Current TREM Research Mentors

Hideki Aihara, PhD, Associate Professor, Dept of Biochemistry, Molecular Biology & Biophysics
The focus of Dr. Aihara’s lab is to determine molecular mechanisms of protein machineries that catalyze DNA strand cutting and rejoining reactions. Current major projects in his lab are to understand the mechanism of retroviral integration into the host genome, and understand the resolution of concatenated DNA-replication intermediates into linear chromosomes. A primary research tool in his lab is X-ray crystallography.

Frank Albert, PhD, Assistant Professor, Dept of Genetics, Cell Biology, and Development
The Albert lab studies the phenotypic consequences of variation in genome sequences. We are particularly interested in how DNA variation influences gene expression and cellular systems to influence complex traits. Using yeast and human cells as model systems, we apply a wide array of genomic technologies, including high-throughput sequencing, synthetic DNA libraries, and genome editing, as well as computational and statistical analyses. 

Courtney Aldrich, PhD, Professor, Dept of Medicinal Chemistry
The Aldrich lab designs new antibacterial agents based on novel mechanisms of action using data from experimental genetic approaches to identify candidate bacterial targets. High-throughput screening identifies lead compounds against the target. His lab employs structure- and/or ligand-based computational approaches, synthetic chemistry and characterization of compounds in vitro and in cells.

Edgar Arriaga, PhD, Professor, Dept of Chemistry
The Arriaga lab investigates the biochemistry of mitochondria in aging and disease, and biotransformations of drugs and xenobiotics in subcellular environments. For such projects, analytical efforts include: (1) development of microanalytical methods and instruments based on capillary electrophoresis, microfluidics, single molecule detection, and imaging, and (2) implementation and use of ‘omics’ technologies, such as proteomics with the aim of defining complex biochemical pathways.

Karen Hsiao Ashe, MD/PhD, Professor, Dept of Neurology
Dr Ashe creates transgenic mouse models of Alzheimer's disease and uses them to learn how specific proteins (tau and Aβ*) disrupt brain function using biochemical and behavioral techniques. The mouse-based research is complemented by biochemical analysis and the study of human samples in collaboration with clinical scientists.

Victor Barocas, PhD, Professor, Dept of Biomedical Engineering
The Barocas group is primarily interested in understanding how mechanical, physical, and chemical phenomena interact to govern the behavior of biological and medical systems. They use engineering knowledge to explore, understand, and manipulate biological systems. They develop computational tools to explore specific applications in biomechanics and biotransport, including how changes of pressure in the aqueous humor of the eye affects iris mechanics, and modeling cell behavior within biopolymer matrices that are preliminary designs of bioartificial tissues.

David Bernlohr, PhD, Professor, Dept of Biochemistry, Molecular Biology & Biophysics
Dr. Bernlohr’s broad research areas are (1) adipose biology and obesity-linked insulin resistance, (2) oxidative stress and mitochondrial function, and (3) adipokine biology and insulin resistance. His lab employs multiple methodologies from biochemical and biophysical characterization to employing mouse models.

Anja-Katrin Bielinsky, PhD, Professor, Dept of Biochemistry, Molecular Biology & Biophysics
The Bielinsky lab uses molecular biology and biochemical methodologies in eukaryotic cells to understand the regulation of DNA replication, in particular the role mcm10 plays in replication initiation and cancer.  The lab also studies the pathways involved in (1) S phase checkpoint and (2) DNA damage tolerance.

Ran Blekhman​, PhD, Assistant Professor, Dept of Genetics, Cell Biology, and Development
The Blekhman Lab studies human genomic factors that control and interact with the microbiome. We utilize high-throughput genomics technologies and employ computational, statistical, machine learning, and population genetic analytical approaches, with the goal of understanding how we interact with our microbial communities, how host-microbe interactions affect human disease, and how the symbiosis between us and our microbiome evolved.

Yaniv Brandvain, PhD, Associate Professor, Dept of Ecology, Evolution and Behavior
The Brandvain lab addresses how fundamental evolutionary forces shape diversity within species, the origin of new species. Much of our work focuses on the particular role of mating in mediating these forces, and hw selection acts on patterns of mating. For example, mating with ones self increases individual homozygosity, and decreases the effect of recombination and minimizes the opportunity for conflict between mates and within the genome. At the other extreme, matings between species can introduce novel variants, break apart locally adapted genomes and result in the collapse of species boundaries. We address these questions with population genomic theory, simulations, and data, as well as comparative data from many biological systems, with a focus on plants. 

Erin Carlson, PhD, Associate Professor, Dept of Chemistry
To meet the challenges of antibiotic resistance and specter of a post-antibiotic era, the Carlson lab is pursuing the discovery of the master regulators of bacterial growth and communication and ultimately, the identification of new antibiotics through the application of diverse tools at the interface of chemistry and biology. Projects are highly multidisciplinary and members gain expertise in many areas including organic synthesis, mass spectrometry, probe and inhibitor design, metabolomics, proteomics, microbiology, biochemistry, nanomaterial characterization, imaging and molecular and cellular biology.

James Ervasti, PhD, Professor, Dept of Biochemistry, Molecular Biology & Biophysics
The Ervasti group studies the structure and cellular function of dystrophin to understand how its absence or abnormality leads to Duchenne (DMD) and Becker (BMD) muscular dystrophies, as well as some forms of dilated cardiomyopathy. His lab pioneered the expression/purification of full-length (400 kDa) dystrophin and utrophin in the baculovirus system which has enabled rigorous biochemical studies.

Deborah Ferrington, PhD, Professor, Dept of Ophthalmology & Visual Neurosciences
Dr. Ferrington uses molecular biology and biochemical methodologies to understand the pathology of age-related macular degeneration, changes in proteasome function in the aging retina, and the effects of the cellular stress response on immunoproteasome function.

Gunda Georg, PhD, Professor, Dept of Medicinal Chemistry
The Georg lab develops synthetic methods, synthesizes natural products, and carries out structure-activity studies aimed at improving the therapeutic efficacy of lead compounds, including natural products and hits from high throughput screening. Current therapeutic areas include cancer, male and female contraception, epilepsy, and Alzheimer's disease.

Aaron Goldstrohm, PhD, Associate Professor, Dept of Biochemistry, Molecular Biology & Biophysics
The Goldstrohm lab studies the roles of post-transcription gene regulation in development and disease mechanisms utilizing mammalian cell culture and Drosophila model systems.  We employ a wide range of approaches including biochemistry, molecular and cellular biology, genetics, and transcriptomics. We collaborate with computational and structural biologists and medical researchers to extend the impact of our research.

Paloma Gonzalez-Bellido, PhD, Associate Professor, Ecology, Evolution, and Behavior
We study the neural basis of motor control. By investigating predatory species that the organismal scale, we seek to understand the performance of neural systems that are pushed to their accuracy and speed limits. We employ high speed videography intracellular/extracellular in-vivo electrophysiology and 2-photon/confocal microscopy to link natural behavior to neural function and morphology.

Jeffrey Gralnick, PhD, Associate Professor, Dept of Plant and Microbial Biology/BioTechnology Institute
The Gralnick Lab employs both classical and modern molecular genetic approaches to understand the physiology and metabolism of environmental bacteria with abilities to oxidize or reduce metals. The lab thinks broadly about anaerobic metabolic pathways related to respiration, how microbial communities thrive in the absence of oxygen and how to engineer metal reducing and oxidizing bacteria for a variety of bioenergy and biotechnology applications.

David Greenstein, PhD, Professor, Dept of Genetics, Cell Biology, and Development
Dr. Greenstein’s laboratory investigates the molecular mechanisms controlling germline development and oogenesis in the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans. They study how hormonal signaling and soma-germline interactions control protein translation to regulate oocyte meiotic maturation and fertilization. This research program integrates biochemical, genomic, and cell biological approaches, underpinned by the rigorous genetic analyses to which C. elegans is amenable.

Timothy Griffin, PhD, Professor, Dept of Biochemistry, Molecular Biology & Biophysics
Work in the Griffin lab involves the development and application of mass spectrometry-based tools to study proteins and proteomes, including tracking oral cancer progression through the salivary proteome, and protein post-translational modifications. His lab is also developing new bioinformatics tools that integrate genomic and proteomic data (e.g. proteogenomics and metaproteomics).

Carol Haskell-Luevano, PhD, Professor, Dept of Medicinal Chemistry
The Haskell-Luevano lab focuses on understanding peptide hormone endocrine systems in the brain and their involvement in feeding behavior, exercise, diabetes, and obesity. She utilizes multidisciplinary approaches including chemistry, chemical biology, biochemistry, molecular biology, pharmacology, physiology, and neuroscience to study endocrine systems.

Kristin Hogquist, PhD, Professor, Dept of Laboratory Medicine & Pathology
The Hogquist lab is primarily interested in T cell development in the thymus. They study how selection processes shape the T cell repertoire to achieve a highly effective and self-tolerant adaptive immune system using mouse models and cell-based assays.

Ryan Hunter, PhD, Assistant Professor, Microbiology and Immunology
Research in the Hunter lab tackines the in situ microbial community dynamics associated with airway disease (cystic fibrosis, COPD, chronic sinusitis). Using a multidisciplinary approach (imaging, genomics, bacterial genetics), the lab is primarily focused on defining the host-derived nutrient sources that sustain the airway microbiota, and the central role of commensal bacteria in mucus degradation as an instigator of chronic lung infections. The long-term goal is to exploit nutritional interactions among airway microbiota and the host environment as a novel means of disease management.

Romas Kazlauskas, PhD, Professor, Dept of Biochemistry, Molecular Biology & Biophysics
Dr. Kazlauskas engineers enzymes not just for biotechnological applications, but also to understand molecular evolution. He employs molecular biology, biochemical characterization, structural biology and computational modeling to inform his work.

Dan Knights, PhD, Assistant Professor, Dept of Genetics, Cell Biology, and Development
The Knights lab develops computational methods for studying the human microbiome, the collection of trillions of microbes that live and on in the human body, and they use these methods to discover new ways that the microbiome is linked to human health. The lab also applies tools from machine learning to predict diseases before they happen by linking the gut microbiome, nutrition, and lifestyle to clinical outcomes. 

Carol Lange, PhD, Professor, Dept of Medicine
Dr. Lange studies the molecular biology of breast cancer. Her lab is focused on the study of cross-talk between peptide growth factors and steroid hormone receptors in human breast cancer cells, with the goal of developing better strategies for the treatment of breast and other hormonally influenced and/or epithelial cell-derived cancers.

Anna Lee, PhD, Professor, Dept of Pharmacology
The Lee lab works to understand the molecular and circuit mechanisms that influence alcohol and nicotine co-addiction. A major focus is the role of nicotinic acetylcholine receptor subunits in addiction related behaviors. The lab combines genetic targeting, neuropharmacology and mouse models of addiction to determine the factors that influence polysubstance use compared with single drug use.

John Lipscomb, PhD, Professor, Dept of Biochemistry, Molecular Biology & Biophysics
Dr. Lipscomb investigates the mechanisms of oxygenases through the use of transient kinetics, site-directed mutagenesis, diagnostic substrate reactions, EPR spectroscopy, and X-ray crystallography. The oxygenases he studies contain catalytic iron at the active site, forming reactive species that can oxidize toxic anthropomorphic aromatic compounds introduced into the environment.

Suzanne McGaugh, PhD, Assistant Professor, Dept of Ecology, Evolution and Behavior
The McGaugh lab investigates genetic underpinnings of traits in evolutionary models for human disease. The lab focuses on the Mexican blind cavefish which is a model for eye development, autism, insomnia, obesity, and insulin resistance. They integrate field work to functional genomics but mainly utilize genomics, population genetic models, and computational biology.

Joseph, Metzger, PhD, Professor, Dept of Integrative Biology and Physiology
Dr. Metzger seeks mechanistic insights into normal and diseased muscle function, including heart failure associated with Duchenne muscular dystrophy. In particular, he focuses on manipulating the expression level and enzyme activity of parvalbumin, troponin, and myosin in skeletal and cardiac muscle. He uses in vitro and in vivo gene transfer to study muscle function in cell and animal models.

Hiroshi Nakato, PhD, Professor, Dept of Genetics, Cell Biology & Development
The long-term goal of the Nakato lab is to understand fundamental principles of poorly understood stem cell behaviors, including stem cell competition, replacement, and damage response.  To elucidate the mechanisms of stem cell control in the extracellular environment, they focus on the role of heparan sulfate proteoglycans, a class of carbohydrate-modified proteins.  They employ both in vivo and in vitro approaches using the genetically tractable model organism Drosophila.

Kirsten Nielsen, PhD, Associate Professor, Dept of Microbiology & Immunology
Dr. Nielsen studies Cryptococcus neoformans, an opportunistic human pathogenic fungus that causes cryptococcosis, which commonly presents as a disseminated meningoencephalitis that is universally fatal if untreated. A defining feature of cryptococcosis is the ability of C. neoformans to cross the blood-brain barrier. Dr. Nielsen has demonstrated that disrupting pheromone signaling inhibits entry into the brain.

Michael O'Connor, PhD, Professor, Dept of Genetics, Cell Biology & Development
Dr. O’Connor studies the role of the TGF-β family of secreted proteins in cell-cell communication during development. The TGF-β family influences a wide variety of cellular processes including tissue growth, differentiation, and death as well as metabolic and synaptic homeostasis. The O’Connor lab employs genetic, molecular, biochemical and computational methods.

Laurie Parker, PhD, Associate Professor, Dept of Biochemistry, Molecular Biology & Biophysics
The Parker lab research program is broadly directed at assay development for post-translational modifications, with a focus on protein phosphorylation by tyrosine kinases. She develops artificial, optimized substrate peptides to report the activity of a specific enzyme in living cells. Enzymatic modification is measured using a range of readout strategies—some that require extraction of the cell contents (e.g. mass spectrometry) and some that leave the cell intact (fluorescent imaging).

Valerie Pierre, PhD, Associate Professor, Dept of Chemistry
The Pierre group studies the role of metal ions in biological systems, and designs metal complexes as biological and medical probes. Using analytica,l and inorganic and organic synthetic techniques, they develop lanthanide complexes as responsive luminescent sensors, such as contrast agents for medical MRI. Another project is directed toward elucidating the recognition and uptake of heme by gram-negative bacteria.

Lawrence Que, Jr., PhD, Professor, Dept of Chemistry
The Que lab research effort involves a combination of biochemical, synthetic, inorganic, and spectroscopic approaches, to elucidate the oxygen activation mechanisms of nonheme iron enzymes, design functional models for such enzymes, trap and characterize reaction intermediates, and develop bio-inspired oxidation catalysts for green chemistry applications.

David Redish, PhD, Professor, Dept of Neuroscience
The Redish lab works to understand how multiple learning and memory systems interact to produce behavior. They also apply the theories that arise from neurophysiology and computational modeling to explain dysfunctional and broken behavioral-control systems, such as occurs in addiction. The Redish lab combines multi-electrode neural ensemble recordings from awake, behaving animals with complex computational analysis techniques.

Jill Siegfried, PhD, Professor, Dept of Pharmacology
Dr. Siegfried investigates the role of growth factors and hormones in the development and growth of lung cancer. These include estrogen, progesterone, the epidermal growth factor family of peptides, and hepatocyte growth factor. Both cell culture and animal models are used to examine how these hormones and growth factors interact in the development and growth of lung cancer.

Jeffrey Simon, PhD, Professor, Dept of Genetics, Cell Biology & Development
The long-term goal of the Simon lab is to reveal chromatin mechanisms that control gene expression during development and disease. They study the Polycomb group (PcG) transcriptional repressors, focusing on Polycomb repressive complex 2 (PRC2), an enzyme that tri-methylates histone H3 on lysine 27, a hallmark of repressed chromatin. The Simon lab employs in vitro biochemical assays and in vivo approaches in Drosophila in their research.

Stanley Thayer, PhD, Professor, Dept of Pharmacology
Dr. Thayer's laboratory studies neurodegenerative processes. His group uses electrophysiological and optical techniques to measure ion currents, to image synaptic proteins, and to record changes in intracellular calcium within single neurons grown in tissue culture. In particular, his lab studies Ca2+ homeostasis in neurons, and the role of the endocannabinoid system in regulating synaptic transmission and neurotoxicity. He is also trying to develop pharmacological strategies to prevent loss of synapses during neurotoxic processes.

David Thomas, PhD, Professor, Dept of Biochemistry, Molecular Biology & Biophysics
Throughout his career, Dr. Thomas has been a leading investigator in the molecular biophysics of muscle. He has developed several novel spectroscopic techniques for this purpose, and has applied them to solve fundamental problems concerning the molecular mechanisms of muscle contraction and relaxation. In recent years he has balanced his focus on basic muscle research with applications to muscle disease and therapy.

Michael Travisano, PhD, Dept of Ecology, Evolution and Behavior

Jerrold Vitek, MD, PhD, McKnight Professor and Chair, Dept of Neurology
Dr. Vitek is a leader in the field of deep brain stimulation and has led several large clinical trials employing surgical therapy for the treatment of Parkinsonism disease. He directs the UMN Udall Center of Excellence in Parkinson's Disease, "Circuit based DBS", which aims to understand changes in brain circuitry that occur in Parkinson's disease and develop new DBS strategies to further improve patient's lives. He also directs the Neuromodulation research center at the UMN which is a multidisciplinary program studying the pathophysiology of Parkinson disease and preclinical mechanisms underlying deep brain stimulations. 

Li-Na Wei, PhD, Professor, Dept of Pharmacology
Dr. Wei's lab is interested in regulatory pathways and underlying mechanisms in differentiation and function of neurons and adipocytes. Two principal signaling pathways are targets of investigation: (1) hormone (vitamin A and fatty acids) signaling pathways that involve nuclear receptors and coregulators to trigger chromatin remodeling, and (2) extra-nuclear signaling pathways that regulate post-transcriptional events, specifically, mRNA transport and localized translation. The Wei lab uses molecular, biochemical, cellular and genetic methods, as well as analysis of proteomes by mass spectrometry.

Carrie Wilmot, PhD, Professor, Dept of Biochemistry, Molecular Biology & Biophysics
The Wilmot lab focuses on the biosynthesis of protein and peptide-derived enzyme cofactors. She employs X-ray crystallography, UV-vis absorbance spectroscopy in the crystal, and mass spectrometry. She freeze-traps catalytic intermediates in the crystal, leading to "snapshots" along the reaction pathway. These are then assembled into a "movie of catalysis" at the molecular level.

David Zarkower, PhD, Professor, Dept of Genetics, Cell Biology & Development
Disorders of sexual differentiation are among the most common congenital syndromes and often have serious medical and social consequences. Research in the Zarkower laboratory aims to uncover the molecular and genetic mechanisms that underlie sexual development.  To accomplish this goal, they study model organisms (C. elegans; mouse) in which powerful genetic, genomic, and molecular approaches are possible.