Current Students


Katie Alemany (she/her)
T32 Appointee
Moore Lab

BS in Biology, Pennsylvania State University

Rotation Labs: Rytis Prekeris, Eszter Vladar, Jeff Moore

Research: I joined this program with a passion for cell biology and a drive to learn more about it. Each of my rotations were in different areas of focus but each touched on big biological concepts and processes. My thesis tests the model that cells create programs for regulating microtubule dynamics based on the expression of tubulin genes or isotypes, post-translational modifications, and motor proteins that are regulated by these differences and modulate microtubule dynamics


About Me: I am originally from California but moved to Colorado with my family before college. Coming back to be close to family was an easy decision and now I can spend time with them, my husband, and my dog Sky.


Career Goals: My goal is to become a professor at an institution with a strong research and teaching mission. After I graduated from Penn State with a degree in Biology, I joined an entomology lab as a PRA to gain more experience in scientific research. Now in graduate school, I am doing what I can to prepare myself to be a good mentor and professor. CSD is a great program for developing these skills from program update talks to making lectures for courses to taking workshops for new techniques.


Adam Almeida (he/him)
Macklin Lab


BS & MS in Biochemistry, Colorado State University

Rotation Labs: Julie Siegenthaler, Ethan Hughes, Wendy Macklin


Research: Oligodendrocytes are a glial cell type in the central nervous system (CNS) that wraps specialized membrane around axons to form structures called myelin sheaths. Myelin sheaths help to modulate the conduction velocity of neuronal action potentials and is therefore critical for achieving the firing patterns necessary to facilitate communication across the CNS. My research is dissecting the underlying mechanisms regulating the number of myelin sheaths made by an individual oligodendrocyte. Using the zebrafish model system, I am quantifying the dynamics of myelin sheath formation and maintenance by combining extensive in vivo time-lapse and longitudinal imaging of individually labeled oligodendrocytes in the spinal cord.


About me: I am a Colorado Native that loves hanging out with family and friends and training the martial art of jiu jitsu.


Amy Briggs (she/her)

DeGregori Lab



BS in Biotechnology, California State University San Marcos

Rotation Labs: Eszter Vladar, Melanie Koenigshoff, Xiao-Jing Wang, James DeGregori


Research: My project is focused on studying the relationship between autophagy and oncogenesis through the decline of tissue maintenance and increase in positive selection of potentially harmful clones in the changing microenvironment. I hope to parse out the mechanism of the role autophagy is playing in this. Tools that I typically use to answer my questions are mouse models coupled with tissue culturing and molecular techniques. 

About Me: I was born and raised in San Diego, CA and now I have traded the ocean for the mountains! When I am not in lab I enjoy backpacking, biking and reading. I am also involved with SACNAS in the CU Anschutz chapter where I hope to create a lively community and engaging outreach opportunities. 


Elliott Brooks (he/him)
Sussel Lab

BS in Biology, University of Oregon

Rotation Labs: Chad Pearson, Lori Sussel, Katie Fantauzzo


Research: I study how the transcription factor NKX2.2 maintains pancreatic alpha cell identity and how its function differs between alpha and beta cells. By understanding the molecular mechanism of NKX2.2 (ie where it binds DNA, what genes does it transcriptionally regulate, what other proteins it interacts with) I can make conclusions about how identity is maintained but also compare mechanisms between different cell types. During my rotation in Dr. Sussel's lab I was inspired to learn how the same transcription factor can work differently in different cell types. The collaborative environment of CSD and at the Barbara Davis Center for Childhood Diabetes have been highlights and a continuing force during my time at CU Anschutz.


About Me: Being from Oregon stoked my love for the outdoors very early and I have carried on my adventures in the Colorado Rockies. I also have been an active musician and look forward to playing out more as COVID eases up. Grad School is a challenging path and I have found that my labmates, PhD mentor and my partner have all been crucial support allies.


Career Goals: I started my lab career in the lab of Dr. Charles Kimmel at the UO studying the role of Mef2ca in zebrafish craniofacial development. I continued that research when I came to colorado to help Dr. Jamie Nichols start his zebrafish lab at CU Anschutz. During my graduate studies I would like to master many molecular and in vivo techniques, expand my science communication skills and increase my analytical and bioinformatic toolbox. After my time at CSD I would like to pursuit work in the sciences that allow me to use informatics analysis to further our understanding of biology and the molecular realm. CSD has my back on every aspect of my short and long term goals by providing relevant classes, facilitating mentorship opportunities and cultivating a supportive environment.


Yuzhu Cheng (she/her)

BA in Molecular Biology, Colorado College

About Me: I was born in Tianjin China, grew up in Suzhou China until the end of primary school. After that, I studied in international schools in Singapore for six years prior to coming to the U.S. I attended Colorado College for my undergraduate study, where I acquired my passion for developmental and RNA biology. I like to sketch random things or go out for a walk or hike in my free time. 


Career Goals: For my undergraduate degree, I majored in Molecular Biology and minored in Biochemistry. During my time at Colorado College, I took many lab-intensive courses and conducted an independent thesis. I found myself intrigued by molecular and genetic mechanisms and enjoyed the process of analyzing and solving questions. Although I do not have a firm idea of my career, I am currently looking forward to academic research. I aim to acquire the necessary communication and research skills to create and produce reliable research.


Research Interests: My undergraduate research was on an understudied RNA Binding Protein (RBP) but was learned to disrupt dendrite morphogenesis in C. elegans. I worked in Dr. Darrell Killian's developmental neurobiology lab and used CRISPR Cas9 to knock out the RBP. The homozygous mutants were found with sterility; thus, I further characterized its' role in gonad development. This shaped my general interest in developmental biology and RNA binding protein. I am interested in the broad topic of genetic regulatory mechanisms, such as the function and regulation of RNA subtypes in developmental processes, especially in the nervous system.

Collet_ErikErik Collet (he/him)


BS in Biology, St. Olaf College


About Me: I grew up in Des Moines, Iowa and went to St. Olaf College in Minnesota. I'm a huge sci-fi nerd, in my free time I enjoy watching movies and exploring the Colorado wilderness.
Research: I'm a cell biologist at heart, I love any research which gets into the nitty-gritty of cellular processes and mechanisms. 
Career Goals: While I'm yet to decide on a specific field or even area of study, as long as I end up researching and working in a lab I'll be happy!


Devon Conradson (he/him)
BS in Biochemistry Molecular Biology, Lewis & Clark College

About Me: I've moved around a lot throughout my life. I grew up in Los Alamos, New Mexico, then moved to France during my senior year of high school with my folks. I then went to undergrad at Lewis and Clark College in Portland, OR; then moved to the Bay Area where I worked in a lab in Stanford's Neurosurgery department for two years before attending graduate school. My folks and I owned rats as pets since I was 10 years old, but the pet I want most now is a ferret.

Career Goals: To do lots and lots of science and make discoveries! Whether that'll be in academia or tech. is still unclear; however, I know I want to lead scientific projects and lab groups to make substantial discoveries. I also want to inspire others like me (queer/POC) to also pursue careers in STEM/STEAM.

Research Interests: Regenerative medicine and stem cell biology are my main fields of interest. Obviously, there's a lot of overlap with other fields within these; however, the potential of these fields to revolutionize scientific knowledge and medicine is boundless.


John DeSisto (he/him)
Green Lab

BS in Physics, BS in Geophysics, University of Utah
MS in Geophysics, University of Utah
JD, Denver University

Rotation Labs: Julie Siegenthaler, Adam Green


Research: I study chromatin biology, specifically the role of the arginine methyltransferase PRMT5 in histone mutant pediatric brain cancer. During rotations, a combination of a single-cell RNA-Seq project studying embryonic meninges and a project on epigenetic drivers of pediatric brain cancer helped me to identify my area of research interest.


About Me: I'm a Colorado native and when not in the lab like to bicycle, either on the road or gravel. I enjoy working hard with breaks to recharge and pursue many outside interests.


Mikaela Follmer (she/her)
BS in Biology & Religious Studies, Susquehanna University

About Me: I’m originally from a small town in Pennsylvania (think public high school 40 person graduating class small). I attended Susquehanna University for my bachelors degree in Biology with a second major in Religious Studies, my areas of focus were Developmental Biology and Eastern Religions. After graduating I moved to State College, PA and worked as a research technologist in the Lindner Lab at Penn State. There I studied malaria and cared for a few thousand mosquitoes for the lab. When I’m not thinking about science I spend my time mountain biking, backpacking, and playing with my cat- Dr. Anthony Meowci.


Career Goals: I’ve always been passionate about science and political issues, because of this choosing a career was challenging, until I discovered science policy. My ultimate goal is to use my understanding of scientific research to influence policy decisions and create a better relationship between important scientific work and public comprehension.  


Maria Hansen (she/her)

Sussel Lab

BS in Biology, University of Copenhagen
MS in Human Biology, University of Copenhagen

Rotation Labs: James DeGregori, Richard Benninger, Lori Sussel


Research: My main passion is type 1 diabetes research. In the Sussel lab, we are interested in understanding the transcriptional networks regulating pancreatic development and function. Using human embryonic stem cells (hESCs) as a model system, I study the function of Groucho co-repressors during human pancreatic development. Additionally, I’m interested in understanding the autoimmune attack of the pancreatic beta cells in type 1 diabetes. I utilize a combination of short-read and long-read RNA sequencing to identify splice variants of beta cell genes, which could potentially give rise to neo-epitopes in the type 1 diabetic pancreas.  


About me: I am originally from Denmark but moved to Colorado in 2018. I immediately fell in love with the mountains, and I now spend most of my spare time climbing and hiking. I have become somewhat obsessed with climbing 14ers, and I hope to climb all of them over the next couple of years. I am type 1 diabetic myself, which adds an additional layer of complexity to outdoor adventures. I would love to someday work on increasing accessibility to the outdoors (especially mountaineering) for people with chronic diseases.


Career goals: I earned my bachelor’s degree in biology and my master’s degree in human biology at University of Copenhagen. I wrote my master’s thesis in the Serup lab at Novo Nordisk Foundation Center for Stem Cell Biology, where I worked on characterizing the pancreatic progenitor stage during directed differentiation of hESCs into pancreatic beta cells. I moved to Colorado and joined the Russ lab at Anschutz in 2018, where I continued to work on the generation of stem cell-derived beta-like cells.   


In addition to understanding the transcriptional programs driving pancreatic development, and understanding the autoimmune pathogenesis of type 1 diabetes, I am passionate about scientific communication. During graduate school, I hope to improve my scientific communication skills and learn how to convey complex scientific information to a much broader audience. I am a firm believer that we need to narrow the gap between scientists and society in order to build public trust in science.


Trevor Isner

Barlow Lab

Rotation Labs: Emily Bates, Linda Barlow, Santos Franco


Bryan Johnson (he/him)
DeGregori Lab


B.S. Evolutionary Biology, University of Iowa,
M.S. Biology, University of Northern Colorado

Rotation Labs: Linda Barlow, James DeGregori, Rytis Prekeris


Research Statement: I am interested in understanding the role the tumor microenvironment plays in regulating metastatic outgrowth of dormant cancer cells. Specifically, how the tumor microenvironment changes with age or in response to insults like viral infection to facilitate the switch from dormant cancer cells to overt metastatic growth.


About me: I was born and raised in Iowa. When I’m not in the lab I enjoy doing Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and being outdoors. Since moving to Colorado, I have been learning how to fly fish.


Hannah Jones (she/her)

Siegenthaler Lab

B.S. Molecular and Cellular Biology, Johns Hopkins University

Rotation Labs: Julie Siegenthaler, Chad Pearson, Linda Barlow


Research: I am fascinated by the mechanisms underlying development of the vasculature in the central nervous system (CNS) and the associated cell types that create a unique niche within the brain. My project in the Siegenthaler Lab focuses on characterizing a subset of fibroblasts that reside on CNS vasculature called perivascular fibroblasts (PVFs). Following CNS injury, PVFs contribute to fibrotic scar formation and secrete factors that coordinate regeneration. However, the developmental origins and homeostatic functions of PVFs are unknown. My goal is to identify the mechanisms underlying recruitment of PVFs to the vasculature during development and use this knowledge to create model systems to study their role in CNS homeostasis and after injury.


About Me: I’m an East-coast transplant; I do miss the ocean, but I can’t complain about Colorado’s majestic mountains! In my spare time you can find me skiing, biking, rock climbing, or hiking. I also enjoy cooking delicious meals, trying new beer, cross-stitching, listening to podcasts, and spending quality time with my partner, Mark, and our cat, Juniper. Beyond lab and my hobbies, I participate in science outreach by volunteering with the Denver Metro Regional Science & Engineering Fair and coordinating outreach activities with Project Bridge.


Career Goals: My ultimate goal is to become a research professor with my own lab and with my own students to teach and mentor. CSD has done a great job in preparing me for this! Within the program, there are multiple opportunities to teach and be involved with mentorship. I’ve developed lectures for CSD courses, I’m a student representative on the CSD curriculum committee, and I am a co-director of the student-run Journal Club. I’ve also had the opportunity to mentor undergraduate & master’s students within my lab and gain formal mentorship training through CSD’s Developing Scholars program. With the support of the program, my thesis mentor, and my thesis committee, I feel thoroughly prepared for the next stop in my career-- obtaining a postdoc position!


Sol (Sophia) Kim (she/her)

BS in Biology, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

About Me: I have been traveling all my life--from Japan to South Korea, Virginia, North Carolina, Maryland and now here in Colorado. I went to UNC Chapel Hill for my undergraduate degree and worked as a research technician before coming to Anschutz. During my free time, I am mostly indoors--reading fiction, cooking/baking, working on arts and crafts--but I also love solo trips and have been taking advantage of beautiful Colorado weather to go on hikes.

Career Goals: Great question, I am still undecided. But one thing I do know is that I absolutely love being in a lab, wet or dry, and I wish to continue to work as a research scientist studying brains!


Research Interests: One of my research interests is the cross-talk between the CNS and immune system and I would like to be involved in both basic science and translational aspects of the topic.


Samantha Landgrave (she/her)

TOTTS TL1 Pre-doctoral Award
Zuscik Lab
BS in Biochemistry, California State University San Marcos

Rotation Labs: Richard Benninger, Kristen Boyle, Mike Zuscik


Research: My doctoral training research interest involves developing a comprehensive understanding of how parathyroid hormone-related peptide (PTHrP) and type I parathyroid hormone receptor (PTHR1) pathways change and contribute to the development of posttraumatic osteoarthritis.


About Me: I am originally from San Diego, CA. When I am not in lab I love to be outdoors. Colorado has plenty of outdoor activities and things to explore. My support system through graduate school is my family and friends. With the pandemic, it has become very important to me to balance my work life balance to maintain my mental health.

Moran_HannahHannah Moran (she/her)
T32 Appointee
Mosimann Lab
BS in Molecular and Cellular Biology, BA in Biochemistry, University of Arizona

Rotation Labs: Emily Bates, Katie Fantauzzo, Christian Mosimann


Research: In the Mosimann lab, I investigate early heart development and cell fate commitment to cardiac lineages from the uncommitted mesoderm in zebrafish. My project focuses on how different structures of the vertebrate heart acquire their fates and where their progenitor populations come from, and how these processes can go wrong in congenital disease. My favorite resources within CSD are the training courses in grant writing and critical analysis of literature. Grant writing can be intimidating, but having a strong foundation and ample resources gained from these courses makes the process much more approachable and less nerve-wracking. I love that CSD gives me the opportunity to explore my research passions while also supporting my personal and professional goals.


About Me: When I'm not in the lab, I love to go hiking and camping, as well as explore the breweries that Colorado has to offer. I am originally from Arizona, so I love experiencing all the seasons while still soaking in lots of sunshine! My cohort has been the best support system ever since interview weekend. Going through classes and rotations together was challenging, but being able to lean on each other made the transition to graduate school much easier. I serve on the Student Executive Committee as a part of CSD Voices, which allows students to communicate feedback to the program provides students with a way to express their questions or concerns whenever they arise. Additionally, I work with the Denver Metro Regional Science and Engineering Fair on the Mentorship and Outreach Team to make the science fair accessible and exciting for students of all backgrounds in the Denver area.


Career Goals: I received by Bachelors of Science in Molecular and Cellular Biology and my Bachelors of Arts in Biochemistry at the University of Arizona. I transitioned straight from undergrad to graduate school, but took time to travel before I started in the CSD program. My goal in graduate school is to expand our current understanding of the biological processes that contribute to congenital diseases, while also gaining skills in mentorship, grant writing and outreach to continue my path to becoming a fully independent scientist. I am extremely passionate about improving the landscape of academia for both current and future academics, and I am grateful that CSD supports me in these endeavors through both courses and personal and professional support.

Nicole Moss_Headshot

Nicole Moss (she/her)

NIH F31, RBI RNA Scholar
Sussel Lab

BS in Biology, University of Oregon
MS in Biology, University of Oregon

Rotation Labs: Lori Sussel, Jamie Nichols, Linda Barlow


Research: I am fundamentally interested in how changes at the level of mRNAs can modify cellular functions. My work in the Sussel lab combines molecular and bioinformatic approaches to examine alternative splicing changes regulated by Rbfox2 in the pancreatic β cell. Through this work I will uncover both the conserved and novel molecular events regulated by Rbfox2 and their contribution to β cell physiological and pathophysiological processes.


About Me: Before joining CSD I taught high school Biology in Bridgeport, CT as a member of Teach For America and earned a master’s in Biology at the Oregon Institute of Marine Biology in Charleston, OR.


Kyle Northington (he/him)
NSF GRFP Honorable Mention; T32 Appointee
Bates Lab

BS Biological Sciences, Molecular and Cellular Biology Concentration

Rotation Labs: Emily Bates, Julie Siegenthaler, Kelly Sullivan


About Me: Hi, my name is Kyle and I am originally from California! I grew up in a really small town near Yosemite where I had amazing access to hiking and skiing. I moved to San Diego for college where I fell in love with biology. When I'm not in lab I love to go to the movies and visit the Denver Botanic Gardens. I am also involved with the LGBTQ+ Hub on the Anschutz campus, where I meet monthly for the Governance and Leadership Committee to provide input on the Hub's operations and planned activities.


Research: I research the role of the microtubule cytoskeleton in brain development. I am specifically interested in how microtubules inside of neurons are controlled when exposed to developmental guidance cues. Our floor has two incredible confocal microscopes that make imaging neurons both exciting and fun! With two of these microscopes it is so much easier to find time to image your samples. My original interest was in neuroscience, but after rotating in Dr. Emily Bates' lab I was introduced to developmental biology. Now in my project I can combine my love for the brain with developmental and cellular biology.


Career Goals: I'm still thinking hard about my career goals! During my undergraduate education I worked for a year at Thermo Fisher Scientific in Carlsbad, CA. This was great exposure to a career in biotech, and I could see myself returning to that field. However, I do love bench science and mentoring students so I could envision myself as a PI at a primarily undergraduate institution. While we don't have undergraduate students on this campus CSD does offer unique teaching opportunities for students, and during the summer we bring undergraduate students into labs where we can get mentorship opportunities.


Sylvia Nunez (she/her)
Sagerstrom Lab

BS in Integrative Biology, University of Illinois

Rotation Labs: Katie Fantauzzo, Stephen Santoro, Santos Franco, Charles Sagerstrom


Research: Developmental biology is one of my main research interests. I am currently studying cell fate decisions at the midbrain-hindbrain boundary in zebrafish.

About Me: I was born and raised in the Windy City (Chicago, IL), and went to the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign for my undergraduate degree where I discovered my passion for biological research. When not in the lab, I love solo traveling, visiting museums, going to concerts, and seeing live theater. 

Career Goals: I am still considering all my options to pursue my research interests after graduate school in an academic or industry setting. Scientific outreach is another passion of mine, and so I look forward to becoming more involved in these areas going into my second year!

Ochoa_Olmos_OmarOmar Ochoa Olmos (he/him)
Brzezinski Lab 

About Me: I am originally from Mexico City and my native language is Spanish. I graduated from the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM) with a B.S. in Biology in 2008, and later earned a M.S. in Biochemistry in 2012. Initially, I collaborated with Dr. Elena Basiuk and Dr. Tzvetanka Drimitrova developing novel DNA-delivery technologies based on carbon nanotubes to improve plant cell transformation. Before starting my PhD studies, I received teaching training in Japan at the Japan Foundation Japanese-Language Institute, Urawa. After returning to Mexico, I became a science and language instructor at the Monterrey Institute of Technology and Higher Education. 

Research Goals: In 2020, I joined the Brzezinski Lab to investigate the gene regulatory network involved in cone photoreceptor specification using CRISPR/Cas9 technologies in the mouse and retinal human organoid models. My goal is to provide new insights on how to treat retinal degenerative diseases that cause color blindness by instructing progenitor cells to adopt cone identity and potentiate the production of cones.


Yunus Ozekin (he/him)

Bates Lab


BS in Biomedical Sciences, Colorado State University

MS in Assisted Reproductive Technologies, Colorado State University 

Rotation Labs: Emily Bates, Jamie Nichols, Trevor Williams


Research: My thesis work in the lab of Dr. Emily Bates focuses on understanding how cells use electrical signals to control developmental signaling to properly form a face. Although not traditionally thought of as an excitable tissue, the developing craniofacial complex is susceptible to ion channel mutations in organisms from humans to mice to frogs. My project focuses on deciphering how a specific potassium channel, Kir2.1, intersects with Bone Morphogenetic Protein (BMP) signaling to mediate formation of the craniofacial skeleton, with a particular interest on palatal development.
About Me: I am from Colorado through and through. I grew up just down the road in Aurora, CO. I completed my undergraduate and masters degrees at Colorado State University in Fort Collins, CO. In my free time I enjoy exploring the great outdoors, fishing, painting, and traveling.


Tina Piarowski (she/her)

T32 Appointee; NSF-GRFP Honorable Mention
Barlow Lab

BS Genetics, Cellular and Developmental Biology, Arizona State University

Rotation Labs: Linda Barlow, Melanie Koenigshoff, Sujatha Jagannathan


Research: My research focuses on the role of receptor tyrosine kinases in the taste system, particularly the role of c-Kit it sweet-sensing cells. Using lingual organoids as a model system I found that inhibiting c-Kit leads to a decrease in sweet cell markers. This lead me to my hypothesis that c-Kit is necessary for the differentiation or survival of sweet sensing cells. My thesis work will aim to unravel this relationship using a combination of in vitro organoid models and in vivo work. I was inspired to join the Barlow lab because the sense of taste is central to the human experience, and understanding the cellular and molecular mechanisms mediating taste could help improve the quality of life of people who have lost their sense of taste due to disease or drug treatments.


About Me: In my free time I enjoy hiking, biking, figure skating and hanging out with my cat. I grew up in the suburbs of Chicago before moving to Phoenix for college. After graduating I moved to Denver for graduate school in the CSD program, where I have grown close with my classmates and colleagues. Like many others in CSD, I prioritize work/life balance and usually spend my weekends relaxing or exploring Colorado!


Career Goals: I attended Arizona State University for my undergraduate degree, where I majored in Genetics, Cellular and Developmental Biology with minors in French and Global Health. I took a gap semester after graduating to work as a PRA, which was a great reset that re-energized me before heading to graduate school. During graduate school my goals are to get practice presenting my work to different audiences as well as gain experience mentoring students at the bench. CSD offers many opportunities for students to teach and present, and I also worked with our program director Jeff Moore to create the Developing Scholars mentorship program. I'm very excited about all the opportunities within CSD that can prepare students for a wide variety of careers.


Ian Purvis (he/him)
Brzezinski Lab

B.S. in Natural Sciences, Xavier University

Rotation Labs: Ethan Hughes, Rajeev Vibhakar, Joe Brzezinski


Research Statement: In the Brzezinski lab, I am researching vertebrate retinal development. Specifically, I am using the mouse retina as a model to understand how Otx2, a gene necessary for retinal development, is regulated during the development and maturation of different cell types within the retina. Using in vivo and ex vivo models along with CRISPR technology, I am teasing out mechanisms mediated by non-coding regions of DNA that regulate the expression of this gene across the developing retina.


About Me: Originally from Peoria, IL, I received my Bachelor’s of Science from Xavier University. I then worked for 2 years at the University of Illinois College of Medicine at Peoria conducting research on the progression of brain tumors. While in the CSD program, I plan on improving my skills communicating scientific data and conclusions, enhancing my analytical skills while gaining more experience mentoring students.


Addison Rains (she/her)

BS in Biology, Birmingham - Southern College

About Me: I was born and raised in a small Alabama town. I earned my BS in Biology from Birmingham-Southern College, where I first discovered my passion for research. In undergrad, I studied membrane trafficking mechanisms in fission yeast, during this time I became fascinated with utilizing fluorescent microscopy to probe questions of cellular dynamics. After graduation, I worked for four years as a technician at UAB. It was there I developed a love for developmental biology.


Research Interest: In my graduate studies, I want to focus on the intersection of my two research passions: cellular dynamics and development. I am most curious about how specific cellular processes contribute to development. Over the course of my studies, I intend to gain experience mentoring and teaching, so that I can help guide other young scientists as I have been over the years.


Madison Rogers (she/her)

NSF-GRFP Honorable Mention, NIH F31
Fantauzzo Lab

BS in Biology, Duke University

Rotation Labs: Katherine Fantauzzo, Emily Bates, Julie Siegenthaler


Research: I study how biological specificity is defined through cellular signaling via Receptor Tyrosine Kinases during craniofacial development. I love the supportive culture of the Department of Craniofacial Biology here at Anschutz and appreciate all of the insight from students and faculty into my research project!


About Me: I am originally from Colorado, moved away during college, and moved back for grad school. I love Colorado and everything about it! In my free time, I enjoy skiing, hiking, exercising, trying new restaurants, and enjoying all Colorado has to offer. I also love to travel with my family. At Anschutz, I am on several committees, including the Graduate Advisory Committee and the Career Development Advisory Committee, where I enjoy helping students whose position I have been in previously. 


Career Goals: I went to undergrad at Duke University where I majored in biology and minored in chemistry and statistics. Going into undergrad, I knew I wanted to be involved in research, but I didn't know what topics I was most interested in. Performing research through various internships (including one through the Gates Center at Anschutz) helped me find my interest in cell signaling and developmental biology. Thus, I matriculated to CSD following my graduation from Duke in 2017. Throughout graduate school, I have developed a love for science writing, and I aspire to achieve a career in scientific writing or medical writing after I graduate. CSD has been very supportive of this goal and has provided me with opportunities to gain further writing skills, particularly through the Advanced Writing Workshop course that a group of students and I co-developed.


Chris Schaaf (he/him)
T32 Appointee
Sussel Lab

Rotation Labs: Lori Sussel, Richard Benninger, Olivia Rissland


Research: Type 1 diabetes is my primary research interest. Outside of the lab I like to attend live music, play disc golf/go hiking with my dog, and love watching movies.


About Me: I attended Colorado Mesa University for my undergraduate degree. During grad school I want to develop the tools and skills to be able to pursue my own scientific questions. After grad school, I plan to continue focusing my research on type 1 diabetes, although what form that will take is undecided.


Wolf Schleicher (he/him)

T32 Appointee
Pietras & DeGregori Labs

BS in Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology and Neuroscience

Rotation Labs: James DeGregori, Eric Pietras, Kunhua Song

Research: My initial research project aims to understand whether and how metabolism and the NLRP3/IL-1beta axis are linked to facilitate selective hematopoietic stem and progenitor cell (HSPC) expansion in clonal hematopoiesis. Tet2- and Dnmt3a-deficiency are the two most common mutations in clonal hematopoiesis, and they result in similar phenotypes of selective HSPC expansion. Previous work in the Pietras Lab has identified a potential link between these two cellular processes in Tet2-deficient mice, so my current work will explore this same link in Dnmt3a-deficient mice.

About Me: I consider myself to be a bit of a pop-culture geek, so many of my interests outside of the lab involve playing tabletop games with friends, marathoning Tolkien and Marvel movies, and volunteering with local conventions (when time allows). However, as I've lived in Colorado my whole life, I also love hiking and camping in the mountains. My support system through graduate school is mainly comprised of close friends (with which I play the aforementioned games) and my significant other. As such, I try to maintain a good work/life balance to afford me time with the people I care about, but some weeks are more successful than others. Currently I am not involved in any school/community activities, but as I transition into my second year, I will hopefully get more engaged with CSD program activities.

Career Goals: My research interests are in stem cell biology and aging, and how these focuses provide a unique perspective of regenerative medicine. As such, my goals during graduate school are to develop an expertise in stem cell biology and aging-associated morbidity. While my current goal after graduate school is to pursue a leadership position in the biotech industry, I may also pursue a career in the academic setting. The diversity of training faculty in CSD provides me the opportunity to receive mentorship that will cater to these career goals, preparing me for either industry or academia. Moreover, CSD workshops, journal clubs, and seminars provide opportunities to collaboratively develop skills, ideas, and interests to help shape my PhD training.



Ali Shilleh (he/him)
Russ Lab

B.S in Biochemistry at the University of Massachusetts Boston, Boston, MA,

M.S in Nutrition and Biomedicine at the Technical University of Munich, Munich, Germany.

Rotation Labs: Bruce Appel, Lori Sussel, Holger Russ


Research: The Russ lab is interested in studying the mechanisms driving the development of diabetes in humans. My project focuses on determining the fate of primary human beta cells and stem cell derived beta-like cells (sBC) upon transplantation. These studies are geared toward improving sBC survival in vivo and promote cell therapy for T1D treatment.   


About me: I was born in Serbia and grew up in Ramallah, Palestine. I love to ski, rock climb, hike, run, walk my dog (Crni) and travel. Currently, my wife and I are expecting a third member (a healthy girl) to our family in October 2021.


Career goals: I completed my B.S in biochemistry at Umass Boston in Boston, MA. Received my M.S in Nutrition and Biomedicine at the Technical University of Munich in Munich, Germany. I worked as a research assistant for 9 months in the Russ Lab which I ended up joining as a PhD student. My next step is to pursue a postdoc, with the goal of eventually running my own independent research lab.


Adam Soh (he/him)

Pearson lab

BS Cell and Molecular Biology, National University of Singapore

Rotation Labs: Lee Niswander, Rytis Prekeris, Chad Pearson


Research: How cells coordinate their hundreds of cilia to enable efficient fluid flow and cellular motility remains unclear. To address this question, we performed quantitative fluorescence light microscopy to study the interplay between cells' cortical architecture and their response to their fluid environment.


About Me: I'm from Singapore! I love biking, fishing and photography!!


Career Goals: I attended college in Singapore before working as a research assistant for a couple of years. I'm currently close to completing my graduate work. I'm aiming to do a post-doc next!


Ian Stancil (he/him)
T32 - Physiology of Aging
Schwartz Lab

BS in Molecular Biochemistry, BS in Polymer Chemistry, BS in Human Biology, North Carolina State University

Rotation Labs: Melanie Koenigshoff, Katie Fantauzzo, David Schwartz


Research: I study how airway epithelial stem cells drive pulmonary fibrosis pathogenesis through the integration of diverse signaling and dynamic cues.


About Me: I am originally from North Carolina, which is where I did my undergraduate training (NC State). After undergrad, I worked as a research assistant in Boston prior to moving to Denver for graduate school. Since grad school, I have rescued two dogs which I spend most of my time with when I am not in lab.


Career goals: I plan on continuing in academic science after graduate school as a post-doc. My long-term career goals include starting my own independent research lab at an R1 institution.


Alex Theis (she/her)

Sussel Lab 

BS in Cell & Molecular Biology, University of Minnesota Duluth

Rotation Labs: Tobias Eckle, Tania Reis, Lori Sussel


Research: For my thesis work, I am studying Groucho co-repressors in the context of pancreatic development and beta cell function. Transcription factors recruit Groucho-related proteins (GRGs) to genomic DNA which then repress gene expression by additional recruitment of chromatin modifiers. Previous work demonstrates the necessity of GRGs in the development of many tissues through interactions with transcription factors that are also crucial for pancreatic development and function. I’ve shown that GRG4 can compensate for a loss of GRG3 in the mouse pancreas and that when both are removed, the insulin-producing beta cells fail to proliferate, liver genes become ectopically expressed in pancreatic cells, and mice die early with severe hyperglycemia. Currently, I am trying to uncover the molecular mechanism of Groucho function in this system to determine interacting partners, target genes, and how loss of GRGs affect beta cell development and function.


About Me: I am originally from central Minnesota and went to school in Duluth, MN on Lake Superior (my favorite place on earth). My best friend is my geriatric cat, Kitty. Other than cats, I also love my brewer husband James, other people's dogs, plants, crafts (knitting, sewing, painting), cross country skiing, backpacking and/or glamping, and watching true crime documentaries.


Career Goals: As an undergrad at the University of Minnesota Duluth, I worked in Dr. Matt Andrews's lab studying the genetic and molecular mechanisms of hibernation in the thirteen-lined ground squirrel. I had the opportunity to work full-time in the lab he summer before my senior year on a project I had been working on for 2 years, which led me to pursue graduate school immediately after graduating with my BS. Also during my undergrad, I was a TA for a chemistry lab course for 3 years - another wonderful opportunity to discover my love for teaching. My ultimate career goal is to be a professor at a primary undergraduate institution, where I can combine my passion for mentoring, teaching, and scientific discovery.


Zeke Thomas (he/him)
Moore Lab

Rotation Labs: Jamie Nichols, Rytis Prekeris, Jeff Moore


Research: My graduate research in the Moore lab focuses on the interaction between microtubules, associated proteins, and kinesins within the mitotic spindle. I use budding yeast because of the relative simplicity and elegance of the spindle, its genetic tractability, and the ability to quantify and characterize clear cellular outcomes. I want to combine in vivo and in vitro techniques to elucidate the interactions between and function of the anaphase midzone spindle components.


About Me: Outside of the lab my hobbies include video games and food & travel. I also enjoy attending theater, ballet, and opera shows at the Denver Center for the Performing Arts. And nothing says work/life balance better than a weekday snowboarding trip with friends, discussing science on the ski lifts!


Career Goals: I love the opportunity to share my scientific passion with others. Prior to graduate school I spent five years teaching and working with high school students. I am still committed to teaching, and now I am pursuing a career in academia so I can combine my interests in teaching with my passion for scientific research.


David Villani

Zuscik Lab

Rotation Labs: Transferred in with Dr. Zuscik's lab


Research: The gut microbiome is an ecosystem of microbes and their byproducts that play an important role in host homeostasis. It is now appreciated that the gut microbiome become dysbiotic in many different disease states. The goal of my thesis is to uncover the mechanisms by which the gut microbiome is involved in osteoarthritis progression. To do this, I utilize different mouse models and in vitro techniques to look at the relationship between the gut microbiota and osteoarthritis. A final layer of my studies is to uncover how inflammation originating in the gut plays a role in osteoarthritis progression.
About Me
I am from Adelaide, Australia and came to the USA for college. I attended Century College in Minnesota before finishing my BS at the University of Wisconsin Superior. Outside of lab, I enjoy playing soccer, Australian rules football, and tennis.


Shane Williams (he/him)

Dempsey Lab


BS in Biology, Saint Michael's College

Rotation Labs: Eszter Vladar, Kunhua Song, Xiao-Jing Wang, Peter Dempsey


Research: I’m interested in improving our ability to utilize stem cell derived models to study human organ development and disease. I’m currently generating fluorescent reporter knock-ins to track intestinal organoid development in real time. 


About me: I grew up in New Hampshire and moved to Colorado after finishing undergrad in Vermont. I spend most of my free time exploring the Rockies with my wife searching for the perfect campsite or skiing fresh powder. I also seem to like fish since I’m a reef aquarium hobbyist and have recently picked up fly fishing.


Student NameDefense DateLabCurrent Position
Diane GuminaNovember, 2021Emily SuPostdoctoral Fellow; Dr. Emily Su's lab - Anschutz Medical Campus
Brenna DennisonSeptember, 2021Katherine Fantauzzo 
Taylor WallaceJuly, 2021Traci LyonsSenior Scientific Editor, Research to Practice
Anthony JunkerJuly, 2021Chad PearsonPostdoctoral researcher; Gerardo Lab - Emory University
Michael KaufmanJuly, 2021Joe BrzezinskiPostdoctoral researcher; RBI Fellowship - Anschutz Medical Campus
Kayt ScottJune, 2021Bruce AppelSPIRE Postdoctoral Fellow in Dr. Kacy Gordon's lab, University of North Carolina - Chapel Hill
Heather BrownNovember, 2020Lee NiswanderCaptain & Application Scientist, Enzo Life Sciences
Mark GutierrezMay, 2020Santos FrancoCaptain & Staff Scientist, United States Army Medical Department
Sofia PezoaApril, 2020Lee NiswanderCell Culture Scientist, Invitria
Jayne AikenApril, 2019Jeffrey MoorePostdoctoral Fellow; Dr. Erika Holzbaur - UPenn
Stephanie BonneyMarch, 2019Julie SiegenthalerPostdoctoral Fellow; Dr Andy Shih's lab - Seattle Children's Research Institute
Tanya BrownMay, 2019Wendy MacklinPostdoctoral Fellow; Dr. Jeff Rasmussen's lab - University of Washington
Santiago FregosoApril, 2019Santos FrancoPostdoctoral Fellow; Dr. Kathleen Millen's lab - Seattle Children's Research Institute
Veronica FregosoFebruary, 2019Amanda LawPostdoctoral Fellow; Dr. Wendy Macklin's lab - Anschutz Medical Campus
Alex LiggettAugust, 2019James DeGregoriPostdoctoral Fellow at the Broad Institue, Dr. Vijay Sankaran's lab
Eric PetermanAugust, 2019Rytis PrekerisPostdoctoral Fellow at the University of Washington, Dr. Jeff Rasmussen's lab
Caitlin WinklerApril, 2019Santos FrancoSenior Research Associate, CU Anschutz Medical Campus, Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Genetics
Jennifer JonesMay, 2019Peter Dempsey 
Ismail SolaNovember, 2019Rajeev Vibhakar 
Colleen BartmanJune, 2018Tobias EcklePostdoctoral Fellow, Mayo Clinic
Colby FeesOctober, 2018Jeffrey MoorePostdoctoral Fellow; Dr. Bruce Goode's lab - Brandeis University
Senthilnath Lakshmana ChettyNovember, 2018Maranke KosterPostdoctoral Fellow; Dr. Siddhartha Mitra's lab - Anschutz Medical Campus
Swati MishraFebruary, 2018Julie SiegenthalerPostdoctoral Fellow, University of Washington, Dr. Jessica Young's lab
Jason WilliamsApril, 2018Kristin ArtingerPostdoctoral Fellow, CU Anschutz Medical Campus, Drs. Hanson and Stenmark's labs
Jason DinellaNovember, 2017Peter KochScientist position in Reprogramming Biology at Fate Therapeutics, Inc.
Andrew WeemsJuly, 2017Michael McMurrayPostdoctoral Fellow, UT Southwestern Medical Center, Dr. Gaudenz Danuser's lab
Brian BaylessJuly, 2016Chad PearsonAssistant Professor, Santa Clara University, Biology Department
David Castillo-AzofeifaApril, 2016Linda BarlowPostdoctoral Fellow, UCSF, Dr. Ophir Klein
Heather RayApril, 2016Lee NiswanderAssistant Professor, Idaho State University, Department of Biological Sciences
Jonathan WildeMarch, 2016Lee NiswanderPostdoctoral Fellow, MIT, Dr. Guoping Feng's Lab
Jinxiang DaiJuly, 2015Wendy MacklinPostdoctoral Fellow, Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, Dr. Cyrus Ghajar's lab
Brad KubickDecember, 2015Dennis RoopFellow, Flagship Pioneering
Davalyn PowellMay, 2014Kristin ArtingerScience Writer at the Buck Institute for Research on Aging
Alex BlaskyMay, 2013Bruce AppelGlobal Market Development Manager, Thermo Fisher Scientific
Dongying LiDecember, 2013Rytis PrekerisORISE fellow, FDA National Center for Toxicology Research
Brittany Allen-PetersenMay, 2012Mary RelandPostdoctoral Fellow, Oregon Health & Sciences Univ, Dr. Rosalie Sears' Lab
Francie BarronMay, 2012David ClouthierVP Biology and Regulatory Affairs, Nanomedical Diagnostics
Aaron HuebnerDecember, 2012Dennis RoopPostdoctoral Fellow, Harvard Medical School, Dr. Konrad Hochedlinger's Lab
Jennifer IkleMay, 2012David ClouthierPediatric Endocrinology Fellow, Washington University
John SchielDecember, 2012Rytis PrekerisR&D Senior Scientist, Horizon Discovery
Ying ZhangMay, 2012Lee NiswanderPostdoctoral Fellow, Harvard School of Medicine, Dr. Richard Maas' Lab
Tariq AdwanAugust, 2011Mary ReylandChief Scientific Officer, Alpha Genomix Laboratories
Ha NguyenMay, 2011Linda BarlowHanoi Medical University
Jian JingMay, 2010Rytis PrekerisPostdoctoral Fellow, National Jewish Med Research Ctr, Dr. David Schwartz Lab
Lai KuanDecember, 2010Alexander SorkinPostdoctoral Researcher, University of Colorado, Department of Pathology
Lai Kuan Dionne (Goh)December, 2010Alexander SorkinInstructor, Department of Cell Biology and Physiology at Washington University in St. Louis
David McKeanDecember, 2010Lee NiswanderResearch Fellow, Harvard Medical School, Seidman Lab, Dept of Genetics
Danielle HarlowMay, 2009Linda BarlowMedical Director in Multiple Sclerosis at EMD Serono
Roslyn BauerDecember, 2008John HuttonScience Writer and Editor, JoVE (Journal Visualized Experiments), Sommerville, MA
Glenn SimonDecember, 2008Rytis PrekerisPostdoctoral Fellow, University of Colorado, Department of Pediatrics
Agne Taraseviciute (MSTP)May, 2008, (MD, 5/2010)Peter JonesFellow in Pediatric Hematology/Oncology, Seattle Children's Hospital
Christiana ChaoMay, 2007, (MD, 5/2009)Lori SusselResidency, Univ of Washington-Seattle, Dept of Pediatrics
James EarlMay, 2006, (MD, 5/2008)Steve BrittPhysician, St. Alphonsus Hospital, Dept of Ophthalmology
Denise BirkholzAugust, 2005Steve BrittIntraoperative Neuromonitoring Tech, PhySIOM, NIDCR-NRSA
Jay GatlinMay, 2005Karl PfenningerAssociate Professor, Univ Wyoming-Laramie, Dept of Botony & Molecular Biology
Mike HumphriesDecember, 2005Mary ReylandStaff Scientist, Array BioPharma, Boulder, CO
Alex LublinMay, 2005Tom EvansInstructor, Mt. Sinai Hospital, NY, Dept of Neuroscience
Scott BarbeeMay, 2004Tom EvansAssociate Professor, Univ of Denver, Dept of Biological Sciences
Jennifer GilletteMay, 2004Sheila Nielsen-PreissAssociate Professor, Univ New Mexico School of Medicine, Dept of Pathology
David KentDecember, 2004Joan HooperPostdoctoral Fellow, Univ of Utah
Cindy YeeMay, 2003Tom FingerResearch Scientist, Genetech, San Francisco, CA
Luis MirandaMay, 2002Alex FranzusoffPostdoctoral Fellow, Beth Israel Deaconess Med Ctr/Harvard, Boston, MA
James WitowskyDecember, 2002JohnsonResearch Institute of Molecular Pathology, Vienna, Austria
Russ BowlerAugust, 2001, (MD, 1993, UCSF)James CrapoProfessor, National Jewish Med Research Ctr, Dept of Pulmonary/Critical Care
Josh HallDecember, 2001, (MD, 5/2003)Tom FingerPrivate Practice, Psychiatric & Behavioral Health Clinic, Poway, CA
Keith MikuleAugust, 2001Karl PfenningerArQule Biomedical Institute, Inc., Norwood, MA
Christine WuMay, 2001Howell/NevilleAssistant Professor, UC Anschutz Medical Campus, Dept of Pharmacology

Are you a Cell Biology, Stem Cells and Development alumnus? We'd love to stay in touch!