Daniela C. ZarnescuProfessor, Principal Investigator
Daniela studied Physics at University of Bucharest then received a PhD in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at Penn State (2000) where she researched the role of spectrins in epithelial morphogenesis. Following postdoctoral training in molecular genetics at Emory University, in 2006, she joined the Molecular and Cellular Biology Department at University of Arizona where she continues to use Drosophila to study RNA based mechanisms in aging and neurodegenerative diseases. While Daniela does not have much free time she enjoys art, the theatre and watching murder mysteries.
Ernesto ManzoGraduate Student
My primary research goal is to use model organisms to better understand the molecular mechanisms underlying human disease. I am currently investigating how changes in metabolism affect degenerating motor neurons in ALS. I am also developing experiments that will help determine the role of glial cells in the context of disease. As an HHMI Gilliam Fellow, I am committed to breaking down institutional barriers and promoting diversity in science. I enjoy hot sauce, pistachos, and spending time with my family.
Erik LehmkuhlGraduate Student
I'm a graduate student looking to continue my career in research and science education through a doctorate. My primary research goal is to determine physiologically relevant targets of TDP43 mediated translational inhibition in the context of Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis
My primary research goal is to understand the mechanisms underlying metabolic dysregulation in ALS. I am also working on validating potential mRNA targets in Drosophila model of ALS . When I am not in lab, I enjoy hiking and practice Krav Maga.
Chuol KuethMaster's Student
I am a master’s student in the Cellular and Molecular Medicine graduate program. My primary research goal is to probe the mechanism of specific drugs using a pharmacogenetic approach in Drosophila model of Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis. I am also contributing to a project aimed at identifying mRNAs that are dystranslated in ALS.
Elizabeth DolbeckMaster's Student
Hi, my name is Elizabeth Dolbeck, and I am a student majoring Neuroscience and Cognitive Science and Molecular and Cellular Biology, with the goal of one day pursuing a PhD in Neuroscience. In lab, I explore the role of stress granules in the progression of ALS and frontotemporal dementia. Outside of lab, I enjoy listening to true crime podcasts, playing Nintendo games, and watercoloring.
Taylor WingfieldResearch Technician
Graduated from the U of A in 2014 with a degree in Molecular and Cellular Biology. Research experience includes epigenetic mechanisms of Lymphoma with Dr. Catherine Smith. Currently a part of the Copper Team in Daniela Zarnescu’s lab studying ALS. Hobbies include reading, cycling, and back packing. Career aspirations of working in industry in the field of cancer research or Neurological disorder research.
Dianne BarramedaUndergraduate Researcher
Hi, I’m Dianne and I am majoring in Physiology. I am in the metabolism team and currently using neuromuscular junctions to study the role of metabolic processes on Drosophila that express ALS phenotypes. When I am not in lab, I enjoy watching movies, playing video games, and eating pizookies.
Dakotah ShreinerUndergraduate Researcher
My name is Dakotah Shreiner and I am attending the University of Arizona. I am double majoring in Biochemistry and Molecular and Cellular Biology with a minor in Business Administration. I am researching metabolism in ALS by using qPCR to quantify the expression of genes in different forms of ALS such as C9 and SOD1. Outside of lab, I enjoy hiking, playing tennis, and hanging out with my friends!
Jason JuangUndergraduate Researcher
Hi, my name is Jason and I am studying Biochemistry. I am currently working on the drug screen team to determine the effects different compounds have on ALS behavioral phenotypes found inside our fly model. In my free time, I really enjoy watching television and going restaurant hopping around Tucson and Phoenix.
Brittany WilliamsUndergraduate Researcher
Hi, my name is Brittany. Protein aggregates are a hallmark of age-related neurodegenerative diseases, and they are thought to “evolve” from RNA stress granules. However, their connection to aging is still unknown. The purpose of the study is to analyze the dynamics of stress granule formation in Drosophila melanogaster during aging. The presence of stress granules is ascertained using Drosophila Fragile X Mental Retardation Protein (DFMRP) as a marker.
Rachel BearUndergraduate Researcher
I am studying Neuroscience and Cognitive Science and Molecular and Cellular biology with the goal of pursuing graduate school. I am working on a project that studies potential translational targets of TDP-43 to understand the role of TDP-43 in translation dysregulation. Outside of the lab I really enjoy hiking and spending time on Mt. Lemmon.
Matthew ScanduraUndergraduate Researcher
I’m studying Molecular & Cellular Biology and Biochemistry. My current research is focused on verifying the pathological relevance of identified translational targets of TDP-43 in ALS. After graduation I hope to continue doing research in a PhD program and explore opportunities in science outreach and communication, as well as keeping up with my current hobbies of writing and acting.
Gabe BirchakUndergraduate Researcher
Hi, my name is Gabe Birchak, and I am majoring in molecular and cellular biology and minoring in biochemistry. I currently do work examining and intervening in the metabolic processes of fruit flies expressing ALS phenotypes. I have aspirations of performing research as a molecular geneticist. My hobbies include playing the guitar and golfing.
Randall EckUndergraduate Researcher
Hi, my name is Randall Eck and I am doubling majoring in Neuroscience and Cognitive Science and Political Science. I am working with the aging team to develop a model of translational and RNA stress granule activity during normal aging. I spent a summer in the Czech Republic conducting research at the Institute of Parasitology through UBRP’s Prozkoumat program. I hope to continue on to a Ph.D program after I graduate. If you ever want to know whats going on in the news, I am your guy!
Hannah BallUndergraduate Researcher
HI I’m Hannah and I am studying Molecular and Cellular Biology and Biochemistry. I am working on the metabolism team to study the effectiveness of different treatments for ALS through behavioral assays. I hope to get my Masters degree and become a genetic counselor one day. Outside of lab I enjoy hanging out with friends and family.
Ryan O'HaraUndergraduate Researcher
Hi, I'm Ryan and I'm studying Neuroscience and Cognitive Science and Astronomy. Currently, I work with the copper team on projects relating to the isolation and analysis of ALS-ridden adult fruit fly NMJs as well as the effects of apilimod-based drug food on various fly genotypes. After graduation, I hope to attend medical school and pursue a career in astrobiology. Outside of lab, I spend most of my free time playing the piano, writing, swimming, and running.
Alexander BlytheUndergraduate Researcher
My name is Alexander Blythe. I am majoring in biochemistry and molecular and cellular biology. I'm currently assisting in research involving translational targets of TDP-43 in fruit fly models of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). I hope to continue doing physiological and biochemical research into cellular mechanisms underpinning neurological disorders and, after graduation, attend medical school. I enjoy reading, hiking, and practicing piano in my free time.
Jenna SoulvieUndergraduate Researcher
Hello, I’m Jenna Soulvie. I’m majoring in neuroscience and minoring in Spanish. I’m interested in biology and cognitive neuroscience. I have always been fascinated by the brain and how it works, and why it sometimes doesn’t work. This lab gives me the opportunity to explore these questions I have while working with great people. I enjoy running and playing basketball with my friends.
Clare HanssUndergraduate Researcher
I am currently studying Neuroscience with an emphasis in cognition at the University of Arizona. My project on the RNA binding team is to study the interactions between TDP wild type and mutant flies with specific translation initiation factors through a larval turning assay. I hope to continue collecting data for this project to determine how ALS affects motor function through its interaction with protein synthesis.
Gayatri SadacharUndergraduate Researcher
Hello! I'm majoring in Neuroscience & Cognitive Science as well as minoring in Gender & Women's Studies. I'm an aspiring neurologist who enjoys listening to podcasts, writing poetry, and spending time with family. I'm interested in elucidating the role of TDP-43-mediated sequestration of protein targets in ALS and am very grateful to be a part of such a fun & collaborative lab.
Nicolai PeñaUndergraduate Researcher
Hi my name is Nic and I am studying neuroscience and biochemistry. A common molecular phenotype found in ALS models and patient samples is impaired RNA metabolism. I am specifically looking at how protein synthesis may be dysregulated in ALS motor neurons. By learning which proteins and signal pathways disrupt translation in ALS, we can begin to discover common disease mechanisms and potential therapeutic targets.
Past Members of Zarnescu Lab
Stephen Yao, 2018
Matthew Chaung, 2018
Briggs Carhart, 2018
Bhavani Siddegowda, 2017
Alyssa Coyne, 2017
Ben Zaepfel, 2017
Jordan Barrows, 2017
Robert Kraft, 2017
Elise Munoz, 2017
Spencer Vaughan, 2017
Danielle Mathieson, 2017
Melissa Sayegh, 2017
Abigail O’ Connor, 2017