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Post-doctoral Position Available

Our projects focus on understanding factors predisposing to atopic diseases with an overall goal of food allergy prevention.

Principal Investigator

Dr. Kirsi Järvinen-SeppoKirsi M. Järvinen-Seppo, M.D., Ph.D.

Kirsi Jarvinen-Seppo, M.D., Ph.D.


Dr Järvinen-Seppo’s research interests focus on development of the infant microbiome and immune system, and how that relates to development of allergic diseases, particularly food allergies and atopic eczema. In particular, the research program is assessing the development of infant immune system in populations at different risk for allergic diseases such as the Old Order Mennonite community of Western New York and atopic families in Rochester. Her research laboratory is developing assays to measure the development of mucosal and systemic immunity and to characterize immunomodulatory factors in breast milk and the mechanisms how breast milk can impact the gut microbiome and immune cells.

In her spare time, she enjoys exercise, traveling, gardening and spending time with her family including two children.

Lab Members

Dr. Antti SeppoAntti E. Seppo, Ph.D.

Research Associate Professor

Antti E. Seppo, Ph.D.

Dr. Seppo’s research aims at developing an understanding of the factors that predispose and cause food allergies in children, and to understand predictive indicators of the severity of allergic reactions in children and adults. To that end, he can evaluate genetic factors by applying genomic and transcriptomic techniques and environmental factors by biochemical screening of biomarkers.

His long-term interest is to understand the fundamental mechanisms in the developing human immune system and particularly mechanisms that upon failure cause allergic disease. This understanding will in part come from observations in the studies of allergy relevant factors, and in part from mechanistic studies involving candidate pathways of early immune system development.

Separate from allergy research, his research interests also include integration of leading edge biocomputing methods into cell based assay research, especially in connection with image analysis.

Dr. Bridget YoungBridget E. Young, Ph.D.

Research Assistant Professor

Bridget E. Young, Ph.D.

Dr. Young holds a Ph.D. in Human Nutrition and is a Certified Lactation Counselor (CLC). She completed a postdoctoral fellowship in Pediatric Nutrition before joining the faculty at the University of Rochester. Her research studies the impact of maternal obesity and insulin resistance on breast milk composition, and downstream effects on the infants’ developing metabolism and fat stores.


James MillerJames Miller

Laboratory Technician

James has spent the last twelve years practicing the technical arts of the laboratory sciences. After completing his bachelor’s degree from a massive SUNY school nestled among the Finger Lakes, he began his foray into lab-dom as the seminal staffer for a pharmaceutical start-up. Thereafter, he managed a lab centered on bacterial stress responses under Drs. Abranches and Lemos, and a lab investigating the metabolic shifts within affected tissues during a heart attack under Dr. Brookes. His current interests include sequencing technologies, composting, pondering the pitfalls of experimental design, and raising his abnormally tall three year old.

Dr. Puja Sood Puja Sood, M.D.

Clinical Fellow

Dr. Sood earned her Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Rochester in Rochester, NY where she majored in Health and Society. She attended the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry in Rochester, NY where she earned her M.D. Dr. Sood completed her Pediatric residency training at the University of Maryland Medical Center in Baltimore, MD. Dr. Sood is board certified in Pediatrics and is currently completing a fellowship in Allergy and Immunology with a clinical focus on food allergy. Her research project, under the mentorship of Drs. Seppo and Järvinen-Seppo, focuses on understanding the role of breastfeeding and immunomodulatory factors in breast milk on the development of atopic disease.

Catherine Acio-PizzarelloCatherine Acio-Pizzarello

Rotating Student

Catherine Acio-Pizzarello graduated from the College of William & Mary in Virginia in 2016. There, she double-majored in biology and psychology in addition to doing research in a microbiology lab. She is currently a rising second year medical student as part of the University of Rochester's Medical Scientist Training Program (MSTP). In her spare time, she enjoys doing yoga, playing the piano, and spending time with her husband and their two dogs Peanut and Hazel.

Pratyusha - StudentPratyusha Tadepalli

Undergraduate Student

Pratyusha is a sophomore at UR studying Neuroscience and Psychology. She wants to further immerse herself in medicine using a more research oriented route.

Mahima JoshiMahima Joshi

Undergraduate Student

Mahima is a junior at the University of Rochester majoring in Health, behavior, and Society and minoring in chemistry and biology. She is very interested in more about the clinical aspect of research.

Madina JumabaevaMadina Jumabaeva

Undergraduate Student

Madina is currently a sophomore majoring in Microbiology and minoring in Chemistry on a pre-med track. She is interested in the microbiology field of this lab studying the milk microbiome and hopes to gain experience in lab and in clinical shadowing.

Shana YiShana Yi

Undergraduate Student

Shana is currently a third year undergraduate student at the University of Rochester studying epidemiology. She wishes to develop her skills in the research lab to apply and provide a public health perspective.

Previous Lab Members

Javier de Andres Leo photo Javier de Andres Leo

Visiting Ph.D. Student

Javier is a native of Madrid, Spain. He received his Master’s degree in Immunology in 2013 from the Complutense University of Madrid and is currently a Ph.D. student in the laboratory of Professor Juan Miguel Rodriguez Gomez at the same university. He has participated in several clinical trials including the use of probiotics isolated from human milk as an alternative in the treatment of infectious mastitis. As part of his Ph.D. studies, he did a rotation abroad in 2015 in the National Emerging Infectious Diseases Laboratories (NEIDL) in the Boston University, and in 2017 he joined the Järvinen-Seppo lab as a visiting student at the University of Rochester to assess the role of human milk oligosaccharides in the development of infant gut microbiome.

Courtney Kellogg - Jarvinen-Seppo LabCourtney Kellogg

Rotation Student, Cell Biology of Disease

Courtney studied the levels of different IgA antibodies in response to food allergens in two different cohorts. She is interested in developmental pathologies.

Melissa Page - Volunteer Jarvinen-Seppo LabMelissa Page

Undergraduate Summer Student 2017

Melissa Page is currently an undergraduate student at Cornell University studying Food Science on the Pre-Med track. As a summer student in the Järvinen-Seppo lab, she developed an ELISA assay for measuring the Specific IgA to crude peanut protein in saliva. The amount of Specific IgA in saliva gives insight to the development of an individual’s mucosal immune system. This process will be further developed in order to test Specific IgA in saliva using Luminex.

Jonathan Phillip Jarvien-Seppo LabJonathan Phillips

SCRC Summer Student 2016

Jonathan graduated from Juniata College with a degree in the Biological Foundations of Behavior. As one of the students in the Järvinen-Seppo lab for the 2016 SCRC Summer Program, he worked on a project investigating the prevalence of pediatric food allergy in a Mennonite population in upstate New York. He will be spending two years conducting research before attending medical school.

Dr. John VarroneJohn J.P. Varrone, Ph.D.

Postdoctoral Associate

John J.P. Varrone, Ph.D. was a Postdoctoral Associate in the Järvinen-Seppo Laboratory in the Department of Pediatrics, where he sought: 1) to identify immunomodulatory factors found in human breast milk; and 2) to determine how these factors influence the infant gastrointestinal tract microbiome.

John earned his Ph.D. in Pathology at the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry in March 2014, having performed his dissertation research in the laboratory of Edward M. Schwarz, Ph.D. (Orthopaedics). His research focused on determining how anti-glucosaminidase monoclonal antibodies help prevent methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) total joint arthroplasty periprosthetic infection. John comes to us having completed a 1.5-year postdoctoral fellowship in Biodefense and Emerging Infectious Diseases under the direction of Nicholas J. Mantis, Ph.D. at the New York State Department of Health Wadsworth Center. His research there focused on decoding how anti-lipopolysaccharide (LPS) O-antigen secretory IgA antibodies provide host protection against Salmonella enterica serovar Typhimurium in the gastrointestinal tract.

Valerie UrbanHouda Abdelrahman

SCRC Summer Student 2015

Houda is from Fargo, North Dakota. As a summer student in the Järvinen-Seppo lab through the Strong Children's Research Center, she stimulated intestinal epithelial cells to measure the production of APRIL, a factor involved in T-cell independent production of IgA, to understand breastmilk's immuno-modulatory role. Currently, she is a medical student at the University of North Dakota School of Medicine and Health Sciences.

Sade Fridy Sade Fridy M.P.H.

Laboratory Technician

Sade completed a bachelor's degree in Biotechnology at the Rochester Institute of Technology and is currently completing a Master's in Public Health at the University of Rochester while working in the Järvinen-Seppo lab. Her interests lie in understanding the association between breast milk and food allergy in two capacities: using in-vitro experimentation to analyze the effect of breast milk on innate immune receptors (TLRs), and creating mathematical models to predict whether TLRs and other factors are associated with severe food allergies.

Valerie UrbanValerie Urban

SCRC Summer Student 2016

Valerie graduated from Connecticut College in 2017 where she majored in Biology and minored in Hispanic Studies. There, she also competed all four years on the Connecticut College Women’s Swim Team and volunteered at a local hospital escorting patients. As one of the students in the Järvinen-Seppo lab for the 2016 SCRC Summer Program, she worked on a project investigating whether IgA concentration in breast milk and infant saliva may relate to food allergy incidence.

Dr. Jessica SternJessica Stern, M.D.


Jessica Stern, M.D. completed her medical degree as well as Med-Peds residency and clinical fellowship in Allergy and Immunology at the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry. Her research interests include food allergy, asthma and eosinophilic disorders. She is especially interested the epidemiology of allergic diseases, health care disparities, and health care policy. Her project in the Järvinen-Seppo Lab comprised characterizing cytokines in breast milk. She is also collaborating with the Halterman Lab on a project examining the relationship of food allergy on asthma outcome measures. She currently holds a faculty position in the Allergy and Immunology Division at the University.

Dr. Mahta MortezaviMahta Mortezavi, M.D.


Mahta Mortezavi grew up in Toronto. From 2005-2010 she attended the National University of Ireland (University College Cork), where she received her medical degree. During medical school, she worked with Professor Tim Dinan, measuring total IL6 levels in patients with irritable bowel disease and showed that these patients have an elevated level of the pro-inflammatory cytokine level compared with controls. It is this project that inspired her interest in immunology. Mahta completed her internal medicine residency at the University at Buffalo, where she worked in Dr. Julian Ambrus’ lab studying the effect of IL14 on vaccine response in mice. Ultimately, she decided to pursue fellowships in both Allergy/Immunology and Rheumatology to establish herself as a clinical immunologist. During her clinical fellowship, her lab project involved measuring total and antigen specific IgA levels in breast milk and saliva from subjects in the metro Rochester area compared with the nearby Old Order Mennonite population. She is currently a practicing clinician at the Rochester General Hospital.

photo of Joana CoelhoJoana Coelho

Undergraduate Student

Joana worked in the Järvinen-Seppo Lab throughout her undergraduate studies. Her project included growing Caco2 gut epithelial cell line on transwells and assessing the impact of breast milk on their expression profiles.