lab of Dr. Jeffrey Huang where he studies glial senescence in neurodegenerative diseases.

Outside of the lab, Phil enjoys swimming, going to the beach, and attending DC sports games.


Grace Jeschke

Concentration: CodY’s role in activating the SaeR/S Two Component System
Mentor: Dr. Leslie Ries
Regents Hall Science Center, 301/311A
Email: TBA

She is interested in effects of climate change on butterfly distribution, and phenology, novel host plant use, ecology, citizen science, and conservation.


Zeeba Manavi

Concentration: study of neural stem/progenitor cell senescence in Multiple Sclerosis.
Mentor: Dr. Jeffrey Huang
Regents Hall Science Center, 401/411A
Email: zm114@georgetown.edu

Zeeba earned her B.S. in Biology from the University of Maryland. She continued pursuing her passion for science at Georgetown University, successfully completing her M.S. in Biochemistry. During her graduate studies in the laboratory of Dr. Cynthia Rosenthal, she investigated the role
of DNA-binding protein inhibitor (ID3) in transdifferentiation of human fibroblasts to neural stem cells. Her thesis was presented at the University’s Tri-Annual M.S. in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology Poster Presentation, which earned her an Excellence in Internship award. Her interest in cellular reprogramming and neuroregeneration led her to the laboratory of Dr. Richard Schlegel where she focused on studying the signaling pathways involved in Conditionally Reprogrammed Cells (CRCs) propagated in culture media composed of Rho-kinase inhibitor with mouse 3T3 feeder cells. Zeeba is excited to be joining The Huang lab with an interest in studying neural stem/progenitor cell senescence in Multiple Sclerosis.

Outside of the lab, Zeeba enjoys studying Japanese, rock climbing, and making fresh pasta


Sylvia Arnold Min

Concentration: yeast transcription factor Grf10 and its role in virulence of Candida albicans
Mentor: Dr. Ronda Rolfes
Regents Hall Science Center, 301/311A
Email: sm3313@georgetown.edu

Sylvia graduated with a B.S. in Biology from the University of Maryland, Baltimore County in 2017 where she worked in Dr. Erin Green’s lab for two years. During her time there, she worked on characterizing Set5, a yeast histone methyltransferase. After graduating, she joined the Rolfes lab at Georgetown University and is currently working on understanding the yeast transcription factor Grf10 and its role in virulence of Candida albicans. In her spare time, she enjoys spending time with her friends and family, baking, and trying new foods!


Allison Brackley 

Concentration: Understanding species interactions and community-level dynamics.
Mentor: Dr. Martha Weiss
Ecology Lab
Email: adb130@georgetown.edu

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.


Paige Brooks

Concentration: Developing nervous system
Mentor: Dr. Thomas Coate
Regents Hall Science Center, 411
Email: pmb85@georgetown.edu

Paige earned her B.A. in Cellular Neuroscience with a minor in Biology from Colgate University in 2016. While there, she worked with Dr. Jason Meyers on a high honors thesis utilizing the zebrafish lateral line to examine the roles of Wnt and FGF signaling in sensory support cell development and regeneration. She was selected to present this research at the 2016 GSA Allied Genetics Conference: Spotlight on Undergraduate Research. Paige is excited to continue her research on the developing nervous system here at Georgetown.

Outside the lab, Paige enjoys reading, ballet, exploring DC and trying new foods.


Sean Carey

Concentration: Neurobiology and Developmental Biology
Mentor: Dr. Kathleen Maguire-Zeiss
Regents Hall Science Center, 411
Email: sdc91@georgetown.edu

Sean attended The College of the Holy Cross as an undergraduate where he was on the track and field team and earned a B.A. in Biology, graduating in 2015. After graduation, he worked as a research technician under Dr. Maryrose Sullivan at the Veterans Affairs Boston Healthcare System, West Roxbury Hospital. The lab’s field of study was urology research with a focus on autonomic neurotransmission and smooth muscle physiology. During his time there, the lab investigated the role of caveolae and myosin-Va in mediating neurotransmission in the bladder. Along with this, the group also investigated Parkinson’s disease and it contributes to bladder dysfunction. While at Georgetown Sean hopes to further his understanding of neurobiology and developmental biology.  Sean has joined the lab of Kathy McGuire-Zeiss.


Melissa Collier

Concentration: study how disease spreads in marine mammal and other animal social systems
Mentor: Dr. Shweta Bansal
Regents Hall Science Center,
Email: mac532@georgetown.edu

Melissa earned her B.S. in biochemistry and molecular biology at Florida Southern College, in Lakeland Florida. While there she completed her senior honors thesis on sharpnose shark diet analysis and was a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Holling’s Scholar where she studied the stranding patterns of sea turtles on the Atlantic Coast.  Melissa worked in environmental education for a year before getting her masters in marine mammal science at the University of Miami and completing an internship working with bottlenose dolphin photo-identification at the NOAA Miami Lab. Following her master’s graduation, she worked as a Marine Endangered Species Observer until she joined the Bansal Lab in 2018 to study how disease spreads in marine mammal and other animal social systems. You can usually find her outdoors, petting dogs, or eating breakfast for every meal.


Taylor Cook Evans

Concentration: Development and ecological consequences of personality in wild bottlenose dolphins
Mentor: Dr. Janet Mann
Regents Hall Science Center, 561
Email: tcc55@georgetown.edu

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.


Dillon Damuth

Concentration: Study of early neural development.
Mentor: Dr. Elena Silva
Regents Hall Science Center, 411A
Email: dld66@georgetown.edu

Dillon joined the PhD program in the Department of Biology in 2013, studying early neural development in Elena Silva’s lab group. 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.


Dennis DiMaggio

Concentration: Microbial pathogenesis, host-pathogen interactions, and the bacterial stress response.
Mentor: Dr. Shaun Brinsmade
Regents Hall Science Center, 311/301A
Email: dad148@georgetown.edu

Originally from Southeast Virginia, Dennis graduated from Old Dominion University in the spring of 2018 earning his B.S. in Biology with a Minor in Music Performance. After completing his degree, he began working in the Biological Sciences Support Facility at ODU. While working there, he developed close connections with the research faculty on campus and eventually transitioned to working as a technician in the Daines lab on the Gram-negative, halophilic pathogen, Vibrio vulnificus, studying the effect of a Type II Toxin-Antitoxin System on growth. His specific interests include microbial pathogenesis, host-pathogen interactions, and the bacterial stress response.

Away from the lab, Dennis enjoys trying new places to eat in DC, spending time with his cat, practicing French horn, cooking, and sipping a nice glass of whiskey at the end of a long day.


Jingwen Hu

Concentration: Mechanism of spontaneous remyelination happening MS.
Mentor: Dr. Jeffery Huang
Regents Hall Science Center, 401/411A
Email: jh1750@georgetown.edu

Jingwen Hu is a Ph.D. student in Dr. Jeffery Huang’s lab, which is focusing on Multiple Sclerosis (MS). Jingwen has been interested in neuronal degenerative diseases since she was an undergraduate student and focused on studying Alzheimer’s disease. For her Masters Thesis, she conducted research on Parkinson’s disease. After that, she joined New York Stem Cell Foundation to work on the stem cell research in MS. In the Huang laboratory, she is focusing on the mechanism of spontaneous remyelination happening MS.

In her spare time, Jingwen enjoys traveling, painting, sports, and music.


Alyssa King

Concentration: Microbial pathogenesis, specifically microbe-host interactions
Mentor: Dr. Shaun Brinsmade
Regents Hall Science Center, 311/301A
Email: ak1373@georgetown.edu

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. Her interests include microbial pathogenesis, specifically microbe-host interactions, pathogenic virulence, and host response. She began working towards her PhD at Georgetown in 2015, joining the lab group of Shaun Brinsmade.

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).


Shican (Claire) Li

Concentration: Attachment mechanism of the intestinal parasite Giardia lamblia
Mentor: Dr. Heidi Elmendorf
Regents Hall Science Center, 311/319A
Email: sl1453@georgetown.edu

Shican (Claire) received her BS degree from University of New Haven and an MS from Brandeis University. She is now working on her Ph.D. degree in the Elmendorf lab studying the attachment mechanism of the intestinal parasite Giardia lamblia. She is particularly interested in investigating how Giardia responds to environmental cues to find its attaching site during infection, and especially, how Giardia interacts with intestinal mucus. She plans to explore these questions using biological and physical approaches.

Besides science, Claire enjoys singing Beijing Opera, writing poetry, and playing Chinese zither occasionally.


George Melchor

Concentration: Neuroscience
Mentor: Dr. Jeffrey Huang
Regents Hall Science Center, 401/411A
Email: gm882@georgetown.edu

George earned his B.A. in Biology with a concentration in Neuroscience from Austin College in 2017. As an undergraduate, he studied the role of PA28ɣ in the acquisition of cancerous phenotypes with Dr. Lance Barton. George entered the Interdisciplinary Program in Neuroscience in 2017. He works in the Lab of Glia Biology with Dr. Jeffrey Huang, supported by the Patrick Healy Graduate Student Fellowship. He uses a ribotagging strategy, RiboTag, to study the crosstalk between oligodendrocyte lineage cells and the immune system in animal models of multiple sclerosis (MS).

Outside of the lab, George enjoys reading science fiction and fantasy, trying new food with friends, and playing volleyball, tennis, and soccer.


Ursula Machi

Concentration: Cell fusion and yeast mating
Mentor: Dr. Mark Rose
Regents Hall Science Center, 311
Email: ujm2@georgetown.edu

Ursula graduated from Pennsylvania State University in 2016 with a major in biotechnology and a minor in microbiology. While there, she worked on crystallography studies of iron-sulfur cluster proteins under Dr. Squire Booker. She then went on to a research associate position at Carnegie Mellon University in the lab of Dr. Tina Lee, where she studied the mechanism of ER tubule fusion. She has now joined the lab of Dr. Mark Rose, and aims to further understand the process by which two cells become one. 

Outside of lab, Ursula enjoys cooking, traveling and watching live music. 


Molly McEntee

Concentration: Study of female reproductive behavior in wild bottlenose dolphins.
Mentor: Dr. Janet Mann
Regents Hall Science Center, 561
Email: mhm95@georgetown.edu

Molly received a bachelor’s degree in Biology from Williams College in 2014. As an undergraduate, she spent a summer at the Duke Marine Lab studying the ecology of deep-sea cold-seep ecosystems, and completed an honors thesis on the pollination network of bunchberry dogwood. After graduation, she moved to Kenya as a research assistant for the Mara Hyena Project, where she studied the behavioral ecology of spotted hyenas under Kay Holekamp. Molly then spent a field season in Maine studying the conservation ecology of endangered right whales, before returning to Kenya to study the behavioral ecology of anubis baboons with the Comparative Analysis of Baboon Sociality project under Joan Silk.  Molly joined Janet Mann’s lab as a Ph.D. student in 2017. She is interested in female reproductive behavior in wild bottlenose dolphins.


Vivianne Morrison

Concentration: Neuron-oligodendrocyte communication and activity-dependent myelination.
Mentor: Dr. Jeffrey Huang
Regents Hall Science Center, 401/411A
Email: veg24@georgetown.edu

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 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 a 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 Jeffrey Huang.


Victoria Morrissette

Concentration: Metabolism of inositol pyrophosphates.
Mentor: Dr. Ronda Rolfes
Regents Hall Science Center,
Email: vam36@georgetown.edu

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.

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


 Zachory Park

Concentration: Regulation of meiosis in Saccharomyces cerevisiae.
Mentor: Dr. Mark Rose
Regents Hall Science Center, 311
Email: zmp7@georgetown.edu

Zac graduated from Elmira College in 2017 with a BS in Biology and Biochemistry. At Elmira, he worked in the lab of Daniel Kjar where he studied competitive interactions between ant species. He has always been fascinated by the concept of regulation and the genetic and biochemical regulation of complex biological processes in particular. He joined Mark Rose’s lab group at Georgetown, working on the regulation of meiosis in Saccharomyces cerevisiae.

Outside the lab Zac enjoys reading, trying out local breweries, and exploring D.C.


Anais Roussel

Concentration: Biosignatures’ preservation processes on Mars, under the destructive effects of Galactic Cosmic Rays
Mentor: Dr. Sarah Johnson
Regents Hall Science Center, 501A
Email: ar1505@georgetown.edu

The questions that I am passionate about pertain to biosignatures formation and preservation in the Solar System. I am particularly interested in biosignatures’ preservation processes on Mars, under the destructive effects of Galactic Cosmic Rays. This research will help determine the most plausible locations on the Martian surface where evidence of past life could still be detected by ongoing and future Mars missions.

Before starting my PhD at Georgetown, I got a Masters degree in Biotechnologies Engineering (France) and researched biomarkers preservation in Cambrian rocks in Oman as a member of the Summons Lab at MIT.


Joan Reger

Concentration: Mathematical modeling of infectious diseases
Mentor: Dr. Shweta Bansal
Regents Hall Science Center, 561
Email: jfr59@georgetown.edu

Joan is a Ph.D. student in Shweta Bansal’s lab where she works on mathematical modeling of infectious diseases. She earned her B.S. in Biology at Emory University in 2017. While at Emory, she worked in the Wilkinson lab studying yeast prions and also worked with K-12 students in the Atlanta community through the educational outreach program Graduation Generation. Prior to coming to Georgetown, she completed a summer research project on TDP-43 in the Eisenberg lab at UCLA and a public health science internship at the USDA in Washington, D.C.

Outside of the lab, Joan enjoys traveling, yoga, DIY projects, and watching The Office. 


 Tyler Rippel

Concentration: Investigate how plant-invertebrate interactions can cascade through fungal and microbial communities to influence biogeochemical cycling in coastal salt marshes.
Mentor: Dr. Gina Wimp
Regents Hall Science Center, 501A
Email: tr599@georgetown.edu

In 2011, Tyler earned his BS in Plant Biology with a minor in Environmental Studies from Illinois State University. While there, he did a senior thesis research project on how soil nutrients can influence female frequency in the gynodioecious prairie plant Lobelia spicata. During undergraduate and the first year of graduate school at Villanova University, he was a part of the Men’s Track and Field Team as a 800m runner. At Villanova, Tyler moved towards ecosystem ecology and studied the influence of an invasive grass on microbial communities and nitrogen cycling in temperate forests. He came to Georgetown University to work in Gina Wimp’s lab to investigate how plant-invertebrate interactions can cascade through fungal and microbial communities to influence biogeochemical cycling in coastal salt marshes.

Outside of school he enjoys being in nature, galavanting through D.C., and slapping some bass.


Pablo Silva Rodríguez

Concentration: Developmental biology, neurobiology, molecular and cellular mechanisms of disease and adaptation, transcriptional regulation and evolutionary biology. 
Mentor: Dr. Elena Silva
Regents Hall Science Center, 411A
Email: ps977@georgetown.edu

He came from Guatemala where 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 an MS in Molecular Medicine at the University of Sheffield, UK. His master’s research project, Transcriptional Regulation of the Neuronal Function in the Developing Zebrafish Central Nervous System, was supervised by Vincent Cunliffe at the MRC Centre for Developmental and Biomedical Genetics. In 2013, he did a short internship at University of Chile, under the supervision of Miguel Concha that aimed to study cilio-genesis and cilio-pathies using zebrafish as an animal model.  He was awarded a Fulbright-LASPAU scholarship to pursue a Ph.D. in Biology at Georgetown beginning in 2015. His research interests include developmental biology, neurobiology, molecular and cellular mechanisms of disease and adaptation, transcriptional regulation and evolutionary biology.  He has joined Elena Silva’s lab group.  

In addition to research, he also loves traveling, 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 (big fan of dark beer) and meeting new people and learning about different cultures. 


Lauren Rosko

Concentration: The effects of creatine on remyelination. 
Mentor: Dr. Jeffrey Huang
Regents Hall Science Center, 401/411A
Email: lmr104@georgetown.edu

Lauren earned her B.S. in Biology and Psychology from Stony Brook University. As an undergraduate, she studied the role of the mesolimbic dopamine circuit in drug abuse under Dr. Panayotis Thanos at Brookhaven National Laboratory. Lauren earned a Master’s degree in Biotechnology at NYU while working as a research technician at Columbia University. She studied the effects of early maternal separation on brain and behavior before starting as a student in Georgetown’s Interdisciplinary Program in Neuroscience in 2016. She is working with Dr. Jeffrey Huang studying the effects of creatine on remyelination. 


Kathryn Sanchez

Concentration:
Mentor: Dr. Kathleen Mcguire-Zeiss
Regents Hall Science Center,
Email: kes276@georgetown.edu

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. During a summer internship at the University of Pennsylvania, Kathryn examined mouse hippocampal metabolism in the laboratory of 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. After this, Kathryn explored the pathology of Alzheimer’s Disease at New York University in the lab of 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. She has joined Kathy Mcguire-Zeiss’ lab group.


Vaughn Shirey

Concentration: Boreal forest butterfly communities and biodiversity informatics. 
Mentor: Dr. Leslie Ries
Regents Hall Science Center, 501A
Email: vms55@georgetown.edu

Vaughn graduated with a B.S. in Environmental Science from Drexel University in 2017. There, Vaughn worked with Dr. Jon Gelhaus on crane fly systematics alongside doing biodiversity informatics work with museum specimens. Following graduation, Vaughn moved to Helsinki, Finland to work as a Fulbright Study/Research Fellow with Dr. Pedro Cardoso at the Finnish Museum of Natural history investigating data bias in biodiversity databases. They are now working with Dr. Leslie Ries at Georgetown to understand connections between butterfly metacommunity dynamics and climate change in North American boreal forests.

When they aren’t caught up in coding, Vaughn likes to make art, sew, and discover new punk bands.


Jewel Tomasula

Concentration: plant-herbivore interactions affect the ecosystem services of Atlantic coast salt marshes
Mentor: Dr. Gina Wimp
Regents Hall Science Center,
Email: el785@georgetown.edu

Jewel began her Ph.D. studies at Georgetown in fall 2017, after working for two years at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency headquarters in DC. Originally from Texas, she went to Southern Methodist University in Dallas, TX for her undergraduate degree. She has field ecology and environmental chemistry experience in several distinct ecosystems, including Appalachian streams, peat bogs, and bottomland hardwood forests. As a student in Gina Wimp’s lab, she investigates how plant-herbivore interactions affect the ecosystem services of Atlantic coast salt marshes. She is passionate about discovering science-based solutions to society’s environmental challenges.


Cesar Velez-Penaloza

Concentration: Developmental biology.
Mentor: Dr. Gina Wimp
Regents Hall Science Center, room # 501A
Email: cdv16@georgetown.edu

Cesar graduated from the University of Maryland-College Park in 2016 with a BS in Animal Sciences and a BA in Spanish.  His plans were to go to Vet school and worked at the campus farm and animal wing at UMD. After graduation, he worked as part of the husbandry staff at NIH. From previous animal work, he decided that vet medicine was not for him. During the completion of his degrees, he took an experimental embryology class which sparked his interested in research specifically in developmental biology. To get more knowledge of current lab techniques he finished a Biotechnology Certificate from Montgomery College.  For his graduate work at Georgetown, he had decided to join Elena Silva’s lab.

Outside of the lab, he tries to be as social as possible to have a balanced life, he loves trying new foods, and learning about different cultures and people.


Nicole Wagner

Concentration: Astrobiology and metagenomics.
Mentor: Dr. Sarah Johnson
Regents Hall Science Center, room # 501A
Email: nyw5@georgetown.edu

Nicole Wagner is a PhD candidate working in Prof. Sarah Stewart Johnson’s lab. Her project focuses mostly on environmental metagenomics. She studies the microbial composition in frozen Antarctic lakes. I also study the degradation and change in microbial communities through time in Antarctica.  

In her free time, she dote on her little poodle, (re)watch episodes of Star Trek, and read corny sci-fi novels.


Zhirong Wang

Concentration: investigate cochlear development
Mentor: Dr. Thomas Coate
Regents Hall Science Center, room 411
Email: zw100@georgetown.edu

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. At Georgetown Biology, he is carving his broad interest in developmental neurobiology with the great resources and expertise of the community.  He has joined Tom Coate’s lab to investigate cochlear development.

In the spare time, he likes to read, exercise, and cook.


Maggie Weng

Concentration: investigate cochlear development
Mentor: Dr. Sarah Johnson
Regents Hall Science Center, room 501A
Email: mw1144@georgetown.edu

Maggie Weng is a PhD student with the Johnson Biosignatures Lab. Maggie graduated from Washington University in St. Louis with a degree in environmental earth science and a minor in writing, and was a member of the Pathfinder program lead by Raymond Arvidson. She completed an REU internship with the Johnson lab during her undergraduate degree, as well as an internship at NASA Goddard Spaceflight Center where she studied the spaceflight compatibility of the MinION portable DNA sequencer. Her research interests include understanding the ecology and community structure of extreme environments, as well as an agnostic understanding of life detection. She loves traveling and fieldwork, and is always interested in looking for intersections of astrobiology work with relevant environmental problems.

When not working in the lab you can find her hiking, knitting, or writing.


Casey Zipfel

Concentration: Infectious disease dynamics
Mentor: Dr. Shweta Bansal
Regents Hall Science Center, 561
Email: cmz27@georgetown.edu

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 is now a Ph.D. candidate in Shweta Bansal’s lab, where she uses epidemiological modeling and high volume datasets to investigate the interplay between human behavior and infectious diseases.

When she isn’t at her computer, Casey enjoys reading, running, traveling, and exploring all that DC has to offer.