Past Faculty Spotlights

Nancy Saccone

Nancy Saccone

Rachel Penczykowski


Robi Mitra


Peng Yuan, Ph.D.


Arpita Bose, PhD

Assistant Professor of Biology

B.S. (Microbiology), University of Delhi, 2001
M.S. (Microbiology), All India Institute of Medical Sciences, New Delhi, 2003
M.S. (Microbiology), University of Illinois, 2005
Ph.D. (Microbiology), University of Illinois, 2008 

What do you enjoy most about being part of the Washington University DBBS team?

The ability to communicate with people with very different intellectual interests. 

What are your research interests? What are your research goals? 

I am an Assistant Professor of Microbiology and a Packard Fellow in the Department of Biology at Washington University in St. Louis (WUSTL) with a courtesy appointment in the WUSTL Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences and an affiliation with the Environmental Studies Program at WUSTL. My general interests are geomicrobiology, microbial physiology, microbial ecology and evolution, biogeochemical cycling, gene regulation, microbial metal respiration and Earth history. During my graduate work and post-doctoral research, I used genetics, biochemistry and molecular biology to understand microbial metabolism. My Master’s research at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences, New Delhi, dealt with understanding the physiological response of Mycobacterium tuberculosis to hypoxia. For my PhD research I studied methanogenesis performed by the poorly understood archaea, in the lab of Prof. William Metcalf at the University of Illinois. During this period I took, and subsequently taught, the Microbial Diversity Summer course at the Marine Biological Laboratory. I taught the course again in 2014 before moving to St. Louis. I was a Howard Hughes Medical Institute research associate for a year in the lab of Prof. Dianne Newman at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where I studied photoferrotrophy performed by purple non sulfur bacteria. I thereafter moved to Prof. Peter Girguis' lab at Harvard University, where I used a combinatorial approach to study microbial metabolism at the environmental level. At Harvard my research was funded by the Life Sciences Research Foundation, Howard Hughes Medical Institute, L'Oreal USA, AAAS, UNESCO and the US Department of Energy. My research focuses on understanding various microbial metabolisms. I intend to apply this basic understanding of microbial metabolism to engineer microbial systems for sustainable biochemical & bioenergy production as well as tackle issues such as bioremediation and biofouling. I also hope that my research would reveal basic geomicrobiological phenomena that shape our planet and possibly others. Recently, my work has shown that electric microbes can be used to study electrostatic interactions between microbes, and that of microbes and other natural/man-made surfaces. Using these microbial systems, I can identify basic and fundamentals properties that microbes harbor that allows them to overcome electrostatic repulsion and attach to surfaces. 

How has your time at Washington University helped further your research goals?

I have forged new collaborations that I did not even think were possible before. 

What is your favorite part about living in St. Louis?

I like having free access to parks, museums, etc. 

What hobbies do you enjoy?

I collect orchids and am an avid gardener. I have over 200 orchids. I also like painting.

What is your favorite quote?

“Not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted.” - William Bruce Cameron

What is the most ridiculous fact you know?

There are over 90,000 beers that have been reviewed by BeerAdvocate.

Who is your biggest role model?
My mother. 

What advice would you give to both prospective and current graduate students?
Be yourself, live in the future.

Fellowships, awards, and publications while at Washington University:
Changing the Face of STEM Mentor Award, 2017
L’Oreal USA and AAAS Packard Fellowship, 2015
David and Lucile Packard Foundation Fellowsip, 2015
Geobiology and Geomicrobiology Contributions Award, The Geological Society of America, 2015​​

Cherilynn Reynolds Shadding, PhD

Assistant Professor of Genetics
Director of Outreach, McDonnell Genome Institute
Interim Director of Diversity, DBBS

B.A. (Biology), Fisk University
M.A. (Biology), Fisk University
Ph.D. (Physiology), Meharry Medical College

What do you enjoy most about being part of the Washington University DBBS team?
By far what I enjoy the most about my time and work at WashU is working with the students. I’ve been fortunate to establish three NIH funded programs that focus on diversity in STEM, an issue for which I care very deeply (sometimes too much). But I’ve been given a lot of freedom to do what I enjoy and to make change that I hope will last beyond these grants and beyond my career at WashU.

What are your research interests? What are your research goals?
My research focuses on diversity in STEM and efforts to enhance the diversity of the biomedical workforce. Specifically, I am interested in the assessment of interventions utilized to increase and retain underrepresented minorities (URM) in STEM fields. My goal is to establish best practices in these areas for effective outcomes and efficient operation of STEM outreach programs.

How has your time at Washington University helped further your research goals?
I came to WashU as a bench scientist. And that’s all I knew was science and teaching. As a grad student I thought I would take the then traditional route until I became involved in outreach. I had the opportunities to do outreach and teach as a graduate student where I worked in a middle school and conducted hands-on experiments and created lesson plans for 7th and 8th graders in Nashville and I loved it. Since I wasn’t brave enough to tell my parents I wanted to teach middle school, I went on to do two postdocs and I thought I was headed to becoming a professor at a primarily undergraduate institution. I didn’t know that being director of outreach was a thing and I certainly wasn’t aware of research opportunities within outreach and STEM diversity. So being here helped me develop in an area that I didn’t know existed and helped me create a path where I can live out some of my passions every day.

What is your favorite part about living in St. Louis?
I’m from St Louis but St. Louis changed a lot from when I grew up here and is still changing. So I enjoy going to new places (or new to me). But for sure my favorite thing to do is to hang out in Forest Park, whether for an event, or taking my son to the playground or just for a walk. I also just enjoy having my family nearby.

What hobbies do you enjoy?
My recent hobby apparently is building massive train track designs with my son that look more like roller coasters. I don’t know if I have hobbies per se, but when I have time I enjoy reading (typically non-fiction, but recently more fiction), writing (one day I’ll finish my creative non-fiction writing certificate from U College) and cooking (not the daily boring cooking; but cooking for gatherings or recipes that I make up in my head).

What is your favorite quote?
"I am a human being; nothing human can be alien to me." – Terence. I first heard this quoted by Maya Angelou when she was the keynote speaker at a conference I attended. So this for sure is one of the more treasured moments in my professional life.

What is the most ridiculous fact you know?
Not sure but I'm certain it has something to do with the length of the human genome and comparing it to the height of the St. Louis Arch or how many years it would take to read our genome in volumes of books.

Who is your biggest role model?
My mother. She was my toughest critic and my biggest supporter and she often made miracles happen with very little.

What advice would you give to both prospective and current graduate students?
While I give individualized advice on a regular basis to many students, one piece of advice I give to all is summed up in three words: READ, READ, READ! I don’t think students do this enough. My general life advice: Live YOUR life. Own YOUR life. Don’t settle. Make life better for someone else.

Fellowships, awards, and publications while at Washington University:
I have recently published data from one of the programs that I created, Opportunities in Genomics Research that I run at the McDonnell Genome Institute. My goal is to publish data from every program I direct.

Whittington, D, Wallace, LE, Shadding, CR. Proxies for Success: How the Application Process Correlates to PhD Pursuit for a Small Diversity Research Program. SAGE Open 2017: 7(3)

R, Whittington, D, Wallace, LE, Wandu, WS, Wilson, RK, Cost-effective recruitment strategies that attract underrepresented minority undergraduates who persist to STEM doctorates. SAGE Open 2016: 6(3)​

Kristen Naegle, PhD

Assistant Professor of Biomedical Engineeringnaegle.jpg

Assistant Professor of Computer Science and Engineering
B.S. (Electrical Engineering), University of Washington, 2001
M.S. (Electrical Engineering) University of Washington, 2004
S.M. (Bioengineering) Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 2006
Ph.D. (Bioengineering) Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 2010
What do you enjoy most about being part of the Washington University DBBS team?
I immensely enjoy interacting with the students of DBBS and colleagues affiliated with DBBS who are doing so much diverse and interesting research in a collaborative manner.
What are your research interests? What are your research goals?
I am interested in understanding how tyrosine phosphorylation functions within proteins and within cell signaling networks. There are 46,000 phosphotyrosines that have been identified in the human proteome (currently) and my goal is to develop both computational and experimental approaches to identify and test the function of phosphotyrosine -- specifically developing methods and understanding that begins to approach the scale of the problem.
How has your time at Washington University helped further your research goals?
I have had amazing students and staff, great colleagues, and fabulous facilities that have allowed me to establish a research program and build into new areas. I would not have guessed five years ago that I would be publishing an algorithm in evolution and developing synthetic biology approaches to producing phosphorylated proteins in E. coli.
What is your favorite part about living in St. Louis?
I grew up in a truly small city (Boise, Idaho) and most recently lived in a big city (Boston, Massachusetts). I really appreciate how St. Louis is a blend of both of these types of metropolitan areas.  It has all of the trappings of a larger city (theater, opera, museums, gardens, and great food), but with the expense and ease of access as a small city.
What hobbies do you enjoy?
My husband would tell you that my hobby is trying new hobbies.
What is your favorite quote?
Zora Neale Hurston is my favorite author and it's for reasons like these (from “Their Eyes Were Watching God”):
"She was a rut in the road. Plenty of life beneath the surface but it was kept beaten down by the wheels. Sometimes she stuck out into the future, imagining her life different from what it was. But mostly she lived between her hat and her heels, with her emotional disturbances like shade patterns in the woods — come and gone with the sun."
A second quote, a line that will haunt me the rest of my days is from Ta-Nehisi Coates' "Between the World and Me"; a letter to his son: "Never forget that we were enslaved in this country longer than we have been free. Never forget that for 250 years black people were born into chains — whole generations followed by more generations who knew nothing but chains.”
What is the most ridiculous fact you know?
I know that there is an animal in Asia, the bearcat, whose urine smells like hot buttered popcorn. Also, octopuses don't stick to themselves because of a process (likely chemical) between their skin and their suckers.
Who is your biggest role model?
I try not to judge people by their size.
What advice would you give to both prospective and current graduate students?
To prospective students: There is never one path and don't believe people when they tell you there is a best path.
To current graduate students, if you haven't yet: Cultivate your communities — the scientific community that will push your boundaries and keep you curious every day and the personal community that will support you every step of the way and keep you rooted in what is truly important. 
Fellowships, awards, and publications while at Washington University:
NCI/SAGE Integrative Approaches to Cancer Metastasis workshop, June 2017 (invited participant)
Publication Ronan, Qi, and Naegle in “Science Signaling” made the home page of science and was the most tweeted
article in the history of “Science Signaling.”
Publication Ronan et al. in “Journal of Biological Chemistry” was article of the week, a highlight of the year in 2016, and rated "Exceptional" by Faculty of 1000.
Keynote Speaker, 4th Midwest Quantitative Biology Symposium, Purdue, October 22, 2016.
Keynote Speaker, Biomedical Computation at Stanford (BCATS) Symposium, April 6, 2015.
1.         Sloutsky, Roman, and Kristen M. Naegle. “Accuracy through Subsampling of Protein EvolutioN: An Ensemble Approach to Testing Accuracy and Reconstructing the History of Protein Family Divergence.” (BioRXiv Preprint: doi:, 2017)
2.         Sloutsky, Roman, and Kristen M. Naegle. “Proteome-level analysis indicates global mechanisms for post-translational regulation of RRM domains”. Journal of Molecular Biology, 2017
3.         Mooradian, Arshag D., Jason M. Held, and Kristen M. Naegle. “Using ProteomeScout: A Resource of Post-Translational Modifications, Their Experiments, and the Proteins They Annotate.” Current Protocols in Bioinformatics, 2017
4.         Schaberg, Katherine E., Venktesh S Shirure, Elizabeth A Worley, Steven C George, and Kristen M Naegle. “Ensemble Clustering of Phosphoproteomic Data Identifies Differences in Protein Interactions and Cell-Cell Junction Integrity of HER2-Overexpressing Cells.” Integr. Biol. 9 (2017): 539–47. doi:10.1039/C7IB00054E.
5.         Sloutsky, Roman, and Kristen M. Naegle. “High-Resolution Identification of Specificity Determining Positions in the LacI Protein Family Using Ensembles of Sub-Sampled Alignments.” Plos One 11, no. 9 (2016): e0162579.
6.         Noren, David P., Byron L. Long, Raquel Norel, Kahn Rrhissorrakrai, Kenneth Hess, Chenyue Wendy Hu, Alex J. Bisberg, et al. “A Crowdsourcing Approach to Developing and Assessing Prediction Algorithms for AML Prognosis.” PLOS Computational Biology 12, no. 6 (2016): e1004890. *Naegle lab (Tom Ronan, Jennifer Flynn, Kristen M. Naegle) participated as a team in the AML consortium.
7.         Ronan, Thomas, Zhijie Qi, and Kristen M Naegle, “Avoiding pitfalls when clustering biological data”, Science Signaling, 9, no. 432 (2016): re6. Invited Review.
8.         Ronan, Thomas, Jennifer L. McDonnell-Obermann, Laurel Huelsmann, *Kristen M. Naegle, and  *Linda J. Pike. “The seven EGF receptor agonists each elicit a unique signature of recruitment of downstream signaling proteins”, Journal of Biological Chemistry 291, no. 12 (2016): 5528-5540 *co-corresponding
9.         Holehouse, Alex S, and Kristen M. Naegle. “Reproducible Analysis of Post-Translational Modifications in Proteomes—Application to Human Mutations.” PLoS ONE 10, no. 12 (2015): 1–19.
10.       *Naegle, Kristen M., Nancy R Gough, and *Michael B Yaffe. “Criteria for Biological Reproducibility : What Does ‘n’ Mean ?” Science Signaling 8, no. 371 (2015): 2–5. *co-corresponding
11.       Matlock, Matthew K, Alex S Holehouse, and Kristen M Naegle. “ProteomeScout: A Repository and Analysis Resource for Post-Translational Modifications and Proteins.” Nucleic Acids Research 43, no. D1 (November 20, 2015): D521–30.
12.       Cho, Yongcheol, Roman Sloutsky, Kristen M Naegle, and Valeria Cavalli. “Injury-Induced HDAC5 Nuclear Export Is Essential for Axon Regeneration.” Cell 155, no. 4 (November 2013): 894–908.
13.       Iwai, Leo K, Leo S Payne, Maciej T Luczynski, Francis Chang, Huifang Xu, Ryan W Clinton, Angela Paul, Edward A. Esposito, Scott Gridley, Birgit Leitinger, Kristen M Naegle, and Paul H. Huang.  “Phosphoproteomics of Collagen Receptor Networks Reveals SHP-2 Phosphorylation Downstream of Wild-Type DDR2 and Its Lung Cancer Mutants.” The Biochemical Journal 454, no. 3 (September 15, 2013): 501–13.

14.       Sloutsky, Roman, Nicolas Jimenez, S Joshua Swamidass, and Kristen M Naegle. “Accounting for Noise When Clustering Biological Data.” Briefings in Bioinformatics 14, no. 4 (July 2013): 423–36. doi:10.1093/bib/bbs057.

William Gillanders, M.D.

The physician-scientist and avid cyclist is keeping the wheels turning in the race against breast cancer 

By Jim Goodwin
Photo by Robert Boston

William Gillanders, MD, is developing a vaccine aimed at harnessing the immune system to fight breast cancer. If proven effective as a cancer treatment, the vaccine someday could be used to prevent breast cancer, too.
It might not be the perfect metaphor, but science and cycling have some things in common. They can be grueling or exhilarating, depending on where you are in the process.
Both require hard work and determination. And like cycling, science can be an individual and team endeavor at the same time. William Gillanders, MD, knows these things firsthand. He’s not only a Washington University breast surgeon at Barnes-Jewish Hospital and Siteman Cancer Center, but an avid cyclist. The 49-year-old pursues both interests daily and often finds ways in which they intersect.
“There is a metaphor there,” he said. “My goal is to change breast cancer treatment paradigms, to make vaccines a reality for women who are being treated for breast cancer. That’s an ambitious goal but one that I think I can tackle. It’s a career goal; it’s not one that can happen overnight. It’s like preparing for a 100-mile century ride. It is a goal that you have to really work on to make it a reality. Of course, a breast cancer vaccine is much more challenging.”
Your research centers on something many never considered possible – a vaccine for breast cancer. Tell us about your work.
The goal of a cancer vaccine is to harness the immune system to fight cancer. Recent studies confirm that the immune system plays an important role in controlling the growth of cancer. Our vaccine targets a protein, mammaglobin-A, that is expressed in almost all breast cancers. The vaccine trains the immune system to find and destroy cells with this protein. If the vaccine proves effective as a cancer treatment, it may someday be used to prevent breast cancer, too.
How long have you been working on this?
I’ve been interested in mammaglobin biology for more than 10 years. My interest predates my recruitment to Washington University in 2005. At the Medical University of South Carolina, where I was previously on the faculty, we were using mammaglobin as a molecular marker for detecting metastatic breast cancer either in the lymph nodes, bone marrow or peripheral blood. It is one of the best molecular markers for the detection of breast cancer.
A main reason why I chose to come back to Washington University – I was a trainee here in general surgery from 1991-99 – was the opportunity to be part of a multidisciplinary team working to develop breast cancer vaccines. We have a very strong immunology community at Washington University School of Medicine, and I’ve been thrilled with the generosity and willingness of investigators here to collaborate. 
Talk about the potential of cancer immunotherapy.
It’s very similar to the story of antibodies for cancer therapy. When antibodies were first identified, the thought was that they’d be the magic bullet. The initial studies with antibody therapy were underwhelming; they were only marginally successful, if that. But we learned a lot in those studies about how and when to use antibody therapies. Now, they’re really a mainstay of modern cancer treatment.
The same is true of immunotherapy. Initially, there was great enthusiasm because of the potential promise, but it’s only because the initial studies were not successful that we were able to learn how to best use immunotherapy. Part of the reason why the enthusiasm has returned is because of the dramatic success of recent immunotherapy trials. 
Give us a broad overview of breast cancer vaccine research.
The vaccine landscape has changed quite a bit. Five years ago, there might have been three to five breast cancer vaccine trials nationwide. Now there probably are 20-plus. There’s a growing realization that, if used appropriately, vaccine therapy can be effective. 
Is the holy grail a vaccine that could prevent cancer in the first place? Is that the ultimate goal of your research?
That’s right. The holy grail would be a vaccine that could prevent the development of cancer. But several steps must be accomplished before we get there. The first is development of a vaccine that’s safe and very effective. Once we have that, we’ll start to use it in early-stage disease or in women who are at high risk for breast cancer and then, ultimately, in healthy women.
I know there’s a lot of frustration that you can’t just move forward to evaluate these vaccines in healthy women, but the reality is, if you’re going to give an investigational treatment to healthy individuals, you have to have enormous confidence that it is safe and effective. There has to be an appropriate balance between the potential risks of an investigational agent and the benefits. 
Switching gears, you’re an active cyclist and a daily bike commuter. How many miles a week do you ride?
I don’t track how many miles or hours I ride, but I ride my bike to work every day. It’s a great way to start and end the day. In the morning, it wakes you up and gets you ready for everything you need to do. And in the evening, it wipes the slate clean so you don’t bring any stress home. I’m very lucky because I have a very pleasant commute. I bike through Forest Park, up and down Wydown Boulevard and through Shaw Park. 
Bike commuters tend to take in more of what’s going on around them. What are some things you’ve seen while riding to and from campus?
I’ve seen all kinds of wild animals. There’s a family of foxes that lives around Wydown Boulevard in Clayton. In Forest Park, there’s a mated pair of owls that has baby owls every year. It’s fun to track their progress. We’re just getting into the season now when you’ll be seeing lots of baby geese. There are all kinds of raccoons and other wild animals in the park. 
Jeanne (top left) and William Gillanders have three children. They are (from left) Teddy, Emma and Ian. “They are very supportive of me and my work, so I’m very, very appreciative of their understanding and patience,” William Gillanders said.
That sounds like a relaxing transition to home. Tell us a little about your life there.
I’m very fortunate to have a fantastic family. My wife, Jeanne, is a teacher, so she sets the tone for the kids and the importance of schoolwork. And we have three kids who are growing up very quickly. My daughter, Emma, is a freshman in high school. Our son Ian is in seventh grade, and our other son, Teddy, is in fifth grade. They’re a lot of fun. They are very supportive of me and my work, so I’m very, very appreciative of their understanding and patience. Whenever I travel I miss home quite a bit. 
Talk about being a physician-scientist. The two are related, of course, but also very different.
I have one foot in the clinical realm and one foot in the research realm. My goal is to bridge those two worlds, to collaborate with all the great basic scientists here at Washington University School of Medicine and help them move their great ideas into the clinic. 
Your father is a physician, too. What medicine did he practice? Was he the inspiration behind what you’re doing today?
Yes, my father is a retired obstetrician-gynecologist, in one of the surgical subspecialties. I remember him talking about surgery when I was younger.
One of the things I’ve enjoyed quite a bit with my father recently is that when he comes to visit he likes to walk. So I set aside my bike and we walk to work together. He’s in his 70s, and he walks fast. That’s really been a great time to bond with him. My father and I have seen some of the wildlife I mentioned earlier. One morning we were visited by a bald eagle that flew right over our heads. It’s an hour-and-45-minute walk, and often as we trek through Forest Park the sun comes up. It’s a great way for my father and me to spend time together. 
Another way you’ve combined your work and personal life is through Pedal the Cause, the annual cycling fundraiser for cancer research at Siteman Cancer Center and St. Louis Children’s Hospital. You’ve received grants from the group; you’re a participant in the bike ride.
I’ve been an avid cyclist for many years, and I remember meeting the founder, Bill Koman, before the first Pedal the Cause in 2010. He was very excited about the event, and I share his passion and enthusiasm. 
I’ve done every Pedal the Cause so far. Initially, I was captain of the Siteman Cancer Center team. Since then, individuals from that original team have gone on to start eight or 10 new teams. These teams are focused on difference cancers, such as breast cancer, pancreas cancer, lymphoma, head and neck cancer, prostate cancer and other cancers. There’s a lot of enthusiasm for Pedal the Cause, and I’ve had a lot of fun doing it. I just wish that the funding decisions would integrate finishing time into the overall algorithm for deciding on who is funded! 
What kind of patients would be helped by your research?
We have two clinical trials in the works. One is already open to patients; the other soon will be. For the open trial, we’re recruiting newly diagnosed patients to study the safety and effectiveness of our mammaglobin-A vaccine. For the other trial​, we will recruit 30 patients. Although it remains to be determined what cancer patients will benefit most from these vaccines, I think there is potential that vaccines ultimately will be used in all stages of the disease.

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