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Education / Doctoral & Masters Education / PREP Program / PREP Research Areas & Mentors

Research areas

Virtual Biomedical Research Day

Scholars match with their faculty mentor based on individual research interests. As the mentors come from 12 different departments/divisions at the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine (UC) and the adjacent Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center (CCHMC), individual PREP Scholars can choose from a wide array of research projects. Areas of research include, but are not limited to, cancer biology, cardiovascular biology, environmental health, immunology, microbiology, molecular biology, neurobiology, signal transduction and stem cell and developmental biology.


Our mentors are recruited on the basis of their excellence in research and their strong commitment and success in student mentoring. All have well-funded research programs and an international reputation.

*These mentors have labs on our Reading Campus so you will need your own transportation to travel between the Medical Center Campus and the Reading campus.

Senu Apewokin, Associate Professor, Infectious Disease Div., Dept. Internal Medicine, UC
 Dr. Apewokin's research focuses on host-microbe interactions during immunosuppressive events such as chemotherapy and organ transplantation. His lab uses innovative techniques such as next-generating sequencing, organoid models, and other advanced techniques to interrogate infectious diseases such as C. difficile and hepatitis C.

David AskewProfessor, Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, UC 
Dr Askew collaborates with the lab of Dr. Kaniscak to understand how fibroblast cells in the lung protect against pulmonary infections caused by the predominant mold pathogen of humans, Aspergillus fumigatus. This exciting new project will provide students with expertise in microbiology, infectious disease, and tissue fibrosis.

Katherine Burns, Assistant Professor, Department of Environmental Health, UC
 Dr. Burns studies endometriosis, an incurable gynecological disease that causes extreme pain, systemic symptoms, autoimmune disorders and infertility. The laboratory seeks to help millions of women with endometriosis by using mouse models, cell culture, and human samples to examine how environmental chemicals and the immune system contribute to the disease.

Tom Cunningham, Assistant Professor, Department of Cancer Biology, UC
 Dr. Cunningham's laboratory aims to decipher the molecular mechanisms that underlie the re-wiring of cellular metabolism during cancer development and progression. The lab uses cell biology, mouse genetics, biochemistry, and molecular biology to uncover novel exploitable targets to aid in the diagnosis and treatment of cancer.

*Sean Davidson, Professor, Department of Pathology, UC
Dr Davidson studies the mechanism by which the body protects itself from heart disease. The lab uses mutagenesis and spectroscopic techniques to study the structure/function of particles that move fat around in the circulation. 

Steve Davidson, Associate Professor, Department of Anesthesiology, UC
Dr Davidson investigates the neurobiology of somatosensation with and emphasis on pain and itch. Projects aim to dissect central neural circuits involved in the sensory, emotional, and motivational aspects of pain, as well as the peripheral neural plasticity that occurs after injury. We use neurophysiology, gene and protein assays, imaging, and behavioral approaches to understand nervous system function and to identify new therapeutic avenues.

Marie-Dominique Filippi, Division of Experimental Hematology and Cancer Biology, CCHMC
Dr Filippi studies hematopoietic stem cells (HSCs), multipotent cells that have the ability to differentiate into all blood lineages and self-renew themselves to produce blood throughout life. The lab uses mouse models and cell culture experiments to investigate the role of signaling pathways and metabolism in the regulation of HSC self-renewal with the goal of developing new treatments for hematological disorders.

Kevin Haworth, Associate Professor, Division of Cardiovascular Health and Diseases, UC
Dr Haworth seeks to develop new uses of ultrasound for both medical imaging and biotherapies. The interaction between ultrasound and nanodroplets or microbubbles is a key theme behind a wide variety of applications that are under study, including drug delivery, blood-brain-barrier opening, and cardioprotection. His laboratory uses techniques ranging from programming to ex vivo and in vivo disease models.

Christian Hong, Associate Professor, Dept. Pharmacology & Systems Physiology, UC
 Dr. Hong investigates molecular mechanisms of circadian rhythms and their functions in other cellular processes such as cell cycle and metabolism. The lab focuses on identifying molecular components that connect the circadian clock and cell cycle, and the consequences of this coupling in intestinal stem cell regeneration and proliferation using a model filamentous fungus, Neurospora crassa, and human organoids.

Onur Kanisicak, Assistant Professor, Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, UC
Dr Kanisicak works in the area of regenerative medicine as it relates to the cardiovascular and musculoskeletal systems. His goal is to identify therapeutic targets to prevent organ fibrosis and to promote regeneration through pharmaceuticals, stem cells and cell therapies. Projects use transgenic mice to determine the lineage plasticity and role of tissue-resident interstitial cells involved in fibrogenesis, regeneration, and angiogenesis.

Leah Kottyan, Associate Professor, Division of Allergy and Immunology, CCHMC
 Dr. Kottyan studies how genetic variants increase the risk for a series of diseases with an immunological component. These include eosinophilic esophagitis, systemic lupus erythematosus, atopic dermatitis, and multiple sclerosis. Since many genetic risk variants leave the protein sequence unchanged, she focuses on genotype-dependent transcriptional regulation.

Scott Langevin,  Associate Professor, Department of Environmental Health, UC
 Dr. Langevin studies the molecular epidemiology of cancer with a focus on malignancies of the upper aerodigestive tract. Research projects include analysis of cancer-associated epigenetic alterations, studies of genetic/epigenetic-environment interactions, identification and evaluation of diagnostic and prognostic biomarkers, and the epidemiology of head and neck cancer.

Agnes Luo, Associate Professor, Department of Molecular Genetics, UC
 Dr. Luo studies Parkinson's disease and stroke with the goal of developing therapies that slow down or reverse the damage caused by Parkinson's and traumatic brain injury, such as stroke. She uses genetically modified mice and pharmacological manipulation to understand the repair processes and molecular pathways that contribute to brain regeneration.

Tesfaye Mersha, Associate Professor, Division of Allergy, CCHMC
 Dr. Mersha’s research combines quantitative, ancestry and statistical genomics to unravel genetic and non-genetic contributions to complex diseases and racial disparities in human populations, particularly asthma and asthma-related allergic disorders. His research is at the interface of genetic ancestry, statistics, bioinformatics, and functional genomics.

William Miller, Professor, Dept. Molecular Genetics, Biochemistry and Microbiology, UC
 Dr. Miller studies how microbial pathogens manipulate host cell signal transduction. He uses cytomegalovirus (CMV) and Bordetella pertussis to examine how pathogens alter signaling directed by G-protein coupled receptors (GPCRs). The CMV project explores how membrane proximal events regulate CMV encoded GPCRs and the impact the viral GPCRs have on pathogenesis.

Phillip Owens, Associate Professor, Division of Cardiovascular Health and Diseases, UC
The Owens lab is primarily focused on the molecular mechanisms of human vascular diseases. Specifically, we examine the roles of coagulation proteases and the gut microbiome on atherosclerosis and abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA), respectively. The fundamental goals of our laboratory are to understand the pathophysiology behind these diseases and to develop new and exciting therapeutic possibilities for treatment.

David Plas, Professor, Department of Cancer Biology, UC
The Plas lab is focused on developing and testing experimental therapeutics in preparation for clinical trials to treat Glioblastoma, a deadly brain cancer. We use patient-donated glioblastoma cells, mouse xenografts, and established cell systems to investigate cancer-associated metabolic pathways and signaling pathways. Our aim is to identify glioblastoma vulnerabilities that when targeted successfully will enable improved therapy for patients.

*Teresa Reyes, Professor, Department of Pharmacology & Systems Physiology, UC
 Dr. Reyes's lab is interested in how early life environment can shape the brain and cognition. A broad range of environmental factors are studied, including maternal diet, stress, and exposure to chemotherapy or drugs of abuse. Experimental approaches include advanced behavioral tasks to evaluate executive function coupled with gene expression analyses (targeted and genome-wide). Neuroimmune interactions are an area of particular focus. 

Sakthivel Sadayappan, Professor, Division of Cariology, Dept. Internal Medicine, UC
 Dr. Sadayappan studies the causes of muscle-specific diseases and seeks to identify therapeutic targets that will lead to the development of cures. He focuses on the regulators of sarcomere structure and specific goals include identifying cardiac-specific biomarkers, restoring sarcomere structure and function, and identifying compounds to improve sarcomere function after injury.

Debora Sinner, Assistant Professor, Division Neonatology and Pulmonary Biology, CCHMC
Dr. Sinner studies the patterning of respiratory tract development and it relevance to congenital disease. She seeks to understand how cartilage and muscle of the trachea are specified by the Wnt signaling pathway and how abnormal signaling leads to tracheal malformations. Her studies make use of transgenic mice, ex vivo culture systems, and live imaging of embryonic tracheal tissue.

Susan Waltz, Professor, Department of Cancer Biology, UC
Dr. Waltz studies the molecular mechanisms by which cell-surface receptor tyrosine kinases and growth factors regulate cancer growth and metastasis, and inflammation. Her lab is particularly interested in how the Ron receptor tyrosine kinase induces aggressive and highly metastatic breast cancers and in how RON contributes to the growth of prostate cancers. 

Joshua Waxman, Associate Professor, Division of Molecular Cardiovascular Biology, CCHMC
Dr. Waxman's main areas of research are cardiovascular development, regeneration, molecular genetics and signaling pathways. His lab uses zebrafish as their primary research model to uncover conserved mechanisms underlying normal heart development and regeneration, and the causes of congenital cardiovascular defects.

Alison Weiss, Professor, Dept. Molecular Genetics, Biochemistry and Microbiology, UC
 Dr. Weiss studies host-pathogen interactions with regard to infectious diarrhea.  Her lab has developed a new experimental model to study enteric pathogens, pluripotent stem cell “induced human intestinal organoids”.  These “mini-guts” faithfully represent differentiated human intestinal tissue and can be used to model intestinal responses to bacterial infections and toxins.

James Wells, Professor, Division of Developmental Biology Endocrinology, Center for Stem Cell and Organoid Medicine, CCHMC
 Dr. Wells studies embryonic development of endocrine cells from the pancreas and the gastrointestinal tract. Projects include: identification and use of embryonic pathways to generate organ tissues from pluripotent stem cells. Use of these tissues to develop new in vitro models for diabetes and digestive disease research. Developing strategies for tissue-replacement therapies.

*Eric Wohleb, Associate Professor, Pharmacology and Systems Physiology, UC
Dr Wohleb studies how the immune system and the nervous system interact and how these interactions regulate behavior and cognition. He seeks to understand how brain-resident immune cells (microglia) shape synaptic function and behavior in physiological and pathological contexts. Techniques used include flow cytometry and cell sorting, cell type-specific molecular analyses (RNA-Seq), viral mediated genetic and pharmacological manipulations, and confocal microscopy.

Aaron Zorn, Professor, Division of Developmental Biology, CCHMC
Dr. Zorn's studies the embryonic development of the lung, liver, pancreas, and gastrointestinal tract using animal models, human pluripotent stem cells, and human organoids (organ tissue grown in a dish). By investigating the genetic pathways underlying organ formation, the lab seeks to understand congenital diseases and to generate tissue for regenerative medicine.

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