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A Typical Student Program

Registration and orientation
Meetings with advisors to plan rotations and course work

Two to five core classes
Laboratory rotations*

One to three advanced electives and special topics courses
Journal club(s)
Begin thesis research
Mentored Teaching Experience
Complete qualifying examination

Form thesis committee
Thesis research
Journal club(s)
Thesis proposal

Thesis research continues
Meet at least yearly with thesis committee
Travel to scientific meetings
Research completed by end of the fifth year
Publish in leading scientific journals
Defend thesis

The first rotation may begin in June prior to Fall matriculation.

A Typical Student Program
January 2018 - Aparna Deora

​​Aparna Deora.jpgAparna Deora
(Molecular Genetics, 2000)
Lab of Dr. Lee Ratner
Senior Director leading Quality Control, Stability and Microbiology in BioTherapeutics Pharmaceutical Sciences at Pfizer

Honors and awards: Pfizer Individual Achievement Award (2005) 
What was your career path like after graduating from Washington University? After leaving Washington University, I moved to an industry position at Pharmacia. I worked in a discovery group that looked at Cox-2 inhibitors and cancer. The work included academic collaboration and was not totally unlike work I had in academia. I then shifted into drug development as Pfizer. I had the unique opportunity to be at the start, as Pfizer embarked on building a biological portfolio that has transitioned from a small molecule company to a company with biologics in development.  
My roles have changed over the past 15 years at Pfizer, and I have had the amazing opportunity to work on developing a range of therapeutic modalities from mAbs, vaccines, cell based therapies and gene therapy from early toxicology studies, through clinical development and even achieving a few successful commercial products.
Why did you choose Washington University DBBS for your PhD training?
In looking through the faculty profiles during the application process, I knew I would have an opportunity to choose to work in a great lab and have the opportunity to do some amazing research. I remember being very impressed by the faculty and students I met during the interview and that helped finalize the decision. 
How did your time at WashU prepare you for your current career?
WashU is wonderful training. I learned so much about how to do a "smart" experiment, think critically and perhaps most importantly how to communicate scientific research. It is also amazing to build a network of friends and scientists across the world. 
What are some of your favorite memories from your time at WashU? What was your favorite part about living in St. Louis?
The camaraderie in the lab and with my fellow students will never be forgotten. While not easy, it is a rare time when you can focus on science and be supported by all around you.
Amazingly, my classmates even have an annual "Wall Party" reunion held each year around the country. Great to catch up and see what is going on across with old friends.  
I still live in St. Louis and love it. It is a great city with a lot of cultural activities and good food. I love that there is so much free stuff to do like the zoo, Science Center, museums, concerts. etc. It was great to have so many options on the grad school stipend. 
What hobbies do you enjoy?
Travel, reading, cooking and yoga.
What is your favorite quote?
“You must do the thing you think you cannot do.” - Eleanor Roosevelt 
What movie would be greatly improved if it were made into a musical?
Princess Bride would be a fun musical. I would love to see a horror musical as well, maybe The Exorcist?
Who is your biggest role model?
My parents. 
What advice would you give to both prospective and current graduate students?
Grad school isn't easy but it really is worth it. You will do some great science but perhaps more importantly you will learn about yourself, and it is an accomplishment you can be proud of achieving.  
Most importantly, don't forget to have fun!
Past Alumni Spotlights
2017 - Jennifer Lodge

Jennifer Lodge.jpgJennifer Lodge
Vice Chancellor for Research

Plant Biology, Ph.D. Received 1988
Thesis Advisor: Douglas E. Burg, PhD 


Jennifer K. Lodge, PhD (’88), associate dean for research and professor of molecular microbiology at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, has been appointed vice chancellor for research for the university. Chancellor Mark S. Wrighton; Larry J. Shapiro, MD, executive vice chancellor for medical affairs and dean of the School of Medicine; and H. Holden Thorp, PhD, provost and executive vice chancellor for academic affairs, made the announcement.
Lodge, whose appointment is effective July 1, succeeds Evan Kharasch, MD, PhD, the Russell D. and Mary B. Shelden Professor of Anesthesiology and professor of biochemistry and molecular biophysics. He is stepping down after serving in the role since 2009.
“We are extremely pleased that Professor Lodge has agreed to lend her considerable talents to this important role, and very grateful to Evan Kharasch for his years of distinguished service,” Wrighton said. “Our research enterprise is an integral part of the university’s mission, and I am confident that, under Jenny’s leadership, our ambitious goals in this critical area will be met and exceeded.”
Lodge will assume a dual role and continue as associate dean for research at the School of Medicine, a position to which she was appointed in 2009. Since then, she has coordinated efforts to advance research at the School of Medicine, with a particular focus on interdisciplinary projects involving multiple departments and core facilities that serve a wide variety of researchers. She has assisted faculty in identifying potential funding opportunities and maximizing the benefits of school-wide investments in research.
“Professor Lodge’s demonstrated success in leading sponsored research administration makes her exceptionally well-qualified for this position,” Thorp said. “Her passion and determination will be tremendous assets as we push to grow our research enterprise and translate the results of these efforts into benefits for society.”
“We are committed to pursuing research that will lead to innovative solutions to some of the world’s biggest challenges,” Shapiro said. “Jenny Lodge has the vision, expertise and enthusiasm to help researchers at the university achieve these efforts.”
In her new role, Lodge will serve as an officer of Washington University and a member of the University Council. She will be the chief officer responsible for the university’s research mission, overseeing more than $600 million in annual sponsored research and managing the development of research policies, grants and contracts, and the continuing education of faculty and staff regarding research regulations.
Lodge previously served as associate dean for research and professor of biochemistry and molecular biology at Saint Louis University School of Medicine; had postdoctoral fellowships at Monsanto Co. and Washington University; and served as a research assistant at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston and at Harvard University. She earned her bachelor’s degree from Oberlin College in Oberlin, Ohio, and her doctorate in biomedical sciences from Washington University in 1988.
Lodge was named a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in 2011 and a fellow of the American Academy of Microbiology in 2010. She has published more than 50 papers in peer-reviewed journals and holds a U.S. patent for virus-resistant potato plants. She continues to pursue NIH-funded research on mechanisms of fungal pathogenesis, anti-fungal drug discovery and vaccine development.
Past Alumni Spotlights
February 2018 - Jeffrey Morton

Jeffrey Morton
Immunology, 2004; lab of Michael J. Holtzman

Attorney at Snell & Wilmer L.L.P.

What was your career path like after graduating from Washington University? 
Following my graduation from Washington University DBBS, I earned my law degree at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada. After receiving my JD, I worked for two law firms in Vancouver where I began to focus my practice on biotechnology law. In 2014, I moved to Palo Alto to work for a large international law firm that focuses on biotechnology clients. In 2016, I joined Snell & Wilmer L.L.P., the largest law firm in the Southwest, where I work out of their Phoenix and Orange County offices. My practice at Snell & Wilmer is focused on patent counseling and licensing transactions for clients in the life sciences industry.

Why did you choose Washington University DBBS for your PhD training?
I chose Washington University DBBS because of their outstanding immunology program, world-class faculty and first-class facilities.

How did your time at WashU prepare you for your current career?
WashU has and continues to set the bar high in terms of what is expected from faculty and students. Working in that environment for ~5-6 years as a graduate student prepares you for working in other top-tier environments where there are high expectations to perform on complex scientific issues.

What are some of your favorite memories from your time at WashU? What was your favorite part about living in St. Louis?
Favorite memories include the usual cultural highlights of living in St. Louis: attending Cardinals games and spending time in the Central West End -- but at the end of the day, my favorite memories go back to the great people that I met during my 6 years in St. Louis, many of whom remain my closest friends.

What hobbies do you enjoy?
Traveling with my family, cycling and golfing.

Who is your biggest role model?
I do not have one main role model as I try to learn from everyone I interact with. That said, I feel extremely fortunate to have carried out my PhD work in the lab of Dr. Michael J. Holtzman. Michael is the Director of the Pulmonary Division at Washington University School of Medicine, and is not only a great scientist, physician, and administrator, but is also kind and patient which are important attributes to learn for any career, whether in academia or otherwise.

What advice would you give to both prospective and current graduate students?
I would advise prospective students to go to graduate school if they really have an interest in what they are researching. For current graduate students, I would not spend too much time worrying about the future as you will be just fine coming out of the Washington University DBBS program. I also think it is important to see that there are many extremely rewarding careers that can be pursued that do not require a post-doc. I would be happy to speak with any Washington University DBBS students who are considering a career in law after they complete their PhD.

Past Alumni Spotlights
February 2018 - Kiona

Kiona Elliot

Plant & Microbial Biosciences, incoming class 2017

What is your educational/professional background?
I received a B.S. degree at the Univer​sity of Florida in Horticultural Sciences with a specialization in Plant Molecular and Cellular Biology. During my undergraduate career, I worked as a student research assistant in Dr. Kevin Folta's lab studying a novel class of plant growth regulators. Prior to starting graduate school, I worked as a research assistant in Dr. Mark Settles’ lab also at the University of Florida studying Maize genetics.

Why did you choose to attend Washington University DBBS?
What is your favorite part about pursuing your PhD training here?
My decision to attend Washington University DBBS was largely based on the incredible legacy of the Plant and Microbial Biosciences program and the opportunities DBBS provides graduate students. I felt that the resources offered here, such as the Initiative to Maximize Student Development, the pathway program, the courses, seminars, etc., would provide the best training for me as a graduate student. I was especially attracted to how happy the graduate students at Washington University seemed during my interview weekend. During interviews, I found all the students I met to be happy with Washington University's training and support by faculty and fellow peers. I have found support offered by DBBS to be incredible and it is my favorite part of pursuing my PhD training here.

What research are you currently working on?
As a first year in the PMB program, I am currently rotating with different DBBS professors. First, I have rotated with Dr. Barbara Kunkel studying the role of Auxin in the parthenogenesis of Pseudomonas Syringae on Arabidopsis plants. Secondly, I rotated with Dr. Rebecca Bart analyzing pathogen infection of CRISPR-Cas9 edited Cassava mutants. I am currently rotating with Dr. Blake Meyers studying the translocation of mobile RNAs in grafted tomato plants and PhasiRNAs in Maize. The opportunity to rotate in these labs has given me a great opportunity to explore my research interests and learn about different fields of study.

Are you involved in any student groups, volunteer work or other ventures outside of the lab?
I am a member of a new student led podcast called GradCast. On GradCast, we strive to build community at Washington University and beyond by sharing the life experiences and work of graduate and professional students across all disciplines. Additionally, I recently joined the graduate student group ProSPER as the Communication Director. ProSPER serves to promote the use of science in policy-making through science advocacy and literacy, facilitate inter-professional communication, and increase scientist participation in policy.

What is your favorite part about living in St. Louis?
My favorite part about living in St. Louis is the endless events and free activities that are available throughout the year. I love the amenities available in Forest Park such as the Art Museum, the Science Center, and the Zoo. There are also tons of festivals and activities around the year like the Central West End Halloween Party or the Loop Ice Carnival.

What hobbies do you enjoy?
Some of my favorite hobbies include reading (I'm currently on an Oprah kick), and documentary watching. I'm also a huge fan of themed dinner parties and board game nights.

What is your favorite quote?
Due to my current Oprah kick, my favorite quote is, "Be thankful for what you have; you'll end up having more. If you concentrate on what you don't have, you will never, ever have enough." -Oprah Winfrey

Is a hot dog a sandwich?
No way.

Who is your biggest role model?
It may be a cliché, but my mom is definitely my biggest role model.

What career would you like to pursue after completing your PhD training?
After completing my PhD, I would like to pursue a career studying ways to use genetic engineering for crop improvement use. Particularly for application in developing nations.

What advice would you give to prospective graduate students?
My greatest piece of advice would be to find a support network you can rely on. Graduate school can be challenging but having mentors, friends, and family you can count on can help you get through the ruts and keep you sane! I would also say take advantage of the many opportunities around you.

Past Student Spotlights
January 2018 - Samarth Hegde

Samarth Hegde
samarth hegde.jpgMolecular Cell Biology, incoming class 2014
Lab of Dr. David DeNardo

What is your educational/professional background?
I got my undergraduate degree in Biological Sciences in India, at BITS Pilani. I conducted post-baccalaureate research at the Institute for Stem Cell Biology and Regenerative Medicine (inStem) in Bangalore, India. During this time, I worked in the lab of Dr. Srikala Raghavan on epithelial cell biology.

Why did you choose to attend Washington University DBBS?
What is your favorite part about pursuing your PhD training here?
I was attracted to WashU and DBBS specifically for its umbrella program and its close ties to Siteman Cancer Center. I knew my interests in translational oncology would need a graduate program that was wide in its breadth of cancer research but also extensive enough in each arm to allow for focused professional development. I was very impressed by the genuineness and candid nature of DBBS faculty and students. The environment doesn't feel cut-throat at all, but don't get me wrong -- the expectations from you as a graduate student at WashU are always very high.

Slightly off the beaten path, the favorite part of my PhD 'training' has been the weekly student-run seminars (SRS), which are not only a great way to learn how to present without the perceived pressure from faculty, but also a very important way to learn how to give or receive scientific feedback.

What research are you currently working on? What is a fun fact about your current research?
I am conducting research in the tumor immunology lab of Dr. David DeNardo. Our lab focuses on the immune microenvironment of pancreatic cancer, which is a dismal disease with very poor outcomes and high recalcitrance to treatment.

My research revolves around understanding the key physiological barriers to CD8 T cell surveillance in pancreatic cancer. I use a combination of genetic/orthotopic mouse models, tissue imaging and ex vivo T cell-tumor interaction studies to determine why these cytotoxic T cells are ineffective in controlling tumors despite the presence of sufficient cues (tumor antigens). We have a unique model that enables us to study the basic biology of antigen-specific T cell interactions in naturally progressing disease, and presents opportunity to develop combinational therapies that can reawaken the poor T cell response. Results from my research will better our current immunological understanding of pancreatic cancer progression.

Fun fact: As part of my dissertation research, I am slowly learning really cool techniques such as second-harmonic deep tissue imaging to visualize immune cell interactions in the tumor microenvironment.

Are you involved in any student groups, volunteer work or other ventures outside of the lab?
I am closely involved with the BioEntrepreneurship Core (BEC), a student educational group through which students and post-graduates can learn about entrepreneurial skills and opportunities in St. Louis or beyond. This experience has greatly enhanced my understanding of translating graduate research and the 'businessy' aspect of bringing an idea to fruition. 

What is your favorite part about living in St. Louis?
St. Louis never feels like a big city despite being one. I can decide the pace or energy for my day, and not have the city decide that for me. Best of all, the city always surprises me with its hidden treasures; whether it be interesting food places, new bars or fun events. Often it's free or ridiculously affordable, which is never a bad thing on a graduate stipend.

What hobbies do you enjoy?
I enjoy reading literary fiction and collecting graphic novels; I am also into street photography but have been slacking off recently. Having become a craft beer snob, I have picked up home-brewing with some of my graduate school friends and that's been great!

What is your favorite quote?
"Quis custodiet ipsos custodes" - not from 'Satires', but from the graphic novel 'Watchmen'.

Is a hot dog a sandwich?
I would rather not wade into this trap...

Who is your biggest role model?
I really can't think of one person having that big of an influence, but one of the notable people I look up to is my previous mentor Dr. Srikala Raghavan. During my formative stage in science, I was deeply inspired by her collaborative achievements, unending enthusiasm for scientific discovery, and selfless interest in graduate training. I have seen these traits recurrent in so many successful academics including my current mentor Dr. DeNardo, and hope to follow in their footsteps.

What career would you like to pursue after completing your PhD training?
I plan to pursue academic research in my field of tumor immunology. I will apply for postdoctoral research opportunities in this field to prepare myself for eventual tenure-track research. The NCIF99 fellowship I have received will go a long way in enabling such a transition. I'm cognizant of the current dearth of academic careers, but feel I'm preparing myself well to be a competitive candidate for the research track.

What advice would you give to prospective graduate students?
I'll limit this to three: 

1) Don't join labs/graduate programs just because the Investigator is a big name or the lab's research is the buzzword of that year. It's your research interest foremost, followed by lab environment. You'll be a part of that lab for a large chunk of your life, pick a lab you would enjoy coming in on each day (or most days).

2) There will be a lot of times you will feel inadequate in comparison to peers or other people in lab. Imposter syndrome is very real and very draining. Don't feel ashamed to acknowledge it; having a strong peer support system (helpful mentors, friends inside and outside science) is key. Don't let go of that favorite hobby of yours too!

3) Pick up a valuable skill or technique in your graduate career that makes you marketable or competitive. The earlier you identify that and start working on it, the better.

Please list any grants, awards, publications, or other honors you have received during your time at DBBS.
I am the 2017 recipient of the NCI F99/K00 Predoctoral-to-Postdoctoral Fellow transition award for Washington University. The purpose of the award is to encourage students recognized for their potential and strong interest in pursuing careers as independent cancer researchers. The F99 phase supports 2 years of predoctoral research, and the K00 phase supports up to 4 years of mentored postdoc research. This award can facilitate my seamless transition into a successful postdoctoral appointment in cancer biology, while providing me with opportunities for career development relevant to my long-term academic goals.

I have contributed to two publications in the DeNardo lab:
-Jiang, H., Hegde, S., Knolhoff, B. L., Zhu, Y., Herndon, J. M., Meyer, M. A., et al. (2016). Targeting focal adhesion kinase renders pancreatic cancers responsive to checkpoint immunotherapy. Nature Medicine, 22(8), 851-860.-Jiang, H., Hegde, S., and DeNardo, D.G. (2017) Tumor-associated fibrosis as a regulator of tumor immunity and response toimmunotherapy. Cancer Immunology Immunotherapy, 1-12.

Please list any other information you would like to share for your spotlight.
For more information on the F99 funding mechanism, check out

Past Student Spotlights
2018 - Kristen Naegle

naegle.jpgKristen Naegle, PhD

Assistant Professor of Biomedical Engineering
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.

Past Faculty Spotlights
2017 - William Gillanders

William Gillanders

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.

Past Faculty Spotlights
Faculty Mentors


Dixit, Ram: Dr. Dixit focuses on understanding on how the microtubule cytoskeleton regulates plant cell shape. His lab uses transgenic plants and follow fluorescently tagged proteins in living cells using total internal reflection fluorescence microscopy to study dynamics and function of proteins at the single molecule level. In addition, by combining mutational analysis with live imaging of new two-color marker lines generated in the Dixit lab, they examine the way in which microtubule severing proteins are responsible for pruning unaligned cortical microtubules at crossover sites and how this activity is involved in creating ordered arrays. Collaborators: Herzog, Piston.

Herzog, Erik: Dr. Herzog studies the cellular and molecular basis for circadian rhythms, focusing on the suprachiasmatic nucleus of the hypothalamus. By combining electrophysiological and molecular imaging techniques, his lab is identifying pacemaking cells and how these cells coordinate their activities to drive behavior. The lab compares the circadian rhythms expressed behaviorally and by cells and tissues using a variety of techniques including behavioral monitoring and imaging with multielectrode recordings, bioluminescence and fluorescence from animals carrying transgenic reporters. Trainees in the Herzog lab pursue optical and digital imaging of low-light bioluminescence, fluorescence, and bright-field preparations. Dr. Herzog received an Outstanding Mentor Award in 2008. Collaborators: Holy, Culver, Taghert.


An, Hongyu: Dr. An has extensive experience in MR and PET/MR imaging and is the associate director of the Center for Clinical Imaging Research (CCIR). Her expertise includes MRI physics, MR sequence design and programming, image reconstruction, image and data analysis, PET/MR attenuation correction, and motion correction. Simultaneously acquired anatomical, physiological and metabolic MR imaging and physiological and molecular PET imaging provide unprecedented diagnostic and prognostic values in many diseases. A specialty of Dr. An’s group has been developing novel MR based PET attenuation methods. An application area is the important MR imaging challenge of quantifying cerebral oxygenation. Collaborators: Ackerman, Hershey, Woodard. 

Anastasio, Mark: Dr. Anastasio’s research interests include the development of biomedical imaging methods, image reconstruction, and inverse problems in imaging and theoretical image science. Almost all modern biomedical imaging systems including advanced microscopy methods, X-ray computed tomography (CT), and photoacoustic tomography, to name only a few, utilize computational methods for image formation. Dr. Anastasio’s lab brings together imaging physics with a deep knowledge of image reconstruction algorithms to provide quantitative imaging with improved performance across a wide range of metrics. In particularly they have been actively involved in the development of several emerging wave-based bioimaging modalities including photoacoustic computed tomography (PACT), X-ray phase-contrast imaging, ultrasound computed tomography (UST) and optical tomography. Collaborators: Chen, Culver, Parikh. 

Chen, Hong:  Dr. Chen’s research is focused on developing image-guided ultrasound drug delivery (IGUDD) techniques. A new assistant professor, Dr. Chen has a joint appointment with Radiation oncology. Her laboratory is setting up two experimental systems: an ultrasound-image-guided focused ultrasound system and an MRI-guided focused ultrasound system. The goal is to translate basic research advances in imaging and ultrasound therapy into image-guided therapy devices that can impact cancer patient care. Collaborators: Anastasio, Hallahan, Parikh. 

Raman, Barani: Dr. Raman’s research focuses on examining the spatio-temporal signals in neural systems to understand the design and computing principles of biological sensory systems using relatively simple invertebrate models (e.g., Drosophila melanogaster). His lab employ’s a variety of multi-dimensional electrophysiological recording techniques and computational modeling approaches to investigate how dynamic odor signals are encoded as neural representations (odor coding). Recent work from Dr. Raman’s lab, published in Nature Communications and Nature Neuroscience, has revealed the behavioral relevance of combinations of neurons activated by an odorant (i.e., ‘the combinatorial code’) and in the temporal structure of the neural activity (i.e., ‘the temporal code’). Collaborators: Gruev, Holy, Petersen. 


Cooper, John: The laboratory uses a variety of light and electron microscopy techniques to address questions of how cells control their shape and movement. Those techniques might include low-light level fluorescence microscopy of living cell preparations, including spinning-disk confocal and total internal reflection microscopy. Collaborators: Bayly, Piston. 

Mecham, Robert: Dr. Mecham studies the extracellular matrix, the critical material that helps bind together and support the structures and tissues of the human body. He is a well-known leader in uncovering the structure of elastic fiber and understanding the complex process involved in producing it. His laboratory focuses on learning how cells produce elastic fibers, a major component of the extracellular matrix. His work includes live-cell imaging of extracellular matrix assembly. Collaborators: Holtzman, Taber 

Piston, David:  The main research focus of the Piston lab is the understanding of glucose-regulated hormone secretion from islets of Langerhans in the pancreas. To perform live cell measurements in situ and in vivo, his lab develops unique, state-of-the-art fluorescence imaging methods to assay responses along critical signaling pathways in both glucagon-secreting α-cells and insulin-secreting β-cells. These quantitative microscopy measurements are combined with standard biochemical and molecular biological techniques to obtain valuable information that bridges the gap between the known details of the signaling pathways in individual cells and the overall response of a whole islet. Experimental work involves 5D live cell imaging and high-content screening. Collaborators: Nichols, Urano, Gross, Lawson. 


Ackerman, Joseph: Trainees perform research in the development and application of magnetic resonance spectroscopy (MRS) and imaging (MRI) for study of intact biological systems, from cultured cells to mice to man. A major area of research is the development of MR techniques that will provide a more complete understanding of the complex structure and operating organization of mammalian tissues in the intact, functioning state. Collaborators: Bayly, Culver, Weilbaecher. 

Mirica, Liviu: Dr. Mirica uses inorganic chemistry, organic chemistry, and biological chemistry to address metal-mediated processes with energy, biological, and medical relevance. One of his projects involves investigation of the interaction of transition metal ions with Aβ peptides and study of the role of metal ions in amyloid plaque and reactive oxygen species (ROS) formation in patients with AD — whose plaques exhibit unusually high concentrations of copper, iron, and zinc. He is developing Cu-64 complexes that can be employed for PET imaging and early diagnosis of AD. Collaborators: Rath, Tai. 


Gruev, Victor:  Dr. Gruev’s research focuses on borrowing key concepts from nature to develop ultra-sensitive, compact, lightweight and conformal imaging sensors capable of recording spectral and polarization properties with high spatial resolution and to bring these new sensory devices to clinical settings. Gruev’s lab has been able to successfully mimic both the optics and underlying neural circuitry from the visual system of both Morpho butterflies and mantis shrimp by using various nanomaterials and nanofabrication techniques and monolithically integrate them with circuits fabricated with advanced CMOS technologies. The compact realization of these bio-inspired spectral-polarization imaging sensors combined with wearable goggle devices and real-time image processing implemented on FPGA platform, were recently used to translate this technology into the operating room to provide instant visual feedback to physicians. Collaborators: Achilefu, Culver, Raman. 

Pless, Robert:  Dr. Pless works on developing tools for the fundamental mathematical modeling and analysis of motion in video sequences. He co-founded the Media and Machines Laboratory, which now includes five full time faculty and is a focal point for research on Computer Vision, Robotics, Graphics, Medical Imaging and Human Computer Interaction. Driven by biological imaging applications, the primary mathematical tools are data-driven, non-parametric statistical models that represent scene-specific or patient-specific models of common motions and behaviors. These models are ignore distracting motions (e.g., breathing artifacts in CT). Collaborators: Bayly, Leuthardt, Miller, O’Sullivan, Taber. 

Ju, Tau:  Dr. Tau’ works on computer graphics and image analysis with application to biological imaging. His early works pioneered the cage-based deformation paradigm which is now widely used in both entertainment industry and academics. In collaboration with a group of image processing specialists and neuroscientists, his lab used geometric atlases to map the gene expression patterns in the mouse brain. While the prototype of the mapped database (see was initially done in 2D, his lab recently completed a 3D version (hosted on the same website) with the support of an NSF grant. His lab also is working on theoretical foundations and practical algorithms to quantify how “tubular” or “plate-like” an object (or one of its part) is. This work is mostly motivated by the analysis of biological structures in biomedical images with applications to optical and electron microscopy. Collaborators: Dacey, Zipfel, Prior. 


Lew, Mathew:  Dr. Lew, a new faculty recruit, is interested in developing imaging platforms for visualizing biomolecules in living organisms across length scales, from subcellular to whole subjects. He trained in the lab of W.E. Morner (Noble prize 2014). His work primarily focuses on super-resolution microscopy. For example he developed method simultaneous accurate measurement of the 3D position and 2D orientation of single molecules and solutions for mitigating localization errors through modified labeling or optical strategies. On the applications side, he works on labeling and imaging internal cellular structures and external cell surfaces, in 3D, with resolution beyond the diffraction limit. These techniques will enabled the mapping of protein locations and interactions in studies of developmental cell biology. Collaborator: Achilefu. 

Nehorai, AryeDr. Nehorai’s research deals with analysis of space-time data in a number of biomedical areas. In biomedicine, he is developing methods for locating electrical sources in the brain using arrays of electrodes (EEG) or magnetometers (MEG) placed around the head. His solutions are important for clinical applications such as finding origins of seizures, or in neuroscience for mapping the brain functions. He is also developing procedures that find the stiffness of the heart wall using MRI. In microscopy imaging, he is working on algorithms to quantify targets (e.g., antigens, proteins etc.) from 3D microarray-based images, and quantum-dot (q-dot) barcoded microparticle ensembles. Collaborators: Achilefu, Garbow, Song. 

O’Sullivan, Jody:  Dr. O'Sullivan was the director of the Electronic Systems and Signals Research Laboratory (ESSRL) from 1998-2007, and is now dean of the new joint engineering program between University of Missouri-St. Louis and WU. He conducts research in a wide range of science and technology for security applications, including borders, target and object recognition theory, information hiding for secure and clandestine communication, and spectral analysis for biochemical agent detection. Current imaging research includes spiral CT imaging in the presence high-density attenuators and microPET. Collaborators: Tai, Culver. 


Bayly, Phillip:  Dr. Bayly, Professor and Chair of Mechanical Engineering, uses MRI to study deformation and to infer mechanical properties of soft tissue, particularly in the brain and spinal cord. The changes in shape and mechanical properties are important both in rapid events such as brain trauma, and very slow events, such as brain morphogenesis. His students employ MR tagging and analysis of tagged images to study the deformation of the brain during linear angular acceleration of the skull. Dr. Bayly collaborates with other researchers who use MRI measurement of water diffusion to characterize the effects of trauma on the brain and spinal cord, in vivo, in animal models. Collaborators: Ackerman, Carlsson, Cooper, Garbow, Pham. 


Weilbaecher, Katherine:  Dr. Weilbaecher’s laboratory investigates the molecular mechanisms of tumor metastasis to bone. They utilize luciferase/GFP labeled osteolytic cancer cell lines and evaluate tumor metastasis and bone tumor growth using in vivo bioluminescence in genetically targeted osteoclast and platelet defective mice. They also utilize MRI and PET imaging to evaluate bone tumor growth and metastasis in spontaneous metastasis tumor mouse models. Trainees gain experience in metastasis biology and host cell/tumor cell interactions using an array of in vivo imaging techniques, including PET, bioluminescence and MRI. Collaborators: Achilefu, Ackerman, Garbow, Lanza. 


Petersen, Steven:  Dr. Peterson pioneered the use of brain imaging (PET and fMRI) to identify brain regions that contribute to attention, learning, memory and language. He also investigates the effects of disease and brain damage on these cognitive processes. Currently, he has two main areas of interest. The first focus is the development of neural mechanisms underlying cognition. Methods have been developed that allow direct statistical comparison of child and adult imaging data. The second focus is identifying and characterizing fMRI signals related to task organization and executive control. Recently his lab developed a series of seminal papers on functional connectivity mapping with MRI related to the management of motion artifacts, the applications of graph theory and the mapping of network hubs. Collaborators: Barch, Culver, Hershey, Raman. 


Bruchas, Michael:  Dr. Bruchas’ lab is largely focused on optogenetic techniques and the neurobiology of stress and motivation, as it relates to neuromodulatory circuits, addiction, and GPCR signaling. In particular, a strong theme of the lab is the use of in vivo optogenetics to dissect affective behavioral circuits in reward, aversion, and anxiety (Science, Cell, Neuron, Nature Communications). The work includes development of novel optogenetic tools and optogenetic/physiological dissection of opioid, noradrenergic, dopamine, corticotropin-releasing factors in neural circuits. New work combines optogenetics with optical neuroimaging to produce cell type specific maps of brain connectivity. Collaborators: Bauer, Culver, Gereau, Lee, McGehee.

Holy, Timothy:  Dr. Holy’s research in imaging focuses on developing new optical methods for imaging neuronal activity. He has devised a new method, called objective-couple planar illumination microscopy, for imaging neuronal activity simultaneously in large neuronal populations. This approach uses a sheet of light to provide three-dimensional resolution without point-scanning. The principal advantage of this technique is that hundreds or thousands of neurons can be imaged at high speed and high signal-to-noise ratio. Current work on this technology includes optical and algorithmic methods for enhancing resolution deeper into tissue. Collaborators: Herzog, Raman, Taghert. 

Taghert, Pau:  Dr. Taghert’s research focuses on (i) how peptidergic neurons differentiate and (ii) how neural circuits are controlled by the circadian clock to generate rhythmic behaviors. Both areas of study rely heavily on imaging methods, including standard epifluorescent and confocal microscopy, low light level imaging methods, and use of bioluminesent reporters to interrogate pacemaker neuron function and peptidergic cell secretion mechanisms. Collaborators: Hanson, Herzog, Holy. 


Barch, Deanna:  Dr. Barch’s research program is focused on developing and using a variety of neuroimaging techniques to understand the developmental interplay among cognition, emotion, and brain function to better understand the deficits in behavior and cognition found in illnesses such as schizophrenia, depression and substance abuse. She has a long history of mentoring graduate, postdoctoral fellows and junior faculty in psychology, psychiatry, and neuroscience who have gone on to productive research careers. She was the Director of Graduate Studies in Psychology 2004 to 2014 (now Chair of Psychology) and is a co-Investigator on the Human Connectome Project. Cofounder of our Cognitive, Computational and Systems Neuroscience integrative training pathway, Dr. Barch and has been actively involved in training students in cross-disciplinary neuroimaging research. Collaborators: Petersen, Hershey. 


Hershey, TamaraDr. Hershey’s research is in the fields of neuroimaging and cognitive and clinical neuroscience. Her lab uses a range of neuroimaging, pharmacological and cognitive techniques to understand the impact of metabolic and neurodegenerative conditions on the brain, particularly during development. For example, her lab explores the neural underpinnings of cognitive and mood dysfunction in disorders relevant to dopamine and the basal ganglia (e.g., Parkinson disease, Tourette syndrome), the effects of diabetes and obesity on the brain, particularly within development, and the neurodevelopmental and neurodegenerative impact of a rare monogenic diabetes. Dr. Hershey is deputy lab chief of the WUSM Neuroimaging Labs, and has mentored numerous undergraduate and graduate students, postdocs and junior faculty and co-directs a WU Peer Mentoring Program. Collaborators: Barch, Culver, Raichle. 


Zhang, Tiezhi:  Dr. Zhang’s primary research interests include the development of multi-pixel x-ray source, tetrahedron x-ray imaging systems based on scanning x-ray sources. Almost all modern x-ray imaging systems including x-ray radiography, fluoroscopy, mammography and cone beam CT, to name only a few, utilize a single x-ray source and a 2D detector to acquire 2D images. Dr. Zhang’s lab develops new linear scan x-ray sources and tetrahedron beam imaging systems that can overcome the problems in traditional x-ray imaging, including excessive x-ray scattering, suboptimal detector performance and limited detector dimension. The novel imaging system may find important uses in many medical procedures such as image guided radiotherapy (IGRT), image guided intervention, and office-based point-of-care diagnostic imaging. Besides x-ray imaging, Dr. Zhang’s lab also develops novel technologies for precise radiation (x-ray and proton) treatment of cancers.


Achilefu, Samuel:  Dr. Achilefu is interested in molecular optical imaging, the design and development of new molecular probes and nanomaterials, specific delivery of imaging agents and drugs to target cells or tissues, development of tissue-specific multi-modal imaging molecules, and tumor-specific photodynamic therapy agents. He is co-leader of the oncologic imaging program for the NCI-designated Siteman Cancer Center, and Director of WU molecular imaging center. His Optical Radiology Lab provides a multidisciplinary environment for students in a variety of disciplines, including the chemistry, physics, and biology of optical imaging of diseases. The lab is equipped with state-of-the-art instruments to train the student in all aspects of optical imaging, depending on the expressed interest level of the student. Collaborators: Culver, Gruev, Lew, Shokeen, Weilbaecher, Woodard. 

Benzinger, Tammie:  Dr. Benzinger`s research focuses on translating advanced neuromagnetic resonance imaging techniques from small animal research in the Department of Radiology, to translational research in the Center for Clinical Imaging Research (CCIR), and into clinical practice. In particular, her current research focuses on using directional diffusivity measurements derived from diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) to measure axonal and myelin damage in pediatric and adult demyelination, dysmyelinating diseases, in traumatic brain injury (TBI), and as a function of aging. Diseases under study in Dr. Benzinger`s laboratory include multiple sclerosis (MS), acute disseminated encephalomyelitis (ADEM), adrenoleukodystrophy, Krabbe`s disease, Pelizaeus-Merzbacher`s disease, and head trauma. In addition, Dr. Benzinger combines advanced neuromagnetic resonance techniques, such as DTI and spectroscopy, and positron emission tomography (PET) to study interactions between normal aging, Alzherimer`s disease, depression, and delirium in older adults.  Collaborators: Achilefu, Ackerman, Hershey, Culver, Woodard

Culver, Joseph:  Dr. Culver’s Lab develops neurophotonic technology for mapping brain function in humans and animal models. With the goal of producing high-performance portable brain imaging in humans, his group has been developing a series of innovations for diffuse optical tomography (DOT) instrumentation and algorithms. Recently they presented the first DOT system capable of mapping distributed brain function and networks (Nature Photonics). Applied projects include mapping brain function in infants in the neonatal ICU, and in stroke patients in the Adult ICU. In parallel with human imaging efforts, the Culver lab is also developing mouse equivalent measurements of functional connectivity using optical intrinsic signal imaging (fcOIS) - so as to link human fcMRI with mouse models of disease (e.g., amyloid-beta models of Alzheimer’s, stroke, brain tumors, autism). Recently, to work with faster physiological signals, they have extend fcOIS to mice with genetically encoded calcium indicators and are exploring transitions between awake/sleep and anesthesia. Collaborators: Achilefu, Ackerman, Anastasio, Bruchas, Hershey, O’Sullivan, Petersen, Shokeen. 

Shokeen, Monica:  Dr. Shokeen’s lab has expertise in the development and evaluation of molecularly targeted small molecule and multi-functional macromolecular bio-conjugates for nuclear and optical imaging of cancer and cardiovascular diseases. Her group aspires to utilize the translational capabilities of quantitative imaging modalities (PET, SPECT, FMT and MRI) to bring the bench side discoveries into patient care. Working on the chemistry of imaging, the Shokeen lab has been evaluating high-affinity 64Cu labeled-Very Late Antigen-4 (VLA-4) targeted PET radiopharmaceuticals to assess disease progression and response to treatment in pre-clinical mouse and human models of multiple myeloma by quantitative receptor measurements. The ultimate goal of these studies is successful clinical translation. Her group is also investigating the unique metabolic pathways and metabolite fate tracking in multiple myeloma tissues by using 13C edited 1H NMR and 11C-Acetate/PET-CT imaging. Additionally, as part of a multi-PI team, the Schokeen lab is developing a high-throughput optical in vivo imaging platform for the detection of unstable plaque in carotid arteries using a novel custom built Fluorescence Molecular Tomography (FMT) system. Collaborators: Woodard, Achilefu, Culver. 

Tai, Yuan-Chuan:  Dr. Tai’s team conceived and demonstrated the feasibility of the virtual-pinhole PET insert technology for improving the image resolution of existing human and animal PET scanners. This technology is currently being evaluated for whole-body cancer staging to improve the sensitivity of metastatic cancer detection. Additionally, Tai’s lab has developed several high resolution PET and multimodality imaging systems for preclinical, clinical, and functional plant imaging applications. The plant PET imager is now used routinely for molecular plant imaging research and has brought the in vivo imaging technology to plant scientists and triggered new interdisciplinary researches across multiple universities and institutions. Collaborators: O’Sullivan, Laforest. 

Woodard, Pamela:  Dr. Woodard’s expertise is in translational imaging and clinical trials, particularly in cardiovascular MRI, CT and PET. She is Radiology’s Vice Chair of Clinical Translational Research, has an appointment in Biomedical Engineering and is the Director of the Center for Clinical Imaging Research (CCIR). She has been principal investigator (PI) or co-investigator on numerous NIH grants and subcontracts, including the PIOPED II and III Trials. Most recently, her lab has developed a receptor-targeted nanoparticle PET imaging agent for assessment of atherosclerosis, brought it through preclinical safety testing, applied for and received an FDA eIND for testing in human subjects, and have begun testing in normal volunteers and patients. New extensions of the same receptor targeted nanoparticle include optical labelling for imaging with fluorescence molecular tomography. Collaborators: Shokeen, Achilefu, Culver. 


Intent to Graduate Form must be filed:

August 1, 2018 for August 16, 2018 Graduation
October 1, 2018 for December 17, 2018 Graduation
December 20, 2018 for a May 17, 2019 Graduation

Final Dissertation must be electronically submitted to the Graduate School (in its final form, all edits corrected):

April 23, 2018 for May 18, 2018 Graduation
September 6, 2018 for August 16, 2018 Graduation
January 4, 2018 for December 19, 2018 Graduation
April 22, 2019 for a May 17, 2019 Graduation​

Getting Ready to Graduate

OUTgrads is an LGBTQIA group dedicated to developing community among Washington University graduate and professional students, faculty, and staff of all genders and sexual orientations, promoting awareness of the issues that affect our communities, and facilitating community involvement by our membership. Our organization is open to any member of the Washington University community.

For more information, visit our website​ and register for our listserv to get email updates.
Organizations & Campus Groups- Open to All
Young Scientist Program (YSP)

The Young Scientist Program (YSP) is designed to attract high school students from disadvantaged backgrounds into scientific careers through activities emphasizing hands-on research and individualized contact between young people and active scientists. In addition, the YSP targets St. Louis City Public High School teachers with resources that facilitate inquiry-based learning in the classroom. Each year, the program reaches hundreds of high school students and teachers in the St. Louis City Public Schools. The program currently is divided into four components, which work in concert with one another to foster high school students’ and teachers’ interest in science: Teaching Teams, Teacher Researcher Partnership Program, and Summer Focus. A unique feature of the program is that it is entirely run by graduate/medical students and postdoc volunteers from the School of Medicine and the Graduate School of Arts & Sciences. For more information, email​ or call 314-362-7456.

Organizations & Campus Groups- Open to All


See your student coordinator at least THREE - SIX months prior to thesis examination (defense).

If you are an International student, YOU MUST see the International Office prior to setting up a defense date to discuss your Visa status and its implication.

Intent to Graduate Form - The Office of Student Records requires that you complete the Intent to Graduate Form on-line through WebSTAC, see below for graduation deadlines. If you have any problems locating or completing the form in WebSTAC, please contact the Office of Student Records at (314) 935-5959.
Read through the Doctoral Dissertatio​n Guide for formatting guidelines and other important information (found at
One Month Before Thesis Examination:
  • Ask your coordinator for the Dissertation Committee Form, have your program director sign the form and return form to your coordinator.
  • Submit your CV and the dissertation abstract.  (Be sure to follow the guidelines in the Doctoral Dissertation Guide booklet). Each should be initialed by the thesis advisor.
  • Email your coordinator the dissertation title, defense date, time and location of thesis examination. It is the student’s responsibility to reserve a room for the thesis examination.  (Thesis Examination information will be published in the DBBS seminar calendar online.)
  • Submit the Payroll/Student Health Form
Two Weeks Before Thesis Examination:
  • Distribute copies of dissertation and a copy of your CV to committee members electronically.  If your PDF file is too large to send by email, we advise you to use the Washington University Large File Transfer System,​.  It is a secure and encrypted tool for transferring large files between people and works in a similar manner to Dropbox.  Members of the Wash U community can access this system with their WUSTL Key.
    Note: Your thesis advisor should be listed as the chairperson on your title page and the date would be your degree date (May, August or December are the only options). If you have questions about permission to use published papers in your thesis, contact Nancy Pope, Associate Dean in the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, 935-6848.
After Defense:
  • Submit your Thesis Examination Approval form to your coordinator.
  • Submit your finalized dissertation online.  Log on to to create an account. Once your dissertation has been successfully submitted you will receive an email informing you that everything has been received. Final submission must be completed by the deadline, indicated in deadline section below.  Plan to submit your dissertation and paperwork a few days before the deadline. You may need to make corrections to your formatting or fill out additional paperwork.
  • Fill out the Post-Graduation Job​ Survey a​
  • Fill out the Survey of Earned Docto​rates Form at
  • Check in with your coordinator to make sure you have submitted everything you need to submit. 
Binding Dissertation
  • If you would like to have your dissertation bound, visit  to upload your thesis and order bound copies. No copies should be ordered until after the electronic submission of a dissertation to ProQuest has been approved by the Graduate School; the pdf uploaded at should be identical to the approved pdf previously submitted to ProQuest.
  • Note: The price for binding a single dissertation begins at $25 (shipping additional). A $35 Scholar Credit will be applied to each graduating student’s SIS account approximately 30 days after their last stipend check.
  • Should your PI want a copy of your thesis, they can also use the Thesis on Demand site at their own expense. You will need to provide them with an electronic copy of your thesis to utilize this site-
  • Questions regarding dissertation binding should be directed to Andrew Richards, Director of Alumni Affairs at​.
In most cases, outpatient benefits cease the day the finished dissertation is submitted to the Graduate School, with a grace period providing emergency benefits to continue for an additional 30 days. However, students presenting their thesis in late summer months may find it necessary to pay additional fees, since the billing cycle for the previous semester ends on June 30, with the 30 day grace period extending limited coverage to July 31. Hospitalization and emergency room services only are provided during the grace period.
Getting Ready to Graduate
Association of Black Biomedical Graduate Students (ABBGS)

The Association of Black Biomedical Graduate Students (ABBGS) is a student-led organization dedicated to strengthening the social, cultural, and academic well being of black biomedical graduate students at Washington University, while promoting diversity within the campus community. ABBGS welcomes all members of the Washington University community to aid in our mission to heighten cultural awareness on campus and to support active recruitment and retention of a culturally diverse student body.  Contact Ninecia Scott,​ for more information.

Organizations & Campus Groups - Graduate Students
National Institute of Health

Damien Abreu - Molecular Genetics and Genomics

Ehiole Akhirome - Developmental, Regenerative & Stem Cell Biology

Michael Bern - Immunology

Katherine Conen - Neurosciences

Jennifer Davis - Molecular Cell Biology

Vivek Durai - Immunology

Trent Evans - Molecular Cell Biology

Gary Grajales-Reyes - Immunology

Samarth Hegde​ - Molecular Cell Biology

Amy Herbert - Developmental, Regenerative & Stem Cell Biology

Sarah Kaufman - Neurosciences

Andrew Kraft - Neurosciences

Mariah (Lawler) Hoye - Biochemistry

Vivian Lee Developmental, Regenerative & Stem Cell Biology

Cheryl Leyns - Molecular Cell Biology

Dov Lerman-Sinkoff - Biomedical Engineering

Lucy Li - Molecular Microbiology & Microbial Pathogenesis

Stephen Linderman - Biomedical Engineering

Cates Mallaney - Human & Statistical Genetics

Hannah Miller - Immunology

Anish Mitra - Neurosciences

Arnav Moudgil - Computational & Systems Biology

Patrick Olson - Molecular Microbiology & Microbial Pathogenesis

Eugene Park - Immunology

Chelsea Parker Harp - Immunology

Caitlin Purman - Molecular Genetics & Genomics

Michelle Robinette - Immunology

Emilie Russler-Germain - Immunology

Alexandra Russo​ - Neurosciences

Gregory Schimizzi - Molecular Cell Biology

Sarah Smith - Neurosciences

Benjamin Solomon - Immunology

Avik Som - Biomedical Engineering

Calvin Stephens - Molecular Genetics and Genomics

Manouela Valtcheva - Neurosciences

Samantha (Bayer) Van Hove - Molecular Cell Biology

External Fellowship Awardees
Washington University Spouses and Partners Association (WUSPA)

WUSPA ( is a support network for the spouses and partners of Washington University affiliates—students, postdocs, staff and faculty. WUSPA provides information and referrals to connect spouses and partners with resources at Washington University and in the St. Louis area, fosters friendship in a new community, and supports both the personal and professional growth of its membership. WUSPA hosts occasional daytime meetings and seasonal potluck party. WUSPA also has a variety of interest groups that meet as well. For more information, please visit the WUSPA website or email Toshiko Imai at or Elena Maksaeva at

Organizations & Campus Groups- Open to All
LGBT Health

The LGBT He​alth Interest Group is a group of medical students dedicated to addressing the health care needs of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender patients and physicians.

Organizations & Campus Groups- Open to All

​InPrint is a trainee-run scientific editing network and resource that provides free, confidential editing of scientific communications to the Washington University research community. The group’s mission is to improve the quality of scientific communication, encourage discussions among authors, enhance communication skills, and support trainees’ professional development. InPrint​ offers a variety of editing services including reviewing documents for organization of content, writing structure and clarity, and use of English language.

If you are interested in our services or participating as an editor, learn more at

Organizations & Campus Groups- Open to All
Spring 2016

The Basics of Excellent Public Speaking

Tuesday, Jan. 26, 2016, 11 am
Register and more info:

Graduate Research Symposium Preparatory Workshop
Wednesday, Feb. 10, 2016, 12 pm
Register and more info:

Using LinkedIn to Network and Apply for Jobs in and out of Science
Thursday, Feb. 18, 2016, 1:30 pm
Register and more info:

Using PowerPoint as an Effective Public Speaking Tool
Thursday, Feb. 25, 2016, 11 am
Register and more info:

Cross-Cultural Competency Workshop: A Framework for Understanding Cultural Differences
Monday, Feb. 29, 2016, 3 pm
Register and more info:

Time Management
Thursday, March 10, 2016, 11 am
Register and more info:

PowerPoint Workshop
Tuesday, March 22, 2016, 1:30 pm
Register and more info:

Improv for Professional Communication
Thursday, April 7, 2016, 10 am
Register and more info:

Cross-Cultural Communication in the Lab
Wednesday, April 13, 2016, 1 pm
Register and more info:

Behavioral Interviewing Workshop
Wednesday, April 20, 2016, 2:30 pm
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Cross-Cultural Communication in Clinical Settings
Thursday, April 21, 2016, 11 am
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Trust & Teamwork
Wednesday, May 4, 2016, 1 pm
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Crucial Conversations
Tuesday, May 10, 2016, 2 pm
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Professional Development Programming
Fall 2015

How to Find Funding

Thursday, Oct. 1, 2015, 11 am
Register and more info:

The Future of Research: How Early Career Researchers Can Shape the Biomedical Research Landscape, with Jessica Polka of Harvard University
Monday, Oct. 5, 2015, 1:30 pm
Register and more info:

Preparing For Your Postdoc
Thursday, Nov. 12, 2015, 10 am
Register and more info:

Improv for Professional Communication 
Mondays, Dec. 7 & 14, 2015, 2 pm
Professional Development Programming
Fall 2014

Managing Your Research Work Flow: Using a Citation Management Program
Thursday, Sept. 11, 2014, 12noon
Register & more info:

ow to Find Funding
Wednesday, Sept. 24, 2014, 4pm
Register & more info:   

Professional Development Programming
Spring 2015

Individual Development Plan Workshops

Tuesday, February 24, 2015 10am
Register & more info: ​​

March 6, 2015, 11am
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April 30, 2015, 12:30pm
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Professional Development Programming

Time Management
Wednesday, January 21, 2015, 12noon
Register & more info:

Presentation Skills
Wednesday, January 28, 2015, 12:30pm
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Communication Skills
Wednesday, February 4, 2015 12noon
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Conflict Resolution 
Wednesday, February 11, 2015 12:30pm
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Professional Development Programming
Fall 2017


Resiliency: Bouncing Back After a Setback (webinar)
Friday, Sept. 1, 2017, 11:30 am (online)


Register & more info:

A Recruiter's Perspective on Hiring Scientists & Engineers (webinar)
Wednesday, Sept. 27, 12 pm (online)
Register & more info:

Where Are You Going? Goal-Setting for Success (webinar)
Friday, Oct. 6, 2017, 12 pm (online)
Thursday, Oct. 19, 2017, 12 pm, Schwarz Auditorium

NIH & Other Public Access Policies
Tuesday, Oct. 24, 2017, 12 pm, FLTC 214
Register & more info:
Identify Your Transferrable Skills
Tuesday, Oct. 24, 2017, 2 pm, Holden Auditorium
How to Fail Better
Tuesday, Oct. 31, 2017, 2 pm, Holden Auditorium
Live Demo: NCBI My Bibliography
Thursday, Nov. 2, 2017, 12 pm, FLTC 214
Register & more info:
NIH Mock Study Section
Tuesday, Nov. 14, 2017, 12 pm, TBA
More info: 

Tuesday, Nov. 14, 2017, 12 pm, FLTC 214
Register & more info:

Communicating Your Research With the Public
Tuesday, Nov 28, 2017, 2 pm, Holden Auditorium

Communicating Your Research With the Public
Friday, Dec. 1, 12 pm, 2017, DUC 234 (Danforth Campus)
Career Exploration: Identify Your Skills, Interests, Values
Tuesday, Dec. 5, 2017, 2 pm, Holden
Career Exploration: Informational Interviewing
Tuesday, Dec. 12, 2017, 2 pm, Erlanger Auditorium
Using Electronic Lab Notebooks - CANCELLED
Thursday, Dec. 7, 2017, 2 pm, Holden Auditorium
Professional Development Programming
Spring 2017

January 2017

Using Mentoring and Individual Development Plans
Tuesday, Jan. 10, 2017, 3:30 pm, Wohl Auditorium
More info: 
Prepping for the Career Fair + SLAMs

Multiple dates and times: Jan. 20-Jan. 24 (Danforth Campus)
Wednesday, Jan. 25, 2017, 6 pm, Danforth Campus, Danforth University Center, Tisch Commons


February 2017

Searching OVID Medline
Tuesday, Feb. 7, 2017, 2 pm, FLTC 602
More info: 

Graduate Research Symposium Poster Session Preparation (Grad Students Only)
Friday, Feb. 10, 2017, 12 pm, Liberman Graduate Center, DUC 300 (Danforth Campus)
More info: 

New Grant-Writing Tools for R and K Mechanisms (Postdocs Only)
Thursday, Feb. 17, 2017, 12 pm, Schwarz Auditorium
More info:

Discovering Your Strengths (Grad Students Only)
Wednesday, Feb. 22, 2017, 4 pm, Liberman Graduate Center, DUC 300 (Danforth Campus)

Selecting a Journal for Publication
Tuesday, Feb. 28, 2017, 12:30 pm, FLTC 214

March 2017
How to Create Powerful Search Materials: CVs, Resumes, Cover Letters
Tuesday, March 7 (Medical  Campus), Wednesday, March 8 (Danforth Campus) 
More info:

Networking Workshop
Tuesday, March 14 (Medical Campus), Wednesday, March 15 (Danforth Campus)
More info: 

Interview & Negotiate Like a Pro
Tuesday, March 21 (Medical Campus), Wednesday, March 22 (Danforth Campus)
More info:

Increasing Student Engagement Among Peers (Grad Students Only)
Tuesday, March 21, 2017, 4, pm, Liberman Graudate Center, DUC 300 (Danforth Campus)
More info:

Opportunites for Ph.D.s Beyond the Research Professoriate
Tuesday, March 28 (Medical Campus), Wednesday, March 29 (Danforth Campus)
More info:

Professional Development Programming
Fall 2016

September 2016 

What to Look for When Searching for a Postdoc Position
Thursday, Sept. 1, 2016, 12 pm, Holden Auditorium
Register & more info: 

Citations & Opportunites for Graduate Students*
Thursday, Sept. 15, 2016, 1 pm, Erlanger Auditorium
Register & more info: 

How to Keep a Good Research Notebook*
Thursday, Sep. 22, 2016, 1 pm, Erlanger Auditorium
Register & more info: 
Communicating Science 2016 Symposium
Monday, Sept. 26-Thursday, Sept. 29, 2016, EPNEC
Individual Development Plan (IDP) Workshop*
Thursday, Sept. 29, 2016, 1 pm, Erlanger Auditorium

October 2016

Grant Resources for STEM
Thursday, Oct. 13, 2016, 4 pm, DUC 300, Danforth Campus
Register & more info: 

Individual Development Plan (IDP) Workshop
Thursday, Oct. 27, 2016, 1 pm, Holden Auditorium
Register and more info:  

November 2016

8 Ways to Successfully Navigate NIH Peer Review and Get a Fellowship Grant
Wednesday, Nov. 2, 2016, 1 pm, Holden Auditorium
Versatile PhD Workshop: Session 1
Wednesday, Nov. 2, 2016, 4 pm, DUC 300, Danforth Campus

Versatile PhD Workshop: Session 2
Thurs., Nov. 10, 2016, 4 pm, DUC 300, Danforth CampusNov. 10, 2016, 4 pm, DUC 300, Danforth Campus

December 2016

NIH Peer Review Briefing for Basic Research Applicants and Reviewers
Friday, Dec. 2, 2016, 1 pm, Cori Auditorium
More info:

Research: What's Leadership Got to Do with It?
Tuesday, Dec. 6, 2016, 3:30 pm, Wohl Auditorium
More info:

The NINDS Diversity Career Development K22 Award: Tips for Preparing Your Application (Webinar for Postdocs)
Tuesday, Dec. 13, 2016, 2 pm, online
Professional Development Programming
Spring 2016

My Personal and Yet Profoundly Public Transition from Acadmia to Business and Non-profits, with Neurosciences Alumnus Jerry Nguyen, Ph.D.
Monday, Jan. 4, 2016, 1:30 pm 
Register and more info:

Eli Lilly and Company Information Session
Thursday, Jan. 14, 2016, 2 pm
Register and more info:

Boston Consulting Group Recruiting
Thursday, Jan. 21, 2016, 5 pm
More info:

University Careers Beyond the Lab

Monday, Feb. 8, 2016, 1:30 pm
Register and more info:

University Careers Beyond the Lab
Thursday, March 17, 2016, 1:30 pm
Register and more info:

Science Writing Career Talk with DBBS Alumna Tina Saey, Ph.D.
Friday, April 29, 2016, 1:30 pm
Register and more info:

Career Talk with FDA Microbiologist Adrian Land, Ph.D.
Tuesday, May 17, 2016, 9:30 am
Career Talks
Fall 2015

Non-Tenure Track Careers for STEM Ph.D.s
Friday, Nov. 20, 2015, 9 am

Career Talks
Spring 2015

Succeeding in an Industrial Research Environment
Friday, January 9th, 12noon
Register & more info:

Combining Pharmaceutial Industry and Teaching 
Tuesday, April 7th, 9am
Register & more info:  ​​

Non-Tenure Track Administrative Roles in Academia
Thursday, April 23, 9am CANCELLED - Will be rescheduled for later in 2015
Register & more info:   

Career Talks
Fall 2014

Charting a Path to a Career in Science Policy with Dr. Chris Pickett
Friday, Sept. 12th, 9am
Register & more info:  
co-sponsored with ProSPER, WU Graduate Students Promoting Science Policy, Education and Research.

Career Coffee Hour: From Academics to Biopharma with Dr. Leroy Wheeler
Friday, Nov. 7th, 9am
Register & more info:
co-sponsored with the WU Postdoc Society​

Career Talks
Fall 2017

Lunchtime Career Seminar with Steve Doberstein

Tuesday, October 31, 11:45 am-1:00 pm, Needleman Library, 3907 South Building
Email Melissa Torres at to RSVP

Careers in Industry - An interactive Q&A with Sharon Semones
Thursday, November 30, 2017, 2:00-3:00 pm, Holden Auditorium, FLTC
Career Talks
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