2022 INRO Cohort
Fabiola Castelló Casta
DIR-Laboratory of Viral Diseases (LVD) (Jason Brenchley, Ph.D.)
Intended Path: Ph.D.
Research Interests: Immunology, Infectious Diseases, Immunopathology
As a born-and-raised Puerto Rican, Fabiola M. Castelló Casta attended the University of Puerto Rico at Cayey and majored in natural sciences with a concentration in biology. During this time, Fabiola demonstrated a great interest in immunology and how the body’s immune system deals with disease. This led her to participate in a summer internship program at Rutgers University, where she conducted research under the guidance of Amariliz Rivera, Ph.D. Her work focused on understanding the immune mechanisms behind vaccination-induced protection against cryptococcal meningitis in immunocompromised patients. Following this experience, she was encouraged to continue doing research at her home institution with Edwin Vazquez, Ph.D. Here she was able to annotate the genomic sequences of bacteriophages, that were isolated in Puerto Rico, and established phylogenetic relationships based on nucleic acid and amino acid sequence analysis. These experiences aided her to score her final summer internship at the University of Minnesota, where she worked in Dr. Stephen Jameson’s lab studying the role of the immune response in directing diet-induced liver disease.
After graduating, Fabiola was accepted into INRO and currently works as an NIH fellow in the Barrier Immunity Section at the Laboratory of Viral Diseases under the supervision and guidance of Jason Brenchley, Ph.D. Her research project focuses on trying to understand how simian immunodeficiency virus (SIV) infection influences the composition of the microbiome of multiple anatomic sites of SIV-infected Asian macaques.
Fabiola aspires to pursue a Ph.D. in immunology with the ultimate goal of reaching an academic position and paving the road for other minority students interested in biomedical sciences.
DIR-Laboratory of Parasitic Diseases (LPD) (Michael Grigg, Ph.D.)
Intended Path: M.D.
Research Interests: Genetics, Health Disparities, Infectious Diseases
Christina Chung graduated from the University of Missouri with a B.S. in biology and psychology in 2022. As an undergraduate researcher in the division of biological sciences, she studied the behavioral consequences of defective neuronal migration using zebrafish as a model. She specifically focused on the impact of defective migration of the facial branchiomotor neurons on the jaw movement of zebrafish larvae. Under the department of human development and family science and the department of psychological sciences, she also assessed the potential of pretend play as a protective factor against child stress and poor child self-regulation in low-income children attending a head start program during the COVID-19 pandemic.
As a postbac fellow as part of the INRO initiative, Christina is conducting research in the Molecular Parasitology Section of the Laboratory of Parasitic Diseases under the mentorship of Michael Grigg, Ph.D. and Aline Sardinha-Silva, Ph.D. She is investigating the role of Toxoplasma gondii surface antigens thought to hijack host complement and innate immune signaling pathways, altering susceptibility to infection and parasite virulence.
DIR-Laboratory of Immune System Biology (LISB) (Ronald Germain, M.D., Ph.D.)
Intended Path: Ph.D.
Research Interests: Biochemistry, Infectious Diseases, Immunology
A Los Angeles local, Jaynia graduated magna cum laude from Loyola Marymount University (LMU) with a B.S. in biochemistry in 2022. Jaynia was an “A Community Committed to Excellence in Scientific Scholarship (ACCESS”) scholar and recipient of the merit-based Arrupe scholarship.
In 2021, Jaynia participated in the Macromolecular Structure and Function virtual summer program organized by Constance Jeffery, Ph.D., through the University of Illinois Chicago. During the program, she conducted computational protein biochemistry research of nontypeable Haemophilus influenzae with Heather Pinkett, Ph.D., at Northwestern University. Afterwards, Jaynia was mentored by LMU professor Kathryn Mouzakis, Ph.D., contributing to the Mouzakis lab’s research of SARS-CoV-2 genome frameshift efficiency to test antiviral frameshift inhibitors. Her experiences with infectious disease and computational research contributed to her interest to pursue further research opportunities.
After graduating, Jaynia started as an INRO postbac in the Laboratory of Immune System Biology under the supervision of Ronald Germain, M.D., Ph.D. Jaynia is currently studying multiplexed microscopy imaging and helping develop an imaging technology that uses nanobody markers to image specific protein proximity. Jaynia aspires to pursue a Ph.D. to further study infectious diseases at the biochemical level.
DIR-LPD (Amy Klion, M.D.)
Intended Path: M.D.
Research Interests: Immunology, Oncology, Virology
Megan graduated summa cum laude from Colorado College (CC) with a B.A. in molecular biology, earned her emergency medical technician (EMT) certification, and led a global health club partnered with a grassroots non-profit in Kenya called the Western Organization for People Living with AIDS/HIV. Megan attended CC on the full-ride merit-based Boettcher Scholarship. Prior to and during her collegiate career, Megan embraced the Boettcher Foundation’s mission to bring together passionate individuals striving to improve and give back to their Colorado community. Upon graduating from CC, Megan was recognized as the top biology major with the Mary Alice Hamilton Award.
During her undergraduate studies, Megan worked under Jennifer Garcia, Ph.D., to study a novel autophagic messenger RNA degradation pathway with implications for neurodegenerative disease pathogenesis and potential treatment targets. While in the Garcia lab, Megan earned a Boettcher Foundation Collaboration Grant. Due to the impact of multiple strong female role models, Megan strives every day to empower women and girls inside and outside of STEM through mentorship programs, peer support circles, and leadership positions that grant her a platform to advocate for women.
Megan was selected for the INRO fellowship at the National Institutes of Health after college and currently conducts clinical research under Amy Klion, M.D., and Paneez Khoury, M.D., in the Human Eosinophil Section of the Laboratory of Parasitic Diseases. Her projects focus on the pathogenesis, symptomology, and response to treatment of eosinophilic gastrointestinal diseases. Megan plans to attend medical school and further explore her interest in human immunology and oncology so she can serve patient populations with quality care and access to innovative treatment as a physician scientist.
DIR-LVD (Andrea Marzi, Ph.D.)
Intended Path: M.D.
Research Interests: Emerging Infectious Diseases, Virology, Disease Ecology
Brody graduated summa cum laude from Washington College in 2022 with a B.S. in chemistry and biology with an emphasis in molecular biology and infectious disease. From a young age, he was interested in the outdoors and science, which led to his current fascination in the interplay of infectious diseases and humans in the Anthropocene. While in undergrad, Brody was involved with clinical research and conducted an independent research project in Mombasa, Kenya, that investigated the uptake and use of malaria prophylactic medications.
Through the INRO program, he is currently working at the Rocky Mountain Labs in the Laboratory of Virology under the mentorship of Dr. Andrea Marzi in the Immunobiology and Molecular Virology Unit. His project focuses on recombinant vesicular stomatitis virus (VSV) vaccines expressing different Ebolavirus glycoproteins and characterizes them in vitro and in vivo. Brody is also involved in a study investigating the efficacy of the VSV-H5N1 vaccine in ferrets and nonhuman primates. He hopes to become an infectious disease physician in the military and serve in humanitarian roles around the world.
DIR-Laboratory of Immunoregulation (LIR) (Tae-Wook Chun, Ph.D.)
Intended Path: M.D.
Research Interests: Cancer, Infectious Disease, Clinical
Maegan graduated magna cum laude from Hobart and William Smith Colleges in 2022 with a B.S. in biological sciences and minors in chemistry and religious studies. She was a part of the William Smith soccer team where she was awarded Liberty League All-Academic student-athlete 4 years in a row. She served the leadership position as her team’s athletic study mentor where she mentored incoming freshman to help them make an easier transition from high school to college. She also worked for the biology department as an assistant laboratory technician. As an undergrad she worked in a lab researching the cytotoxicity of small compounds against a lymphoma cell line under Dr. Patricia Mowery. She presented her research at the 2022 American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology conference in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in the undergrad poster session. Her experience in Dr. Mowery’s lab sparked her interest in further exploring the field of biomedical research.
Currently, as an INRO fellow, she is conducting research in the HIV Immunovirology Section under Dr. Tae-Wook Chun, Ph.D. She is currently involved in projects focused on investigating patients who have reached levels of no inducible virus and working towards delineating the mechanisms as to how some patients can achieve this. Her goals for the future are to apply to medical school after completing a 2-year postbac in her current lab.
Darwing Padilla Rolon
DIR-Laboratory of Clinical Immunology and Microbiology (LCIM) (Bibiana Bielekova, M.D.)
Intended Path: M.D./Ph.D.
Research Interests: Neuroimmunological Diseases, Neuroinfectious Diseases, Neurodegenerative Diseases
Born and raised in Puerto Rico, Darwing S. Padilla Rolón graduated from the University of Puerto Rico at Cayey with strong desires to communicate, advocate, and share ideas with the scientific community, as well as learning from them. He has been involved in multiple research experiences and non-profit organizations that have guided him to seek opportunities for other underrepresented minorities like him.
Currently, he is a postbaccalaureate trainee in the INRO program working with Bibiana Bielekova, M.D., in the Neuroimmunological Diseases Section, which has the mission to understand, diagnose, prognosticate, and cure neuroimmunological diseases. Darwing is working with the development of cerebral organoids to understand and study neural-immune interactions in neuroimmunological diseases. He is seeking to advance into neuroscience research focused on the field of neuroimmunology. His main goal is to improve his skills within this field and others, in order to pursue an M.D./Ph.D. and contribute to neuroimmunology research that could be applied to the treatment of neurodegenerative, neuroimmunological, and neuroinfectious diseases.
Darwing’s future endeavors include obtaining a faculty position within academia to teach and mentor students, have his own research group, and practice medicine on a research-intensive hospital. Most importantly, he wants to create opportunities to communicate scientific topics of relevance to non-scientist communities and impact future students’ lives just as his professors and mentors have done with him. Eventually, he would like to return to his beloved Island and develop the next generation of young scientists, prevent health disparities in Puerto Rico, and give back to the community that once gave him the strength to continue.
DIR-Laboratory of Bacteriology (LB) (Michael Otto, Ph.D.)
Intended Path: Ph.D.
Research Interests: Bacteriology, Quorum Sensing, Infectious Diseases
Aaron Pugh graduated summa cum laude from Salem College in 2022 with a B.S. in biochemistry and biology. During his time at Salem, Aaron completed a year-long independent study of quorum sensing in Pseudomonas aeruginosa as his honors thesis. He also worked as a teaching assistant and tutor in biology and programming classes. Aaron also researched seasonal patterns in disease incidence under Dr. Michael Rust with the University of Chicago. They sought to understand whether human circannual rhythms influence how some diseases become seasonal.
Aaron served on the board of several clubs and organizations. He was the president of Salem College’s LGBT+ club, working to provide a safe space for queer students and faculty. Through this role, he sought to create a welcoming space by encouraging working with other diverse student groups and making events accessible to disabled students. Aaron was also the vice president of his class for two years, treasurer of Mortar Board, a senior honors society, and worked on the board of the Sustainability Fund. For his work, Aaron received the SGA Susan E. Pauly Social Justice Award and the Leaders in Science and Mathematics Program Award.
Currently, Aaron is a postbac in the INRO program working under Dr. Michael Otto in the Pathogen Molecular Genetics Section conducting research on quorum sensing in S. aureus. Specifically, his project focuses on how S. aureus uses quorum sensing in colonizing the gut microbiome. Looking to the future, Aaron aims to pursue a Ph.D. in microbiology and continue working in academia as a researcher and professor.
DIR-LPD (Amy Klion, M.D.)
Intended Path: M.D./Ph.D.
Research Interests: Immunology, Reproductive and Developmental Biology, Cancer Biology
In 2022, Rodaba Rahim graduated magna cum laude from Kenyon College with a B.A. in molecular biology and a concentration in Asian and Middle East Studies. Rodaba was named a STEM Scholar, taking part in a 4-year National Science Foundation-funded scholarship program that works to promote diversity and inclusion in the natural sciences.
During her time at Kenyon College, Rodaba started conducting research in the laboratory of Joan Slonczewski, Ph.D., where she studied the effects of long-term exposure of sodium salicylate on regulation of genes related to antibiotic resistance in Pseudomonas fluorescens and Bacillus subtilis. She continued her undergraduate research under the mentorship of Arianna Smith, Ph.D., and began her thesis work exploring the molecular mechanisms by which stress hormone impacts thyroid hormone production in placental cells. Her thesis was awarded departmental high honors and she earned two Kenyon Summer Science Scholar awards. Additionally, Rodaba was selected to be a Pelotonia scholar at the Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center, where she spent a summer working with Anna Vilgelm, M.D., Ph.D., studying the impact of potential drug therapies on promoting anti-tumor immunity in melanoma and metastatic breast cancers, further sparking her interest in immunology and cell biology.
After accepting a position as a postbac fellow through the INRO program at NIAID, Rodaba joined the Human Eosinophil Section in the Laboratory of Parasitic Diseases under the mentorship of Dr. Amy Klion, M.D. She is currently studying eosinophil trafficking in patients with episodic angioedema with eosinophilia, a type of hypereosinophilic syndrome (HES). Additionally, Rodaba is studying mechanisms of steroid resistance in patients with HES. Looking forward, Rodaba is interested in pursuing an M.D./Ph.D. with hopes to continue using science as a tool to further understand human health and disease as a physician-scientist.
DIR-Laboratory of Malaria and Vector Research (LMVR) (Hans Ackerman, M.D., D.Phil.)
Intended Path: M.D./M.P.H.
Research Interests: Sickle Cell, Malaria, Infectious Disease
In 2022, Lauryn Ridley graduated magna cum laude from St. Mary’s College of Maryland (SMCM) with a B.S. in biochemistry and biology and a minor in neuroscience. At SMCM, supervised by Pamela Mertz, she worked on the expression and purification of recombinant avian corticosterone-binding globulin as part of a broader study of zebra finch stress physiology. She presented her work at the American Society of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology annual meeting, where she was inducted into the Chi Omega Lambda Honor Society. Upon graduation, she received the American Institute of Chemists Student Award in the field of biochemistry. Outside of research, she founded her school’s pre-health club, serving as co-president, and was president of the biochemistry organization of SMCM students.
In her hometown, Lauryn worked as a medical scribe and volunteered as a clinical research assistant. She also volunteered in her local food shelter. These experiences, combined with growing up in a rural county, sparked her interest in public health, rural medicine, and healthcare accessibility. This informed her decision to pursue INRO, where she could contribute to the study and treatment of diseases affecting under-resourced communities.
At NIH, Lauryn is a fellow in the Physiology Unit at the Laboratory of Malaria and Vector Research led by Hans Ackerman. The Physiology Unit studies the role of endothelial globins as regulators of nitric oxide signaling and the impact of human globin gene variants on vascular function and disease risk. Lauryn is exploring a novel mechanism through which the sickle cell mutation may protect against malaria: by enhancing the release of nitric oxide from the vascular endothelium. Lauryn aspires to become a physician who conducts biomedical and public health research, ultimately to provide care for under-resourced communities. She also hopes to become a mentor to historically underrepresented individuals pursuing this field.
Hector Romero Soto
DIR-Laboratory of Host Immunity and Microbiome (LHIM) (Suchitra Hourigan, M.D.)
Intended Path: M.D./Ph.D.
Research Interests: Host-Microbe Interactions, Microbiology, Immunology
Hector Romero Soto graduated summa cum laude from the University of Puerto Rico at Cayey with a B.S. in biology. Hector was sponsored by the Research Initiative for Scientific Enhancement, a program that invigorated his passion to advance research and medicine. This mindset motivated him to join Edwin Vazquez, Ph.D. in the isolation of bacteriophages and characterization of immune properties conferred to their host bacteria.
Looking to expand his research experience and integration of disciplines, he attended multiple summer internships. First, at the University of Georgia, Hector innovated genotypic analysis of transgenic mice under the supervision of Pengpeng Bi, Ph.D. The following year, Hector participated in a virtual summer internship mentored by Cara Haney, Ph.D., at the University of British Columbia-Vancouver Campus, where he established a remote genomics protocol to isolate, sequence, and assemble genomes of Pseudomonas strains found in plant tissues. In his last internship, Hector engaged in a project with Tyler Bold, M.D., Ph.D., at the University of Minnesota. There he developed a heterologous expression system for Mycobacterium tuberculosis genes using Salmonella enterica. Aside from researching, Hector spent time promoting science diversity and volunteering. Ultimately, these experiences confirmed his desire to combine medicine and biomedical research in the future as an M.D./ Ph.D.
In 2022, Hector started his NIH INRO fellowship in the Laboratory of Host Immunity and Microbiome under the supervision of Suchitra Hourigan, M.D. He collaborates in multiple clinical studies analyzing clinical gut microbiome interventions and their effects on children. His primary project involves the study of host-microbiome interactions in children receiving chemotherapy treatments.
Past INRO Cohorts
Luisa Dominguez Aldama
DIR-LAD (Melody Carter, M.D.)
Luisa Dominguez, a native of El Paso, graduated with highest honors from the University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP) with a B.S. in cellular and molecular biochemistry and a minor in Spanish. At UTEP, she was sponsored by BUILDing SCHOLARS, a research fellowship funded by NIH, to engage in serological survey for tickborne pathogens and to attend summer research opportunities at institutions such as UT Southwestern and the University of New Mexico.
She currently works in the Mast Cell Biology Section of the Division of Intramural Research (DIR) Laboratory of Allergic Diseases (LAD) under the mentorship of Melody Carter, M.D., where she studies patients with mastocytosis by 1) conducting detailed genetic analysis of KIT in patients with familial mastocytosis to explore mutations implicated in this disease, 2) exploring mutations and clinical correlates in pediatric mastocytosis, and 3) conducting a comparative analysis of KIT polymorphisms in the general population to patients with mastocytosis. Luisa is also part of the NIH Academy where she is learning about the health challenges affecting different communities of our society.
Luisa intends to attend a physician assistant program to help patients understand that health is fundamental for a meaningful life. She aspires to serve as the bridge to help alleviate healthcare disparities in vulnerable communities of society.
DIR-LVD (Theodore Pierson, Ph.D.)
In 2019, Elizabeth received her associate’s degree from Westchester Community College (WCC), where she actively participated in campus organizations to promote student accessibility, diversity, and inclusion. Elizabeth continued her education at Purchase College, at the State University of New York (SUNY), where she was accepted into the MARC U*STAR Honors Program. As a MARC Scholar, Elizabeth worked under Stephen Harris, Ph.D., investigating pathogen transmission to inform methods for the early detection of zoonotic events. She also worked with Mark Jonas, Ph.D., studying the effect of elevated carbon dioxide on the methylome of Arabidopsis thaliana. Elizabeth graduated from Purchase summa cum laude with a bachelor’s in science and was recognized with the President’s Award for Achievement in the School of Natural and Social Sciences.
Upon graduation, Elizabeth started her postbac fellowship through the INRO initiative at NIAID. She works under the supervision of Ted Pierson, Ph.D., in the Division of Intramural Research (DIR) Laboratory of Viral Diseases (LVD), where she investigates the relationships between Zika virus vaccine antigen design and antibody repertoires that define the quality of protective immune responses. This work involves cutting-edge molecular approaches and high-throughput quantitative assays of flavivirus antibody function. A deeper understanding of these concepts will inform the design of vaccines against emerging arbovirus threats.
DIR-LPD (Elodie Ghedin, Ph.D.)
Daniela Chow graduated magna cum laude from The University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP) in 2021 with a B.S. in biological sciences. Daniela participated in The Freshman Year Research Intensive Sequence, a program funded by the NIH and the Howard Hughes Medical Institute to establish a foundation in research experience. In Dr. Bruce Cushing’s section, her work focused on understanding the neurobiological basis of parental and pair bonding in the monogamous animal model of voles. For the following three years, Daniela worked in the laboratory of Dr. Luis R Martinez focusing on the immunosuppressive effects of methamphetamine in the adaptive immune response and the development of an in vitro blood-brain barrier model to assess the invasion of Cryptococcus neoformans. She was accepted into the UTEP Research Initiative for Scientific Enhancement (RISE), a scholarship to undergraduate minorities interested in biomedical research.
Daniela is currently an INRO postbac fellow in the Division of Intramural Research (DIR) Laboratory of Parasitic Diseases (LPD), within the Systems Genomics Section working under the supervision of Elodie Ghedin, Ph.D. Her projects investigate the interplay at the host-parasite interface between the filarial worm Brugia malayi and the lymphatic system of its host using diverse -omics tools ranging from the transcriptomic to the glycomic responses. Daniela aims to pursue a career as a physician-scientist, with a keen interest in infectious diseases and immunology.
Armando J. Arroyo-Mejías
DIR-LISB (Ronald Germain, M.D., Ph.D.)
Born and raised in Puerto Rico, Armando J. Arroyo-Mejías grew up instilled with the value of family and the desire to study medicine. With this in mind, he attended the University of Puerto Rico in Arecibo (UPRA), where he studied clinical microbiology. He was involved in preservation biology and microbiology research efforts at UPRA, which had a major influence on his next step. This experience motivated him to pursue a summer internship at the University of Virginia School of Medicine in 2019, where he researched the missing-self response of natural killer cells against MHC-I-deficient targets. In 2020, he was accepted for another internship at the University of Pennsylvania, Perelman School of Medicine, where he studied different chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) bi-specific co-expression to enhance CAR T-cell therapy. These experiences nurtured his desire to combine both medicine and biomedical research as a single path for his future.
In 2021, Armando became an INRO fellow in the Division of Intramural Research (DIR) Laboratory of Immune System Biology (LISB) under the supervision of Ronald Germain, M.D., Ph.D., where he is perfecting microscopic imaging techniques to study immune system biology—characterizing rare immune subsets in the tumor microenvironment, cell-cell, and cell-extracellular matrix interactions—and its interactions with virus-infected organs and tumors.
DIR-LCIM (Bibiana Bielekova, M.D.)
Maïsha Kasole grew up in Kinshasa, Congo. She attended high school in Chicago and was the valedictorian of her graduating class. As a recipient of the full-tuition Chancellor Scholarship, Maïsha graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison with a B.S. in biomedical engineering in 2021. As well as her academic pursuits, Maïsha was an officer of the National Society of Black Engineers chapter at the University of Wisconsin-Madison throughout her college career. Maïsha is a strong advocate for justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion. During her time at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, she conducted translational neural engineering research under Kip Ludwig, Ph.D.
In 2021, Maïsha was accepted into INRO, where she works as a postbac in the Neuroimmunological Diseases Section of the Division of Intramural Research (DIR) Laboratory of Clinical Immunology and Microbiology (LCIM) under the supervision of Bibi Bielekova, M.D. Maïsha is currently studying multiple sclerosis and its biomarkers, in the hope of developing and validating prognostic models from patient-autonomous disability measurements.
DIR-LPD (Elodie Ghedin, Ph.D.)
Allie Kreitman graduated cum laude from Colorado College in 2021 with a B.A. in molecular biology and a minor in math. Upon graduation, she was awarded with Colorado College’s Mary Alice Hamilton Award in Molecular Biology for the top molecular biology major and Barbara Whitten Prize for Women in the Natural Sciences.
At Colorado College, Allie worked with Olivia Hatton, Ph.D., to study mechanisms by which Epstein Barr virus can induce post-transplant lymphoproliferative disease. She specifically focused on the regulation of host microRNA by Epstein Barr virus. Additionally, Allie worked with Greg Dwyer, Ph.D., to develop a stochastic model of in-host HIV diversity during early infection. From this work, she was awarded a Goldwater scholarship.
Allie currently works as a postbac fellow through the INRO program in the Systems Genomics Section of the Division of Intramural Research (DIR) Laboratory of Parasitic Diseases (LPD) under the supervision of Elodie Ghedin, Ph.D., where she is focused on characterizing the genomic epidemiology of SARS-CoV-2 in the Dominican Republic and Haiti and is investigating whether SARS-CoV-2 mutations can be predictive of disease severity.
Allie aspires to be a physician-scientist, combining basic research and patient care to understand and treat disease pathogenesis.
DIR-LMVR (Jesus Valenzuela, Ph.D.)
As a Zell-Miller full-tuition scholar, Brittany graduated summa cum laude from Georgia State University with a B.S. in biological sciences in May 2021.
At Georgia State University, Brittany worked in the laboratory of Pavel Skums, Ph.D., where she analyzed phylogenetic trees of hepatitis B and C variants to establish specific modes of transmission. Additionally, she participated in three summer research programs at Duke University, Johns Hopkins University, and Yale University working with Gayathri R. Devi, Ph.D.; Kate Hopkins, Ph.D.; and James Taylor, Ph.D., respectively.
Currently, Brittany is a postbac in the Vector Molecular Biology Section of the Division of Intramural Research (DIR) Laboratory of Malaria and Vector Research (LMVR) under the supervision of Jesus Valenzuela, Ph.D. Her project investigates specific salivary proteins of Ixodes scapularis ticks, the vector of Lyme disease. The characterization of salivary gland proteins and their effect on the host's inflammatory response will help determine human biomarkers of exposure to tick bites and vaccine candidates.
Brittany’s ultimate goal is to pursue medicine and attend medical school after her NIH fellowship. She values her relationships with others and names her parents as her biggest role models.
DIR-LMI (Brian Kelsall, M.D.)
Page graduated with highest honors from the University of Virginia (UVA) in 2021 with a B.S. in biomedical engineering and a minor in Spanish. Page began working in the Janes lab at UVA in 2019, studying the molecular mechanisms of Coxsackievirus. Here, she designed cellular models to elucidate the mechanisms of viral proteases, as well as a machine learning pipeline to count viral plaque assays. Page's capstone thesis focused on creating a temperature-dependent computational model of human rhinovirus. Page worked as a teaching assistant for cellular biology and a tutor for calculus, biotransport, and physics.
Passionate about serving her community, Page began working with the student organization Madison House to address the affordable housing crisis in Charlottesville. During her senior year, Page served as the head program director for the Housing Improvement Program where she worked with community partners to meet needs concerning housing. Page also worked as an EMT, volunteering in rural Virginian communities to improve access to emergency medicine.
After graduating, Page began working as a postbac under Brian Kelsall, M.D., in the Division of Intramural Research (DIR) Laboratory of Mucosal Immunology (LMI). She is interested in using next-generation sequencing to study the role of hormone receptors in macrophage and dendritic cells during inflammation.
VRC-VL (John Mascola)
In 2021, Danealle graduated with honors from Washington University in St. Louis with a B.A. in microbiology and a minor in anthropology. Danealle is passionate about equitable access to healthcare and improving diversity within science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). She was the co-president of non-profit global health organization GlobeMed and co-coordinator of the Pre-Health and Science Peer Mentoring Program.
At WashU, Danealle investigated the importance of the fungal cell wall polysaccharide, chitosan, for cryptococcal virulence and the role of an uncharacterized protein in protein expression under the mentorship of Jennifer Lodge, Ph.D., and Rajendra Upadhya, Ph.D. She was awarded the two-year MARC uSTAR fellowship for her work. In 2018, Danealle was accepted into the Pediatric Student Research Program, where she conducted translational infectious disease research under Audrey Odom-John, Ph.D. In the summer of 2020, Danealle researched the biological processes necessary for cryptococcal germination in her hometown, Madison, WI, under Christina Hull, Ph.D.
Upon graduation, Danealle became an INRO fellow and joined the Virology Laboratory (VL) at the Vaccine Research Center (VRC). She works to develop and assess novel immunogens for their ability to elicit broadly neutralizing antibodies against HIV-1 with the goal of developing a vaccine.
Danealle aspires to become a physician-scientist and hopes to become a mentor to historically underrepresented individuals within the medical and scientific fields.
Behnia Rezazadeh Shirazi
VRC-VL (Nicole Doria-Rose, Ph.D.)
Behnia graduated from Iowa State University in May 2021. He is a 2020 Goldwater scholar, and his interest in research began during his time in undergrad. His published research focused on human circulation to identify reliable indicators for the early prognosis of cardiovascular diseases. During the summer of 2020, he interned at Duke University's School of Engineering researching the genetic basis for the proliferation and maturation of iPSC-derived cardiomyocytes.
As an INRO fellow, Behnia came to NIAID to research antibody development for HIV health outcomes in the Vaccine Research Center (VRC) Virology Laboratory (VL). Here, he is combining yeast display technology and directed evolution as part of his research. He is extremely passionate about pursuing a Ph.D. in organismal biofuel synthesis through genetic/protein engineering and artificial intelligence.
DIR-LMVR (Patrick Duffy, M.D., Ph.D.)
Anne Berhe is an Eritrean-American born and raised in Los Angeles, CA. Since high school, Anne’s research experiences have been tied to infectious diseases, as she has seen the direct impact of many of these diseases on those in her community. Her first lab experience at the Lundquist Institute, where she developed methods of detecting extremely antibiotic-resistant bacteria, sparked her interest in pursuing translational research. From there, Anne continued to conduct research in various molecular and microbiology labs throughout her undergraduate career, from Pomona College; to Harvard University; to University College London (UCL). At UCL, she conducted research on protein export in the malaria parasite, Plasmodium falciparum, in the lab of Andrew Osborne, D.Phil. Here, she became infatuated with malaria research and continued to complete her senior thesis at Pomona College in developing a novel genetic screening method for malaria drug targets.
Currently, she is conducting research in the Laboratory of Malaria Immunology and Vaccinology under Patrick Duffy, M.D., Ph.D., where she is involved in projects focused on vaccine development for pregnancy malaria and transmission-blocking malaria. Along with wet lab research, Anne is passionate about health equity and plans to apply for medical school and pursue a career as a physician-scientist.
DIR-LISB (Ronald Germain, M.D., Ph.D.)
During her undergraduate studies at Howard University, Natalia Bettis was afforded invaluable opportunities to cultivate her passions for both medicine and biomedical research. She first had the opportunity to study abroad in Dakar, Senegal, where she shadowed pediatrician Jean-Louis Chauvin, M.D., while attaining fluency in French. Becoming a servant-leader, someone who exists to serve all people of this world, is her ultimate goal.
Natalia graduated summa cum laude from Howard University with a B.A. in French and a minor in biochemistry and was honored with the chemistry department’s award for Best Proficiency in Biochemistry and with induction into Phi Beta Kappa in 2018. Immediately following graduation, Natalia earned the position of biophysics and biochemical research lab scholar under Rodrigo Maillard, Ph.D., at Georgetown University. Natalia then transitioned into teaching high school honors and non-honors chemistry at Washington Latin Public Charter School in Washington, DC. She was then presented with the opportunity to serve as a biochemistry apprentice to Iliana Maria Restrepo, Ph.D., of Howard University.
In 2020, Natalia was accepted into INRO where she works as a postbac in the Lymphocyte Biology Section of the Laboratory of Immune System Biology (LISB) under the supervision of Ronald Germain, M.D., Ph.D., and Emily Speranza, Ph.D. She is currently studying the early host immune responses to Ebola virus infections using the lab’s capacity for high-multiplex tissue imaging, in the hope of identifying new ways to target this pathogen and advance therapeutic development to help heal the people of equatorial Africa.
DIR-LMVR (Patrick Duffy, M.D., Ph.D.)
Daniella Butler is passionate about infectious disease, public health, and disparities in healthcare. While studying at Grinnell College, Daniella made a point to explore the full spectrum of biological research subjects, from molecular biology to public health population studies. This experience informed her decision to pursue her current work in malaria vaccinology at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.
As a Posse Foundation full-tuition scholar, Daniella graduated with a B.A. in biology at Grinnell College. She pursued a variety of research opportunities during her time at Grinnell. In 2018, she worked with Susan Villarreal, Ph.D., to measure how annual burn schedules affect the ecological diversity of prairies in Iowa. The following year, she studied under the supervision of Darren Mays, Ph.D., M.P.H., at Georgetown University to investigate correlates of tobacco product use and behavior in young adult populations. She presented a capstone research poster and presentation to a large audience of medical professionals and deans at Georgetown University Medical School. Finally, Daniella worked under her academic advisor, Benjamin DeRidder, Ph.D., to research and implement an experiment that quantified the induction levels of glutathione reductase and ascorbate peroxidase in Gossypium hirsutum under safener treatment.
Daniella is now working as a postbac in the Laboratory of Malaria Immunology and Vaccinology (LMVR) conducting novel malaria vaccinology research. Her ultimate goal is to pursue a Ph.D. to further her study in the biological sciences and infectious diseases.
DIR- LV (Andrea Marzi, Ph.D.)
Tylisha graduated cum laude from Hartwick College with a B.S. in biochemistry in 2020. Aside from her academic pursuits, she was the cross country and track and field captain, as well as president of Hartwick's section of the American Chemical Society chemistry club. She also worked as a biology, chemistry, and calculus tutor. During her time at Hartwick, she performed analytical research under the direction of Catherine Balnis, Ph.D. Her research involved developing a protocol using analytical methods to determine the composition of phenolic compounds in different samples of whiskey. This protocol is currently being used at the Center for Craft Foods and Beverages in Oneonta, NY. She also preformed marine microbiology research under the direction of Stephanie Carr, Ph.D., where she developed her aseptic technique culturing and identifying previously unknown microorganisms from below the ocean floor. She was awarded the Freedman's Award from Hartwick College to fund this project.
Currently, Tylisha as a postbac as part of the INRO initiative in the Laboratory of Virology (LV) under the supervision of Andrea Marzi, Ph.D., where she works to develop therapeutics and treatments against highly infectious pathogenic viruses and analyzing immune responses to vaccination. Tylisha hopes to further her studies in immunology and molecular biology and to work in vaccine research and development.
DIR-LIR (Paolo Lusso, M.D., Ph.D.)
Hector Ibanez grew up in Mayaguez, Puerto Rico, and enrolled at Cornell University in the fall of 2016 with the hopes of completing a degree in chemistry and chemical biology. During his time at Cornell, Hector worked regularly in the Crane Laboratory of Biophysics, studying the proteins involved in the regulation of circadian rhythms in model organisms and the proteins involved in the production of nitric oxide in several bacterial species. Hector received several fellowships and awards for his work, among them the Cornell-Howard Hughes Accelerating Medical Progress through Scholarship (CHAMPS) fellowship and the Frank L. and Lynnet Douglas Fellowship. The findings of his final project, an elucidation of the fundamental principles that governed the reduction-oxidation chemistry of Aer, an E. coli chemoreceptor, were compiled into a senior thesis that was awarded high honors by the Cornell department of chemistry and chemical biology, allowing Hector to graduate magna cum laude in the spring of 2020.
In the summer of 2020, Hector was accepted as a postbac as part of the INRO initiative, allowing him to join the Viral Pathogenesis Section of the Laboratory of Immunoregulation (LIR). Here, Hector works to understand the interactions between the protein Platelet Factor 4 (CXCL4) and the viral envelopes of both HIV-1 and SARS-CoV-2. When not working in the lab, Hector works as a board member and fundraising director for a certified nonprofit that he cofounded in response to the growing pandemic-caused hunger crisis in his native homeland.
DIR-LIR (Anthony Fauci, M.D.)
In 2020, Grace graduated summa cum laude with a Bachelor of Science in biology from Pepperdine University. She conducted clinical research as an undergraduate at the Darrow Stem Cell Institute in Los Angeles, where she investigated the efficacy of platelet-rich plasma therapy and stem cell injections on pain reduction. During her time at Pepperdine, she developed an increasing interest in the biochemistry of viruses and vaccines and spent time working with AIDS patients at a clinic in her hometown of Seattle, WA.
Motivated by her experiences in the clinical setting and her desire to contribute to the study and treatment of viral disease, she pursued and was awarded a postbaccalaureate fellowship through the INRO program at NIAID. Grace is currently a member of the Immunopathogenesis Section in the Laboratory of Immunoregulation (LIR) under the supervision of James Arthos, Ph.D., and Claudia Cicala, Ph.D. During her fellowship, she aims to elucidate the impacts of the SARS-CoV-2 glycan shield on viral antigenicity and function. Ultimately, Grace plans to pursue a medical career as a physician while continuing to conduct biomedical research.
Outside of research, Grace enjoys hiking, biking, and playing the piano and has performed as a classical and jazz vocalist.
DIR-LB (Michael Otto, Ph.D.)
Joie graduated from Haverford College, where she conducted biochemical/biophysical chemistry research under the mentorship of Casey Londergan, Ph.D., and Louise Charkoudian, Ph.D. Her research looked at visualizing and understanding the dynamic nature of the Type II acyl carrier protein and its role in bacterial biosynthetic pathways. She focused on optimizing the placement of site-specific vibrational probes along the protein's phosphopantetheine arm for visualization using IR and Raman spectroscopy.
Upon graduating, Joie joined the Laboratory of Bacteriology (LB) under the supervision of Michael Otto, Ph.D., in NIAID. Her current research is focused on elucidating the biochemical mechanisms behind Bacillus subtilis's putative probiotic effects on Clostridium difficile in the human gut.
In addition to her scientific interests, Joie is devoted to the promotion of diversity, inclusivity, and equity in STEM and higher education as a whole. As an undergrad, she co-founded a student group that works in tandem with faculty to increase accessibility of STEM classes for students of color and first-generation, low-income students by increasing faculty accountability and creating structures of support for students. She is also very interested in addressing racial and ethnic health disparities on a structural and policy level.
Looking to the future, Joie plans on entering a Ph.D. program that will allow her to further learn about the biochemical mechanisms of disease. Upon obtaining her Ph.D., Joie hopes to use her science background to continue her advocacy work in the realm of science policy and science outreach, with a focus on addressing racial and ethnic inequalities.
DIR-LCIM (Ian Myles, M.D., M.P.H.)
Jobel graduated from the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa (UHM) with a B.S. in microbiology. While at UHM, she participated in the National Institute of General Medical Sciences' (NIGMS) iDeA Networks of Biomedical Research Excellence (INBRE) program. As an INBRE research associate, she joined the laboratory of Joanne Yew, Ph.D., where she characterized the fungal diversity of the native Hawaiian Drosophila grimshawi and its physiological impact on oogenesis. Jobel spent a summer working with Jennifer Honda, Ph.D., at National Jewish Health to investigate the impact of Kilauea volcanic ash on nontuberculous mycobacteria and exposure to monocyte-derived macrophages. She received the Exceptional Scientific Achievement award from the University of Colorado's Graduate Experience for Multicultural Students (GEMS) program, who hosted the internship.
As a postbac in the INRO initiative, Jobel joined the Epithelial Therapeutics Unit of the Laboratory of Clinical Immunology and Microbiology (LCIM) under the supervision of Ian Myles, M.D., M.P.H. The research group's previous work determined that Roseomonas mucosa from healthy skin offers protection against atopic dermatitis (AD). Building on this, she currently focuses on the characterization of the therapeutic benefits of R. mucosa through TNFR2-mediated tissue repair. She is eager to explore translational research as the group prepares for a randomized, placebo-controlled trial of R. mucosa treatment in individuals with AD.
DIR-LPD (Amy Klion, M.D.)
Mathiu’s robust research experiences in the fields of structural biology, biophysics, and chemical biology have focused his interest on a multidisciplinary research approach as a tool to advance and innovate medicine.
As a B.S.-M.S. honors student at the City College of New York (CCNY), he majored in biochemistry with a concentration in physics. As a result of his developing research interest in the progression and treatment of diseases, Mathiu investigated the cytotoxic effects of single-walled carbon-nanotubes when used as drug-delivery tools for triple-negative breast cancer cells in the laboratory of Regina Sullivan, Ph.D. Later, he joined the laboratory of Ruth Stark, Ph.D., where he investigated mechanisms of plant defense and the structural integrity of the plant periderm. Mathiu’s time at CCNY culminated in several publications.
Mathiu’s continuing interest in using structural biology and chemical biology to study human health and disease led him to participate in summer research programs at Harvard Medical School. There, he joined the laboratory of Sara Buhrlage, Ph.D., at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, where he studied the identification and characterization of cysteine proteases regulating ubiquitin-like protein cleavage. After graduating, Mathiu became a postbac as part of the INRO initiative under the mentorship of Amy Klion, M.D., Laboratory of Parasitic Diseases (LPD). Mathiu currently investigates familial eosinophilia, an autosomal dominant condition, characterized by dysregulation of IL-5 transcription.
Mathiu’s career goal is to obtain an M.D./Ph.D., which will help him lay the groundwork for deep investigation of diseases, offering him the opportunity to use science to tailor improvements in patient outcomes.
DIR-LMVR (Jesus Valenzuela, Ph.D.)
Aiyana Ponce, a native of El Paso, Texas, graduated with highest honors from The University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP) in 2020 with a B.S. in cellular and molecular biochemistry and a minor in Spanish. Upon graduation, she was honored as a UTEP Top Ten Senior, as the “Outstanding Senior” in the department of biological sciences, and as the College of Science “Woman of Mines.”
At UTEP, Aiyana worked in the laboratory of Marc Cox, Ph.D., for three years on a project focused on understanding the FKBP52 cochaperone, a highly promising therapeutic for the treatment of prostate cancer. In addition to this, she participated in three summer research programs at the University of Connecticut, Rice University, and Baylor College of Medicine working with Leslie Caromile, Ph.D.; Peter Lwigale, Ph.D.; and Adrienne McNees, Ph.D., respectively.
She currently works in the Vector Molecular Biology Section of the Laboratory of Malaria and Vector Research (LMVR) under the supervision of Jesus Valenzuela, Ph.D., where she is studying the local and systemic innate and adaptive immune response to Aedes aegypti bites in an endemic population in Cambodia. She is also a fellow of the NIH Academy and is working on a project to combat iatrophobia (the fear of doctors) among certain populations.
Aiyana intends to attend medical school after her time at NIH. She aspires to become a well-rounded physician who connects both scientific training and compassionate care to treat patients and serve as an inspiration to future physicians who come from underrepresented backgrounds.
DIR-LMVR (Jesus Valenzuela, Ph.D.)
Yvonne Rangel-Gonzalez comes from a traditionally underserved demographic. Her mother and father emigrated from Mexico to settle in the agricultural regions around Monterey County, CA. She is one of six children, and hers is the first generation in the family to study for and attain a college degree. As a science major, Yvonne developed a keen interest in research and completed two summer research internships in 2016 and 2017 through ACCESS, an NIH-funded extramural program, at the University of California-Santa Cruz. In these two separate research experiences, she studied Vibrio cholera and bacteriophages. In 2018, she was offered a one- year undergraduate research position in the laboratory of Julian Schroeder, Ph.D., at the University of California-San Diego (UCSD) to study Arabidopsis thaliana plants and the mechanisms they use to alleviate heavy metal toxicity. In 2019, she graduated from UCSD majoring in biochemistry and cell biology.
Determined to seek higher education in the sciences, she applied for and was accepted as a postbac in the INRO initiative at the National Institutes of Health. She is currently an NIAID postbac fellow and proudly works in the Laboratory of Malaria and Vector Research (LMVR) under the supervision of Jesus Valenzuela, Ph.D., where she studies visceral leishmaniasis, a neglected tropical vectorborne disease. A career in ocular surgery or emergency medicine is her ultimate goal. She is exceedingly grateful for all the supportive figures that have guided and mentored her into becoming the scholar that she is.
DIR-LIR (Paolo Lusso, M.D., Ph.D.)
Yuna Seo graduated magna cum laude from Cornell University in 2020, with a B.S. in general biology. As an undergraduate supervised by Edwin Kan, Ph.D., in the department of electrical and computer engineering, she evaluated a wireless RF antenna, a device that could be used to collect vital signs in cases of respiratory diseases and sedated patients. In particular, she oversaw a human study to explore variations in breathing rates associated with chronic diseases such as sleep apnea. During this time, she learned the importance of preventive medicine through technology and human subject research.
As an INRO postbac fellow, she is unraveling the biological and clinical significance of a supra-homeostatic concentration of interleukin 7 (IL-7) to find new principles for HIV treatment under the guidance of Paolo Lusso, M.D., Ph.D., in the Laboratory of Immunology (LIR). Yuna plans to ultimately pursue a career in medicine.