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Education / Immunology Training Grant / Trainees / Current Trainee Bios


Current Trainee Bios

Amelia Clark

  • Education: B.S. at Virginia Tech, M.S. at University of Rochester, and currently in IMV PhD program.
  • Lab: Brian Altman
  • T32 association: Trainee since 2022
  • Research Interests: My long-term research interest is to discover how the circadian clock, a key regulatory system within almost all cells, contributes to the regulation of immune responses in human disease. For my doctorate thesis I have chosen to investigate how circadian regulation of macrophage function influences immune suppression within the tumor microenvironment. My hope is that by better understanding how time-of-day regulation of immune responses impacts disease progression and outcome, we can leverage this to time treatments to the time of day it would be most advantageous.
  • Best Immune cell/favorite factor:  As the primary cells that bridge the innate and adaptive arms of the immune response, dendritic cells are my favorite immune cell. My favorite immune factors are interferons, for their multi-faceted roles in promoting cell defense and innate + adaptive immune responses.
  • Fun fact:  I am a huge VT Hokie football fan, and I am awaiting the day that we return to our former glory. In the meantime, I occupy myself with baking, ballet, and my two 16-pound cats.

Darline Castro Meléndez

  • Education: B.S. University of Puerto Rico, PREP Scholar University of Rochester, M.S. University of Rochester, A.C.R.T. University of Rochester
  • Labs: Kristin Scheible and B. Paige Lawrence
  • T32 association: Trainee since 2023
  • Research Interests: My research interests include human immune system development and immunotoxicology. My primary focus is understanding the effects of early life exposures to Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS) on the infant immune system. PFAS exposure has been consistently associated with compromised vaccine responsiveness, making individuals more susceptible to infections, yet the mechanisms by which PFAS alters immunity are poorly understood. In collaboration with the Rochester cohort of the NIH-sponsored national consortium, Environmental Influences of Child Health Outcomes (ECHO), I aim to understand the time-dependent changes of the infant T cell compartment during the first year of life and assess how PFAS exposure influences the establishment of these T cell populations. My dedication to unraveling the impact of exposures on human health outcomes has allowed me to work with a multidisciplinary team, building expertise across immunology, toxicology, bioinformatics, epidemiology, and public health.  
  • Best Immune cell/favorite factor:  The orchestrators of the immune system – Helper T-cells!
  • Fun fact:  I actually hiked in an active volcano in Iceland! It was one of the most thrilling experiences of my life! Can you believe it? Check out my lab website for evidence!

Karli Sutton

  • Education: B.S. Duquesne University, M.S. University of Rochester
  • Lab: Meera V. Singh
  • T32 association: Trainee since 2024
  • Research Interests: The overarching theme of my research is understanding how chronic inflammatory conditions lead to the dysregulation of other immune functions. Specifically, my project focuses on how aberrant platelet activation, induced by HIV-1 infection, leads to the dysfunction of monocyte-derived dendritic cells (moDCs). I am currently studying how various platelet-derived biomolecules modulate the phenotype and function of these moDCs. With this research I hope to gain a detailed understanding of how platelet activation can impact both the success of immune cell-based vaccine therapies as well as in vivo antiviral immune responses.
  • Favorite immune cell: Dendritic cells! I love learning about the antigen presentation pathways
  • Fun fact: I have been a dancer for over 20 years! Tap is my all time favorite style to dance, teach, and choreograph

Sophia Eliseeva

  • Education: B.S. New York University, M.S. University of Rochester
  • Lab: Felix Yarovinsky
  • T32 association: Trainee since 2023
  • Research Interests: My project is looking at the innate immune response to intracellular pathogens. In particular, I study the response of microglia (the resident macrophage cells of the brain) to the interferon-gamma-mediated defense to Toxoplasma gondii infection. Very little is known about immune responses in the brain and whether or not they can be detrimental to overall brain structure and function. Only within the past decade or so were microglia classified as immune cells!
  • Favorite immune cell: Microglia
  • Fun fact: I practice yoga and pilates daily and spend my weekends playing outside with my toddler!