The Sammons Lab - RNA Institute Spotlight

Sammons Lab


The Sammons Lab

morgan sammons

The Sammons Lab is led by Dr. Morgan Sammons, Assistant Professor of Biological Sciences at the University at Albany and Associate Faculty member of the RNA Institute. Dr. Sammons received his PhD from Vanderbilt University and came to the University at Albany in 2016 after a postdoc at the University of Pennsylvania. He has been a member of the RNA Institute since 2019.

Dr. Sammons was recently recognized as an outstanding nominee for the Faculty & Student Engagement Torch Award which celebrates transformational undergraduate teaching. When you look at his lab page, this is evident in the number of past and present undergrads working in his lab. 

Research in the Lab

The Sammons Lab studies the p53 family of transcription factors. This transcription factor family controls a number of critical organismal behaviors, including tumor suppression, epithelial differentiation, and control of cilia production.

“We are interested in how seemingly similar proteins generate incredibly diverse transcriptional and cellular outcomes” - Dr. Sammons.

Last summer the National Institutes of Health and the National Institute of General Medical Sciences awarded Dr. Sammons an R35 MIRA Award for 5 years to go along with his R15 AREA award from the same institute. The project investigates key genetic and biochemical features of the transcriptional response to cell stress, with a specific focus on how the stress response is encoded in the genome and epigenome.

Highlighting Members of the Sammons Lab


Gaby Baniulyte, Postdoc

Lab member since: June 2021


Project Name: The rules of promoter – enhancer architecture in p53-mediated gene regulation.

Briefly Describe your project: We are interested in understanding the molecular basis of spatially and temporally controlled gene expression by p53-family transcription factors. Specifically, how genetic elements and additional transcription factors are organized at the enhancer region to activate genes in a cell type- and time-specific manner?

The first few weeks in the lab have been very refreshing. It’s exciting to know that Morgan is very open to utilizing the newest technologies in the lab and has been very supportive with my research interests and providing me with an opportunity to learn bioinformatics. - Gaby Baniulyte

Hobbies: experimenting in the kitchen, growing avocado trees and other plants.

Follow Gaby: @G_Baniulyte (Twitter)

Dana Woodstock

Dana Woodstock, PhD Student and RNA Fellow

Lab member since: 2019


Project name: Identification of the mechanisms of pro-apoptotic p53 family isoforms 

Briefly describe project: The goal of my project is to determine the p53 family isoforms that participate in shared proapoptotic functions and identify the regions that lead to their unique functions, focusing primarily on the vast phenotypic differences between p63 isoforms.

Being a PhD student in the Sammons lab is an experience like no other. We learn a variety of techniques and science that prepares us to excel in our field as future scientists. Morgan and the lab members are friendly, intelligent and always willing to share their expertise. I am glad to be part of such a team-oriented and knowledgeable lab. - Dana Woodstock

Dana has been awarded the NGMS T32 RNA Technology Training Grant. She recently published a first author review paper in Frontiers in Cell and Developmental Biology  - p63 and p53: collaborative partners or dueling rivals?


Serene Durham, PhD Student and RNA Fellow

Lab member since: 2017

Project Name: Parallel transcriptional networks controlling a cellular response to stress

Briefly Describe your project: My research focuses on deconvoluting the varied transcriptional response to distinct stress signals in an attempt to define the regulatory strategies leading to gene activation after cell stress. We have found that distinct stress-dependent networks are converging at activation of a common set of target genes.
I truly could not ask for a better mentor than Morgan! It is a pleasure to come to work every day and collaborate with such a passionate and motivated group. - Serene Durham

Hobbies: Spoiling my dogs, anything outdoors!


Jhos Dufflart, PhD Student

Lab member since: Spring 2021


Project Name: Examining natural genetic variation in p53 responses

Briefly Describe your project: I am investigating how genetic variation in DNA regulatory regions affect the ability of p53 and other stress-dependent factors to activate transcription of RNA.

Working in the Sammons lab has allowed me to continue my growth as a scientist. Morgan allows me to work independently but is always available to talk about any crazy idea that pops into my head. - Jhos Dufflart

Hobbies: Video games, watching sports, hiking/running, and watching YouTube videos


Abby McCann, PhD Student

Lab member since: Spring 2021


Project Name: p53 Family Isoforms

Briefly Describe your project: Currently I am building and validating a collection of tools that will allow us to survey the activity of all 29 different p53, p63 and p73 isoforms.

Morgan is a great PI and teacher and is always up for discussing science. Everyone in the Sammons lab is super supportive and fun to be around! - Abby McCann


Kate Sazon, Undergraduate Student

Lab member since: Fall 2018


Project Name: p53 Activity at Intragenic Enhancers

Briefly Describe your project: My project focuses on understanding what role intragenic enhancers play in the transcriptome. By understanding how these unique enhancers work and their role will allow us to further appreciate the intricacy of gene expression and possible reannotate our current model to create a more accurate representation.

I have been a part of the Sammons lab since my freshman year at UAlbany. It’s been amazing to see the lab grow from just a couple of us to the larger team we have today. I can’t wait to collaborate with my lab mates on fun and exciting experiments. - Kate Sazon

Hobbies: EMT, Hiking, Road trips

Dan Koskas

Dan Koskas, Undergraduate Student

Lab member since: January 2021


Project Name: Proximity Labeling of P53 Bound Enhancer Elements

Briefly Describe your project: My project focuses on using proximity labeling via APEX2 biotinylation to identify proteins that interact with P53 bound enhancer sites across the genome.

My time in the Sammons lab has taught me that a big part of science is making mistakes and finding new and intuitive ways to overcome them in the future. - Dan Koskas

Hobbies: Published author that enjoys going on hikes, skateboarding, and playing video games. 

Recent Publications

p63 and p53: collaborative partners or dueling rivals? Dana L. Woodstock, Morgan A. Sammons, and Martin Fischer. Frontiers in Cell and Developmental Biology.· June 14, 2021

Tumor suppressor p53: from engaging DNA to target gene regulation. Morgan A Sammons, Thuy-Ai T Nguyen, Simon S McDade, Martin Fischer. Nucleic Acids Research · September 18, 2020

Locally acting transcription factors regulate p53-dependent cis-regulatory element activity. Allison N Catizone, Gizem Karsli Uzunbas, Petra Celadova, Sylvia Kuang, Daniel Bose, Morgan A Sammons. Nucleic Acids Research · May 07, 2020

Control of p53-dependent transcription and enhancer activity by the p53 family member p63. Gizem Karsli Uzunbas, Faraz Ahmed, Morgan A. Sammons. Journal of Biological Chemistry. July 5, 2019


Follow the Sammons Lab

Twitter: @SammonsLab (highly recommended!)