meet the fellows

2020

Michael Kalyuzhny, Ph.D.,comes to U-M from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, where he earned his master’s in ecology, evolution and behavior and his doctoral degree in ecology. Throughout his studies, his research has focused on understanding the processes that shape biological diversity and the dynamics of ecological systems. Working with Annette Ostling, Ph.D., in the LSA Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Kalyuzhny will use a combined theoretical-statistical approach to determine how demographic trade-offs, pathogens, herbivores and environmental changes influence tree species diversity across forests.

In the U-M Medical School Department of Microbiology and Immunology, Einar Olafsson, Ph.D., is working with Vernon Carruthers, Ph.D., to identify mechanisms of host-pathogen interactions and detect new virulence genes in the human parasite toxoplasma. He hopes that gaining further insights into the biology that underlies toxoplasma infection will help ameliorate the disease in at-risk groups and shed light on the infection’s role in psychiatric disorders. Before coming to U-M, Olafsson earned his M.Sc. in biology from Uppsala University and his Ph.D. in molecular biosciences from Stockholm University in Sweden.

Pilar Rivero Rios, Ph.D., earned her master’s and doctorate degrees from the University of Granada, Spain. As a graduate student, she investigated how a genetic mutation associated with Parkinson’s disease inhibited cells’ ability to properly distribute proteins and other molecules throughout the cell, through a process called membrane trafficking. At the U-M Life Sciences Institute, she is working with Lois Weisman, Ph.D., to explore new pathways and mechanisms through which altered membrane trafficking in neurons leads to disease.

Catherine Scull, Ph.D., completed her graduate studies at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, where she studied an enzyme responsible for synthesizing ribosomal RNA and examined how inhibition of ribosomal RNA synthesis might be used as a cancer therapeutic strategy. In the lab of Nils Walter, Ph.D., in the LSA Department of Chemistry, Scull will study RNA elements called riboswitches, which are essential for the survival of bacteria. Because riboswitches are rarely found in other organisms, they present novel targets for antibacterial therapeutics.

2019

Krista Armbruster earned her Ph.D. in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology from The Pennsylvania State University. As a graduate student, she studied how bacteria build lipoproteins, which are involved in a range of biological processes. In the lab of Nicole Koropatkin, Ph.D., at the U-M Medical School, Armbruster seeks to characterize lipoprotein structure, synthesis, and membrane dynamics in Bacteroides thetaiotaomicron, an important member of the human gut microbiota.

Jacob Berv, Ph.D., comes to U-M from Cornell University, where he studied the connection between molecular evolution and macroevolutionary patterns. He now plans to use U-M’s vast genomic, fossil and anatomical collections to investigate evolutionary patterns, working across the labs of Matt Friedman, Ph.D.; Daniel Rabosky, Ph.D.; Stephen Smith, Ph.D.; and Ben Winger, Ph.D., in the College of Literature, Science, and the Arts. One of Berv’s research topics will focus on the degree to which rates of avian genome evolution reflect species’ life histories.

Yilai Li, Ph.D., plans to harness machine learning and artificial intelligence to improve the power of cryo-electron microscopy (cryo-EM) in the lab of Michael Cianfrocco, Ph.D., at the Life Sciences Institute. Li will develop machine learning algorithms and workflows to automate some of the time-consuming data processing steps of cryo-EM projects. Prior to joining Cianfrocco’s lab, Li earned a master’s degree in statistics and a Ph.D. in biophysics from the University of Michigan.

Mo Siddiq, Ph.D., completed his doctoral studies in evolutionary genetics at the University of Chicago. In his past research, he combined ancestral sequence reconstruction, biochemistry, and transgenic engineering of animals carrying ancient genes to experimentally study historical genetic adaptation. At U-M, he will work in the lab of Patricia Wittkopp, Ph.D., in the College of Literature, Science, and the Arts to shed light on how genetic mutational processes shape and are shaped by evolutionary divergence.

2018

Brittany Morgan received a Ph.D. in chemistry from Duke University and a B.S. in biochemistry from Western Kentucky University. Her graduate research aimed to develop RNA-focused small molecule libraries that can be screened for their ability to therapeutically target RNA in diseases such as neurodegenerative disorders and cancer. In the lab of Anna Mapp, Ph.D., at the U-M Life Sciences Institute, Morgan develops covalent ligand discovery strategies to target dynamic and/or disordered proteins that are currently deemed “undruggable," with the goal of opening new therapeutic avenues for a multitude of diseases.

Aaron Morris completed his graduate studies at Yale University, where he earned a master’s degree and a Ph.D. in biomedical engineering, after earning a B.S. in biomedical engineering from the Georgia Institute of Technology. As a graduate student, Morris used genetic engineering approaches, as well as controlled drug delivery, to help overcome some of the limitations that currently hinder natural biomaterials’ medical utility. Morris’ postdoctoral research investigates the systemic effects of immune-modifying particles in autoimmune diseases such as multiple sclerosis, working with Lonnie Shea, Ph.D., in the Department of Biomedical Engineering, a joint department in the U-M College of Engineering and the Medical School.

MLSF ALUMNI

Farzan Beroz explores life using quantitative approaches. His research has uncovered principles that govern living architectures, including flesh and biofilms. As a Life Sciences Fellow, Dr. Beroz teamed up with U-M scientists and continued lines of inquiry sparked at Munich and Princeton. These international efforts culminated in a set of equations for the best force a sensor can apply to sense stiffness. Apart from this work, Dr. Beroz collaborated with the Yamashita Lab to investigate how genetic information is preserved across generations. Before attending Princeton, Dr. Beroz double majored in Physics and Russian at Duke University.

Laura Kirby, Ph.D., worked in the lab of Jeff Kidd, Ph.D., at the Medical School, investigating the structure and function relationship of non-coding genes called SINEs (for short-interspersed elements) and how they impact the genome diversity of different. Before to coming to U-M, Kirby completed her Ph.D. in microbiology and molecular genetics at Michigan State University. Kirby has accepted a role as Data Scientist II in the Digital Biology Group at Bio-Rad Laboratories.

Alexander Knights, Ph.D., discovered new gene regulatory mechanisms that control immune cell function during systemic inflammation and in adipose tissue during his graduate studies at the University of New South Wales, Australia. As a Michigan Life Sciences Fellow in the lab of Jun Wu, Ph.D., Knights discovered an important new subset of acetylcholine-synthesizing macrophages that regulate in adipose tissue thermogenesis. Additionally, he helped to uncover immune cholinergic signaling in liver function and disease. Knights is now part of Michigan Medicine's Orthopaedic Research Laboratories, working under the mentorship of Tristan Maerz, Ph.D., and Kurt Hankenson, D.V.M., Ph.D. His work seeks to uncover cellular and molecular mechanisms that cause osteoarthritis, a common and debilitating joint disease for which there are currently no disease-modifying treatments. Through his work, Knights hopes to better understand the complex crosstalk that takes place between different cell types in the joint, in the hope of developing new therapies to limit, or reverse, osteoarthritis.

Joshua MacCready, Ph.D., came to U-M from the Microbiology & Molecular Genetics graduate program at Michigan State University. At U-M, he used his background in protein self-organization to establish a new, multidisciplinary field of study in bacterial organelle trafficking. Bacterial organelles are of great ecological, evolutionary, biotechnological and medical interest; yet questions remain as to how their subcellular organization occurs. MacCready worked with Anthony Vecchiarelli, Ph.D., in the Department of Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology at the LSA to address these questions. He completed his undergraduate studies at The Pennsylvania State University, where he earned a B.S. in biology.

As a graduate student at the University of California, Berkeley, Carolyn Walsh, Ph.D., discovered that one type of white blood cells plays an unexpected role in initiating chronic itch and inflammation in a mouse model of eczema. During her time as an MLSF scholar, she worked in Dr. Ormond MacDougald's lab to characterize a novel mouse model of lipodystrophy. Her interest in scientific writing led her to pursue a position in that field, and she now works as an Analyst for Costello Medical in Cambridge, UK.

Jennifer Yeung received a Ph.D. in pharmacology from the U-M Medical School. She also holds a master’s degree in cell and developmental biology from Thomas Jefferson University and a B.S. in biology from Drexel University. Through her graduate research, Yeung elucidated the role of the enzyme 12-lipoxygenase in the regulation of immune-mediated platelet activation. She joined the lab of Greg Tall, Ph.D., in the Department of Pharmacology at the Medical School, where she investigated novel mechanisms of activation of a class of protein receptors called adhesion G protein-coupled receptors. Jennifer is now a postdoctoral research fellow at the Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center.

Mingmin Zhang, Ph.D., earned his doctoral degree from the Tsinghua University School of Life Sciences in China. As a graduate student, he studied mechanosensation using a combination of genetic, behavioral, imaging, and electrophysiological approaches. As a Michigan Life Sciences Fellow, he worked in the lab of Shawn Xu, Ph.D., at the U-M Life Sciences Institute, to investigate molecular sensors of cold sensation in mice. He found that TRPM8 expressing sensory neurons could be activated by cold stimulus independent of the TRPM8 channel. He is joining the lab of Weizhe Hong, Ph.D., at UCLA, to uncover the neuronal mechanism of social behaviors.