O'Connell Lab, Department of Pathology
Cindy Barba is from Murrieta, California and she moved to Utah to pursue her Ph.D in Cancer immunology. Her favorite things about Utah are the work/life balance and the expectation that students have hobbies outside of the lab. Cindy hopes to become a professor and focus on teaching after she completes her degree. After work, Cindy enjoys hand lettering and painting.
Troy "TK" Coody
Hughes Lab, Department of Biochemistry
I grew up in Colorado and then decided I loved the mountain west too much to leave so I decided to come to Utah. I have a passion for studying mitochondrial biology and metabolism. In my spare time I love hiking and going to the gym. SACNAS has become a second family and great way to help support and foster an inclusive community within the graduate community where everyone can thrive.
Douglass Lab, Department of Neurobiology & Anatomy
Ariadne ("Ari") Penalva is originally from Mexico, and moved to the US to pursue a high school degree in Phillips Exeter Academy in Boston and later an undergraduate degree in both Biochemistry and Psychology at Cornell College, Iowa. She is currently pursuing her Ph.D in Neuroscience in Adam Douglass's lab, where she is exploring the relationship between neural circuits and behavior using a novel fish species. Outside the lab she enjoys hiking, musicals, terrible movies, D&D, and making new podcasts.
O'Connell Lab, Department of Pathology
I am originally from Armenia. I was born and raised in Yerevan, and moved to the USA in 2012 to get my bachelors degree in Biology and further pursue my PhD degree. In 2008, I joined the O'Connell lab where I study the role of miRNAs in Myeloid malignancies, specifically Acute Myeloid Leukemia. Patients with Acute Myeloid Leukemia have a very high rate of mortality and they still need less toxic and more effective drugs, so I am working in understanding how miRNAs can change the disease pathology and try to find new ways of treating the patients.
Tristani-Firouzi Lab, Nora Eccles Harrison Cardiovascular Research and Training Institute (CVRTI)
Originally from Argentina, Natalia is currently a University of Utah postdoc working in understanding the bases for the development of cardiac arrhythmias that present a familiar component. Since her undergrad years, she has been always invested in activities that promote recruitment and improve the retention of underrepresented students in the STEM field. This makes her association with SACNAS a great fit.
Schlegel Lab, Department of Biochemistry
Faith is a proud Indigenous scholar and McNair alum from Wisconsin. She joined the Biosciences Ph.D. Program in Fall 2018. In the Schlegel lab, Faith investigates the role of MCT7 in ketone body metabolism and the role Foxn3 in glucose utilization during fasting. Outside of research, Faith likes to explore new restaurants and trails with friends, as well as connect with the surrounding Indigenous communities.
Gertz Lab, Department of Oncological Sciences
Zannel is originally from St. Lucia, an island in the Eastern Caribbean known for its pristine beaches, luxury resorts, and rich heritage. She currently studies estrogen receptor alpha ligand binding domain mutations in endometrial cancer in the Gertz lab. She endeavors to understand their molecular functions and possibly identify novel therapies for the treatment of these mutations. As a self-proclaimed foodie, Zannel enjoys traveling, hiking and music festivals.
Ducker Lab, Department of Biochemistry
Jesse is originally from Mexico, he earned his B.S. degree in biology at Southwestern Oklahoma State University in 2018. He jointed Ducker Lab and currently studies amino acid metabolism by performing mass spectrometry and CRISPR/Cas9 genetic engineering to understand the fundamental metabolic processes underlying the cellular disease physiology that lead to cancer and diabetes. Outside lab, Jesse loves to travel around the world and get out of his comfort zone. In Utah, he enjoys the outdoors: going hiking, biking, running, and chasing those amazing sunsets to photograph.
Planelles Lab, Department of Pathology
Emily Innis is a third year PhD candidate in the Planelles lab in the Department of Pathology. Emily is passionate about outreach, education, and community building. Holding an officer position in the U of U SACNAS chapter provides ample opportunities to fulfill those interests as well as increase support for diverse populations and connect with the community. Emily is excited to take part in many of the outreach programs and document the SACNAS chapter events while she serves as historian.
Social Media/Web Design
Rutter Lab, Department of Biochemistry
Originally from Georgia, Jordan started his PhD in 2016. In the Rutter lab, he develops new computational tools that speed up discovery in big data experiments and allow users to be able to ask new questions. He then uses these and other tools to probe novel aspects of metabolism and metabolic functionality in cancer. In his free time, Jordan enjoys skiing, climbing, and cooking.
Koun (Kasha) Lim
Outreach Coordinator; Secretary
Minteer Group, Department of Chemistry
I am pursuing a PhD in chemistry with the Minteer group where we develop biological substances to create alternative and renewable energy sources. Outside of lab, I enjoy both indoor and outdoor activities such as camping, hiking, playing video games, and watching movies. I am excited to be a part of SACNAS to reach out to younger generations.
Burrows Lab, Department of Chemistry
Nikki is a third-year Ph.D. candidate in the Burrows lab in the Department of Chemistry. Her work involves nucleic acid chemistry, specifically developing bioanalytical tools in order to sequence modifications in RNA. Nikki is very excited to be a part of SACNAS, as she is passionate about outreach, inclusion, and education. During free time, she loves to be outdoors doing anything from backpacking to playing volleyball to skiing! She can't wait to meet everyone joining SACNAS and is excited to make more connections within our community. Fun fact: She is part Native American, being from the Chippewa Tribe!
Main Campus Event Coordinator
Caron Lab, Department of Biology
Chelsea is originally from California, but a Wisconsinite at heart. Chelsea moved to Utah after completing her bachelor's degree in Wisconsin. She is currently co-mentored by the Caron lab. There, she studies the olfactory system in Drosophila pseudoobscura. Outside of Lab, Chelsea enjoys skiing, hiking, and going to music concerts. Chelsea is excited to be apart of SACNAS and further it’s mission, as she believes that diversity is necessary for growth and strengthens our community.
Deans Lab, Department of Neurobiology and Anatomy
Shubham is originally from India where he completed his undergrad in Genetic Engineering. He moved to Boston in 2017 where he was a Research Intern at Harvard Medical School and then came to Utah to get his Ph.D. in 2018. He joined the Deans Lab where he studies the innervation of Type II spiral ganglion neurons in the mice cochlea. When not in the lab, he enjoys both outdoor and indoor activities such as basketball, hiking, camping, chess, and he is a huge movie buff. Being gregarious in nature, he enjoys talking to people and sharing experiences and being involved in SACNAS provides him with the same.
Science Diversity Program Manager, Bioscience PhD Programs
Having immigrated to this country at a very young age, Jeanette grew up in culturally and socioeconomic diverse Southern California. She graduated with her Bachelor’s in Science degree in Molecular Biology from California State University, Northridge, after which she worked in biotech. She received her Ph.D. from the University of California, San Diego, then worked as a post-doctoral fellow at Stanford University developing zebrafish embryos as a potential research model system for medulloblastoma cancer of the brain. It is Jeanette’s passion to foster and support the potential and success of the next generation of innovative scientists and scientific leaders in an environment and culture where diversity and universal inclusion is the default and not the exception.
Chow Lab, Department of Human Genetics
Clement received his BA from Cornell University in 2003. He completed his Ph.D. in 2008 in the Department of Human Genetics at the University of Michigan, where he worked with Miriam Meisler. Clement completed his postdoctoral training as a co-mentored postdoc with Andy Clark and Mariana Wolfner at Cornell University. While not in the lab, he is wrangling two unruly children.
Roh-Johnson Lab, Department of Biochemistry
Minna is originally from Vancouver, Canada. She earned her Bachelors and Masters degree at Simon Fraser University. She then moved to the United States for her PhD work. At the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, she immersed herself into the beauty of the inner workings of a cell (and college basketball), and spent many glorious hours on the microscope (and at the bar). Completely obsessed with figuring out how cells alter their “skeleton” as cells move, she turned her attention to understanding how this process works in cancer and did her postdoctoral work at Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York and Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, Washington. She started at the University of Utah in January 2018 as an Assistant Professor, still trying to figure out how cells move in different environments. These days, Minna no longer spends a ton of time at the bar, and can be seen chasing around her kids, hiking, eating at local restaurants, and trying not to look completely uncoordinated in taekwondo.
Sigala Lab, Department of Biochemistry
In my lab, we use diverse biochemical, biophysical, and cellular tools to understand the metabolic adaptations that enable Plasmodium malaria parasites to survive and proliferate within human red blood cells. Our goals are to broaden fundamental knowledge of fascinating and divergent parasite biology and to identify and develop new therapeutic strategies to target this dangerous pathogen. My training and expertise are highly interdisciplinary and span multiple areas of mechanistic biochemistry, biophysics, parasite cell biology, and red blood cell metabolism. I am passionate about leveraging my cross-disciplinary training to mentor students to be rigorous, creative, and curiosity-driven science.
Main Campus Faculty Advisor
Whittaker-Brooks Lab, Department of Chemistry
Luisa Whittaker-Brooks is an Assistant Professor of Chemistry at the University of Utah whose research focuses on synthesizing and elucidating the functional properties of well-defined and high-quality organic and inorganic materials for applications in photovoltaics, thermoelectrics, batteries, spintronics, and electronics. Her research also focuses on generating a fundamental understanding of what happens at the interfaces (an aspect that is often overlooked in materials chemistry and physics) of organic-inorganic hybrid materials in order to control charge (spin) injection, transport, manipulation, and detection in devices. Dr. Whittaker-Brooks received her B.S. degree in Analytical Chemistry from the University of Panama. Under a Fulbright Fellowship, she received her M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in Materials Chemistry from the State University of New York at Buffalo. She was a postdoctoral researcher in the Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering at Princeton University. She was the recipient of the 2013 L’Oréal Fellowship for Women in Science Award and the 2015 Marion Milligan Mason Award for Women in the Chemical Sciences administered by the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). Recently, she was named a Scialog and Cottrell Fellow by the Research Corporation for Science Advancement (RCSA), a Talented 12 by C&En news, and a GERA Ovshinsky Energy Fellow by the American Physical Society (APS). She is also the recipient of a Department of Energy Early Career Award.