Clinical Students

Clinical Students

Department: Clinical Students

Jefferson Abaricia

Education: Virginia Commonwealth University, B.S. in Biomedical Engineering with a minor in Chemistry (2015)
Hometown: Silverton, OR
PhD Advisor: Rene Olivares-Navarrete, DDS, PhD
Graduate Program: Biomedical Engineering
Bio: Jefferson's work examines the role of macrophage-derived Wingless homolog (Wnt) ligands on osseous healing by regulating the inflammatory response and mesenchymal stem cell behavior. The goal of this research is to understand the mechanisms by which the immune system regulates the healing of bone after fractures and placement of implants. In his free time, Jefferson enjoys music, cooking, and scuba diving, and autocross.

Kara Dods

Education: Rutgers University, B.Sc. with honors in Biochemistry, Exercise Physiology, Nutrition
Hometown: Linwood, NJ
PhD Advisor: Matthew Hartman, PhD
Graduate Program: Chemical Biology
Bio: Kara's research focus is using peptide library selection strategies to develop peptide inhibitors of the intrinsically disordered protein MYCN, which plays an important role in high-risk neuroblastoma. She is interested in developing novel therapeutic strategies to reduce the mortality for patients with MYCN-amplified disease. Outside of the lab, Kara enjoys playing music and watching football: she is the librarian/third horn for the VCU Health System Orchestra and is almost always in Liverpool red on match days.

Graeme Murray

Education: University of Chicago, B.A. in Physics with Honors and B.A. in Chemistry (2014)
Hometown: Seattle, WA
PhD Advisor: Jason Reed, PhD
Graduate Program: Nanoscience and Nanotechnology
Bio: Graeme's undergraduate research used kinked silicon nanowires as cantilevers to measure inter- and intracellular forces including muscle contraction. As part of the Nanoscience program at VCU, Graeme uses an interferometry based platform as a drug screening tool to monitor changes in biomass of single cells in various cancers. In his spare time, Graeme races road and mountain bikes for VCU.  

Justin Saunders

Education: Villanova University, B.S. in Biology (2012)
Hometown: White Plains, MD
PhD Advisor: Javier Gonzalez-Maeso, PhD
Graduate Program: Physiology and Biophysics 
Bio: Justin’s research interests are focused on the molecular and behavioral aspects of neuropsychiatric disorder models. His project is focused on the contribution of serotonin 5-HT2AR receptor dysregulation to phenotypes observed within a maternal immune activation rodent model of schizophrenia. When not in the lab, Justin enjoys music, spending time with family and friends, and playing the guitar.

Alicia Woock

Education: Appalachian State University, B.S. with honors in Chemistry
Hometown: New Bern, NC
PhD advisor: Charles Clevenger, MD, PhD
Graduate Program: CCTR/CMM 
Bio: Alicia works in Dr. Charles Clevenger's laboratory studying the transcription factor, Stat5a, and its regulation by serine phosphorylation in response to prolactin in breast cancer with the goal to understand how this signaling cascade regulates cancer progression. As a physician-scientist, Alicia plans to design clinical trials to develop better diagnostic and therapeutic options for cancer patients. If you generated a pie chart of her interests, the biggest slice of the pie would be filled by podcasts, followed by a slightly smaller slice for biking around and exploring RVA!  

Justin Craig

Education: Harvard University, A.B. in Psychology (2007)
Hometown: Northville, MI
PhD Advisor: Charles Clevenger, MD, PhD
Graduate Program: CCTR/CMM
Bio: Justin’s prospective professional focus is in translational oncology research, with particular interest in cancer genomics. In his graduate work, Justin has studied the regulation of the STAT5 signaling pathway in the context of breast cancer using a combination of molecular biology and bioinformatic approaches. When not pursuing his academic interests, Justin enjoys spending time with his wife and daughter, camping, hiking, and woodworking.

Alexander Azzo

Education: Vanderbilt University, B.A. in Molecular & Cellular Biology (2013)
Hometown: Bluefield, WV
PhD Advisor: Gordon Ginder, MD
Graduate Program: CCTR/CMM 
Bio: Alex’s previous work was in drug design through Vanderbilt’s department of cancer biology, in which he helped build targeted drug delivery platforms.  Currently he is most interested in investigating the role of the methyl-CpG binding domain proteins and their associated factors as epigenetic regulators of the human globin genes, and their importance as potential targets for treating sickle-cell anemia and beta-thalassemia. Alex grew up in Bluefield, West Virginia, graduated with a B.A. in Molecular and Cellular Biology from Vanderbilt University in 2013, and apart from research loves the outdoors, playing tennis and golf, and programming computers to do fun things.

Siva Teja Devarakonda

Education: Saint Louis University
Hometown: St. Louis, MO
PhD Advisor: Fadi Salloum, PhD, F.A.H.A.
Graduate Program: Physiology and Biophysics
Bio: Teja's research interests involve studying cardiac pathophysiology in the context of adverse remodeling post myocardial infarction (MI). More specifically, he is investigating the role of relaxin biology in combating inflammation and fibrosis in mice with surgically induced MI. In his free time, Teja enjoys playing guitar, rock climbing, reading and trying to keep up with his favorite podcasts.

Jared Farrar

Education: University of Utah, B.S. in Biology (2010)
Hometown: Idaho Falls, ID
PhD Advisor: Francesco Celi, MD, MHSc
Graduate Program: CCTR/CMM
Bio: Jared values multi-disciplinary approaches to solving scientific questions and is driven by the potential of new medical knowledge and advanced technology to improve diagnostics, treatment and patient care. His graduate research has focused on the development of mouse models for the study of adaptive adipocyte thermogenesis, as well as the interface between the immune system and adipocytes in whole organism metabolism. In his spare time, he enjoys tearing things apart, solving puzzles, international travel, watching movies, and spending time with his wife. 

Rahaman (Remu) Navaz Gangji

Education: Trinity University, B.S. in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (2013); University of Michigan Medical School, M.S. in Biological Chemistry (2014) 
Hometown: Ottawa, Ontario 
PhD Advisors: Umesh Desai, PhDBhaumik Patel, MD
Graduate Program: Biochemistry
Bio: Remu is interested in medicinal chemistry and drug discovery. Here at VCU, his research is focused on studying the inhibitory effects of glycosaminoglycans and glycosaminoglycan-oligo molecules on cancer stem cell growth. Outside of academics, he is most passionate about sports and enjoys playing/watching hockey and floorball here in Richmond.

Tia Turner

Education: Hofstra University, B.S. (2013)
Hometown: Hewlett, New York
PhD Advisor: J. Chuck Harrell, PhD
Graduate Program: CCTR/CMM
Bio: Tia's research interests lie primarily in the field of translational cancer biology and therapeutics. She is particularly interested in studying the mechanisms underlying tumor progression, metastasis, and therapeutic resistance, with a focus on the development and preclinical testing of novel therapeutic combination strategies for metastatic breast cancer and brain cancer. In addition to her passion for medicine and science, Tia loves singing, playing and listening to music, attending the theater, reading, cooking, and spending time outdoors in the Fall.

Rory Weston

Education: Florida State University, B.S. in Criminology; Western Washington University, B.S. in Behavioral Neuroscience 
PhD Advisor: Michael Miles, MD, PhD
Graduate Program: Neuroscience
Bio: Rory's primary areas of research are neuroscience and bioinformatics, with a special interest in transcriptomics. His dissertation work seeks to characterize the role of Clic4 in modulating ethanol-related behaviors in a mouse model of alcohol use disorder. Rory enjoys spending time with his wife and dog, camping, and venturing into new creative hobbies such as aquascaping, VR game development, and home brewing.

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