Cohen lab

 cohen lab


Lab Members

Dr. Ian Carter-O’Connell


PhD, Harvard University

After obtaining my undergraduate degree in biochemistry from the Colorado College, I decided to pursue a PhD training program at Harvard University. During the course of my graduate studies in the O'Shea lab, I had the opportunity to examine the role of the phosphate-starvation response (PHO) in yeast from a number of different perspectives. In Saccharomyces cerevisiae, regulation of the PHO response occurs through a cyclin-dependent kinase-cyclin pair, Pho80-Pho85. Using a crystal structure provided by a collaborator I identified a set of residues that, when mutated, abrogate kinase specificity at the substrate binding cleft as well as a distal region believed to confer processivity. I then expanded my interest in environmental stress to the genome level in Schizosaccharomyces pombe. Using a combination of microarrays, high-throughput sequencing, and biochemistry I characterized the phosphate-starvation response mediated by the novel transcription factor Pho7. This led to a new understanding of how two distantly related species use divergent transcriptional regulation to achieve similar homeostatic balance. My graduate studies led me to question how organisms can utilize a single post-translational modification to produce multifaceted, global shifts in cellular machinery. I think the expanding field of ADP-ribosylation provides an excellent opportunity to address this question. My current work in the Cohen lab is focused on defining the family-member specific protein targets for each of the 17 ADP-ribosyltransferases (ARTDs or PARPs) using structure-guided enzyme engineering, chemical synthesis of novel NAD+ analogues, and proteomics. Starting from this global perspective, I will leverage my background in biochemistry, structural biology, and molecular biology to tease apart the specific function for each PARP family-member in both normal physiology and disease (cancer progression, neurodegeneration). Outside the lab, I have fully succombed to the influence of Portland; spending time camping, brewing, baking, and pickling.

Dr. Anke Vermehren-Schmaedick

PhD, Tufts University
MCR, Oregon Health & Science University

I received my undergraduate degree in Biology (molecular emphasis) from the Simón Bolívar University in Venezuela. My interest in molecular neurobiology led me to pursue my PhD training in insect neuroscience at Tufts University in Boston, MA.  My overall research interests involving insects included (1) exploring the roles of nicotinic acetylcholine receptor subunits in the Manduca sexta's nervous system both in vitro and in vivo (combining RNAi with live cell imaging, electrophysiology and behavioral assays); and (2) identifying the roles of the atypical soluble guanylyl cyclases in Drosophila melanogaster larvae during oxygen sensation as well as taste preferences in both, larvae and adult flies. I then got interested in working with vertebrates to look at the effects of intermittent hypoxia on the regulation of BDNF transcripts and protein levels in the cardiorespiratory control areas of the mouse brainstem in vivo, as well as regulation of BDNF promoter- and activity pattern-specific expression (in normo- and hypertensive rats). These studies led me to pursue a Master's in Clinical Research at the Oregon Health & Science University, OR. Before joining Dr. Cohen's laboratory, I spent some time developing and validating the use of quantum dot-labeled proteins (BDNF) in living primary neurons grown in microfluidic chambers for high-resolution real-time tracking of QD-BDNF in order to characterize their retrograde transport along axons, adding a spatial dynamic dimension to cell signaling. My current work in the Cohen lab is focused on examining the role of the ADP-ribosyltransferases (PARPs or ARTDs), specifically PARP6 (ARTD17), in neurodevelopment. For this I am combining my expertise in molecular biology, biochemistry, cell imaging and behavioral studies. Outside the lab, I am an avid reader, crazy baker, which I level out with running and hiking.

Rory Morgan


MS, University of Oregon

I was born and raised in Canby, OR, a small town just south of Portland.  Although I grew up on a cattle farm and was involved in all things agricultural throughout high school, I chose a different path when I attended Gonzaga University in Spokane, WA to pursue a degree in biochemistry.  I conducted undergraduate research on parasitic metabolism elucidation to aid in the development of antiparasitic therapeutics.  Upon graduation in 2007, I debated graduate school and an industrial position, but found a balance in the Master's Industrial Internship Program in Organic Synthesis at University of Oregon, where I completed a MS degree in chemistry and a nine-month internship at the pharmaceutical research company Bend Research, Inc. in Bend, OR.  My internship progressed into a permanent position as a Research Chemist, where I was employed from 2008-2012, researching a variety of projects centered around drug delivery technologies.  With the realization that I was more interested in the early stages of drug development, I enrolled in the PMCB graduate program at OHSU in 2012 to pursue chemical biology research.  With my chemistry background, I joined the lab of Dr. Michael Cohen to investigate the biological role of the post-translational modification known as ADP-ribosylation using rationally designed chemical probes and chemical genetic strategies.  Upon completion of my doctoral studies, I hope to find a postdoctoral position to aid in my transition back to industry to pursue drug discovery research.

Ilsa Kirby


BA, Reed College

Born and raised in the Willamette Valley wilderness, I was eventually deemed fit for general socialization and attended Reed College in Portland Oregon, where my initial focus on history and political science was quickly abandoned for my new found love of chemistry. While at Reed I taught organic chemistry labs, conducted research in organic synthesis, and completed my senior thesis work developing a series of host-targeted antiviral compounds. After graduating with a BA in Chemistry, I traded my lab coat for legal briefs and spend a year working for a law firm in Seattle before joining OHSU's Program in Molecular and Cellular Biosciences in 2014. I joined Dr. Michael Cohen's lab in the spring of 2015, where I have focused on designing and synthesizing chemical tools to investigate the biological role of a post-translational modification known as ADP-ribosylation. Following my studies at OHSU, I hope to pursue an academic position at an undergraduate-focused institution.