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

Research Assistant

Journey Bly is currently an undergraduate student at the University of Utah pursuing a bachelor’s degree in anthropology with 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 assisted a PhD student in his research on a gene known as DRD4 and was awarded the 2019 Outstanding Undergraduate Researcher for the College of Social and Behavioral Science. In the Schiffman Lab, she carries out experiments using cell culture with various human and animal cell lines. Additionally, she works with p53 to better understand its effect on cancer cells and to hopefully help develop a more effective cancer treatment.

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.

Amanda Gammon, MS, CGC

Amanda Gammon, MS, CGC

Genetic Counselor

Amanda Gammon is a board-certified genetic counselor with a master’s degree in genetic counseling from University of Colorado at Denver Health Sciences Center. She received her bachelor’s degree from the University of Colorado at Boulder in molecular, cellular, and developmental biology and English literature. While completing her education, Amanda worked at Rocky Mountain Cancer Centers. She began working at Huntsman Cancer Institute in July 2007. She provides genetic counseling to patients in the Family Cancer Assessment Clinic and the research-oriented High Risk Breast Cancer Clinic. She also provides counseling for two National Institutes of Health-funded studies. For one study, she discusses familial colorectal cancer risk with individuals by telephone in rural Utah and Idaho to assess effectiveness of telephone intervention versus written risk information in encouraging individuals to pursue colonoscopy. In the other, she provides hereditary breast and ovarian cancer counseling to women in rural Utah both by phone and in-person to assess equivalency. Her main research interests include hereditary breast cancer and provision of genetic counseling through alternative modes for individuals with limited access to genetic counseling centers.

Kinley Garfield, MS, CGC

Kinley Garfield, MS, CGC

Genetic Counselor

Kinley Garfield is a board-certified genetic counselor with a master’s degree in genetic counseling from the University of Utah, and a bachelor’s degree in biology from the same university. Prior to her graduate training, she was a member of the Mary Beckerle lab at Huntsman Cancer Institute, where she assisted in cancer research with genetic-based experiments in fruit flies. While completing her master’s degree, she completed a fellowship with the Utah Regional Leadership Education in Neurodevelopmental Disabilities (URLEND) program, which included extensive clinical, leadership, and didactic experiences focused on maternal and child health. She worked as a genetic counselor at ARUP Laboratories for a short period before joining Huntsman Cancer Institute as a licensed genetic counselor in 2014. She also provides genetic counseling to participants in the Pediatric BioBank study, which is aimed at improving the understanding of cancer genetics, as well as the treatment, and prevention of childhood cancer. Ms. Garfield’s primary area of interest is in the field of pediatric oncology, particularly in the role that genetics play in the development of childhood cancer.

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.

Wendy Kohlmann, MS, CGC

Wendy Kohlmann, MS, CGC

Genetic Counselor

Wendy Kohlmann is a board-certified genetic counselor with a master’s degree in genetic counseling from the University of Cincinnati and a bachelor’s degree in zoology from the University of Wisconsin. She has worked as a genetic counselor at the University of Texas-M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston and the University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center in Ann Arbor. She began working at Huntsman Cancer Institute as a research associate in 2006. Wendy Kohlmann’s research interests include the inherited basis of melanoma and pancreatic cancer, psychosocial and behavioral outcomes of genetic counseling, and issues for children and adolescents with hereditary cancer syndromes.

Cathryn Koptiuch, MS, CGC

Cathryn Koptiuch, MS, CGC

Genetic Counselor

Cathryn Koptiuch is a board-certified genetic counselor with a master’s degree in Human Genetics from Sarah Lawrence College and a bachelor’s degree in Biological Sciences from the University of Vermont. Prior to her graduate training, she was a member of the Langevin Lab at the University of Vermont as well as at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, where she assisted translational research on lower back pain and connective tissue as a clinical coordinator and technical assistant. While completing her master’s degree, she completed a Leadership Education in Neurodevelopmental Disabilities (LEND) fellowship with the Rose F. Kennedy University Center for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities Children’s Evaluation and Rehabilitation Center at Albert Einstein College of Medicine, which included extensive clinical, leadership and didactic experiences focused largely on Autism Spectrum Disorder. She began working at Huntsman Cancer Institute in the Family Assessment Clinic in June 2015.

Callee LaPlant

Callee LaPlant

Clinical Research Coordinator

Callee LaPlant holds a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology and a Master’s degree in Social Work. She has a background in substance abuse therapy, suicide prevention, and crisis work in various community mental health settings. Her professional interests include patient advocacy and community health and research. Callee has worked for the University of Utah since 2016 and joined the Schiffman Lab in 2019 as a Clinical Research Coordinator (CRC). As a CRC for the lab, Callee works with patients wishing to provide samples for research. She also works with the Population Sciences Trials Office at HCI, coordinating various research studies.

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.

Anne Naumer, MS, CGC

Anne Naumer, MS, CGC

Genetic Counselor

Anne Naumer is a board-certified genetic counselor with a master’s degree in genetic counseling from University of Colorado at Denver Health Sciences Center. She received her bachelor’s degree from the University of Colorado at Boulder Biology and Psychology.  She worked as a cancer genetic counselor at Fox Chase Cancer Center in Philadelphia and Saint Luke’s Hospital in Kansas City before moving to Utah in 2008.  She joined the Schiffman lab in 2009 and helped develop the Cancer Genetics Study.  She continues to work with the genetic counselors and study coordinators to improve and expand enrollment in the Cancer Genetics Study.

Schuyler O’Brien

Schuyler O’Brien

Graduate Student

Schuyler graduated from the University at Albany (SUNY) with a bachelor's degree in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology. He joined the Schiffman lab in 2015 through the University of Utah's Molecular Biology PhD program. His research currently focuses on identifying a hereditary predisposition for Ewing's Sarcoma.

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.

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.

Lynne Whittier

Lynne Whittier

Administrative Assistant

Lynne earned a bachelor’s degree in accounting from Utah State University. She worked in the health care information system industry for twelve years prior to joining the Schiffman Lab. At home, Lynne enjoys spending time with her two daughters, reading, and traveling.

Former Lab Members

Eisuke Arai, MD, PhD

Eisuke Arai, MD, PhD

Visiting Fellow

Marjan Champine, MS, CGC

Marjan Champine, MS, CGC

Kelvin Chang

Kelvin Chang

Lab Manager
Cristina Christenson

Cristina Christenson

Clinical Research Coordinator
Lauren Donovan

Lauren Donovan

Lab Technician
Trent Fowler

Trent Fowler

Lab Manager/Clinical Research Coordinator

Jamie Gardiner

Jamie Gardiner

Graduate Student

Jade Grimmet, MS, CGC

Jade Grimmet, MS, CGC

Genetic Counselor
Xiaomeng Huang, PhD

Xiaomeng Huang, PhD

Postdoctoral Fellow
Janet Jimenez

Janet Jimenez

Study Coordinator
Bella Johnson

Bella Johnson

Schiffman Clinical Research Coordinator Manager
Kiera Jorgensen

Kiera Jorgensen

Undergraduate
Julia Meyer, PhD

Julia Meyer, PhD

Postdoctoral Fellow
Kristina Moore, MT(ASCP)MB

Kristina Moore, MT(ASCP)MB

Graduate Student

Branda Quintana

Branda Quintana

Clinical Research Coordinator
Rosann Robinson

Rosann Robinson

Senior Lab Assistant
Laurie Shepherd

Laurie Shepherd

Administrative Assistant
Laurel Smith

Laurel Smith

Clinical Research Coordinator
Tanner Wright

Tanner Wright

Lab Technician
Erin Young, PhD

Erin Young, PhD

Postdoctoral Fellow