The Spotlight series was created in 2009 as a way of building camaraderie in our department and as a way of communicating our unique departmental culture to prospective students and visitors. Featuring current graduate students, postdoctoral associates, technical staff, and administrative staff it showcases the broad interests and talent of our many department members. In April of 2015, we launched our first online version.

Archives:  2021 | 2020 | 2019 | 2018 | 2017 | 2016 | 2015

2022 Spotlights

Elizabeth Brashich

May 2023

Growing up, I was naturally drawn to science, as I was always fascinated by how the world worked. It amazes me how life, seemingly simple on the surface, holds a vast amount of complexity. Throughout my education, I was fortunate to have several outstanding teachers and mentors who helped foster my strong appreciation for biology. They helped me understand the beauty and complexity of the world, and the impact that biology can have on our daily lives.

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Manasi Gangan

April 2023

I am a postdoctoral associate with Dr. Anne Meyer. Our lab uses synthetic biology tools to repurpose bacteria as the source of novel biomaterials with possible applications in industry. As a part of the team, I am genetically modifying Shewanella oneidensis, to make it a more generous electron donor that in combination with nanomaterials, would help release hydrogen gas from water. Since hydrogen is considered as an alternative source of energy, our efforts can be a step towards the development of a sustainable source of energy.

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Eric Hillpot

March 2023

I use several biochemical and biophysical techniques to understand structurally and enzymatically how Sirtuin6 extends lifespan in mammals. 

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James Miller

February 2023

Get involved with a lab ASAP.  By diving into the research being done here you will gain firsthand experiences that will be invaluable in figuring out what your next step will be after your time here.

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Federico Sánchez Vargas

January 2023

I am currently working in the Biro and Mitchell labs in the Department of Brain and Cognitive Science, where I am studying social cognition in marmoset monkeys (Callithrix jacchus). My work there involves training an AI neural network to analyze videos of monkeys performing a joint-foraging task. The idea is to ask how much time monkeys look at the task versus observing each other, to attempt to understand how they are using social information to solve the problem at hand ­– a good model to probe at the evolution of our own cooperative abilities! I have also worked at the Uy lab in the Department of Biology for almost three years. My work with Dr. Floria Uy has me investigating the behavioral outcomes of parasitic manipulation of a wasp host. How has the parasite evolved to meet its reproductive and survival goals while hiding inside a host? How does it evade detection and change the wasps’ behavior to succeed? How does the parasite choose between many potential hosts? By using this system, we hope to peek through a window into complex evolutionary processes.

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Louise He

December 2022

In the Meyer Lab, I am involved in the development of bioplastics that can biodegrade in the ocean to prevent marine plastic pollution. Using the first of its kind bacterial 3D printer developed by Dr. Meyer and members of our lab, I am creating engineered living bacterial cells that contain PHB-degrading bacteria. Living materials that are 3D-printed degrade their surrounding bioplastic structures at tunable and programmable rates.

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Jinghong (James) Tang

November 2022

Using Drosophila melanogaster (fruit fly) as a model system, I am studying the function of a transcriptional factor, the Heat Shock Factor, in animal development. We aim to solve the question of why this protein can regulate different transcriptional programs supporting different cellular contexts including malignant state, normal development, heat shock, and cell death.

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Jeremy Summers

October 2022

I’m currently researching population dynamics in the Federally Threatened Florida-Scrub Jay. This research includes the demographic and fitness consequences of increased isolation in a well-preserved population as surrounding populations decline. I hope my work can inform conservation efforts and answer questions on how populations respond to species decline.

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Ruiyue (Tanya) Tan

September 2022

I am currently working in Sina Ghaemmaghami’s lab. I am using a mass spectrometry-based approach to assess the effect of the ribosome on the folding stability of nascent polypeptides during the course of translation.

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Kyle van Tienhoven

August 2022

In the Fu lab we have multiple projects running at one time. I have a hand in many of the projects, but my focus is on the role of DALRD3 and its integral function in neurodevelopment. This branches off a project done by Jenna Lentini, which was published in Nature. Needless to say, I am very excited about carrying on this work in the in vivo system!

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Caroline Benec

July 2022

I work as a project assistant for The Ward Project in The Minckley Lab. The Project seeks to digitalize and compile a database of natural specimens, taxidermy and correspondence circa 1862. One hundred and fifty years since Rochester professor of biology Henry Ward collected, staged and sold individual and collections of specimens in cabinets to universities and museums, we are tracing how the scientific names have changed, where the specimens and cabinets have gone, and more broadly, the role of Ward’s Natural Science Establishment in the promulgation of the study of natural history. We are virtually rebuilding the University of Rochester’s contribution to the growth of natural history museums.

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Maxwell Zacher

June 2022

I study mechanisms of cancer resistance and longevity in long-living mammal species, particularly the bowhead whale. My focus is on tumor suppressors, DNA repair, and genomic stability.

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Diego Ocampo

May 2022

I am currently studying the patterns of divergence in genomic, morphometric, and behavioral traits between different populations of a Neotropical bird species, and how birds of different populations interact and maybe hybridize in areas in which they get into secondary contact. In short, my research explores the role of variation in plumage color and song in driving the processes of hybridization/diversification that could lead to the formation of new species.

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Chenghong Deng

April 2022

I am rotating in Dr. Caripizo’s lab. I am working to understand pancreatic cancer. The pancreas is one of the most common places to spread cancer and pancreatic cancer is an aggressive cancer. 

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Patricia DiGiorgio

March 2022

I work as the Graduate Program Coordinator.

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Matthew Lindsay

February 2022

I study meiotic drivers -- selfish genetic elements that are able to unfairly bias inheritance so that they are inherited far more often than they should be, and spread through populations. My research focusses on investigating which factors allow a meiotic driver to spread through a population, or how populations are able to stop selfish drivers from spreading. I specifically study the Segregation Distorter meiotic drive system in Drosophila melanogaster, using genetic engineering and large-scale fly experiments to investigate what stops populations from evolving immunity to the selfish Segregation Distorter.

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Anne Benraiss

January 2022

I am currently working in the Bergstralh Lab, studying spindle orientation in Drosophila epithelial cells. When cells divide, a group of proteins guide the mitotic spindle into its correct position. We seek to understand how these proteins work together to attain this position in epithelial tissues, where cells divide symmetrically to give rise to two identical daughter cells.

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