METX Graduate Program Alumni

Graduate Pam Lertsethtakarn, her mother, and Prof. Karen Ottemann, her Ph.D. advisor


David Balderas (Ph.D. with Vicki Auerbuch Stone)

PhD Dissertation: Role of transcriptional regulatory networks in influencing Yersinia pseudotuberculosis pathogenesis

Currently: Scientist and Strain Engineer at Geltor.


Travis Conley (Ph.D. with Don Smith)

PhD Dissertation: Impacts of Developmental Manganese Exposure on Catecholaminergic Proteins in the Prefrontal Cortex

Currently: Postdoctoral Fellow in Neurology, Stanford Univ.


Kevin Johnson (Ph.D. with Karen Ottemann)

PhD Dissertation: Characterizing The Function Of The Helicobacter Pylori Chemoreceptor Tlpa, Its Role In Regulating

Gastric Localization, And Effect On Inflammation In Vivo

Currently: Scientist at Sciolta Therapeutics.


Avatar Joshi (Ph.D. with Fitnat Yildiz)

PhD Dissertation: On the Mechanisms and Consequences of Lon Proteolysis In Vibrio Cholerae

Currently: Exploring next position.


Cande Bernal (M.S. with Karen Ottemann)

Currently: Exploring next position


Annalyse Lallijie (M.S. with Vicki Auerbuch Stone)

Currently: Exploring next options.


Sami Michishita (M.S. with Myra Finkelstein)

Currently: Exploring next position.


Ryan Modlin (M.S. with David Bernick)

Currently: R&D Scientist at Thermo Fisher.

Rino Oguchi (M.S. with Fitnat Yildiz)

Currently: Senior Research Associate at Viridos.

Frida Salgado (M.S. with Karen Ottemann)

Currently: Exploring next position

Shannon Twardy (M.S. with Don Smith)

Currently: Ph.D. student at Colorado Health Sciences.


Megan Mouw (M.S. with Fitnat Yildiz)

Currently: Research Scientist at Roche (

Giselle Quevedo Martinez (M.S. (coursework) with Manel Camps)

Currently: Research Associate at Dovetail Genomics (


Diana Hooker Romero (Ph.D. with Victoria Auerbuch Stone)

PhD Dissertation: How does Yersinia coordinate iron/oxygen sensing with virulence regulation?

Currently: Senire Scientist, Specific Diagnostics (

Jennifer Teschler (Ph.D. with Fitnat Yildiz)

PhD Dissertation: Characterizing the VxrAB two component signal transduction system

Currently: Scientist II at Pivot Bio (

Joe Kiblen (M.S. with Fitnat Yildiz)

M.S. Thesis: Uncovering the role of biofilm matrix proteins in Vibrio cholerae biofilm formation

Currently: Preparing for next eductational step

William Garvey (M.S. with Fitnat Yildiz)

M.S. Thesis: Illuminating the roles of outer membrane proteins and outer membrane vesicles in Vibrio cholerae biofilm. 

Currently: Working at Google X (

McKenna Hicks (M.S. with David Bernick, BSOE)

M.S. Thesis: Engineering photosynthetic bacteria as factories for the sustainable manufacturing of vitamins and medications

Currently: Research associate at 64-x (


Gisele Miglioranza Rizzi Possignolo (Ph.D. with Myra Finkelstein and Don Smith)

Ph.D. Dissertation: Lead concentrations within the condor skeleton: Advancing biomarkers of lead exposure history and poisoning

Yasuhiko Murata (M.S. with Myra Finkelstein)

M.S. Thesis: Tuna Consumption and Tuna Mercury Concentration - Implications for Human Health

Currently: Department Lead for Heavy Metals at Deibel Laboratories. Yasu's Linked In Page

Francesca Batac (M.S. with Karen Ottemann)

M.S. Thesis: Investigating the prevalence and pathogenesis of Helicobacter infections in southern sea otters (Enhydra lutris nereis)

Currently: Environmental Scientist at CA Dept. of Fish & Wildlife - Office of Spill Prevention & Response. Marine Wildlife Veterinary Care & Research Center, Santa Cruz, CA. Francesca's LinkedIn page.

Jesica Urbina (Ph.D. with Lynn Rothschild and Chad Saltikov)

Ph.D. Dissertation: Biomining: A Biological Approach to Recycling Elemental Components From End-of-Life Electronics  

Currently: Senior Research Scientist at Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center El Paso. Dr. Urbina's Linked In Page. 

Zeka Glucs (Ph.D. with Myra Finkelstein and Don Smith)

Ph.D. Dissertation: Stressing Out in a Contaminated World: the Influence of Long-term Contaminant Exposure on the California Condor Stress Response

Currently Director at Predatory Bird Research Group, UC Santa Cruz


Kieran Collins (Ph.D. with Karen Ottemann)

Ph.D. Dissertation: TlpD mediates chemotactic repellent responses to reactive oxygen species that are relevant to Helicboacter pylori gastric gland colonization. 

Currently Postdoctoral Fellow at Stanford University. Kieran's Linked In page

Jaime Hernandez (Ph.D. with Chad Saltikov)

Ph.D. Dissertation: Investigating the ecology and molecular genetics of anoxygenic photosynthetic arsenite oxidation

Currently Scientist at Pendulum Therapeutics. Dr. Hernandez's Linked In Page 

Cherie Musgrove (Ph.D. with Michael Stone)

Ph.D. Dissertation: Conformational Dynamics in the Stem-Terminal Element of the Kluyveromyces Lactis Telomerase RNA.

Currently: Researcher at University of Wyoming. Dr. Hesgrove's Linked In page.  


Samar Abedrabbo (Ph.D. with Karen Ottemann)

Ph.D. Dissertation: Characterizing the Role of the Coupling Proteins CheV1 and CheW in Helicobacter pylori Chemotaxis 

Currently: Faculty at Diablo Valley College. Dr. Abedrabbo's Linked In page

Emma Hiolski (Ph.D. with Don Smith)

Ph.D. Dissertation: Neurological Impacts of Prolonged Asymptomatic Exposure to the Marine Neurotoxin Domoic Acid.

Recently graduated from the UCSC Science Communication Program and is now a contributing editor at Chemical and Engineering News. Follow Dr. Hiolski's Tweets and check out her web page.


Andrew Cheng (Ph.D. with Fitnat Yildiz)

Ph.D. Dissertation: Systematic Analysis of Two-Component Signal Transduction Systems in Vibrio cholerae Biofilm Formation and Virulence

Currently: Senior Scientist at Pendulum Therapeutics. Dr. Cheng's Linked In page

Miles Duncan (Ph.D. with Victoria Auerbuch Stone)

Ph.D. Dissertation: Disarming and Sensing the Bacterial Type III Secretion System

Currently: Research Scientist at Sanofi. Dr. Duncan's Linked In page 

Anna Lepore (M.S. with Manel Camps)

M.S.Thesis: Characterization of evolution of ALKBH2 in tumors.

Currently: Tutor and Clinical Information Manager in New York. Anna LePore's Linked In page. 

Loni Townsley (Ph.D. with Fitnat Yildiz)

Ph.D. Dissertation: The Role of Temperature in the Environmental Survival and Transmission of Vibrio cholerae

Currently: Scientist at Novozymes, North Carolina. Dr. Townsley's Linked In Page


William Sause (Ph.D. with Karen Ottemann)

Ph.D. Dissertation: The Helicobacter pylori protein ImaA modulates the immune response and promotes chronic infection

Currently: Investment Analyst at Gilder Gagnon Howe & Co. LLC.  Dr. Sause's Linked In page 

Walter Adams (Ph.D. with Victoria Auerbuch Stone)

Ph.D. Dissertation: The Translocator Protein YopD in Yersinia pseudotuberculosis: A Tool and a Weapon

Currently: Assistant Professor at San Jose State University. Dr. Adams's Linked In page. 

Alison Conrad (M.S. with Chad Saltikov)

M.S. Thesis: The Arx Anaerobic Arsenite-Oxidation Pathway is Conserved in Halomonas and Ectothiorhodospira Strains Isolated from Big Soda Lake, Nevada

Kingsley Odigie (Ph.D. with Russ Flegal)

Ph.D. Dissertation: Pyrogenic Remobilzation and Transport of Toxic Metals

Currently: Health Data Science Fellow at Insight Data Science. Check out Dr. Odigie's web page. 

Cheryl Zurbrick (Ph.D. with Russ Flegal)

Ph.D. Dissertation: Asian Anthropogenic Lead Contamination in the North Pacific Ocean as Evidenced by Stable Lead Isotopic Compositions

Currently: teaching high school in Lexington, MA. See Dr. Zurbrick's Linked In page


Laura Kwuan (M.S. with Victoria Auerbuch Stone)

MS Thesis: Characterization of the transcription factor IscR in Yersinia pseudotuberculosis.

Currently: QC Associate II at Genentech. See Laura Kwuan's Linked In page. 

Juan Castellon (M.S. with Karen Ottemann)

MS Thesis: CheV1 Leads the Organization of Chemotaxis Signal Transductions Proteins in Helicobacter Pylori

Currently:  Consumer Safety Inspector (CSI) with the Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS), USDA

Christopher Troll (Ph.D. with Manel Camps)

PhD Dissertation: DNA Damage, Repair & Replication Using E. Coli Model Systems

Currently: Research Scientist at Dovetail Genomics. See Dr. Chistopher Troll's Linked In page


Rachel Eastman (M.S. with Don Smith)

MS Thesis: Hair as a biomarker for Environmental Maganese Exposure

Currently: Occupational Health and Safety Specialist, Univ. of Colorado. Rachel's Linked In page. 

Melisa Masuda Hererra (M.S. with Don Smith)

MS Thesis: GPP130 is a Sensitive and Selective Cellurlar Target of Magnanese Exposure

Currently: Senior Associate Scientist at Gilead Sciences. Melissa Masuda's Linked In page


Lisa Sanders (M.S. with Karen Ottemann)

MS Thesis: Characterization of the Helicobacter pylori metal motility response

Currently: Laboratory Protocol Coordinator at Fred Hutch HIV Vaccine Trial Network (HVTN) and COVID-19 Prevention Network (CoVPN). Lisa Sanders's Linked In page

Pam Lertsethtakarn (Ph.D. with Karen Ottemann)

PhD Dissertation: Characterization of the Helicobacter pylori CheZ, CheV1, CheV2, and CheV3 chemotaxis signal transduction proteins

Currently: Scientist, Armed Forces Research Institute of Medical Sciences (AFRIMS-USAMC), Bangkok, Thailand

Carolina Reyes (Ph.D. with Chad Saltikov)

PhD Dissertation: Genetic investigations of the iron and arsenic reduction pathways of the bacterium Shewanella sp. str. ANA-3

Currently: Research Scientist at Empa. Dr. Carolina Reyes's Linked In page. 

Nicholas Shikuma (Ph.D. with Fitnat Yildiz)

PhD Dissertation: Environmental Signals and Regulatory Networks Controlling Biofilm Formation and Motility in Vibrio cholerae

Currently: Assistant Professor at San Diego State University. See Dr. Nicholas Shikuma's Linked In page and Dr. Shikuma's lab


Kivanc Bilecen (Ph.D. with Fitnat Yildiz)

PhD Dissertation: Environmental regulation of biofilm formation in Vibrio cholerae

Currently: R&D Coordinator at Duzen Laboratories Group, Turkey. Dr. Kivanc Bilecen's Linked In page

Jeanie Ramos (M.S. with Chad Saltikov)

MS Thesis: Chromium transformation pathways in Shewanella sp. ANA03

First position as an Environmental Health and Safety Specialist Assistant, UCSC

Kamrun Zargar (Ph.D. with Chad Saltikov)

PhD Dissertation: Molecular genetics and physiology of arsenic transforming bacteria

Currently: Senior Environmental Scientist for the State of California at CalRecycle’s Policy Development and Analysis Office/  See Dr. Kamrun Zargar's Linked In page


Cynthia Kern (Ph.D. with Don Smith)

PhD Dissertation: Neurotoxicity of neonatal manganese exposure

Currently a Research Scientist at NOAA Fisheries. See Dr. Cynthia Kern's Linked In page

Mary Langsner (Ph.D. with Russ Flegal)

PhD Dissertation: Discovery of first indications of multidrug resistance in a teleost embryo, using the model organism zebrafish (Danio rerio)

Currently: Associate Attorney at Holley Driggs, Los Vegas NV. See Dr. Mary Langsner's Linked In page


Sinem Beyhan (Ph.D. with Fitnat Yildiz)

PhD Dissertation: c-di-CMP signaling in Vibrio cholerae: The link between rugosity, biofilm formation and motility

Currently an Assistant Professor at J. Craig Venter institute. See Dr. Sinem Beyhan's Linked In page

Frank Black (Ph.D. with Russ Flegal)

PhD Dissertation: Methods for investigating the complexation of inorganic mercury, and factors controlling the photo-degredation of monomethyl mercury in natural waters

Currently Associate Professor of Chemistry, Westminster College, Utah. See Dr. Black's Research Gate page. 

Tom Jursa (M.S. with Don Smith)

MS Thesis: Ceruloplasmin mediates the tissue deposition and neurotoxicity of manganese

Currently a Staff Researcher, Microbiology and Environmental Toxicology, UCSC. See Tom Jursa's Linked In page


Allison Luengen (Ph.D. with Russ Flegal)

PhD Dissertation: Investigating the spring bloom in San Francisco Bay: Links between water chemistry, metal cycling, mercury speciation, and phytoplanton community composition

Currently an Associate Professor, University of San Francisco. See Dr. Allison Luengen's Linked In page


Kate Chabarek (M.S. with Zhiwu Zhu/Ted Holman)

MS Thesis: Regulation of copper-binding transcription factor Mac1 by PHO85 in the yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae

Currently: Project Manager, Universidad del País Vasco/Euskal Herriko Unibe, Spain. See Kate Chabarek's Linked In page


Molly Church (M.S. with Don Smith)

MS Thesis: Sources of lead exposure in California condors

Currently: Assistant Professor at the University of Pennsylvannia. See Dr. Church's Webpage

Christopher Conaway (Ph.D. with Russ Flegal)

PhD Dissertation: Sources, transport, and fate of mercury in San Francisco Estuary and tributaries

Currently: Research Chemist at USGS. See Dr. Conaway's Linked In Page

Daniel Crooks (M.S. with Don Smith)

MS Thesis: Manganese targets m-aconitase and iron regulation in GABAergic AF5 cells

Currently: Postdoctoral Fellow, NIH

Xiaoli Shi (Ph.D. with Zhiwu Zhu)

PhD Dissertation:The roles of copper and iron homeostasis in cell biology

Currently: Data Analyst, Athena Health


John Flanders (M.S. with Russ Flegal)

MS Thesis: The effect of organic and inorganic ligands on the bioavailability, uptake, and methylation of inorganic mercury by Desulfobulbus propionicus 1pr3

First postion as a Staff Scientist, Ecology & Environment, Inc.; Project Scientist, URS Corp.

Ana Gonzalez (M.S. with Russ Flegal)

MS Thesis: Natural occurrence of hexavalent chromium in the Aromas Red Sands Aquifer, California

First postion as a Project Geologist and Geochemist at AMEC Environment & Infrastructure UK Limited

Charlie Rankin (M.S. with Russ Flegal)

MS Thesis: Case studies in sources of lead contamination: Chocolate and the Hudson River Estuary

Mara Ranville (Ph.D. with Russ Flegal)

PhD Dissertation: Anthropogenic perturbations of trace metal cycling in California and the North Pacific Ocean

Currently: Environmental Consultant. Dr. Mara Ranville's Linked In Page 


Joshua Sheridan (M.S. with Don Smith)

MS Thesis: Pyrroloquinoline quinone (PQQ) as a novel therapeutic chelating agent to reduce tissue lead levels

Currently: Medical Director at Vituity. See  Dr. Joshua Sheridan's Linked In page

Yongxing Wang (M.S. with Zhiwu Zhu)

MS Thesis: Biochemical studies of copper ion sensing