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Current Rotation Opportunities - CMP

Faculty Email Research interest/projects
Arteel, Gavin, PhD The extracellular matrix (ECM)/matrisome consists of a diverse range of components that work bi-directionally with surrounding cells to create a dynamic microenvironment that regulates cell signaling, recruitment, and tissue function.  Our group is filling gaps in our understanding in this field in the context of liver diseases. We generally perform translational and reverse-translational studies in which preclinical models are paired with human diseased samples. See more
Stephen F. Badylak, DVM, PhD, MD Dr. Badylak's laboratory is a highly interdisciplinary environment that conducts studies that range from basic fundamental molecular mechanistic investigations to human clinical studies. The major focus of the laboratory is the development of regenerative medicine strategies for tissue and organ replacement; especially for clinical problems that presently have no viable therapy or poor therapeutic approaches. See more
Juliane Beier, PhD Dr. Beier’s research focuses on interactions of environmental chemical exposures and lifestyles that increase risk of chronic liver disease and which may be preventable. See more
Timothy R. Billiar, MD Dr. Billiar’s laboratory is funded in a number of areas, with the main research focus on immune response to injury and shock. See more
Timothy Burns, MD, PhD My research and clinical interests revolve around the development of targeted therapies for KRAS-mutant NSCLC as well as novel strategies to overcome resistance to targeted therapies for EGFR-mutant and MET-altered NSCLC.  See more
Anne-Ruxandra, Carvunis, PhD The Carvunis Lab investigates the mechanisms and dynamics of de novo gene emergence by integrating computational and experimental approaches. 
Yuan Chang, MD Viral oncogenesis
Yu-Chih Chen, PhD Due to genomic and epigenetic instability of cancer cells, inter-patient and intra-patient heterogeneity in tumors creates formidable challenges in identifying optimal treatments. To address the challenges, we aim to establish comprehensive high-throughput multi-omics single-cell analysis including genome, epigenome, transcriptome, proteome, functional, and morphological methods. See more
Charleen Chu, MD, PhD We discovered that the mitochondrial kinase PINK1 regulates dendritic branching and spine maturation.  Moreover, PINK1 is neuroprotective in several genetic models of neurodegenerative diseases, including mutations in the Alzheimer’s- and frontotemporal dementia-linked protein Tau, valosin-containing protein and mitochondrial polymerase-gamma. We plan to study the underlying signaling and cell biological mechanisms using patient-derived iPSC models, primary neuron cultures and Pink1-/- mice.
Christopher L. Cunningham, PhD The Cunningham Lab is interested in understanding the neural and sensory biology of the vertebrate auditory system.  See more
Steven Dobrowolski, PhD We determined osteopenia in the inborn error of metabolism PAH deficient phenylketonuria owes to mesenchymal stem cell developmental defect precipitated by oxidative stress and mitochondrial energy deficit. In the Pahenu2 classical PKU mouse model, we are applying oximetry, respirometry, oxidative stress assessment, and molecular means to characterize pathophysiological mechanisms and design interventions.
H. Henry Dong, PhD 1)To understand the etiology of gestational diabetes mellitus (GDM). Pancreatic beta-cells compensate for maternal insulin resistance during pregnancy. Failure of beta-cells to compensate for maternal insulin resistance is causative for GDM. Using beta-cell conditional gene knockout approach, we investigate beta-cell compensatory mechanism in mice with GDM. 2) To understand the mechanism of nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH). Using monocyte-conditional gene knockout approach in combination with ex vivo studies in human primary hepatocytes, we characterize key factors in macrophage polarization to gain mechanistic insights into proinflammatory macrophage activation, a predisposing factor that triggers hepatic inflammation and drives the evolution of steatosis to NASH.
Chris Donnelly, PhD The Pathobiology underlying neuronal death in motor neuron disease, ALS and dementia as related to intracellular inclusions.
Andrew Duncan, PhD Research in the Duncan lab focuses on liver development, homeostasis and regeneration. We are especially interested in the role of hepatic chromosome variations (polyploidy and aneuploidy) and how they influence the liver’s response to acute and chronic injury. See more
Mo Ebrahimkhani, M.D. 1) Genetically guided multilineage tissue morphogenesis with a focus on self-vascularized human liver organoids; 2) Exploiting developed organoids to study cell fate control in liver and for disease modeling; 3) Engineering hematopoietic niche for human therapeutics
Yvonne Eisele, PhD Research in the Eisele laboratory focuses on protein aggregation disorders like Alzheimer’s disease and transthyretin-related amyloidosis. See more
Delphine Gomez, PhD  The molecular mechanisms controlling vascular smooth muscle cell phenotype and behavior during vascular development and diseases. Current projects include studies to determine: 1) Epigenetic alterations in major cardiovascular diseases including peripheral artery disease and aortic aneurysm and their consequence on smooth muscle cell phenotype, 2) identification of new functional non-coding RNA in SMC, and 3) relationship between mechanotransduction and epigenetic programming.
Baoli Hu, PhD The Hu lab’s research aims to understand the cellular and molecular mechanisms of brain tumor evolution, and to develop new therapies for these devastating diseases. With a special interest in the oncobiology of glioma and medulloblastoma, we employ multidisciplinary approaches to understand brain cancer stem cells,  cell plasticity within the tumor microenvironment, and neurodevelopment relevant to tumorigenesis, tumor evolutionary trajectories under treatment. The sole aim of these projects is to provide the preclinical basis for translational research in druggable target and predictive biomarker discovery. 
Hun-Way Hwang, MD, PhD We study mRNA processing in different cell types in vivo and its role in human disease. See more
Brett Kaufman, PhD Cell-free DNA signaling, Antisense mtDNA therapies, mtDNA and cardioprotection:
Samira Kiani, MD We develop controllable CRISPR-based gene therapies for modulation of the immune system. We seek the application of this in a variety of diseases such as infectious diseases and cancer
Melanie Koenigshoff, MD, PhD The Königshoff Lab focuses on deciphering mechanisms involved in lung injury, aging and regeneration, with the aim to identify novel therapeutic targets relevant for chronic lung diseases, such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) or idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis. See more
Julia Kofler, MD Research in the Kofler lab focuses on identifying and evaluating genetic modifiers of Alzheimer’s disease and other neurodegenerative pathologies using human postmortem tissue.
Hang Lin, PhD The Lin lab has recently found that human iPSCs-derived chondrocytes displayed significantly higher capacity in generating hyaline cartilage than those from primary mesenchymal stem cells. We plan to conduct mechanistic study to determine the associated pathways , as well as to examine the utility of iPSCs-derived chondrocyte in repair cartilage injury using animal models.
Pamela Moalli, MD, PhD Translational Research Laboratories in Urogynecology (TRLU): Co-directed by Pamela Moalli, MD PhD and Steve Abramowitch, PhD, the overarching goal of this collaboration is to contribute insights into the pathogenesis, diagnosis, and treatment of pelvic organ prolapse and urinary incontinence – two common pelvic floor disorders. See more
Michael Morowitz, MD The Morowitz lab studies alterations in the gut microbiota during critical illness. We are particularly interested in dietary strategies to reverse antibiotic-induced bone marrow dysfunction.
Kari N. Nejak-Bowen, MBA, PhD Our lab, which has funding for several projects, studies the signaling processes and pathways in rare liver diseases, with a focus on cellular reprogramming, autophagy, and cell-cell interactions.
Steffi Oesterreich, PhD Breast cancer from the approach of genomics and the estrogen receptor
Andrey A. Parkhitko, PhD The main area of my research is to contribute to understanding of the metabolic mechanisms of aging and age-related diseases. The goal is to understand basic mechanisms of age-dependent metabolic reprogramming and to translate these insights into a mammalian system and ultimately into humans. See more.
Jeremy N. Rich, MD, MHS, MBA The Rich laboratory studies malignant brain tumors through the prism of stem cell biology. To interrogate molecular pathways that maintain cancer stem cells, numerous approaches are taken, including analyses of epigenetic, epitranscriptomic, metabolic, and transcriptional regulation. Interplay between tumor cells and the tumor microenvironment (e.g., immune responses, vasculature, etc.) are under active investigation. Each project includes the development of novel therapeutic paradigms to serve as preclinical basis for clinical trial design.
Ivona Vasile Pandrea, MD, PhD SIV infection is associated with a hypercoagulable status that is closely correlated with inflammation and T cell immune activation;  hypercoagulation is even more severe in old nonhuman primates (NHP) infected with SIV. We performed antiretroviral treatments in young and old NHPs infected with SIV to assess whether or not this approach is sufficient to improve coagulation, inflammation and immune activation status and to asses the effect of age. ELISA, immunohistochemistry and flow cytometry will be used to measure numerous biomarkers of immune activation and inflammation in the animals for includion in a publication.  
Julie Philippi, PhD The Phillippi Lab is a team of blood vessel enthusiasts studying how cell-matrix signaling influences microvascular dysfunction to uncover new mechanisms of cardiopulmonary diseases, organ/tissue failure, and preserving donor organ function. A long-term goal is to develop less invasive treatments options for cardiopulmonary diseases such as aortic aneurysm, heart failure and lung failure. Current initiatives include developing ECM biomaterials for vasa vasorum regeneration, establishing a novel animal model for aneurysm, and designing approaches for less invasive surgeries. Learn more at:
Reben Raeman, MS, PhD The primary focus of our lab is to elucidate host and environmental factors driving hepatic inflammation and fibrosis in non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH). See more
Melanie Scott, MD, PhD The Scott lab investigates innate immune responses to cell and tissue injury and infection with a focus on translational science. Projects include the effect of post translational modifications of inflammasome 
components, role of inflammasomes and caspase-11 activation in infectious and non-infectious models of disease, effects of extracellular vesicles on platelets, neutrophils and macrophages, and the role of extracellular matrix-bound nanovesicles in liver disease.
Ian Sigal, PhD   How do neural tissues get hurt? We work to understand how mechanical insult contributes to damage neural tissues, particularly in chronic conditions. Our ultimate goal is the development of tools to prevent the damage and enhance regeneration and recovery.
Kanaiya Singh, PhD Tissue nanotransfection, electroceutical infection management, nanomedicine and bioinformatics with the aim to develop a simple and point-of-care approach to achieve targeted epigenetic editing of adult diabetic ischemic tissue in vivo​.
Cynthia St. Hilaire, PhD, FAHA The St. Hilaire Laboratory’s research focuses on identifying and characterizing the mechanisms underlying the development of vascular and valvular calcification pathologies, with specific interest in defining the mechanisms by which inflammation and mechanical stress drive the transformation of a healthy cells into calcifying cells. For these investigations the St. Hilaire Lab utilizes primary human cells and tissues to create in vitro disease models, biochemical and molecular biology techniques, and next generation sequencing technologies. See more:
Roderick J. Tan, MD, PhD The Tan Lab has projects evaluating the role of Keap1/Nrf2 pathway in the development of chronic kidney disease.  Kidney disease that is accompanied by proteinuria (abnormal spilling of protein into the urine) has a higher risk of progressing to complete kidney failure and the need for dialysis.  We are investigating how the Keap1/Nrf2 pathway impacts various proteinuric chronic kidney diseases including FSGS, Alport syndrome, and diabetic nephropathy.  Projects include rodent experiments and manipulations.  
Sina Tavakoli, MD, PhD Research Interest: 1) Development of novel molecular imaging tracers for in vivo visualization of different aspects of inflammation, particularly leukocyte chemotaxis; 2) Molecular imaging of inflammation in pulmonary (e.g., ARDS and lung fibrosis) and cardiovascular (e.g., atherosclerosis and myocardial infarction) diseases using positron emission tomography (PET) and CT in preclinical models.
Thanos Tzounopoulos, PhD Our research has been focused on the histological, molecular, synaptic, intrinsic and plasticity properties of cochlear and auditory brain circuits. See more.
Ivona, Vasile-Pandrea, MD, PhD Our lab is studying the mechanisms responsible for the development of HIV/SIV-associated comorbidities. We are performing translational studies to test new therapeutic and dietary interventions aimed at reducing chronic inflammation and hypercoagulation and improve the gut function and metabolic status of individuals infected with HIV/SIV. Diverse non-human primate models of progressive, non-progressive and elite controlled  SIV infection developed by our laboratory are used for these studies.
Nam Vo, PhD We discovered that cellular senescence drives spine aging both at the local disc tissue and systemic level.  Our lab is now testing the effects of senolytics, i.e., drugs that specifically target and kill senescent cells, on delaying age-associated spine degeneration and low back pain in both cell culture and rodent models
Jing Hong Wang, MD, PhD Dr. Jing Hong Wang’s lab studies the mechanisms of tumorigenesis using B-cell lymphoma and head and neck squamous cell carcinomas (HNSCCs) as models. We employ genetic and immunological approaches to better understand the interplay of cancer and immune system.  Our B-cell lymphoma studies focus on elucidating why B-cells are so prone to develop lymphomas and how malignant B-cells evade immune surveillance.  Our HNSCC studies focus on elucidating the mechanisms of heterogeneous anti-tumor immune responses, in particular, why certain individuals can eradicate cancers while others succumb to cancer progression, and why different individuals respond differentially to anti-cancer therapy. 
Xiaosong Wang, MD, PhD We are seeking graduate students to join our leading-edge integrative genomics initiatives aimed at identifying pathological genetic aberrations and immunological targets from multi-dimensional cancer genomics datasets. The research project for this rotation will interface the “dark side” of cancer genetics with cancer pathobiology and immunobiology. Specifically, the student will investigate a cryptic class of adjacent gene rearrangements in more aggressive and therapy-resistant forms of breast and/or ovarian cancers, examine their function in cancer progression and immunotherapy resistance, as well as develop novel therapeutics. For more information, please visit:
Zhou Wang, PhD 1. Characterize novel androgen receptor antagonists for the treatment of prostate cancer
2. Determine mechanisms regulating androgen receptor ubiquitination and degradation in prostate cancer
3. Investigate dysregulation of androgen receptor signaling in benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH)
Alan Wells, MD, DMSc The Wells lab explores cancer metastasis with ex vivo 'human-on-a-chip' models that dissect the critical stages of cancer cells colonizing the distant organs. These microphysiologic systems are designed to study tumor biology along with the inflammatory and immune responses and to test therapies.
Li Gang, PhD Post-GWAS functional studies to understand the mechanism of Atherosclerosis and Alzheimer's disease for drug development.
Vo Nam Interdependence of autophagy and cellular senescence in intervertebral disc aging and low back pain.
Sina Tavakoli 1) Development of novel molecular imaging tracers for in vivo visualization of inflammation, particularly leukocyte chemotaxis; 2) Molecular imaging of inflammation in pulmonary (e.g., ARDS and lung fibrosis) and cardiovascular (e.g., atherosclerosis and myocardial infarction) diseases using positron emission tomography (PET) and CT in preclinical models.
Ben Nacev, MD,Phd The scientific goal of the Nacev Lab is to understand how cancer-associated genetic alterations in chromatin regulators promote cancer and to leverage this understanding to advance new therapeutic approaches in the clinic. Specifically, we model these events and study how the epigenome is dysregulated to alter transcriptional and developmental programs important for cancer growth and oncogenic behavior. To do so, we employ diverse tools including genetic, chemical, and epigenomic approaches.
Shou-Jiang (SJ) Gao,PhD The Gao lab is part of the Cancer Virology Program (CVP) in the UPMC Hillman Cancer Center. The lab primarily studies the mechanism of infection and oncogenesis of cancer viruses. The student will be exposed to molecular virology, cancer biology, cancer metabolism, epigenetics, epitranscriptomics, interactions of cancer cells with tumor microenvironment and immune cells, inflammation, microbiome and cancer therapy. The lab closely collaborates with computational biologists, particularly Dr Yufei Huang, who is also in CVP, allowing the development of novel systems approaches for dissecting complex biological questions, including the recent development of novel analytic tools for spatially-resolved single cell transcriptomics. Recent works have identified novel tumor suppressive functions of an arginine sensor CASTOR1, which regulates both tumor and immune cells. Ongoing works are examining the functions of CASTOR1 in other types of cancer including lung cancer and HPV-associated head and neck squamous cell carcinoma, and innate and adaptive immunity in models of colitis and colon cancer.
Robert Lafyatis, MD Epigenetic changes and transcriptional regulation of fibroblasts and macrophages in skin and lung fibrosis in systemic sclerosis
Corrine Kliment, MD, PhD The Kliment Lab focuses on the role of mitochondrial function in cell fate decisions in the context of lung injury, repair and regeneration We hope to identify novel therapeutic targets relevant for chronic lung diseases, such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) or idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis.
Melanie Koenigshoff, MD, PhD The Königshoff Lan focuses on deciphering mechanisms involved in lung aging and regeneration, with the aim to identify novel therapeutic targets relevant for age-related chronic lung diseases, such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) or idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF) and. Our translational research program focuses on the comprehensive characterization of human lung biospecimen and primary cell and tissue models from patients with chronic lung disease. We aim to identify and investigate target signaling pathways, such as WNT signaling, that impact cellular aging mechanisms that can be tested as potential novel therapies.
Mo Ebrahimkhani, MD please visit
Lianghui (Lucy) Zhang, MD, PhD Dr. Zhang’s laboratory studies immuno-pathogenesis of viral lung injury and develops novel treatments to reduce its mortality. The lab research focuses on the mechanisms of respiratory viruses-induced lung vascular injury and signals network between endothelial cells and immune cells during the innate and adaptive immune response.
Rotation projects: 1) To explore lung vascular endothelial cells as antigen presented cells to signal immune cells to proliferate following influenza virus infection. 2) To identify the coronavirus (COVID 19) proteins to induce human lung vascular endothelial cell death. 3) To characterize the immune profile of endothelial-specific interferon alpha receptor knock out mice following influenza virus infection.
The lab website: 
Erin Kershaw, MD The Kershaw Lab focuses on disorders of "fat" (obesity, dyslipidemia, diabetes, and cardiometbolic disease) through translational research spanning preclinical models (cells, mice) to human; We functionally characterize novel metabolic risk variants by GWAS; 

[updated: 8/29/2023]