MCDB welcomes its new graduate students at the 2017 orientation sessions this week. In addition to the 13 doctoral students profiled here, six new master's students and three Pathways Master's students are beginning their graduate careers.


Ritvija Agrawal

I am from Indore, India. I finished my M.Sc in Biotechnology from Madurai Kamaraj University here in India  where my thesis was focused on characterizing a prophage encoded protein YagE.  While working as research assistant at Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi(JNU), I tried to understand the mechanism of helicase activity of begomovirus encoded Rep protein. As a Junior research fellow at Indian Institute of Technology-Indore, my research involved therapeutic targeting of RNA in neurodegenerative diseases. Since last two and a half years, I was teaching undergraduates at DAV university, Indore. Simultaneously, I was also working on a project to characterize azo dye degrading bacteria to see if it can be used for bioremediation. Broadly, I am interested in understanding structural and functional relationship of macromolecular complexes and their assemblies that governs basic cellular activities and coordinates cell actions. Outside lab, I enjoy cooking and dancing. I also love travelling and exploring new places.

Maria Ahmed 

I come from the ‘food-enthusiast’ city of Lahore in Pakistan, where I just finished my undergraduate degree in Biology. With my research interests lying at the interface of Developmental Biology and Neuroscience, I feel eager to be starting my PhD in MCDB. Apart from studies and research, you will probably find me sipping tea from my favourite Friends-themed mug, or sketching random things off of Pinterest. I also enjoy spending time outdoors. I can be a little shy at first, but I love to meet new people and I look forward to experiencing the Ann Arbor life!


Bahaar Chawla

I am joining MCDB after working on understanding the regulation of ocular development and congenital eye diseases at Kellogg Eye Center. I joined Kellogg after graduating from Michigan State University with a BSc. in microbiology. I am interesting in regulatory mechanisms and cascades that determine migration and differentiation during early development. 

Lauren Koch

I grew up in Chesterfield, MI and graduated from the University of Arizona in May 2017. My research interests include molecular and cellular biology, evolutionary and developmental biology, and biochemistry. When I’m not studying or in the lab, I enjoy spending time with friends, Netflixing, doing makeup, playing Mario Kart, and exploring Ann Arbor.

Jessy Martinez

I was born and raised in sunny Los Angeles, California. I completed my bachelor’s degree in Biology at UCLA where I studied the behavioral deficits of Klinefelter syndrome in two different mouse models under the direction of Dr. Arthur Arnold. Recently, I completed a master’s program in Biology at CSU Los Angeles where I studied how the loss of the Cntnap2 gene affected cortical inhibitory interneuron development in a mouse model of autism spectrum disorder. Throughout my education, I have been involved in several organizations aimed at increasing diversity in STEM including the Society for Advancement of Chicanos/Hispanics and Native Americans in Science (SACNAS). Outside of academics, I enjoy going on trail hikes, exploring new places (especially new food places), playing both video and board games, reading, binging Netflix, and spending time with friends and family.

Rishav Mitra

I am from Kolkata, India. I graduated from Calcutta University, India with a masters degree in Biotechnology. My final semester thesis involved the rational re-engineering of bacterial regulatory RNA motifs. Previously, I have worked on characterizing yeast mutants defective in vacuolar pH homeostasis as a visiting student intern at the University of Washington. I have also studied the effect of nanoparticles on serum albumin amyloid formation in an internship at the Indian Institute of Technology Kharagpur, India. I am interested in the biology of proteostasis. I am an avid listener of Indian classical music and love to discuss topics like philosophy and bioethics. 

Shilpa Padmanaban

I am from Chennai, a coastal city in South India. I am excited to be joining the PhD program in MCDB. I have finished my undergraduation in Biotechnology from SRM University in India. I worked on Post Translational Modifications of a Transcription Factor involved in Breast Cancer progression. I love Molecular Biology and hope to explore Cancer research. Outside of work, I love painting and volunteering at local animal shelters.


Hannah Slade

I received my bachelor of science from the University of Michigan-Flint where I studied molecular biology and biotechnology. I am interested in signal transduction pathways, and it’s what I worked on in for my undergraduate research. In my free time I like to explore new places, read, and recently started watching Game of Thrones.

Richard Stewart

I graduated from Fordham University in 2013 and soon after began working at Ohio State conducting research on amino acid metabolism during ischemic stroke. My research interests include cell signaling and protein-DNA interactions. Outside the lab, I enjoy spending as much time as possible outdoors and reading.


Jessica Trombley

I graduated from the University of Texas at San Antonio with a B.S. in Biology. At UTSA my undergraduate research was conducted as a student in the RISE research training program. After graduating from UTSA, I joined the MCDB Pathways Masters Program at the University of Michigan. My masters thesis research was focused on dosage compensation in C. elegans in Gyorgyi Csankovszki’s lab. In May, I completed the MCDB Masters Pathways program and am now entering the MCDB PhD program.

Lotte van den Goor

I grew up on a farm two hours north of Ann Arbor and recently graduated from Loyola University Chicago with a BS in biochemistry. At Loyola I worked in a microbiology lab where my most recent project involved isolating and purifying a dioxygenase found in a soil bacteria to see if the protein could be used towards bioremediation. I’m interested in studying the mechanisms that cause developmental disabilities in the hope that this information can be used to eliminate symptoms or find a cure.


Varsha Venkatarangan

I am from India. I am really interested to work in telomere biology, because I believe that there are some great secrets hidden in it. I also hope to explore Michigan and possibly other states too while I stay here!

Thomas Waller

I’m from Lake Orion, MI and graduated from the University of Michigan this year. I’m interested in neural networks and am currently researching circadian rhythms in fruit flies.

Yangbo Xiao

I am 22 years old and come from China. I graduated from Tsinghua University. I like playing volleyball and snowboarding, and I also like planting flowers. My research interest is molecular biology. It’s great to meet you all in Umich and hope we will have a nice time there!”