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TBS Graduates

Jesse Wang, PhD

Jesse Wang, PhDJesse received a dual Bachelor of Science in Physiology and Neurobiology from the University of Connecticut in 2014 before joining the University of Rochester to begin his MD/PhD. After his first two years of medical school, Jesse became a part of the Translational Biomedical Science PhD program, where he was supervised by Dr. Henry Kautz in the Department of Computer Science. In March 2021, in the midst of a global pandemic, Jesse defended his doctoral dissertation, entitled, "A Patient-Centered Digital Scribe," with the goal of aiding clinicians to spend more time with their patients via use of an artificial intelligence platform.

Research Mentor: Henry Kautz, PhD

Now: Jesse has returned to medical school to finish the final two years of his MD. 

Lorne I. Farovitch, PhD, MS

Lorne I. Farovitch, PhD, MSLorne received a Bachelor of Science in Biology and a Bachelor of Arts in Chemistry from Gallaudet University in 2014 before joining us in Rochester, NY for his Master of Science degree at Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT). At RIT, he completed his MS through the Rochester Bridges to the Doctorate program for Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing Scholars (RB2D). Lorne's first language is American Sign Language, and he comes from a large Deaf family in Tuscon, Arizona. Throughout his graduate training, Lorne was deeply involved in STEM-related ASL innovation with organizations such as ASL Clear and ASLCORE. In July 2020, Lorne successfully defended his thesis entitled, "Surveillance of Global Tick-borne Disease in Ecological Context: Geographic Distribution, Novel Biodiagnostic Testing, and Preventive Strategies for the Deaf Population," under the supervision of Drs. Tim Dye and Ben Miller.

Research Mentors: Timothy Dye, PhD & Benjamin Miller, PhD

Now: Lorne currently serves as a Data Analyst at the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.

Denisse M. Vega Ocasio, PhD, MPH

Denisse M. Vega Ocasio, PhD, MPHDenisse received her Bachelor of Science degree in Cellular and Molecular Biology at the University of Puerto Rico - Rio Piedras. Following her bachelor's, Denisse received her Master's of Public Health from University of the Sciences in Philadelphia, PA. Denisse was part of the flagship cohort for the Translational Biomedical Science program's focus track, Infection and Immunity: from Molecules to Populations (IIMP). Under the guidance of Drs. Timothy Dye and Craig Morrell, Denisse's doctoral thesis, entitled, "Psychosocial Distress and its Impact on Immune Modulation of Arbovirus Infection in Machala, Ecuador," focused on how distress hormones, such as cortisol, impact the immune system's response to arbovirus.

Research Mentors: Timothy Dye, PhD & Craig Morrell, DVM, PhD

Now: Denisse is currently a postdoctoral research fellow in the lab of Dr. Matthew Freeman at the Rollin's School of Public Health within Emory University, however, she has been offered the opportunity to join the CDC Epidemic Intelligence Service (EIS) to study waterborne pathogens!

Marhiah C. Montoya, PhD

Marhiah C. Montoya, PhDMarhiah received her Bachelor of Science degree in Biology from Baylor University in 2012, where she also minored in Chemistry. While her path in the Translational Biomedical Science program was a bit unorthodox, Dr. Montoya made the absolute most out of her training. As her Qualifying Exam was approaching, her mentor, Dr. Damian Krysan, moved to the University of Iowa. Marhiah made the executive decision to follow her mentor to Iowa and study in absentia with the TBS program. This path allowed her to gain experiences that she may not have otherwise had! Dr. Montoya successfully defended her doctoral thesis in March 2020, which was entitled, "A Translational Approach to Improve Clinical Outcomes of Invasive Fungal Infections through Disease Surveillance and Antifungal Drug Discovery." 

Research Mentors: Damian Krysan, MD, PhD

Now: Marhiah is currently a postdoctoral fellow at Duke University in the prestigious Tri-Institutional Molecular Mycology and Pathogenesis Training Program, working on a project entitled, "Cryptococcus Genome-Wide Association Study to Identify Genetic Variants Associated Fitness, Virulence, and Pathogenicity in Specific Patient Populations." She has also become the Duke University Postdoctoral Association's Diversity Chair in an effort to make diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) a priority. 

Zachary T. Hilt, PhD

Zachary (Zachary T. Hilt, PhD"Zack") received his Bachelor of Science degree in Biology from St. John Fisher College in Rochester, NY. Following his bachelor's, Zack became part of the 2015 cohort of Translational Biomedical Science students. After his first year, Zack joined the lab of Dr. Craig Morrell in the Aab Cardiovascular Research Institute, where he investigated platelets for his thesis work. A prime example of life-work balance, when he was not in the lab, Zack was involved with the Rochester community - he coached track and field at the very high school he graduated from in, Rush-Henrietta HS. Zack's doctoral dissertation, entitled, "Platelet Dervied Beta-2 Microglobulin and Transforming Growth Factor Beta Polarize Monocytes Towards Divergent Phenotypes," was successfully defended in March of 2020.

Research Mentor: Craig Morrell, DVM, PhD

Now: Zack is currently a postdoctoral associate at Cornell University in the lab of Dr. Brian Rudd, where he is looking at CD8+ T cell response to congenital cytomegalovirus (CMV) infection.

Elizabeth L. Saionz, PhD, MS

Elizabeth SaionzElizabeth ("Libby") received her Bachelors degree in Biological Basis of Behavior from the University of Pennsylvania, and then began medical school at the University of Rochester School of Medicine & Dentistry. Libby completed a year-out research program, which allows medical students to do translational research. This experience also allowed Libby to complete her Masters of Science in Clinical Investigation. She was subsequently accepted into the Medical Science Training Program (MD/PhD), and joined Translational Biomedical Science. Under the supervision of Dr. Krystel Huxlin, Libby successfully defended her dissertation, "Time is Vision: Properties of Vision Early after Occipital Stroke and Capacity for Recovery."

Research Mentor: Krystel Huxlin, PhD

Now: Libby is returning to medical school beginning in January 2020 to finish her Doctor of Medicine degree.

José G. Pérez Ramos, PhD, MPH

Jose PRJosé received his Bachelors degree in Political Science from the University of Puerto Rico, and subsequently completed his Masters of Public Health at the University of Rochester. He was the first part-time PhD student in the TBS program to successfully defend his dissertation, which was entitled, "Information and Communications Technology (ICT) and the Generation of Collective Action in Health: A Mixed Methods mHealth Intervention in the Latin American and Caribbean Ecological Context." He also worked full time for the University while he completed his PhD. José worked with Dr. Tim Dye on global health, allowing him to travel to many different countries during his degree program.

Research Mentor: Timothy Dye, PhD

Now: José is currently working as a Research Assistant Professor in the Department of Obstetrics & Gynecology here at the University of Rochester Medical Center.

Kenneth R. Sims, Jr., PhD, MS

Ken SimsKen received his undergraduate Bachelors of Science degree in Bioengineering from Lehigh University, followed by a Masters of Science in Molecular Medicine from Drexel University College of Medicine. While completing his BS and MS degrees, he also worked in industry for Merck. During his time in the TBS program, Ken worked on oral anti-biofilm nanoparticle drug delivery systems with Dr. Danielle Benoit in the Department of Biomedical Engineering.

Research Mentor: Danielle Benoit, PhD

Now: Ken is currently a Materials Research Scientist at Battelle Memorial Institute.

Elizabeth K. Belcher, PhD

Elizabeth BelcherElizabeth received her Bachelors of Science with a double major in Neuroscience and Psychology, and a minor in Chemistry, from the University of Pittsburgh where she graduated Summa Cum Laude with honors. Elizabeth worked in the Neuroinflammation lab with Drs. M. Kerry O'Banion and John Olschowka during her time in the TBS program, and defended her thesis entitled, "Cranial irradiation leads to acute and long-lasting deficits in proliferating cell populations in the adult brain." While in TBS, Elizabeth also helped to begin the Graduate Students Raising Families (GSRF) group here at UR.

Research Mentors: M. Kerry O'Banion, MD, PhD & John Olschowka, PhD

Now: Elizabeth is currently a Research Assistant Professor in the Cancer Control center in the Department of Surgery here at the University of Rochester Medical Center.


Kristen E. (Bush) Marshall, PhD, MPH

Kristen MarshallKristen received her undergraduate Bachelors of Science in Health and Human Performance from the University of Houston, immediately followed by a Masters of Public Health from Texas A&M University. She was among the first cohort of a new focus track for TBS trainees - the Infection & Immunity: From Molecules to Populations (IIMP) track. She defended her doctoral dissertation entitled, "Inpatient mobility to predict hospital-onset Clostridium difficile: a network approach," under the guidance of Dr. Martin Zand. After her thesis defense, Kristen served as a Postdoctoral Associate for the Rochester Center for Health Informatics (RCHI) with Dr. Zand, before she began a position with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Research Mentor: Martin Zand, MD, PhD

Now: Kristen is currently a CDC Epidemic Intelligence Service (EIS) Officer at the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment and Tri-County Health Department in Denver, CO.

E'Lissa M. Flores, PhD

ELissa FloresE'Lissa received her Bachelors of Science in Biological and Biomedical Sciences from Stony Brook University. Before being accepted into the Translational Biomedical Science program at UR, E'Lissa completed the UR Post-baccalaureate Research Education Program (PREP) in Microbiology and Immunology. Under the guidance of Dr. Craig Morrell, E'Lissa defended her thesis, "Thy1 (CD90) is a novel regulator of adipogenesis and is a target of obesogenic environmental chemicals."

Research Mentor: Craig Morrell, DVM, PhD

Now: Currently, E'Lissa is the Scientific Program Manager for the Health and Environmental Sciences Institute (HESI) in Washington, D.C.

Adnan A. Hirad, MD, PhD

Adnan HiradAdnan received his Bachelors of Science degree summa cum laude in Chemistry and Biochemistry from CUNY Herbert H. Lehman College, where he was also an inductee of the honors organization, Phi Beta Kappa. Adnan's doctoral dissertation, entitled, "Characterizing the acute pathophysiology of mild traumatic brain injury," was defended under the guidance of research mentor Dr. Jeffrey Bazarian. During his time in the program, Adnan was also the Executive Director of Refugees Helping Refugees, Inc. here in Rochester, NY.

Research Mentor: Jeffrey Bazarian, MD, MPH

Now: Adnan recently graduated with his Doctor of Medicine from the University of Rochester School of Medicine & Dentistry.


Laura C. Shum, PhD

Laura ShumLaura received her undergraduate degree cum laude in biological sciences from SUNY Brockport. Laura defended her dissertation, "Mitochondrial Metabolism in Bone Physiology and Pathology" under her advisor, Dr. Roman Eliseev. Laura's research centers on the role of estrogen and mitochondria during the differentiation of osteoprogenitors, and how this relates to osteoporosis. 

Research Mentor: Roman Eliseev, M.D., Ph.D.

Now: Laura is currently a Medical Information Specialist at Planet Pharma.

Daniela Geba, PhD

Daniela GebaDaniela 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 focused on screening methods for chronic diseases, specifically with diabetes mellitus.

Research Mentor: Ann Dozier, PhD

Now: Daniela is a Medical Writer for the Ascenian Group.

Molly Jaynes Wilson, PhD

Molly Jaynes

Molly received her undergraduate degree summa cum laude in music (specifically, violin) from the University of Cincinnati Conservatory of Music. 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 non-musicians with a neurological disorder called dystonia.

Research Mentor: Jonathan Mink, MD, PhD

Now: Molly is an Associate for Academic Analytics, a higher education data solutions company.

Aisha L. Siebert, MD, PhD, MPH

Aisha SiebertAisha 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. Aisha was a MD-PhD student and completed two years of medical school before joining the TBS PhD program. She looked at specific mechanisms of epigenetic regulation of gene expression, including environmental determinants and imprinting. Her lab was working to characterize the metabolic effects of specific venom proteins produced by Nasonia species. Aisha went on and finished medical school in 2018.

Research Mentor: John (Jack) Werren, PhD

Now: Aisha is currently House Officer for the Department of Urology at Northwestern University's Feinberg School of Medicine.


Lesley M. Chapman, PhD

Lesley Chapman

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. Lesley is currently working at the National Institutes of Health.

Research Mentor: Craig Morrell, DVM, PhD

Now: Lesley is currently a Postdoctoral Fellow in the National Cancer Institute's Intramural Continuing Umbrella of Research Experiences (iCURE) program.


Cindi Lewis, PhD

Cindi LewisCindi 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 worked with AIDS Care in the community of Rochester to investigate HIV+ patient experiences with services provided, and a study that established a sustained partnership between UR and the Health Department of Leh, (Ladakh, India) for programs to reduce tobacco usage. She has also worked in Spanish Harlem, NYC with the National Development and Research Institute (NDRI) to examine the experiences of HIV+ heterosexual men in coping with their diagnosis. For her dissertation, Cindi worked as part of a community outreach group directed by the UR HIV Vaccine Trials Network clinical research site under the direction of Dr. Amina Alio.

Research Mentor: P. Amina Alio, PhD

Now: Cindi is currently a global independent consultant for large health organizations.

Carolyn Glass, MD, PhD

Carolyn GlassCarolyn 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 PhD. Her area of research involved identifying critical genes using high-throughput sequencing in the hematopoietic system.

Research Mentor: Archibald Perkins, MD, PhD

Now: Carolyn is currently a Cardiovascular and Thoracic Pathologist, Chief of the Cardiovascular Pathology Service, and Director of the Hospital Autopsy Service at Duke University.

Abeer Abu Zeitone, PhD

Abeer Abu ZeitoneAbeer 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 Moss, MD

Now: Abeer is currently a Senior Clinical Research Scientist for Fresenius Medical Care North America.