Skip to main content

Members

Principal Investigator

image_thumb

Kathy DelGiorno, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor, Cell & Developmental Biology, VU
Assistant Professor, Surgery, VUMC

Kathleen (Kathy) DelGiorno, Ph.D. graduated with a B.S. in Biology from the United States Air Force Academy in 2005. She went on to serve as a Biological Research Officer in the U.S. Air Force for two years before working as a Research Associate studying pancreatic and adrenal cancers at the Translational Genomics Research Institute; simultaneously earning an M.S. from the University of Florida in Pharmacy. She earned her Ph.D. in Molecular Genetics and Microbiology from the State University of New York at Stony Brook in 2012, first studying pancreatic cancer development at Stony Brook University and then at Mayo Clinic Florida. She completed three years of Postdoctoral research at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center investigating the role of interstitial fluid pressure to treatment resistance in pancreatic cancer. Dr. DelGiorno continued her research in pancreatic cancer in the Wahl laboratory at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies.


image_thumb

Marcus Tan, MBBS, FACS

Associate Professor, Surgery, VUMC
Associate Professor, Cell & Developmental Biology, VU

Marcus Tan is a surgeon-scientist. His general surgical training included three years in the laboratory of David Linehan at Washington University in St Louis studying the immunology of pancreatic adenocarcinoma (PDAC). His surgical oncology fellowship was at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center. He takes care of (and operates on!) patients with a variety of pancreatic diseases, especially pancreatic cancer, pancreatic cysts and pancreatitis. His research focuses on intraductal papillary mucinous neoplasms (IPMN), a pre-malignant form of pancreatic adenocarcinoma. In particular, he is interested in: 1. how the tumor recruits nerves into the neoplastic microenvironment. We have established that this neural infiltration occurs early, and is associated with more aggressive behavior of the IPMN. Identification of the mechanisms of tumor-nerve crosstalk may allow us to develop better ways to predict and interrupt malignant transformation. 2. the early origins of pancreatic tumors, both IPMN and PDAC. We are investigating the heterogeneity of the early pancreatic neoplastic cell population and also the influence of germline genetic variation on pancreatic phenotypes. We hope that these studies will lead to methods for earlier detection of this lethal cancer.


Research Staff

image_thumb

Celina Copeland

Lab Manager, Cell & Developmental Biology

Celina Copeland is from Smyrna, TN and graduated from the University of Tennesse Knoxville with her Bachelor of Science in Animal Science. During her undergrad, she worked mainly with farm animals such as chickens, pigs, and cows, and even participated in agricultural research that investigated how light intensity and high stocking affected the well-being of broilers. She uses her knowledge of animal biology, behavior, and husbandry to her advantage as a lab manager. Most of her work in the DelGiorno lab consists of mouse work and managing multiple colonies, as well as administrative duties. In her free time, Celina loves to spend time with her family and play with her little dog, Tobi.


    image_thumb

    Sergey Ivanov, Ph.D.

    Staff Scientist, Cell & Developmental Biology

    Sergey Ivanov, Ph.D. received his B.S. in Biology from the Novosibirsk State University and Ph.D. in Molecular Biology from the Institute of Cytology and Genetics, Novosibirsk, Russia. During his extensive postdoctoral training at NCI-Frederick his major focus was on the role of hypoxia in cancer. Specifically, he characterized novel cancer-associated carbonic anhydrases CA9 and CA12 and suggested their involvement in the Warburg effect. These two proteins are now widely used as hypoxic markers and therapeutic targets in various cancers. He went on to continue as an Assistant Professor at NYU, Vanderbilt and Yale studying molecular mechanisms of growth and metastases in mesothelioma and head and neck cancers. His most recent research was focused on neural stem cell properties of SOX10+ cells in aggressive basal-like breast cancers and neuroinvasive adenoid cystic carcinoma. Sergey published more than 50 papers, many of them with first or prime authorship. In his free time, Sergey enjoys swimming, hiking, travelling and spending time with his family and friends.


    image_thumb

    Brenda Jarvis, Ph.D.

    Research Assistant, Cell & Developmental Biology

    Brenda received her B.S. in Biology from the University of Tennessee of Chattanooga and her Ph.D. in Biochemistry from Meharry Medical College. She spent many years acquiring various technical skills and techniques such as FACS analysis, ELISAs, animal husbandry, cell culture, microscopy and histology while studying projects ranging from protein biochemistry to breast cancer. Her latest work centered on adapting published 3D brain imaging modalities such as CLARITY for imaging pancreas development on a gross scale. She’s also recently explored expansion microscopy techniques, TrEX and Magnify, and has developed variations of those protocols for use on pancreas tissues. Brenda enjoys crafting, attending Renaissance festivals with her family and cooking.


      image_thumb

      Sabrina Torbit

      Research Assistant, Cell & Developmental Biology

      Sabrina Torbit is from Florence, KY and graduated from Rochester Institute of Technology with a double major in Biomedical Sciences and History in 2023. During her undergraduate career she worked in Dr. Bolaji Thomas’ lab examining the immunological relationship between schistosomiasis and malaria. Her lab work consisted of running PCRs and gel electrophoresis to examine the gene variants. In her free time she enjoys cooking, hiking, reading, and spending time with her dog, Yuki!


        Postdoctoral Fellows

        image_thumb

        Katherine Ankenbauer, Ph.D.

        Postdoctoral Fellow, Cell & Developmental Biology

        Katherine Ankenbauer was born and raised in Nashville, TN and did her bachelor’s and master’s degree at Lipscomb University in molecular biology. As an undergraduate, she had the opportunity to participate in research programs at both Vanderbilt and UAB. After graduating, she went on to do her Ph.D. work in cell biology at the University of Alabama at Birmingham in the lab of Dr. Susan Bellis. While there, her work broadly focused on characterizing how a glycosyltransferase, ST6GAL1, impacted cell signaling pathways and cell behavior in both cancer and inflammation. Katherine’s dissertation work focused specifically on ST6GAL1-mediated glycosylation of epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) in cancer cell models. During her graduate career, Katherine became increasingly interested in the process of acinar to ductal metaplasia, leading her to the join the DelGiorno lab for her postdoc. Katherine is currently investigating epithelial cell plasticity during acinar to ductal metaplasia and is working to develop pancreatic organoid models for the lab. In her free time, Katherine enjoys gardening, reading, volunteering, and spending time with her family and her cats Gracie and Charlie.


          Graduate Students

          image_thumb

          Amelia Cephas

          Graduate Student, Cell & Developmental Biology

          Amelia Cephas is originally from Ft. Lauderdale, Florida and graduated from Florida Atlantic University with a B.S degree in Neuroscience and Behavior and a minor in Criminal Justice. After graduation, she worked in the lab of Dr. Vidu Garg at Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus Ohio as a postbaccalaureate research fellow where she investigated the underlying mechanisms of congenital heart disease development due to maternal hyperglycemia employing in vivo and in vitro models. Later she went on to conduct research at The Ohio State University and gained experience in several fields. She studied the role that Endothelial Sodium Channel (ENaC) plays in autophagy and oxidative burst in macrophages as it pertains to their bacteria-killing abilities in Cystic Fibrosis patients, and investigated the effectiveness of GALGT2 gene therapy, using adeno-associated viral vectors (AAV), on the pathology of dystrophic (dyw /dyw) murine models. Additionally, she worked in local middle schools as a Life science teacher. In the Delgiorno lab, Amelia studies pancreatic tumorigenesis. Specifically, she studying ductal-derived neoplasia in the context of KRAS mutations and is investigating the role statins play in pancreatic acinar to ductal metaplasia. Amelia likes to volunteer her time in the community, dance, listen to podcasts and participate in outdoor sports.


            image_thumb

            Amanda M Ruelas

            Graduate Student, Cell & Developmental Biology

            Amanda Ruelas received her B.S in Molecular and Cellular Biology and a minor in Biochemistry at the University of Arizona in 2021. During her undergraduate career, Amanda worked in Dr. Nadja Anderson’s lab, where she optimized and sent out materials to conduct experiments ,like bacterial transformations and gel electrophoresis, to high school biology labs throughout Arizona. In this lab she also heavily participated in scientific outreach and gave science demonstrations to local schools. Amanda then began working in Dr. Curtis Thorne’s lab during her last two years of undergrad, where she worked with colon cancer cell lines to characterize a novel kinase, CLK3. She aided in investigating the role of CLK3 in the colonic epithelium and the wnt pathway. With an interest in molecular mechanisms and cancer biology. Amanda continues her studies in the DelGiorno Lab. She is studying the role of acinar to ductal metaplasia derived tuft cells in pancreatic injury, specifically the mechanism(s) tuft cells utilize to protect the pancreas during injury. In her free time, Amanda enjoys keeping up with the latest fashion trends, listening to true crime podcasts, and cuddling with her cat, Tigger.


              Undergraduate Research Assistants

              image_thumb

              Olivia Ben-Levy

              Undergraduate Research Assistant, Cell & Developmental Biology

              Olivia Ben-Levy is a sophomore at Vanderbilt University double majoring in Biological Sciences and Medicine, Health, and Society and minoring in Spanish. Currently, she is working towards using microscopy to segment tuft actin rootlets and is looking for further involvement in wet lab research using mice models. In her free time, Olivia enjoys cycling, cooking, reading, and spending time with family and friends (and dog)!


                image_thumb

                Katie Gell

                Undergraduate Research Assistant, Cell & Developmental Biology

                Katie is a current undergraduate student at Vanderbilt University where she is majoring in Biochemistry. Before starting in the DelGiorno Lab as an undergraduate, Katie completed a summer internship where she investigated proliferating cell populations in pancreatic neoplasia using immunofluorescence staining. She is originally from Maine where she graduated from the Biomedical Sciences Program at Hancock County Technical Center. Outside of the lab, Katie enjoys swimming, hiking, and baking.


                  image_thumb

                  Jiayue Liu

                  Undergraduate Research Assistant , Cell & Developmental Biology

                  Jiayue Liu is currently an undergraduate student at Vanderbilt University, double majoring in Biological Sciences and Medicine, Health, and Humanities and minor in Music. Currently, she is working as a research assistant in the DelGiorno Lab on projects like “Identifying microbiome-tuft cell signaling pathways in pancreatitis” and performing basic cell biology wet lab as well as animal model techniques.


                  image_thumb

                  Shreeya Moolamalla

                  Shreeya is currently a freshman at Vanderbilt University double majoring in Molecular and Cellular Biology and Medicine, Health, and Society.  She is originally from Las Cruces, New Mexico where she conducted research at New Mexico State University with Dr. Amanda Ashley investigating DNA Damage in melanocytes using different drugs and immunofluorescence. Outside of the lab, she enjoys running, hiking, reading, and spending time with family and friends.


                    image_thumb

                    Larissa Ramirez

                    Larissa is currently an undergraduate student at Vanderbilt University, majoring in Medicine, Health, and Society, as well as Political Science. Before joining the DelGiorno Lab, Larissa participated in an internship where she investigated the impacts of specific Andean herbs on type 2 diabetes. During this internship, she performed basic wet lab techniques and had responsibilities that included data input, qualitative and quantitative data analysis, literature reviews, product evaluation, and drafting reports. Outside the lab. she finds enjoyment in reading horror novels, participating in painting, and indulging in surfing.