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Education / Immunology Training Grant / Trainees / Current Trainee Bios


Current Trainee Bios

Cassandra Houser

  • Education: B.S. Loyola University Maryland, M.S. University of Rochester
  • Lab: Paige Lawrence
  • T32 association: Trainee since 2020
  • Research Interests:  I am interested in deciphering how exposure to environmental contaminants that activate the aryl hydrocarbon receptor (AhR) impacts humoral immunity to respiratory viruses, such as influenza. My project focuses of a special type of CD4+ T cell, T follicular helper (Tfh) cells, and aims to determine how AhR activation effects Tfh cells on the cellular and molecular level.
  • Best Immune cell/favorite factor:  CD4+ T cells
  • Fun fact:  I have walked The Great Wall of China and have seen The Terracotta Army.

Taylor Uccello

  • Education: B.S. Stonehill College, M.S. University of Rochester
  • Lab: Scott Gerber
  • T32 association: Trainee since 2020
  • Research Interests:  I am interested in exploring factors that mediate the anti-tumor immune response against colorectal cancer. Specifically, my project has two main aspects. We aim to elucidate why a subset of cancer patients treated with radiotherapy respond to treatment while others do not, by utilizing an orthotopic murine model of rectal cancer and a clinically relevant Short Course Radiation Therapy treatment. The second aim is to determine what effect radiation therapy plays on intratumoral nerves as these sympathetic nerves have been shown to be immunosuppressive. Further understanding how radiation therapy mediates the anti-tumor immune response may contribute to how physicians treat patients with rectal cancer in the clinic.
  • Best Immune cell/favorite factor:  CD8 T cells
  • Fun fact:  I spent a semester in Copenhagen, Denmark studying biotechnology and drug design.

Andrea Amitrano, M.S.

  • Education: B.S. SUNY Geneseo, Geneseo, NY
  • Lab: Minsoo Kim
  • T32 association: Trainee since June 2019
  • Research Interests:  I am interested in investigating novel techniques to improve cancer immunotherapy treatments for solid malignancies. CAR-T cell therapies have worked well for hematological malignancies, however there has been very limited success with solid malignancies. The tumor microenvironment presents significant metabolic challenges to infiltrated CD8+ T cells. My project utilizes an optogenetic approach to increase CD8+ T cell mitochondrial ATP production, with the goal of increasing anti-tumor activity of CAR-T cells in solid tumors.
  • Favorite immune cell:  CD8+ T cells
  • Fun fact: I have played the clarinet for 16 years.

Andrew Martin, M.S.

  • Education: B.S. Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts. MS. University of Rochester
  • Lab: Felix Yarovinsky
  • T32 association: Trainee since September 2020
  • Research Interests: I’m interested in the role of the cytokine interferon gamma (IFN-g) in mediating myeloid cell immunity to intracellular pathogens. I am currently studying the interplay between IFN-g and tissue resident macrophages during infections with the model intracellular parasite, Toxoplasma gondii.
  • Favorite immune cell: I’m a Myeloid maniac and Interferon Gamma groupie
  • Fun fact: I have a vast collection of “Hawaiian shirts” which I wear daily
  • Beyond the lab: Swimming, hiking, waterpolo, kendo, cooking, boardgames, long walks through the cold room

Chantelle Lehone White, B.S.

  • Education: B.S. University of Rochester
  • Lab: Andrea Sant
  • T32 association: Trainee since September 2020
  • Research Interests: I am interested in the influence of intrinsic and extrinsic pathogen associated factors on the development of subsequent CD4 T cell mediated immune responses to vaccination and infection. Using both seasonal and pandemic influenza and coronaviruses, I am currently studying the impact of viral replication, antigenic burden, variable viral virulence factors and post-translational antigen modifications upon the subsequent activation, composition and functional potential of the CD4 T cell compartment.
  • Favorite immune cell: Th1 and Tfh cells
  • Fun fact: I am a huge musical theatre enthusiast and part time wedding singer.