Current Postdoctoral Research Associate Training (PRAT) Fellows

Sofia Beas

Sofia Beas is a PRAT fellow at the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) in the lab of Mario Penzo. Her research focuses on the neural mechanisms by which stress impacts the paraventricular nucleus of the thalamus (PVT) neurocircuitry. Specifically, Dr. Beas uses a combination of in vitro and in vivo assessments to investigate how modulatory systems are integrated in the PVT to impact its overall function in stress-related behaviors. She obtained her Ph.D. in Neuroscience from the University of Florida, under the mentorship of Dr. Jennifer Bizon and Dr. Barry Setlow where her studies were focused on understanding the neural mechanisms of age-related changes in executive functions and decision-making. Her long-term goal is to lead a research program focused on understanding the mechanisms underlying affective and motivated behaviors.

Miriam Bocarsly

Miriam Bocarsly is a PRAT fellow in the lab of Veronica Alvarez, National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. She obtained her Ph.D. in psychology and neuroscience from Princeton University, where she worked first with Bart Hoebel on the shared neurobiological underpinnings of food intake and drug addiction, and then with Elizabeth Gould exploring alterations in brain morphology associated with cognitive deficits in an obese animal model. In her postdoctoral studies, Bocarsly is broadly interested in identifying the neural circuitry driving aberrant consummatory and appetitive behaviors, such as psychostimulant-induced anorexia and polydipsia. In doing so, her research aims to identify potential neurological targets that may provide therapeutic benefit in disorders such as obesity. Bocarsly aspires to be an independent investigator with a research program focused on further resolving the neural circuitry modulating food and water consumption in healthy and diseased states.

Jonathan Busada

Jonathan Busada is a PRAT fellow in the laboratory of John Cidlowski at the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences. He obtained his Ph.D. at East Carolina University in anatomy and cell biology where he studied the cellular processes regulating spermatogonial stem cell differentiation and self-renewal in the laboratory of Chris Geyer. His postdoctoral research is on the role of glucocorticoids in suppressing gastric inflammation and metaplasia. He is interested in the cellular and physiological processes that maintain tissue homeostasis and suppress inflammation in the stomach, and how disruption of these processes leads to inflammatory disease, metaplasia, and eventually gastric cancer. Jon’s long-term goal is to continue his research in gastric biology as an independent investigator at an academic institution.

William (Drew) Comrie

Drew Comrie is a PRAT fellow in the laboratories of Helen Su and Michael Lenardo, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. He obtained his Ph.D. in immunology at the University of Pennsylvania, where he studied the role of the actin cytoskeleton in the mechano-activation of cell adhesion molecules within the immunological synapse in the lab of Janis K. Burkhardt. His PRAT research investigates rare human mutations that lead to the development of primary immunodeficiencies or autoimmunity. These studies help identify mechanisms by which the human immune system functions and provide critical information related to the clinical treatment of patients with primary immune disorders. He is interested in the study of the activation and control of adaptive immune responses and would ultimately like to run a research program that helps translate basic understanding of these mechanisms to new discoveries and clinical intervention.

Laura Corrales-Diaz Pomatto

Laura Corrales-Diaz Pomatto is a PRAT fellow in the laboratory of Rafael de Cabo, National Institute on Aging. She received her Ph.D. in biology of aging from the joint program between the University of Southern California (USC) and the Buck Institute on Aging, and is first in the nation to be awarded a doctorate in this new program. Under the mentorship of Kelvin J. A. Davies, Pomatto explored the age-related changes in the adaptive stress response in the model organism, D. melanogaster. She uncovered not only sex-dependent differences in the activation of the stress response, but the age-dependent loss in its activation. She characterized similar trends in other models including the nematode worm and a mouse model for smog exposure in young and middle-aged female mice. At the NIH, Pomatto plans to pursue her desire to uncover not only the mechanism behind the adaptive stress response, but interventions to restore its age-dependent loss. She is very excited to explore this area of research in conjunction with caloric restriction and other non-pharmacological interventions identified in extending the lifespan.

James D’Amour

James D’Amour is a PRAT fellow in the laboratory of Chris McBain, National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. He obtained his Ph.D. in physiology and neuroscience at The New York University Medical School, where he studied inhibitory synaptic plasticity and neuromodulation in the lab of Robert Froemke. In his PRAT research, James is studying the development of cell-type specific neuronal circuitry in the hippocampus using a mouse model of the genetic disorder lissencephaly, in which cells improperly migrate and fail to form canonical layers. By examining preserved versus lost synaptic (cell-cell) connections as a result of cellular mispositioning, James hopes to gain insights on the developmental processes instructing circuit specification. His broader scientific interests are in disentangling the various factors governing neuronal circuit formation in healthy and diseased brains for the purposes of therapeutic intervention.

Seth Dickey

Seth Dickey is a PRAT fellow in the lab of Michael Otto, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. He obtained his Ph.D. in molecular biology and genetics from the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine with Sinisa Urban, where he developed techniques to assay the activity of intramembrane rhomboid proteases in their natural membrane environment. As a PRAT fellow, he is combining bacterial genetics and biochemical assays to characterize and identify inhibitors of a Staphylococcus aureus ABC transporter that secretes virulent peptides. His long-term goal is to continue his work on membrane proteins in antibiotic-resistant bacteria as an independent investigator.

Marina Feric

Marina Feric is a PRAT fellow at the National Cancer Institute (NCI) in the laboratory of Tom Misteli. As a PRAT fellow, Marina researches the mechanisms that cause the cell to age at accelerated time scales. Using the premature aging disease Hutchinson Gilford Progeria Syndrome as a model system, she is investigating the role of phase separation in the assembly and regulation of nucleoprotein complexes called mitochondrial nucleoids, which are known drivers of aging. She earned her Ph.D. in Chemical Engineering from Princeton University under the mentorship of Clifford Brangwynne. During her graduate studies, Marina probed how the physical organization of the cell changes as it grows, and that gravity becomes a dominant force during growth in the eggs of Xenopus laevis. Her overarching goal is to lead a research team to explore how biophysical interactions among proteins and nucleic acids across multiple scales contribute to proper cellular organization and how their dysregulation gives rise to disease.

T. Chase Francis

T. Chase Francis is a PRAT fellow at the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) working in the laboratory of Dr. Antonello Bonci. He has a long-standing interest in how high frequency stimulation, commonly used in deep brain stimulation, alters motivational states. At NIDA, he focuses on how stimulation facilitates peptide release within Nucleus Accumbens local circuitry and its effects on behavioral responding to salient stimuli. He earned his Ph.D. at the University of Maryland, Baltimore working in the molecular neurocircuitry lab of Dr. Mary Kay Lobo. There, he uncovered differential neurophysiological effects of social defeat stress on distinct populations of medium spiny neurons in the Nucleus Accumbens. Additionally, he discovered molecular and structural mechanisms which underlie these physiological changes and drive behavioral outcomes to social defeat stress. His long-term goal is to lead an independent laboratory focused on refining neuromodulation therapeutics to treat affective and reward disorders.

Jill Fritz

Jill Fritz is a PRAT fellow in the lab of Michael Lenardo, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. She received her Ph.D. in immunobiology at the University of Cincinnati and Cincinnati Children’s Hospital under the mentorship of Timothy Weaver, where her research helped to identify the physiological role of molecular chaperones regulated by the unfolded protein response. At NIH, Fritz’s PRAT-funded research aims to discover novel pathogenic variants in humans with primary immunodeficiency. Upon completing her postdoctoral training, Fritz would like to be an independent investigator with research focused on developing immunotherapies for the treatment of disease.

Adenrele Gleason

Adenrele Gleason is a PRAT fellow in the laboratory of Julia Cooper at the National Cancer Institute (NCI). At the NCI, the Cooper lab has established that telomeres and centromeres share an ability to coordinate. As a PRAT fellow, Adenrele is delineating the molecular features that give chromosomes the ability to coordinate nuclear envelope disassembly and ensure their correct distribution to daughter cells. She received her Ph.D. in cell and developmental biology from Rutgers University, under the mentorship of Barth Grant where she examined the subcellular dynamics of endocytic transport and cell signaling pathways. Her long-te¬rm goal is to lead a research group in an academic or government institution.

Agnes Karasik

Agnes Karasik is a PRAT fellow working in the laboratory of Nicholas Guydosh at the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive Kidney Diseases (NIDDK). There she studies the non-canonical role of virus activated ribonuclease L in protein translation using cutting edge methods, including single molecule microscopy and ribosome profiling. She obtained her PhD in molecular and cellular biology at Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences where she characterized a novel group of precursor tRNA processing enzymes from various eukaryotic organisms in the laboratory of Markos Koutmos. Prior to that she completed her MSc thesis research on the working mechanism of a subset of ABC transporters at the Institute of Enzymology in Hungary. In the long term, she would like to lead a research group focusing on current problems in RNA biology.

Lee Langer

Lee Langer is a PRAT fellow in the lab of Trevor Archer at the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences. He received his Ph.D. in neurobiology from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, where he studied the role of SOX2 in the development of the eye and hypothalamus. In his position as a PRAT fellow, he studies how epigenetic regulators control human embryonic stem cell pluripotency and differentiation. Specifically, Langer uses next-generation sequencing techniques to analyze how chromatin-remodeling complexes maintain or modify chromatin architecture in the steady state or in response to differentiating signals. His long-term goal is to lead a group that explores the roles of chromatin modifiers in the contexts of both health and disease.

Jonathan G. Murphy

Jonathan Murphy is a PRAT fellow in the lab of Dax A. Hoffman, Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. Murphy obtained his Ph.D. in neuroscience from the University of Colorado, Anschutz Medical Campus. Under the supervision of Mark L. Dell’Acqua, he worked to understand how dynamic phosphorylation of neuronal L-type calcium channels regulates excitation-driven transcriptional activity in hippocampal neurons. As a PRAT fellow, Murphy studies ion channel translation in a mouse model of Fragile X Syndrome. Using microscopy and electrophysiology, Murphy aims to visualize ion channel translation in hippocampal pyramidal neurons to understand how this process is regulated during synaptic plasticity and may contribute to neuronal dysfunction during disease.

Jacob Nordman

Jacob Nordman is a PRAT fellow in the lab of Zheng Li at the National Institute of Mental Health. He obtained his Ph.D. in molecular neuroscience from the Krasnow Institute at George Mason University. Under the mentorship of Nadine Kabbani, Nordman characterized a novel signaling pathway involving ionotropic nicotinic acetylcholine receptors and a variety of secondary messenger proteins known as G proteins, which typically interact primarily with metabotropic receptors. These interactions were shown to regulate neurodevelopment pathways. He also developed methodologies for protein interaction network detection and simultaneous measurement of calcium and cytoskeletal dynamics in developing neural cells. Nordman’s current work at NIH involves an investigation into the role of synaptic plasticity in chronic violent aggression, through the use of optogenetics and in vivo electrophysiology. His broad neuroscience interests are aimed at understanding the neural mechanisms of psychiatric illness as a principle investigator at an academic institution.

David Reiner

David Reiner is a PRAT fellow in the laboratory of Yavin Shaham at the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) with Brandon Harvey and Alex Chesler as co-mentors. David studies studying the neural mechanisms that underlie fentanyl relapse in rats, with a focus on how pain potentiates synthetic opioid seeking. He obtained his Ph.D. in neuroscience from the University of Pennsylvania where he studied how neuroendocrine signals act in the hindbrain to regulate food intake and energy balance in the laboratory of Matthew Hayes. His long-term goal is to transition to a role as independent investigator studying the overlapping neurocircuitries that underlie feeding behavior and drug taking/seeking behavior.

Apollo Stacy

Apollo Stacy is a PRAT fellow in the lab of Yasmine Belkaid, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID). As a PRAT fellow, he is integrating immunological techniques to explore the host’s contribution to polymicrobial infections. Currently, he is investigating how alterations to the microbiome after primary gut infections can increase the host’s resistance to secondary gut infections by heterologous pathogens. He obtained his Ph.D. in microbiology from The University of Texas at Austin where he developed genomic approaches to study inter-bacterial interactions that enhance the severity of polymicrobial, skin and soft-tissue infections in the laboratory of Marvin Whiteley. His long-term goal is to continue working on host-microbiome interactions as an independent investigator.

Abhignya Subedi

Abhignya Subedi is a PRAT fellow in the laboratory of Dr. Harold A. Burgess at the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. She obtained her Ph.D. in biology from The Johns Hopkins University under the supervision of Dr. Marnie Halpern at the Carnegie Institute of Science. As a graduate student in Dr. Halpern’s laboratory, she defined distinct subregions of the interpeduncular nucleus, a brain structure that is highly conserved in vertebrates, and established the connectivity of these regions in the zebrafish brain. As a PRAT fellow, she is characterizing the raphe nucleus in zebrafish brain using molecular, imaging and behavioral techniques. Her long term goal is to become a principle investigator and study the molecular basis of developmental disorders using zebrafish as the research organism.

Tommy Vo

Tommy Vo is a PRAT fellow in the laboratory of Shiv Grewal, National Cancer Institute. He obtained his Ph.D. in molecular biology from Cornell University under the supervision of Haiyuan Yu, where he studied the structure and evolution of protein interactome networks in yeasts. As a PRAT fellow, he studies the role of transcription machinery in shaping the epigenetic landscape within cells. His long-term goal is to lead a research program focused on understanding mechanisms underlying epigenetic plasticity and inheritance.

Erin Wall

Erin Wall is a PRAT fellow in the lab of Susan Gottesman, National Cancer Institute. She obtained her Ph.D. in microbiology and molecular biology and genetics from Virginia Commonwealth University under the mentorship of Gail Christie. There she explored mechanisms of phage capsid morphogenesis as well as unique ribosomal biology in Staphylococcus aureus that led to a novel target for antibiotics. As a PRAT fellow, she is utilizing bacterial genetics to explore the structure and mechanism of the signaling cascade that regulates virulent capsule formation in the Enterobacteriaceae, many of which are now multidrug-resistant hospital pathogens. She has collaborations with Susan Buchanan’s lab at NIDDK for structural biology of membrane proteins and Matt Hall’s group at NCATS for high throughput screening of small molecules against a bacterial reporter  assay. Her main interest is to continue to develop novel genetic systems and pursue antimicrobial targets in recalcitrant bacteria.

Sara Young-Baird

Sara Young-Baird is a PRAT fellow in the laboratory of Thomas E. Dever, Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development.  She obtained her Ph.D. in biochemistry and molecular biology from Indiana University School of Medicine while working in the laboratory of Ronald C. Wek.  During her graduate work, Sara studied the regulation of protein synthesis for key factors that are central to cellular stress remediation and cell viability. Specifically, her work centered on translational mechanisms involving short open reading frames (uORFs) in the 5’-leader of mRNA transcripts. For her post-doctoral work, Sara’s PRAT-funded research focuses on how misregulation of protein synthesis contributes to the symptoms of MEHMO syndrome, an X-linked intellectual disability disease caused by mutations in EIF2S3.  Sara is utilizing induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) from MEHMO patients and genome-wide informatics approaches to identify global and gene-specific disruptions in protein synthesis that may contribute to MEHMO syndrome. The results of Sara’s work will hopefully benefit both our understanding of this debilitating neurological disorder, and the molecular mechanisms underlying the fidelity of protein synthesis.