Current Trainees

NHLBI CD-Cavs T32 Training Program – our first Scholars!

Abigail Ansah Zame

az.jpgI am a Ph.D. student in Clinical Bioanalytical Chemistry in the laboratory of Dr. Aimin Zhou in the Department of Chemistry and the Center for Gene Regulation in Health and Disease (GRHD).  My work builds upon our work in the lab on the role of Ribonuclease L (RNAse L) in lipid metabolism; RNAse L, present in a wide range of cell types mediates antiviral, antiproliferative, and apoptotic effects of interferons. Our observation that lack of RNase L leads to foam cell formation in bone marrow-derived macrophages (BMDMs) pinpoints a role for RNAse L in lipid homeostasis and atherosclerosis. 

The aims of my research are 1. to demonstrate that RNase L facilitates uptake, intracellular metabolism, and or efflux of cholesterol in macrophages and 2. to investigate the role of RNase L in metabolic syndrome. Previous work done by Dr Zhou’s lab shown that, deficiency of RNase L resulted in increased foam cell population in vitro using bone marrow-derived macrophages (BMDMs). 

I am passionate about understanding cardiovascular disease and plan to stay in the scientific research community working on finding disease pathways, mechanism of actions and development of therapeutic applications.

Jessi Martin

jm.jpgI am a Ph.D. student in Applied Biomedical Engineering at Cleveland State University.

My focus is on the progressive development of Charcot arthropathy from peripheral neuropathy (PN) caused by diabetes mellitus. PN, and subsequently, Charcot have been known to disrupt the cardiovascular, peripheral nervous, and musculoskeletal system. This multi-body system disruption coupled with an undetected injury/prolonged inflammation can lead to bone resorption and arch instability in the midfoot, ultimately leading to midfoot arch collapse. 
The best treatment for Charcot of the midfoot is early detection and clinical intervention. The challenge is that once Charcot manifests clinically, via x-rays, temperature changes, and/or vascular changes, the disease is already progressing towards collapse.

My current research involves the cross-disciplinary collaboration between: Dr. Brian Davis at CSU, Drs. Ahmet Erdemir and Georgeanne Botek, DPM, at the Cleveland Clinic, and Innovative Scientific Solutions Inc. in Dayton, Ohio. The goal is to develop a clinically viable in-shoe insole that can detect arch stability using shear and pressure forces under the foot and correlate/detect early arch collapse in patients with Charcot arthropathy of the midfoot.

My passion lies in the intersection of cell and tissue physiology and its manifestation and impact on the cardiovascular, musculoskeletal, and nervous system.  I plan to use my education and experiences to help design devices and therapies to treat complex multi-organ system diseases such as Charcot arthropathy.

Richard Anderson

ra.jpgI am a Ph.D. student in the Graduate Program in Regulatory Biology and I am conducting my research in the lab of Dr. Anton A. Komar, in the Department of Biological, Geological and Environmental Sciences (BGES) and the Center for Gene Regulation in Health and Disease (GRHD). We study the regulation of gene expression at the level of protein synthesis. The flow of genetic information in a cell goes from DNA to RNA to protein. The resulting proteins then go on to support and regulate numerous biological processes. The process of mRNA translation (protein synthesis) is commonly separated into four phases: initiation, elongation, termination and ribosome recycling. Translation is a highly regulated process which is controlled mainly at the initiation step. We aim to understand the specialized mechanisms of translational control governed by non-canonical translation initiation factor eIF2A in mammals and discover the molecular basis underlying their link to metabolic disease and health. 

I believe that CSU has had a big influence on my development as a scientist and as a person. My time as CSU has shown me that I thrive in an academic environment, which is why after graduation, I intend to earn a post-doc, and then work my way towards becoming a professor at a university. Hopefully, one similar to CSU.

Brandon Smith

brandonsmith.jpgI am a Ph.D. student in the Graduate Program for Regulatory Biology and am conducting research in the lab of Dr. Jessica Williams at the Cleveland Clinic and the Department of Biological, Geological and Environmental Sciences (BGES).

We study the multifaceted role of immune signaling in the brain and spinal cord during autoimmunity. Specifically, I am focused on IFNγ-signaling in astrocytes. Traditionally, IFNγ is seen as a proinflammatory and damaging molecule during autoimmunity, but more recent work including my own are showing a beneficial role for IFNγ. Discerning how when and how the immune system can be good or bad during autoimmunity is the primary thrust of my research.

I am passionate about understanding neuroimmunology. The interplay of the brain and immunity is fascinating and I plan to learn all I can about it. In my time at CSU I have deepened my understanding and passion for research and hope to continue learning after I graduate by continuing on to a post-doc and then further research where I can learn and grow further.

Jillian V. Kodger

JillianKodger.jpegI am a Ph.D. student in Clinical Bioanalytical Chemistry in the laboratory of Dr. Yana Sandlers in the Department of Chemistry. My current work is on Barth Syndrome; about 90% of Barth syndrome patients will experience dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM) leading to a shorter lifespan. As a result, many Barth syndrome patients will require a heart transplant before the first year of life. DCM causes death in 70% of the patients due to cardiac failure. There is currently no FDA-approved treatment for Barth Syndrome. This creates a critical need to develop novel treatment strategies for Barth syndrome to improve the lives of affected young individuals. We aim to do this with anaplerotic treatments and antioxidants in induced pluripotent stem cells that have been differentiated into induced pluripotent stem cell-derived cardiomyocyte.

The ability to receive a Ph.D. in Clinical Chemistry, will allow me to do meaningful research that can help people directly. Once I obtain the degree, I hope to continue in the research field to improve our health care system. Being able to do this I can immediately see the changes my research has done for patient care.

Rachael White

RachaelWhite.pngI am a Ph.D. student in the Graduate Program in Regulatory Biology, and I am conducting my research in the lab of Dr. Merlin Nithya Gnanapragasam, in the Department of Biological, Geological and Environmental Sciences (BGES) and the Center for Gene Regulation in Health and Disease (GRHD).

We study the process of mammalian erythropoiesis. My studies investigate the role of EKLF, a master regulator transcription factor, in erythropoiesis with its interaction with Aurora B Kinase. EKLF plays a major role in erythropoiesis that includes terminal erythroid differentiation, and hemoglobin switching. When EKLF is compromise, it can affect different blood disorders including Congenital Dyserythropoietic and Sickle Cell Anemias, and β Thalassemia. Understanding the development of red blood cells is vital when it comes to discovering new treatments for blood disorders.

Science and research are my passion in life. Understanding how the body operates at a molecular level has always interested me and how one small molecular change can have a vast effect on the whole body. I hope to use my degree from CSU to continue to do research and help to further the scientific field.