Academic Mentors

Academic mentors are a critical resource for our students. Academic Mentors contribute formally and informally to graduate student training. They advise first year students on their Fall core courses, rotation lab choices and upon transitioning into their chosen research lab. They develop an individualized educational plan in conjunction with the student and their Research Mentor. They track student progress through individual meetings with the students and review of DAC reports. 

Image of Dr. Michael S. Cohen

The overall interests of my lab are in two main areas: 1. uncovering new roles for nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (NAD+) regulation in cells and  2. elucidating the function of post-translational modifications (PTMs) by enzymes that use NAD+ as a substrate. A current focus in on the evolutionarily conserved PTM known as ADP-ribosylation. We seek to understand the impact ADP-ribosylation on cell function as a strategy for therapeutic development. ADP-ribosylation is catalyzed by a family of enzymes known as poly-ADP-ribose polymerases (PARPs, 17 in humans; also referred to as ARTDs), and involves the transfer of ADP-ribose from NAD+ to amino acids in target proteins. Despite being called PARPs, most of the family members catalyze mono-ADP-ribosylation (MARylation) and not poly-ADP-ribosylation (PARylation). Over the past eight years we have developed novel chemical tools and approaches, including orthogonal NAD+ analogue-enzyme pairs and selective PARP inhibitors, which have provided insights into the function of PARP-mediated MARylation in ways not attainable with conventional methods. Our studies have kindled a number of collaborations with other researchers in the PARP field that are using our selective PARP inhibitors and knowledge gained from our chemical genetic studies to understand how MARylation regulates protein function in cells.

I am deeply passionate about mentoring and training graduate students, both in the lab and in the classroom. Graduate students are the catalyst for academic research and I am committed to training the next generation of PhD scientists. I have been involved in all aspects of graduate student education: from teaching in graduate courses to mentoring graduate students in my lab and serving on dissertation advisory committees. I am enthusiastic about the opportunity to contribute more formally to graduate student training as an Academic Mentor. One of my main priorities will be to make sure students feel supported and can achieve their educational and career goals.

Professor Catherine Morgans, Academic Mentor

Dr. Morgans is a Professor in the Department of Chemical Physiology & Biochemistry at OHSU where she directs a research program in retinal neuroscience. She has been actively involved in graduate education throughout her 20 years at OHSU, and greatly enjoys mentoring and advising graduate students. She is the Associate Director of the Chemical Physiology & Biochemistry Graduate Program and has helped design the graduate curriculum. In addition to mentoring students and post-docs, she has taught graduate courses, served on graduate program admissions committees, and regularly reviews pre-doctoral and post-doctoral fellowship applications for the NIH. She is also an active member of the OHSU Alliance for Visible Diversity in Science (AVDS), whose mission is to increase racial and ethnic equity within the research programs at OHSU.

Her research focuses on the first stage in visual processing: the synaptic transmission of visual signals from photoreceptors to bipolar cells in the retina. These synapses have unique structural and biochemical features that directly relate to their physiology, and several visual diseases are caused by mutations in genes exclusively expressed at these synapses. Lab members employ a broad range of molecular, biochemical, immunohistochemical, and electrophysiological techniques. Their approach has resulted in the identification and characterization of proteins that fulfill essential functions in the retina, and at the same time has provided insights into retinal diseases involving these proteins. Current research is focused on mechanisms of adaptation at photoreceptor and bipolar cell synapses that contribute to our ability to see over a broad range of light intensities. They are also investigating a rare autoimmune syndrome targeting retinal bipolar cells that occurs in some skin cancer patients.

She is an experienced graduate mentor and has gained further mentoring awareness and skill through mentor training workshops, including Culturally Aware Mentoring. She believes that compassionate mentoring based in mutual respect and trust is essential to ensuring that students thrive in graduate school.

Image of Dr. Mathew Thayer

Dr. Thayer is a Professor in the Department of Chemical Physiology and Biochemistry at OHSU where his focus is on the mechanisms that control chromosome-wide replication timing, mono-allelic gene expression, and structural stability of mammalian chromosomes. He has also been very active in graduate education at OHSU for the past 27 years. He has received several Teaching and Mentoring Awards, including the John A. Resko Faculty Research Achievement Award in 2017, which is the highest academic honor awarded at OHSU. He was the inaugural Director of the Cancer Biology Graduate Program (CANB) at OHSU, where he was responsible for developing the CANB Program; including development of new course work, establishing a Journal club, and a seminar series. He was also responsible for writing and presenting the CANB Program to the Oregon University System site visit in 2009, and they were granted PhD degree granting status in 2010. He continues to be active in all aspects of graduate education at OHSU and is currently an Academic Mentor and is on the Steering Committee for the new OHSU graduate Program in Biomedical Sciences.

His lab uses classical cytogenetic and state of the art molecular genetic approaches to characterize an abnormal chromosomal phenotype associated with genomic instability in cancer cells. This abnormal phenotype affects the entire chromosome and is characterized by delayed replication timing (DRT), which is represents a >3 hour delay in both the initiation as well as the completion of DNA synthesis along the entire length of the chromosome. Chromosomes with DRT also display a significant delay in mitotic chromosome condensation (DMC) that is characterized by an under-condensed appearance during mitosis. My lab found that Cre/loxP-mediated deletion of a large non-coding RNA gene, which we named asynchronous replication and autosomal RNA on chromosome 6 (ASAR6), caused DRT/DMC of the entire chromosome. They went on to show that the ASAR6 locus shares many characteristics with the X inactivation center: 1) mono-allelic expression of large non-coding RNAs, 2) random asynchronous replication timing between alleles, 3) regulation of mono-allelic gene expression in cis, and 4) regulation of the replication timing of an entire chromosome. More recently, they identified a second lncRNA gene, ASAR15, that when disrupted results in delayed replication of human chromosome 15. Importantly, ASAR15 shares many physical and functional characteristics with XIST and ASAR6, including: random mono-allelic expression of lncRNAs, asynchronous replication between alleles that is coordinated with other mono-allelic genes in cis, and the ability to delay replication timing of entire chromosomes following ectopic integration of transgenes. They are currently using ectopic integration of transgenes into human and mouse chromosomes to further map the functional sequences of ASAR6 and ASAR15. Thus, their most recent work defined the first cis-acting loci responsible for chromosome-wide replication timing, monoallelic gene expression, and structural stability of human autosomes.

Tim Nice, Ph.D. 

Dr. Tim Nice is a Professor of Molecular Microbiology and Immunology at OHSU. The overall goal of research in the Nice Lab is to advance our understanding of the immune response in the intestine, with a particular focus on intestinal epithelial cells (IECs) and the interferon family of cytokines. In the lab, they use mouse models and IEC organoid cultures from mice and humans to study conserved activities of interferon family members and their contributions to immunity and disease. Over the course of the lab's prior studies, they have identified host genes that shape the immune response to viral infection and defined contributions of the bacterial microbiota. Dr. Nice particularly enjoy mentorship of research projects in the lab, where learning through building hypotheses and discussing results is effective and satisfying. He was a fortunate recipient of invaluable mentorship during his training, so he strongly desires to extend similar opportunities to research assistants, interns, graduate students, and postdocs in his lab.

Dr. Nice has had the privilege of working with graduate students through all stages of their PhD studies, from admission to the dissertation defense. The most rewarding parts of his time at OHSU have been fostering the ambitions of recruits, supporting students through the challenges of a dissertation project, and celebrating their successful defense of dissertation work. As a PBMS Academic Mentor, he pledges to guide graduate students in pursuit of their degree, including advice on courses and rotations, choice of a research mentor/lab, and navigation of research milestones. Dr. Nice will continue to advise and support students throughout their time in the program and looks forward to meeting PBMS students each year.