Current Students

Please click a link below to find out more about students currently in the BMS department. Current students, please click the "Useful Student Resources" link for University at Albany and BMS Department resources.

Featured Student Profiles
Student Publications
MPH Internship Commentaries
New Faces of BMS
Useful Student Resources

Featured Student Profiles

William Lainhart

William Lainhart is a doctoral candidate in Dr. Jan Conn's lab (Griffin Labs), a lab that studies the population genetics of Anopheles mosquitoes (vectors of malaria) in Central and South America. William is a third year PhD student in the BDEID fellowship track.

William's doctoral dissertation project is focused on the effects of landscape on neotropical vectors of malaria in Panamá, Perú and Brazil. Over this summer, William traveled to both Perú and Panamá to work with collaborating researchers. In Perú, William worked with Dr. Marta Moreno, a former post-doc in Dr. Conn's lab, and researchers at the Peruvian NGO PRISMA. During his three-week trip, William participated in laboratory work, field collections, study design and data analysis on Dr. Conn's International Centers for Excellence in Malaria Research (ICEMR) grant.

While in Panamá, William worked with Dr. José Loaiza (INDICASAT-AIP), a former student of Dr. Conn. William stayed in Panamá City for five weeks and conducted laboratory work at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute. During this time, he screened nearly 3,500 Anopheles mosquitoes, collected throughout Panama, for infection with Plasmodium.

Devon Fitzgerald

Devon has recently been awarded the 2013 National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship! Devon was chosen as one of the recipients of this fellowship out of 13,000 submitted applications from across the country. This fellowship will provide Devon with stipend and tuition support for 3 years and the opportunity for international research and professional development (3 – 12 months) at a NSF accredited institution. Devon submitted her application, which included a short research proposal, a personal statement and her research history, this past November.

Devon is a member of Dr. Joe Wade’s laboratory, studying non-canonical binding sites for transcription factors in Escherichia coli, to determine if they are functionally important and how they are acting to regulate transcription. These non-canonical binding sites are very common and are found within genes or downstream of genes, and are not associated with any known promoter.

For more information on the NSF Graduate Research Fellowship and how to apply, visit the fellowship program website.

Congratulations Devon!

Kate Simmons

Kate Simmons, a doctoral candidate in Dr. JoEllen Welsh’s lab at the University at Albany Cancer Research Center, was awarded an F31 Pre-doctoral Ruth L. Kirschstein National Research Service Award (NRSA) through the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) at the NIH.

For the past few years, Kate has been conducting her dissertation research on vitamin D. Most are aware that vitamin D is vital for bone and muscle growth and homeostasis, yet vitamin D also plays a crucial role as an immunomodulator. Kate’s doctoral thesis project is focused on evaluating how vitamin D alters the immune environment in mammary epithelial cells through regulation of the immunological protein CD14. Use of vitamin D supplements has increased dramatically over the past ten years yet the effects of vitamin D on the innate immune system in epithelial cells, which are exposed to infectious and inflammatory agents, are poorly defined. Understanding how vitamin D modulates the immune environment through CD14 in mammary epithelial cells will provide insight into how vitamin D status impacts inflammation and infections in barrier epithelial tissues.

The NRSA provides funding for Kate’s stipend and tuition as well as travel funds. Kate plans to attend the American Association of Immunologist meeting this upcoming year where she will present her research findings, receive feedback about her research, and interact with collaborators to advance her research in new exciting directions. Furthermore receipt of this competitive award makes Kate a stronger applicant for subsequent fellowships programs. Kate plans to become a biochemical clinical geneticist and pursue a career in neonatal health and development. Her long-range career goal is to apply her PhD training to applied research in medical genetics. She is intrigued by the concept that vitamins and dietary supplements have the ability to alter gene interactions and biochemical pathways to influence disease outcome.

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Student Publications

Richard P Bonocora, Devon M Fitzgerald, Anne M Stringer and Joseph T Wade. 2013. Non-canonical protein-DNA interactions identified by ChIP are not artifacts. BMC Genomics 14: 254. (PDF) (HTML)

Indrajit Lahiri, Purba Mukherjee and Janice Pata. 2013. Kinetic characterization of exonuclease-deficient Staphylococcus aureus PolC, a C-family replicative DNA polymerase. PLoS ONE 8(5): e63489. (PDF) (HTML)

Sascha N McKeon, Carl D Schlichting, Marinete M Povoa and Jan E Conn. 2013. Ecological suitability and spatial distribution of five Anopheles species in Amazonian Brazil. Am J Trop Med Hyg 88(6): 1079-1086. (PDF) (HTML)

Luz S Buitrago, Helena L Brochero, Sascha N McKeon, William Lainhart, Jan E Conn. 2013. First published record of urban malaria in Puerto Gaitán, Meta, Colombia. Memórias do Instituto Oswaldo Cruz. (PDF) (HTML)

Purba Mukherjee, Indrajit Lahiri and Janice D. Pata. 2013. Human polymerase kappa uses a template-slippage deletion mechanism, but can realign the slipped strands to favour base substitution mutations over deletions. Nucleic Acids Research. (PDF) (HTML)

Jenni K Risler, Alison E Kenny, Ryan J Palumbo, Eric R Gamache and M Joan Curcio. 2012. Host co-factors of the retrovirus-like transposon Ty1. Mobile DNA 3: 12. (PDF) (HTML)

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MPH Internship Commentaries

Lindsey Zehr

Internship Title: Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis (IPF): A comprehensive evaluation of disease pathophysiology, biomedical research, and clinical observation
Internship Mentor: R. Matthew Kottmann, MD, University of Rochester
Summary: Idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF) is a progressive scarring disorder of the lungs that is characterized by the proliferation of interstitial fibroblasts and deposition of extracellular matrix. IPF is a serious and ultimately fatal disease with most patients living only 3-5 years after their diagnosis. The pathogenesis of IPF is variable and depends on certain individual factors such as genetic predisposition and environmental exposures. However, certain molecular drivers have been identified in disease pathogenesis. At this time there are limited therapeutic agents available for treating this devastating disease and there is no cure. This internship took place under the guidance of Dr. Kottmann, a pulmonologist and researcher at the University of Rochester. Dr. Kottmann is currently investigating the molecular mechanisms involved in the activation of the TGF-β (transforming growth factor) pathway. TGF-β is a cytokine responsible for inducing the differentiation of fibroblasts to myofibroblasts, scar forming cells that are responsible for the generation of extracellular matrix. Myofibroblasts are considered to be an important determinant in the etiology of fibrosis and inhibiting myofibroblast differentiation has become an important target for therapy. In order to better understand this process we collected biological samples from study participants as part of an observational study. These samples are currently undergoing metabolomic analysis. By defining the metabolic profile of IPF we can postulate which pathways may be dysregulated and are thus contributing to disease progression. The data generated from this will present novel opportunities for pharmaceutical therapy that can increase the life expectancy of patients with IPF and ultimately lead to a cure. I also participated in in vitro laboratory research investigating protein expression of pro-fibrotic lung tissue and observed IPF clinic patient visits at the U of R as part of a clinical shadowing component. This internship allowed me to experience how biomedical research and observational studies are conducted in a fast-paced, dynamic medical setting.

Marcy Mullen

Internship Title: Newborn Screening Quality Improvement: Case Management and Hospital Education - Phase V
Internship Mentors: Kathleen Fiato, Beth Vogel and Joseph Orsini
Summary: My summer internship took place within the Department of Health- Newborn Screening Follow-Up Unit which is housed in the Biggs Laboratory within the Wadsworth Center at the Empire State Plaza and my goal was to improve the quality of the newborn screens that are received by the laboratory. As of August 20th, the Newborn Screening Lab had received 158,354 specimens for screening, but 3,952 (2.5%) of which were unsuitable for testing, primarily due to poor collection technique. My role was to identify hospitals with a high number of unsuitable specimens and work with them to provide additional resources and address educational concerns in order to help them improve their rates. My focus involved direct, daily communication with several of these target hospitals by providing early notification of an unsuitable specimen, information regarding the error rate of a specific specimen collector, photographs of unsuitable specimens, or any further assistance or educational resources that they requested.

The primary issue with an unsuitable specimen is that by the time it is collected, dried, mailed (overnight), received by the lab and analyzed for validity, the turnaround time is 2-3 days. With the exception of those babies admitted to the NICU, most infants are discharged within 2-3 days of birth and thus, no longer available for an immediate repeat collection. It then becomes the birth hospital or attendant’s legal responsibility to contact the parent and have her/him bring the baby to their pediatrician, or the hospital, to be retested. Although the majority of initial unsuitable specimens are resubmitted successfully, many are invalid a second or subsequent time or the infant is lost to follow-up after discharge. The easiest and most efficient way to avoid having to deal with the issues surrounding an unsuitable specimen is to ensure the validity of the initial sample.

In addition, my responsibilities included working with the other members of the follow-up unit by performing individual case reviews and assessments, reporting and documenting communication with hospitals and pediatrician offices, providing outreach and education for newborn coordinators and working cooperatively to help resolve collection and unsuitability issues.

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New Faces of BMS

Below are the "New Faces of BMS" pamphlets. These pamphlets were created to introduce all of the incoming students to the faculty, staff and current students.

Incoming class of 2011
Incoming class of 2012
Incoming class of 2013
Incoming class of 2014 photo directory

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Useful Student Resources

University at Albany Resources

Academic Calendar
UAlbany Graduate Student Association
UAlbany Handbook
SPH Graduate Student Handbook 2013-2014
Graduate Bulletin
ARES - Electronic Reserve
UAlbany Mail
Student Financial Center
Disability Resource Center
Reasonable Accommodation Policy
Other Useful Resources

BMS Department Resources