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Meet Our Current Trainees

Our current MS and PhD candidates share details about their research and academic experiences with faculty in the Department of Anatomy & Cell Biology.

Current Post-Doc trainees

  • Hoomin Lee, PhD - Ko lab

    I am a postdoctoral fellow working with Dr. Frank Ko to examine endothelial cells during intramembranous bone regeneration. I hope to increase our understanding of vasculogenesis and angiogenesis during intramembranous bone regeneration that can positively impact various orthopaedic and dental procedures. For this study I use multiple model systems to assess bone microstructure, gene or protein expression, and functional properties. I completed BS and PhD in bioengineering at Inha university in Korea. I developed novel drug delivery system for tumor treatment using nanomaterials that respond to the tumor-microenvironment.

  • Pankaj Shitole, PhD - Ross lab

    My research work involves the study of bisphosphonate (BPs) contribution to atypical femoral fracture (AFF) development. I am working on the hypothesis that alendronate (ALN) inhibits the initiation of bone formation by targeting reversal cells and this effect is ameliorated by raloxifene (RAL) treatment. In this study we will also work on the remodeling independent effect of ALN on bone formation, matrix maturation and whole bone fatigue life. For this study I am working on rat models. Analysis part includes the cortical and trabecular bone geometrical properties using micro-CT, assess BMD and bone matrix properties measurement using Raman spectroscopy. Additionally, bone mechanical testing for measurement of fatigue properties and cell level study will also be performed in this project to support the hypothesis. My expertise including mechanical testing of bones, scanning electron microscope (SEM), X-ray diffraction (XRD), Raman spectroscopy analysis and nanoindentation. I am originally from India where I had completed my bachelor’s in mechanical engineering and master’s in design engineering. Recently I have been awarded as a doctorate from Indian Institute of Technology Mandi in the field of bone biomechanics. During this I have studied the effect of diabetes and low dose naltrexone on the bone hierarchical structural properties of mouse. Apart from this I like trekking, jogging, and sprinting.

  • Brittany Wilson, PhD - Sumner lab

    My dissertation project involves using biomarkers for early detection of peri-implant osteolysis after primary total joint arthroplasty. The majority of my work will focus on our lab’s rat model of wear-particle induced peri-implant osteolysis, and will utilize diagnostic tools like ELISA and proteomics approaches such as two-dimensional gel electrophoresis and mass spectrometry to measure circulating biomarkers. The major objective of this work is to verify a biomarker panel for early diagnosis of peri-implant osteolysis, which may postpone the need for revision total joint arthroplasty and allow for non-surgical rescue of implant fixation.
    I am originally from the southwest suburbs of Chicago and completed undergraduate studies at the University of Illinois at Chicago where I was awarded a Bachelor of Science in Biology with minor study of Kinesiology and a Bachelor of Art in Psychology. I began my graduate education at Rush University in the fall of 2012.

Current Graduate Student trainees

  • Delia Alkhatib - Ross lab

    I earned a Bachelor of Science in clinical biochemistry from KAU. Currently, I’m completing my M.Sc. in Integrated Biomedical Sciences in Anatomy and Cell Biology at Rush Medical Center.  
    I am happy to call Dr. Ryan’s lab is my home institution since this where I learnt a lot of research skills which gave me benefits within my Master’s journey and my future career. Handwork isn’t enough for success, you need an inspirational leader too.
    Indeed, Dr. Ryan is my inspirational leader and great advisor that inspired me and wisely mentored me to be a good researcher.
    I am working with Dr. Ryan Ross for my dissertation is focused on X-linked hypophosphatemia (XLH), a rare inherited rickets. XLH is diagnosed by shortened stature, leg bowing, low bone mass, periodontitis, low teeth mineralization, and teeth loss. My project involves crossbreeding Hyp female mouse model of XLH with HBM male mouse model to understanding how mutated LRP5 receptor -that is found in HBM model- would prevent the binding of sclerostin protein, which would activate Wnt signaling in hyp mice model. Wnt signaling activation would improve periodontal and dental hard tissues mineralization and density. Moreover, Wnt signaling activation would improve the periodontal soft tissue organization. Methods used to complete this study include micro-computed tomography, ELISA, and histology. The goal of this study is to reduce FGF23 protein, improves phosphate levels, ultimately leading to improves dental and periodontal mineralization and density of XLH models.

  • Itzel Lazcano - Ross lab

    My name is Itzel Lazcano, I am a Ph.D. student in the Integrated Biomedical Sciences program at Rush University. I began my academic journey at Aurora University, where I earned my Bachelor’s degree in Health Sciences with minors in Chemistry and Spanish. I continued my education at Rush University, where I earned my Master’s degree in Biotechnology. This program equipped me with valuable laboratory skills and a deep understanding of the methods that drive modern scientific research. Following my graduation, I took on a role as a research technician in a cancer research lab that focused on translational research. Through this experience, I was able to gain both practical knowledge and insight into the complex interplay between research efforts and the significant discoveries that influence medical developments. I am interested in the quality of care provided to patients with chronic illnesses and the factors that affect bone composition. I aspire to bridge the critical gap between scientific breakthroughs and tangible patient outcomes, bringing us closer to a future of enhanced medical care. When I am not in lab, I enjoy running, spending time with friends, playing with my dogs, and singing karaoke.

  • Abhayavarshini Sridhar - Ross lab

    Growing up, I had the opportunity to live both in the US and various states in India, giving me all the exposure to learn about different things that intrigued me as a child.
    I began the pursuit of my career in science, by getting a bachelor's degree in Biotechnology in India, where I also did my undergraduate thesis in Endocrinology. I then moved to Chicago to get my master's degree in Medical Biotechnology from the University of Illinois at Chicago, where I studied the Hepatitis B Virus biosynthesis. I also worked at Medpace, a Clinical Research Organization, as a Clinical Research Associate, which helped much understand the bigger picture of research.
    I am currently pursuing my PhD at Rush University in the IBS program. This has proved to be a great experience so far and I am sure that it is going to play a significant role in my research career. Ultimately, I aspire to establish my own research lab in the future.
    My primary research interest lies in understanding viruses, such as HIV and their effects on the human body, specifically in the musculoskeletal area. Currently, I am interested in understanding the effects of perinatal/neonatal exposure to cART on the bone architecture of infants with HIV infected mothers on cART.
    When I am not working in the lab, I enjoy travelling, hiking, photography and learning new languages.

  • Emily Timm - O’Keefe lab

    My research with Dr. Joanne O’Keefe examines cortical activity during various gait and cognitive tasks in individuals with Fragile X Associated Tremor/Ataxia Syndrome (FXTAS). We utilize wearable inertial sensors to assess balance and gait deficits, as well as functional near infrared spectroscopy (fNIRS) technology to observe cortical activation in specific regions of the brain recruited during said motor and cognitive tests. The goal of this project is to elucidate the neural underpinnings of the relationship between cognitive and gait dysfunction in FXTAS, which may be applied to future mechanistic and interventional studies.
    I graduated from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign in 2019 with a BS in Integrative Biology with a minor study of Psychology. I then worked as a research assistant at Loyola University Chicago for two years before beginning the Integrated Biomedical Sciences PhD program here at Rush in the fall of 2021.

Former Post-Doc trainees

  • Frank Ko, PhD - Sumner lab

    My current work is to determine the origin of intramembranous bone regeneration and the genetic basis of spontaneous high bone mass phenotype.  I use rodent models and assess their microarchitectural, functional, and biological properties.  Through these studies, I hope to enhance our scientific knowledge to improve osseointegration, fracture healing, and bone biology.
    I completed my BS in Bioengineering at Rice University, PhD in Mechanical Engineering at Cornell University, and postdoctoral training in molecular biology at Massachusetts General Hospital and Beth Israel Deaconess Hospital.  I began my postdoctoral training at Rush in 2018.

Former Graduate Student trainees

  • Kyle Anderson, PhD - Ross lab

    I am particularly interested in understanding changes in bone biology in specific disease states and unique physiological environments. My work examines a wide variety of topics regarding bone alterations in: Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV), X-linked Hypophosphatemia (XLH), hindlimb suspension, and spaceflight related osteopenia. The studies utilize back Scatter Electron Microscopy (bSEM) and microcomputed tomography (µCT) to evaluate changes in bone quality.
    The primary objective of my work is to better understand bone mineralization in these specific physiological states and how medications such as bisphosphonates as well as sclerostin antibody (romosozumab) can better manage them.
    While I was born in Chicago, I grew up in southeast Michigan and attended Michigan State University and studied human biology and philosophy. I then attended the University of Michigan for a master’s in physiology with a research focus on adrenal endocrinology. I am now happily back in Chicago as of the fall of 2016 where I began medical school at Rush Medical College.

  • Sarah Calhoun, PhD - Maki lab

    My research with Dr. Carl Maki is currently focused on hormone therapy resistant of estrogen-receptor positive (ER+) breast cancer. 70% of all breast cancers are ER+ and about 40% of women diagnosed with ER+ breast cancer will acquire resistance to hormone therapy, resulting in increased risk of advanced disease, reduced survival, and increased mortality. My current research focuses on identifying the mechanisms by which breast cancer cells may develop hormone therapy resistance and promote cell survival.  The goal of my research is to discover hormone resistance mechanisms so targeted therapies may be developed to better treat resistant ER+ breast cancers.
    I was born and raised in Colorado before moving to Iowa to earn my BA in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at Cornell College. Post-graduation, I worked at Integrated DNA technologies as a Custom Quality Control Analyst for a year before moving to Chicago to start my PhD in August 2017. My hobbies outside of school include playing soccer on the weekends, reading, spending time outside, and exploring Chicago.

  • Kelsey Carpenter, PhD - Ross lab

    I grew up in southeast Michigan and earned a Bachelor of Science in anthropology at Michigan State University. I then attended Mercyhurst University where I completed a Master of Science in biological and forensic anthropology. My graduate education in the Integrated Biomedical Sciences PhD program at Rush University began in the fall of 2017.
    My dissertation research is focused on X-linked hypophosphatemia (XLH), a rare metabolic bone disease. XLH is the most common form of heritable rickets and is first diagnosed in children who present with shortened stature, leg bowing, low bone mass, and increased fracture risk. My project involves using a mouse model of XLH to investigate different treatment options for the disease. Methods used to complete this study include micro-computed tomography, ELISA, quantitative PCR, and histology. The goal of this study is to improve phosphate metabolism and skeletal mineralization, ultimately leading to improved stature, bone mass and overall quality of life for patients with XLH.

  • Arnold Olali, PhD - Ross lab

    I completed my pre-doctoral training in integrated biomedical science at Rush under the tutelage of Dr. Ryan Ross and Dr. Lena Al-Harthi in 2022. I began my postdoctoral training at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) under Dr. Douglas Wallace. The Wallace lab has seen that specific mutations in mitochondria DNA (mtDNA) are associated with a wide range of diseases including cancer, and the severity of SARS-CoV-2 infection. However, exactly how and through which mechanism is unclear. The goal of my project is to evaluate how mutations in mtDNA in genes that drive oxidative phosphorylation (OXPHOS) in which specific immune cell subsets modulate the risk of cancer and SARS-CoV-2 pathogenesis using in-vitro cell culture and in-vivo mtDNA mutant mice. I will also be evaluating the long-term effects of mtDNA mutations on bone health.

  • Ahmad Othman, PhD - Pratap lab

    My dissertation is focused on the relationship between Runx2 and autophagy in bone metastatic breast cancer. The bulk of my project will be aimed at understanding how these two factors are related and function together to promote metastasis. Using immunofluorescence, ELISA, and viral transduction techniques we aim to better understand the mechanisms of metastasis and potentially offer a more effective therapy for this frequent complication of breast and other cancers.    
    Originally from south suburban Oaklawn, I Graduated from the University of Illinois at Chicago in 2007 with a degree in Biological Sciences, and completed my Masters in Anatomy and Cell Biology at Rush in 2015. I am currently completing my PhD in Integrated Biomedical Sciences at Rush. The training I have received at Rush has been exceptional and has been instrumental in helping develop my future career, I am happy to call Rush my home institution.

  • Elizabeth A. Paris, PhD

    Ovarian cancer affects nearly 20,000 women each year and has the greatest case fatality rate among gynecological cancers. My dissertation research focuses on the early detection of ovarian high-grade serous carcinoma (HGSC), the most prevalent and fatal form of epithelial ovarian cancer. Using the fimbria as the site of origin and the laying hen as a spontaneous model, my research has yielded a panel of five biomarkers that are indicative of malignant transformation. Biomarkers show significantly greater expression in tissue and serum of patients and hens with HGSC compared to healthy subjects. Results from prospective ELISAs indicate that biomarkers may also increase prior to solid tumor growth. Ultimately, this biomarker panel can improve detection methods for early-stage ovarian HGSC using a noninvasive blood draw. The Barua lab and the Integrated Biomedical Sciences program have provided opportunities to present this research at several national conferences in podium and poster presentations. During my time here at Rush, I've also served on various committees and in several roles in the Graduate College Student Council, including as president in my final year. For my undergraduate education, I attended Augustana College in Rock Island, IL, earning my Bachelor of the Arts in biochemistry with minors in public health and French.

  • Nicollette Purcell - O’Keefe lab

    I am working with Dr. Joan O’Keefe for my dissertation project focusing on the relationship between balance, gait, cognitive, and oculomotor dysfunction in Huntington’s disease (HD) with the use of wearable inertial sensors and eye-tracking technology.   Additionally, I will investigate how visuomotor and visuospatial function in HD differs from healthy individuals during ambulation and how these differences influence fall risk.
    I received a BS in human biology from Michigan State University in 2013, a BMS in pre-medical studies from Dominican University in 2014, and an MS in Anatomy and Cell Biology from Rush University in 2017.

  • Jessica Ramirez, PhD

    After receiving a BS in biology from Loyola University Chicago, I began working at Rush University Medical Center in the Flow Cytometry, Molecular Oncology, and HLA laboratories as a laboratory technician for five years. During this time, I received an MS in molecular medicine from Drexel University’s online program while completing my thesis project through the Molecular Oncology laboratory. I began the PhD program in Integrated Biomedical Sciences at Rush University in the fall of 2020. With the experience I gained while working at Rush University Medical Center, I joined Dr. Barua’s laboratory for translational research in ovarian cancer. My dissertation research with Dr. Barua focuses on aging and ovarian cancer. As women age, their risk of ovarian cancer increases in part due to an increase in chronic inflammation and oxidative stress. I aim to identify influential factors, biomarkers, or mechanisms driving inflammation and oxidative stress during ovarian aging that may induce malignant transformation. I received the Scholar-in-Training Award from the American Association for Cancer Research in 2022 for my research and have had the opportunity to present my work at national conferences.