Current Postdoctoral Research Associate Training (PRAT) Fellows

Philip Adams

Philip Adams is a PRAT fellow in the lab of Gisela Storz at the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) where he studies regulatory RNAs in bacteria. He uses a combination of RNA-sequencing, biochemistry, and genetic approaches to characterize RNA-mediated gene regulation in the model organism Escherichia coli and the Lyme disease pathogen Borrelia burgdorferi. Regulatory RNAs are critical for the infectivity of many pathogens, yet largely unstudied in Lyme disease, the foremost tick-borne bacterial infection in the world. Dr. Adams earned his Ph.D. at the University of Central Florida in the laboratory of Dr. Mollie Jewett where he characterized novel B. burgdorferi RNAs expressed during tick and mammalian infection. His long-term goal is to run an academic research group that investigates the molecular mechanisms of B. burgdorferi gene regulation and infectivity.

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.

Andrew Beaven

Andrew Beaven is a PRAT fellow in the labs of Dr. Alexander Sodt and Dr. Joshua Zimmerberg at the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) where he studies how the molecular details of lipid-protein and lipid-lipid interactions influence lipid membrane reshaping. Each individual lipid species in the body promotes or restricts certain membrane shapes, and correspondingly, each species responds differently to cellular machinery perturbing the membrane. Understanding how proteins and lipids work together to remodel the membrane and how lipids subsequently behave can help explain a range of imperative cellular functions, from trafficking to neurotransmitter release. Dr. Beaven earned his Ph.D. at the University of Kansas in the laboratory of Dr. Wonpil Im where he primarily studied lipid properties around a model ion channel. His long-term goal is to apply computational modeling to rigorously quantify cellular mechanisms, and their malfunctions, that remodel lipid membranes.

Danielle Chisolm

Danielle Chisolm is a PRAT fellow in the lab of Dr. Markus Hafner at the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases (NIAMS) where her work focuses understanding the regulation of the long noncoding RNA (lncRNA) IFNG-AS1. This antisense transcript is important for the appropriate expression of the proinflammatory cytokine IFN-γ, however little is known about the regulation of IFNG-AS1. IFN-γ is a critical cytokine that profoundly impacts host defense, resistance to cancer and drives autoimmune disease and is predominately expressed by T cells and innate lymphoid cells. Her work utilizes a multipronged approach to characterize regulatory elements of this lncRNA to obtain a deeper understanding of how IFNG-AS1 impacts the expression of IFN-γ under different cellular conditions. Dr. Chisolm earned her Ph.D. at the University of Alabama at Birmingham in the laboratory of Dr. Amy Weinmann where she studied how the transcription factor CCCTC-Binding Factor (CTCF) translates Interleukin-2- and alpha-ketoglutarate-sensitive events into differential T cell gene programs. Her long-term goal is to become an independent researcher defining the role lncRNAs and cytokine signaling play in influencing T cell differentiation decisions.

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.

Jacquelyn Evans

Jacquelyn Evans is a PRAT fellow in the lab of Elaine Ostrander at the National Human Genome Research Institute where she studies the genetic basis of naturally-occurring cancers in purebred dogs as a model for human disease. Specifically, she is investigating histiocytic sarcoma, an aggressive, rare hematopoietic cancer in humans, which is prevalent in Bernese Mountain Dogs and Flat-coated Retrievers, as well as gastric cancer, which disproportionately affects Belgian Shepherd breeds and Chow Chows. Dr. Evans earned her Ph.D. at Clemson University in the laboratory of Leigh Anne Clark where she determined that a complex autoimmune disease of collies and Shetland sheepdogs is caused by a combination of risk alleles at three genes, two of which have an epistatic relationship. Her long-term goal is to become an independent investigator studying hereditary traits in dogs as a model for human genetic disorders.

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.

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.

Evan Hart

Evan Hart is a PRAT fellow in the lab of Dr. Geoffrey Schoenbaum at the National Institute on Drug Abuse where he studies the neurobiology of associative learning and decision-making using in-vivo recording and interference methods. Alterations in these fundamental psychological processes contribute maladaptive behavior that occurs in addiction and other neuropsychiatric conditions. Dr. Hart earned his Ph.D. at the University of California, Los Angeles in the laboratory of Dr. Alicia Izquierdo where he studied cortical contributions to effort-based decisions using in-vivo imaging approaches. His long-term goal is to run a research lab focused on applying large-scale neural recording methods in combination with complex behavior and computational approaches to data analysis, ultimately furthering understanding of the basic mechanisms of learning and how aberrations in this learning contribute to maladaptive behavior.

PamelaSara Head

PamelaSara Head Ph.D. is a PRAT fellow in the lab of Dr. Charles P. Venditti M.D., Ph.D. at the National Human Genome Research Institute where she studies the molecular mechanisms that drive pathophysiology of methylmalonic acidemia (MMA), an inborn error of metabolism. MMA is a rare, life-threatening genetic disease with multisystemic manifestations resulting from deficiencies in mitochondrial methylmalonyl-CoA mutase (MMUT), the enzyme responsible for the terminal catabolism of essential amino acids, odd chain fatty acids, and cholesterol (acyl-CoA metabolism). Dr. Head is exploring an alternative consequence of this impaired acyl-CoA metabolism: the unregulated accumulation of MMA specific posttranslational modifications (PTMs) on enzymes in critical intracellular pathways, and their contribution to MMA pathophysiology. After graduation from the Georgia Institute of Technology, Dr. Head earned her Ph.D. in genetics and molecular biology at Emory University in the laboratory of Dr. David Yu M.D., Ph.D. where she studied regulation of the DNA damage response (DDR), genomic instability, and cancer. Her long-term goals are to define the disease mechanisms in MMA and to develop a new class of gene and cellular therapies targeted at the reversal of excessive PTMs as a treatment for MMA and related organic acidemias.

Sofiya Hupalo

Sofiya Hupalo is a PRAT fellow in the lab of Joshua Gordon at the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS), where she studies the neural bases of normal and disrupted cognition using animal models of genetic susceptibility to schizophrenia. Cognitive deficits are ubiquitous in psychiatric disorders, and although available drugs treat affective symptoms, there are currently no approved treatments for the cognitive deficits. Therefore, a better understanding of the neural processes that promote cognition can lead to novel therapies for cognitive dysfunction. Dr. Hupalo earned her Ph.D. at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in the laboratory of Dr. Craig Berridge. There, she investigated the cognitive and neurophysiological actions of the neuropeptide, corticotropin-releasing factor. Her long-term goal is to investigate the pathophysiology underlying psychiatric disorders and to improve treatments for mental illness.

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.

Vivien Maltez

Vivien Maltez is a PRAT fellow in the lab of Ron Germain at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) where she studies the spatial organization and responsiveness of the tumor microenvironment to immunomodulatory cancer therapies. Despite significant advances in cancer treatments, many tumors fail to respond to standard treatment protocols. By studying where and how a variety of cell populations in the tumor react to combination therapies, she hopes to discover new approaches to treating these nonresponsive tumors. Dr. Maltez earned her Ph.D. in Microbiology and Immunology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in the laboratory of Dr. Edward Miao. There, she discovered new mechanisms by which the innate immune system coordinates programmed cell death pathways to defend against bacterial infections. Her long-term goal is to become an independent investigator with a laboratory focused on mechanisms of host immune defense against pathogenic and tumorigenic assault.

Fatma Sezen Meydan Marks

Fatma Sezen Meydan Marks is a PRAT fellow in the lab of Dr. Nicholas Guydosh at the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK), where she studies the role of ribosome collisions in cellular homeostasis of eukaryotic organisms. Obstacles during protein synthesis can cause ribosomes to collide with each other and dysregulated rescue of collided ribosomes is implicated in neuronal diseases. She aims to identify where ribosome collisions occur in the cell and how they are linked to neuronal health. Dr. Meydan Marks earned her Ph.D. at University of Illinois at Chicago in the laboratory of Drs. Alexander Mankin and Nora Vazquez Laslop, where she studied unconventional translation events that diversify the bacterial proteome. Her long term goal is to be an independent investigator to continue studying the causal link between translation and various diseases, and to develop potential treatments that can modulate protein synthesis.

James Marks

James Marks is a PRAT fellow in the lab of Markus Hafner at the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases where he studies the mechanisms of coordinated post-transcriptional gene regulation by RNA binding proteins. In eukaryotes, RNA binding proteins control the processing, localization, expression, and degradation of their gene targets and dysregulation of RNA binding proteins can lead to various diseases. Dr. Marks earned his Ph.D. at the University of Illinois at Chicago in the laboratory of Drs. Alexander Mankin and Nora Vazquez-Laslop where he studied the mechanisms of bacterial protein synthesis inhibition by chloramphenicol and linezolid. His long-term goal is to lead a research team focused RNA biology.

Elizabeth Martin

Elizabeth Martin is a PRAT fellow in the lab of Paul Wade at the NIEHS where she studies how reproductive health choices impact the epigenome during mammary gland development and how these changes influence cancer risk, with a specific focus on the role of progesterone receptor. It has been established through numerous epidemiological studies that reproductive history, (e.g. use of birth control, history of childbirth, and breastfeeding), can impact breast cancer risk. However, the biological mechanisms that link these factors to breast cancer risk have not been well characterized. Dr. Martin’s goal is to understand whether epigenetic reprogramming related to birth control use, pregnancy, and breastfeeding play a role in increasing or decreasing breast cancer risk. Dr. Martin earned her Ph.D. at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in the laboratory of Dr. Rebecca Fry where she studied how prenatal environmental exposures impact infant health outcomes and maternal pregnancy complications. Her long-term goal is to understand how environmental exposures and lifestyle choices impact the epigenome through changes in epigenetic reader, writer and eraser enzymes.

Andrew Moehlman

Andrew Moehlman is a PRAT fellow in the lab of Dr. Richard Youle at the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke where he studies innate immunity pathways in Parkinson’s Disease (PD) models. Genetically inherited PD is linked to mutated alleles of mitochondria-related proteins such as Parkin and Pink1, which are involved in the removal of damaged mitochondria. These genes are conserved in the fruit fly model organism, Drosophila melanogaster, which Dr. Moehlman is using to study the role of innate immune signaling in neuron degeneration and onset of PD-like motor defects. Dr. Moehlman earned his Ph.D. at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in the laboratory of Dr. Helmut Krämer where he studied post-translational modification of the ER chaperone BiP and regulation of insect visual neurotransmission. Andrew’s long-term goal is to obtain an independent investigator position at a public research university.

Rachael Philips

Rachael Philips is a PRAT fellow in the lab of Dr. John O’Shea at the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases (NIAMS) where she studies how a gain-of-function mutation in signal transducer and activator of transcription (STAT1) alters gene expression and immune cell function. STAT1 is an important transcription factor that mediates cellular responses to interferons and other cytokines, yet largely understudied in patients with STAT1 gain-of-function mutations who develop a broad spectrum of disease, including chronic infections (fungal, bacterial, viral), autoimmunity, and cancer. This research will provide critical insights into basic principles of a STAT1 signaling and potential treatment options for patients. Dr. Philips earned her Ph.D. at the Mayo Clinic in the laboratory of Dr. Virginia Shapiro where she studied how histone deacetylase 3 regulates gene expression during T cell development. Her long-term goal is to become an independent investigator who studies how epigenetic mechanisms govern a healthy and aberrant immune response.

Marcos J. Ramos-Benitez

Marcos J. Ramos-Benitez is a PRAT fellow in the lab of Dr. Daniel S. Chertow at the Clinical Center, Critical Medicine Department where he studies the pathophysiology and molecular pathogenesis of severe emerging viral infections. Currently, by combining imaging and electrophysiology techniques he’s aiming to elucidate the mechanisms of gastrointestinal fluid loss through diarrhea in Ebola virus disease. Defining and understanding the mechanism of Ebola virus induced fluid and electrolyte loss will provide the grounds for the development of novel practical treatments. Concurrently, as COVID-19 pandemic develops, he is leading a project to evaluate the association of circulating Neutrophils Extracellular Traps (NETs) with viral load, excess inflammation, microthrombosis, and tissue injury in these patients. Dr. Ramos-Benitez earned his Ph.D. at the University of Puerto Rico-Medical Sciences Campus in the laboratory of Dr. Ana M. Espino where he studied the anti-inflammatory potential of parasite-derived proteins in models of gram-negative sepsis. His long-term goal is to lead a research program that focuses in understanding the various aspects of host–pathogen interactions to facilitate the description of novel therapeutics target.

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.

Omar Soler-Cedeno

Omar Soler-Cedeno is a PRAT fellow in the lab of Yarimar Carrasquillo-Garcia at the National Center for Integrative and Complementary Health, where he studies the neural circuits and mechanisms underpinning chronic pain. Specifically, Dr. Soler-Cedeno combines ex vivo and in vivo approaches to study the synaptic dynamics of the parabrachial nucleus to central amygdala ascending pathway using rodent models of neuropathic and inflammatory pain. Understanding the neural circuits of pain modulation using rodent models of chronic pain provides novel insights towards the development of better treatment options for individuals affected by chronic pain conditions. Dr. Soler-Cedeno earned his Ph.D. at the Ponce Health Sciences University in the laboratory of James T. Porter, where he studied the ventral hippocampus and prefrontal cortex connectivity using animal models of posttraumatic stress disorder and exposure therapy. His long-term goal is to become an independent investigator and establish a research program that will combine state-to-the-art neurocircuitry tools and behavioral assessments to study chronic pain and mental health comorbidity.

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.

Nathan Williamson

Nathan Williamson is a PRAT fellow in the lab of Peter Basser of the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development where he studies new methods to measure water motion in living organisms with magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). In the United States, one in three people will be diagnosed with cancer during their lifetime, and one in fifteen pregnant women are likely to suffer from preeclampsia. The chances of fatality increase as detection is prolonged. Dr. Williamson’s research will develop new, noninvasive, ways to detect such diseases earlier by imaging differences between the blood flow in healthy vs. diseased tissue with MRI. Dr. Williamson earned his Ph.D. at the University of South Australia in the laboratory of Prof. Magnus Nydén where he studied porous materials and polymers with magnetic resonance. His long term goal is to be a university professor, spreading passion for science.

Tiffany Zarrella

Tiffany Zarrella is a PRAT fellow in the lab of Anupama Khare at the National Cancer Institute where she studies polymicrobial interactions between the co-infecting bacterial pathogens Pseudomonas aeruginosa and Staphylococcus aureus which often cause chronic, antibiotic resistant infections. She is elucidating the environmental conditions and molecular mechanisms that govern interbacterial communication and modulate antimicrobial production and resistance. Understanding these underlying molecular pathways in interspecies interactions will lead to the identification of novel targets for therapeutics that disrupt chronic bacterial infections. Dr. Zarrella earned her Ph.D. at Albany Medical College in the laboratory of Guangchun Bai where she researched the role of the bacterial signaling nucleotide cyclic di-AMP in controlling stress responses and competence in the pathogen Streptococcus pneumoniae. Her long-term goal is to lead an independent research group studying bacterial signaling in more native environments, including multispecies systems.