Ade Adepoju

Olusegun Adepoju (Ade)
Gillaspy Lab

Ade is originally from Nigeria in West Africa where he earned a Bachelors degree in Biochemistry from the University of Lagos, Nigeria. Ade moved to the United States to obtain a Masters in Biology from East Tennessee State University, and is now a Biochemistry PhD candidate in the lab of Dr. Glenda Gillapsy. His research centers around the plant signaling molecules, inositol phosphates, and their connection to energy, metabolism, and stress. When not researching, Ade is an avid chess player and enjoys movies.

Tahmina Ahmed1

Tahmina Ahmed
Zhu Lab

Tahmina is originally from Bangladesh, where she obtained a Bachelors degree in Biochemistry and a Masters in Molecular Biology at the University of Dhaka. Now, Tahmina is a PhD candidate in the Department of Biochemistry in the lab of Dr. Jinsong Zhu. Her research focuses uncovering the molecular mechanism of juvenile hormone (JH) in the development and reproduction in Aedes aegypti mosquitos. Outside of the lab, Tahmina enjoys travelling, teaching, and community service.

Mike Cassasanta

Michael Casasanta
Slade Lab

Michael is originally from Manassas, Virginia and he earned Bachelors degrees in Biology and Biochemistry from Virginia Tech. He currently is in the lab of Dr. Daniel Slade researching host-pathogen interactions important in bacterial infection and invasion. Michael describes his journey below:

“I have been interested in science and biology since childhood when I watched countless hours of nature documentaries with the great Sir David Attenborough, leading to a significant portion of my youth walking around looking for birds. I count one of my greatest achievements as an undergrad as finding and identifying 89 species of birds at the Virginia Tech Duck Pond over the course of a few months. Despite the endless string of heart crushing losses, I am a diehard fan of all things Hokies, Nationals, Capitals, Wizards and DC United.  I believe my passion for disappointing sports teams has prepared me well for a career in science in which failures are inevitable. I'm ready to make a difference in the fight against cancer, and the Slade Lab is a perfect place to do this.”

 

Austin Compton

Austin Compton
Tu Lab

Originally raised in the rural counties of Southwest Virginia, Austin came to Virginia Tech for his undergraduate studies as a transfer student from Virginia Highlands Community College with an Associates Degree in Science. At Virginia Tech, he majored in Biochemistry and graduate in 2013 with his BS. Now as a graduate student, Austin is interested in using novel genetic, bioinformatic, and biochemical approaches to understand sex determination in vector mosquitoes in the Tu Lab. The ultimate goal of his research is to develop a novel vector control strategy to stop the spread of mosquito-borne infectious illnesses. Austin also spends his time going on hikes, working out, and watching the Office.

Caitlin Cridland

Caitlin Cridland
Gillaspy Lab

Caitlin is an international graduate student from Perth, Australia. Her undergraduate degree is a BS in Chemistry from Winthrop University. Now at Virginia Tech, Caitlin's research in the Gillapsy Lab focuses on understanding the complex inositol phosphate signaling pathways in model organism Arabidopsis thaliana in response to variable environmental conditions. Outside of the lab, she enjoy playing tennis, going to the beach and watching her favorite AFL (Australian Rules Football) team, the Brisbane Lions. 

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Darcy Davidson

Darcy Davidson
Lemkul Lab

Darcy is originally from Reston, Virginia and pursued a BS in Biochemistry from Christopher Newport University in Newport News, Virginia. During her research rotation, she found her area of study, Computational Biochemistry, in the Lemkul Lab. In her new lab, Darcy focuses on molecular dynamics of amyloidogenic proteins, and has already submitted a paper for peer review! When not researching in her lab, Darcy likes to spend time outdoors, be with her family, play with her dogs, or dance.

 

Diane Eilerts

Diane Eilerts
Vinauger Lab

Diane comes from the west coast, specifically San Jose, California. She came to Virginia Tech with a BS in Biochemistry from CSU Chino, and a Masters in Chemistry from San Jose State University. In the Vinauger Lab, Diane studies vector-host interactions, including host-seeking mechanisms and circadian rhythms in vector insects. Her hobbies include anything science fiction or fantasy, mystery literature and film, theatre, and cooking. Diane also has two precious cats, Seska and Kylo.

 

Rubayet Elahi 1

AEM Rubayet Elahi
Klemba Lab

Rubayet is originally from Bangladesh where he obtained a Masters in Parasitology from the University of Dhaka in 2011. Now in Dr. Klemba’s lab, Rubayet researches Plasmodium falciparum, the cause of malaria. Outside of the lab, he is a fan of cricket, and enjoys hiking the hilly countryside of Blacksburg, VA.

Xiaonan Fu

Xiaonan Fu
GBCB (Zhu Lab)

Originally from China, Xiaonan obtained a Bachelors degree in Biology from East China Normal University. He is currently working with Dr. Jinsong Zhu focusing on studying the function of microRNAs in mosquitos using AgAgo1 CLASH, and further researching RNA biology in regulation of biological processes. After hours, Xiaonan is interested in rock climbing, travelling, and fishing.

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Bela Khairunisa
Mukhopadhyay Lab (GBCB)

Bela is from Indonesia and earned a Bachelors degree in Biology at the Bandung Institute of Technology (ITB). In Dr. Biswarup Mukhopadhyay's lab, she focuses on redox communication within the bovine rumen microbiome important for feed efficiency. Bela’s research interest is heavily influenced by genomics research and analyzing the data with computational tools. With free time, she enjoys cooking and travelling.

Jing Liang

Jing Liang
Li Lab

Originally from China, Jing earned a Bachelor of Science degree and a Bachelor of Arts degree from Northwest University in China. Her research in Dr. Li’s lab focuses on the structure-function relationship of aromatic amino acid decarboxylase and acetaldehyde synthase, which is important for insect neurotransmitter production and cuticle formation. Outside interest include reading, swimming, painting, and music.

Didier Mena

Didier Mena
Sobrado Lab

Didier came to Virginia Tech from Costa Rica where he earned a Bachelors degree in Biotechnology Engineering at the Costa Rican Institute of Technology. In the Sobrado Lab, his research focuses on the enzymatic and structural characterization of flavoenzymes from pathogens such as Aspergillus fumigatus, Mycobacterium tuberculosis, and Bordetella bronchiseptica. The importance of this research is the use of this knowledge to design specific inhibitors that can be used as chemotherapeutic drugs against these organisms.

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Megan Richardson

Megan Richardson
Zhu Lab

Megan is from Virginia Beach, Virginia and graduated with a Bachelors degree in Biochemistry from Virginia Tech. While at Virginia Tech, she conducted computational research on Type 2 diabetes therapeutics. Megan is now in the lab of Dr. Jinsong Zhu.

Alexa Salsbury

Alexa Salsbury
Lemkul Lab

Alexa is originally from Delta, Ohio and went to undergrad at Eastern Michigan University to earn a B.S. in Biochemistry with Honors. At the Lemkul Lab, her research project applies the CHARMM and Drude force fields to model G-quadruplexes and better understand folding pathways, conformational ensembles, and targeting GQs for drug design. Alex says that, “when I'm away from the computer, I am probably cuddling my dogs or pretending to be athletic by hiking, biking, playing volleyball or basketball. I also love following college and professional sports. Go Hokies!”

Blake Sanders

Blake Sanders
Slade Lab

Blake expertly summarizes his backstory and current research.

“My enthusiasm for science, but most importantly for research, first took root at the small, private liberal arts school of Mars Hill College. Although I began my undergraduate education with a clear, defined purpose of majoring in biology and minoring in pre-professional studies for a career path as a medical doctor, it did not take long after my microbiology course to realize that I had some underlying passion and excitement for what the naked eye could not see. After receiving my BS in Biology, I continued this new-found love for bacteria by following the mountains up to earn my MS in Molecular Biology at Appalachian State University in Boone, NC where I studied the effect of transport systems on biofilm formation in the bacterium Vibrio cholerae. I am excited to be following my passion here at Virginia Tech in the Slade Lab where he wants to make an impact on the microbiology and cancer field. I am a second-year student and my research focuses on studying and characterizing the roles of embedded and secreted outer membrane of Fusobacterium nucleatum in infection, signaling, and disease most importantly colorectal cancer.”

Nazneen Sultana

Nazneen Sultana
Sobrado Lab

Nazneen comes to Virginia Tech from Dhaka, Bangladesh where she obtained a BS and Masters in Microbiology at the University of Dhaka. As part of the Sobrado lab, Nazneen’s research is focused on the enzymatic and structural characterization of flavoenzymes involved in the biosynthetic pathways of different secondary metabolites. Outside of the lab, she likes to travel, cook, jam out to music, and read a good book.

Ariana Umana

Ariana Umana
Slade Lab

Originally from San Jose in Costa Rica, Ariana earned her Bachelors degree in Biotechnology Engineering at Technological Institute of Costa Rica. She says that she discovered her love for research while doing an internship at Virginia Tech.  Ariana focuses her current research on determining and studying the roles of bacterial outer membrane proteins and secreted proteins of Fusobacterium nucleatum in infection, signaling, and inflammatory diseases like colorectal cancer.

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Hannah Valentino

Hannah Valentino
Sobrado Lab

Hannah is a second year graduate student in the Sobrado lab. She is originally from Mexico, New York,
and completed a B.S. degree in biochemistry from the local state university SUNY Oswego in 2016. Her
research focuses on mechanistic and structural characterization of unique flavoenzymes involved in
secondary metabolite pathways. This includes studying flavin dependent monooxygenases involved in
natural product biosynthesis and obtaining insight into the siderophore interacting protein (SIP)
implicated in siderophore recycling in Acinetobacter baumannii. When she is not in the lab, Hannah likes
to enjoy the beautiful scenery by going on hikes, visiting wineries, and exploring the local area. She also
unashamedly binges Netflix and reads for fun after especially long weeks (every week).

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Christopher Yoo

Slade Lab

Chris hails from Potomac, Maryland, and he completed a Bachelor’s degree in Biochemistry from Virginia Tech. As a Masters student in the Slade Lab, Chris studys the role of trimeric autotransporters in the pathogenesis of Fusobacterium nucleatum. When not in the lab, he likes to get outside and enjoy all of the hiking, camping and fishing opportunities that Blacksburg has to offer!