Faculty Mentors

Mike Adams

Georgia Power Professor in Biotechnology, Distinguished Research Professor, Biochemistry & Molecular Biology
Lab website | Project websiteadamsm@uga.edu

One of the projects in our lab is part of a multi-institutional Center on “Biological Electron Transfer and Catalysis” known as BETCy.  BETCy is in part investigating electron bifurcating enzymes. These are a very recent discovery in biology and our goals are to understand their unique mechanisms of catalysis and of conserving energy.  The project will focus on the characterization of formate dehydrogenase, a bifurcating enzyme that interconverts CO2 and formate.  The recombinant form of this novel oxygen-sensitive enzyme will be obtained from a hyperthermophilic microorganism that grows near 100°C. The PREP@UGA Scholar will use genetic techniques to affinity tag the enzyme, purify it and carry out biochemical analyses. The enzyme will also be provided to our BETCy collaborators for in depth spectroscopic and structural studies. If time permits, site-directed mutants of the enzyme that affect electron bifurcation activity will be prepared and characterized. The PREP@UGA Scholar would work with Associate Research Scientist, Gerti Schut, and would learn techniques such as:

  • Growth of anaerobic microorganisms at high temperature
  • Gene design and construction, transformation, genetic characterization of recombinant strains
  • Affinity column chromatography
  • Enzyme assays under anaerobic conditions
  • Preparation of enzyme samples in defined redox states for analysis by collaborators

Fikri Avci

Associate Professor, Biochemistry & Molecular Biology
website | avci@uga.edu

My lab is an interdisciplinary group addressing problems at the interface of carbohydrate research and immunology. Our objective is to explore treatment of and protection from infectious diseases and cancer by understanding key molecular and cellular interactions between the components of the immune system and carbohydrate antigens associated with microbes or cancerous cells. Recently, we also began to investigate immunoregulatory properties of glycans associated with symbiotic bacteria inhabiting host gastrointestinal tract to enable development and healthy-functioning of the immune system. The PREP@UGA Scholar would work with Dr. Amy Paschall (Postdoctoral Research Associate), and learn:

  • Molecular biology techniques
  • Cell culturing, flow cytometry
  • Mouse models of infection and cancer
  • In vitro and in vivo immunological assays
  • Protein expression, purification, characterization

Melinda Brindley

Assistant Professor, Infectious Diseases and Population Health
websitembrindle@uga.edu

Ebola virus (EBOV) and Lassa virus (LASV) infection is enhanced when cells express phosphatidylserine (PS) binding receptors on the cell surface. PS is a cellular lipid normally restricted to the inner leaflet, or cytoplasmic face, of the cellular plasma membrane (PM). The restriction of PS and other phospholipids to the inner leaflet produces a highly asymmetric membrane in healthy cells. PS is flipped to the outer leaflet of the cellular membrane during calcium signaling and apoptosis, marking them as activated or dying cells, respectively. Cellular enzymes termed flippases and scramblases are responsible for flipping the PS in the membrane. PS is incorporated into the viral membrane during virus budding, when EBOV and LASV particles appropriate a portion of the host cell’s plasma membrane as a protective envelope. In order for virus to engage PS receptors, the PS on a viral envelope must be flipped to the outer leaflet. We aim to elucidate the mechanism by which viral envelopes obtain properly oriented PS, as well as the amount of PS sufficient to interact with PS receptors. We are using a panel of human haploid (HAP1) cell lines lacking PS flippases or PS scramblases to examine the role these proteins play in the replication of EBOV and LASV. We produced vesicular stomatitis virus containing either its native glycoprotein (G), LASV-GP, or EBOV-GP, enabling us to perform experiments under BSL2 conditions. When these recombinant viruses were grown in the HAP1 knock-out cell lines, we identified one flippase and one scramblase that are required for efficient spread of VSV particles containing either the LASV-GP or EBOV-GP, but not VSV-G. These data suggest altering the levels of PS in the outer leaflet of the cellular PM inhibits one or more steps in the viral replication cycle. Future experiments will examine how cells lacking the flippase block viral spread. The PREP@UGA Scholar in our lab would work with senior graduate student, Marissa Acciani, and would learn techniques related to:

  • CRISPR technology
  • Mammalian cell tissue culture and transfections
  • Virus propagation, titration techniques, qRT-PCR and additional virus assays
  • Molecular cloning and gene expression
  • Western blots
  • Flow cytometry

Jarrod Call

Assistant Professor, Kinesiology
website | call@uga.edu

Volumetric muscle loss injury is characterized by a non-recoverable loss of muscle fibers due to ablative surgery or severe orthopedic trauma that results in chronic functional impairments. Our DoD-funded project aims to identify regenerative rehabilitation strategies that can be implemented in the ICU to salvage and/or regenerate the wounded muscle. Strategies will target the contractility of the muscle (i.e., strength) and the mitochondria (i.e., energy powerhouse), and include gene transfer, mitochondrial transplantation, physical activity, and neuromuscular electrical stimulation. The PREP@UGA Scholar in our lab will work with senior graduate student, Anna Nichenko, and will learn techniques related to:

  • High-resolution respirometry, mitochondrial oxygen consumption analysis
  • Electrophysiology, skeletal muscle contractile assays
  • Enzyme kinetics, spectrophotometry analysis of metabolic enzymes
  • Organelle isolation, mitochondrial isolation and transplantation
  • Small animal surgery, volumetric muscle loss injury and freeze injury
  • Data analysis and presentation

Dr. Belen Cassera

Laboratory Mentor(s) Name(s) and position(s): Dr. Belen Cassera and Josh Butler (graduate student)

Project title: Antimalarial drug discovery and development

Project Description:

Malaria is caused by parasites of the genus Plasmodium and over one billion people are at risk of infection every year. Unfortunately, the rapid development of resistance to all current antimalarials highlights the urgent need to develop new drugs with different mode of actions to overcome this pressing problem. Our work aims to optimize two novel, inexpensive and effective classes of antimalarials that target multiple life stages of the parasite. The specific goal during the next year is to test a series of chemical optimizations (structure-activity relationship studies) to obtain a preclinical lead compound. This is a multidisciplinary work involving chemists, computational chemists and biochemists. The trainee will perform all in vitro cellular assays to inform chemists which modifications are increasing potency while maintaining selectivity toward the pathogen (reduced toxicity). In addition, the trainee will learn how to integrate his/her data to those obtained from contract research organizations (CROs) that are contracted to performed specific tests. It is expected that the trainee will learn at the end of the training year the basis of the drug discovery process.

 

Skills and techniques learned will include:

  • General malaria parasite cell culture (Plasmodium falciparum) and mammalian cell culture.
  • In vitro drug screening (hit-to-lead process), in vitro drug resistance evolution, drug mechanism of action and target identification
  • Basic pharmacology
  • Data analysis and presentation

 

 Hyperlinks:

https://ctegd.uga.edu/about/directory/m-belen-cassera/

 

Dr. Christopher A. Cleveland

Assistant Professor, SCWDS (Southeastern Cooperative Wildlife Disease Study)

ccleve@uga.edu

Project Title:

The studies of transmission dynamics and impacts of vector-borne pathogens on domestic animals, humans and wildlife.

Project Description:

Our laboratory studies transmission dynamics and impacts of vector-borne pathogens on domestic animals, humans and wildlife. We are investigating the diversity of ticks and tick-borne pathogens from dogs in rural, understudied populations of Chad, Africa. Using a combination of morphological and molecular techniques, ticks are identified to species, providing details on ectoparasites present in a remote, sub-saharan location. We will also investigate the presence of Rickettsial pathogens in ticks, some of which are zoonotic and may have population level health consequences. The PREP scholar working in our lab will work closely with graduate students and a research coordinator and will learn techniques related to:

Skills and techniques learned will include:

  • Field techniques for collecting ticks
  • Morphological identification of ectoparasites
  • Molecular analyses (DNA extraction, PCR, Sanger Sequencing)
  • Phylogenetic analyses
  • Statistical analyses
  • Manuscript preparation

  Hyperlinks:

ResearchGate Profile

 

 

Krzysztof Czaja

Associate Professor, Veterinary Biosciences & Diagnostic Imaging
website | czajak@uga.edu

We plan to investigate the diet-induced changes in gut-brain vagal communication using rat as an animal model. We will induce obesity by using different high-energy diets and study the changes in gut innervation and food intake signaling. Results of this project will determine the diet-induced changes in brain circuits responsible for feeding behavior. The PREP@UGA Scholar in our group will work with postdoctoral associate, Dulce Minaya, and develop knowledge and skills related to:

  • Neuroanatomy of gastrointestinal tract
  • Food intake regulation
  • Immunofluorescence
  • Microscopy
  • Molecular biology
  • Gastric bypass surgery

Art Edison

GRA Eminent Scholar, Professor, Biochemistry & Molecular Biology, Genetics, and Institute of Bioinformatics, Complex Carbohydrate Research Center
website | aedison@uga.edu

Metabolomics is the measurement and analysis of small molecule metabolites in living systems. The ideal situation would be to measure and quantify everything, but that is currently impossible because of the complexity of the metabolome. Our lab develops methodology for metabolomics measurements and computational analysis. We also have a large number of applications with collaborators in which we apply our technology to biological problems such as carbon flux through the ocean, circadian oscillations of a species of yeast, mapping pathways in model organisms, improving cell-based therapeutics, and understanding human cancer and infectious disease. The PREP@UGA Scholar working in our lab could work with several potential graduate students or postdocs depending on the specific project and would develop skills related to:

  • Metabolomics study design and quality assurance/quality control
  • Sample preparation
  • NMR data collection and analysis
  • MATLAB programming and use
  • Multivariate statistical analysis

Vanessa Ezenwa

Professor, Department of Infectious Diseases
website | vezenwa@uga.edu

We are studying the consequences of concurrent infection between gastrointestinal helminths (worms) and Mycobacterium bovis (the causative agent of bovine tuberculosis [TB]). Our work uses wild African buffalo from South Africa as a model to understand how active infection with worms and host resistance to worms influence the severity of TB infection. A PREP@UGA Scholar could collaborate on this project by helping to characterize worm resistance phenotypes in study animals. The scholar in our group would work closely with postdoctoral associate Elizabeth Warburton and develop skills related to:

  • Animal necropsy
  • Microscopy
  • Parasitology (e.g. egg counts, larval culture, adult worm isolation and identification)
  • Statistical analysis

 

Stephen Hajduk

Professor Emeritus, Biochemistry & Molecular Biology
websiteshajduk@uga.edu

Recently, it has become clear that all organisms release small membrane bound vesicles that deliver macromolecules to neighboring and distant cells.  It has also been observed that extracellular vesicles (EVs) play important roles in cancer metastasis and disease pathology caused by infectious agents.  The Hajduk lab discovered African trypanosomes, the causative agents of human African sleeping sickness and a related cattle disease Nagana, produce EVs during infection. Trypanosome derived EVs interact with host cells and contribute to the pathology associated with infection.  Several projects are currently planned to examine the mechanism of interaction of parasite EVs with the host and the molecular signals carried by trypanosome EVs. The PREP@UGA Scholar in our lab will work with postdoctoral fellow, Michael Cipriano, and will learn techniques related to:

  • Cell culture methods for African trypanosomes and mammalian cells.
  • Live cell imaging and fluorescence microscopy.
  • Flow cytometry to evaluate host immune modulation by parasite EVs.
  • Nucleic acid isolation and sequence to determine whether trypanosome RNAs are delivered to host cells.
  • Molecular cloning and mutagenesis of trypanosome genes to evaluate the function of EV associated proteins and RNAs.

Eric Harvill

Professor, Infectious Diseases
website | harvill@uga.edu

Our lab studies how the genomic size versus stability of Bordetella species impacts the organism’s ability to adapt to and survive under environmental pressures during host adaptation. Using the highly genetically conserved bordetellae, we will test whether a larger genome is more advantageous for adaptation to novel environmental factors and hosts, while a smaller yet relatively instable genome will be able to quickly adapt to selective pressure.  The selective pressures to be studied will include murine and amoebic hosts as well as environmental pressures such as antibiotic selection and pH. The PREP@UGA Scholar in our lab with work with postdoctoral associate, Dawn Taylor-Mulneix, and will learn techniques related to:

  • In vitro assay, such as growth kinetics, serum killing assay, ELISAs, Western Blots, mammalian and amoeba cell culture work, cytotocity assay, and microscopy
  • In vivo assay using our mouse and amoeba models
  • Other molecular biology techniques such as cloning, PCR, qRT-PCR, and DNA sequencing.

Shelley Hooks

Associate Professor, Pharmaceutical and Biomedical Sciences, Neuroscience
website | shooks@uga.edu

Our research focuses on understanding the molecular mechanism by which “Regulator of G protein signaling 10” (RGS10) regulates inflammatory signaling independent of its canonical role on G proteins. We explore the dynamic localization and protein-protein or protein-DNA interaction of RGS10 to determine how RGS10 regulates inflammation in different cellular compartments. In addition, we investigate the potential impact of RGS10 in intracellular calcium response/mobilization to identify other Ca2+-regulated signaling pathways that control inflammatory gene expression. The PREP@UGA Scholar in our lab will collaborate in identifying these novel anti-inflammatory and neuroprotective mechanisms, working with senior graduate student, Menbere Wendimu, and learning skills related to:

  • Cell culture
  • RT-PCR
  • Western Blotting
  • Cell and Tissue Staining
  • Live cell imaging
  • Co-Immunoprecipitation
  • Cell fractionation
  • Lentivirus preparation and transfection

Chester J. Joyner, PhD (PI)

Project title: Developing an in vitro transmission system for relapsing malaria parasites

Project Description:

Relapsing malaria parasites are the primary cause of malaria outside of sub-Saharan Africa and cause substantial morbidity and socioeconomic burden. These parasites are difficult to control and eliminate due to their ability to remain dormant in the liver. The dormant liver-stage forms, known as hypnozoites, are able to persist for weeks, months, or years after an initial infection is treated and cause relapsing infections. Despite being responsible for almost 80% of infections, the biology of relapsing infections and the hypnozoites that cause them are poorly understood. One hindrance is the inability to study hypnozoite biology directly due to the reliance on animal models to generate sporozoites, which are needed to infect primary hepatocyte culture systems to study hypnozoites. Dr. Joyner’s lab in collaboration with other laboratories at UGA have established an in vitro parasite line that grows continuously that could be used to generate sporozoites. However, the conditions to obtain optimal transmission to mosquitoes is not known. The overall goal of this project is to identify the factors that promote the generation of gametocytes and infections in mosquitoes.

Skills and techniques learned will include:

  • Molecular Biology
    • qRT-PCR
    • Nucleic Acid Purification
  • Culture of malaria parasites
  • Data analysis
  • Data presentation
  • Mosquito rearing and husbandry
  • Membrane-feeding assays
  • Insect microdissections
  • Light microscopy
  • Primary mammalian cell culture

Hyperlinks:

First In vitro Culture manuscript: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/31406175/

Dr. Joyner’s Publication link: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/sites/myncbi/1lGF44-y7oGAG/bibliography/43785153/public/?sort=date&direction=ascending

Ray Kaplan

Professor, Department of Infectious Disease
website | rkaplan@uga.edu

Our laboratory studies the epidemiology, diagnosis, control and genetics of drug-resistance in parasitic nematodes. Recently, our laboratory has confirmed multiple-drug resistance in the canine hookworm, Ancylostoma caninum. This is the most prevalent and clinically important gastrointestinal nematode parasite of dogs in the United States, and thus represents an emerging crisis for canine health. We are investigating the biology, epidemiology and genetics of these drug-resistant worms in order to gain insights that will lead to improvements in the treatment and control of this emerging problem. The PREP@UGA Scholar will work with PhD student, Pablo Jimenez, DVM, and will develop knowledge and skills related to:

  • Clinical parasitological diagnostic techniques
  • Animal models for maintenance and cycling of parasite life cycles
  • in vitro bioassays for measuring drug resistance in parasitic nematodes
  • Molecular biological techniques such as DNA extraction, PCR, and deep amplicon (Illumia) sequencing
  • Bioinformatics
  • Data analysis and presentation

Lohitash Karumbaiah

Assistant Professor, Regenerative Bioscience Center
websitelohitash@uga.edu 

We plan to use 3D brain organoids as a platform to model brain injury, including the evaluation of different types of injuries (mechanical and chemical) and their recovery pattern with and without treatments over long-period of time. We will use in vivo calcium imaging technique for evaluating functional dynamic of neural network following injury, in combination with microelectrode array (MEA) recording/stimulation methods and histological characterization of tissue properties. The PREP@UGA Scholar in our group will work with postdoctoral associate, Charles-Francois Vincent Latchoumane, and will develop skills related to:

  • Neural stem cells (NSCs) culture 2D and 3D
  • Viral-based genetic modification
  • MEA recording and stimulation of cell culture
  • Image and signal processing (including programming)
  • Data analysis and presentation

James Lauderdale

Associate Professor, Cellular Biology
website | jdlauder@uga.edu

One focus of research in our lab is to understand the cellular and genetic mechanisms important for generating different structures within the vertebrate eye. We use anole lizards and mice as model organisms in this work. Our group also aims to elucidate the role of surround inhibition in seizure dynamics. In this research, we use lines of zebrafish harboring mutations that perturb neural activity, lines of fish harboring genetically encoded reporters, and advanced imaging technology to investigate the function of inhibitory neurons in seizure generation and propagation. The PREP@UGA Scholar in our group will work with Senior Lab Personnel, Rebecca Ball, developing knowledge and skills related to:

  • Appropriate handling and care of research animals
  • Histology
  • Visualization of gene expression using techniques such as mRNA in situ hybridization, antibody labeling, and transgenic reporters
  • Microscopy, including bright-field, differential interference, fluorescent, light-sheet, and confocal

Dr. Catherine M. Logue

Professor of Microbiology, Department of Population Health

Website https://vet.uga.edu/person/catherine-logue/

E mail Catherine.Logue@uga.edu

 

Our lab has a passion for all things microbiology. We are interested in what makes a bacteria tick, what makes it capable of causing disease and how can we control it. Our current research is focused in a number of areas related to disease of poultry caused by Avian Pathogenic Escherichia coli (APEC for short), foodborne pathogens of food producing animals (Salmonella, Campylobacter and E. coli) and diseases of humans such as urinary tract infections (UTIs) and human neonatal meningitis E. coli. We are also interested in how these pathogens can resist treatments and how antimicrobial resistance enhances their ability to survive and how these resistances move. We work in a range of areas from basic isolation and characterization of pathogens using molecular tools – e.g. Pulsed Field Gel Electrophoresis, PCR, virulence genotyping, plasmid typing and whole genome sequencing. We also model some of our APEC strains in poultry disease as a means to assess the potential role of vaccine candidates in reducing and or eliminating disease. Our lab encourages student participation in our group projects with the goal to learn new skills from benchwork to animals to presentation and writing. The PREP student will work with the PI of the lab, graduate student, other undergraduate researchers and our collaborators at the poultry disease research center (PDRC). Students who participate in research projects of the lab will be trained to be independent researchers with a small project of their own as well as work with larger projects of the lab. Our PREP scholars will learn new skills in basic research including.

 

  • Culture and handling of class 2 bacterial pathogens
  • Preparation of strains for analysis
  • PCR based genotyping using standard and real time PCR
  • Virulence assays using tissue culture and cellular models
  • Antimicrobial susceptibility analysis
  • Writing and presentation skills

Ross Marklein, PhD

Assistant Professor

School of Chemical, Materials and Biomedical Engineering

Laboratory Mentor: Andrew Larey, Graduate Student

Project title: High throughput screening of manufacturing conditions to improve mesenchymal stromal cell quality

Project Description:

Mesenchymal stromal cells (MSCs) are currently being explored in hundreds of clinical trials primarily due to their ability to modulate the immune system in diseases such as osteoarthritis, diabetes, Parkinson’s Disease, and Alzheimer’s Disease. However, there is considerable heterogeneity in MSCs derived from different donors and tissue sources, as well as derived from non-standardized approaches for manufacturing. Our lab has previously developed an imaging-based approach to characterize the morphological response of MSCs to different functionally-relevant cues and this project will expand on this approach in a high throughput manner to identify manufacturing conditions (e.g. types of medium and stimulations) that improve their quality in terms of both consistency and immunomodulatory function. This project is highly integrated with other Marklein Lab projects and the NSF Engineering Research Center – Cell Manufacturing Technologies (CMaT).

Skills and techniques learned will include:

  • High content imaging
  • Single cell analysis
  • Cell culture
  • High throughput screening
  • Data analysis and presentation
  • Basics of cell therapy regulation

  Hyperlinks:

http://www.ramlab.uga.edu

Amy Medlock, PhD

Associate Professor

Project title: Defining the role of PGRMC1 in heme homeostasis

Project Description:

Recently we have identified a mitochondrial heme biosynthesis metabolon. Data suggest that this complex is important for localization within the mitochondria, regulation of heme synthesis and trafficking of porphyrins and heme. We identified several hemoproteins with no known function in heme synthesis. One of these proteins is progesterone membrane receptor component 1 (PGRMC1). Our goal is to determine the function of PGRMC1 in heme homeostasis. To determine the role of PGRMC1 in heme synthesis we will carry out in vitro and in vivo experiments. We have used the Crispr-Cas system to knock out PGRMC1 in cell culture and in zebrafish. We are currently analyzing metabolomics data in these cells and fish. In addition, we are determining the details of the protein-protein interactions. The PREP@UGA scholar in our group will work with me, Amy Medlock, and will develop skills related to: 

Skills and techniques learned will include:

  • Cell culture techniques including growth, transfection, flow cytometry and differentiation
  • Affinity purification of proteins
  • UV-Vis spectroscopy to evaluation heme binding and hemoglobin production
  • Zebrafish husbandry and genotyping

  Hyperlinks:

https://www.bmb.uga.edu/research/lab/medlock
 

Silvia N J Moreno

Distinguished Research Professor, Department of Cellular Biology
website | smoreno@uga.edu

Toxoplasma gondii is an intracellular parasite that infects humans and animals and is related to other parasites of medical and veterinary importance within the phylum Apicomplexa. The resulting pathogenesis of T. gondii is due to the fast growth of the tachyzoite form, which engages in multiple rounds of host cell invasion, replication and egress in order to propagate. Calcium (Ca2+) signaling precedes the signaling pathways decoding into essential biological features of the intracellular life cycle of Toxoplasma gondii. A large number of the molecular elements that control Ca2+ signaling in T. gondii are unknown or uncharacterized. The endoplasmic reticulum (ER) is one the major intracellular Ca2+ stores, from where Ca2+ can be released in response to specific signals. We also have evidence for other intracellular organelles that are important for storing Ca2+ like acidocalcisomes and the plant-like vacuole (PLV). This project will focus on the characterization of acidic Ca2+ stores (acidocalcisomes and PLV) which are organelles that store Ca2+ at high concentrations. These organelles express a number of transporters and channels that are still not discovered or characterized. A number of annotated genes likely to play those roles need to be characterized and the project will center around those. Their characterization consists in endogenous tagging of genes for localization, deleting the genes from the genome to analyze the phenotypic characteristics of the mutants, cloning of the genes for their expression for studying their functions and generation of antibodies. The PREP@UGA scholar in our lab will work with Eric Dykes, graduate student, and Andrea Hortua, post-doc, and learn:

  • Molecular cloning, building of transgenic parasites, creating Toxoplasma knock-out mutants using CRISPR-CAS technology, microscopy, live cell imaging, fluorometric measurements of Ca2+ oscillations, protein purification, immunoprecipitations.

Jarrod J. Mousa, PhD

Assistant Professor

Center for Vaccines and Immunology, Department of Infectious Diseases

Jarrod.mousa@uga.edu

The Mousa Laboratory is interested in elucidating the molecular mechanisms by which the human immune system combats these pathogens. We use a wide-range of translational approaches to study the molecular interactions mediating antibody neutralization of infectious pathogens. We study the human antibody response to select pathogens utilizing approaches to isolate human monoclonal antibodies as potential therapeutics, and determine their mechanism of action using biochemical, immunological, and structural approaches such as X-ray crystallography. These efforts are informing the design of vaccines and therapeutics. Currently, we are focusing our efforts on the respiratory pathogens respiratory syncytial virus, human metapneumovirus, the parainfluenza viruses, influenza virus, and Streptococcus pneumoniae.

  • Antibody isolation
  • Biolayer interferometry
  • X-ray crystallography
  • Protein expression and purification (bacterial and mammalian cells)
  • Vaccine studies

Daniel R. Perez

GRA Distinguished Investigator, Professor and Caswell S. Eidson Chair, Poultry Medicine
websitedperez1@uga.edu

Our laboratory has developed several complementary approaches towards the development of universal influenza virus vaccines against influenza A and B viruses. We plan to elucidate the mechanisms involved in elicitation of innate and adaptive immune responses and define the best vaccine strategy in order to move into clinical trials. The Scholar in our lab will work with postdoctoral associate, Stivalis Cardenas-Garcia and will learn:

  • Traditional and state-of-the-art molecular biology techniques
  • Classical virology and reverse genetics technology
  • Next generation sequencing (MiSeq and MinIon nanopore)
  • Preclinical animal study design and implementation
  • Statistical analysis

Rachel Roberts-Galbraith, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor, Cellular Biology and Neuroscience

Website: https://robertsgalbraithlab.org

Email: robertsgalbraith@uga.edu

 

Our group studies regeneration, with a particular focus on adult pluripotent stem cells and brain repair and regrowth after injury.  To understand how regeneration of complex tissues can proceed successfully, we use an animal model — the planarian flatworm.  Planarians can regenerate all of their body parts, including their brains, after nearly any injury.  Because of these extraordinary regenerative abilities, planarians are an excellent model with which to identify and understand the cellular and molecular basis of regenerative processes.  Current projects in the laboratory focus on 1) identifying signaling pathways that are critical for initiating and orchestrating regeneration and/or 2) exploring mechanisms underlying regeneration of cell types within the nervous system (neurons, glia).  The PREP@UGA Scholar in our laboratory would work with a senior graduate student on one of these projects.  The scholar will learn skills likely to include:

  • Molecular biology (cloning, RNA synthesis)
  • In situ hybridization
  • RNA interference
  • Microscopy (live, bright field, and fluorescence)
  • Data analysis and presentation

Jesse Schank

Assistant Professor, Physiology & Pharmacology
websitejschank@uga.edu

Our lab studies the interaction between stress and addiction, and how this relationship is mediated by neuropeptides.  Our primary projects focus on the neurokinin-1 receptor, which is the endogenous receptor for the neuropeptide substance P.  Using social defeat stress models, we are able to induce escalated alcohol consumption in mice, which we use as a model of the comorbidity of depression and alcoholism, which is common in human populations.  We also study the role of stress in relapse-like behavior using the reinstatement model, as well as various additional models of escalated consumption.  These experiments almost always include a neuroanatomical or molecular component to go along with the behavioral analysis. The PREP@UGA Scholar in our lab will work with senior graduate student, Sadie Nennig, to understand the role of the neurokinin-1 receptor in alcoholism and depression comorbidity, developing skills related to:

  • Methods in behavioral neuroscience including operant self-administration, conditioned place preference, social interaction testing, and social defeat stress.
  • Quantitative PCR for measurement of RNA transcripts in brain tissue
  • Immunohistochemistry and microscopy

Rick Tarleton

Professor, Department of Cellular Biology
website | tarleton@uga.edu

Trypanosoma cruzi is a protozoan parasite that causes Chagas disease, which affects an estimated 8-12 million people in Latin America. Though the infection is highly controlled by the immune system, complete clearance is rare. CD8+ T cells are known to be required effectors for immune control of the infection and are narrowly focused in C57BL/6 mice on a few immunodominant epitopes, TSKb18 and TSKb20, from the large gene family trans-sialidase (ts). Though the T cell responses to these two ts epitopes are numerically large, both T cell responses are not required for immune control, which suggests that there are other non-ts specific CD8+ T cells involved in immune control. Related to this, our lab has recently shown that upon invasion of the host cell, T. cruzi parasites discard the flagellum inside the host cell cytoplasm and two CD8+ T cell epitopes were identified in the flagellar protein Par4. Collectively, these results demonstrate that flagellar proteins can be processed/presented to the immune system, which justifies the screening of additional flagellar proteins in T. cruzi. So, in order to facilitate the study of how other non-ts specific CD8+ T cell responses impact immune control of T. cruzi infection, the PREP@UGA Scholar will works towards identifying novel mouse and human CD8+ T cell epitopes from T. cruzi flagellar proteins. The Scholar will work with senior graduate student Molly Bunkofske and learn relevant skills including but not limited to:

  • Dendritic cell culturing and vaccination of mice
  • Cell culture method for mammalian cells
  • Memory recall assays, including ELISPOT and in-vivo CTL assays
  • Basic flow cytometry
  • Data analysis and presentation

Lance Wells

Professor, Biochemistry & Molecular Biology, Complex Carbohydrate Research Center
websitelwells@ccrc.uga.edu

Using a combination of methodologies, including mass spectrometry, protein biochemistry, cell biology, genetics, proteomics, and molecular biology, we study the role of PTMs (primarily O-glycosylation) in a variety of pathophysiological processes including cancer, diabetes, and congenital muscular dystrophy. Our research aims to understand of how increased functional diversity of proteins via glycosylation leads to finer control of biological processes. The hope is that by understanding the role of PTMs, we will not only more accurately describe fundamental biological processes but will also elucidate novel therapeutic targets in disease states such as type II diabetes, congenital muscular dystophy and cancer in which these processes have become dysregulated. Project choices for the PREP@UGA Scholar in our group include: (1) Defects in the glycoslyation of alpha-dystroglycan result in multiple forms of congenital muscular dystrophy. Our laboratory is elucidating the enzymes and glycan structures required for proper alpha-dystroglycan function in order to understand the impact of mutations and provide potential intelligently designed interventions. (2) Galactosemia, a disorder tested for at birth in the U.S., results in dysregulated sugar nucleotide pools. Understanding the impact of this metabolic disease on cell surface glycosylation may uncover potential mechanisms of the disease and provide opportunities for therapeutic intervention. (3) Recently, our laboratory in collaboration with clinicians and geneticist has uncovered novel mutations in the OGT gene that are causal for X-linked intellectual disability (XLID).  We are currently assessing the impact of these mutations on the function of the OGT (O-GlcNAc transferase) enzyme in order to understand mechanism and look for avenues to exploit for therapy. Depending on the project(s) they choose, the Scholar will work with a postdoctoral associate or senior graduate student and will develop skills related to:

  • Enzymology, molecular biology, analytical chemistry (mass spectrometry) for projects 1 and 3
  • Analytical chemistry with a focus on glycomics/glycoproteomics via mass spectrometry for project 2

Dr. Robert J. Woods

Laboratory Mentor(s) Name(s) and position(s): Dr. Woods and Dr. Ye (Mia) Ji, research scientist

Project title: Synthesis of Anti-viral Compounds

Project Description:

The trainee will learn how to perform chemical synthesis of molecules that will be tested for their ability to prevent viral infections, such as Covid-19 and Influenza. 

Skills and techniques learned will include:

  • Synthesis and purification of organic molecules the inhibit viral infections
  • Acquisition and interpretation of data from nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectroscopy
  • data analysis and presentation 

 Hyperlinks:

https://www.bmb.uga.edu/research/lab/woods
 

Yao Yao

Assistant Professor, Pharmaceutical & Biomedical Sciences
websiteyyao@uga.edu

One area of our research is the investigation of how laminin regulates blood brain barrier (BBB) integrity and stroke (both hemorrhagic and ischemic) pathogenesis. We have generated a series of transgenic mouse lines, which lack laminin expression in different cell types. Using these laminin conditional knockout mice, we will assess the functions of different laminin isoforms (from distinct cells) in BBB integrity and stroke development/progression. Successful completion of this project will not only enrich our knowledge on BBB regulation, it will also promote the development of novel & effective therapies for stroke and other neurological disorders with BBB disruption. The PREP@UGA Scholar in our group will work with a postdoctoral associate or a senior graduate student, and will develop skills related to:

  • Genotyping (PCR) and conditional knockout technique (Cre-lox system)
  • Immunostaining, western blotting
  • Genetics
  • Blood brain barrier (BBB) permeability assays
  • Cell culture and DNA/RNA-related techniques
  • Tissue processing and possibly animal studies (depending on progress)
  • Data analysis and presentation