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Former Research Assistants/Graduate Students

Partial list, started with those leaving 2011 or later


Danilo Macalinao, B.S. Research Assistant ~Next position, Graduate Student at
Gerstner Sloan-Kettering


Danilo Macalinao, B.A. Research Assistant
I joined the John Laboratory as a Research Assistant in 2008 after graduating with a B.A. in Molecular Biology and Biochemistry from Wesleyan University. I have always had an interest in studying diseases.  Work at the John Lab gives me the unique ability to tackle the complex neurodegenerative disease of glaucoma using a set of complementary molecular and clinical approaches. Time spent in the John Lab provides extremely valuable experience relevant to studying human diseases in graduate school - something I plan to pursue in 2011. Currently, I am working on a neurobiology project to understand how changes in different cell types impact retinal ganglion cells in glaucoma. Additionally, I am investigating the effects of genetic context on intraocular pressure and disease in a new mouse model with direct relevance to human glaucoma. The ultimate aim of this project is to better understand molecular pathophysiology through the identification and mechanistic characterization of modifier genes. Outside of work, I enjoy hiking in Acadia National Park, playing golf, and doing musical theater with the local community theater.


Zain Ali, B.S. Research Assistant ~Next position, Graduate Student at Harvard

I am originally from Dhaka, Bangladesh - one of the most densely populated cities in the world - but have spent a lot of the past years of my life moving from one idyllic rural town to the other. At the age of 16, I was selected to attend the United World College of the Atlantic (UWC-AC), a 2 year international boarding school with students from more than 80 different countries in Llantwit Major, Wales. It was arguably the most transformative experience of my adolescence and it instilled in me a desire to apply my knowledge and intellectual passions to the alleviation of human suffering (a desire that is fulfilled through working in a world-class translational research setting like the John Lab). After graduating from UWC-AC, I attended Carleton College (in Northfield, Minnesota) supported by the Davis United World College Scholars Program.  At Carleton, I majored in Biology with a Biochemistry concentration, and was particularly interested in the fields of developmental genetics and the evolution of development.
I have been interested in biology from a young age and realized in college that I really wanted to pursue science as a career. I joined the John Lab primarily to gain much-needed practical lab experience before applying for a Ph.D. program. At college, my theoretical interests were primarily in gene regulation, biology, and animal development - topics that I continue to be interested in and areas I would definitely like to pursue at graduate school. Working in glaucoma research is a big change of pace from the more basic science topics I studied in college but it has already been an eye-opening experience.  In less than two months here, I acquired an appreciation for the immense complexity of the genetics involved in a disease like glaucoma.  I think the most exciting aspect of the research in the John lab. is its ability to bring together such a wide and seemingly disparate range of biological sub-disciplines--from the detailed cell biology of ocular drainage structures to mammalian genetics, immunology, mechanisms of neurodegeneration, the list goes on--in the context of a very specific problem.
The work I am doing is connected to the work of Sai Nair and is related primarily to processes at the "front of the eye" (i.e. mechanisms contributing to elevated intraocular pressure) as opposed to "back of the eye" (neurobiology, mechanisms of retinal ganglion cell death).  I am primarily working on a number of key projects. The first is the characterization of a novel protease identified as a cause of high intraocular pressure and glaucoma glaucoma during a genetic screen. The protease was not  previously characterized in the literature and we are basically starting completely from scratch to discover its downstream targets and biological function, as well as the mechanism by which the mutation leads to glaucoma. It is a very exciting project combining molecular biology, biochemistry and the in vivo characterization of a novel gene. It has given me the opportunity to learn a wide range of new skills and is a very exciting project to be a part of. Beyond this, I am also running mapping crosses to identify loci that conspire to contribute to IOP elevation, another stimulating and rewarding project that is truly teaching me about complex genetic interactions that underlie disease.




Greg Sousa, B.S. Research Assistant  ~Next position, University of Pennsylvania, School of  Veterinary Medicine


I joined the John Laboratory as a Research Assistant in February 2009 after graduating from Bates College with a B.S. in Biology.  During my time at Bates I worked in the laboratory of Nancy W. Kleckner investigating the role of neuropeptide phenylalanine (NPF) in the feeding behavior of the pond snail Helisoma trivolvis.
In the John Lab I have been involved in a number of projects aimed at elucidating the contributions of the classical complement cascade to diseases pathogenesis, understanding the neuroinflammatory processes occurring within the glaucomatous retina and optic nerve, assessing the neuroprotection conferred by the Wallerian degeneration slow gene, and investigating the molecular mechanisms underlying a radiation-based neuroprotection.
During my free time I try to get outside and enjoy the beautiful sights of Mount Desert Island.  I am currently training for the Sugarloaf Marathon taking place this May.  I will be heading off to graduate school for a Ph.D. in Neuroscience in the fall of 2011.



Brianna Caddle, M.S. Graduate Student  ~Next position, Research Assistant III and Student

I was raised in San Diego and graduated from Sonoma State University in California with a B.S. in Molecular Biology and a minor in Chemistry. After graduation, I moved to Maine with the intention of staying for 6 months before discovering a position at the Jackson Laboratory in January of 2004. I Maine and the lab so much I bought a home on Mount Desert Island. I enjoy hiking in Acadia National Park and the mountains are quite literally in the backyard of our lab. During my years of research at the Jackson Lab, I have been exposed to an incredible expanse of cutting edge techniques and areas of research to explore. I spent three years studying cancer and the mechanisms of its development before transitioning to Neurobiology, studying glaucoma and other neurodegenerative diseases.
Through the John Lab, I  obtained a Masters in Biochemistry at the University of Maine, Orono, studying the effects of radiation on Alzheimer’s disease.  I fond working in the John
Lab most rewarding because it is the closest I’ve been to bringing the bench to the bedside.  Simon has successfully brought his research to the medical field by offering possibilities for diagnostic and therapeutic techniques to benefit  patients.


Frances Ding, B.S. Research Assistant ~Presently a  Medical Student at Rowan University School of Osteopathic Medicine


Originally a Jersey girl, I moved to Massachusetts to attend Tufts Univeristy, and graduated with a B.S. in Biopsychology.  During my time at Tufts I worked under Isabel Quadros in the Behavior Core at Tufts Medical School.  It was there I had my first experiences working with mice, some of which came from Jackson Laboratory.  Continuing my journey north, I joined the John Lab in 2011 to gain necessary lab experience and learn about the complex disease, Glaucoma.  Already in my short time here I have come to appreciate how stimulating the John Lab is, particularly in its multi-faceted approach to studying glaucoma.  There is no shortage of techniques to learn, ranging from standard cell biology to phenotyping techniques, such as how to perform IOP readings.
When I arrived I was an inexperienced outdoors-person, but I have quickly come to appreciate the scenery that Acadia National Park has to offer.  



Katharine Harmon, B.A. Research Assistant~Presently Graduate Student at University of Maine

I completed my under
graduate education at Colby College, majoring in molecular biology and biochemistry. While there, I published research with a variety of professors, but I discovered my passion for molecular biology work in the lab of Dr. Joshua Kavaler. The project that led to my thesis dealt with identifying putative targets of transcription factor D-Pax 2 in the model organism Drosophila melanogaster. Within that lab I not only learned valuable techniques and procedures, but I was fortunate enough to find others as enthusiastic about lab science as I was.
I joined the Simon John Lab in October 2010, where I am currently involved with our mutagenesis screen, as well as the flow cytometry work we are pursuing for comparing glaucomatous and non-glaucomatous eyes. I've enjoyed learning new procedures on mice - they're much easier to work with than flies - and the John Lab has awakened a new interest of mine in optics. There is no question that the numerous techniques I've picked up along the way will aid me as a molecular biologist.
As far as location goes, who wou
ldn't want to live next door to Acadia National Park? I love snowshoeing and skating, and in the summer you'll find me kayaking, swimming or hiking the area trails.


Michael Sellarole, B.S. Research Assistant ~Next position, volunteer in a Border Medical Program prior to Med School

I graduated from the University of New Hampshire with a B.S. in Biology.  At UNH I gained laboratory experience in the cognitive psychology lab of Robert Mair.  For my senior project I worked in the plants genetics lab of Subhash Miocha, testing the feasibility of mass-produced barnacle cement proteins in transgenic plants.  I am excited to be in the John Lab because its work spans both neuroscience and genetics.  It has been very interesting learning the basics of colony management, genotyping, and dissection.  The variety of approaches the John Lab employs to study glaucoma is fascinating and I am excited to learn new techniques and begin to focus on specific projects.  
I am a pretty active person and love playing sports in my free time (preferably soccer).  I was not a huge fan of hiking before I moved to MDI, but I have to admit, the awesome trails and views on the island may be converting me.


Catherine Braine, B.S. Research Assistant~Predoctoral Fellow, Columbia University

 I finished my undergraduate degree in Biology at Mount Holyoke College, where I worked in the laboratory of Professor Craig Woodard. There, I investigated the effects of hAPP, hParkin, and Pink1 expression in a Drosophila melanogaster model of Sporadic Inclusion Body Myositis.  This experience whetted my interest in neuroscience, and I was lucky enough to join the John Lab in Spring 2011. Since joining, I have been involved in several projects that investigate the neurodegenerative aspect of glaucoma pathology. My primary projects are aimed at elucidating the role of the complement system in the neuropathology of glaucoma, as well as other neuroinflammatory processes in the optic nerve and retina. In addition to this, I am involved in testing a potential drug therapy that attempts to mediate the detrimental effects of transendothelial migration of monocytes into the optic nerve, as well as streamlining an RNAi therapeutic that may be used to alter gene expression in the drainage structures in the front of the eye.
My experiences in the John Lab have been invaluable to my development as a scientist. Not only have I learned a variety of molecular and physiological techniques, that will serve me well as I begin my PhD, but also I have gained critical thinking skills that are indubitably more invaluable. I have had the opportunity to carry out projects under the mentorship of several incredibly supportive scientists, and under their guidance, I have become adept at generating hypotheses, designing and executing experiments, and analyzing the data I generate.  The lab’s mission to conduct basic research, develop complex genetic models, and then to test clinically relevant and innovative neuroprotective therapies is what I find to be the most inspiring, and what has reinforced my desire to pursue graduate education. Being able to start with a scientific query, determine a molecular interaction relevant to a pathological event, and attempt an intervention, has been the most rewarding part of my experience so far. It allows both my interests in fundamental neuroscience and my passion for practical applications of biomedical research to come full circle, to realize that the work research scientists do has direct humanitarian applications. My time in the John Lab has been formative in my development as a scientist, and I am positive I could have gained this experience nowhere else.



Keith Funkhouser, Summer Student/Intern

I am an undergraduate at UNC-Chapel Hill, majoring in Biostatistics. I worked in the John Laboratory as an intern in the JAX Summer Student Program in 2010, and returned for another summer plus a semester in 2011.
While in the John Laboratory, I have been working on two projects. The first involves identifying glaucoma-relevant genes which have been identified as important across studies in multiple species and disease models. The second project involves analysis of next generation sequencing (NGS) data using a variety of computational tools. Working in close conjunction with those in the wet lab working on the mutagenesis screen, I am responsible for identifying putative causative mutations in our mice. I also analyze sequence data from collaborators who study glaucoma in human families, in order to identify candidate genes for further study.
In my free time, I enjoy Crossfitting and hiking. I plan to pursue a joint M.D./Ph.D. program after graduating.



Margaret Ryan, M.S. Research Assistant~presently @ University of Virginia, Dept of Cell Biology

My scientific journey started at the University of North Carolina, Asheville where I received a B.S. in Chemistry. During my studies in Asheville I worked in an environmental quality laboratory analyzing "real world" samples (i.e. water, food, soil, and paint) for heavy metals such as Lead. Serendipitous events directed me to Bucknell University where I continued my education to the M.S. level in Chemistry. My thesis research involved studies toward improving the use of Cisplatin in cancer treatment. Upon graduation from Bucknell I made a daring move and joined the Cell and Developmental Biology department at UNC-School of Medicine in Chapel Hill, NC. It was a sink or swim kind of arrangement. I guess I know how to swim considering I spent six years there as a Research Technician and gained a wealth of knowledge and experience that has prepared me to work at the Jackson Laboratory (JAX).


I joined the JAX community in 2007 and am proud to be working as a Research Assistant in Simon John's Lab. In addition to my histological responsibilities and mouse colony management, I am active on projects that have me utilizing Laser Capture Microscopy, in situ hybridization, immunohistochemistry, and various other techniques. I am vested in studies to understand how aqueous humor drains from the eye, including cutting edge microscopy techniques to understand the micro-anatomy of the ocular drainage structures. I also contribute to studies to understand early molecular changes in specific cell types during glaucoma. A major perk to working at The Jackson Laboratory is location, location, location. Waking up every morning to ocean breezes and scenic views as well as having Acadia National Park in my backyard is, by my standards, a great way to live.


Nicole Foxworth, B.S. Research Assistant

My interest in research science developed when, as a sophomore at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, I joined a lab. There, I participated in a number of projects including a study of female garter snake (T. sirtalis) mate preference, and surveys of the local turtle populations. From there I moved to the lab of Dr. Elizabeth Jakob, where I helped with ongoing projects studying the behavior and cognitive abilities of jumping spiders (P. audax). During the summer of 2012, I was lucky enough to travel to Indonesia with Operation Wallacea and contribute to their ongoing conservation research and surveys of the local flora and fauna, both on land and in the sea. Upon returning to UMass for my senior year, I began a yearlong thesis project in Dr. Jakob’s lab investigating the ability of P. audax to perceive the distinct movements of an animate object, called biological motion. I graduated in 2013 with a B.S. in Biology, and was fortunate enough to be accepted as a Research Assistant in the John lab beginning in July 2013.  During my first few months in the John lab, I have learned valuable skills from every member of the lab, ranging from dissections and mouse handling, to measuring intraocular pressure using a system designed in the lab. With the guidance of two postdocs, I have been working on interesting projects involving the neurobiology of glaucoma. I continue learning something new every day, and aspire to be more independent – something that is actively encouraged in the lab.  Apart from being in a productive lab, another perk of working at JAX is the location. Living right next to Acadia National Park simply cannot be beat! In my free time I enjoy hiking, rock climbing, volleyball, soccer, swimming, snowboarding, and more. I am certainly looking forward to the rest of my time here, both because of the active community and because of the invaluable opportunity to develop my scientific career at JAX.

 


Zhivka Hristova, B.A., Research Assistant~presently at MSc Student, Cancer Biology, Heidelberg University, DKFZ

I joined the John lab following college in 2013.  Originally from Bulgaria, I came to the US in 2009 to attend college. I obtained my Associate of Science from Cottey College, Missouri, and my Bachelor of Arts in Biochemistry from Mount Holyoke College, Massachusetts.  At Cottey College, I worked on a forensic chemistry project, which enabled me to learn NMR, GC/MS and FTIR techniques. For my honors thesis at Mount Holyoke I studied genetic regulation of fat body remodeling in D. melanogaster. I was interested in learning why the fat body is remodeled during fruit fly metamorphosis while most larval tissues undergo programmed cell death.  Using quantitative PCR, I discovered that one of the pro-apoptotic genes is downregulated specifically in the fat body during remodeling, explaining why this tissue escapes early cell death.  I joined the John Lab a month after my graduation from college. Since joining the lab I have learned colony maintenance, genotyping, sample collection, optic nerve and retina dissection, IOP measurement and other techniques.  I am entrusted with the critical job of producing and maintaining colonies for the IOP and ocular disease screening projects. This work provides the resources for much of the groups future work and will enable important new discoveries. I am excited to contribute to the molecular characterization of mutants that affect IOP and aqueous humor outflow, projects that are expected to take off over the coming year.  In my free time, I enjoy skyping with my family and friends, reading, and watching comedies.



Dan Sunderland  B.A., Research Assistant

I earned a B.A. in Biology with a concentration in neuroscience at Colby College.  While there, I worked in the laboratory of Professor Andrea Tilden, investigating the molecular basis of the circadian clock in crustaceans.  This allowed me to begin exploring neuroscience as a research discipline, and I learned many useful techniques that I continue to use today.  I also completed two independent undergraduate research projects and presented my findings at the Colby Liberal Arts Symposium in 2014: a literature review of the current treatments for viral diseases and their molecular actions, advised by Professor Frank Fekete, and a series of experiments exploring the effects of the heterologous expression of psychrophile cold-shock proteins in Escherichia coli, advised by Associate Professor Ron Peck.  I joined the John Lab in June 2014. My projects concentrated on the aqueous humor outflow pathways in the eye, working closely with Dr. Kizhatil.  I have learned the great value of the mouse model for complex genetics and human disease, as well as many new techniques, through our study of glaucoma.  The climate within the lab is one that fosters growth through collaboration and camaraderie, enabling us to conduct this research effectively and promote innovative new ideas.  I feel that I have grown a great deal as a scientist by working in this lab.  It has prepared me for the rigor of medical school, and a career of pushing the frontier of available treatments.