Participating Faculty

OHSU PREP has many participating faculty across departments. During your application you will be asked to specify 3-5 research faculty that interest you. These names will be used for the mentor-matching process of selected scholars. Please see the list of faculty members who are actively recruiting PREP scholars for this year below. This list gets updated annually. If there is someone of interest to you that is not on the list, please let us know by emailing us at PREPtograd@ohsu.edu. You can find out about additional researchers by exploring the Labs at OHSU website.

Note: Our PREP faculty were asked to specify the graduate program they are most affiliated with (which is listed in each profile section). However, many of our faculty are affiliated with several graduate programs at OHSU. 

Sudarshan Anand

Sudarshan Anand

Associate Professor | Graduate Program in Biomedical Sciences

“Giving cancer the flu” Strategies to manipulate the tumor immune microenvironment including antibodies targeting immune checkpoints have revolutionized cancer treatment. However, many tumors are immunologically ‘cold’ thereby escaping these immunotherapies. ‘Tricks and tips’ from viruses/bacteria or autoimmune disease have yielded many approaches to enhance immune recognition of tumors. We found that an RNA sensing pathway, Retinoic acid Induced Gene 1 (RIG-I) that serves as a receptor for viral RNA, can be adopted as a robust immune activator across cancer types A few questions we are investigating currently What cell types in the tumor benefit from RIG activation - the tumor cells or immune cells? What makes some tumors sensitive or resistant to RIG activation? Can we develop small molecule modulators of RIG-I function? Lab Website

Sarah Andres

Picture of Sarah Andres, PhD

Assistant Professor | Graduate Program in Biomedical Sciences

The Andres Lab specializes in cellular physiology of health and disease within the gastrointestinal tract, with a particular interest in cellularcommunication. Our work is centered on post-transcriptional regulation of intestinal physiology via the RNA binding protein IMP1 and the role ofextracellular vesicles (EVs) as carriers of information into and throughout the human body. Our projects examine roles for IMP1 and EVs in development,inflammation, and cancer. Lab Website

Michael Cohen

Picture of Michael Cohen, PhD

Associate Professor | Graduate Program in Biomedical Sciences

A major focus of the Cohen lab is on the evolutionarily conserved post-translational modification, ADP-ribosylation. ADP-ribosylation is catalyzed by afamily of enzymes known as PARPs (17 family members in humans) using NAD+ as a substrate. PARPs catalyze the transfer of ADP-ribosefrom NAD+ to amino acids in target proteins. We have developed enabling chemical tools and approaches to study PARPs and NAD+; theseinclude orthogonal, clickable NAD+ analogengineered enzyme pairs, selective PARP inhibitors, and NAD+ biosensors. These tools andapproaches have provided insights into the cellular function of PARPs and NAD+ in ways not attainable with conventional methods. Lab Website

James Frank

Picture of James Frank, PhD

Assistant Professor | Neuroscience Graduate Program

The Frank lab studies cannabinoid receptors and how they are activated by their endogenous lipid ligands to affect biomolecule secretion in thebrain and in the pancreas. The lab synthesizes and evaluates new small molecule-based light-activatable tools using chemistry, molecularbiology, imaging, whole-cell electrophysiology, and in vivo behavioral experiments. Lab Website

Marc Freeman

Marc Freeman

Professor | Neuroscience Graduate Program

Our group uses the fruit fly Drosophila as a model to explore fundamental aspects of glial cell biology and neuron-glia interactions. Glial cells constitute the majority of the cells in the human brain and play crucial roles in the assembly, function and maintenance of neural circuits. Despite their abundance, we know surprisingly little about how glia develop or function. The major advantages of the fly are its remarkable collection of molecular-genetic tools for the analysis of gene function, the depth of our understanding of the development, histology and function of the Drosophila nervous system. Lab Website

Melanie Gillingham

Melanie Gillingham

Associate Professor | Graduate Program in Biomedical Sciences

My laboratory studies the pathophysiology and potential development novel treatments of inherited disorders of the fatty acid oxidation pathway. We use a variety of models of fatty acid oxidation including iPSC derived in vitro models, and mouse models. The lab is currently developing an AVV gene therapy approach to treat a unique chorioretinipathy observed in patient and our mouse model of Long-chain 3-hydroxy Acyl-CoA dehydrogenase deficiency. Lab Website

Beth Habecker

Picture of Beth Habecker, PhD

Professor | Graduate Program in Biomedical Sciences

MWe are studying nerves that control the heart. We are trying to understand how neuron-heart interactions during injury and disease contributeto bad outcomes and are asking if we can fix nerves to prevent cardiac damage. Lab Website

Laura Heiser

Laura Heiser

Associate Professor | Biomedical Engineering

My laboratory is focused on understanding the phenotypic and molecular responses of cancer and normal cells to diverse stimuli including small molecule inhibitors and growth factors. We use a variety of novel imaging-based and molecular techniques to assess dynamic changes in single cells, and have a particular interest in elucidating mechanisms of therapeutic response and resistance in cancer. We use well-integrated computational and experimental techniques with a key goal of closing the gap between these approaches. My experimental expertise is in the analysis of high-throughput profiling data, including next-generation sequencing, high-throughput functional assays, and imaging assays. Lab Website

William Hersh

Bill Hersh

Professor | Biomedical Informatics

My research focuses on the development and implementation of information retrieval (IR, also called search) systems in biomedicine and health. I experimented with concept-based approaches to indexing and retrieval of knowledge-based information. Subsequently, I found that methods for evaluation systems were inadequate, and developed an interest in new approaches to evaluation. My interests in search have also evolved with the emergence of new content for retrieval, such as medical images and electronic health record data. My recent work focuses on IR needs in the setting of pandemics with rapidly emerging publications and evolving information needs. Lab Website

Monica Hinds

Monica Hinds

Professor | Biomedical Engineering

The Hinds lab focuses on understanding and interceding in progression of cardiovascular diseases. Our team studies ways to engineer biomaterials to promote healing and the impact of fluid flow on vascular cells. The lab utilizes in vitro mechanistic studies with cultured cells and blood components, ex vivo experimentation with whole blood, and in vivo animal studies. Members of our lab have diverse academic backgrounds including engineering, biology, chemistry, medicine, and materials science. Our broad approach to understanding the cardiovascular system allows our team numerous opportunities to apply basic science and engineering principles to understand and treat cardiovascular diseases. Lab Website

Jeanette "Jeni" Johnstone

Jeni Johnstone

Assistant Professor | Clinical Psychology

The Science of Nutrition Affect and Cognition in Kids (SNACK) Lab studies complementary and integrative interventions (multinutrient supplementation, mindfulness) for mental health concerns including ADHD, emotional dysregulation, mood, anxiety and stress. We are examining the biomarkers of multinutrient response, including the microbiome and its metabolites, neurotransmitter concentrations in urine and plasma, stress-related hormones and cytokines, and genetic factors. In 2022, we have new clinical trials planned in racially and ethnically diverse participants, with a focus on Black and Hispanic families, and will study new multinutrient formulations. The cross-disciplinary team (psychologist, nutritionist, naturopath, psychiatrist, and epidemiologist) conducts quantitative and qualitative research. Lab Website

Sonnet Jonker

Sonnet Jonker

Associate Professor | Graduate Program in Biomedical Sciences

Our research focuses on heart growth around the time of birth because these months are critical for establishing life-long cardiovascular health. Before birth, cardiac myocytes proliferate abundantly, the coronary capillary tree expands, connective tissues are deposited in the heart and blood vessels throughout the body. The fetus is exquisitely responsive to its environment, altering growth and maturation in mere days. Adaptations help the fetus to meet a challenge, but may have long-term consequences. We are interested in how the fetus responds to adverse challenges and whether we can improve their life-long health by stimulating beneficial adaptations in the perinatal period. Lab Website

Kate Keller

Kate Keller

Associate Professor | Graduate Program in Biomedical Sciences

My laboratory investigates the cell biology of glaucoma, a common disease that causes irreversible blindness. Glaucoma is frequently associated with elevated intraocular pressure, which is caused by decreased aqueous humor outflow through the trabecular meshwork (TM) tissue. We have identified extracellular matrix molecules that contribute to intraocular pressure regulation, how TM cells respond to elevated pressure, and the biological function of glaucoma-causing genes. Our current work is on specialized actin-based tunneling nanotubes, which transport signals directly between TM cells. Using live-cell imaging, we show that TNTs formed by glaucomatous TM cells have different phenotypic characteristics than normal TM cells, which affects their cellular communication. Lab Website

Jennifer Loftis

Jennifer Loftis

Professor | Clinical Psychology

The Loftis laboratory is focused on investigating the psychoneuroimmunological mechanisms contributing to substance use disorders, cognitive impairment, and mood disorders. We conduct preclinical studies using animal models and clinical studies to characterize the inflammatory pathways contributing to cognitive dysfunction, depression, and anxiety, particularly in individuals with a history of substance use disorders (e.g., methamphetamine, alcohol) and viral infection [e.g., hepatitis C virus (HCV), severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2)]. A major goal of this translational work is to develop and test anti-inflammatory interventions that can treat impairments in neuropsychiatric function and improve recovery outcomes and quality of life. Lab Website

Ian Martin

Ian Martin

Assistant Professor | Graduate Program in Biomedical Sciences

Research in my laboratory focuses on two main areas: First, how mutations in the LRRK2 (leucine-rich repeat kinase 2) gene promote Parkinson’s disease neurodegeneration through altered LRRK2 kinase activity. Second, how gene-environment interactions act as a pivotal determinant of neurodegeneration following exposure to certain environmental neurotoxins such as pesticides. For each area, my laboratory utilizes a combination of in vitro biochemistry, Drosophila and rodent animal models and a wide array of molecular biology, imaging and behavioral approaches that we have acquired deep expertise in. Lab Website

Julia Maxson

Julia Maxson

Assistant Professor | Graduate Program in Biomedical Sciences

The Maxson laboratory is focused on the molecular evolution of myeloid leukemias. We have a particularly interest in uncovering mechanisms of signaling and epigenetic dysfunction in these malignancies. Our goal is to harness this mechanistic understanding to enable the development of more effective treatments for patients. Lab Website

Kelly Monk

Picture of Kelly Monk, PhD

Professor | Neuroscience Graduate Program

The Monk lab studies diverse non-neuronal cells in the nervous system called glia. Although historically understudied compared to neurons, glia are critical regulators of every major aspect of nervous system biology. Using zebrafish as a discovery platform coupled with synergistic approaches in mouse, our group is answering key questions in glial cell biology including: How do glia acquire the complex morphologies that enable their functions? What molecules are used for proper axon-glial, glial-glial, and glial-vasculature communication? How do glia use these mechanisms to control neural circuit function and ultimately animal behavior? Answers to these questions will help us better understand how the brain works and to lay the foundation for new therapeutic approaches in neurological disease. Lab Website

Karina Nakayama

Picture of Karina Nakayama, PhD

Assistant Professor | Biomedical Engineering

The overarching scientific mission of the Nakayama group is to develop therapeutic treatments for traumatic musculoskeletal injuries using regenerative bioengineering strategies. The three areas of focus that frame my research program are: 1) biomaterial and cell-based therapies to treat critically sized muscle and bone defects; 2) rehabilitation engineering to improve function following traumatic lower extremity injuries; 3) material-driven immunomodulation of the musculoskeletal regenerative niche. Specifically, our group modulates extracellular environments using biomaterials and rehabilitation exercise to stimulate regenerative programs in damaged tissues. Our recent efforts have focused on bridging the gap in the clinical management of complex musculoskeletal extremity trauma. Lab Website

Tim Nice

Picture of Tim Nice, PhD

Associate Professor | Program in Biomedical Sciences

Mucosal surfaces are constantly exposed to the environment and therefore represent a front-line in protection against viral infection. Similarly, mucosal surfaces are key sites of viral shedding and transmission. The intestine is the largest mucosal surface and must balance its role in nutrient uptake with its role as an immunological barrier. We study the biology of the intestinal cells and cytokines – how they promote health and resistance to infection. We use the mouse model of persistent norovirus infection and organoid cultures from subjects with intestinal disease to understand how immune pathways function and how they become dysfunctional in disease states. Lab Website

Brian O'Roak

Brian O'Roak

Associate Professor | Neuroscience Graduate Program

Defining the molecular mechanisms that underlie autism requires not only identification of critical genetic risk factors, but also understanding how they interact within a complex and developing system. I believe we need to shift our focus to a new paradigm that incorporates many different patient-specific mutations in a multitude of models with complementary strengths and weaknesses. Advances in genome editing, induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs), neurogenetics, and functional genomics have made this patient-specific approach feasible. Furthermore, focusing on mutations in genes that are master regulators of key biologic networks provides an avenue for reducing the phenotypic complexity of autism, biomarker discovery, and targeted personalized therapies that will have impact beyond a single risk gene. Lab Website

Angela Ozburn

Angela Ozburn

Associate Professor | Behavioral and Systems Neuroscience

Research in my laboratory is directed toward a better understanding of the molecular mechanisms that underlie addiction and improved treatment of substance use disorders. We are currently using several complementary approaches in mice to carry out research goals: a) alcohol and drug self-administration, b) viral-mediated gene transfer to temporally and spatially control gene expression and neuronal activity, c) behavioral battery of drug and mood-related assays, and d) next gen sequencing to study regulation of gene expression. Lab Website

Jonathan Pruneda

Jonathan Pruneda

Assistant Professor | Graduate Program in Biomedical Sciences

Our immune system relies upon rapid and robust signaling responses to the detection of an invading pathogen. In these signaling pathways, information is relayed through post-translational modifications such as protein ubiquitination. Unfortunately for us, many pathogens have the remarkable ability to subvert host signaling responses and thus evade detection. Work in our lab focuses on the mechanisms by which pathogens manipulate the host ubiquitin signaling response. We use biochemical and structural biology techniques to understand the molecular details of these host-pathogen interactions, with the goal of learning more about the requirements for infection and immunity. Lab Website

Georgiana Purdy

Georgiana Purdy

Professor | Graduate Program in Biomedical Sciences

The goal of the Purdy Lab is to further define the dynamic interface between the human pathogen Mycobacterium tuberculosis (Mtb) and the host macrophage. Mtb is a successful pathogen because it survives within immune cells and effectively establishes and maintains a latent tuberculosis (TB) infection. Therefore, understanding the mechanisms underlying the establishment or maintenance of dormancy can inform new strategies for TB therapeutics. My lab has characterized the function of the Mycobacterial membrane protein large (MmpL) cell wall lipid transporters in pathogenic and non-pathogenic mycobacteria. MmpL proteins are integral to Mtb survival and pathogenesis. In particular, our current focus is on the MmpL11 transporter because it plays a central role in Mtb non-replicating persistence by transport of dormancy-associated “storage lipids”. Purdy lab combines bacterial genetics, biochemistry and cell biology techniques to address these questions. Lab Website

Isabella Rauch

Isabella Rauch

Assistant Professor | Graduate Program in Biomedical Sciences

Rauch lab research aims to understand how mammalian barrier tissues such as the intestine or the reproductive tract distinguish between harmless and dangerous microorganisms, and what happens during infection of epithelial cells at these tissues. The reaction of an epithelial cell to pathogen assault represents the first decision of the ensuing immune reaction, and understanding these processes will help us to better treat infections and chronic inflammatory diseases. We use various mouse models of infection in our research. In addition, stem cell derived organoids from mice and humans allow us to model and study epithelial infections in a dish. Lab Website

Lina Reiss

Lina Reiss

Associate Professor | Behavioral and Systems Neuroscience

We conduct research related to hearing - auditory perception and cochlear implants. There are actually two labs - one basic science lab that uses animal models, and one clinical research lab that tests human subjects. We focus on two areas: 1) how neural health of the auditory nerve changes after cochlear implantation, and how aging affects this process, for instance recovery of neural structures such as myelin or neurites. 2) how central auditory processing differs in people with hearing loss and hearing devices like cochlear implants, and these differences affect the ability to segregate (and understand) speech in background noise. We study these questions using psychophysics/behavior, non-invasive electrophysiological measures using the cochlear implant to record neural signals, immunohistochemistry, and computational models. Lab Website

Sandra Rugonyi

Picture of Sandra Rugonyi, PhD

Professor | Biomedical Engineering

We study embryonic heart development and how abnormal blood flow conditions (due to environmental stressors) lead to congenital heart disease, which affects 1% of newborns. To this end, we use chicken embryo models because they are easy to access while developmental processes are conserved among vertebrate species. Chicken embryos, moreover, replicate heart defects in human newborns with congenital heart disease. For our studies, we use a combination of engineering and biological techniques, including development of computational models. Lab Website

Arpiar Saunders

Arpiar Saunders

Assistant Professor | Neuroscience Graduate Program

Our aims in research are to understand 1) how genetic variation influences the cellular organization of neural circuits and how 2) viruses interact with host brain cell types. Our approach is primarily focused on using single-cell, single-virion genomic to generate comprehensive and high-throughput datasets. Lab Website

Elinor Sullivan

Elinor Sullivan

Associate Professor | Clinical Psychology

The overarching research goal of the laboratory is to understand the influence of early environmental factors such as maternal nutrition, stress, and mental health during gestation on offspring neurobehavioral regulation. The primary focus is the identification of early environmental risk and protective factors for neurodevelopmental disorders including autism spectrum disorders (ASDs), attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), anxiety, and depression in order to inform the design of prevention strategies and early interventions. One specific focus is the impact of exposure to maternal obesity and poor nutrition during the perinatal period on the behavior, and physiology of the developing offspring. Lab Website

Vivek Unni

Picture of Vivek Unni, PhD

Associate Professor | Neuroscience Graduate Program

My lab is interested in the protein alpha-synuclein, including its normal and pathologic functions related to diseases like Parkinson’s Disease(PD), Lewy Body Dementia (LBD), and the skin cancer melanoma. We use in vivo multiphoton imaging approaches to study the aggregation ofalpha-synuclein in mouse models of PD and LBD, and a variety of techniques to study the novel hypothesis, developed by our group, thatalpha-synuclein plays unexpected roles in the cell nucleus in DNA repair in neurons and melanoma cells. Lab Website

Gary Westbrook

Gary Westbrook

Professor | Neuroscience Graduate Program

Researchers in the Westbrook Lab would like to understand how synapses and small circuits do their work. Our earlier work was mostly directed at the level of receptors, particularly N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) receptors, and the function of single synapses. Our efforts have now largely shifted to studies of small networks (microcircuits) in the hippocampus. Our goal is to understand how such circuits are formed, regulate their activity and contribute to the function of neural systems. Lab Website

Anna Wilson

Anna Wilson

Associate Professor | Clinical Psychology

The Advancing Research in Pediatric Pain Lab studies novel models of risk for pain in children and families, with the goal of identifying medical system and psychosocial targets for prevention of chronic pain problems. We assess pain via patient-reported outcomes, lab-based pain testing, and neuroimaging approaches. Our work focuses on family factors, intergenerational risk for pain, and pain and prescription opioid use in adolescents and young adults in the context of acute and chronic pain experiences. Lab Website

Marina Wolf

Picture of Marina Wolf, PhD

Professor | Behavioral and Systems Neuroscience

My lab studies the role of neuronal plasticity in drug addiction. Specifically, we use rat drug self-administration models to understand why persons recovering from substance use disorder remain vulnerable to drug craving and relapse even after long periods of abstinence. Cell culture models are sometimes used for mechanistic experiments to complement the in vivo studies. Techniques employed include biochemistry, electrophysiology, fiber photometry and DREADDs. Lab Website

Kevin Wright

Kevin Wright

Associate Professor | Neuroscience Graduate Program

Our lab is interested in how the nervous system is assembled, and how this process goes wrong in neurodevelopmental disorders. We use mouse genetic approaches to study neuronal specification, migration, axon guidance, and synaptogenesis. Current projects involve identifying the molecular pathways required for generating diverse subtypes of neurons with unique molecular, morphological, and physiological properties in the retina and dorsal root ganglia. We are also investigating how the transmembrane protein Dystroglycan regulates inhibitory synapse formation and maintenance in the brain of mouse models of dystroglycanopathy, a form of congenital muscular dystrophy that is accompanied by a range of neurological defects. Lab Website

Daniel Zuckerman

Daniel Zuckerman

Professor | Biomedical Engineering

How do molecular machines really work? And can we predict future cell behavior based on sparse information of the past? The Zuckerman group uses physics-based computations to study biological phenomena ranging from molecular to cell scale. At the molecular scale, we use principles of dynamical trajectories to design better methods applicable for drug design; yet the same ideas can be used to help understand the behaviors of cells, for instance in tumor environments. We also use statistical inference to determine mechanisms of molecular machines such as transporters in a quantitative manner. An overarching challenge of the modern era of data-intensive biology is the generation of understandable, mechanistic models based on experimental data, and we are actively working in this area using innovative methods. The group is funded both by NIH and NSF. Lab Website


OHSU PREP has a number of Faculty who will join us throughout the year assisting in several professional development programming (i.e. understanding academic culture, grad application preparation, developing research methods, and creating a professional/scientific identity).