Available Mentors

Yehenew Mekonnen Agazie, Ph.D., Professor

The Agazie lab focuses on the role of the Src homology phosphotyrosyl phosphatase 2 (SHP2) in receptor tyrosine kinase and the Wnt/ ß- catenin signaling pathways and its role in cancer.

Wen-Tao Deng, Ph.D., Assistant Professor

Our research centers on gene therapy to treated inherited ocular diseases. We characterize animal models of inherited retinal degeneration and develop novel adeno-associated viral vector (AAV) to treat these conditions. We utilize AAV as a delivery vehicle to perform gene replacement, gene editing, and shRNA-mediated gene silencing by delivering these therapeutic reagents to the outer retina.

Jianhai Du, Ph.D., Assistant Professor

Our lab integrates multidisciplinary approaches including mass spectrometry, stable isotope tracers, gene editing, animal models and stem cell technology to study the roles of metabolic regulation and dys-regulation in the heathy and diseased retinas.

Valery V. Khramtsov, Ph.D., Professor

Most of my research is devoted to the development and application of new magnetic resonance approaches to biomedicine, including electron paramagnetic resonance (EPR) spectroscopy and imaging and Overhauser-enhanced magnetic resonance imaging (OMRI or proton-electron double-resonance imaging, PEDRI). Our current projects develop the unique paramagnetic probes allowing noninvasive simultaneous detection of tissue oxygenation, acidity (pH), redox status, intracellular glutathione (GSH) and interstitial inorganic phosphate in living subjects.

Saravanan Kolandaivelu, Ph.D., Assistant Professor

The focus of the Kolandaivelu Laboratory research is to identify the mechanism behind biogenesis and/or maintenance in the photoreceptor outer segment. Additionally, the lab studies the importance of the post-tranlational lipid modification "palmitoylation" in retinal proteins associated with blinding diseases.

Roberta Leonardi, Ph.D., Associate Professor

Our laboratory focuses on characterizing the mechanisms that regulate the intracellular concentration of coenzyme A (CoA), an essential cofactor that controls fuel metabolism. Abnormally high or abnormally low CoA levels in tissues and organs cause metabolic dysfunction. Our goal is to devise strategies that will allow us to manipulate the concentration of this cofactor and correct the dysregulated metabolism that underlies a variety of diseases, including diabetes, cancer and some neurological disorders. We specifically focus on the in vitro and in vivo characterization of enzymes that break down CoA and on the role that these CoA-degrading enzymes play in the regulation of energy metabolism.

Qiang Ma, Ph.D., Professor

Humans are constantly exposed to toxic agents from the environment to cause disease conditions. Dr. Ma’s research seeks to understand: (1) the function and mode of action of xenobiotic-activated receptors (XARs) in mediating pathologic responses to xenochemicals; and (2) the mechanism underlying lung fibrosis and cancer due to inhalation of chemicals, particles and fibers, and nanomaterials.

Elena Pugacheva, Ph.D., Associate Professor

The fundamental question we are interested in is how cell adhesion and cell mitotic machineries communicate with each other. It is the matter of life for a multi-cellular organism, where specific and oriented adhesions were evolutionary necessary to develop. The focus of the Pugacheva Lab is the focal adhesion scaffolding proteins of the Cas family and their role in proliferation and invasion. Our current efforts are dedicated to outlining the molecular mechanisms governing Cas dependent activation of oncogenic kinase AurA and finding AurA substrates responsible for tumor progression.

Vazhaikkurichi M. Rajendran, Ph.D., Professor

Dr. Rajendran is interested in investigating the electrolyte transport processes that regulate colonic fluid movement during physiological and pathophysiological (diarrhea and ulcerative colitis) conditions. We focus to identify the Ca2+-activated intermediate conductance (also known as KCNN4) K+ channel isoform that provides the driving force for Cl- secretion in several fluid secreting epithelial cells. To achieve this goal, we employ electrophysiology, biochemical, molecular and biophysical techniques.

Visvanathan Ramamurthy, Ph.D., Professor

Biochemical mechanisms behind gene mutations that result in photoreceptor cell death; Protein methylation in neurons; Gene therapy for blinding diseases.

Aaron Robart, Ph.D., Assistant Professor

Non-coding RNAs play diverse cellular roles acting as messengers, regulators, structural scaffolds, and catalytic ribozymes. We use a combination of biochemistry and structural biology to understand the architecture and catalytic mechanisms of RNA molecular machines, exploring the complexity of RNA structure and the proteins that coordinate to them. The lab is currently focused on two RNA machines: the RNA splicing apparatus and the telomerase ribonucleoprotein (RNP) complex.

Michael Robichaux, Ph.D., Assistant Professor

Our lab studies protein trafficking and the secretory pathway in rod photoreceptor neurons of the mammalian retina. We use a combination of super-resolution fluorescence microscopy, electron microscopy and mouse genetic models to discover new molecular events in photoreceptors that enable vision and that are disrupted in human retinal neurodegenerative diseases.

David M. Smith, Ph.D., Associate Professor

My lab's passion is to understand how the proteasome functions at a molecular level. The proteasome is a molecular machine that finds proteins, unfolds them, and injects them into an internal chamber were they are destroyed. This protein degradation process plays important roles in the development of neurodegenerative diseases (e.g. Alzheimer’s) and cancer. Understanding these disease and molecular mechanisms is also allowing us to develop new proteasome modulating compounds that could be useful to treat these diseases.

Maxim Sokolov, PhD., Associate Professor

My lab studies chaperone-mediated protein folding using photoreceptor neurons of the retina as a model. Our long-term goal is developing new therapeutic applications against neurodegenerative diseases based on molecular chaperones from unicellular microorganisms.

Peter Stoilov, Ph.D., Associate Professor

Regulation of alternative pre-mRNA splicing; Alternative splicing in cancer progression; Drugs targeting alternative splicing as cancer therapeutics and research tools; High-throughput research methods.

Mark Tseytlin, Ph.D., Assistant Professor

My collaborators and I are developing new spectroscopic and imaging methods for in vivo Electron Paramagnetic Resonance (EPR). EPR is in many ways analogous to better known Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR) and its imaging modality MRI. While NMR and MRI methods detect signals produced by nuclear spins in protons and other chemical elements, EPR measures electron spins in all kinds of free radicals.

Bradley Webb, Ph.D., Assistant Professor

The Webb lab is studying the cell biology of metabolic enzymes. The lab is currently addressing questions regarding the localization, regulation, and structure/function of enzymes in the glycolytic pathway.