Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania
Kolson Lab
Lab Members
The PI (aka. The Captain)

Dr. Dennis Kolson
Dr. Dennis Kolson, M.D.-Ph.D.

Graduate Students
Alexander Gill
Alexander Gill, B.S.
MD/PhD Candidate, Neuroscience Graduate Group

Alex is a third year graduate student who transitioned into the PhD phase of his training after completing the first two years of medical school. His thesis project in the lab involves studying the role of the sentinel, detoxifying enzyme heme oxygenease-1 (HO-1) in HIV-associated neurocognitive disorders (HAND), particularly with respect to macrophage-mediated neurodegeneration. Outside of lab, Alex enjoys cooking and mixology, traveling, hiking and exploring national parks, and the performing arts.

B.S. - Case Western Reserve University, 2009, Biochemistry
B.S. - Case Western Reserve University, 2009, Biology

Colleen Kovacsics
Colleen Kovacsics, B.S.
PhD Candidate, Neuroscience Graduate Group

Colleen is a 5th year graduate student in the lab. Her research is focused on the effects of HIV-relevant immune activation in astrocytes. Colleen's non-science interests include reality TV, anything involving a penguin, french bulldogs, and daschunds.

B.S. - The Pennsylvania State University, 2007, Biology

Research Specialists
Lorraine Kolson
Lorraine Kolson, B.S.
Lab Manager, Research Specialist

Lorraine is the lab manager and keeps busy with RT Assays, MAP2 ELISAs, and tissue culture. In her spare time she enjoys sleeping during lab meetings and being sarcastic with graduate students. And she makes a mean lemon curd.

B.S. - University of Pittsburgh, 1985, Computer Science
B.S. - University of Pittsburgh, 1975, Chemistry

Patricia Vance
Patricia Vance, B.S., M.S.
Research Specialist

Pat has worked in the Kolson lab since January, 2008, on projects involving HIV infection of human macrophages and T cells. Her focus is to complete whatever tasks are given to her by Dr. Kolson. Pat has enjoyed many years and thousands of miles of travel by bicycle and sailboat. She has published three books and numerous magazine articles about those experiences.

M.S. - Rutgers, The State University, Microbiology/Immunology
B.S. - St Cloud State University, Biology

Former Members of the Lab
Suren Ambegaokar
Suren Ambegaokar, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor, Ohio Wesleyan University

Suren joined the Kolson Lab in February 2012 as an NINDS/Penn Fellow in Neurovirology. His projects included studying the association of a polymorphism in the HO-1 promoter with HIV Associated Neurocognitive Disorders (HAND) and characterizing the RNA expression profile of HO-1 in the brains of patients with HAND. Previous to joiningthis lab, Suren worked in the neurodegeneration field for over 10 years, including work with Alzheimer's patient brain tissue and Alzheimer's mouse models, and several Drosophila models of neurodegeneration. In his own lab at Ohio Wesleyan University, his research focuses on developing Drosophila models of neuroimmunology, and studying RNA & RNA-associated proteins (i.e. TDP-43 and hnRNP K) in neurodegeneration. He loves the Pacific Ocean and California sports teams - he has a soft spot for the Dodgers, the Ducks (NHL), and UCLA, but will always root for the Oakland A's, the Raiders, and for Cal no matter how desperately bad they are that year.

Assisstant Professor - Dept. of Botany/Microbiology, Ohio Wesleyan University, 2014-Present
Post-Doc Fellow - University of Pennsylvania, 2012-2014, Neurology (Advisor: Dennis Kolson)
Post-Doc Fellow - University of Texas Medical Branch, 2009-2011, Neurology (Advisor: George Jackson)
Ph.D. - University of California, Los Angeles, 2009, Neuroscience (Advisor: George Jackson)
Research Associate - University of California, Los Angeles, 2003-2004, Neurology (Advisor: Greg Cole)
B.A. - University of California, Berkeley, 2003, Molecular & Cell Biology
B.A. - University of California, Berkeley, 2003, Film Studies

Stephanie Cross
Stephanie Cross, M.D., Ph.D.
Psychiatry Resident, University of Pennsylvania

Stephanie completed her thesis in the Kolson lab, earning herself a PhD in Neuroscience in 2011. Her thesis work was focused on studying adaptive stress responses in HIV-infected macrophages; specifically, she investigated the role of the antioxidant response and the unfolded protein response on HIV replication and macrophage-mediated neurotoxicity. She is currently in the midst of her psychiatry residency at the University of Pennsylvania and is gearing up to get back into some research time as part of the Clinical Research Scholars Program (CRSP). Stephanie enjoys happy hours, taking her dog Luna-bug to the dog park, Tetris (the best game ever invented), and sleeping in her (limited) free time.

Psychiatry Resident - University of Pennsylvania, 2013-Present
M.D. - University of Pennsylvania, 2013
Ph.D. - University of Pennsylvania, 2011, Neuroscience (Advisor: Dennis Kolson)
B.A. - Swarthmore College, 2004, Biology

Denise Cook
Denise Cook, Ph.D.
Post-Doctoral Scholar, Tufts University

Denise completed her thesis work in the Kolson lab, earning herself a PhD in 2012. Her project in the lab involved looking at the mechanism of various drugs in reducing HIV=mediated neurotoxicity. Her work investigating NMDA receptor modulation by the neuropeptide apelin and its implications for excitotoxicity appears in The Journal of Neurochemistry (118: 1113-1123). Denise also enjoys undergraduate teaching, and looks forward to a career with a strong emphasis on both teaching and research. Denise is currently a Post-doctoral schollar as part of the TEACRS Program at Tufts University Sackler School of Graduate Biomedical Sciences where she teaches upper level courses on the Molecular Basis of Disease at UMass - Boston.

Post-doctoral associate- Tufts University, TEACRS program, 2014-Present
Ph.D. - University of Pennsylvania, 2012, Neuroscience
B.A. - Case Western Reserve University, 2006, Biology & Psychology

Lauren O'Donnell
Lauren O'Donnell, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor, Duquesne University

Lauren was Dennis's first graduate student, completing her PhD in Cell and Molecular Biology in 2006. While in the lab, Lauren studied the role of NMDA receptor subtypes in HIV-mediated neurotoxicity. After a postdoc with Glenn Rall at Fox Chase Cancer Center, Lauren is now an Assistant Professor in the Pharmacology Department at Duquesne University with a recently funded R3 NIH grant. There, she studies the effects of the anti-viral immune response on brain development, and tries to impart all of the life lessons that Dennis taught her to her own students. Most important of these lessons is to state "get 'er done" whenever entering or leaving a room, with little explanation beyond that.