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Meet the Cell Day Scientists

Cell Day 2016

Krishan Arora, Ph.D.Krishan Arora, Ph.D.
Dr. Krishan Arora, a native of India, became interested in living things at a young age. He majored in biology and chemistry as an undergraduate in India, and he studied how to target therapeutic drugs to kill cancer cells as a graduate student in Australia. In his free time, he mentors high school students, and he loves yoga, walking and meeting new people.

Michael BenderMichael Bender, Ph.D.
Dr. Michael Bender is a program director in the Division of Genetics and Developmental Biology, where he manages grants in the areas of RNA processing and protein synthesis.

Patrick H. BrownPatrick H. Brown, Ph.D.
Dr. Patrick H. Brown (pictured left) and his family (pictured right) recently took a 10-day sailing trip around the British Virgin Islands on a 50-foot catamaran. Having grown up in the military and moving to a new state or even country every two or three years, Dr. Brown has always loved exploring new places, meeting new people and learning new things. He also enjoys art, music, movies, sports, different languages and cultures, and much more. He says science gives him a foundation to better understand how all these seemingly different things are related.

Alison ColeAlison Cole, Ph.D.
Dr. Alison Cole became interested in pharmacology, the study of how drugs act on biological systems, while working in a hospital pharmacy after college. Her studies took her from New England, where she grew up, to graduate school in Texas, then to California and finally to the D.C. area, where she currently works at NIGMS. Now she helps scientists who study the pharmacology of anesthetics, one of the most commonly used but dangerous class of drugs in medicine. Studies of anesthesia may even help us understand how consciousness works, which she considers one of the most fascinating questions in science. In her spare time, Dr. Cole likes to travel, garden and bicycle.

Amicia ElliottAmicia Elliott, Ph.D.
Dr. Amicia Elliott is a postdoctoral fellow studying how muscle movements are coordinated by the brain into complex behaviors. She loves to develop new technologies to study life—she built a very specialized microscope to study fruit fly brains! Dr. Elliott grew up on a farm in Indiana and attended Purdue University, where she studied genetic biology. These days, when she isn’t in the lab, she enjoys playing video games, visiting the Smithsonian museums and reading science fiction with a proper cup of tea.

Jessica Faupel-BadgerJessica Faupel-Badger, Ph.D.
Dr. Jessica Faupel-Badger is one of the Cell Day moderators. Her scientific training is in tumor biology, and she enjoys introducing students to the complexity of cancer. In her free time, Dr. Faupel-Badger can be found at a pool where she’ll likely be cheering for her daughters who are avid swimmers.

Paula FlickerPaula Flicker, Ph.D.
Dr. Paula Flicker has been interested in biophysics since her undergraduate student days. When she saw the course title “physics of macromolecules” she knew this was the subject for her! Dr. Flicker loved taking pictures with an electron microscope, particularly frozen-hydrated specimens via cryo-electron microscopy. In her spare time, she likes to practice guitar and knit (pictured above is a recent project).

Alison GammieAlison Gammie, Ph.D.
Dr. Alison Gammie was born and raised in Oklahoma. She did her undergraduate and graduate work in Oregon and settled on the east coast where she pursued her dream job of doing research, teaching and mentoring diverse scientists. Dr. Gammie recently came to NIH to devote her time to ensure that the next generation of scientists are well-trained and reflect the diversity in the country. Her husband is also a scientist and they have two daughters. She enjoys activities in nature with her family and running long distances.

Joe GindhartJoe Gindhart, Ph.D.
Dr. Joe Gindhart, a native of New Jersey, is one of the Cell Day moderators. He became interested in science after taking a genetics course in college and followed this interest in graduate school in Indiana, a postdoctoral fellowship in California, faculty jobs in Massachusetts and Virginia, and (for the last 7 years) working at NIH. When not thinking and talking about science, Dr. Gindhart likes to be outside, travel, listen to music and cheer for the Philadelphia Eagles. This year, Dr. Gindhart saw Bruce Springsteen in concert and went to Iceland!

Susan GregurickSusan Gregurick, Ph.D.
Dr. Susan Gregurick is the director of Division of Biomedical Technology, Bioinformatics, and Computational Biology. She is a leader in computational biology and has held positions in both government and academia. Dr. Gregurick has worked in the U.S. and abroad, and she loves to travel and meet new people. She has a fondness for the single cell organism, Saccharomyces cerevisiae, better known as brewer’s yeast.

Susan HaynesSusan Haynes, Ph.D.
Dr. Sue Haynes works at NIGMS to support basic research on what makes stem cells “tick”--how they have their remarkable ability to make many different cell types. She studied general biology in college, then trained in molecular, cell and developmental biology. An avid gardener, Dr. Haynes also enjoys vacations spent exploring the mountains of west-central Idaho.

Roya KalantariRoya Kalantari, Ph.D.
Dr. Roya Kalantari participates in a fellowship program that matches graduate students with positions at NIH and other federal agencies. Before starting her fellowship, she got her Ph.D. in molecular biology, studying RNA binding proteins and how RNA can regulate transcription and translation. In her free time, you can usually find Dr. Kalantari playing board games (she has over 70) with her husband and friends, at a comic convention or at dance class.

Tracey KoretskyTracey Koretsky, Ph.D.
Dr. Koretsky manages the review of applications that scientists submit for research, training and capacity-building grants. She has a Ph.D. in cellular and molecular biology. Dr. Koretsky has two children who are currently taking high school biology and one child who is studying chemistry as a freshman in college. In her free time, she enjoys playing tennis and is currently training to become a yoga instructor.

Amy KullasAmy Kullas, Ph.D.
Dr. Amy Kullas is a postdoctoral fellow trying to understand how and why seemingly healthy people get sick with fungal infections. She first got excited about science while looking through a microscope and seeing the beautiful mixture of pink and purple cocci bacteria after doing her first Gram stain in high school biology class. Growing up in a rural Wisconsin farming community, Dr. Kullas never fathomed she would live in the nation's capital. Dr. Kullas remains a loyal Packer fan and enjoys taking in the historical DC sites.

Rochelle LongRochelle Long, Ph.D.
Dr. Rochelle Long is director of the Division of Pharmacology, Physiology, and Biological Chemistry at NIGMS. Her special interest and area of expertise is pharmacogenomics, the study of how genes affect individual responses to medications. In her free time, Dr. Long enjoys traveling, especially to Asia (Korea, Japan, Vietnam, Cambodia, with plans to visit Thailand and Myanmar next, and China and Laos are on her bucket list). She also loves Broadway shows, and her dream is to live in New York City. Dr. Long is married to a neuroscientist, and they live with their two grown children, two Golden Retrievers and a cat.

Jon R. LorschJon R. Lorsch, Ph.D.
Dr. Jon Lorsch is the director of NIGMS. In this position, he oversees the Institute's $2.5 billion budget, which primarily funds basic research in the areas of cell biology, biophysics, genetics, developmental biology, pharmacology, physiology, biological chemistry, biomedical technology, bioinformatics and computational biology. Dr. Lorsch loves to share his passion for science. He’s pictured above at a science festival explaining proteins to a participant.

Stefan MaasStefan Maas, Ph.D.
Dr. Stefan Maas helps support research on how cells maintain a stable, balanced internal environment, and how they die. In addition to his interests in basic cell biology, he enjoys learning about astrobiology, patent law and languages (both human and computer).

Amanda MelilloAmanda Melillo, Ph.D.
Dr. Amanda Melillo majored in biochemistry and biology at Virginia Tech where she first became interested in research while working as an undergraduate in a plant biology lab. During graduate school, she studied how bacteria can alter the ability of a human cell to respond properly. When she is not studying science you will find Dr. Melillo swimming, biking or running as she loves doing triathlons.

Jacob NordmanJacob Nordman, Ph.D.
Dr. Jacob Nordman works at a lab at the National Institute of Mental Health. In the past, he studied brain molecules that play a key role in why nicotine is so addictive. Now he focuses on understanding aspects of the brains of people who have major anger issues. Dr. Nordman’s long-term goal is to figure out what goes on in the brains of people who have psychiatric illnesses. He grew up all over the United States and got his Ph.D. at George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia. When not in the lab, Dr. Norman enjoys rock climbing, rock concerts, and rock candy. Rock on!

Merecedes RubioMerecedes Rubio, Ph.D.
Dr. Mercedes Rubio earned a Ph.D. from the University of Michigan, where she studied obesity among Latinos. She manages various programs designed to retain students from underrepresented groups in basic biomedical research. Two of them, for example, are the National Research Mentoring Network Link to external Website and the Bridges to the Baccalaureate program. Dr. Rubio enjoys speaking with students, like you, about science careers. For fun, she enjoys playing Connect 4 and Uno with her 7-year-old son. Dr. Rubio also likes taking the family dog, Jackson, for 4-mile walks. One of her hobbies includes weightlifting—her goal is to bench press half her weight.

Paul SammakPaul Sammak, Ph.D.
Dr. Paul Sammak started out in physics because he loved studying light and waves, but he became interested in cells as a graduate student because they were even more interesting. He combined light and cell biology by developing microscope and image technologies for measuring the structure and movement of cells. Dr. Sammak has two kids, ages 29 and 32. One is a veterinarian, and the other is a photographer. He likes to think that he has something to do with their interest in art and biology.

Shireen SarrafShireen Sarraf, Ph.D.
Dr. Shireen Sarraf lived in Scotland and Boston before coming to NIH for her postdoctoral research. In graduate school, she mapped mitochondrial targets of proteins associated with Parkinson’s disease to understand how damaged mitochondria might contribute to neurodegeneration. Dr. Sarraf is currently studying the pathways involved in identifying and degrading abnormal proteins inside cells. Malfunction in these pathways results in the accumulation of these abnormal proteins, which is a hallmark of many diseases, like Parkinson's and Alzheimer's. When not in the lab, she enjoys traveling, cooking and exploring Washington, D.C., with her family.

Shiva SinghShiva Singh, Ph.D.
Dr. Shiva Singh studied germs in graduate school, specializing in proteins that help bacteria exclude antibiotics from gaining entry to the inside of a cell. As a professor at the University in Alabama, he devoted much of his academic life to teaching, mentoring and training high school, undergraduate and graduate students. Dr. Singh’s NIH career began in 2001, and he currently oversees a broad array of undergraduate and graduate student training programs. Outside of work, he enjoys gardening and nature walks. He also likes to read and keep up with the landscape of the biomedical research workforce as well as national and international politics.

Darren SledjeskiDarren Sledjeski, Ph.D.
Dr. Darren Sledjeski is chief of the Genetic Mechanisms Branch in the Division of Genetics and Developmental Biology, where he administers research grants in the areas of transcription mechanisms and symbiotic relationships and community ecology.

Lee SliceLee Slice, Ph.D.
Dr. Lee Slice is a scientific review officer in the Office of Scientific Review. He manages the review of Instrument Development for Biomedical Applications and Institutional Development Award (IDeA) program grants.

Alex ValmAlex Valm, Ph.D.
Dr. Alex Valm became interested in biology when he read the book “Jurassic Park” in high school. When he learned that the same genetic engineering technology that the fictional scientists used to make dinosaurs was being used by real scientists to cure diseases like cancer, his passion for science began. Dr. Valm is also interested in art. His Ph.D. project involved inventing a new fluorescent microscope technology to increase the number of different colors that could be distinguished in images of bacteria from the human microbiome. He is currently a postdoc at NIH and soon to be a professor of biology at a college (perhaps near you). Dr. Valm spends his free time going to concerts and playing bocce ball for local charities in the Washington, D.C., area.

Janna WehrleJanna Wehrle, Ph.D.
Dr. Janna Wehrle was a pre-med student in college. A great organic chemistry professor turned her on to biochemistry, and she was hooked. She began studying cancer cell energy production. Dr. Wehrle later studied energy levels in live mice with tumors following chemotherapy or X-ray treatment. For this, she used a magnetic resonance spectrometer—a special kind of MRI machine. Dr. Wehrle spends her weekends gardening and feeding extended family and friends using her VERY huge Argentine grill.

Kristine WillisKristine Willis, Ph.D.
Dr. Kristine Willis came to NIGMS from Georgetown University, where she led a research group studying how our cells make use of the information in our genes. She became interested in genetics in high school, but has been fascinated by science for as long as she can remember. Currently, Dr. Willis manages grants in the area of mutagenesis and the repair of DNA damage. She is also involved in several NIGMS initiatives to promote rigor and reproducibility in biomedical research. In her free time, she likes to travel and to visit museums; one of her favorites is the Pharmazie Historisches Museum in Basel, Switzerland.

Dorit ZukDorit Zuk, Ph.D.
A molecular biologist by training, Dr. Dorit Zuk leads the Division of Genetics and Developmental Biology at NIGMS. She has a passion for science and has spent the past two decades working as an advocate for science and scientists and as an editor for several major scientific journals. Dr. Zuk decided she wanted to be a scientist when she was six. She fell in love with molecules in high school when she took a hands-on science summer course at her local university. Outside of work, she enjoys long rides in the country with the top down in her red convertible.

This page last reviewed on October 30, 2017