Celebrating BMB Graduates

Please join us in our celebration as we highlight our BMB graduates.
The profiles are sectioned by degree type:

Doctor of Philosophy

Nikaela Bryan

Nikaela Bryan
Mentor: Ben Black, PhD

Thesis Title: Utilizing HXMS to uncover the structural basis of protein phase separation
Research and Lab Description: The lab focuses on answering the most pressing questions in chromosome biology. My research focused on utilizing hydrogen-deuterium exchange mass spectrometry (HXMS) and additional biophysical methodologies to uncover the structural basis of protein phase separation, with a focus on understanding the chromosomal passenger complex (CPC). 
Post PhD Plans: I am currently a post-doctoral researcher in the lab of Dr. Aime Franco at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, where I am working to understand the mechanisms of thyroid cancer differentiation.
Mentor Comment: Nikaela came to my lab to take on something so ambitious that I don’t know of anyone else who has even attempted it: she wanted to probe the polypeptide backbone dynamics of a protein complex before and after it undergoes phase separation. Not only did she succeed in doing so, but she used the information to break the ability of the complex to undergo phase separation. And then she reconstituted it using a prediction based on protein structural information. Wow!

Olivia Dickens

Olivia Dickens
Mentor: A.T. Charlie Johnson, PhD

Thesis Title: Graphene biosensors for the detection of disease biomarkers
Research and Lab Description: The Johnson Group specializes in the development of single-atomic-layer nanomaterials, with a focus on understanding their physical/chemical properties and real-world applications of the materials. My thesis work focused on using graphene field effect transistor technology to detect a variety of disease biomarkers. 
Post PhD Plans: I am currently working in industry.

Charlotte Fare

Charlotte Fare
Mentor: Jim Shorter, PhD

Thesis Title: Engineering Karyopherin-β2 to disaggregate ALS-associated proteins
Research and Lab Description: https://therothsteinlab.com/currentresearch/
Post PhD Plans: I’m currently working in Dr. Jeffrey Rothstein’s lab at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine.
Mentor Comment: Charlotte Fare is a truly exceptional and highly creative scientist who has made important advances in understanding how to engineer protein disaggregases for specific forms of neurodegenerative disease. Her efforts have been sterling and will help to develop therapeutic strategies for several currently intractable disorders. She has a very bright future ahead.

Hannah Richter

Hannah Richter
Mentor: Mitchell Lazar, MD, PhD

Thesis Title: Control Of Thermogenesis By Nuclear Receptor Corepressors And Rev-Erbs In Brown Adipose Tissue
Research and Lab Description: Dr. Lazar's lab studies the transcriptional regulation of metabolism, primarily by nuclear receptors and circadian rhythms, in systems such as liver disease and obesity. My thesis work focused on the regulation of brown adipose tissue thermogenesis by two nuclear receptor corepressors, NCoR1 and SMRT, as well as the circadian nuclear receptor REV-ERB. 
Post PhD Plans: I am currently doing postdoctoral research in the lab of Dr. Vijay Ramani at the Gladstone Institutes in San Francisco. The lab uses third-generation long-read sequencing and bioinformatic analyses to study the regulatory dynamics of chromatin fibers.

Ashley Viera-Ortiz

Ashley Viera-Ortiz
Mentor: Eddie Lee, MD, PhD

Thesis Title: Ribosome-Associated Protein Quality Control of Arginine-Rich Dipeptide Repeat Proteins in C9orf72-Expansion ALS and FTD
Post PhD Plans: Associate Scientist, Verge Genomics
Mentor Comment: Dr Viera-Ortiz’s quiet demeanor belied her strength, dedication and grit. She joined the lab knowing exactly what she wanted to work on and carved out her own independent path, studying how cells resolve stalled translational complexes as it relates to a repeat expansion mutation in the C9orf72 gene. Dr. Viera-Ortiz showed perseverance in the face of many obstacles and never compromised her rigorous approach to research. She also enjoyed traveling, attending several international conferences to showcase her work. Dr. Viera-Ortiz has a bright future ahead of her!

Combined Degree, MD-PhD

Juan Serrano

Juan Serrano
Mentor: Rahul Kohli, MD, PhD

Thesis Title: Rational Design of Dumbbell Protacs for Targeted Degradation of the Genomic Mutator APOBEC3A
Research and Lab Description: The Kohli Lab focuses on DNA modifying enzymes involved in the purposeful introduction of mutations or in the chemical modification of nucleobases, primarily enzymatic deamination, oxidation and methylation of cytosine bases, with a focus on AID/APOBEC DNA deaminases and TET oxygenases. My thesis work on the APOBEC family of enzymes culminated in the development and characterization of a DNA-based inhibitor, providing a route for the targeting of APOBEC3A, a genomic mutator highly implicated in cancer development. Our work continues as we prepare for the next step of direct in-cell targeting of genomic deamination, opening new avenues for eventual clinical application.
Post PhD Plans: Completing my M.D. degree and starting residency in Diagnostic Radiology with a focus on Nuclear Medicine.
Mentor Comment: Juan’s work has opened up new areas for exploration, with the first potent and specific inhibitors of a pro-oncogenic DNA modifying enzyme and elegant approaches for turning a competitive inhibitor into a catalytic one. He is an exceptionally creative chemist and biochemist, who has and will continue to bring his remarkable talents to bear on important questions in medicine.

Iulia Tapescu

Iulia Tapescu
Mentor: Sara Cherry, PhD

Thesis Title: Wanted DEAD or alive: Antiviral roles for DEAD-box helicases
Research and Lab Description: I was in the Cherry Lab studying host-pathogens interactions in the context of arboviral infections
Post PhD Plans: getting an MD