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Post-Doctoral Researchers

Postdoctoral Researchers and Research Associates in Molecular Biosciences founded and are very active in the campus-wide KU Postdoctoral Association.  This group holds monthly meetings devoted to enhancing professional development, building interdisciplinary collaborations, and supporting a community of 300+ postdoctoral researchers on campus.  Please visit the KU Postdoctoral Association's webpage for details about upcoming events.
Saida Benomar

Name:  Saida Benomar
Mentor:  Josephine Chandler
Degree, Institution, Year:  Ph.D., Microbiology and Biotechnology, Aix-Marseille Universities, France, 2012
Hometown:  Tetouan, Morocco
Email:  sbenomar@ku.edu

Quorum sensing is widely distributed in bacteria and involves cell density-dependent regulation of processes such as biofilm formation, virulence, competence, and antibiotic production. I am working on understanding the role of quorum sensing in interspecies competition. Specifically, we are interested in how bacteria use quorum sensing to protect themselves from attack from other bacteria. This may be an important process during survival in multispecies soil communities or infections.

Name:  Joanne Chapman
Mentor:  Rob Unckless
Degree, Institution, Year:  Ph.D. in Evolutionary Biology, Balliol College, University of Oxford, 2009
Hometown:  Tauranga, New Zealand
Email:  joanne.chapman@ku.edu

Antimicrobial peptides (AMPs) are small proteins that can directly kill or impede the growth of microorganisms. As such, they play an important role in innate immune defenses of plants and animals. We aim to characterize the activity and evolution of AMPs in Drosophila species. To this end we use a combination of approaches, including functional assays of AMP activity in-vitro, in-vivo infection models involving RNAi gene silencing and CRISPR mediated gene editing, and bioinformatic analyses of AMP diversity and evolution.

Name:  Supratim Dey
Mentor:  Roberto N. De Guzman
Degree, Institution, Year:  Ph.D. in Biochemistry, University of Calcutta, 2014
Hometown:  Kolkata, India

Gram(-) bacteria like Salmonella, Shigella, Pseudomonas and Burkholderia infects host cells through a nanoinjector mechanism known as Type II Secretion System (T3SS).  Amongst the large number of proteins involved in T3SS, my research focuses on biophysical characterization of Tip and Translocon proteins that are essential for T3SS assembly and transmitting virulence into the host cell. This will help us in better understanding of the molecular mechanisms responsible for bacterial pathogenesis.

Ruth A. Entwistle

Name:  Ruth A. Entwistle
Mentor:  Berl Oakley
Degree, Institution, Year:  Ph.D., Tumor Cell Biology, Northwestern University Medical School, Chicago, IL  1985
Hometown:  University City, Missouri
Email:  raentw@ku.edu

In order to decrease their competitors and gain a survival advantage, organisms produce secondary metabolites. The model organism Aspergillus nidulans makes a number of complex secondary metabolite compounds that are toxic to their competitors, but useful for humans in medicinal therapies and agricultural applications. We are using molecular biology, analytical chemistry and bioassay tests to find and express new secondary metabolites.  In addition to the novel compounds we find, we are also learning important paradigms for the control of gene expression.

Name: Elizabeth Everman
Mentor: Stuart Macdonald
Degree, Institution, Year: Ph.D., Kansas State University, 2017
Hometown: Smithville, Missouri
Email: e.everman@ku.edu

Natural populations are highly complex and consist of genetically diverse individuals that are susceptible to multiple forms of biotic and abiotic stressors. My research is motivated by an interest in understanding how natural selection, genetic variation, and senescence shape the evolution of complex traits and populations over time. I use Drosophila melanogaster as a genetic, ecological, and evolutionary model to investigate these broad questions by leveraging multiple large population resource tools in this system to dissect the genetic architecture of complex traits related to stress resistance and fitness.

Shuang Han

Name:  Shuang Han
Mentor:  Liang Xu
Degree, Institution, Year:  Ph.D., M.D. in Gastroenterology, University of The Fourth Military Medical University, 2007
Hometown:  Yangquan, Shanxi, China
Email:  shuanghamy2014@ku.edu

My research is focused on anti-cancer potential of a novel inhibitor of RNA binding protein and the mechanism it is involved.

Name:  Tom Hill
Mentor:  Rob Unckless
Degree, Institution, Year:  Ph.D., Evolutionary Biology and Population Genetics, Vetmeduni Vienna, Austria, 2016
Hometown:  Oxford, England
Email:  tom.hill@ku.edu

Since Drosophila's establishment as a biomedical model in the 1950s, natural pathogens have surfaced as effective models of bacterial, fungal and RNA viral infections. However, there is no natural model for DNA viruses in Drosophila. I am working to establish the recently discovered Drosophila innubila nudivirus (DiNV) as the DNA virus model for Drosophila. Specifically, we are interested in identifying how the virus interacts with Drosophila to establish an infection and the host immune response. We are also interested in natural variation in immune response to infection by a DNA virus and will examine this by mapping variation in resistance to infection in infected Drosophila. This work will help us better understand the immune response to infection by DNA viruses, including in humans.

Lan Lan


Name:  Lan Lan 
Mentor:  Liang Xu
Degree, Institution, Year:  Ph.D., University of Kansas, 2010
Hometown:  Enshi, China
Email:  lan@ku.edu

My research is focused on identifying cancer therapeutics.   To this end I am using high throughput chemical screens to identify small molecules that disrupt the RNA- and protein-binding activities of known oncoproteins.

Name:  Vitoria Paolillo 
Mentor:  Erik Lundquist
Degree, Institution, Year:  Ph.D., University of Kansas, 2018
Hometown:  Easton, Missouri
Email:  v136p507@ku.edu

Neuronal migration is a critical process in the development of the nervous system. In humans, neuronal migration defects can lead to a wide range of disorders, such as epilepsy, autism, schizophrenia, and mental retardation. However, the complexity of the nervous system in humans makes it difficult to address fundamental questions regarding neuronal migration. In the Lundquist Lab, we utilize the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans, which has only 302 neurons, as a model system to study the mechanisms that regulate neuronal migration. Specifically, I will be studying the directed migration patterns of the Q neuroblasts, called QR and QL. I am interested in how differences in gene expression result in these cells migrating in opposite directions, despite the fact that they are identical in regards to their initial position, morphology, and cell lineage. 

Name:  Clinton Rice
Mentor:  Robert Ward
Degree, Institution, Year:  Ph.D., University of Iowa, 2016
Hometown:  West Des Moines, Iowa
Email clinton-rice@ku.edu

Septate junctions (SJs) maintain epithelial integrity in invertebrates by acting as a diffusion barrier between the apical and basal regions of these tissues. Recent studies have demonstrated that the component proteins of SJs play key roles in certain morphogenetic processes prior to the assembly of mature SJs. My research focuses on the role of these proteins in Drosophila melanogaster morphogenesis, particularly how these proteins affect the biomechanical properties of membranes during dorsal closure.

Pinakin Sukthankar

Name:  Pinakin Sukthankar
Mentor:  Joanna Slusky
Degree, Institution, Year:  Ph.D., Kansas State University, 2014
Hometown:  Bombay, India
Email:  pinakin@ku.edu  

Outer membrane proteins (OMPs) are an important and diverse class of β-barrel proteins that are found in the outer membrane of gram-negative bacteria as well as mitochondria and chloroplasts. These proteins play crucial roles in numerous cellular processes both in prokaryotes and eukaryotes, including: membrane biogenesis, transport of toxins and metabolites, siderophore reception, enzyme translocation and mediators for bacterial infections. My research is focused on developing a tractable model system to study the biophysical forces that govern and direct polymeric β-barrel assembly, folding and insertion into lipid membranes. A determination of the principles of β-ligand design would enable the efficient targeting of engineered ligands to OMPs such as the VDAC-1 whose inability to induce apoptosis in tumorigenic mitochondria plays a contributing role in cancer metastasis.   

Xiaoqing Wu

Name:  Xiaoqing Wu
Mentor:  Liang Xu
Degree:  Ph.D. Southeast University, 2010
Hometown:  Rugao, Jiangsu, China
Email:  wuxq@ku.edu

I am working on drug discovery for novel small molecule cancer therapeutics targeting cell death pathways, especially for cancer cell radiosensitization and chemosensitization by molecular modulation of apoptosis and autophagy.


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