Trainee Advocacy Alliance

Trainee Advocacy Alliance LogoThe Trainee Advocacy Alliance (TAA) is a collaborative group of Biomedical Graduate Studies (BGS) graduate students, Biomedical Postdoctoral Program (BPP) post-docs, and Penn faculty members from across the University who are committed to creating, nurturing, and maintaining a Penn biomedical research community that embodies inclusivity, diversity, and equity. With the full support and access to resources within IDEAL Research, TAA will provide trainee support for diverse members of the Penn Medicine research training community, especially those holding identities that are historically underrepresented in the biomedical sciences. 

TAA members complete trainings related to restorative justice, racial literacy, inclusive mentorship, and more to ensure that individuals from marginalized identities are embraced and advocated for within biomedical research. The TAA will provide extensive touchpoints throughout the Penn research community so that no trainee is left behind. The Trainee Advocacy Alliance is committed to serving as a landing spot to discuss these issues when they arise, and to supporting students in navigating a path forward.

If you would like to connect with TAA, please reach out to one of our members below via email. Be sure to mark the subject line as "TAA - Your Name" so that our members will know to prioritize your message. With any questions, contact Vanessa Martinez Penn (vanessa.martinezpenn@pennmedicine.upenn.edu), the Administrative Coordinator for IDEAL Research.

Leadership

Dan KesslerFaculty Leader

Affiliated Graduate Groups: Neuroscience, Cell and Molecular Biology -- Developmental, Stem Cell, and Regenerative Biology

Email Address: kesslerd@pennmedicine.upenn.edu

Why did you choose to join the Trainee Advocacy Alliance?

Helping talented young scientists overcome the challenges and difficulties of graduate school to thrive and succeed has been the most satisfying aspect of my professional life. I am committed to the success and wellbeing of every BGS student and joining TAA was a natural continuation of this focus in my role as a teacher, advisor, mentor and graduate group chair.

What experiences and strengths do you bring to the Trainee Advocacy Alliance?

I have served as CAMB graduate group chair for over 12 years, and as chair for the DSRB program of CAMB for the prior 5 years. I have partnered with and advocated for students facing all manner of challenge and difficulty to define solutions that allowed students to succeed and thrive.

Research Interests & Experience: I am a developmental biologist with an interest in the regulation of cell lineage regulation in the early vertebrate embryo, with a specific focus on transcriptional, signaling, genomic, and epigenetic regulatory mechanisms.

Link to Faculty Bio.: Daniel S. Kessler | Faculty | Perelman School of Medicine

Fun Fact: Yoga is my happy place.

Meera SundaramFaculty Leader

Affiliated Graduate Group: Cell and Molecular Biology -- Developmental, Stem Cell, and Regenerative Biology

Email Address: sundaram@pennmedicine.upenn.edu

Link to Faculty Bio.: Meera V. Sundaram | Faculty | Perelman School of Medicine

Prioty SarwarGraduate Student Leader

Affiliated Graduate Group: Cell and Molecular Biology -- Microbiology, Virology and Parasitology

Email Address: priotyf@pennmedicine.upenn.edu

Matriculation Year: 2016

Sarah MadduxGraduate Student Leader

Affiliated Graduate Group: Immunology

Email Address: skmaddux@pennmedicine.upenn.edu

Why did you choose to join the Trainee Advocacy Alliance?

When I experienced gender-based discrimination as a graduate student, I had no idea how to respond or who to approach for help. I want to make sure no other BGS student ever has to walk through that kind of experience alone.

What experiences and strengths do you bring to the Trainee Advocacy Alliance?

I am passionate about deconstructing and realigning power on behalf of the most vulnerable members of of our community. I'm not afraid to confront prejudice when I see it, even when it requires speaking truth to power. I'm fiercely protective of my community members and will do what is necessary to advocate for them.

Research Interests:  I study the microbiota and how it influences immune development, tolerance, and autoimmunity.

Fun Fact: John Wayne portrayed one of my ancestors in a movie.

TAA Members - Faculty

Avery PoseyAffiliated Graduate Groups: Immunology, Pharmacology, Cell and Molecular Biology -- Gene Therapy and Vaccines

Email Address: aposey@pennmedicine.upenn.edu

Link to Faculty Bio.: Avery D Posey | Faculty | Perelman School of Medicine

Benjamin F. VoightAffiliated Graduate Group: Genomics & Computational Biology

Email Address: bvoight@pennmedicine.upenn.edu

Why did you choose to join the Trainee Advocacy Alliance?

To support equity, diversity, and inclusion efforts within the Biological Graduate Studies program.

What experiences and strengths do you bring to the Trainee Advocacy Alliance?

I have and have healthy knowledge and understanding of several training opportunities in bioinformatics on Penn's Campus. I serve at the chair of the Genomics and Computational Biology Graduate group, and also the Director of the Bioinformatics concentration for the MSTR program. I also co-direct GCB/CIS/MSTR535 (Introduction to Bioinformatics).

Research Interests and Experience: I am a statistical and population geneticist interested in characterizing the relationship between DNA sequence variation and susceptibility to complex traits. Over my career, I have mapped thousands of genetic loci influencing susceptibility to complex traits, particularly type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular, and liver disease. My group also develops methods for population genomics inference problems, focused on characterizing variation in mutation rate and genomic targets of natural selection in human populations.

Link to my website: http://coruscant.itmat.upenn.edu

Fun Fact: My middle name is Franklin.

Brian CapellAffiliated Graduate Group: Cell and Molecular Biology -- Genetics and Epigenetics

Email Address: BCapell@pennmedicine.upenn.edu

Why did you choose to join the Trainee Advocacy Alliance?

Having been a trainee for many years spanning undergraduate, med school and grad school, plus a postdoc, I have seen and experienced many of the challenges and stumbling blocks that arise. I would love the opportunity to take those lessons and use them to ease the way and benefit and help others advance their careers.

What experiences and strengths do you bring to the Trainee Advocacy Alliance?

I think some of the strengths I bring to the TAA stem simply from the fact that the physician scientist track has been long and offered both a range and diversity of experiences and challenges along the way. I've worked in many different environments and with broad array of people and personalities. I hope those years of experience can be of value to others who are now taking similar paths and facing similar challenges.

Research Interests & Experience: The Capell Lab seeks to understand how epigenetic and epitranscriptomic gene regulatory mechanisms contribute to disease, and in particular, cancer. By combining the incredible accessibility of epithelial tissues like human skin, with the most cutting-edge epigenetic and epitranscriptomic techniques, we aim to identify novel targets to treat disease.

Link to Lab Website

Link to Faculty Bio.: Brian C Capell | Faculty | Perelman School of Medicine

Fun Fact: I was an art history minor in college, and visiting museums both at home and when traveling is a favorite escape.

Crystal ConnAffiliated Graduate Groups: Pharmacology, Cell and Molecular Biology -- Cancer Biology, Biochemistry and Molecular Biophysics

Email Address: Crystal.Conn@Pennmedicine.upenn.edu

Why did you choose to join the Trainee Advocacy Alliance?

To be any form of a mentor, one needs to continuously learn and grow in proficiencies as an educator which includes fostering DEI awareness and support. I joined the TAA because I see a need for trainee mentorship that has been lacking in academia for far too long and I wanted to be properly trained to provide an open space for communication while cultivating an inclusive community in our programs.

What experiences and strengths do you bring to the Trainee Advocacy Alliance?

As a first-gen, non-binary, mixed individual navigating my training and career I have experienced and witnessed a variety of challenges. My personal goals are focused on maintaining wellness with positive solutions for progress. I hope my experiences aid in mentoring and echoing the voices of the next generation of researchers to create an inclusive and supportive environment.

Research Interests & Experience: The Conn Lab studies post-transcriptional, dynamic responses during disease progression with a focus on mRNA translational regulation for oncogenic survival.

Link to Lab Website

Fun Fact: I've lived across 4 states, in 15+ homes/Apts, & love to explore new locations!

Link to Faculty Bio.: Crystal S. Conn | Faculty | Department of Radiation Oncology | Perelman School of Medicine

 

David FeldserAffiliated Graduate Group: Cell & Molecular Biology -- Cancer Biology, Immunology

Email Address: dfeldser@upenn.edu

Why did you choose to join the Trainee Advocacy Alliance?

I wanted to be a better mentor.

Link to lab webpage: https://www.med.upenn.edu/feldserlab/

Donita BradyAffiliated Graduate Groups: Pharmacology, Cell and Molecular Biology -- Cancer Biology, Biochemistry and Molecular Biophysics

Email Address: bradyd@pennmedicine.upenn.edu

Link to Faculty Bio.: Donita C. Brady | Faculty | Perelman School of Medicine

Elizabeth A HellerAffiliated Graduate Group: Cell and Molecular Biology -- Genetics and Epigenetics, Neuroscience, Pharmacology

Email Address: eheller@pennmedicine.upenn.edu

Why did you choose to join the Trainee Advocacy Alliance?

I chose to join the TAA to gain proficiency in DEI initiatives that enhance my performance as an educator. My goal is to support a diverse body of students to realize their scholarly potential. The TAA will help me to broaden and enhance my mentorship skills to meet the needs of a greater population of students. Work in the TAA meets my desire to contribute meaningfully to promote social justice in my community.

What experiences and strengths do you bring to the Trainee Advocacy Alliance?

My main experience relevant to the TAA is in mentorship and scholarship. I have learned how to navigate the academic research profession, and to do so ethically and with social justice as an integral priority.

Research Interests & Experience: The Heller Lab studies the gene regulatory mechanisms in brain. We apply epigenetic editing tools to the rodent brain in vivo to determine the precise causal mechanisms of gene expression and behavior, specifically in the context of chronic neuropsychiatric disease.

Link to lab website: https://www.med.upenn.edu/hellerlab/

Fun Fact: I lived in Budapest as an exchange student in 1996, just 4 years after the fall of the Berlin Wall. I was 16 years old!

Igor BrodskyAffiliated Graduate Group: Immunology, Cell and Molecular Biology -- Microbiology, Virology, and Parasitology

Email Address: ibrodsky@vet.upenn.edu

Why did you choose to join the Trainee Advocacy Alliance?

To support trainees from marginalized groups who might experience bias incidents, and to foster an environment of inclusivity within the Penn research community.

What experiences and strengths do you bring to the Trainee Advocacy Alliance?

I bring a commitment to the ideals of equity, inclusion, and diversity, and the desire to ensure that no trainee has to go through instances of microaggression or bias feeling alone or unsupported.

Research Interests and Experience: My lab is interested in understanding innate immunity to bacterial pathogens. We study how activation of cell death signaling pathways promote control of bacterial infection using a combination of in vitro and in vivo model systems.

Link to lab: http://brodskylab.squarespace.com/

Fun Fact: I enjoy rock climbing with my family.

Katharine BarAffiliated Graduate Group: Cell & Molecular Biology -- Microbiology, Virology, and Parasitology

Email Address: bark@pennmedicine.upenn.edu

Why did you choose to join the Trainee Advocacy Alliance?

I wish to contribute to a supportive educational environment.

What experiences and strengths do you bring to the Trainee Advocacy Alliance?

Medical and graduate training experience.

Research Interests and Experience:

I'm an assistant professor of medicine interested in translational HIV research.

Fun Fact: I can whistle very loudly.

Kellie JuradoAffiliated Graduate Groups: Immunology, Cell and Molecular Biology -- Microbiology, Virology, and Parasitology

Email Address: kellie.jurado@pennmedicine.upenn.edu

Link to Faculty Bio.: Kellie Ann Jurado | Faculty | Perelman School of Medicine

Kim SharpAffiliated Graduate Groups: Biochemistry and Molecular Physics, Genomics and Computational Biology

Email Address: SHARPK@UPENN.EDU

Link to Faculty Bio.: Kim A. Sharp | Faculty, Perelman School of Medicine

Knashawn MoralesAffiliated Graduate Group: Epidemiology and Biostatistics -- Biostatistics

Email Address: knashawn@upenn.edu

Why did you choose to join the Trainee Advocacy Alliance?

I hope to ensure the success of all of our trainees.

What experiences and strengths do you bring to the Trainee Advocacy Alliance?

I am organized, a good listener, honest, and respectful.

Research Interests & Experience: I am a collaborative statistician with a primary focus in mental health and behavioral modification interventions for asthma, insomnia, weight management, and HIV/STD risk reduction.

Link to faculty bio page: https://www.dbei.med.upenn.edu/bio/knashawn-h-morales-scd

Fun Fact: I enjoy movies and traveling.

Mary MullinsAffiliated Graduate Group: Cell and Molecular Biology -- Developmental, Stem Cell, and Regenerative Biology

Email Address: mullins@pennmedicine.upenn.edu

Why did you choose to join the Trainee Advocacy Alliance?

I am committed to changing the environment at Penn for our underrepresented graduate students and postdoctoral fellows, so that it is one where all trainees can thrive to become the best scientists they can be.

What experiences and strengths do you bring to the Trainee Advocacy Alliance?

I am active in racial justice efforts here at Penn, including co-chairing the BGS and BPP Combating Racial Inequities Committee (CRIC), and co-leading the Research Pillar of Action for Cultural Transformation in PSOM. I am also active as the graduate program chair of DSRB in educating our students and faculty about systemic racism and how we can change it. As a woman scientist I understand the feeling of not fitting the mold and I want to change that to make STEM inclusive for all.

Research Interests & Experience: My lab studies how a BMP morphogen signaling gradient forms, is maintained, and is interpreted to specify multiple cell types along the embryonic dorsal-ventral axis. We also study the membraneless Balbiani body organelle in oocyte polarity and maternal regulation of embryonic development in the zebrafish.

Link to Lab Website

Fun Fact: After receiving a fitbit as a present, I have become obsessed with my steps.

Link to Faculty Bio.: Mary C. Mullins | Faculty | Perelman School of Medicine

Matt GoodAffiliated Graduate Groups: Cell and Molecular Biology -- Cell Biology, Physiology, and Metabolism

Email Address: mattgood@pennmedicine.upenn.edu

Link to Faculty Bio.: Matthew C Good | Faculty | Perelman School of Medicine

Michael HarhayAffiliated Graduate Group: Epidemiology and Biostatistics

Email Address: mharhay@pennmedicine.upenn.edu

Why did you choose to join the Trainee Advocacy Alliance?

As a recent Penn Medicine PhD student and post-doc myself, I am eager to contribute to the community's health from the other side as a junior faculty member.

Research Interests & Experience: My research program principally focuses on the design and analysis of randomized trials.

Link to Faculty Bio.

Michael P. HartAffiliated Graduate Group: Cell and Molecular Biology -- Genetics and Epigenetics, Neuroscience

Email Address: hartmic@pennmedicine.upenn.edu

Why did you choose to join the Trainee Advocacy Alliance?

I am committed to training the next generation of neuroscientists and geneticists including fostering a supportive, inclusive, and collaborative environment for trainees at all levels and from all backgrounds, instilling rigorous research values, and promoting a general passion for learning and science.

What experiences and strengths do you bring to the Trainee Advocacy Alliance?

As a young LGBTQ+ faculty member, I have a strong connection with positive and negative experiences I had as a student and postdoc. These experiences make me want to work hard to create an environment where the voices of current trainees are listened to and supported during both positive and negative experiences.

Research Interests & Experience: My lab studies the role of genes associated with neurodevelopmental and neuropsychiatric disorders in the plasticity of neuronal circuits and behaviors. I did my PhD training in the Neuroscience Graduate Group at Penn and my postdoctoral training at Columbia University in New York City.

Link to lab website: www.mphartlab.com

Fun Fact: I am an identical twin.

Rajan JainAffiliated Graduate Group: Cell and Molecular Biology -- Developmental, Stem Cell, and Regenerative Biology

Email Address: jainr@pennmedicine.upenn.edu

Why did you choose to join the Trainee Advocacy Alliance?

To help in ongoing efforts to strengthen training.

Research Interests and Experience: Our lab studies how 3D spatial organization and genome folding directs cell fate decisions and organogenesis.

Link to lab website: https://www.med.upenn.edu/jainlab/

Sarah HenricksonAffiliated Graduate Groups: Immunology, Cell and Molecular Biology -- Microbiology, Virology, and Parasitology

Email Address: henricksons@email.chop.edu

Why did you choose to join the Trainee Advocacy Alliance?

I was previously in the Minority Student Network and I'm thrilled to have joined this group.

What experiences and strengths do you bring to the Trainee Advocacy Alliance?

Supporting trainees, both in my lab and in the graduate programs more broadly, is a fundamental part of being a faculty member and I'm eager to help in any way I can.

Research Interests & Experience: My lab studies the impact of chronic inflammation and inborn errors of immunity on T cell immunometabolic function.

Link to Lab Website

Fun Fact: I'm a dual citizen (United States and Canada).

Link to Faculty Bio.: Sarah Henrickson | Faculty | Perelman School of Medicine

Sunny ShinAffiliated Graduate Groups: Immunology, Pharmacology, Cell and Molecular Biology -- Microbiology, Virology, and Parasitology

Email Address: sunshin@pennmedicine.upenn.edu

Link to Faculty Bio.: Sunny Shin | Faculty | Perelman School of Medicine

Will BailisAffiliated Graduate Groups: Immunology, Cell and Molecular Biology -- Microbiology, Virology, and Parasitology

Email Address: bailisw@chop.edu

Why did you choose to join the Trainee Advocacy Alliance?

I want to take a more active role in helping address systemic discrimination and inequality within academia, in hopes it can help make the Penn research community a safer and more inclusive space for trainees.

What experiences and strengths do you bring to the Trainee Advocacy Alliance?

I hope I can be an open, compassionate listener and strong advocate for trainees in need of support.

Research Interests & Experience: The Bailis lab studies how metabolism and the compartmentalization of metabolic reactions control immune cell behavior.

Link to Lab Website

Link to Faculty Bio.: Will Bailis | Faculty | Perelman School of Medicine

Fun Fact: I ate peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for lunch every day during my PhD.

TAA Members - Graduate Students

Bailey NanceAffiliated Graduate Group: Cell and Molecular Biology -- Cancer Biology

Email Address: Bailey.Nance@pennmedicine.upenn.edu

Why did you choose to join the Trainee Advocacy Alliance?

As an IDEAL Research Fellow, I am very passionate about supporting, advocating for, and connecting with other underrepresented trainees. Being a part of the TAA allows me to extend the same support systems and resources that have been pivotal for my personal and professional growth during my time at Penn.

What experiences and strengths do you bring to the Trainee Advocacy Alliance?

With my involvement in both Ernest E. Just Biomedical Society and by participating in the IDEAL Council with GAPSA over the last 3 years, I have been able to connect with graduate students, amplify the voices of student leaders, and advocate for marginalized graduate students with Penn administration. I hope that with these skills and connections, I can continue to do so with the TAA!

Research Interests & Experience: My research focuses on cancer metabolism, specifically looking at how protein structure effects function and localization of a key moonlighting enzyme in adult soft tissue sarcomas.

Fun Fact: I make a Spotify playlist for every occasion (even failed experiments!). I am slowly curating the soundtrack to my graduate school career.

Brian GoldspielAffiliated Graduate Group: Cell and Molecular Biology -- Microbiology, Virology, and Parasitology

Email Address: GoldspiB@pennmedicine.upenn.edu

Career Stage: MD/PhD student, currently PhD years

Why did you choose to join the Trainee Advocacy Alliance?

I was hoping to work within the Penn community in order to help students feel safer and more connected to their surroundings. I think it's fundamental to use my own privileges to support those who do not have access to the same privilege that I have.

What experiences and strengths do you bring to the Trainee Advocacy Alliance?

As a medical student, I worked in community clinics where I learned trauma informed care, and worked with patients from disadvantaged backgrounds. This experience taught me skills of resilience, patience, and dedication to those with different backgrounds than mine.

Research Interests & Experience: Broadly, I am interested in metabolic circuits between host and pathogen, and am studying how intracellular bacterial pathogens re-program host metabolism to create a niche for growth.

Fun Fact: I've sung on Broadway! To an empty audience, but still counts!

Emily CribasAffiliated Graduate Group: Cell and Molecular Biology -- Microbiology, Virology, and Parasitology

Email Address: ecribas@pennmedicine.upenn.edu

Research Interests & Experience: My research explores the role of cytokines in intestinal regeneration during bacterial infection using organoid models. I'm also interested in exploring other applications of intestinal organoids including food digestion and drug metabolism/transport.

Emily FlamAffiliated Graduate Group: Cell and Molecular Biology -- Cell Biology, Physiology, and Metabolism

Email Address: eflam@pennmedicine.upenn.edu

Why did you choose to join the Trainee Advocacy Alliance?

I wanted to help my peers navigate the sometimes harsh world of academia.

What experiences and strengths do you bring to the Trainee Advocacy Alliance?

I bring empathy, patience, and an outgoing personality.

Research Interests & Experience: I am a fifth year in the cardiovascular center studying metabolism in the heart, especially in the context of heart failure. I work with both human and mouse samples.

Fun Fact: This may be unpopular to say in Philly, but I'm a big Pittsburgh sports fan!

Erin SchnellingerAffiliated Graduate Group: Epidemiology and Biostatistics -- Epidemiology

Email Address: eschnel@pennmedicine.upenn.edu

Matriculation Year: 2017

Why did you choose to join the Trainee Advocacy Alliance?

I joined the Trainee Advocacy Alliance to help promote a more inclusive culture at Penn, especially in terms of disability. I aim to support students who may face discrimination, bias, microagression, or (cyber) bullying by helping them navigate Penn's existing resources and advocating for them when those resources are insufficient.

What experiences and strengths do you bring to the Trainee Advocacy Alliance?

As a hard-of-hearing individual, I have personally navigated Student Disability Services (SDS) and have experienced the challenges of requesting and obtaining reasonable accommodations in the graduate training environment. Additionally, I have helped other students navigate Student Intervention Services (SIS), Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS), and Penn's Public Safety departments during difficult situations.

Research Interests and Experiences: I am a fifth-year epidemiology PhD student with methodological research interests in clinical prediction model development and applied research interests in organ transplant allocation.

Fun Fact: I have played piano since kindergarten.

Franklin Staback-RodríguezAffiliated Graduate Group: Immunology

Email Address: fds@pennmedicine.upenn.edu

Why did you choose to join the Trainee Advocacy Alliance?

To help shape STEM into a more inclusive and diverse environment.

Research Interests & Experience: I am a PhD candidate interested in T cell cytoskeletal signaling and migration.

Fun Fact: I collect & barrel age Scotch whiskey.

Gaby RiceAffiliated Graduate Group: Cell and Molecular Biology -- Developmental, Stem Cell, and Regenerative Biology

Email Address: Gabriella.Rice@pennmedicine.upenn.edu

Isaiah RozichAffiliated Graduate Group: Immunology

Email Address: irozich@pennmedicine.upenn.edu

Research Interests & Experience: My research interests include better understanding the relationship between the immune system and the microbiome, and how pathologies can potentially develop when their communication pathways are disrupted.

Jill EisenhauerAffiliated Graduate Group: Cell and Molecular Biology -- Gene Therapy and Vaccines

Email Address: eisej@pennmedicine.upenn.edu

Why did you choose to join the Trainee Advocacy Alliance?

As a Korean-American adoptee, I have never fit into the generalized Asian-American stereotypes placed upon me. Throughout my career, I have been able to share my AAPI narrative and pursue my STEM-related goals with the endless support from my past mentors and professors. I would like to join TAA with the hopes of giving back that same mentorship while creating a safe and inclusive scientific community.

What experiences and strengths do you bring to the Trainee Advocacy Alliance?

In undergrad, I was a member of Presidential Envoys, a student ambassador organization, at the University of North Florida and served as Vice President of Marketing where I focused many social media efforts towards informing students about our organization as an opportunity to network and grow professionally within the Jacksonville community. I also worked as a lab assistant where I was able to mentor and train students from a local community college!

Research Interests & Experience:  Currently, I am interested in understanding ways to design DNA-encoded monoclonal antibodies as a therapeutic for protection against infectious diseases. I am also interested in DNA vaccine design.

Fun Fact: I own 14 berets and counting! All different colors!

Jingru ZhaoAffiliated Graduate Group: Cell and Molecular Biology -- Gene Therapy and Vaccines

Email Address: jingruz@pennmedicine.upenn.edu

Why did you choose to join the Trainee Advocacy Alliance?

I want to help others navigate conflicts and make Penn a more welcoming place for every trainee.

What experiences and strengths do you bring to the Trainee Advocacy Alliance?

I know from personal experiences how frustrating and daunting it can be to reach out for the support needed when discrimination happens, especially in the academic setting/workplace. At Penn, I was able to get the help I needed from my lab and I would like to provide that for others.

Research Interests and Experience: I'm studying the epigenetic mechanisms and 3D genome architecture that promote expression of key oncogenes in triple-negative breast cancer.

Link to Google Scholar page: https://scholar.google.com/citations?user=jkd4TkMAAAAJ&hl=en

Fun Fact: Despite many attempts to learn, I cannot ride a bike.

Jorge AcuñaAffiliated Graduate Group: Cell and Molecular Biology -- Microbiology, Virology, and Parasitology

Email Address: Jorgeac@pennmedicine.upenn.edu

Why did you choose to join the Trainee Advocacy Alliance?

I chose to join because I feel there should be a lending hand and open ears available for anyone seeking help of any kind throughout their time at Penn.

What experiences and strengths do you bring to the Trainee Advocacy Alliance?

I bring previous experience from managing a biology honor society and small research team from my community college and believe I can listen as well as be a guide for those seeking help of any kind.

Research Interests & Experience: My research interests have always revolved around microbiology and infectious diseases, particularly with virology. I have experience working with bacteriophages and mammalian viruses.

Fun Fact: I am a black belt in Tae Kwon Do.

Jose GorbeaAffiliated Graduate Group: Biochemistry and Molecular Biophysics

Email Address: gorbea@pennmedicine.upenn.edu

Research Interests & Experience: My research is focused on understanding the structural biology of gene regulation, specifically how regulatory factors interact with the transcription machinery to enact responses to developmental cues, metabolic stress, and external stimuli. I graduated with a Bachelors in Biology from the University of Puerto Rico - Río Piedras in 2017, and have participated in diverse research experiences, most recently finding my passion in structural biology and gene regulation.

Fun Fact: I enjoy photography as a hobby (shameless self promo: follow @jjg.pics on instagram for some cool images!)

Kahea UeharaAffiliated Graduate Group: Biochemistry and Molecular Physics

Email Address: ueharak@pennmedicine.upenn.edu

Research Interests & Experience: My research interests broadly span the elucidation of biochemical mechanisms underlying metabolic disorders, such as type 2 diabetes, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, and cancer. Throughout my academic career, I have aimed to study metabolic flux, circadian regulation of metabolism, regulation of systemic glucose and lipid homeostasis, and substrate utilization

Fun Fact: My name translates to 'Heavenly Call'.

Katie StrelauAffiliated Graduate Group: Cell and Molecular Biology -- Microbiology, Virology, and Parasitology

Email Address: kstrelau@pennmedicine.upenn.edu

Why did you choose to join the Trainee Advocacy Alliance?

I joined the TAA to (1) Actively address racism & discrimination in my community, (2) Better educate myself on how to be a supportive, cognizant, compassionate, & effective ally of minority & historically oppressed groups, & (3) Leverage the privilege of my whiteness to sensitively communicate with & educate other white people on matters involving minority & historically oppressed groups & facilitate difficult conversations which might not be possible without a privileged mediator/advocate.

What experiences and strengths do you bring to the Trainee Advocacy Alliance?

I strive to listen to others’ experiences, reflect on my own actions, & be open to criticism. I know that as a white person in the US, I inherently have racist and discriminatory beliefs embedded in my psyche. I try to continually identify, confront, & correct those beliefs. I am also committed to apologizing for & learning from the mistakes I make on my anti-racist journey. I believe an open-minded, self-critical (yet self-compassionate) approach is essential to anti-discriminatory endeavors.

Research Interests & Experience: I study SARS-CoV-2 viral transmission in Philadelphia from a microbiological and epidemiological perspective. My work prioritizes understanding transmission within historically oppressed Black and Brown communities in Philadelphia, which have been hit hardest by the pandemic.

Fun Fact: I have a white pit bull named Franklin, after both Rosalind Franklin and Ben Franklin!

Kimberly ApodacaAffiliated Graduate Group: Cell and Molecular Biology -- Gene Therapy and Vaccines

Email Address: kapodaca@pennmedicine.upenn.edu

Kyabeth Torres-RodriguezAffiliated Graduate Group: Cell and Molecular Biology -- Cancer Biology

Email Address: Kyabeth.Torres-Rodriguez@pennmedicine.upenn.edu

Maria Fernanda Carrera RodriguezAffiliated Graduate Group: Cell and Molecular Biology -- Genetics and Epigenetics

Email Address: mariafcr@pennmedicine.upenn.edu

Research Interests & Experience: My lab studies the interception of chromatin biology and cancer. I am interested in the mechanisms of how chromatin modifiers regulate oncogenes and the possibility of targeting them to ameliorate cancer phenotypes.

Fun Fact: I currently own 23 different types of house plants and I'm always looking for more.

Maya HaleAffiliated Graduate Group: Cell and Molecular Biology -- Developmental, Stem Cell, and Regenerative Biology

Email Address: Maya.Hale@pennmedicine.upenn.edu

Why did you choose to join the Trainee Advocacy Alliance?

Having a support system of scientists of color and people who value diversity, who understand the trials of earning a PhD and give a safe space for me to express the unique stresses of being a Black Woman in STEM has been extremely beneficial to my mental health throughout graduate school. I would like to be a part of and expand that support system for other students in BGS.

What experiences and strengths do you bring to the Trainee Advocacy Alliance?

I have experience mentoring students who identify within underrepresented groups in STEM, as well as students who have mental health struggles. I also have a good knowledge of Penn resources for academic, wellness, and discriminatory intervention. Additionally, I will use skills learned in my Psychology degree for empathetic listening and the creation of a safe space.

Research Interests & Experience: My thesis research studies how axon guidance proteins at the growth cone membrane are regulated during midline crossing in the embryonic mammalian spinal cord.

Fun Fact: I once skipped school and flew to Vegas for a tattoo consult, only to get turned down for being too young.

Max KlapholzAffiliated Graduate Group: Cell and Molecular Biology -- Cancer Biology

Email Address: maxklap@pennmedicine.upenn.edu

Why did you choose to join the Trainee Advocacy Alliance?

I think it's important that we show up for each other and maintain our community as a safe, inclusive, and inviting space to do the best we can-- scientifically and humanly.

What experiences and strengths do you bring to the Trainee Advocacy Alliance?

I really care about promoting a positive work culture within Penn BGS and in academia generally.

Research Interests & Experience: I study epigenetic mechanisms that prevent T cells from fighting off viral infections and cancers.

Link to Google Scholar Page

Fun Fact: When I'm not at the lab bench, I enjoy cooking and spending time with friends and family.

Michelle CullyAffiliated Graduate Group: Immunology

Email Address: michelle.cully@pennmedicine.upenn.edu

Research Interests & Experience: Normally bronchus associated lymphoid tissue (BALT) formation is induced by inflammation, but in mice lacking IKKα in lymphatic endothelial cells, BALTs form spontaneously. I aim to elucidate the mechanism of spontaneous BALT formation and determine their impact on immunity.

Robin BaileyAffiliated Graduate Group: Cell and Molecular Biology -- Gene Therapy and Vaccines

Email Address: rojoba@pennmedicine.upenn.edu

Why did you choose to join the Trainee Advocacy Alliance?

Throughout my education I have been supported by programs that provided an oasis on campus for underrepresented minorities navigating the field of science. As a TAA member, I would like to foster similar support systems at Penn.

What experiences and strengths do you bring to the Trainee Advocacy Alliance?

I have mentored fellow students from underrepresented minorities in science and have experience planning community service events that encouraged peers to not only care for but also interact with the members of our community.

Research Interests & Experience: My research focuses on using gene therapy to restore vision in individuals with inherited retinal diseases and blindness. My current focus is validating a treatment for gyrate atrophy and investigating photoreceptor regeneration.

Fun Fact: I am Chamorro (the indigenous people of Guam).

Sarah GagnonAffiliated Graduate Group: Cell and Molecular Biology -- Developmental, Stem Cell, and Regenerative Biology

Email Address: sgagnon@pennmedicine.upenn.edu

Affiliated Graduate Group: Cell and Molecular Biology -- Genetics and Epigenetics

Email Address: trcater@pennmedicine.upenn.edu

Vanessa FleitesAffiliated Graduate Group: Neuroscience

Email Address: fleitesv@pennmedicine.upenn.edu

Research Interests & Experience: My research investigates the molecular underpinnings in drug abuse liability in Mariella De Biasi's lab. Specifically, I am interested in understanding the long-term consequences of maternal in-utero opioid use on offspring behavior. In addition, I have worked in ORDT for 1.5 years, first as a fellow, and then transitioned to lead fellow for SUIP 2021.

Fun Fact: I love trying new breakfast places and drinking coffee (especially Cuban cafesito).

TAA Members - Post-doctoral Fellows

Courtney MarshallAffiliation: Pathology and Laboratory Medicine

Email Address: Courtney.Marshall2@pennmedicine.upenn.edu

Research Interests & Experiences: I graduated with a BS in psychology from Davidson College and a PhD in neuroscience from Drexel University. I started as a postdoc at Penn in 2018 in Dr. Virginia Lee's lab, where I study the underlying pathological mechanisms of Alzheimer's Disease.

Fun Fact: I visited 5 national parks in two weeks.