Our Scholars

Year Recruited: 2019
( 4 Scholars )

Morgan DeSantis, Ph.D.

University of Pennsylvania / Biochemistry and Molecular Biophysics
Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology
Research Interests

Cell division, cell migration, and transport of cellular cargo are diverse, fundamental processes that require microtubules and motor proteins. Microtubule-based motor proteins couple ATP hydrolysis to force-generating movement along microtubules.  Dynein is the primary minus-end directed microtubule motor in animal cells. It has essential, yet distinct roles throughout the cell cycle. These roles include cargo transport during interphase, spindle alignment and focusing during mitosis, and cell migration in neurons.  Underscoring the importance of dynein to human biology, mutation or misregulation of dynein leads to a number of devastating diseases. 

My lab is interested in understanding how dynein functions and how it is regulated during multiple points in the cell cycle. We use a number of techniques including pure protein biochemistry, single molecule and live-cell fluorescence microscopy, proteomics, and cryo-electron microscopy.


Roland Kersten, Ph.D.

Scripps Institution of Oceanography, University of California, San Diego / Marine Biology Program
Medicinal Chemistry
Research Interests
Roland is interested in the discovery and biosynthesis of plant natural products with medicinal and agricultural value. Plants produce diverse specialized metabolites to defend themselves as sessile organisms. Many plant natural products have been an important source of pharmaceuticals and agrochemicals such as painkillers, cancer medications and pesticides. The discovery of plant-based medicines and pesticides is traditionally guided by their bioactivity which is often inspired by ethnobotanical knowledge such as Chinese herbal medicine. The current growth of plant genomic resources and the increase in knowledge of plant specialized metabolism enables a complementary “gene-guided” discovery approach of medicinal plant natural products. As part of the UM Natural Product Discovery Initiative, the Kersten lab is developing gene-guided approaches for the discovery of plant natural products to cure diseases and improve agriculture.


Stephanie Moon, Ph.D.

Colorado State University, Pathology
Center for RNA Biomedicine, Human Genetics
Research Interests
Eukaryotic cells respond to rapid changes in extrinsic or intrinsic conditions by altering the translation, localization, and abundance of messenger RNAs, which are key intermediates required for gene expression. A growing body of work implicates defects in the cellular response to these stress conditions in genetic disorders, neurological disease, and viral pathogenesis. However, the mechanisms and consequences of mRNA dysregulation in stress and disease remain poorly understood.
Using a combination of cutting-edge and classical molecular and cell biology techniques, the Moon lab will define the synergistic mechanisms by which mRNAs are coordinately regulated post-transcriptionally. This research will uncover how the dysregulation of mRNA stability, translation, and localization to membraneless organelles contributes to pathogenesis in a variety of disease contexts to illuminate novel therapeutic and diagnostic strategies.


Teresa O'Meara, Ph.D.

Duke University, Genetics and Genomics
Microbiology and Immunology
Research Interests
The O’Meara lab is interested in how organisms can sense and respond to the environment, with a particular focus on how pathogens adapt to the stresses of a human host. We want to understand how fungal pathogens are able to cause disease in humans. This includes asking questions about host-pathogen interactions and the evolution and selective pressures driving pathogenesis. As genetically tractable model pathogens, Cryptococcus neoformans and Candida albicans provide exciting opportunities to uncover fundamental aspects of eukaryotic microbial pathogenesis. The O'Meara lab is interested in using molecular genetics, functional genomics, and immunology approaches to discover new aspects of fungal pathogenesis.