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Daniela Geba (6th Year)

Daniela Geba

Daniela obtained her MD degree from the Grigore T. Popa University of Medicine and Pharmacy, Iasi, Romania and received training in epidemiology at University at Buffalo. Her research interest is in the broad area of cardiovascular disease, with a focus on diabetes mellitus.

Research Mentor:  Ann Dozier, PhD

Elizabeth Belcher (4th Year)

Elizabeth Belcher

Elizabeth obtained her B.S. degree in Neuroscience and in Psychology from the University of Pittsburgh.  She was awarded a Conte Center for the Neuroscience of Mental Disorders Undergraduate Fellowship to conduct research in Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic’s Translational Neuroscience Program, where she completed a thesis project relating to cellular and molecular changes in the brains of individuals with schizophrenia. She received the Undergraduate Neuroscience Research Excellence Award for her work. After graduation, Elizabeth worked as a research specialist in a clinical cognitive neuroscience lab, where she studied indices of early psychosis measured by fRMI and EEG. She joined the Translational Biomedical Science PhD program in 2013 and the lab of Drs. O’Banion and Olschowka in 2014. Her current research focuses on the mechanisms through which radiotherapy may have an adverse effect on cognition. Elizabeth is passionate about the importance of conducting patient-oriented, clinically-relevant research and plans to pursue an academic position where she will delve further into translational neuroscience research in the area of brain plasticity and psychiatric disorders.

Research Mentor: John Olschowka, PhD & Kerry O'Banion, MD, PhD

Laura Shum (4th Year)

Laura ShumLaura earned her B.S. degree in Biological Sciences from the State University of New York at Brockport, where she began researching cell migration in pre-adipocytes. She then spent three years at the University of Colorado Medical School working in the molecular biology lab of the Department of Orthopaedics. To continue her interest in bone biology, she entered the TBS program at the University of Rochester to work in the Center for Musculoskeletal Research, where she joined the lab of Dr. Roman Eliseev. Now Laura is working on the role of estrogen and mitochondria during the differentiation of osteoprogenitors, and how this relates to osteoporosis.

Research Mentor: Roman Eliseev, MD, PhD

Adnan Hirad (4th Year)

Adnan HiradAdnan Hirad did his B.S. in Chemistry at the City University of New York, Lehman College. He did molecular imaging research at the University of Pennsylvania with Dr. Edward Delakatny, helping develop imaging agents for infections of unknown origin and prostate cancer. He has been matriculated in the MD/PhD program at the University of Rochester since 2011. His current interests are in population health and developing diagnostic imaging and blood biomarkers for mild traumatic brain injury (MTBI).

Research Mentor: Jeffrey Bazarian, MD, MPH

E'Lissa Flores (3rd Year)

FloresE'Lissa received her B.S. in Biological Science from Stony Brook University in 2011. At Stony Brook University, she conducted undergraduate research on retrovirus assembly as an NIH MARC Fellow. E’Lissa was later awarded the NIH PREP (post-baccalaureate) Fellowship here at the University of Rochester in 2013 and entered the TBS PhD program in 2014. Currently, her research project focuses on the mechanism in which certain environmental chemicals alter stem cell fate and promote fat cell formation, linking the connection between environmental exposures to the obesity epidemic. E’Lissa desires to seek an academic post-doctoral position after graduating, with future hopes of becoming an independent investigator in the immunotoxicology field.

Research Mentor: Richard Phipps, PhD

Kenneth Sims (3rd Year)

SimsKen is a third year student in the TBS program. He completed his B.S. degree in Bioengineering from Lehigh University in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania.  He then worked as an engineer at Merck & Co., Inc. for several years where he specialized in various technology roles supporting multiple aspects of parenteral vaccine manufacturing.  Ken also completed his Masters in Molecular Medicine from Drexel University in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania during his time working in industry.  Ken chose to pursue his PhD at the University of Rochester because of the flexibility of the TBS program as well as the highly collaborative environment between the medical center and the biomedical engineering department. Ken's research interests involve development and application of novel, non-parenteral vaccine and drug delivery methods to address unmet public health needs. After completing lab rotations focused on drug delivery methods and vaccine development, Ken joined the Therapeutic Biomaterials Laboratory of Dr. Danielle Benoit where he is learning to develop and apply nanoscale polymeric controlled release systems to combat oral biofilms (i.e. dental plaque) known to cause tooth decay. Ken plans to use this experience to launch his career as an industry or academic researcher focused on designing novel drug and/or vaccine delivery platforms using nanotechnology and nanoscale biomaterials.

Research Mentor: Danielle Benoit, PhD

Solomon Abiola (2nd year)

Solomon Abiola

Solomon received his BSE from Princeton University in Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, and an MS from Carnegie Mellon University in Biomedical Engineering. He then worked at the University of Rochester Medical Center, where he wrote and led a National Science Foundation grant using Node, an mHealth application he developed for the Ebola outbreak in Nigeria. This research was a continuation of his research initiative started as his senior thesis at Princeton University. With his mentor at the University of Rochester, Dr. Ray Dorsey, Solomon also worked on the development of mPower, an Apple application to empower Parkinson’s disease patients. Prior to starting his PhD, Solomon did an internship with Merck KGaA developing innovative early stage medical devices where his internal innovations placed in the top 40 of over 600 global innovations company wide. Solomon has done additional internships at MC10 Inc., a conformal wearable device company, focusing on clinical and strategic marketing. Solomon is a joint-PhD student between the Translational Biomedical Science program and Computer Science. His work focuses on novel applications of technology towards preventive health using techniques from big data and artificial intelligence. During his PhD he has won numerous awards, had his work featured in media, and presented at international conferences. As part of his global research activities, he has traveled to: Nigeria, Puerto Rico, Hong Kong, Ghana, Switzerland, Japan, and Germany. Solomon’s work aims to translate current technology into a future healthcare model with global implications, by using his unique background to develop at the lab level from T0 to T4 level population health outcomes.

Research Mentors​: Dr. Ray Dorsey, MD, MBA & Prof. Henry Kautz, PhD

Kristen Bush (2nd year)

Kristen Bush

Kristen received a B.S. in Exercise Science for Health Professions from the University of Houston, where she worked as a Teaching Assistant for a senior-level Human Structure and Physiology course within the Health and Human Performance Department. She continued her education as a Public Health graduate student at Texas A&M University with a focus on infectious disease epidemiology and disease control. She graduated with an MPH in Epidemiology and worked as an Infection Control Practitioner for a mid-sized hospital system in Texas before joining the TBS PhD program at URMC. This position inspired her to develop her dissertation project under primary mentor Dr. Martin Zand, which involves systems network modeling of hospital topology to predict nosocomial Clostridium difficile infection. Kristen’s additional research interests include community-acquired disease, predictive analytics, and the use of big data and medical records to measure and prevent adverse health outcomes. She plans to work as a health outcomes researcher after obtaining her PhD.

Research mentor: Martin Zand, MD, PhD

Zachary Hilt (2nd year)


Zack is a Rochester, NY native attending Rush-Henrietta Central School District before continuing his undergraduate studies at St. John Fisher College. Zack received his B.S. in Biology with a minor in Philosophy from St. John Fisher College where he graduated cum laude and was a member of the TriBeta Biological Honor Society. His undergraduate research was under the supervision of Dr. Daryl Hurd where they used the model organism C. elegans to study the function of tubulin gene isotypes on sensory function, motor function and behavior. Currently Zack is a member of the Aab Cardiovascular Research Institute where he is training under Dr. Craig Morrell. Zack’s current thesis project is studying the mechanism by which platelet derived beta-2 microglobulin is promoting inflammation in the context of HIV and malaria infections. Zack’s future long-term goal is to become the principal investigator of his own lab where he intends to collaborate closely with clinicians and population scientists to make his basic research more translatable to human health and disease.

Research Mentor: Craig Morrell, PhD

Marhiah Montoya (2nd year, IIMP track)

Marhaih Montoya

Marhiah earned her Bachelor of Science in Biology with a minor in Chemistry from Baylor University in Waco, Texas. She successfully completed her Emergency Medical Technician-Basic training at Methodist Dallas Hospital and, during college, worked as a Medical Assistant at Methodist Family Health Center where she became interested in studying human health and infectious disease. Following graduation she wanted to get involved in cancer research so she joined the lab of Dr. Patrick Ryan Potts to study the Melanoma Antigen Gene (MAGE) family at the UT Southwestern Medical Center.   There she developed a CRISPR-MAGE Library and MAGE tissue expression atlas in human and mouse to study the biological functions in normal tissue and cancer. Currently, she works on antifungal drug discovery against resistant strains of Candida in the lab of Dr. Damian Krysan and is also performing Candidemia surveillance for Monroe County in collaboration with the CDC, through the URMC Center of Community Health- Emerging Infections Program, under Dr. Ghinwa Dumyati. In the future, she hopes to secure a position at the CDC studying emerging infectious diseases

Research Mentors: Damian Krysan, MD, PhD & Ghinwa Dumyati, MD

Sandra Ortega (2nd year, IIMP track)

Sandra OrtegaSandra received her B.S. in Biology from the University of New Mexico in 2014. Upon completion of her Bachelors degree she was awarded the NIH PREP Fellowship. As an undergraduate her research includes fragment characterization of CytB locus from ancient iguana specimens to direct repatriation efforts for the restoration of endangered and endemic reptiles. Also, the development of a rapid nucleic acid-based assay to detect and characterize 11 Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli (STEC) in the beef chain, USDA-NIFA funded STEC project. As a Post-Baccalaureate she worked on the identification of Chlamydia trachomatis vaccination candidates using bacteriophage virus-like particle platforms, EPIC-STI U19 project. She has recently completed her second rotation and is looking forward to beginning her third rotation to study population health at the Center for Community Health.

Jose Perez-Ramos (2nd Year)

Jose Perez-Ramos

José is native from the island of Puerto Rico. He has a background in Political Science and Global Health with a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science from the University of Puerto Rico and a Master's Degree in Public Health from the University of Rochester. His research focus is on Maternal and Child health in Latin America using Information and Communications Technologies (ICT) such as mHealth and Social Science theories to empower communities in low and middle income countries. José also serves as a Senior Project Manager for the Clinical and Translational Science Institute's Informatics Group.

Research Mentor: Tim Dye, PhD

Elizabeth Saionz (2nd Year)

Elizabeth Saionz

Elizabeth completed her B.A. in Biological Basis of Behavior at the University of Pennsylvania and began medical school at the University of Rochester in 2012. She completed two years of medical school before obtaining a CTSI Academic Research Track (ART) fellowship, through which she earned her MS in Clinical Investigation researching the etiology of post-concussion syndrome in college athletes. After completion of the MS, Elizabeth joined the Medical Scientist (MD/PhD) Training Program and the TBS graduate program. Her PhD research investigates perceptual training and vision recovery in humans with cortical blindness. She is interested in cortical plasticity with and without training following stroke to primary visual cortex, as well as improving care for patients with vision loss after stroke. After completing her PhD and MD, Elizabeth plans to pursue a career in experimental therapeutics.

Research Mentor: Krystel Huxlin, PhD

Simeon Abiola (1st year)

Simeon Abiola

Simeon received a Bachelor’s of Liberal Arts in Extension Studies with a concentration in Sciences from Harvard University in 2015. Upon graduating he became involved in the development of medical devices engaging in such activities as: the creation of new business models, managing IP, and rapid prototyping. He is currently conducting a research rotation with Dr. Kim Arcoleo to understand the extent of eHealth interventions for individuals with chronic conditions.

Lorne Farovitch (1st year, IIMP Track)

Lorne FarovitchLorne Farovitch graduated cum laude with a B.A. in Chemistry and a B.S. in Biology from Gallaudet University in Washington, DC. After graduating, he was accepted into the Master’s degree program in Environmental Science at Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) and also selected as a Scholar in the NIH funded training program “Rochester Bridges to Doctorate." This program facilitates the transition from master’s degree programs offered at the various colleges at RIT to biomedical PhD programs at the University of Rochester. Lorne completed his M.S. degree in Environmental Science where he studied the survival of various pathogens in sediments and surface waters in Western New York. Lorne is appointed to the Burroughs Welcome Fund Predoctoral Training grant in the Infection and Immunity: From Molecules to Populations (IIMP) training track. Lorne's first lab rotation will be about the relationship between atopic dermatitis (eczema) and Staphylococcus aureus with Dr. Steve Gill and Dr. Lisa Beck.

Denisse Vega-Ocasio (1st year, IIMP Track)

Denisse Vega-OcasioDenisse obtained her B.S. in Molecular Biology at the University of Puerto Rico where she worked under NASA CANM in an education and outreach research program. Under this program she completed a summer internship at Delaware State University where she studied the non-specific absorption of proteins to the surface of nano-magnetite and macro-magnetite polystyrene composite microparticles.  She obtained her Master’s Degree in Public Health with a concentration in Health Policy at the University of the Sciences in Philadelphia. Her capstone project involved assessing health literacy interventions to improve medication adherence of underserved patients affiliated with the Philadelphia Public Health Ambulatory Care Centers. After graduation, she completed an internship at the World Health Organization European Region in Copenhagen, Denmark working in the Acceptance, Advocacy, and Communications of the Vaccine-preventable Diseases and Immunization Programme, and the Better Labs for Better Health initiative to improve the overall quality of laboratory services. Her research interests include translating basic research evidence into practice, health policy and public health to contribute to the eradication and elimination of infectious diseases in a global health setting.


Molly Jaynes Wilson

Molly Jaynes

Molly received her undergraduate degree summa cum laude in music from the University of Cincinnati.  She defended her dissertation, “Motor Sequence Performance and Pattern Awareness: Impact of Dystonia” in October 2016 under the guidance of Dr. Jonathan Mink. This research, for which she was awarded a F31 fellowship from the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, focused on motor learning in musicians and nonmusicians with a neurological disorder called dystonia.  She now works as an associate for Academic Analytics, a higher education data solutions company.

Research Mentor: Jonathan Mink, MD, PhD

Aisha Siebert

Aisha Siebert

Aisha completed her Masters of Public Health (MPH) at Columbia University, Mailman School of Public Health with a focus in Toxicology and Molecular Epidemiology in gene-environment interaction.  Her previous research included studies of prenatal polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH)-induced genotoxicity as well as nutritional deficiency and epigenetic regulation of the retinoblastoma (Rb) gene cascade. Aisha is an MD-PhD student and completed two years of medical school before joining the TBS PhD program.  She is currently researching specific mechanisms of epigenetic regulation of gene expression, including environmental determinants and imprinting.  Her lab is working to characterize the metabolic effects of specific venom proteins produced by Nasonia species.  Potential medical applications of this research include utility as pesticides and specific inhibitors of conserved metabolic pathways implicated in human disease pathogenesis.  

Research Mentor: Jack Werren, PhD

Abeer Abu Zeitone

Abeer Abu Zeitone, PhD

Abeer obtained her B.S degree in Pharmacy and M.S degree in Clinical Pharmacy at the University of Jordan. She is pursuing her PhD in the Clinical Research Track, studying Long QT syndrome (LQTS) which is an inherited cardiac channelopathy disease. Her translational biomedical research project involves utilizing the clinical information obtained from LQTS patients to investigate and find effective strategies to treat and reduce the risk of cardiac events in this group of patients.

Research Mentor:  Arthur J Moss, MD

Lesley Chapman

Lesley M. Chapman (5th Year)

Lesley obtained her B.S. degree in Biology at Duke University.  She completed an undergraduate research project in the Duke University Institute for Genome Sciences and Policy where she became interested in the genetics of infectious disease. She is pursuing her Ph.D. in the Basic Research Track, and is currently working in the laboratory of Craig Morrell, D.V.M., Ph.D.

Research Mentor: Craig Morrell, DVM, PhD

Carolyn Glass

Carolyn Glass, MD, PhD

Carolyn Glass obtained her Bachelor of Science degree from the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA) and graduated with a Neuroscience degree, Cum Laude. She initially trained as a Physician Assistant in Neurology at the Baylor College of Medicine (M.S. Degree) and decided to pursue medical school four years later at the University of Texas Medical Branch where she graduated with her MD degree with Magna Cum Laude research distinction. She was one of six residents nationally who was accepted into an integrated vascular surgery program. After four years of vascular surgery training at the University of Rochester Medical Center, she decided to pursue her passion for basic science by matriculating into the CTSI Translational Biomedical Science PhD Program. Her current area of research involves identifying critical genes using high-throughput sequencing in the hematopoietic system.

Research Mentor: Archibald Perkins, MD, PhD

Cindi Lewis

Cindi Lewis, PhD

Cindi obtained her BSc. degree in Biotechnology at Claflin University, followed by a year in the field of Cancer Biology Genomics at the Lerner Research Institute, Cleveland Clinic. She has opted to focus on the clinical to community scope of translational research. She has worked with Dr. Nancy Chin on two research projects: a qualitative study with AIDS Care in the community of Rochester to investigate HIV+ patient experiences with services provided by this organization; and a study that established a sustained partnership between UR and the Health Department of Leh, (Ladakh, India) for initiating and maintaining programs to reduce tobacco usage in the community of Leh. She has also worked in Spanish Harlem, NYC with the National Development and Research Institute (NDRI), under the direction of Dr. James McMahon to examine the experiences of HIV+ heterosexual men in coping with their diagnosis. Her involvement in these projects have solidified her resolve to work with vulnerable populations in the area of improving access to care, quality of services rendered and delivering culturally appropriate health and science information to improve health outcomes.

For her dissertation, Cindi is working as part of a community outreach group directed by the UR HIV Vaccine Trials Network clinical research site. She has selected to work on the informed consent process in order to improve the understandability of the informed consent process for a wider cross section of individuals under the direction of Dr. Michael Keefer and Dr. Amina Alio.

Research Mentor: Amina Alio, PhD