Forte Lab: Members

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Mike Forte, PhDMike Forte (
BS, University of Notre Dame, 1973
PhD, University of Washington, 1978

I was raised in Seattle, WA and graduated summa cum laude from the University of Notre Dame. Missing the Northwest, I decided to return to the Seattle for my graduate training in the Dept. of Genetics at the University of Washington. My thesis project focused on initial attempts to understand chromosome structure using yeast as an experimental model. After finishing my Ph.D. work, my attention turned to something new, and I spent four years in the laboratory of Dr. Ching Kung at the University of Wisconsin in Madison, WI as a postdoctoral fellow. My projects there focused on trying to understand the molecular basis of a variety of ion channel mutants that had been generated in the protozoan Paramecium. My first faculty position was in the Dept. of Biology at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, OH where I continued to work on Paramecium but became fascinated by trying to understand the nature of the protein conformational changes driven by voltage changes in ion channels. For a number of years, we modeled these changes within the context of a mitochondrial protein, exploiting the powerful genetics available in the yeast system. While at Case, I began my work on cell signaling in Drosophila, which eventually focused on the mechanisms responsible for synaptic growth. In 1986, I jumped at the chance to move back to the Northwest and was a founding member of the Vollum Institute. More recently, in collaboration with Dennis Bourdette, my lab is the using mouse genetics and mouse models of MS to try to understand the role of mitochondria in the axonal severing that results in the permanent disability accompanying this disease.


Amanda JeffersonAmanda Jefferson (

I am currently working on receiving my BS in Biology at Portland State University. For two years I worked for Dr. Philip Copenhaver where I helped with maintaining his insect colony and then prepared fly food for multiple labs. I have also worked for Travis Rogers in the Vollum's DNA Sequencing Core. Recently, I joined the Forte lab where I maintain the fly stocks and study the consequences of various manipulations of Drosophila genes that eliminate the activity of a key protein involved in mitochondrial calcium homeostasis.


Kristen JonesKristen Jones (
BA, Concordia University, 1999

I graduated from Concordia University in Portland with a BA in Biology. I then spent two years in Dr. Tom Soderling's lab working with the Drosophila homolog of Ca2+/calmodulin kinase I, and five years in Dr. Sarah Smolik's lab working on Drosophila orthologs of CBP. In 2007, I joined Mike Forte's lab and have spent the last few years on all aspects of mouse molecular biology, both protein and DNA. I also make sure the lab runs as smoothly as possible by managing the ordering of all supplies.


Justina Sileikyte, PhDJustina Šileikytė (
BSc, Vilnius University, Lithuania, 2007
MSc, Vilnius University, Lithuania, 2009
PhD, University of Padova, Italy, 2013

While a master student in Biophysics at Vilnius University, Lithuania, I was awarded an Erasmus Fellowship that allowed me to spend time in the laboratory of Dr. F. Ricchelli at the University of Padova, Italy. At this point, I began my studies on the mitochondrial permeability pore (PTP), an inner mitochondrial membrane channel involved in numerous pathologies, by investigating a specific outer membrane protein, TSPO, and its role in the regulation of PTP activity. After obtaining my MSc degree, I enrolled as a PhD student in the Cellular Biology Program at the University of Padova and continued my studies on the PTP with Dr. Ricchelli and Dr. P. Bernardi. Meantime, I got interested in High Throughput Screening of small molecule libraries and took part in an NIH-funded program of Drs. Forte and Bernardi aimed at identifying novel inhibitors of the PTP. Recently, I have joined Mike Forte's lab in order to support characterization as well as target identification campaign of these molecules.