Our Scholars


In a project that spans the Medical School’s Department of Microbiology and Immunology and the Life Sciences Institute, Christophe-Sebastien Arnold, Ph.D., will use metabolomics, high-content imaging and machine learning to understand parasite-host interactions under nutritional stress. Arnold received a Ph.D. in virology, immunology and microbiology from the Université Grenoble-Alpes, France, before coming to U-M. 

Working in the Medical School’s Department of Neurology, Merci Best, Ph.D., aims to uncover how specific genetic mutations can damage the architecture of the central nervous system and thus promote neurodegeneration. Best received a Ph.D. in pharmacology at the University of Virginia School of Medicine.

Maurinne Bonnet, Ph.D., completed her graduate studies in medicinal chemistry at the Institut de Chimie de Nice, France. Now, in the College of Pharmacy’s Department of Medicinal Chemistry, she plans to develop new approaches to RNA-targeted drug discovery. 

In the Life Sciences Institute, Brian Curtis, Ph.D., will apply protein engineering to overcome a bottleneck that hinders scientists’ ability to efficiently develop biologically important natural product analogues. Curtis comes to the LSI from Cornell University, where he received a Ph.D. in chemistry and chemical biology.  

Fabio Andrés Gómez-Cano, Ph.D., received a Ph.D. in biochemistry and molecular biology from Michigan State University. He joined the College of Literature, Science, and the Arts Department of Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology, where he intends to unravel the intricate mechanisms through which living organisms respond to stress by studying the co-evolution of cis-regulatory regions and environmental stress. 

In the Medical School’s Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences, John Han, Ph.D., will explore the role of lipid droplets and mitochondrial metabolism in lipoprotein particle formation and secretion in age-related macular degeneration. Han received his Ph.D. in cell biology and regenerative medicine from Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia. 

Working across the College of Literature, Science, and the Arts departments of Biophysics and Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, and the Medical School’s Department of Internal Medicine, Jacob Moran, Ph.D., will investigate how bacterial communities coordinate across different length and time scales to resist antibiotic treatments. Moran comes to U-M from Washington University in St. Louis, where he received a Ph.D. in physics. 

In the Medical School’s Department of Pathology, Siva Kumar Natarajan, Ph.D., will build on his graduate work by exploring how the crosstalk between tumor cells and immune cells contributes to aggressive forms of brain cancer. Natarajan received his Ph.D. in molecular and cellular pathology from U-M, where he identified metabolic vulnerabilities in pediatric brain cancers to develop new therapies.

Morgan Pimm, Ph.D., has joined the Medical School’s Department of Cell and Developmental Biology, where she will study how one class of cytoskeletal filaments, known as microtubules, are regulated to promote directed cell migration, which is essential for tissue formation, immune responses and wound healing. Pimm received a Ph.D. in biochemistry and molecular biology from the State University of New York Upstate Medical University. 

In the Life Sciences Institute, Jingcheng Wang, Ph.D., is characterizing protein receptors that facilitate the movement of specific proteins (cargos) along the secretory pathway to the surface or outside of the cells, with a particular interest in the mechanisms that enable receptors to recognize their corresponding cargos. Before coming to U-M, Wang completed his graduate studies at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center. 

In the Medical School's Department of Molecular and Integrative Physiology, Kristina Weaver, Ph.D., plans to establish new animal models to study how environmental changes, such as touch, can reprogram neural states in the brain and impact aging.  Weaver received her Ph.D. in molecular and integrative physiology from U-M.

In the Medical School’s Department of Microbiology and Immunology, Guolei Zhao, Ph.D., is investigating the mechanisms that drive skin colonization in Candida auris, which can cause life-threatening infections. Prior to joining U-M, Zhao received her Ph.D. in biological sciences from the State University of New York-Buffalo. 


Dominik Awad, Ph.D., studies the role of microbiome-derived metabolites in the pancreatic tumor microenvironment in the Medical School's Department of Molecular and Integrative Physiology.

Ashley Calder, Ph.D., studies the mechanisms driving injury and repair within the extrahepatic bile duct in the Medical School’s Department of Internal Medicine.

From sugars and lipids to metals and gases, Jutta Diessl, Ph.D., studies cellular biology at the intersection of molecular biology and biochemistry. During her graduate studies, Diessl investigated glucolipotoxicity in yeast (M.Sc., University of Graz, Austria) and dysregulated calcium and manganese homeostasis in yeast and flies (Ph.D., Stockholm University, Sweden). In the U-M Medical School's Department of Biological Chemistry, Diessl now elucidates the crosstalk of hydrogen sulfide- and oxygen-signaling and its impact on mitochondrial bioenergetics and cellular metabolism in mammalian cells.

In the College of Literature, Science, and the Arts Department of Chemistry, Luis Ortiz-Rodríguez, Ph.D., is developing next-generation single-molecule microscopy methods for measuring subcellular interactions in living microbial cells. Ortiz-Rodríguez comes from Luquillo, Puerto Rico and graduated with his B.S. in biology from University of Puerto Rico-Humacao Campus. He earned a Ph.D. in physical chemistry at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio, where he scrutinized the excited state dynamics and electronic relaxation pathways of thionated heavy-atom-free photosensitizers for photodynamic therapy applications.

In the Life Sciences Institute, Mónica Rivas, Ph.D., focuses on the development and application of allosteric modulators of dynamic proteins. After earning her B.S. in chemistry from the University of Central Florida, Rivas completed her graduate studies in chemistry at the University of Texas at Dallas, developing methods for robust and rapid 18F-incorporation for the synthesis of positron emission tomography (PET) agents, and their application to potential target radiosynthesis. 

In the Medical School’s Department of Radiology, Jason Witek, Ph.D., is working on the design and development of novel opioid PET radioligands that are agonist/antagonist pairs.  After graduating with his B.S. in Chemistry from U-M, he earned a M.Sc. in Chemistry focusing on alkaloid natural product total synthesis at Penn State University. He continued his graduate studies at Yonsei University, earning a Ph.D. in Pharmaceutical Sciences focusing on medicinal chemistry and organic synthesis of drug-like molecules.


In the Life Sciences Institute, Amanda Erwin, Ph.D., explores high resolution in-situ snapshots of SARS-CoV-2 infection of neurons.  

Mike McFadden, Ph.D., has a long-standing interest in the molecular biology of host-pathogen interactions. He received a B.S. in Genomics and Molecular Genetics from Michigan State University, where he studied tripartite interactions between disease vector mosquitoes, pathogens they transmit, and the endosymbiotic bacterium Wolbachia. He then studied post-transcriptional regulation of antiviral gene expression and virus-host interactions at Duke University for his Ph.D. work.  In the Medical School’s Department of Microbiology and Immunology, Mike studies how macrophage cell stress responses elicited by Candida albicans infection influence antifungal innate immunity. 

Helen Rich, Ph.D., is interested in the interactions between host immunity, bacteria, and viruses in the lung. Helen grew up in the Boston suburbs in Massachusetts, earned their bachelor's degree in Biology from Oberlin College in Ohio, then moved to the University of Pittsburgh to complete their Ph.D. in Microbiology and Immunology, focusing on the role of type III interferons in the pathogenesis of influenza/bacterial coinfection. In the U-M Medical School’s Department of Microbiology and Immunology, Helen is investigating the impact of respiratory syncytial virus infection on pulmonary antibacterial immunity.


In the Medical School Department of Microbiology and Immunology, Einar Olafsson, Ph.D., is working to identify mechanisms of host-pathogen interactions and detect new virulence genes in the human parasite toxoplasma. He hopes that gaining further insights into the biology that underlies toxoplasma infection will help ameliorate the disease in at-risk groups and shed light on the infection’s role in psychiatric disorders. Before coming to U-M, Olafsson earned his M.Sc. in biology from Uppsala University and his Ph.D. in molecular biosciences from Stockholm University in Sweden.

Pilar Rivero Rios, Ph.D., earned her master’s and doctorate degrees from the University of Granada, Spain. As a graduate student, she investigated how a genetic mutation associated with Parkinson’s disease inhibited cells’ ability to properly distribute proteins and other molecules throughout the cell, through a process called membrane trafficking. At the U-M Life Sciences Institute, she is exploring new pathways and mechanisms through which altered membrane trafficking in neurons leads to disease.