The Biomedical Sciences Program at UNF is pleased to highlight
Daniel J. Arenas
from the Department of Physics.
Daniel Arenas is a MD candidate since 2016 at the Perelman School of Medicine University of Pennsylvania. Recipient of the Walter and Anne Gamble Scholarship at Penn, he was awarded the Leonard Davis Institute’s William L. Kissick, MD, DrPH, Health Policy Research Prize in 2018. Some of his recent notable publications in biomedical sciences area include Arenas et al. 2019; Fajgenbaum et al. 2019; Arenas et al. 2020.
Daniel did his undergraduate research under the mentorships of Dr. Lev Gasparov, UNF Presidential Professor and Alexander von Humboldt Fellow and Dr. Thomas Pekarek, Presidential Professor and UNF Distinguished Professor from the Department of Physics at the College of Arts & Sciences (2002-2004). During his undergraduate training, Daniel participated in high-pressure experiments at the Geophysical Laboratory of Carnegie Institution in Washington DC. He subsequently obtained his Ph.D. in Physics from University of Florida in 2009. After his Ph.D. training, Daniel has been a visiting lecturer and Assistant Professor at UNF’s Department of Physics (2009-2014). During this time, he was also a visiting research Scientist at the Osaka University, Japan (2011-2014). He has co-authored several papers with Dr. Gasparov (Gasparov et al. 2005; Arenas et al. 2010; Arenas et al. 2012).
Daniel’s long-term vision has been to go towards a MD degree. With his persistence, he scored in the top 0.5% MCAT score and is closer to fulfilling his long-term goal of becoming a clinician.
Says Daniel J. Arenas,“ Doing research as an undergraduate student under Dr. Gasparov and Dr. Pekarek was one of the most impactful and enjoyable experiences of my life. They provided superb faculty guidance at every step; but they also offered enough independence to make significant contributions as a student. UNF’s environment is truly unique”.
According to Dr. Ramaswamy Narayanan, Director of the Biomedical Sciences Program “Daniel is an example of a scientist with a persistence of vision. With a strong cross-disciplinary research experience across Physics, Biology, computing and Medicine, he is a powerful role model for the future generation of biomedical sciences graduate students from UNF." Dr. Gasparov says, “As a professor of Physics and as a scholar it is extremely rewarding for me to see how UNF graduates such as Daniel follow their dreams and succeed in their careers. This is what we as UNF faculty strive for”.
Daniel J. Arenas for his accomplishments.
Says Eden “Dr. Waddell always pushed me to understand the science behind everything I was doing in the Lab, which taught me to think critically about my research. He was always available to answer questions and help but gave me the room to figure things out on my own. He encouraged me to present papers in our journal club and posters at scientific conferences, which allowed me to develop my presentation style”. Dr. Ramaswamy Narayanan, Director of the Biomedical Sciences Program notes “Eden Cruikshank provides an example of the quality of training we provide for undergraduate students in Biomedical Sciences research”. According to Dr. Waddell “Eden is one of the more impressive and capable undergraduate students I have trained in my research lab and I have no doubt that she will be a highly productive, successful, and valued member of the biomedical research community in the years to come and will represent UNF well as she continues her training in the Molecular and Cellular Biology Ph.D. program at the University of Washington.”
Sajan is looking at an important step in the pathway, which is the racemization of the molecule by an enzyme called NozR. The NozR enzyme catalyzes the inversion of configuration the nocardioazine backbone. For this proposed exciting work, she received a 2020 American Society of Pharmacognosy (ASP) Undergraduate Research Award. Sajan’s long-term career goal is to obtain a Ph.D. in Chemistry, and she is interested in becoming an academic researcher.
Says Sajan, “I enjoy my involvement with the Chemistry Department working as the assistant lab technician, helping to start Chem & Coffee (a community building event), and doing research in Dr. Amy Lane’s lab.” According to Dr. Ramaswamy Narayanan, Director of the Biomedical Sciences Program “ Sajan Green’s passion to her research at UNF is exciting to see; she has a great future ahead”. Her research mentor Dr. Amy Lane says, “Sajan is a highly motivated, diligent, and capable undergraduate researcher. I am thrilled to see her research recognized by ASP with this competitive national award.”
Congratulations to Sajan Green in obtaining the 2020 American Society of Pharmacognosy Undergraduate Research Award.
Ryan Lopez joined as an M.D. candidate at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania in Fall 2020. His long-term career goals include general or trauma surgery.
Interested in biochemistry, Ryan, a Hicks Honors College graduate, worked with Dr. Amy Lane, Associate Professor in the Chemistry Department, throughout his time at UNF. His research revolved around the assembly of novel natural products using cyclodipeptide synthase enzymes (e.g. Borgman, Lopez, and Lane, Organic and Biomolecular Chemistry 2019. 17: 2305-2314). The goal of this project is to discover novel natural products as therapeutics for cancer.
Says Ryan, “From basic research skills like operating a pipette, to more advanced skills such as interpreting mass spectrometry data, Dr. Lane was always ready and willing to answer my questions and encourage my growth as a budding scientist. Dr. Lane created opportunities for my lab group and I to attend various conferences around the country where we were exposed to the true breadth of topics that science cover.” According to Dr. Ramaswamy Narayanan, Director of the Biomedical Sciences Program, “Ryan Lopez’s commitment to serving underserved inner city communities shows a strong passion to practicing medicine and meeting needs of the country”. Dr. Amy Lane, his research mentor says, “Ryan entered my group on his first day as a freshman at UNF, and I have been honored to witness his professional growth and long list of accomplishments as a student and scientist over the last four years. I’m looking forward to his bright future in medicine.”
Translational Neuropathology Laboratory as a technician at the Mayo Clinic,
Jacksonville. He will be pursuing his research interest in neuroimaging by
studying the neuropathology of Alzheimer's disease on a histological
The Laboratory’s research includes neuropathological
underpinnings of variability within Alzheimer's Disease. They hope to advance
biomarkers to better track disease progression.
Jesse’s long-term career goal is to pursue a PhD in Neuroscience with a
view of becoming a principal investigator.
Jesse received his bachelor of science in
behavioral neuroscience from the University of North Florida, Jacksonville in
2019. During his undergraduate years, he worked in Dr. Katherine Hooper's
behavioral neuroscience lab at the Department of Psychology, which utilized
functional near-infrared spectroscopy (fNIRS) to study emotional regulation.
Says Jesse, “The time I spent with Dr. Hooper was critical for me to realize
just how much the field of neuroscience has to offer to up-and-coming
scientists. The conferences that Dr. Hooper pushed me to attend were very
informative in this regard; the sheer volume of research that I was exposed to,
and of course the experience I earned in presenting our own research, gave me
the appreciation for what I do, and the drive to continue in this field.”Dr. Ramaswamy Narayanan, Director of the Biomedical Sciences
Program notes “Jesse
Macyczko provides an example of the
quality of Biomedical Sciences workforce UNF is generating.” According to Dr. Hooper, “I’ve had the pleasure of working with
Jesse for years in both the classroom and the laboratory. He’s bright,
hard-working, broad-minded, and extremely curious. He’s passionate about
neuroscience (and several other interests) and is fun to be around. I can’t
wait to see where his career path leads him”.
She joined the laboratory of Dr. Fatima Rehman, Lecturer at the Department of Biology with Bachelor's degree in philosophy in 2016. Her goal was to prepare for admission into a medical school with research experience. Her research at Dr. Rehman’s laboratory revolved around secreted Galectin-3 (Gal-3), a glycan-binding lectin as breast cancer chemotherapy markers. This research has resulted in a co-authored publication (Shafiq et al. 2020).
Says January “ I liked that Dr. Rehman's courses were challenging but also taught with ingenuity. The research was fascinating and our results were presented at a state conference Florida Undergraduate Research Conference
(FURC). I certainly would not be where I am today without the assistance and support of mentors like Dr. Rehman”. According to Dr. Ramaswamy Narayanan, Director of the Biomedical Sciences Program, “January exemplifies the quality of Biomedical Sciences research training at the department of Biology”. Dr. Fatima Rehman, her research mentor says, “She is a prime example of how hard work and focus leads to success at the end no matter how difficult the path. She never gave up regardless of how many failures she saw and her perseverance paid off in the end.”
Mirna Pehlivanovic currently works as an Emergency Medicine PA at UF Shands in Jacksonville since 2018. She graduated with BS in Biology in 2015. At UNF, she joined the laboratory of Dr. John Hatle, Professor in the Department of Biology to develop research experience. Her research project utilized grasshoppers as a model system to study the impact of dietary-restriction on nitrogen allocation and oxidative damage to proteins. With strong implications to aging and longevity, her research led to a co-first authored a peer-reviewed publication (Heck et al. 2017). She graduated from the Stony Brook University's Physician Assistant program in 2017.
Says Mirna “ I wouldn't have been able to make it to where I am today without Dr. Hatle and the UNF biomedical program. Dr. Hatle was always there to answer questions and let me figure it out on my own, which is what I think helped me learn and grow the most. My research was so much fun, and I dedicated approximately 3 years to it and I still to this day think of it as my pride and joy”. According to Dr. Ramaswamy Narayanan, Director of the Biomedical Sciences Program “Mirna Pehlivanovic’s career path is a strong evidence of UNF Biomedical Sciences efforts to generate a tech workforce in Jacksonville”. Dr.John Hatle, her research mentor says “Mirna was one of the most high-spirited and motivated students to have worked in our research program on the biology of aging. She loves a challenge, tackles it with a smile, and enjoyed the process of discovery. This combination of academic growth and positive attitude prepares one well for a career in clinical or biotech professions.”
Congratulations to Mirna Pehlivanovic.
The Biomedical Sciences Program at UNF is pleased to highlight Jordan Phillipps from the Department of Chemistry.
During his junior and senior years, Jordan worked with Dr. Amy Lane, Associate Professor in the Chemistry Department. His research revolved around characterization of a member of the relatively newly described family of enzymes, cyclodipeptide synthases. The goal of this project is to discover novel natural products as therapeutics for cancer.
Says Jordan, “Despite my nervousness on my first research experience, Dr. Lane was able to palliate my anxiety with the time she took to educate me on the pertinent information I needed to execute my tasks proficiently and accurately. The experience that I was able to cultivate though this research position will last a lifetime”. According to Dr. Ramaswamy Narayanan, Director of the Biomedical Sciences Program “ Jordan Phillipps represents the next generation of physicians bridging the gap between the bench side to the clinic”. Dr. Amy Lane, his research mentor, says “Jordan is a model student, and I am confident that he is going to do very well at Washington University and as a future physician and biomedical science researcher.”
Chloe Ramnarine joined the Graduate Research Employment Program at the Mayo Clinic in 2019. She is currently completing her post-baccalaureate in the Translational Cell Biology of Parkinson’s Disease at the laboratory of Dr. Wolfdieter Springer. Her research project revolves around dissecting the PINK1/Parkin mitochondrial quality control pathway in dopaminergic neurons and discovery of novel therapeutics.
Chloe joined the laboratory of Dr. Frank Smith, Assistant professor at the department of biology in 2017. Her research project revolved around investigating the canonical Wnt signaling pathway in tardigrades. She discovered that tardigrades have lost several Wnt ligands that are present in other animals. During this period, Chloe joined the laboratories of Dr. Owen Ross under the supervision of Dr. Rebecca Brennan at the Mayo Clinic as a BRINC Intern (UNF Biology-Mayo Clinic internship program). She was involved in a research project investigating mitochondrial genomics, identifying the correlation between different types of Lewy body diseases and specific haplogroups. She presented her research results at UNF’s SOARS, FURC and at the Mayo Clinic’s Parkinson’s Disease Seminar. Chloe plans on pursuing a PhD in Evolutionary Biology, focusing primarily on paleogenomics and ancient DNA recovery. Her long-term goals include genetics of personalized medicine and evolution.
Says Chloe,“ Dr. Smith’s seminar class in Genomics sparked my interest in genetics and molecular biology, as he not only taught us from an evolutionary standpoint but also made an effort to engage the class’s biomedical interests as well. His open door policy and willingness to help and discuss “real-world” research and graduate schools enabled me to succeed not only in his class, but also in the laboratory. Dr. Smith truly invests in his students”. Dr. Ramaswamy Narayanan, Director of the Biomedical Sciences Program says “Chloe Ramnarine is a role model for biology graduate students; she brings a cross-disciplinary perspective across genomics, evolution and personalized medicine” According to Dr. Smith, “Chloe is a great example of the scientific impact students with biology degrees from UNF can have. I expect she will have a fantastic career as a scientist”.
Congratulations to Chloe Ramnarine.
Kien joined the laboratory of Dr. David Waddell, Associate Professor at the Department of Biology in 2014. Her research revolved around characterization of the function of two novel muscle-specific genes, Allograft Inflammatory Factor 1-like (Aif1l) and Unconventional SNARE in the ER 1 (Use1) in the context of skeletal muscle atrophy. She has presented her research at the Experimental Biology Conferences (2016 and 2017).
Says Kien “I had the best time while being an undergraduate at the University of North Florida (UNF) in the Department of Biology. Working with Dr. Waddell, we had built a wonderful mentor-mentee relationship and I have gained valuable experiences that later benefited me in my graduate career. At my graduation, I was honored to be nominated by Dr. Waddell and selected for the Biology Research award“. According to Dr. Ramaswamy Narayanan, Director of the Biomedical Sciences Program “ Kien Tran represents the best of what the Biomedical Sciences Program offers; she is a testament to Dr. Waddell’s commitment to training of top notch undergraduate students in research. Kien will be a superb role model for future generation of students at UNF”. Says the Honors College Dean, Dr. Chamberlain “In the Hicks Honors College, Kien learned to think critically, to reflect carefully, and to aim high in her aspirations. She is an exemplar of how to seize opportunities and work diligently in order to get the most out of college, and we are very, very proud of her and her accomplishment”. Dr. Waddell, her research mentor noted “Kien was one of best undergraduate students I have had in my research lab and she was instrumental in helping establish several protocols that are still in use by other students. In addition to her laboratory accomplishments, Kien was also a very accomplished student in the classroom and graduated Magna Cum Laude and with Phi Kappa Phi honors, spent six semesters on the Dean's List, received numerous competitive scholarships, and was awarded the high honor of being the Outstanding Undergraduate Research Student of the Year in Biology in 2017.”
Congratulations to Kien Tran for her outstanding achievements and for obtaining competitive NIH T-32 training award and NIH Ruth L. Kirschstein National Research Service Award (NRSA) Individual Predoctoral Fellowship.
She graduated from Hicks Honors College at the University of North Florida (UNF) in 2018, where she earned a B.S. in biology and a B.A. in interdisciplinary studies (behavioral neuroscience). While a student at UNF, she conducted research in microbiology under the direction of Dr. Terri Ellis, associate professor of biology. The objective of her research was to determine if the development of antibiotic resistance in Klebsiella pneumoniae triggers changes in bacterial physiology that impact phagocytic uptake and bacterial clearance. This work has resulted in a co-authored publication (Brunson et al. 2019). As an undergraduate student at UNF, she was awarded the Hicks Research Fellowship, which provided funding for her research, enabling her to present her findings at both regional and national conferences. In recognition of her work as a researcher, she was named the UNF Undergraduate Researcher of the Year for 2018 and was also selected from her graduating class to be the recipient of the UNF Biology Outstanding Research Award.
Amanda says: “Dr. Ellis is an inspiring professor truly dedicated to helping her students learn and become better researchers. I greatly appreciate the time and effort she spent creating experience, which greatly enriched my undergraduate studies. Without her commitment to my education, without her guidance in developing my research skills, I would not feel as confident and prepared for graduate school as I do today.”
According to Dr. Ramaswamy Narayanan, Director of the Biomedical Sciences Program, “Amanda is an example of the quality of training the Biology Department offers in preparing students for higher education. With a commitment to medical education, interdisciplinary studies and infectious diseases, her training in the MD- Ph.D. program provides a role model for future UNF Biomedical Sciences students”.
Dr. Terri Ellis her research mentor says, “It was a true privilege to be Amanda’s research mentor. In the time she has worked in my lab Amanda consistently impressed me with her intelligence, drive, and insatiable curiosity about science. She rapidly mastered numerous lab techniques that require precision and attention to detail. Her good technique and work ethic paid off, as she amassed quality data that many grad students would envy. She presented her work as a poster at both the Florida Branch Meeting of the American Society for Microbiology (FLASM) and Microbe 2017, the National meeting of ASM. During her time at UNF, Amanda developed into a true independent researcher. She designed her own experiments, carried them out with excellent hands on technique, and then used her excellent critical thinking skills to analyze the data to answer her question. I was therefore not surprised when she was accepted to a top-notch MD-PhD program. Her achievements demonstrate how mentoring and hands-on research experiences outside the formal classroom play an active role the development of careers in biomedical research.”
Lisa Cooper joins the
Science Ph.D. program at the Mayo Clinic
Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences
Florida as her home campus. She begins lab rotations (fall 2020), and her first
rotation will involve investigating molecular mechanisms of Anaplastic Thyroid
Cancer. Her long-term research interests revolve around understanding the
molecular mechanisms of gene regulation and cell fate decisions.
Lisa’s Masters dissertation
research in Dr. David Waddell’s laboratory at the Department of Biology
revolved round investigating
genes upregulated in response to neurogenic skeletal muscle atrophy. This area
of research has important implications to aging, cancer and neurodegenerative
diseases. Her Masters research has resulted in four peer-reviewed publications,
three of which as the first author (Cooper et al. 2020a; Cooper and Waddell, 2020;Labuzan et al. 2020 and Cooper et al. 2020b). In addition to the
research experience in the laboratory, Lisa was involved in mentoring
Says Lisa “
Waddell provided an environment for all his students to develop the skills
necessary to be an independent scientist including opportunities to practice
scientific communication and intellectual challenges in experimental planning,
design and data analysis”.
According to Dr. Ramaswamy
Narayanan, Director of the Biomedical Sciences Program “ Lisa Cooper’s impressive publication record exemplifies the high
quality of graduate students beings trained in Biomedical Sciences at UNF”. Dr.
David Waddell, her research mentor says “
Lisa arrived in my research lab driven and
focused on achieving her goal of pursuing a Ph.D. at a top tier research
institution and she committed herself to the long hours necessary to be
successful. Her publication record speaks for itself and I have no doubt that Lisa
will represent UNF well as she continues her training at the Mayo Clinic
Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences”
Alicia says, “Dr. Ochrietor was always available to answer questions and give feedback when necessary. She made an effort to expose me to the scientific community by involving me in conferences and pushing me to present my research”. According to Dr. Ramaswamy Narayanan, Director of the Biomedical Sciences Program, "Alicia Gonzalez is a role model for future graduate students in Biomedical Sciences at UNF and her work symbolizes cross-disciplinary research”. Dr. Judith Ochrietor, her research mentor says, “It was a pleasure working with Alicia. I admire her ability to remain focused on her goals, her resilience, and her drive. I expect that she will be a successful scientist.”
Congratulations to Alicia Gonzalez.