The Dewhurst Lab
Oksana Polesskaya, Ph.D., Research Assistant Professor
Oksana earned her Ph.D. from the Institute of Medical Genetics in Moscow, Russia. Her research there was focused on studying changes in genome which are associated with schizophrenia. Her postdoctoral research at George Mason University (Virginia) related to the biology of drug abuse, focusing on the expression changes caused in brain of adolescent rats by exposure to nicotine. Oksana came to URMC in 2006 as a post-doctoral fellow. Her current research focuses on neurological complications of HIV-1 infection including cognitive, motor and behavioral abnormalities. Another aspect of her research is the interplay between AIDS and methamphetamine (MA) abuse, with emphasis on MA-mediated inhibition of cerebral blood flow.
Jonelle Mattiacio, Postdoctoral Fellow
Jonelle is a postdoctoral fellow who joined the lab in February 2008. She earned her Ph.D. in Microbiology and Immunology in 2007 from the University at Buffalo School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences under the guidance of Dr. Laurie K. Read. Currently, in the Dewhurst lab, she is working in two project areas (1) HIV Vaccine Development using bacteriophage lambda as a scaffold to display HIV-1 Envelope protein and (2) The role of the viral polymerase complex in host adaptation by emerging influenza viruses.
Fernando Ontiveros, Postdoctoral Fellow
Fernando was born in Mexico City, where he attended college at the National University (UNAM). In 2001 he moved to Rochester NY to start graduate school at the U of R School of Medicine. Under the guidance of Dr. Alexandra Livingstone he obtained his PhD in Immunology in 2007. After completing a 2 year postdoctoral fellowship in the laboratory of Dr. Ken Rock at UMASS Medical School, he returned to Rochester and joined the Dewhurst lab in December of 2010. His research is focused on the adjuvant and antimicrobial properties of amyloid fibrils.
Lauren Rae Brooks, Ph.D. Student
Lauren was born in Baltimore and grew up in the Northern Virginia area. She graduated from Virginia Tech with a BS in Biology and Biochemistry. In the Fall of 2009, she entered the PhD program at the URMC and the following summer joined the Dewhurst lab. Her current project focuses on the role of SEVI in the migration of HIV particles in cervical mucus as well as the natural role(s) for SEVI as an antimicrobial agent.
Cristina Capella, Ph.D. Student
Cristina was born and raised in Puerto Rico. After completing her bachelor’s in science at the University of Puerto Rico – Mayaguez Campus she moved to Rochester, NY to pursue her graduate studies. Cristina’s project aims to study the Adenovirus type 5 DNA Polymerase. Mutational analyses have been performed on motif A, motif B, the Kx3NSxYG motif, and the IxGG motif within the adenovirus type 5 DNA polymerase domain. Residues within these motifs were selected on the basis that they either interact with the dNTP substrate, the template strand DNA, or both. So far, our studies have shown that even conservative mutations in these motifs, had a dramatic effect on viral replicative capacity when studied in the context of an intact, full-length adenovirus genome and result in complete abrogation of viral replication.
William G Domm, Ph.D. Student
After graduating from Wayne Central High School in 2001 William went on to study at Rutgers University. In 2005 he completed a bachelors degree in Genetics and Microbiology. The following fall he began study in the Masters program at the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry. The following summer he transferred into the graduate program in the department of Microbiology and Immunology as a PhD candidate. In 2009 William completed his PhD qualification exam and earned his Masters degree. William’s research interests include improving phage mediated gene transfer, improving influenza vaccination by developing antigen decorated phage vectors, and the development of pseudotyped influenzaviruses as vaccine candidates. In addition William has many ongoing collaborations both within the university and abroad researching improvements in influenza and HIV-1 vaccination methodologies.
David Easterhoff, Ph.D. Student
David’s interest in scientific research began while he was a student at Marian University of Fond du Lac, Wisconsin. In his senior year, David had the opportunity to work under the direction of a microbiology professor who cultivated his interest in biology. As part of his studies, he was involved in two environmental microbiology research projects, which he was able to continue post-graduation as a lab technician. In order to fulfill his research goals, he enrolled and was accepted into the Ph.D. program here at URMC. David is currently a graduate student in the immunology tract, and works with Joanna Olsen on the semen derived enhancer of viral infection (SEVI). This is an amyloid fibril that is derived from a proteolytic cleavage fragment of prostatic acid phosphatase, and which has been found to form significantly enhance the transmission of HIV-1. His current focus is on SEVI’s interaction with cellular heparan sulfate proteoglycans. Understanding more about SEVI will potentially enable us to target the virus-SEVI complex as a novel approach to reducing the sexual transmission of HIV-1.
Vincent Fong, M.D./Ph.D. Student
Vincent is a MD/PhD student in the department of Microbiology and Immunology. His work in the Dewhurst lab focuses on improving the efficacy and selectivity of oncolytic adenovirus. Current projects include investigating novel tumor specific promoters and developing an oncolytic virus with inducible replication. Vincent received his B.S and M.S degrees from Lehigh University in 2003 and 2004. After completing his degrees at the University of Rochester, he plans to continue his medical training and pursue a career in Medicine and Medical research.
Joanna Touger Olsen, M.D./Ph.D. Student
Joanna grew up in NYC and graduated from Williams College in 2004. After college she worked as a lab technician at the University of California, San Francisco, before coming to Rochester for the MD/PhD program. Joanna decided early on in her rotations that she wanted to join the Dewhurst lab, and after two years of med school she returned to the lab in the summer of 2008. Her current study focuses on semen derived amyloid fibrils that enhance HIV infection. The long-term goal of her research is to target these fibrils as a way to decrease HIV transmission.
Jharon Silva, M.D./Ph.D. Student
Jharon has been a member of the Dewhurst lab since 2006 after arriving from Hunter College in NYC. He has assisted on numerous projects from displaying amyloid beta on lambda phage capsids to producing semen derived amyloid fibrils (using peptides derived from the prostatic acidic phosphatase). He is presently examining how methamphetamine abuse exacerbates the progression of HIV-associated neurologic disease (HAND). He is currently in the second year of medical school and will return full-time to the lab in summer of 2010.
Catherine Stevens – Undergraduate
Catherine is an undergraduate at the University of Rochester, majoring in Microbiology. At the beginning of the Fall 2009 semester, she began an independent study in the Dewhurst lab focusing on identifying novel anti-virals against influenza A virus that target the highly conserved trimeric polymerase (3P) complex subunit interactions. She works closely with Dr. Jonelle Mattiacio.
Megan Granger, Lab Manager and Lab Technician
Megan graduated from Buffalo State College with a BA in Biotechnology. In 2009, she joined the Dewhurst Lab following her work in research and development for a pharmaceutical company specializing in vision care technology. As the laboratory manager she is responsible for a variety of tasks including the training, safety, and purchasing needs of the group. Megan is also assisting Dr. Oksana Polesskaya in her research on the additive degenerative effects methamphetamine abuse has on cerebral blood flow in HIV infected individuals.
Shikha Chakraborty-sett, Technical Associate
Shikha Chakraborty-sett is a Technical Associate who joined the lab in September 1998. She earned her Masters in Biology from India in 1970. She is currently working with postdoctoral fellow Jonelle Mattiacio on the biochemical and functional characterization of the influenza virus polymerase complex, and on experiments intended to shed light on the important of the polymerase complex in contributing to host adaptation by emerging Influenza viruses.
Caitlin Brown, Lab Technician
Caitlin graduated from the University at Buffalo with a BS in Biotechnology. She was a Research Analyst at Duke University in the Laboratory for AIDS Vaccine Research & Development. Her role was performing Neutralizing Antibody Assays for HVTN and CHAVI. Caitlin’s desire to move back to the Rochester area and continue HIV research led her to URMC. She is currently a Laboratory Technician in the Dewhurst Lab and is assisting Joanna Touger Olsen with her project involving SEVI.
Anne Reed, Lab CoManager; Administrative Assistant
After spending a number of years working in a corporate environment, Anne came to the Dewhurst Lab in 2007 to work as an administrative assistant and as the comanager of the lab. She is responsible for monitoring grant expenditures, purchasing, scheduling and all other administrative functions.