IRACDA Post-Docs


Katie Becklin, Ph.D.
Katie holds a B.S. in Biology from the University of Puget Sound and a Ph.D. in biology from the University of Missouri. She is currently an IRACDA postdoctoral fellow conducting research with Prof. Joy Ward in the Dept. of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at KU. Her research aims to 1) understand physiological, ecological, and evolutionary mechanisms generating variation in species interactions, and 2) trace the impact of such variation on ecological interaction webs. She pursues these research goals by studying mycorrhizal associations, symbiotic interactions between plants and root-colonizing fungi, using an interdisciplinary approach that spans multiple spatial and temporal scales. Katie is focusing on how long-term changes in atmospheric [CO2] since the last glacial period alters the functioning of mycorrhizal associations, and how such changes may generate feedbacks that alter plant productivity and plant and fungal community composition.

Kyle Bichsel, Ph.D. 
Kyle earned a B.S. in biology from Northwest Missouri State University and a Ph.D. in biomedical sciences from Creighton University, where he studied Epidermal Growth Factor Receptor (EGFR) signaling in mice. EGFR is important for skin and hair development and is a major driver of cancer proliferation. In 2013, Kyle joined the laboratory of Prof. Berl Oakley in the Dept. of Molecular Biosciences at KU. He is currently studying the role of SUMOylation, a reversible post-translational modification that influences multiple cellular processes, in the genetic model organism, Aspergillus nidulans. His work focuses on this modification and its role in cytoskeletal organization, cell cycle regulation, and chromosome segregation. In addition to research, he is interested in applying new strategies to improve undergraduate education in the life sciences. He believes in the importance of undergraduate research and seeks to provide a complete educational experience for students.

Alex J Brewer, Ph.D. 
Alex earned a B.S. in environmental science from Haskell Indian Nations University, an M.S. in environmental science from the University of Oklahoma and a Ph.D. from Oregon State University in Toxicology in the Jennifer Field laboratory. His dissertation was focused on addressing the limitations of wastewater epidemiology by using high-frequency diurnal sampling, in-situ experiments and analyzing wastewater accompanied by urinalyses. Alex�s research has been focused on multidisciplinary topics within the areas of environmental science, toxicology and environmental engineering. Currently, he is teaching at Haskell Indian Nations University and working in the laboratory of Prof. Craig Lunte in the Dept. of Chemistry at KU. His current research is focused on developing analytical methods to quantify markers of human health in wastewater to gain a better understanding of community health.

Abu Gafar M. Hossion, Ph.D.
Abu received B.S. and M.S. degrees in chemistry from Jahangirnagar University, Bangladesh. Majoring in medicinal chemistry, he subsequently obtained M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in Pharmaceutical Sciences from Okayama University, Japan. He later pursued postdoctoral studies at the College of Pharmacy of the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center. During these postdoctoral studies, he designed and synthesized novel prodrugs that include photocleavable aminoacrylate linkers and deactivated photosensitizers for spatiotemporally controlled release of drugs in cancer cells using visible light. Abu is currently is working as an IRACDA postdoctoral fellow in the Dept. of Medicinal Chemistry with Prof. Blake Peterson on the synthesis of analogues of the auristatin anticancer agents. These compounds will be used to prepare novel conjugates that combine these cytotoxins with antibodies against cell surface proteins overexpressed in cancer, and the activities of these conjugates will be investigated in models of human cancer. He is primarily interested in multidisciplinary research at the chemistry/biology interface, with an emphasis on the discovery and development of small molecule-based tools that manipulate biological processes and novel therapeutic agents with potential for treatment of human disease.

Dana Tucker, Ph.D. 
Dana gained valuable teaching experience while earning a M.S. in Cellular & Molecular Biology from Missouri State University. She earned her PhD in Biochemistry, Cell and Developmental Biology from Emory University where she investigated the pathomechanisms of the desmosomal, autoimmune skin blistering disease Pemphigus vulgaris. As an IRACDA postdoctoral fellow in Dr. Brian Ackley�s lab in the Dept. of Molecular Biosciences at KU, she is working to further our knowledge of neural development by identifying novel genes involved in axonal outgrowth and synapse formation using C. elegans. Furthermore, she is interested in understanding how members of the cadherin superfamily of cell adhesion molecules, the C. elegans flamingo member, FMI-1, and the conserved cadherin protein, CDH-4, contribute to the development of GABAergic motor neurons. Moving forward, Dana is excited to utilize her expertise in cell biology and the model system C. elegans to cultivate undergraduate education and research. 


Safiyyah Forbes, Ph.D., Kansas State University
Safiyyah worked with Dr. Blake Peterson in the Dept. of Medicinal Chemistry at KU to design and synthesize a series of fluorescent molecular probes. She was involved in studies of peptide-based promoters and inhibitors of apoptosis, the synthesis of hydrophobic analogues of rhodamines as optical probes of mitochondrial fusion and fission dynamics in vivo, and studies of fluorescent calcium sensors designed for localized detection of calcium release during signaling. She is currently an Assistant Professor of Chemistry at Monmouth College in Illinois.

Vanessa Koelling, Ph.D., University of Georgia
Vanessa�s research interests primarily lie in the areas of speciation and plant mating system evolution. While an IRACDA fellow working with Prof. John Kelly in the Dept. of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at KU, she studied the evolution of inbreeding depression in natural populations of the yellow monkeyflower, Mimulus guttatus. This plant is an emerging model species in evolutionary biology because it expresses variation in floral form and mating system, grows at a wide range of elevations (from sea level to alpine habitats), and has a fully sequenced genome. Using field collections and laboratory-based methods, she investigated how inbreeding depression changes with changes in population mating system to further our understanding of the genetics of inbreeding depression and its consequences for natural populations. She is currently a visiting Assistant Professor at the University of Puget Sound, Washington.

Juliana Medeiros, Ph.D., University of New Mexico
Juliana employed an integrated approach to understand the complex relationships between plants and their environment and the evolution of plant adaptations. In her research in the laboratory of Prof. Joy Ward in the Dept. of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at KU, she used DNA extracted from ancient plant macrofossils found in pack rat middens to determine the magnitude, timing and speed of changes in population sizes of Pinus sp. over the Pleistocene/Holocene transition. Her ultimate goal was to understand how physiological adaptation and genetic structure resulting from the interaction of plants with past environments could impact the ability of species to adapt and persist in the face of future climate change. She is currently a Plant Biologist at the Holden Arboretum in Ohio.

Dyan Morgan, Ph.D., University of Wisconsin-Madison
Dyan studied the development of the nervous system in the lab of Prof. Erik Lundquist in the Dept. of Molecular Biosciences at KU. During neurogenesis, axons are guided to their proper positions by cues that trigger cytoskeletal rearrangements. She worked to understand how cells interpret these cues using C. elegans as a model system to dissect the evolutionarily conserved genetic pathways governing repulsive axon guidance. She is currently the Undergraduate Research Coordinator at the University of Kansas.

Claudia Bode, Ph.D., University of Kansas
Claudia studied with Prof. Kathy Mitchell in the Dept. of Pharmacology and Toxicology at KU. Her research focused on the differentiation capacity of stem cells isolated from the matrix of the umbilical cord. While pursuing research in the Mitchell lab, Claudia also gained experience teaching General Biology and Bioinformatics at Haskell Indian Nations University. She is currently employed as the Outreach and Diversity Program Coordinator at the Center for Environmentally Beneficial Catalysis, an NSF-funded engineering research center at KU.

James Deng, Ph.D., University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas
James worked with Prof. Susan Egan in the Dept. of Molecular Biosciences at KU, to identify the mechanism of allosteric signaling in members of the very large AraC/XylS family of transcription activators. Many AraC/XylS proteins are required for the expression of virulence factors in bacterial pathogens. Therefore, their goal was to identify the mechanisms that underlie transcription activation to enhance the development of inhibitors of AraC/XylS proteins that may have potential as antibacterial agents. He is currently a Web Content Specialist for Thermo Fisher Scientific. 

Muir Eaton, Ph.D., University of Minnesota
Muir trained under Dr. A.T. Peterson, professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology and Assistant Curator of the Ornithology Division of the KU Natural History Museum and Biodiversity Research Center. His research centered on the evolution of plumage colors in birds. He studied how hidden color variation in conspecific plumages relates to our understanding of sexual selection, and whether there is any evidence of correlated evolution of plumage colors, visual sensitivity, and habitat use (i.e. light environment and/or ecological niche). He also taught the Ecology Lab and the General Biology Lab at Haskell. Muir is currently an assistant professor at Drake University, where he also serves as the Curator of Vertebrates for the Drake Biodiversity Center.

Maria Eifler, Ph.D., University of Kansas
Maria worked under Prof. Deborah Smith in the Dept. of Entomology at KU. Her research focused on using molecular genetics to answer questions in animal behavior and ecology. Her projects focused on kinship in overwintering rattlesnakes and the evolution of sociality in spiders. She also had the opportunity to teach Animal Behavior and Principles of Ecology to Haskell undergraduates. She is currently serving as the Collections Specialist at the KU Museum of Natural History, Mammal Division.

Maria Pontes Ferreira, Ph.D., R.D., Baylor University
During the first year of her postdoctoral fellowship, Maria worked with Prof. Elias Michaelis in the Dept. of Pharmacology & Toxicology. They investigated the effects of ethanol on dendritic trafficking and translation of the 24-mer sequence of the NMDAR subunit NR1 in hippocampal neurons using in vitro models. During her second year, she taught Biology and Laboratory, and Sport Nutrition at Haskell Indian Nations University. During her final postdoctoral year, she worked with Prof. Kelly Kindscher's team in the Native Medicinal Plant Research Program at KU. She is currently an assistant professor at Wayne State University in the Department of Nutrition and Food Science.

Ann Manzardo, Ph.D., University of California, Irvine
Under the direction of Dr. William Gabrielli, chairman of the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at the KU Medical Center, Ann utilized a 45-yr old Danish longitudinal database to study the contributions of early childhood brain growth and injury to the later development of alcoholism in adulthood. During her IRACDA postdoctoral fellowship, she gained experience teaching Organic Chemistry and Biochemistry. She is currently a Research Assistant Professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Science at the University of Kansas Medical Center.

Damon Jacobs, Ph.D., University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill
Damon performed postdoctoral research in the laboratory of Prof. Jeff Krise in the Dept. of Pharmaceutical Chemistry at KU. He studied the intracellular distribution and trafficking of small molecular weight compounds in a Niemann-Pick type C (NPC) model system. NPC is a genetic disorder that leads to the hyper-accumulation of cholesterol in lysosomes of many tissues. These studies were designed to reveal the molecular mechanisms of NPC etiology and potentially provide new strategies to combat the progression of this disease. Damon also taught a course in Biostatistics at Haskell Indian Nations University. He is currently a Research Associate at the University of Kansas Medical Center. 

Brena Mauck, Ph.D. Wright State University
Brena worked in the geomicrobiology laboratory of Prof. Jennifer Roberts in the Dept. of Geology. Dr. Roberts� lab focuses on microbe:mineral interactions and the geological and ecological implications of these interactions in subsurface environments. Dr. Mauck analyzed changes in microbial community diversity due to particular environmental conditions and stresses. Her work explored whether in nutrient limited environments microbes attach to minerals that provide the limiting nutrient. During this research she studied a petroleum contaminated aquifer in Bemidji, MN. She also taught Cellular and Molecular Biology Lab and General Biology at Haskell. She is now an Assistant Professor of Biology and the Program Director for Mathematics, Biology, and Chemistry at the College of Saint Mary.

Aaron Reed, Ph.D., Kansas State University
As an IRACDA scholar, Aaron worked in the KU Dept. of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology with Prof. Norm Slade, Curator of the Mammalogy Division of the KU Natural History Museum and Biodiversity Research Center. Dr. Reed researched population ecology in small mammals and used a long-term data set of 4 species of small mammal to examine interrelationships of vital rates (e.g., survival), density dependence in recruitment, and relation of vital rates to environmental variables. The ultimate goal of this work was to assess the effect of variability in vital rates, and the pattern of that variability, on structured demographic models. He also examined the role of small mammal disturbance on nitrogen cycling. He gained additional experience teaching Biostatistics, Wildlife Ecology, and Vertebrate Zoology. He is currently a Research Assistant Professor at University of Missouri, Kansas City.

Alison Scoville, Ph.D., Utah State University
Alison worked with Prof. John Kelly in the Dept. of Ecology and Environmental Biology at KU. Her research combined theoretical and empirical approaches to investigate fundamental questions in evolutionary biology, with an emphasis on phenotypic plasticity, epistasis, rapid evolution, and conservation. Other projects centered on understanding the contribution of phenotypic plasticity to rapid adaptation of Daphnia (water fleas) to introduced fish predators and dissecting the population-level architecture of genetic variation in floral traits of Mimulus guttatus (yellow monkeyflower). Dr. Scoville taught Introduction to Cellular and Molecular Biology (laboratory) and Conservation Genetics of Salmon at Haskell Indian Nations University. She is currently Assistant Professor of Biological Sciences at Central Washington University.

Ellen Tarr, Ph.D., Johns Hopkins University
As an IRACDA post-doc, Ellen worked with Prof. Helen Alexander, in the Dept. of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology. Her research in the Alexander lab focused on the identification of disease resistance genes in Carex blanda. She used the sedge Carex blanda and its smut pathogen, Anthracoidea blanda, as her disease system. Dr. Tarr�s broader research interests are in host-pathogen interactions, with a particular interest in parasitic nematodes. While pursuing her research, she taught Biology 101 and Ecology of Infectious Disease to undergraduate students at Haskell. After completing the IRACDA program, she accepted an assistant professorship in the Department of Microbiology and Immunology at the Midwestern University School of Osteopathic Medicine.

Sandra Bartlett (Vigil-Cruz), Ph.D., Oregon State University, Pharm D., University of Kansas
Sandy performed research in the laboratory of Prof. Jane Aldrich in the Dept. of Medicinal Chemistry at KU and taught Introduction to Biology at Haskell Indian Nations University. She has held faculty appointments in medicinal chemistry at the University of Maryland, Baltimore, University of Connecticut, and the University of Kansas. She has studied targeting the CCR5 chemokine receptors as a potential therapeutic target for the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) investigated the design and synthesis of peptides as antagonists at the CXCR4 chemokine receptors as potential inhibitors of breast cancer metastasis. Sandy is currently an Associate Professor of Pharmacy Practice at Husson University, Maine.

Michael Wacker, Ph.D., University of Kansas
While in the IRACDA program, Michael worked with Prof. James Orr in the Dept. of Molecular Biosciences at KU. Dr. Wacker investigated if the endogenous agent thromboxane A2 directly stimulates cardiac nerves or cardiac myocytes to induce arrhythmias or other alterations in cardiac function. He also worked on projects related to genetic polymorphisms that relate to obesity with Dr. Phil Gallagher in the Applied Physiology Lab, and he researched serotonin knockout mice with Prof. Steve Fowler in Dept. of Pharmacology and Toxicology. Dr. Wacker further taught Principles of Cellular and Molecular Biology, Bioinformatics, Research Design and Methods in Science. He is currently an Assistant Professor at the University of Missouri, Kansas City.

Corey Welch, Ph.D., University of Washington
As an IRACDA scholar, Corey worked with Prof. Robert Timm, in the Dept. of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology. Dr. Welch�s research in biogeography and evolution employed field and molecular methods to explore patterns and causes of geographic variation of mammalian populations and species from the Pacific Northwest of North America. Dr. Welch spent the summer of 2009 in the field collecting museum specimens to understand the recent evolutionary histories of shrew-moles, western moles, and the mazama pocket gopher. He is currently a Program Coordinator at UC Berkeley.

Zachary Woydziak, Ph.D., University of California-Irvine
Zach worked in the laboratory of Prof. Blake Peterson in the Dept. of Medicinal Chemistry on the chemical synthesis of fluorescent compounds and molecular probes of biological systems. He created new methodology for the synthesis of fluorinated xanthone-derived fluorophores, prepared novel acid-activated fluorophores capable of sensing changes in pH in vivo in the alimentary canal of C. elegans, and developed a practical synthesis of the Pennsylvania Green fluorophore as a tool for studies of cellular biology. Zach is currently an Assistant Professor of Chemistry at Nevada State College.

IRACDA Announcements

The The 2015 IRACDA Conference will be held in San Diego, CA on June 14-16.

RT @bdelloid : This is aimed at increasing awareness of how graduate school works and the admissions process, especially for students of und…

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