Our People

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DR. LINDA COLUMBUS

Principle Investigator (PI)

Postdoctoral Research: The Scripps Research Institute

Advisors: Kurt Wuthrich and Scott Lesley

PhD: The University of California Los Angeles (2001)

Advisor: Wayne Hubbell

BA, high honors: Smith College (1996)

Advisor: David Bickar

Professor Columbus is interested in understanding membrane biophysics to investigate the structure and dynamics of membrane proteins involved in bacterial pathogenesis.

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DR. MEAGAN BELCHER DUFRISNE

Postdoctoral Fellow

PhD: Physiology, Columbia University (2018)

Advisor: Filippo Mancia

BS: Biochemistry, University of Nevada, Reno (2011)
BA: Mathematics, University of Nevada, Reno (2011)

Meagan’s research aims to identify the molecular determinants of the interactions between Opa proteins and their receptors in vitro, in order to gain a better understanding of bacterial pathogen – host interactions.

DR. CHRISTOPHER BARYIAMES

Postdoctoral Fellow

PhD: Chemistry, Univ. Texas at Austin (2021)

              Advisor: Carlos Baiz

BS: Chemistry, Providence College (2016)

Chris' research focuses on measuring the driving forces that drive lipid-lipid and lipid - protein interactions.

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ETHAN SESCO

Graduate Student

BS: Chemistry with a concentration in medicinal chemistry and drug discovery, Wake Forest University (2020)

Ethan is currently working on the Opa project.

CONNOR McDERMOTT

Graduate Student

BA: French Language and Culture, BS: Biology with a concentration in Physiology and Neurobiology, BS: Chemistry, University of Maryland at College Park (2020)

Connor is currently working on the Opa project.

MATT NECELIS

Graduate Student

BS: Biochemistry, Rowan University (2019)

Matt is currently working on the bicelle project.

Previous Members

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DR. TRACY CALDWELL

Graduate Student

PhD: Biophysics, University of Virginia (2020)

BS: Biophysical Chemistry, James Madison

University (2015)
Current: Pursuing a career in occupational therapy

Tracy's research focused on the conformational dynamics of the membrane enzyme lipoprotein signal peptidase (LspA) using EPR. She also studied the physical properties of low-q bicelles, which are commonly used as membrane mimetics.

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DR. NICOLE SWOPE

Graduate Student

PhD: Chemistry, University of Virginia (2020)

BS: Biochemistry, Saginaw Valley State University (2015)

Current: Research Scientist at Viela Bio 

Nicole's research investigated how lipid interactions influence membrane protein fold and stability within different lipid and detergent systems and the physical properties of these systems. Additionally, Nicole characterized the catalytic mechanism of a putative phosphoglucose isomerase, and contributed significantly to the CEACAM project.

DR. STEVEN KELLER

Graduate Student

PhD: Biophysics, University of Virginia (2019)

BS: Physics, Davidson University (2014)

Current: PostDoc at University of Pennsylvania

Steven was a joint graduate student with Brant Isakson. His research focused on the molecular interactions between alpha-globin and eNOS and the physiological consequences of this interaction.

DR. JASON KUHN

Graduate Student and PostDoc

PhD: Biophysics, University of Virginia (2018)

BS: Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, University of Maryland, Baltimore County (2010)

Current: PostDoc at Oxford Brooks University

Jason research focused on the binding and uptake of Opa proteoliposomes into target cells expressing surface CEACAM receptors. He investigated which cellular uptake mechanisms Opa proteoliposomes engage as well as their intracellular processing following cell entry.  Jason was particularly interested in exploring the potential of Opa proteoliposomes to target delivery to specific cell phenotypes.

DR. JEN MARTIN

Graduate Student and PostDoc

PostDoc: Chemistry, University of Virginia (2016-2019)

PhD: Chemistry, University of Virginia (2016)

BS: Biology, Penn State Berks County (2011)

Current: Assistant Professor at Stockton University

Jen’s research aimed to compare the binding affinity and selectivity of various Opa proteins with their cognate receptors. Additionally, she aimed to identify the molecular determinants of the interactions between Opa proteins and their receptors in vitro, in order to gain a better understanding of bacterial pathogen – host interactions.

DR. MARISSA KIEBER

Graduate Student

PhD: Chemistry, University of Virginia (2018)

BS: Chemistry, University of North Carolina at

Chapel Hill (2012)

Current: Pharmaceutical Sciences Specialist at

Johnson & Johnson

Marissa’s research aimed to determine the loop dynamics of Neisserial Opa proteins and to define the interaction surface of Opa-CEACAM binding using EPR. A low resolution Opa60 –CEACAM1 binding complex was generated using EPR data coupled with computational approaches (in collaboration with the Kasson laboratory).

DR. ASTON BROCK

Graduate Student

Clinical Chemistry Fellow, University of Virginia (2019)

PhD: Chemistry, University of Virginia (2016)

BS: Chemistry, Winthrop University (2011)

Current: Clinical Director of Toxicology/Clinical Mass Spectrometry at Sonora Quest Laboratories / Laboratory Sciences of Arizona

DR. RYAN LO

Graduate Student

PhD: Chemistry, University of Virginia (2014)

BS: Chemistry, Franklin and Marshall College (2009)

Current: Senior Research Scientist at Charles River Laboratories

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DR. RYAN OLIVER

Graduate Student

PostDoc: TR-SAS, Lund University (2019)

PostDoc: Bio-SANS, Oak Ridge National Lab (2018)

PhD: Chemistry, University of Virginia (2013)

MS: Chemistry, University of University of North Carolina (2010)

BS: Chemistry, University of North Carolina (2005)

Current: Research Scientist at Novo Nordisk

DR. DAN FOX

Graduate Student

PhD: Chemistry, University of Virginia (2013)

BS: Chemistry, University of Pittsburgh (2007)

Current: Senior Analytical Chemist at Albemarle Corporation

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DR. BRETT KRONCKE

Graduate Student

PostDoc: Vanderbilt University (2012)

PhD: Chemistry, University of Virginia (2012)

BS: Chemistry, University of Wisconsin-Madison (2007)

Current: Assistant Professor of Medicine and Pharmacology at Vanderbilt University

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DR. ALISON DEWALD

Graduate Student

PhD: Chemistry, University of Virginia (2012)

M.Ed: Educational Psychology, Temple University (2006)

BS: Chemistry, Penn State University (2001)

Current: Associate Professor at Salisbury University

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Spencer Grewe

Graduate Student

BS: Biophysical Chemistry, James Madison

University (2019)

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