Potential Faculty Mentors for the Molecular Genetics and Microbiology Master’s Program

Each year, the number of primary and affiliated faculty members who have available positions for master’s students in their laboratories changes. The list below is for faculty members who have expressed interest in taking a master’s student for the fall semester of 2024. You may indicate your interest for specific faculty members in your personal statement. After your application is deemed acceptable for this program by the admissions committee, it will be reviewed by these faculty members for potential fit with their research program. They will then contact you for some form of interview.

This page will soon be populated with faculty member names along with a brief description of their research. Thank you for your patience.

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Xiaofei Bai, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor
Department of Biology; Genetics Institute

The Bai lab specializes in utilizing the nematode system C. elegans to model a range of rare human genetic diseases, particularly those arising from PIEZO channel dysfunction. Our research methodology involves frequent application of CRISPR/Cas9 gene editing to induce pathogenic variants in C. elegans. Subsequently, we conduct forward genetics screens to pinpoint potential genetic determinants that can alleviate the defective phenotypes resulting from these mutations.

As a prospective master’s student, you will have the opportunity to contribute to one or two ongoing projects within the lab. Your focus will be on identifying genetic suppressors, and you will employ multidisciplinary approaches to unravel the molecular and cellular mechanisms underlying such suppression. Our ultimate goal is to gain valuable insights that can contribute to our understanding of causing of various diseases, as well as promote target designs and advance pharmaceutical cures to such diseases.

For more details about the ongoing projects and the Bai lab, please visit our website: https://bailab.biology.ufl.edu/

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Holger A Russ, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor
Department of Pharmacology and Therapeutics

Generation of naïve autoreactive T cells from patient derived induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSC)

The overarching goal of this project is to develop novel model systems to study aspects of negative selection during T cell development in the human context. In brief, we will replace the existing T cell receptor (TCR) with known autoreactive and control TCR sequences in patient iPSC using genome engineering CRISPR/Cas9. Following quality control assays , iPSC containing autoreactive TCRs will be direct differentiated into hematopoietic stem cells followed by differentiation into functional T cells. At this point T cells will be characterized in comparison to primary T cells and will be used to study dynamics of human negative selection in the context of stem cell derived human thymus organoids and/or to model autoreactive interaction with stem cell derived pancreatic beta cells. This project is highly innovative and will provide expert training in key areas of regenerative medicine approach. Below a link to our publications and UF lab page.
Lab web page: https://pharmacology.med.ufl.edu/research-2/the-russ-lab/
Publications: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/?term=Russ+HA&sort=date

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Lien Nguyen, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor
Department of Molecular Genetics and Microbiology, Center for NeuroGenetics

The Nguyen lab research focuses on studying the contribution of repetitive DNA elements in disease and the central nervous system. We use cutting edge sequencing technology, molecular biology tools, patient tissue and patient derived models, and mouse models to identify and study pathogenic and functional repeat DNA. Our research would lead to important insight into disease genetics and pathogenesis and contribute to the discovery of therapeutic interventions. 

mgm.ufl.edu/profile/nguyen-lien/

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Maurice S. Swanson, Ph.D.
Professor and Associate Director
Department of Molecular Genetics and Microbiology
 Center for NeuroGenetics and the Genetics Institute

Our research group focuses on how RNA processing is controlled during mammalian development and how this regulation is disrupted in neurological and neuromuscular diseases. More than half of the human genome is comprised of repetitive elements, including interspersed and tandem repeats, and more than 60 hereditary diseases are caused by the expansion of short tandem repeats (STRs). We investigate the functions of these genomic elements using a wide array of biochemical (e.g., transcriptomics, proteomics) and genetic (e.g., gene knockout and knockin models) strategies. Additionally, we study how RNA binding proteins (RBPs) interact with various RNA structures using global analysis of RBP binding sites, the functions of nuclear RNA foci (biomolecular condensates) generated by pathogenic STR expansions, and how RNA-based mechanisms promote mammalian tissue regeneration. Finally, we are developing novel cell and mouse models to test therapeutic strategies designed to block the toxicity of repetitive element mutations.

mgm.ufl.edu/profile/swanson-maurice/

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Andrew J. Bryant, M.D.
Associate Professor
Department of Medicine

The Bryant Laboratory focuses on the contribution of inflammatory cells to vascular remodeling, particularly within the lung.  Principal Investigator (PI), Andrew Bryant, MD, is a physician-scientist with research and clinical interests in pulmonary hypertension (PH: high blood pressure in the lungs leading to right-sided heart failure).  Translational projects within the group focus on cellular pathways related to: (1) viral DNA sensing through primordial protein STimulator of INterferon Genes (STING) in cell-specific contribution to PH, (2) the role of the molecular core clock in circadian regulation of pulmonary vascular remodeling, and (3) lung-brain axis signaling.  Students looking for hands-on exposure to clinical translational projects, bench-to-bedside application of cardiac physiology and novel application of immunologic therapies to real-life patients, will find participation in the Bryant Laboratory a rich and rewarding experience.

pulmonary.medicine.ufl.edu/research-1/bryant-lab/