Congratulations to M&I 2014-2015 Graduates! (Part 2 of 3)

December 2014 Graduates:

Justin Callaway successfully defended his dissertation in October 2014. Justin conducted his research in the lab of Dr. Jenny Ting. His research identified that dengue virus immune complexes induce elevated inflammatory cytokine expression by activating a signaling axis through spleen tyrosine kinase and extracellular signal-regulated kinases 1 and 2. Dr. Callaway will join the lab of Dr. Thirumala-Devi Kanneganti at St. Jude Children's Research Hospital as a postdoctoral research associate in the summer of 2015.

Kizzmekia Corbett successfully defended her dissertation in December 2014. Kizzi's research was conducted in the laboratory of Aravinda de Silva. Her graduate work on the role of human antibodies in dengue virus pathogenesis was conducted at UNC and in Sri Lanka. She analyzed a large collection of blood samples and determined the incidence of clinically inapparent and apparent dengue infections among children in Sri Lanka. In a follow-up study, she identified specific antibody profiles that were correlated with inapparent and apparent dengue infections in children. Dr. Corbett is currently a post-doctoral scholar in the laboratories of Drs. Barney Graham & John Mascola at the NIH Vaccine Center in Bethesda, MD.

Amanda Keener graduated in December 2014 and conducted her Ph.D. research in Dr. Barb Vilen’s lab. She is currently working as a freelance writer for Nature Medicine.

Allison Totura successfully defended her thesis, which focused on identifying SARS-CoV encoded gene antagonists of host innate immune sensing machinery. In parallel, she demonstrated that TLR signaling through adaptor molecules like TRIF and TRAM played a critical role in regulating the host antiviral defense pathway during SARS-CoV infection. Her research identified new strategies for the development of small molecule compounds that agonize TLR3 mediated antiviral defense. She is currently doing postdoctoral research in the Baric laboratory at UNC while she identifies a suitable location for continuing her postdoctoral research career in viral pathogenesis.

Richard L Watkins successfully defended his dissertation in October 2014 and graduated in December 2014. Richard's work focused on discerning the individual contributions of the HIV-1 accessory proteins Nef and Vpu to CD4+ T cell depletion and viral replication during HIV infection. He is now a postdoctoral fellow at UNC’s Institute for Global Health & Infectious Diseases. Richard has also started his own business, The Science Policy Action Network (SPAN), which focuses on enhancing science education, outreach, and advocacy in North Carolina.