Student Profiles

Katie Gordon  

Katie Gordon

GGD Class of 2017, Currently rotating in faculty labs
Undergrad Institution: Indiana University
Degree Subject and Year: BS Biology, BA French 2015

     
Statement  

After I graduated from Indiana University, I worked for a lab technician for two years. During that time I researched graduate schools extensively. Cornell's GGD program fulfilled everything I was looking for in a graduate program. It has researchers from every discipline imaginable, amazing core facilities, and active graduate student life. I was particularly impressed by how invested faculty members were in their own and other GGD students. Cornell professors love to collaborate with each other, which turns out some amazing interdisciplinary work. I specifically applied to Cornell to work with both Dr. Brian Lazzaro and Dr. Mariana Wolfner on a longstanding collaborative project to find the mechanisms controlling a trade-off between female reproduction and immunity. Additionally, one my undergraduate mentors, Dr. Kristi Montooth, is a GGD PhD alumni from Andy Clark's lab. I knew that the GGD program had trained some amazing scientists and I wanted to follow the same path! A big factor in my decision was the support offered to students by the department and graduate field at large. It mattered a lot to me that GGD students feel comfortable approaching faculty members for advice, but also work to support one another. There are also a lot of opportunities to take a break from the lab and socialize with GGD and other graduate students at the Big Red Barn. I have really enjoyed exploring Ithaca's many waterfalls, festivals, and restaurants with my fellow GGD students!

Research  

I am now working with Dr. Brian Lazzaro and Dr. Mariana Wolfner on the mechanisms controlling the trade-off between reproduction and immunity in Drosophila melanogaster. Mated females have a lower capacity to induce antimicrobial gene expression, and have a higher bacterial load and higher risk of death than virgin females after infection. I am building upon the work of two former GGD students to characterize the hormonal signaling mechanisms that increase egg production after mating and also increase risk of infection. Specifically, I am interested in how investment of resources to egg production, particularly yolk proteins, limits immune response. The flexibility of GGD program and my advisors has allowed me to combine my interests in immunity and reproduction.


Jessica Maya  

Jessica Maya

Class of 2017, Currently rotating in faculty labs
Undergrad Institution: University of Alabama at Birmingham
Degree Subject and Year: BS in Molecular Biology, 2017

     
Statement  

When I first arrived in Ithaca for my interview weekend, I was surprised by how welcoming, relaxed, and sincere the students and faculty were. I have been performing research since high school, so when it came time to choose a graduate program, I knew that I wanted an interdisciplinary environment where the science was cutting-edge. I also knew that I did not want a program that promoted any stressful competition between students, which can be seen sometimes in top-notch universities. Cornell really wowed me by fitting all of my criteria. The GGD program has exceeded all of my expectations for graduate school, and I feel as though I have already learned so much about the field (and myself) in the short amount of time since I've arrived. I've come to realize that everybody here wants to see you succeed. I have yet to see a PI in Cornell who is not excited to share their advice and knowledge with anyone interested.

There are so many opportunities for career development here as well, starting in your first year. Cornell recognizes that the job market for a PhD student is so diverse nowadays, and the university really tries to cater to each students' interests to ensure that each of us can succeed in whatever we want to do once we graduate. While it was scary moving to upstate NY from the south, I was comforted by the city. It's not too big, but it is very lively and beautiful. I find it to be the perfect environment for graduate studies: not only is there high-quality research happening here, but Ithaca and Cornell have so many events, festivals, and organizations that go on throughout the year, it gives me the perfect balance between work and life to keep me sane during my graduate studies.


Dashiell Massey  

Dashiell Massey

GGD Class of 2016, Lab of Amnon Koren
Undergraduate Institution: Swarthmore College (Swarthmore, PA)
Degree Subject & Year: BA in Biology, 2014

     
Statement  

In choosing a PhD program, I was looking for a balance between two factors. On one hand, I wanted to be in a smaller cohort to facilitate formation of a close-knit community/support network and one-on-one relationships with many faculty (not just my own PI). At the same time, I wanted to have the benefits of an umbrella program: the large number of labs to rotate in, the interdisciplinary collaborations, and the wealth of core facilities. I felt (and still feel) that Cornell's field structure, and GGD in particular, strike that balance well.

Research  

The fidelity of DNA replication through subsequent cell divisions is critical for maintaining the integrity of the genome and preventing cancer. Replication timing, the spatiotemporal pattern of replication origin firing, is highly reproducible across samples and tissues and shows hallmarks of broad functional conservation through evolution. We believe that these replication timing profiles are causally linked to the accuracy of replication. In particular, I am interested in quantifying the degree of heterogeneity in replication origin firing within a single tissue of an individual: how much do these clonal cells vary in which origins are used and when during S phase they begin replicating? What can this tell us about how tightly replication timing is regulated and what mechanisms might be involved?


Marquita Winters  

Marquita Winters

Class of 2016, Lab of John Schimenti
Undergraduate Institution: Chicago State University
Degree Subject & Year: BS in Biology, 2016

     
Statement  

I felt that Cornell offered a plethora of courses to choose from within my field. I felt that Cornell would be a great environment to remain focused on my goal-Getting a PhD! Plus with having a family Ithaca offered so many wonderful programs and activities that is unparalleled.

Research  

I'm seeking to identify Arid1a as a driver of mammary carcinoma within our CHAOS3 mouse model. Chaos3 mice have a missense mutation in MCM4 which causes destabilization of the MCM2-7 helicase. When this mutation is congenic in C3H-FeJ background ~80% of female mice succumb to spontaneous mammary tumors around 12 months. Upon tumors being collected Arid1a was found commonly deleted in 70% collected. Always Arid1a was deleted on one allele suggesting it may be haploinsufficient. I will seek to address if early inactivation of Arid1a facilitates mouse mammary tumors sooner.


Michelle Hulke  

Michelle Hulke

Class of 2015, Lab of Amnon Koren
Undergrad Institution:  Gustavus Adolphus College
Degree and Year:  BA in Biology, 2015

     
Statement  

I was attracted to the highly collaborative research environment.  Faculty frequently collaborate both within and outside Cornell, leading to an enormous diversity in research. 

Research  

My main project is focused on locating replication origins in humans.  While we know a great deal about where and how replication origins are established in yeast, we still know very little about how the location of origins are determined in humans and other higher eukaryotes.  Over the years, assays have been developed to determine origin location; however, the results are often extremely noisy and rarely agree with other assay results.  The Koren lab studies the spatiotemporal in which DNA is replicated (replication timing) and has high resolution replication timing profiles for hundreds of individuals.  Origin locations can be inferred from peaks of very early replicating regions.  Using these profiles and publicly available data from genomic assays targeting replication origins, I aim to identify locations of commonly used replication origins and genomic features that are likely to distinguish locations for origin usage. 


Florencia Schlamp  

Florencia Schlamp

Class of 2014, Lab of Andrew Clark
Undergraduate Institution: New York University Abu Dhabi
Degree Subject & Year: B.S. Biology, 2014

     
Statement  

My research experience was mostly in 'wet lab' work but I was very interested in developing computational 'dry lab' skills and pursuing projects that would allow me to do both. Furthermore, I wanted to develop and apply teaching skills for science education.

I found that the Cornell GGD program matched all my research interests and my professional development goals. I find the academic and social environment in GGD to be friendly, collaborative, flexible, and supportive; not just among students but also faculty and staff. Here I have the flexibility and resources to pursue research and take classes and workshops in many different topics, and I have the freedom and encouragement to learn not just from people in my lab but also from the whole GGD program.

Finally, I also fell in love with Ithaca: the striking nature, good food, and adorable town spirit.

Research  

I'm working on many different projects, but my main one is on the functional and comparative genomics of the shutdown of the innate immune response in Drosophila flies. Immune responses are crucial to survival, but they are also costly for the organism, consuming energy and resources that could be used for other life processes such as reproduction. Therefore, after the threat has been eliminated, immune responses need to shut down. While we know immune response shutdown occurs, this process is not as well characterized as immune system activation. I'm currently working with a dense time-course gene expression analysis of the immune response in Drosophila flies to elucidate the dynamics of immune response shutdown. My goal is to measure natural variation among Drosophila lines in the shutdown dynamics and the fitness cost of such variation.