Current Students

Ozlem Calbay

Faculty Research Mentor: Shuang Huang, Ph.D.

My work focuses specifically on the elucidation of the underlying biological mechanism of ovarian cancer tumor progression and metastasis. The main goal of my research is to identify possible prognostic indicators as future targets for therapy.

Chandler Callaway

Faculty Research Mentor: Andrew Judge, Ph.D.

Cancer cachexia is a metabolic syndrome that affects the majority of cancer patients. My current work focuses on identifying novel tumor-derived factors and pathways that may be causative in cancer cachexia.


Siddhi Chitre

Faculty Research Mentor: Sumita Bhaduri-McIntosh, M.D., Ph.D.

Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) is a ubiquitous herpesvirus that exhibits a dual lifestyle comprised of latency/quiescence and lytic/productive phases. The lytic phase is an essential precursor to cancer development. My research focuses on investigating a key mechanistic link that Bhaduri lab has recently discovered between the host inflammasome and epigenetic machinery that silences the lytic phase.

Peter Dib

Faculty Research Mentor: Maria Zajac-Kaye, Ph.D.

My research focuses on understanding the mechanism of how thymidylate synthase (TS), a metabolic enzyme essential for both nucleotide biosynthesis and folate mediated one-carbon metabolism, enhances tumorigenesis in lymphoma and sarcoma and designing a new TS inhibition strategy. Our newly developed allosteric inhibitors of TS inhibit TS catalytic activity and slow down tumor cell growth in vitro and in vivo without inducing TS protein levels.

Zuo Ding

Faculty Research Mentor: Shuang Huang, Ph.D.

The Huang Lab previously discovered that SHOX2, a member of a homeobox protein family, plays a significant role in breast cancer metastasis. My current research interest is to identify potential mechanisms that regulate the cellular abundance of SHOX2.

Michael Dougherty

Faculty Research Mentor: Christian Jobin, Ph.D.

My project focuses on elucidating a role for the pks enzyme ClbS, which is encoded in the pks cluster and phenotypically confers colibactin resistance through an unknown mechanism. Clarifying a role for ClbS in cytotoxin resistance may inform strategies to inhibit pks+ E. coli-associated colorectal cancer and provide insight into the functional roles of cyclomodulins in tumorigenesis.

Zeng Jin

Faculty Research Mentor: Ryan Kolb, Ph.D.

My research focuses on the tumor microenvironment, a special niche created by the cancer cells, plays an important role in both drug resistance and metastases. My current project involves learning the role of ANGPTL4 in regulating angiogenesis, immune cell infiltration, and resistance to current anti-VEGF therapy in renal cell carcinoma.


Patrick Kellish

Faculty Research Mentor: Maria Zajac-Kaye, Ph.D.

My research focuses on the disease progression and immune evasion of small cell lung cancer (SCLC), and developing combinational immunotherapy for SCLC. Our combination immunotherapy utilizes an oncolytic virus that selectively targets tumor cells in combination with targeting inhibitory immune molecules to stimulate anti-tumor immune responses.

Tianqi Li

Faculty Research Mentor: Mingyi Xie, Ph.D.

The Integrator complex has been identified as a key regulator of RNA polymerase II-mediated transcription with the processing of small nuclear RNAs(snRNA). There is relatively little known about the function of Integrator, how it controls RNA metabolism and how these RNAs operate within cells. My current work focuses on identifying the subunit of the Integrator complex crosslink the RNA of interest.

Rachel Newsome

Faculty Research Mentor: Christian Jobin, Ph.D.

My research currently focuses on host-microbe interactions in regards to inflammation and cancer. I use bacteria, mice, and zebrafish models in conjunction with sequencing, gavage, injections, immunohistochemistry, and qPCR to study the immune response to intestinal microbes and the role of bacteria in cancer immunotherapy treatment.

Kimberly Pereira

Faculty Research Mentor: Jonathan Licht, M.D.

Epigenetic abnormalities have frequently been seen to contribute to cancer. Hence, I am studying the role of the histone H2B-E76K mutation on the pathogenesis of lung cancer.

Gabriel Prado

Faculty Research Mentor: Jonathan Licht, M.D.

Oncogenic Ras mutations have been shown to alter the chromatin landscape, at both enhancers and promoters. My research revolves around understanding the changes in KMT2C (a major H3K4me1 methyltransferase) expression within an oncogenic Ras background, and the potential synergy between KMT2C & Ras mutations in Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML).

Xzaviar Solone

Faculty Research Mentor: Lizi Wu, Ph.D.

The Wu lab investigates aberrant CRTC-CREB signaling as a vulnerability in non-small cell lung cancer (NSLCL). In these cancer subtypes, the salt-inducible kinase (SIK) family may have differential roles that promote the constitutive activation of the CRTCs and subsequent lung cancer progression. My research focuses on elucidating the general relevance and mechanism of these SIK members in LKB1-inactive and LKB1-wildtype NSCLCs. 


Gregory Takacs

Faculty Research Mentor: Jeffrey Harrison, Ph.D.

The current focus of the Harrison lab is aimed at better understanding how myeloid cell populations contribute to the immune-suppressive microenvironment that is characteristic of high-grade brain tumors such as glioblastoma (GBM). My current work is directed at characterizing chemokine systems with the goal of translating our results into new therapeutic approaches for this malignant brain cancer.


Mai Tanaka

Faculty Research Mentor: Dietmar Siemann, Ph.D.

My work focuses on understanding the Gas6/Axl signaling pathway that is dysregulated in many cancers and promotes metastatic phenotype. We believe that this signaling pathway is a promising therapeutic target to inhibit the dissemination of cells and to ultimately reduce cancer mortality.

Vrunda Trivedi

Faculty Research Mentor: Duane Mitchell, M.D., Ph.D.

My research is to identify tumor-associated antigens and neoantigens in glioblastoma models and use them to generate a cytotoxic immune response against the tumor. I am also working on developing a novel T cell engineering-based immunotherapy approach to improve the function of effector T cells in the context of anti-tumor responses.

Aaron Waddell

Faculty Research Mentor: Daiqing Liao, Ph.D.

CBP/p300 are highly related acetyltransferases that acetylate chromatin and serve as co-activators for genes involved in cancer. We are using molecular, cellular, and chemical-biological approaches to understand roles in CBP/p300 in cancer biology and to develop small molecule inhibitors of CBP/p300 enzymatic activity for cancer therapy.

Zachary Wakefield

Faculty Research Mentor: Dietmar Siemann, Ph.D.

My research focuses on how aerobic exercise can modulate the tumor microenvironment and host physiology to produce more favorable outcomes in cancer patients. Tumor progression, response to therapy, metastasis, and therapeutic toxicity are actively being investigated in the context of aerobic exercise.

Mu Yu

Faculty Research Mentor: Lizi Wu, Ph.D.

My project focus on studying the CRTC-CREB mediated transcriptional signaling pathway in LKB1-null non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC). I’m interested in the regulators of CRTC function, including activation and degradation, in different cellular distribution and how they contribute to the NSCLC generation, proliferation, and metastasis.

Qin Yu

Faculty Research Mentor: Christian Jobin, Ph.D.

My research focuses on understanding host-microbe interactions and their role in pancreatic cancer development and treatment. We found that gut microbiota could accelerate pancreatic cancer progression in pre-clinical murine models. We believe that modulating gut microbiota could potentially be beneficial for pancreatic cancer treatment.

Xin Zhou

Faculty Research Mentor: Lizi Wu, Ph.D.

The tumor suppressor gene LKB1 is frequently inactivated and results in constitutive activation of CRTC/CREB signaling in non-small cell lung carcinomas. My research focuses on understanding the general role of CRTC activation and developing peptide-based inhibitors to block CRTC/CREB signaling pathway in LKB1 inactivated lung cancer.

Congratulations to our Graduates!

Julie Bray (Graduated Oct. 2019)

Faculty Research Mentor: Thomas Schmittgen, Ph.D.

Dissertation Project: Exocrine Pancreas Plasticity During Injury: Implications for Cancer Development

Current Position: Postdoctoral Fellow, MD Anderson Cancer Center


Henrietta Fasanya, Ph.D. (Graduated March 2020)

Faculty Research Mentor: Dietmar Siemann, Ph.D.

Dissertation Project: The Role of Cathepsin Inhibition in Osteosarcoma Metastasis

Current Position: Completing M.D. in UF COM M.D.-Ph.D. Training Program


Amani Harrandah, Ph.D. (Graduated January 2019)

Faculty Research Mentor: Edward Chan, Ph.D.

Dissertation Project: Exploring the Roles of MicroRNA and Oral Bacteria in Oral Carcinogenesis

Current Position: Assistant Professor, Department of Oral Biology, Umm Alqura University


Yue Jiang, Ph.D. (Graduated April 2019)

Faculty Research Mentor: Frederic Kaye, M.D. 

Dissertation Project: Myb-activated tumor models for the development of novel therapeutic strategies for adenoid cystic carcinoma treatment

Current Position: Scientist, BeiGene Pharmaceuticals


Mam Mboge, Ph.D. (Graduated October 2018)

Faculty Research Mentor: Susan Frost, Ph.D.

Dissertation Project: The Role of Carbonic Anhydrase in Breast Cancer Growth, Metabolism, & Motility

Current Position: Postdoctoral Fellow, Berkeley National Laboratory

Rachel Nosacka, Ph.D. (Graduated Oct. 2019)

Faculty Research Mentor: Andrew Judge, Ph.D.

Dissertation Project: Molecular Mechanisms of Skeletal Muscle Wasting in Cancer Cachexia

Current Position: Laboratory Director, Physiology & Functional Genomics, University of Florida


Varsha Sundaresan, Ph.D. (Graduated November 2018)

Faculty Research Mentor: Lei Zhou, Ph.D.

Dissertation Project: Significantly Mutated Genes in Small Cell Lung Cancer & Comparative Analysis of p53 Binding

Current Position: Postdoctoral Fellow, University of Southern California

Kartika Venugopal, Ph.D. (Graduated 2020)

Faculty Research Mentor: Olga Guraynova, M.D., Ph.D.

Dissertation Project: Leukemia-associated Mutations in DNMT3A Mediate Sensitivity to Replication Stress

Current Position: Postdoctoral Fellow, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute

Vindhya Vijay, Ph.D. (Graduated June 2019)

Faculty Research Mentor: Christopher Cogle, M.D.

Dissertation Project: Splicing repressor hnRNPC is an indispensable and ‘druggable’ target in acute myeloid leukemia

Current Position: Postdoc Fellow, Harvard University