Lab Members

Lisa Abegglen, PhD

Lisa Abegglen, PhD

Research Assistant Professor

Lisa earned her bachelor’s degree in genetics from the University of Georgia, followed by a PhD from Emory University in the Immunology and Molecular Pathogenesis program. She moved to Utah to explore MHC and T cell function in Peter Jensen’s lab. She next worked as a scientist at Myrexis, where she gained experience in the fields of cancer and drug discovery. Lisa joined the Schiffman lab in September of 2011. As lab research leader, she oversees the lab’s many bench science projects. Most recently, with the help of collaborators and other lab members, she demonstrated that elephant cells have an increased apoptotic response to DNA damage compared to human cells, potentially related to multiple copies of TP53. Lisa is very excited to follow up on these discoveries to further our understanding of mechanisms related to cancer suppression and also to explore the potential for evolutionary mechanisms to improve human health. In addition, she is committed to identifying genetic risk factors and how these factors function to increase risk for all types of pediatric cancer, including Ewing sarcoma.

Niraja Bhachech

Niraja Bhachech

Lab Manager

Niraja got her bachelor’s degree in microbiology and biotechnology from MSU, Baroda, India, then went on to get a master’s in toxicology from Rutgers University in New Jersey. She began her career in the research and development group at Lederle Labs in New York, working on antibiotic resistance in pathogenic bacteria. She came to the University of Utah in 2011 as a research specialist to work on the ETS family of transcription factors. She recently joined the Schiffman Lab as a research manager. She joins the lab’s mission of studying the role of P53 in cancer prevention. Niraja loves cooking, watching sunsets, and spending time with family and friends.

Journey Bly

Journey Bly

Lab Technician

Journey graduated from the University of Utah with a BA in anthropology and a minor in integrative human biology. Before joining the Schiffman Lab, she worked in the Modern Molecular Genetics Lab at the University of Utah where she researched a gene known as DRD4 and its correlation with behavior in macaques. In the Schiffman Lab, Journey works on the elephant p53 project studying how elephant p53 retrogenes trigger cell death in cancer cells. She also works with the Schiffman Lab translational team to research how elephant p53 can be translated to a human cancer therapeutic. Outside the lab, Journey enjoys camping, paddle boarding, hiking, skiing, and spending time with friends and family.

Aaron Bretones

Aaron Bretones

Program Manager

Aaron earned a bachelor of science in political science and a bachelor of arts in French. He earned a master of e-business from the University of Wyoming. Aaron has spent several years working in business management and IT support and taught business management courses for several years at an automotive trade school. In his spare time, he enjoys fishing, working on and learning about cars, cooking, making various crafts, and spending time with his family. Aaron joined the lab in January of 2020 and is excited to assist and support the lab members in their work.

Matthew Buccilli

Matthew Buccilli

Senior Lab Specialist

Matthew received his master’s degree in 2019 from Central Michigan University, where he focused on protein characterization and gene editing. Matthew joined the Schiffman Lab in early 2020 and works on projects to further our understanding of p53 and its mechanisms through protein interactions and confocal microscopy. When he isn't at the bench, he enjoys spending his free time reading books, playing tabletop games, developing another craft, or playing video games.

Liz Fedak

Liz Fedak

Graduate Student

Liz Fedak is a dynamical systems analyst contextually referred to as "the Schiffman Lab's mathematician." She earned a B.S. in Mathematics from Harvey Mudd College, an M.A. in Mathematics from Claremont Graduate University, and is now chugging away at her Ph.D. in Mathematics at the University of Utah. Before joining the Schiffman Lab, she worked on tumor-immune system interactions (regarding the dynamics of T-regs and macrophages), genotype risk assessment for Type 2 diabetes, and modeling binding dynamics for contributors to Type 1 diabetes. Nowadays, she collaborates with the Schiffman Lab to build models of the p53 pathway: some with a focus on optimal treatment strategies, some with very interesting theoretical consequences. She stays sane by singing, dancing, playing wind instruments and practicing yoga.

Gabi Furukawa

Gabi Furukawa

Graduate Student

Gabriela earned a bachelor’s degree in Biological sciences from the University of São Paulo. During undergrad she worked at Okamoto’s laboratory studying alternative splicing of OCT4 in medulloblastoma. She joined the Molecular Biology program at the University of Utah in 2016 and now works at the Schiffman lab. Her research currently focuses on understanding the mechanisms of cancer resistance in elephants.

Lucy Hayes, MA

Lucy Hayes, MA

Clinical Research Coordinator

Lucy earned a bachelor’s degree in Medical Anthropology from the University of Utah and a Master’s degree in Nutrition, Food Studies, and Public Health from New York University. Lucy has worked in pediatric research at the University of Utah since 2009 and joined the Schiffman Lab in July 2012. As a Clinical Research Coordinator, she oversees operations for Project GenESis: Genetics of Ewing Sarcoma International Study and appreciates her interaction with study participants. At home, Lucy loves spending time with her toddler son and very old dog.

Tony Iovino

Tony Iovino

Lab Technician

Tony earned his bachelor’s degree in biology from the University of Utah. During his undergraduate studies, he worked as a volunteer in the Deininger Lab at Huntsman Cancer Institute, where he learned the fundamentals of experimentation. Tony joined the Schiffman Lab in 2018 and has become fascinated by their innovative research. His current interests involve understanding cancer resistance in elephants and how to use this information to improve treatment.

Ryan Kennington

Ryan Kennington

Research Assistant Intern

Ryan is currently working on earning his bachelor’s degree at the University of Delaware in biology. During his undergraduate studies, he worked as a volunteer in the Dr. Sims-Mourtada Lab at the Helen F. Graham Cancer Center to develop his skills in translational research. Ryan joined the Schiffman Lab in the summer of 2018 and again in the summer of 2019 as a research assistant intern. As an osteosarcoma survivor, Ryan is fascinated by the Schiffman Lab’s research and is motivated to help develop a potential new treatment for osteosarcoma.

Luke Maese, DO

Luke Maese, DO

Assistant Professor

Dr. Maese received his medical degree from Kansas City University. He then completed his pediatric residency at the Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh and went on to complete a clinical fellowship in pediatric hematology/oncology at the University of Utah. He joined the faculty in the Division of Pediatric Hematology/Oncology as an Assistant Professor in July of 2015. The primary focus of Dr. Maese’s clinical care is providing care for children with malignant hematopoietic disorders and rare solid tumors.  Along with his faculty appointment Dr. Maese also joined the Schiffman lab. His interests in investigation are translating the genomics of cancer to the pediatric oncology clinic initially focusing on the genetic profiling of relapsed and rare tumors in pediatric patients. He seeks to answer if the genetic information obtained can be used clinically to better understand relapsed/rare tumors, therefore informing future treatment.

Gareth Mitchell

Gareth Mitchell

Research Manager

Gareth Mitchell has a bachelor’s degree in education and music performance from Cornerstone University. Before joining the Schiffman Lab in 2018, he worked in research administration as a trainer and team lead in population sciences for Huntsman Cancer Institute. As a research manager, Gareth coordinates, organizes, and administers the Schiffman Lab research projects.

Kathleen Noble

Kathleen Noble

Lab Technician

Kathleen graduated from Princeton University with a degree in ecology and evolutionary biology. She moved to Utah to work in wilderness therapy, which she did for eight wonderful months, before trading in her backpack and hiking boots for a pipette and lab coat. Kathleen works on the comparative oncology project measuring DNA damage response in different animals. So far, she has cultured cells from over 35 species. Outside of work, Kathleen is training to row for her home country of Uganda in the 2021 Tokyo Olympics. Beyond rowing, she enjoys reading, woodwork, and adventuring outdoors.

Emily Payne

Emily Payne

Laboratory Technician

Emily recently graduated from the University of Utah with a bachelor of science in molecular biology and a minor in chemistry. During Emily’s time as an undergraduate, she worked in the Cairns Lab and as a teaching assistant for the chemistry department. Emily is excited to learn more about comparative oncology through the various projects in the lab and about p53 dynamics. In her free time, Emily enjoys trying new restaurants in Salt Lake and spending time outdoors, particularly swimming and hiking.

Aidan Preston

Aidan Preston

Graduate Student

Aidan graduated from Providence College with a B.S. in Biochemistry, B.A. in Psychology, and a certificate in Neuroscience. As an undergraduate, he worked in the NAC Lab and investigated metacognition in rats. Aidan joined the Schiffman Lab through the University of Utah’s Biological Chemistry PhD program. His current research is concentrated on identifying the mechanism by which elephant p53 retrogenes trigger apoptosis in human cancer. In his time outside of the lab, Aidan enjoys skiing and playing lacrosse.

Aaron Rogers

Aaron Rogers

Senior Lab Specialist

Aaron earned a bachelor’s degree in microbiology from Brigham Young University in 2002. Since then, he has worked for several pharmaceutical companies and the University of Utah. Aaron joined the Schiffman Lab in 2018 as a senior lab specialist, and he uses his broad technical expertise to move the EP53 project forward. At home, Aaron enjoys spending time outdoors fly-fishing and camping with his family as well as collecting and restoring retro arcade machines.

Aarushi Rohaj

Aarushi Rohaj

Research Assistant

Aarushi is currently an undergraduate at the University of Utah Honors College. She is working towards earning a bachelor’s degree in biology and is a pre-med student. Before joining the Schiffman Lab she worked at the Meldrum Civil Engineering Lab, where she investigated the presence of antibiotic resistant bacteria in waste water samples. Aarushi joined the Schiffman Lab in 2019 and has been inspired by their groundbreaking research. Her current interests include understanding cancer resistance in elephants and how that research can be applied to enhance treatment methods. Outside the lab, Aarushi enjoys singing, playing the ukulele, running, and skiing.

Bahar Shamloo

Bahar Shamloo

Scientist

Dr. Shamloo joined the Schiffman Lab as a scientist in January 2019 and currently works on the elephant p53 project. She earned her bachelor of science in molecular biology, her master of science in genetics and biochemistry, and her PhD in genetics and bioengineering. During her PhD, Dr. Shamloo focused on p53 isoforms in cancer, which helps the lab’s current research in cancer resistance through elephant p53 proteins.

Miranda Sharp

Miranda Sharp

Lab Specialist

Miranda enjoyed exploring the world around her since childhood. She loved looking at nature when she lived on the east coast and grew up watching science fiction and learning about any science-related topics she could find. These experiences led to her love of exploring the unknown and figuring out how things worked. She earned a degree in biotechnology from Utah Valley University and her desire to learn and help people brought her to the Schiffman Lab. Miranda spends her time studying p53 mRNA and how to apply it as a therapeutic. When she is not busy trying to figure out the universe, she is at home with her amazing husband and escape-artist hamster.

Cristhian Toruno

Cristhian Toruno

Lab Specialist

Cristhian earned his Bachelor’s of Science in Biology at Utah Valley University. He has been working in academic research for the past seven years. Some of Cristhian’s duties include overexpressing elephant proteins in cancer cells and measuring their effects utilizing various techniques. Cristhian is originally from Costa Rica, enjoys outdoor activities, community service, good food, margaritas and spending time with his pets.

Mallory Wilmot

Mallory Wilmot

Lab Specialist

Mallory earned a bachelor’s degree in marine biology from Northwest Missouri State University and has been working in fisheries research since 2012. Her experience includes projects that involve many marine species. Mallory joined the Schiffman Lab in February 2020 and uses her marine biology background to help comparative oncology understand p53 across species. She is excited to join the lab’s innovative research on p53 and its role in cancer prevention. Mallory loves skiing, hiking, fishing, camping, and playing with her two adorable puppies.

In Memoriam

Schuyler O’Brien (1991-2019)

Schuyler O’Brien (1991-2019)

Schuyler O’Brien was a committed scientist who worked tirelessly with the conviction that all data had the potential to become a stepping stone in cancer research. He was not content making a small contribution to the field. Rather, he was singularly focused on dedicating all of himself to finding a cure—specifically for Ewing sarcoma, a cancer he was diagnosed with at 12 years old. Schuyler’s cancer relapsed multiple times during his short life. Facing so many relapses gave Schuyler a unique perspective: he enjoyed gently and insightfully challenging his peers to work harder and better to understand the origins of childhood cancer.

Despite years of physical suffering and intellectual exertion, Schuyler maintained optimism and steadfast confidence in the power of science and in his own ability to push through difficulty to achieve his goals. Though Schuyler was often—silently and unflinchingly—in pain from cancer treatments, he conducted his work masterfully, with an obsessive yet joyful passion. Schuyler never hesitated to patiently listen or lend a hand to his colleagues and friends. We are honored to have shared in his good-natured scientific zeal. And we marvel at his ability to conduct his life, like so many people with cancer, with simultaneous cynicism and hope, agony and joy.

We continue our work in the Schiffman Lab in Schuyler’s memory. We hope to honor this young, brilliant scientist and take up his legacy of inspiring our friends, family, and colleagues to pursue greatness in all we do.