Congratulations to M&I 2014-2015 Graduates! (Part 1 of 3)

Sixteen M&I graduate students completed their PhD work during this past academic year and are eligible to participate in the doctoral hooding ceremony at the Dean Smith Center on May 9. Below are short summaries of their doctoral work and current activities/plans.

August 2014 Graduates:

Myra dela Pena graduated in August 2014. Her doctoral research with Kristina De Paris focused on postnatal immune development, specifically on the maturation of CD4+ T cell function in the first year of life. She continued in the De Paris lab with postdoctoral work to define how cytokine signaling in infant CD4+ T cells changes throughout the first year of life. In the future, she will pursue postdoctoral studies at UC – Davis, exploring the role of environmental toxins on lung development.

Syed Muaz Khalil successfully defended his dissertation in July 2014. His research was conducted in the laboratory of Laura White, first located in M&I and later at Global Vaccines, Inc., in Research Triangle Park. His research focused on early life vaccine strategies using alphavirus replicon particles as vaccine vectors and adjuvants in a neonatal murine model, with emphasis in dengue and influenza vaccines. Muaz is now a postdoctoral fellow at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in the laboratory of Dr. Andrew Lane, studying innate immunity of the sinonasal epithelium and infection with respiratory microbes.

Maurice Morillon successfully defended his dissertation in July 2014, after completing his doctoral research in Roland Tisch’s laboratory. His studies defined the tolerogenic effects of antibody-mediated coreceptor therapy in autoimmune diabetes. Dr. Morillon is a postdoctoral fellow in Dr. Jeffrey Schlom’s laboratory at the NIH.

Nicholas Spidale successfully defended his dissertation in July 2014, also having studied in Roland Tisch’s laboratory. His work focused on the role of dendritic cells in immune tolerance and the development of autoreactive T cells. Currently, Dr. Spidale is carrying out postdoctoral studies with Dr. Joonsoo Kang’s group at the University of Massachusetts.

Shauna Swanson defended her dissertation in July 2014. Shauna's research was conducted in the laboratory of Rob Nicholas. Her work focused on characterizing a mechanism of antibiotic resistance in Neisseria gonorrhoeae and developing inhibitors of LpxC as novel therapeutics for the treatment antibiotic-resistant gonorrhea. Dr. Swanson is now employed as a scientist with Synereca Pharmaceuticals in Chapel Hill.

Nicholas Taylor did his Ph.D. research in Dr. Jon Serody’s laboratory. Nicholas returned to UNC’s Medical School to complete studies for his MD.