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.

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.

Jared Fowles

Jared Fowles

Jared earned his bachelor’s degree in biology from Utah State University, followed by a PhD from Colorado State University in cell and molecular biology (cancer biology specialization). While at Colorado Jared studied the similarities of molecular pathways in human and canine cancers and designed gene expression prediction models of chemosensitivity that resulted in a prospective veterinary clinical trial for dogs with osteosarcoma. Most recently Jared completed a postdoc at Washington University in St. Louis studying human hematologic cancers through single cell approaches such as mass cytometry and scRNAseq. Jared is excited to join the Schiffman lab back in his home state and work on comparative and translational oncology projects. When not in the lab, Jared enjoys the sublime chaos of family life with his wife and four kids, and on the rare occasion when he finds extra time he enjoys drawing, writing, board games and singing with his guitar.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.