Former Research Assistants &
Stephen Kneeland, M.S. Research Assistant- next: Project Manager, The Jackson Laboratory, Bar Harbor, ME
I joined the John Laboratory as a Research Assistant in 2007 shortly after graduating from the University of Maine with an M.S. in Wildlife Ecology. In the John Lab, my research is focused on identifying new mouse models of glaucoma with an emphasis on open-angle glaucoma. To obtain these mutants, I manage an ENU-induced mutagenesis screen and use a variety of thorough ocular examination techniques during the screening process. These techniques include measurement of intraocular pressure (IOP), and examination and photography of the anterior chamber, fundus, and optic nerve. In addition to primary open-angle glaucoma, we are also interested in closed-angle glaucoma, pigmentary glaucoma, developmental glaucomas, and anterior segment dysgenesis. These efforts also provide valuable models of other ocular conditions including retinal degeneration and pediatric cataract. One of my projects recently discovered that a gene which is important for RNA granules, including stress granules, results in pediatric cataract and glaucoma. These findings are relevant for susceptibility to IOP due to oxidative stress and for susceptibility to glaucoma following cataract extraction.
Margaret Ryan, M.S. Research Assistant- next: University of Virginia, Department of 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.
Amy Bell, B.S. Research Assistant- next: The Howell Lab, The Jackson Laboratory, Bar Harbor, ME
I have been a Research Assistant in the John Laboratory since 2001. I provide key support for many experiments. My main activities within the lab are measuring intraocular pressure (IOP) and the daily management, supervision and maintenance of our centralized mouse colonies. I have great experience measuring mouse IOP and every week spend two days gathering IOP data for various experiments in the laboratory. This data is important for all areas of our research including mechanisms of IOP elevation, the discovery and characterization of glaucoma models, and complex genetics experiments. The mouse colony work is critical to our research. With a Shared Services Assistant, I develop new strains for current and future experiments. Together, we produce and age quotas of experimental mice to support the experiments of Research Scientists, Postdoctoral Fellows, and other laboratory members. I also help train new lab members in proper mouse room procedures, animal handling procedures, and in IOP measurement.
Zhivka Hristova, B.A., Research Assistant- next: M.Sc. 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.
Nicole Foxworth, B.S. Research Assistant- next traveling the world
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.
Trip Freeburg B.A., Research Assistant- next: Ph.D. Student, University of Pennsylvania, Perelman School of Medicine
I received my undergraduate degree in biology from Oberlin College in northern Ohio. I worked in two labs during my time at Oberlin. My first lab experience was in Dr. Michael Moore's plant systematics lab, where I studied the evolutionary history of gypsum-endemic plants in the Chihuahuan desert. I then moved to the lab of Dr. Maureen Peters, where I completed my thesis project. Dr. Peters studies the genetic basis of a highly stereotyped one-minute digestive motor program in C. elegans. My project focused on the role of the gene ehs-1 in this motor program. After graduating from Oberlin, I was fortunate enough to get a position in the John lab and started my tenure in June of 2014. My primary role is studying factors affecting aqueous humor outflow from the anterior chamber. To this end, the John lab has developed a device that applies pressure to the anterior segment of a dissected mouse eye and measures the resulting outflow. During my time working on this project, I have developed my problem solving and troubleshooting skills as we continue to make improvements to the outflow measurement device. I have also become proficient with the highly precise and technical dissection used to prepare the mouse eye for outflow measurement. In addition to my work on the outflow project, I also maintain a number of mouse strains used in different projects in the lab. I’m certain that the skills I've acquired in the John lab will continue to be useful as my career develops.
I really wasn't a very outdoor-oriented person before I started working at JAX, but that changed quickly when I moved to Bar Harbor. Mount Desert Island, and Maine has almost endless opportunities for outdoor fun. There is so much to explore. During the summer, I go hiking almost every weekend. And I am still finding all sorts of new activities to try.
Dan Sunderland B.A., Research Assistant- next: Medical School, Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine
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.
Tionna Ouellette (Baldwin) B.S., Research Assistant- next: Ph.D. student in neurobiology, Tufts University
In the summer before starting my senior year in High School, I was accepted to participate in a cooperative research opportunity in the engineering department at the University of Maine. Working under Dr. David Nievandt, the focus of the project was to create synthetic model membranes for use in later studies. This led me to study Chemical and Biological Engineering at the University and continue work in the Nievandt lab until my sophomore year. After taking classes in anatomy and biochemistry I realized I was far more interested in genetics as well as biochemical responses to disease in humans, specifically related to sensation and perception. During my senior year I studied cell signaling cascades and pseudo-zinc fingers associated with G-Proteins under Dr. Robert Gundersen using the model organism Dictyostelium discoideum.After graduating from the University of Maine I was accepted into the John Lab as a Research Assistant, and joined the lab July 2014. My primary project is the ENU-induced mutagenesis screen that is central to our mission of developing new models of glaucoma. Focusing on this project has required that I master a number of skills: mouse husbandry, delicate dissection of optic nerves and other tissues, intraocular pressure measurement using a glass microneedle, examine the anterior chamber of the mouse eye using a slit lamp, examining the posterior chamber of the mouse eye using MicronIV / OCT imaging and the use of pattern electroretinography (PERG) to determine retinal function.
My experience at the lab has been instrumental to my development as a scientist and gave me a new perspective on career opportunities. The atmosphere is cooperative and welcoming, with a lab group that is easy to talk to and provides useful feedback. I enjoy learning new technologies and the John Lab has given me opportunities for personal and professional growth that I would not have gotten at any other institution.
Zain Ali, B.S. Research Assistant- next: Ph.D. Student, Harvard University
Frances Ding, B.S. Research Assistant- next: Medical Student, Rowan University School of Osteopathic Medicine
Greg Sousa, B.S. Research Assistant- next: Ph.D. student, University of Pennsylvania, School of Veterinary Medicine
Brynn Cardozo B.A., Research Assistant
As a child my favorite question was '"Why?" I was on a constant exploration of knowledge and my wild tree-climbing ways led me to even more fascinating things, multicolored fungi, the way trees saw in the wind (which I unfortunately discovered at the top of a 100ft pine) and much to my parent's dismay, hundreds of tadpole pets that taught me about the life cycle of frogs. This passion for exploration and knowledge led me to Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) where I studied Biochemistry, delving into the chemical reactions that allow life to function. WPI's project based curriculum provided many opportunities for me to dip my toes into the scientific world. In my senior year I was granted the opportunity to complete my Major Qualifying Project (a senior research project) at the University of Massachusetts School of Medicine in Worcester Massachusetts. There, I worked characterizing and confirming a novel CRISPR/Cas9 quintuple knockout of Alpha-1 Antitrypsin, meant to model a protein deficiency that leads to early onset emphysema, COPD, and in some cases cirrhosis and/or carcinoma of the liver.
I joined the John lab after graduating from WPI, with the desire to expand my knowledge and skill set in the laboratory. In my first month I have already been exposed to new techniques and procedures, as well several different approaches to studying glaucoma that result from the complex nature of the disease. I am excited to continue growing and learning as a scientist, and expanding my knowledge of disease pathways.
The best part is that working JAX results in living in an amazing place. As an avid cyclist the location next to Acadia National Park offers up prime terrain for both road and mounting biking. Additionally, some of my other favorite pass times like hiking and reading next to the ocean are only a quick jaunt away from the lab. I cannot wait to explore the island further and get involved in the active community.
Graham Clark B.A., Research Assistant- next: The Kizhatil/Howell Lab, The Jackson Laboratory, Bar Harbor, ME
I received a B.A. in Biochemistry and Mathematics from Bowdoin College, where I performed research in synthetic organic and organometallic chemistry in Rick Broene’s lab. The subject of my honors thesis was the improvement of a cobalt-based catalyst for olefin synthesis. I greatly enjoyed studying synthetic chemistry, but following graduation from Bowdoin, I decided to change things up and pursue biomedical research in preparation for application to medical school. This led to me joining the John Laboratory as a Research Assistant.
My time at the John Lab so far has been very interesting. I have had the opportunity to learn and employ various techniques that I had not been exposed to in my chemistry background, including physiology, genotyping, immunohistochemical staining, and handling and care of mice. I look forward to learning and contributing more.
I have lived my whole life in Maine, but I have never lived anywhere quite like Mount Desert Island. I love being near Acadia National Park, which allows me to enjoy various outdoor pursuits, including hiking, biking, and running.
Jocelyn Thomas B.A., Research Assistant
Science, and more specifically, life science, has been a passion of mine since an early age. I continued to foster that curiosity as an undergraduate at Colby College where I received my B.A. in Biology. I was also part of the Colby Achievement Program in the Sciences. While at Colby, I had the opportunity to participate in research in several laboratories, with projects ranging from measuring the effects of an acetylcholine rich diet on the development of the hippocampus portion of rat brains, to better understanding the mechanisms how circadian rhythm proteins cause their effects in fiddler crabs. I joined the John Laboratory team a few months after graduating and I have already learned so much during my time here. I have learned a vast array of techniques for both handling and collecting data from the mice we work with. I have also been trained to carryout genotyping, as well as optic nerve dissections. I really enjoy working in the John Laboratory and appreciate the chance to continue to develop my scientific research skills. The latter is something the John lab is invested in doing for their RAs.
When I am not in the lab I am out getting to know Bar Harbor better. Even though I am a native Mainer, I have only been to Bar Harbor a handful of times, but I truly enjoy the outdoors and I look forward to exploring more of this beautiful area.