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Our Trainees

Current Trainees

Ryan Spear headshot

Ryan Spear

  • Predoctoral Trainee
  • Rush University
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Predoctoral Trainee

Rush University  

Mentors: Eunsil Hahm, PhD and Jochen Reiser, MD, PhD

Research Project: Functional Reprogramming of Bone Marrow Myeloid Cells in Focal Segmental Glomerulosclerosis

Ryan Spear is a PhD candidate in the Integrated Biomedical Sciences Program at Rush University Graduate College. He received his bachelor’s degree in biochemistry from the University of Dayton and attended medical school at the University of Toledo. 

Ryan’s research is involved in exploring and further defining the bone marrow and kidney axis. In particular, he studies altered hematopoiesis in chronic kidney disease (CKD), with specific focus on focal segmental glomerulosclerosis (FSGS). In CKD, altered hematopoiesis results in myeloid cells, particularly monocytes, which are implicated in the pathogenesis of CKD via functional changes (cytokine profiles, epigenetic signatures, and bioenergetics). He aims to elucidate the functional changes in CKD associated bone marrow derived myeloid cells. Ryan is co-mentored by Dr. Eunsil Hahm and Dr. Jochen Reiser from the Department of Internal Medicine at Rush University Medical Center.   

Megan Larmore headshot

Megan Larmore

  • Predoctoral Trainee
  • Northwestern University
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Predoctoral Trainee

Northwestern University

Mentors: Paul DeCaen, PhD, Susan Quaggin, MD, Neha Kamat, PhD

Research Project: Lipid and glycosylation regulation of PKD2 channel

Megan Larmore is a PhD candidate in the Driskill Graduate Program of Life Sciences at Northwestern University. She earned a Bachelor of Science in Cell and Molecular Biology from Western Washington University.

Megan’s dissertation project focuses on the ion channel, PKD2, and autosomal dominant polycystic kidney disease (ADPKD). Variants within PKD2 cause ADPKD – a common monogenic kidney disease that is characterized by proliferative cyst development. In particular, Megan is interested in how PKD2 localizes and functions within a specialized compartment of kidney collecting duct cells called the primary cilia.

View Megan Larmore's My Bibliography

Maggie Fain headshot

Maggie Fain

  • Predoctoral Trainee
  • Northwestern University
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Predoctoral Trainee

Northwestern University

Mentors: Susan Quaggin, MD and Navdeep Chandel, PhD

Research Project: Exploring the Cardioprotective Effects of SGLT2 Inhibitors

Maggie is a Medical Scientist Training Program (MSTP) student at Northwestern University and working towards an MD degree from Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine and a PhD degree from Driskill Graduate Program in Life Sciences. She earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Chemistry from Washington University in St. Louis where she studied antenatal hydronephrosis with Dr. Paul Austin and podocytopathies with Dr. Jeffery Miner. She also completed a Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education summer fellowship at the Food and Drug Administration Department of Pharmaceutical Analysis.

Maggie’s current research focuses on sodium glucose cotransporter 2 inhibitors (SGLT2is), a class of anti-hyperglycemic drugs that have been shown to have profound cardio- and reno-protective effects in patients regardless of diabetes status. Maggie is studying a novel method of kidney-heart crosstalk that conveys cardiac benefit by studying mice with a missense mutation in Slc5a2, the gene encoding Sglt2. By clarifying the route of cardiac protection, she hopes to broaden the scientific knowledge and identify new therapeutic targets.

View Maggie Fain's My Bibliography

Brenna Kirkpatrick headshot

Brenna Kirkpatrick

  • Predoctoral Trainee
  • University of Illinois Chicago
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Predoctoral Trainee

University of Illinois Chicago

Mentors: Tanika Kelly, PhD, MPH, James Lash, MD, and Martha Daviglus, MD, PhD 

Research Project: Dynamic Elements of the Human Genome and Kidney Disease Risk in the Hispanic Community Health Study/Study of Latinos (HCHS/SOL)

Brenna Kirkpatrick is an MD/PhD candidate in the Medical Scientist Training Program (MSTP) at the University of Illinois Chicago (UIC). She is completing her PhD training in UIC’s Graduate Education in Biomedical Sciences (GEMS) program. She earned bachelor’s degrees in Chemistry and French & Francophone Studies from the University of Kentucky. 

Brenna’s project focuses on investigating prospective associations between dynamic components of the human genome and kidney disease among participants in the Hispanic Community Health Study/Study of Latinos (HCHS/SOL). Through her proposed research, Brenna seeks to address the disproportionate impact of end-stage kidney disease on Hispanic/Latino individuals compared to White counterparts. Ultimately, public health implications for the study could include improved risk stratification and contribution to novel molecular therapies to prevent and treat kidney disease.  

View Brenna Kirkpatrick's My Bibliography

Thilinie Bandara headshot

Thilinie Bandara

  • Predoctoral Trainee
  • University of Illinois Chicago
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Predoctoral Trainee

University of Illinois Chicago

Mentors: Kostandin V. Pajcini, PhD and Kiwook Kim, PhD

Research Project: Jagged-1+ myeloid-derived suppressor cells facilitate recovery of the bone marrow endothelium after myelosuppression

Thilinie Bandara is a 4th Year Ph.D. Candidate in the Graduate and Education in Biomedical Sciences (GEMS) Program at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC). She obtained her Bachelor of Science in Molecular and Cellular Biology at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Thilinie’s project seeks to elucidate Notch signaling in the damaged bone marrow endothelium during myeloablation. Through her proposed research, she aims to understand the interactions between hematopoietic cells and the damaged endothelium via Notch signaling and establish an emerging role for myeloid-derived suppressors to facilitate recovery of the damaged endothelium. Her proposed studies will generate a potential cell-based therapy for improvement of endothelial recovery in patients receiving myelosuppression.

View Thilinie Bandara's My Bibliography

Karla M. Márquez Nogueras, PhD  headshot

Karla M. Márquez Nogueras, PhD

  • Postdoctoral Scholar
  • Loyola University Chicago
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Postdoctoral Scholar

Loyola University Chicago

Mentors: Ivana Kuo, PhD and Arlene Chapman, MD

Research Project: The activation and downstream signaling pathways mediated through PC2 by osmosensation in kidney cells

Dr. Karla Márquez Nogueras is a postdoctoral researcher in the Department of Cell and Molecular Physiology at Loyola University Chicago. She earned her bachelor’s degree in Industrial Microbiology and her master’s degree in Microbiology from the University of Puerto Rico, Mayagüez and received her PhD in Microbiology from the University of Georgia.

Dr. Márquez Nogueras’s research focuses on understanding the role of PC2 in the heart and kidney. Mutations within this gene leads to Autosomal Polycystic Kidney Disease (ADPKD) and ultimately renal failure. Specifically, her research examines the natural agonists of the polycystin complex in the kidney and the potential signaling pathways activated.

View Dr. Márquez Nogueras’s My Bibliography

Andrea Liu, MD  headshot

Andrea Liu, MD

  • Postdoctoral Scholar
  • University of Chicago
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Postdoctoral Scholar

University of Chicago

Mentors: Ted Skolarus, MD, MPH, FACS; Peter Angelos, MD, PhD, FACS, MAMSE; Mary Hammes, DO; Rita McGill, MD, MS

Research Project: Prolonged catheter use for hemodialysis: Understanding outcomes and barriers to transitioning to permanent access

Dr Liu grew up in North Carolina and went to the University of North Carolina as an undergraduate, where she studied biology, psychology, and English. She then worked as a clinical researcher at UNC Hospitals before moving to New York to attend Weill Cornell Medicine for medical school.

Dr. Liu's TL1 research project focuses on prolonged catheter use for hemodialysis. In particular, she is interested in improving our understanding of the morbidity and mortality of catheters compared to permanent access and examining how shared decision making influences the transition from catheters to permanent access.

View Dr. Liu's My Bibliography

 

Sadia Anjum Ashrafi, PhD headshot

Sadia Anjum Ashrafi, PhD

  • Postdoctoral Scholar
  • University of Illinois at Chicago
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Postdoctoral Scholar

University of Illinois at Chicago

Mentors: Rosalba Hernandez, PhD and James Lash, MD

Research Project: Positive Psychology's Role in Enhancing CKD Outcomes in Diverse Populations

Dr. Sadia Anjum Ashrafi is a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Illinois at Chicago, College of Medicine. She received a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree in pharmacy from the University of Dhaka, Bangladesh, a Master of Public Health from the BRAC University, Bangladesh and her doctorate in Community Health from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.

Dr. Ashrafi’s research aims to identify how positive psychological well-being, such as optimism and resilience, are associated with better kidney health in various cultural contexts. Her study findings will guide effective strength-based interventions for individuals with chronic kidney disease from diverse cultural groups.

Alumni Trainees

Anna Di Staulo headshot

Anna Di Staulo

  • Predoctoral Trainee
  • University of Illinois at Chicago
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Predoctoral Trainee in Hematology

University of Illinois at Chicago

Mentors: Sandra Pinho, PhD and Peng Ji, MD, PhD

Research Project: Regulation of Bone Marrow Mesenchymal Stem Cells by VCAM1

Training period: January 2022 - December 2022

Baylie Hochstedler-Kramer headshot

Baylie Hochstedler-Kramer

  • Predoctoral Trainee
  • Loyola University Chicago
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Predoctoral Trainee in Urology

Loyola University Chicago

Mentors: Alan Wolfe, PhD and Elizabeth Mueller, MD, MSE

Research Project: Investigating the role of the urobiome and Enterococcus faecalis in lower urinary tract disease

Training period: January 2021 - December 2023

Esther Liu headshot

Esther Liu

  • Predoctoral Trainee
  • Northwestern University
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Predoctoral Trainee in Nephrology

Northwestern University

Mentors: Jennie Lin, MD and Susan Quaggin, MD

Research Project: Uncovering Mechanisms of Risk-Variant APOL1-modulated Inflammatory Signaling in Macrophages and Endothelial Cells

Training period: January 2022 - May 2023

 Linnea Kremer, MS headshot

Linnea Kremer, MS

  • Predoctoral Trainee
  • University of Chicago
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Predoctoral Trainee in Nephrology

University of Chicago

Mentors: Sam Armato, PhD and Arlene Chapman, MD

Research Project: MRI imaging biomarkers for diagnosis, prognosis, and assessment of disease progression in autosomal dominant polycystic kidney disease (ADPKD)

Training period: January 2021 - December 2023

Mladen Rasic headshot

Mladen Rasic

  • Predoctoral Trainee
  • University of Illinois at Chicago
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Predoctoral Trainee in Nephrology

University of Illinois at Chicago

Mentors:  David Perkins, MD and Patricia Finn, MD

Research Project: Strain-resolved Metagenomics in Kidney Transplantation

Training period: January 2022 - December 2022

Syeda Akila Ally headshot

Syeda Akila Ally

  • Predoctoral Trainee
  • University of Illinois at Chicago
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Predoctoral Trainee in Hematology and Medical Student Research Training Supplement Awardee

University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) College of Medicine 

Mentors: Santosh Saraf, MD and Jim Lash, MD 

Research Project: Impact of Healthy Diet on Sickle Cell Nephropathy

Training period: June 2022 - May 2023

 

Boaz Bishop, MD headshot

Boaz Bishop, MD

  • Postdoctoral Scholar
  • Northwestern University
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Postdoctoral Scholar in Nephrology 

Northwestern University 

Mentors: Pinelopi Kapitsinou, MD and Evan Scott, PhD 

Research Project: Peptide Targeted Nanocarriers for Enhanced Drug Delivery to Inflamed Kidney Endothelium 

Training period: March 2022 - February 2023 

Jordan Vellky, PhD headshot

Jordan Vellky, PhD

  • Postdoctoral Scholar
  • University of Illinois at Chicago
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Postdoctoral Scholar in Urology

University of Illinois at Chicago

Mentors: Donald Vander Griend, PhD and Natalie Reizine, MD

Research Project: Therapeutic Targeting of Stem Cell Transcription Factor SOX2 in Prostatic Disease

Training period: January 2021 - December 2023

View Dr. Vellky's My Bibliography.

Alyssa Varsanik, MD headshot

Alyssa Varsanik, MD

  • Postdoctoral Scholar
  • University of Chicago
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Postdoctoral Scholar

University of Chicago

Mentors: Luka Pocivavsek, MD, PhD and Ka Yee Lee, PhD

Research Project: A Multi-Physics Approach to Understanding Geometric Remodeling of Surgically Created Arteriovenous Fistulas

Training period: July 2022 - June 2024

 

Orhi Esarte Palomero, PhD headshot

Orhi Esarte Palomero, PhD

  • Postdoctoral Scholar
  • Northwestern University
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Postdoctoral Scholar in Nephrology

Northwestern University

Mentors: Paul DeCaen, PhD and Arlene Chapman, MD

Research Project: CRISPR-Cas9 gene editing of S. cerevisiae applied to the discovery of Polycystin-2 channel activators using a cell growth-based assay

Training period: March 2022 - February 2024

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Kristina Bigelow, PhD headshot

Kristina Bigelow, PhD

  • Postdoctoral Scholar
  • Northwestern University
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Postdoctoral Scholar

Northwestern University

Mentors: Lucy Godley, MD, PhD and Navdeep Chandel, PhD

Research Project: Epigenetic control of erythroid differentiation

Training period: July 2023 - June 2024

Vidhi Dalal, MD headshot

Vidhi Dalal, MD

  • Postdoctoral Scholar
  • Lurie Children's Hospital & Northwestern University
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Postdoctoral Scholar

Lurie Children's Hospital and Northwestern University

Mentors: Susan Quaggin, MD, Evan Scott, PhD, and Pinelopi Kapitsinou, MD

Research Project: Harnessing the protective effects of SARA to uncover novel targets for treatment of podocytopathies

Training period: May 2022 - May 2024

 

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