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Primary Investigator


Kathy DelGiorno, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor, Cell & Developmental Biology

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 first as a Postdoctoral Fellow and then as a Staff Scientist. She recently opened her own laboratory as an Assistant Professor in the Department of Cell and Developmental Biology at Vanderbilt University.

Research Assistant Professor


Nidhi Jyotsana, Ph.D.

Research Assistant Professor, Department of Cell and Developmental Biology

Dr. Jyotsana has over 10 years of experience in the field of cancer research, including leukemia, breast cancer, and pancreatic cancer. Dr. Jyotsana received her B. Tech. and M.E. degrees in Biotechnology from India and earned a Ph.D. in Molecular Medicine from the Hannover Medical School, Hannover, Germany. During her Ph. D., Dr. Jyotsana explored the molecular mechanisms in acute myeloid leukemia models and established a precision nanomedicine delivery platform for an efficient and safer disease targeting in fusion-oncogene dependent patient-derived leukemia mouse models. Dr. Jyotsana’s 1st postdoctoral training was in the department of Biomedical Engineering at Vanderbilt University where Dr. Jyotsana’s work focused on targeting triple-negative breast cancer by utilizing targeted TRAIL-liposomal therapy and, via transplantation of engineered hematopoietic stem cells. Dr. Jyotsana mentored undergraduate & /graduate students and delivered guest lectures on cancer therapeutics. Currently, as a Research Assistant Professor in the DelGiorno Lab, Dr. Jyotsana’s work is focused on 1) studying the role of metaplastic cell populations in the progression of pancreatic injury and neoplasia, and 2) targeting pancreas diseases via lipid nanoparticle-mediated RNA delivery.

Staff Scientist


Sergey Ivanov, Ph.D.

Staff Scientist, Department of 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.

Lab Manager


Zhengzhi (George) Li

Lab Manager, Department of Cell and Developmental Biology

Graduate Student


Leah Caplan

Ph.D. Student, Department of Cell & Developmental Biology

Originally from Nashville, Leah Caplan graduated from the University of Georgia with a B.S. in Biology and concentration in Neuroscience in 2016. Leah then worked as a Research Associate at the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard in Cambridge, MA, in the lab of Aviv Regev, Ph.D. While at the Broad, she worked on projects combining transcriptomic and spatial data to study a mouse model of colon cancer. She went on to work as a Research Data Specialist in the Gastrointestinal Cancer Center at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston, MA, under GCC Director Brian Wolpin, M.D., MPH. At DFCI, Leah worked with patients and their electronic medical records to research modes of early detection for pancreatic cancer. Leah is continuing to study this disease during her Ph.D. training in the DelGiorno lab, focusing on early tumorigenic events in pancreatic cancer. Specifically, she is studying the role of pancreatic acinar to ductal metaplasia-derived enteroendocrine cells, and their role in pancreatic injury and tumorigenesis. In her free time, Leah enjoys live music, baking, barre, and spending time with her family and friends.

Undergraduate Research Assistant


Olivia Ben-Levy

Undergraduate Research Assistant, Department of 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)!


    Jiayue Liu

    Undergraduate Research Assistant , Department of Cell and 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.


    Kenny Ta

    Undergraduate Research Assistant , Department of Cell & Developmental Biology

    Kenny Ta is a junior at Vanderbilt University double majoring in Biochemistry and Medicine, Health, and Society and minoring in Biological Sciences. Currently, he is targeting genetic mutational drivers and metabolic transporters of pancreatic cancer using lipid-nanoparticle technology. In his free time, Kenny enjoys cooking, playing hockey, and exploring the hiking trails Nashville has to offer.

    Student Research Trainee


    David Gelikman

    M.D. Candidate, UCF College of Medicine

    David Gelikman is originally from South Florida and graduated from Cornell University with a B.A. in Biological Sciences in 2019. He is currently a second-year medical student at the University of Central Florida College of Medicine and is interested in becoming a surgeon. He is currently assisting virtually on projects involving enteroendocrine cell formation and acinar-to-ductal metaplasia in pancreatic tumorigenesis. In his free time, David enjoys cooking, going to the gym, hiking, and occasionally exploring all the theme parks that Orlando has to offer.

      MS Student


      Taylor Culpepper

      MS Student, Biomedical Sciences

      Taylor Culpepper is currently obtaining her master’s degree in Biomedical Sciences through Vanderbilt’s Graduate school. This program is specialized for pre-health students who wish to strengthen their application for professional health programs (MD/PhD/PA/DO) by continuing their education and research at a higher standard while gaining exposure in the clinical field. Taylor received her B.S in Chemistry with a concentration in Biochemistry while minoring in Theatre Arts from the University of Alabama in 2021. At Alabama, she participated in the Dunkle Research Group as an Undergraduate Research Assistant. Specifically, her research focused on confirming the essential residues responsible for RNA binding in ErmE, an Erythromycin resistant methyltransferase intimately involved in the mechanism behind multi-drug resistant antibodies that render certain bacteria resistant to known antibiotics. Her goal for her time spent in the DelGiorno Lab is to gain experience in research techniques of cell biology to expose the neurological impact of pancreatitis and pancreatic cancer. In her free time, she enjoys listening to music, painting, cooking, walking her dog, and going to football games!

        You?  If you’re interested in joining our team, please contact Dr. DelGiorno.  Post-doctoral and Technician positions (various levels of experience) to open shortly.