Mentors & Projects for Research Track Students

This list offers examples of research projects that may be available to RESEARCH TRACK students. 


Peter Arvan, MD, PhD

Lab focus: Protein folding and trafficking in the secretory pathway, with links to diseases (diabetes, or, hypothyroidism).

Experience required: Prior basic science lab experience would be beneficial.

Project description: We are working in cultured cells, and animal models, and in tissues isolated from animal models. Our experiments focus on protein misfolding, including the expression of new mutants linked to human disease, and studying the cell biological behavior of the mutant proteins, and their overall effect on cell health and function.



Daniel Beard, PhD

Lab focus: Cardiovascular physiology, cardiac mechanics and metabolism, etiology of heart failure, regulation of cardiovascular response to exercise.

Experience required: Prior work in a research lab is desirable. Some computing experience would also be useful but not necessary.

Project description: The project is focused on making measurements of cardiovascular response to Valsalva and posture change in human subjects (patients and healthy volunteers) to assess cardiac mechanics and autonomic reflex function.

Lab website:


Jimo Borjigin, PhD

Lab focus: Establishing the electrocardiomatrix (ECM), a new technique invented in the Borjigin lab, as a new tool for clinical diagnosis of cardiovascular diseases (including ischemic stroke).

Experience required: Each student will be trained following their hiring. Dedication, responsibility, and attention to details are traits required for this project.

Project description: Analysis of biomarkers for increased stroke risk. The project will analyze ECG data from both healthy and patients with cardiovascular disorders to identify biomarkers associated with their disorders using the ECM technique. Our immediate goal is to establish the utility of ECM in a planned participation in an ongoing clinical stroke trial.

Lab website:


Christian Burgess, PhD 

Lab focus: The Burgess lab is a systems neuroscience lab studying sleep and feeding behavior. We use neuroanatomy, optogenetics, and calcium imaging to map the circuitry that underlies non-homeostatic feeding and sleep-wake architecture in mice.

Experience required: Neuroscience course work, undergraduate research experience

Project description: Potential projects, investigating links between lateral hypothalamic feeding centers and reward circuitry in the brain as it relates to food consumption. Investigating neurons that drive sleep and arousal in the context of healthy and disordered sleep. 

Lab website:


Brian Carlson, PhD

Lab focus: In my lab we have two ongoing projects: 1) Patient-specific computational modeling of the cardiovascular system in health and heart failure using traditional clinical measures 2) Electrophysiology modeling of induced-pluripotent stem cell derived cardiomyocytes as a platform for drug testing.

Experience required: Some coding in Matlab would be helpful but not necessary.

Project description: With limited coding and math experience a student could gather retrospective clinical data on a specific type of heart failure (example; Pulmonary hypertension) and utilizing our existing analysis workflow generate a deep-phenotyping profile f that type of HF. With more coding and math experience a student could tune and/or modify an existing model of an induced stem cell derived cardiomyocyte to experimental data from my collaborators in Madison or at George Washington University.

Lab website:


Eugene Chen, PhD

Lab focus: Discover novel genes for cardiovascular disease and study the mechanism of action as well as develop potential therapy.

Experience required: Basic molecular biology experience.

Project description:  Atherosclerosis remains the primary cause underlying cardiovascular diseases (CVD)-related death. Epigenetic modifications are recognized as a crucial link between intrinsic genetic alteration and extrinsic risk factors linked to CVD. We have ongoing studies on how epigenetic modifications respond to environmental changes and drive vascular smooth muscle cell dysfunction in atherogenesis. Looking forward to meeting any potential students to discuss our research projects in person.

Lab website:


Patrice Fort, PhD, MS

Lab focus: Our lab focuses on understanding the pathological mechanisms of neurodegenerative and neuroinflammatory diseases using multi-omics analysis. Our goal is to identify novel biomarkers and potential therapeutic targets in order to develop potential strategies to treat these diseases.

Experience required: None specified

Project description: One of our projects involves using transgenic animal models and viral vectors to test the therapeutic potential of a functionally enhanced mutant of the chaperone protein alphaA-crystallin to increase neurosurvival and reduce neuroinflammation in an acute model of neurodegeneration.

Lab website:


Gregory Gage, PhD

Lab focus: Our lab specializes in making neuroscience accessible to students of all ages. We focus on developing DIY neuroscience experiments to teach students about the brain's function and structure. We leverage simple yet effective tools to demonstrate complex neuroscience principles, making the field approachable and engaging. Our projects involve human and invertebrate electrophysiology.

Experience required: Basic understanding of neuroscience or biology is preferred. We value curiosity and a willingness to engage in hands-on, experimental learning.

Project description: Potential projects will involve the development and testing of a new set of experiments to illustrate neural activity. A current interest is to develop robust experiments recording from the nervous system of marine invertebrates (Fiddler crabs) for use in graduate level courses. The aim is to create experiments that can also be easily replicated in high school or undergraduate settings.

Lab website:


Kurt Hankenson, DVM, PhD

Lab focus: Our laboratory studies bone formation. Our goal is to utilize basic science discoveries to inform new clinical treatments for bone regeneration. We integrate cell and molecular biological techniques with system-wide studies in animal models, particularly genetically modified mice, to understand mechanisms regulating bone formation and regen-eration. We are particularly focused on understanding how mesenchymal progenitor cells, differentiates to become either cartilage forming chondrocytes or bone forming osteoblasts.
Experience required: Basic laboratory experience with cellular and molecular biological techniques, and/or experience with mouse models, including histological analysis of tissues is desired.

Project description: Two active projects in the laboratory - funded by the NIH - are focused on Notch signaling and Wnt signaling. For the Notch signaling project we are studying the role of the Jagged-1 ligand in bone healing using mice that have a floxed allele for Jagged-1 and studying the intersection of Notch signaling with Bone Morphogenetic Protein (BMP) signaling. For the Wnt signaling project, we are using mice with a R-spondin-2 (a Wnt agonist) floxed allele, and are perturbing Rspo2 expression in vivo during bone regeneration.

Lab website:


Todd Herron, PhD

Lab focus: My research is focused on regenerative medicine using human induced pluripotent stem cells. We derive new stem cell lines from patient blood samples and have generated cryobanks of human stem cells. In one project we focus on cardiac regeneration using stem cells to produce sufficient amounts of heart muscle cells for in vitro studies and for in vivo delivery to repair broken hearts. In another project we are creating human pancreas cells and tissues for diabetes research and cell replacement therapy approaches. In my laboratory students learn skills related to stem cell culture, cell manufacturing and human bioengineering of organs in vitro.

Experience required: None specified

Project description: In one potential project students will participate in generating, utilizing and validating artificial intelligence based human stem cell processing and cellular differentiation. We aim to streamline cell processing using AI image recognition of specific cell types combined with lazer mediated ablation of unwanted cells. In addition to creating AI for cardiac differentiation, students will also have the opportunity to apply similar approaches to pancreatic cell production. In each project students will validate cell processing by careful examination of cellular physiology, structure and function.

Lab website:


Megan Killian, PhD

Lab focus: We study the mechanisms of growth, adaptation, and remodeling of connective tissues such as tendon, enthesis, muscle and how loading of connective tissues regulates shape and remodeling of the bone. The goal of our research is to prevent connective tissue injuries, such as Achilles tendon rupture and enthesopathy, as well as improve healing.

The primary tools we use in the laboratory include (but not limited to):

  • in vivo mouse and rat models (including transgenic strains and tendon/joint injury models)
  • optogenetics for controlling skeletal muscle contraction in vivo
  • histology and microscopy
  • human and mouse cell and tissue culture
  • microphysiological systems including tendon microtissue tugs (e.g., TenTugs)
  • molecular biology techniques, including immunohistochemistry, western blots and protein assays, and gene expression (qPCR and RNAseq)
  • mechanical and functional characterization of connective tissues (including uniaxial tensile tests of tendon and contractility measurements of skeletal muscle)
  • advanced imaging techniques such as microcomputed tomography

Experience required: The primary roles and responsibilities of all members in the laboratory are to:

  • actively contribute to work related to funded projects and PI-led pilot projects in the lab;
  • engage and collaborate with your peers in the laboratory in a professional and respectful manner;
  • conduct research following safe practices in the laboratory and be mindful of the health and wellbeing of those around you;
  • contribute to laboratory-based chores and tasks and help others;
  • develop foundational knowledge and competencies, based on relevant peer-reviewed literature, related to your research project(s);
  • communicate with your mentors and peers clearly, kindly, and often, making sure to ask for what you need and also help to address their needs;
  • design and/or execute experiments with guidance from your PI and peer mentors;
  • collect, analyze, store, and manage data in responsible, transparent, and efficient ways;
  • develop competencies in time management and project management related to your research and collaborations;
  • present findings, challenges, and results as well as discuss ongoing projects in weekly lab meetings;
  • give constructive feedback to others;
  • openly share and teach your expertise to others in the laboratory;
  • answer questions, provide support, and help others in need so everyone can grow and develop regardless of level or position.
  • lead research projects and their dissemination, including scientific writing of conference abstracts, manuscripts, revisions to manuscripts, and research proposals (intermediate to advanced stage)
  • present your thesis research (e.g., at local, national, and international conferences);
  • write and contribute to manuscripts for peer review;
  • write, seek feedback on, revise, submit, and defend a body of research that is your thesis.

 Project description: We use in vivo and in vitro models to study tendon development and disease and will tailor research projects to align with the goals and interests of the student.

Lab website:


Lisa Larkin, PhD

Lab focus: End-stage organ failure or tissue loss is one of the most devastating and costly problems in medicine. Limitations associated with tissue donation such as tissue availability, donor site morbidity, and immune rejection has led investigators to develop strategies to engineer tissue for replacement. The creation of engineered musculoskeletal tissues will not only restore the function of complex tissues such as muscle, tendon, ligament, bone and nerve following traumatic injury, but can also be used as a model for studying developmental biology and tissue level pharmacology. Dr. Larkin directs a laboratory the Skeletal Tissue Engineering Laboratory (STEL) at the University of Michigan that has developed a scaffold-less method to engineer three-dimensional (3D) muscle, nerve conduit, tendon, bone and ligament constructs from primary, bone marrow stromal cells (BMSCs) and adipose stem cells (ASCs). The research aims of STEL are to fabricate 3D musculoskeletal tissues, interface the tissues and evaluate the structural and histological characteristics, implant the tissues in vivo to expose them to the actual mechanical and biochemical environments of a hindlimb, evaluate alterations in the structural, functional and histological characteristics of the tissues in response to strain-shielded and unshielded mechanical environments, and utilize the engineered tissues for tissue repair and replacement.

Experience required: None specified

Project description: The project will be to fabricate skeletal muscle constructs and co-culture them with nerve constructs to create a nerve-muscle co-culture system and to use this system to test perturbations in muscle physiology.

Lab website:


Jun Hee Lee, PhD

Lab focus: We study the relationship between stress, aging, and metabolism, focusing on the following projects: (1) Stress-inducible Sestrins and their role in age- and obesity-associated metabolic pathologies, (2) Biochemical mechanisms underlying physiological functions of Sestrins, (3) Pathogenetic mechanisms of how autophagy is abrogated in human diseases including non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) and movement disorders, (4) Stress-induced protein inclusions and RNA granules, (5) Single cell-level understanding of stress-induced transcriptome changes, and (6) Technology development for single-cell and subcellular studies of spatial transcriptome and proteome.

Experience required: Experiences in molecular, genetic, biochemical, cell biological, physiological, and/or bioinformatic techniques. Strong dedication.

Project description: We have recently developed Seq-Scope, a new ultra-high-resolution spatial single-cell technology (PMID: 34115981). Our team currently focuses on furthering and expanding the technology’s applicability into addressing important biomedical problems. These include (1) improving the throughput of the technique so that maximum transcriptome information could be obtained from a tissue section, (2) expanding the functional applications into spatial proteome, signalome, genome, epigenome, metabolome, and microbiome, (3) working in a collaboratory setting to apply Seq-Scope for various spatial omics projects. In addition to Seq-Scope, we use a variety of tools, including animal models such as mouse and Drosophila, in vitro systems such as cell culture and enzymatic assays, and bioinformatic tools for analyzing transcriptome-level information.

Lab website:


Scott Leiser, PhD

Lab focus: The Leiser lab studies the biology of aging, focusing specifically on how changes in stress response and metabolic pathways can be manipulated to affect the aging process. We utilize a translational approach, using large-scale assays in invertebrate nematodes to develop and test specific hypotheses in mammalian systems, and then using interesting findings in mammals to test hypotheses in worms.

Experience required: Basic molecular biology experience and basic knowledge of genetics.

Project description: One potential project is to develop a screen to identify novel genes involved with increasing resistance to toxic stress. Once identified, the gene would then be tested for a role in promoting health and longevity, and for where it fits in with known stress and longevity pathways.

Lab website:


Peng Li, PhD

Lab focus: Our research delves into the intricate molecular and neuronal mechanisms that harmonize internal states and sensory inputs, orchestrating the regulation of behaviors, focusing specifically on breathing and its interconnected behaviors.

Experience required: Prior experience with mouse handling is preferred.

Project description: 

  1. Characterizing breathing deficiency in epilepsy and related genetic models
  2. Mapping the neural circuits for breathing control
  3. Interaction between breathing and metabolism
  4. Proprioception in breathing related functions. 

Lab website:


Carey Lumeng, PhD

Lab focus: Our lab is interested in adipose tissue biology and the mechanisms by which obesity contributes to metabolic diseases such as type 2 diabetes. We are interested in the function of inflammatory cells such as macrophages and T cells in adipose tissue, how they are shaped with obesity, and how they contribute to metabolic disease. We are also involved in translational research projects that focused on understanding the mechanisms by which different adipose tissue depots function.

Experience required: Molecular biology and cell biology experience is desirable.

Project description: In collaboration with our bariatric surgeons, we have a large collection of cells derived from visceral (abdominal) and subcutaneous adipose tissue. We have identified novel cell types that are specific to each depot that may contribute to the deleterious functions of visceral fat compared to subcutaneous fat. We are investigating how the diversity of cells differ between fat depots and contribute to adipocyte function and formation. Project are available using both mouse, human, and cell culture models to identify mechanisms that contribute to dysfunctional adipose tissue.

Lab website:


Costas Lyssiotis, PhD

Lab focus: The growth of a tumor, just like the growth of a cell or an organism, requires nutrients and a means to convert nutrients into energy and the basic building blocks that support life. These metabolic processes are frequently deregulated in cancer cells to facilitate growth and enable survival. The Lyssiotis laboratory uses a multi-disciplinary approach encompassing methods in chemistry and biology to define how metabolism is rewired in cancer and then to employ this understanding in the design of targeted tumor metabolism-based therapies.

Experience required: None Indicated

Project description: “Metabolic Networks in the Tumor Microenvironment”

The main focus of the MIP Master’s Thesis project(s) will be to explore how the heterogeneous cancer, stromal and immune cell populations in a pancreatic tumor coordinate their metabolism to support the survival and growth of the tumor. This will involve techniques in biochemistry, analytical chemistry and mass spectrometry-based metabolomics using human and murine models of pancreatic cancer.

Members of the Lyssiotis laboratory work in a highly collaborative research environment with leading experts in immunology, pancreatic cancer biology and oncology. Our goal is to motivate and train fellows across disciples to address new and challenging problems in cancer and metabolism.

For more information: @LyssiotisLab (Twitter)

Lab website:


Ormond MacDougald, PhD

Lab focus: We investigate how adipocytes throughout the body develop, function, and interact with other cell types near and afar.

Experience required: Some lab experience is a plus. The most important characteristic is a desire to create new knowledge.

Project description: We have broad interests in adipose tissue physiology including mechanisms underlying lipodystrophy, cool adaptation, Wnt signaling, and functions of bone marrow adipocytes.

Lab website:


Daniel Michele, PhD

Lab focus: Muscles from muscular dystrophy patients and mouse models with mutations in the dystrophin glycoprotein complex also show marked sensitivity to contraction induced injury. This is in part thought to be due to a structural role for the complex in stabilizing the sarcolemma during mechanical stress. Muscle has developed a remarkable ability to repair the sarcolemma after injury, a process that is mediated in part by the protein dysferlin. Dysferlin is mutated in patients with LGMD 2B and Myoshi myopathy. We have developed methodologies to watch the membrane repair pathway activation in real time using live cell microscopy and transgenic mice expressing GFP reporter constructs that show the localization and orientation of dysferlin in the muscle fiber membrane. We are utilizing these mice to study the mechanisms of how the membrane repair pathway is regulating following experimental and physiological muscle injury.

Experience required: Previous cell culture or microscopy experience is a plus.

Project description: We are using live cell microscopy approaches in isolated muscle fibers from mice, and human cell derived engineered muscle tissues to study and compare how muscles repair membrane injuries in skeletal muscle and heart tissues. The project is aimed at studying how repair mechanisms are activated at the wound site, and how injury propagation through fibers or into neighboring coupled cardiac muscle cells temporarily uncouple normal excitation contraction coupling leading to muscle contractile dysfunction.

Lab website:


Sue Moenter, PhD

Lab focus: We study how the central nervous system regulates fertility by examining the neural circuits underlying gonadotropin-releasing hormone secretion.

Experience required: None required as students will be trained. Students must be comfortable with animal research (mouse). Attention to detail, good communication skills, ability to work as part of a group are required. Interested in neuroscience.

Project description: Will depend on students but WILL involve animal work, including sacrificing mice so the student would have to be ok with this.

Lab website:


Dinesh Pal, PhD

Lab focus: The overarching goal of the research in our laboratory is to determine the neural and neurochemical underpinnings of sleep, general anesthesia, and non-ordinary states of consciousness produced by psychedelic agents such as ketamine, nitrous oxide, psilocybin, DMT, and salvinorin-A. Recent work from our lab has demonstrated a role for prefrontal cortex as a key node in the arousal circuitry and provided evidence for a sedative-specific effect of long-term sedation on sleep homeostasis. The ongoing studies in the laboratory are focused on the investigation of psychedelics as potential therapeutic agents for chronic pain and recovery from unconscious states, including general anesthesia and coma. We use electroencephalographic recordings, in vivo neurotransmitter quantification, pharmacological interventions, chemogenetic tools, and a variety of EEG analytic measures to understand the neural changes accompanying different behavioral states.

Experience required: Experience in working with rodents would be helpful.

Project description: A potential project would be to investigate psychedelics to enhance behavioral and cognitive recovery from unconscious states, including general anesthesia and coma.

Lab website:


Scott Pletcher, PhD

Lab focus: Central control of aging in Drosophila

Experience required: None

Project description: Identify mechanisms through which sensory experiences and neural states including fear and hunger modulate aging and health at advanced ages.

Lab website:


William Rainey, PhD

Lab focus: My group researches the cellular, biochemical, and molecular mechanisms that regulate adrenal steroid hormone biosynthesis and applies the findings to human adrenal diseases. Once such disease, Primary Aldosteronism (PA), is the main cause of endocrine hypertension and the most common adrenal disease. My laboratory takes a bench to bedside approach to 1) defining the molecular mechanisms that cause PA, 2) improving diagnostics to facilitate PA screening, and 3) developing the cell and mouse models that improve our understanding of PA.

Experience required: Interested applicants must have at least some research experience.

Project description: Students would take-on research projects that apply genomic and steroid metabolomic approaches to improve the understanding of primary aldosteronism or other adrenal diseases.

Lab website:


Juilee Rege, PhD 

Lab focus: I am a Research Assistant Professor in the Department of Molecular & Integrative Physiology. Our group's research goal is to determine the genetic causes underlying adrenal Cushing syndrome (CS), a common endocrine cause of cardiovascular morbidity. Adrenal CS is caused by autonomous cortisol production in one or both adrenal glands and affects 0.2–2 % of adults. Chronic exposure to endogenous glucocorticoid excess is associated with a cluster of complications including visceral obesity, dyslipidemia, hypertension, diabetes mellitus, osteoporosis, and recurrent infections. Our research adopts both basic and translational approaches utilizing human adrenal tissue, serum and cell lines in order to: (i) define the genetic landscape of adrenal CS, particularly with regard to adrenal somatic mutations that cause cortisol excess; (ii) define serum steroid biomarkers using LC-MS/MS to facilitate adrenal CS subtyping; and (iii) develop cell models that improve our understanding of adrenal CS.

Experience required: Some previous wet bench experience in a basic science research laboratory is required.

Project description: Students would be involved in projects that 1) delineate the genetic causes of PA and CS using molecular biology techniques on patient tissue samples, 2) improve diagnostics to facilitate PA and CS screening using the state-of-the-art liquid chromatography-tandem mass spectrometry to quantify steroids in patient serum, and 3) develop in vitro models that improve our understanding of PA and CS using established adrenocortical cell lines and primary adrenal cells.

Lab website:


Michael Roberts, PhD

Lab focus: Our lab aims to determine the cellular, synaptic, and network mechanisms used by neural circuits in the auditory midbrain and thalamus to extract and encode important features of sounds.

Experience required: none specified

Project description: Our approach combines patch clamp electrophysiology, optogenetics, genetically engineered mice, and viral transduction. Through this work, we seek to identify methods for restoring the function of auditory circuits for individuals with hearing disorders or hearing loss.

Lab website:  


Liangyou Rui, PhD

Lab focus: We are interested in obesity, type 2 diabetes, and liver disease.

Experience required: None specified

Project description: The projects investigate signal transduction pathways, epigenetic reprogramming, and RNA modifications that are involved in disease progression.

Lab website:


Linda Samuelson, PhD

Lab focus: The Samuelson laboratory studies gastrointestinal stem cells in the stomach and intestine. We are defining the signals and cells that regulate stem cell self-renewal, proliferation and differentiation. We are currently studying the Notch signaling pathway and its function in intestinal epithelial homeostasis and regeneration after injury. our studies utilize a variety of modern experimental approaches and take advantage of genetically-engineered mouse models, mouse and human organoids, and human cancer-derived cell lines to understand fundamental mechanisms of gastrointestinal stem cell function.

Experience required: Some prior research experience is desirable but not required. Experience with gene expression studies and tissue histology would be particularly helpful.

Project description: Paneth cells are the key Notch support cells in the intestine. The project focuses on defining the development of the Notch niche during postnatal mouse development associated with maturation of the intestinal stem cell. Gene expression profiling analysis of mouse models with altered Paneth Cell function will be performed to identify molecular mechanisms of niche function.

Lab website:


Thomas Sanderson, PhD 

Lab focus: Research in the Sanderson lab is focused on understanding brain damage caused by ischemic insults during cardiac arrest, ischemic stroke, and neonatal hypoxia/ischemia. Ongoing mechanistic studies are focused on uncovering novel pathologic mechanisms of inner mitochondrial membrane proteins involved in mitochondrial dynamics, quality control, cristae maintenance, and cell death execution. These studies utilize novel cell and small animal models of brain ischemia in transgenic mice to evaluate mitochondrial dysfunction. A second area of focus is the development and clinical translation of neuroprotective therapies that modulate the activity of mitochondria to reduce brain injury. Pre-clinical large animal studies are ongoing to evaluate a novel therapeutic strategy that limits mitochondrial hyperactivity and prevents ROS production following brain ischemia. Ongoing studies supported by the NIH and DoD are focused on investigating the mechanisms of this therapy through continued testing in large animals, along with regulatory testing of human therapy devices that can bring this treatment to the clinic.

Experience required: none specified

Project description:

Lab website:


Elise Savier, PhD

Lab focus: Investigating the neuronal basis of vision.

Experience required: No previous experience required

Project description: Investigating plasticity in the visual system as a result of experience or in disease models.

Lab website:


Yatrik Shah, PhD

Lab focus: The major goal of our research program is to determine the molecular mechanisms by which oxygen sensing transcription factors regulate gastrointestinal homeostasis, inflammation and cancer. Cellular oxygen level is an important systemic signal that modulates metabolic activities and disease in the liver and intestine. Low cellular oxygen also referred to as hypoxia is observed in several gastrointestinal diseases such as non-alcoholic and alcoholic fatty liver disease, inflammatory bowel disease and liver and colon cancers. Regulation of hypoxia-mediated genes is dependent on the nuclear transcription factor, hypoxia inducible factor (HIF). HIF signaling is critical in the adaptive response to low oxygen levels by activating genes involved in metabolism, angiogenesis, cell survival and iron metabolism. Using the latest in mouse transgenic technology we have developed novel animal models to study accurately the role of oxygen sensitive transcription factors in the liver and intestine. These studies have revealed new pathways that have not previously been associated with hypoxia.

Experience required: Will train. Must be willing to work with animals.

Project description: Exploring the role of oxygen signaling in intestinal cancer. With a focus on one of these three projects – (i) The role of hypoxia inducible factor (HIF) in iron metabolism, (ii) The role of intestinal epithelial-elicited inflammation in cancer progression, or (iii) The role of HIF in regulating systemic glucose and lipid metabolism

Lab website:


Susan Shore, PhD

Lab focus: My lab studies processing of auditory information in the cochlear nucleus and higher central auditory structures in normal and noise-damaged systems. Consequences of cochlear damage include neural plasticity changes that induce tinnitus, hyperacusis and auditory processing problems in noisy environments. Methodology includes extracellular recordings, tract tracing, immunocytochemistry and behavioral assessment of tinnitus, hyperacusis and signal detection in noise, and optogenetics.

Experience required: Some lab experience including quantitative analyses is desirable.

Project description: Projects are available in any of the above listed areas depending on the student's background and interest.

Lab website:


Xin Tong, MD, PhD

Lab focus: Transcriptional and post-translational regulation of metabolism during the pathogenesis of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.

Experience required: Animal handling, DNA/RNA/Protein extraction and analysis, maintaining cell lines.

Project description: Establish mouse models with acute deletion of target genes in the liver using liver-specific Cre-controlled gRNA AAV viruses.

Lab website: Not available.


Matthias Truttmann, PhD

Lab focus: The primary focus of our laboratory is determining mechanisms that regulate proteostasis in the context of aging and aging-associated diseases. We are particularly interested in Hsp70 family chaperones and their regulation by post-translational protein modifications (PTMs). We utilize a multidisciplinary approach including molecular biology, genetics, neuroscience, and biochemistry in conjunction with several model systems (C. elegans, mouse models, cell lines, purified proteins) to elucidate the functional consequences of PTM-mediated chaperone regulation. Our overarching goal is to identify and characterize novel mechanisms of proteostasis control which attenuate toxicity in aging-associated disease models to ultimately develop targets for disease-modifying therapies.

Experience required: Each student will be trained following their hiring. Dedication, responsibility, and attention to details are traits required for this project.

Project description: Several projects are available and will be tailored based on the interests of the student. All of them focus on proteostasis regulation, aging and/or nanobody development.

Lab website:


Michael Wang, MD, PhD

Lab focus: Molecular basis of inherited cerebral small vessel disease.

Experience required: A strong desire to learn and flexibility of thinking are the major requirements.

Project description: Use molecular tools to determine effects of mutations and binding proteins on the key proteins linked to small vessel diseases.

Lab website:


Brendon Watson, MD, PhD

Lab focus: Neocortical network dynamics; Basic function in normal brain and role in psychiatric disease

Experience required: none specified

Project description: Exploring neocortical structure-function; cortical networks during sleep and wake cycles; or antidepressant action in mammalian systems.

Lab website: and


Jun Wu, PhD

Lab focus: Obesity is essentially a disorder of energy balance, in which intake exceeds expenditure. The profound health consequences associated with obesity emphasize the importance of developing effective therapeutic interventions. My work focuses on a recently identified form of fat cells, so-called “beige cells.” Genetic manipulations that create more of these fat cells in mice have strong anti-obesity and anti-diabetic effects.

Experience required: Some prior lab experience is preferred.

Project description: Further understanding of beige fat biology is required to determine the role of human beige fat in energy expenditure and its value as a potential target for intervention. The isolation of beige adipocyte opened up a brand new field, we aim to elucidate 1) the molecular regulation of beige fat function, 2) the therapeutic potential of human beige fat and 3) the developmental origin of beige precursors. These ambitious aims will bring together leading laboratories to investigate the function and regulation of this new type of fat cells

Lab website:


Shawn Xu, PhD

Lab focus: We investigate how animals detect and process sensory cues — such as temperature, touch, light and chemicals — and the influence these sensory stimuli have on behavior, and on genetic programs affecting health and longevity.

Experience required: none specified

Project description: Our lab studies sensory biology, including mechanosensation, thermosensation, chemosensation, photosensation and nociception. We focus on: • Sensory transduction: Identifying novel sensory receptors and channels that sense temperature, touch, chemicals and light, and investigating how they regulate sensory signaling and behavior • Sensory processing: Identifying neural circuits and synaptic mechanisms underlying sensory behavior and drug dependence • Sensory regulation of aging and longevity

Lab website:


Lei Yin, PhD

Lab focus: Fibrosis is a common and important pathology associated with progressive chronic liver diseases and underlies the development of cirrhosis and hepatocellular carcinoma. Our lab is interested in the roles of hepatocyte-derived pro-fibrogenic factors in modulating activation of hepatic stellate cells and liver fibrosis. One of the molecular pathways that impact liver fibrosis is via epigenetic regulation by lysine-specific methylation. We are interested in how specific lysine-specific methyl-transferase and demethylase contribute to HSCs activation and liver fibrosis using both genetic and pharmacological tools.

Experience required: Molecular biology (PCR, DNA extraction, RNA extraction), Biochemistry (protein extraction and SDS-PAGE)

Project description: Lysine methylation is one of the most prominent histone posttranslational modifications that regulate chromatin structure. KDM4A protein is a demethylase that targets histone H3 on lysines 9 and 36. Currently, the role of KDM4A in liver fibrosis has not been examined although its expression is found to higher in liver cancer. The project will examine whether KDM4A regulates hepatocyte profibrogenic gene expression and subsequently impacts activation of HSCs. Both gain and loss-of-function approaches will be applied to test the hypothesis.

Lab website: