Research Center News: Students

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Kathryn Meyer

Kathryn Meyer, a graduate student in the laboratory of Jill Morris, PhDHuman Molecular Genetics Program, defended her thesis on March 26, 2010. The title of her talk was “Expression and function of Disrupted-In-Schizophrenia 1 in the developing mouse hippocampus”. She is a graduate of the Northwestern University Interdepartmental Neuroscience (NUIN) Program. Meyer’s accomplishments during her career at the research center include:

  • Participated in the Neuroscience in the Early Years: Predoctoral Training Program through NUIN;
  • Participated in the Neurobiology of Information Storage Training Program (NISTP) through NUIN;
  • Presented the 2009 alumni lecture at the annual meeting of the NISTP;
  • Published a seminal research study using in-utero electroporation of the developing mouse hippocampus in Human Molecular Genetics, 2009. A figure from the research was featured on the cover of the journal.

Meyer has begun a postdoctoral fellowship in the laboratory of Samie Jaffrey, MD, PhD at Weill Cornell Medical College. Her research will focus on identifying the roles of RNA regulation in neuronal growth, plasticity and development.

heier300D Schwab-HimmelsteinAt the spring 2010 meeting of the Center for Genetic Medicine’s Mouse Genetics Group, Northwestern University, two research center graduate students won top awards in the poster competition. Chris HeierDiDonato laboratoryHuman Molecular Genetics Program, received first place. Second place went to Diana HimmelsteinKohtz laboratoryDevelopmental Biology Program. Heier is an Integrated Graduate Program in the Life Sciences student; Himmelstein is in the NUIN Program.

Chris Heier (left) and Diana Himmelstein

Suzan Hammond Suzan Hammond, IGP student in the laboratory of Christine DiDonato, PhDHuman Molecular Genetics Program, defended her thesis in December 2009. The title of her talk was "Characterizing the effect of mutations within exon 7 of the murine survival motor neuron gene to model spinal muscular atrophy in the mouse."  Hammond began a postdoctoral fellowship in the laboratory of Matthew Wood at the University of Oxford, UK in January 2010. Read more.
Tyler Schwend

Tyler Schwend, IGP student in the laboratory of Sara Ahlgren, PhDDevelopmental Biology Program, defended his thesis on December 18, 2009.  The title of his talk was "Elucidating the spatiotemporal requirement for zebrafish Hh-signaling in craniofacial skeleton development." Schwend has accepted a position as a postdoctoral research fellow at Kansas State University.

The Hedgehog (Hh)-signaling pathway plays a critical role in craniofacial development. Disruption of this pathway in humans can lead to Holoprosencephaly (HPE), which is often characterized by a variety of craniofacial defects. Lipid-modified Hh-ligands require the receptor Dispatched 1 (Disp1) for proper secretion from Hh-synthesizing cells to the extracellular field where they act on target cells. In the December 2009 BMC Developmental Biology, Schwend and Ahlgren studied chameleon mutants lacking a functional Disp1. These mutants display reduced and dysmorphic mandibular and hyoid arch cartilages and lack all ceratobranchial cartilage elements. The study shows that inhibiting the Hh-signaling pathway at early developmental stages selectively reduces anterior facial cartilages, while blocking the pathway at later stages selectively inhibits posterior cartilage development. These findings may help explain the spectrum of human facial phenotypes characteristic of HPE. Schwend is a recent graduate of the IGP and a former student in the Ahlgren laboratory.

In their review article “Fishing for the signals that pattern the face” in the Journal of Biology, December 2009, Thomas F. Schilling and Pierre Le Pabic discuss the findings in the Schwend BMC Developmental Biology paper.


Chondroitin-4-sulfotransferase-1(C4ST-1)/carbohydrate sulfotransferase 11 (CHST11) is an enzyme involved in the biosynthesis of the glycosaminoglycan chondroitin sulfate. The sulfation pattern of chondroitin is tightly regulated during development, injury and disease. The laboratory of Michael Klüppel, PhD previously showed that a mutation in C4st-1 leads to severe skeletal abnormalities during mouse embryogenesis. In addition, they described a highly specific temporal and spatial expression pattern of C4st-1. However, the transcriptional regulatory mechanisms that control C4st-1 gene expression remain unexplored. The laboratory used a bioinformatical approach to identify a functional C4ST-1 promoter, as well as a number of cis-regulatory modules. Moreover, the lab identified TGFß responsive regulatory modules that can function in a cell type-specific fashion. The study was published in the November 2009 Genetics
and Molecular Research
. Catherine Willis, the first author, is an IGP student. Klüppel is a member of the Human Molecular Genetics Program of the research center.

Tan JCP image 

Intestinal luminal contents contain large amounts of peptidoglycan (PGN), a potent immune adjuvant derived from bacterial cell walls. It influences immunity at the intestinal mucosa and remote sites. How PGN interacts with intestinal epithelial cells and is transported across the intestinal lining remain unknown. In the March 2010 Journal of Cellular Physiology, the laboratory of Xiao-Di Tan, MD characterized PGN transport. Their findings suggest that crypt-based immature intestinal epithelial cells play an important role in transport of luminal PGN, which is transcytosed across intestinal epithelia via a toll-like receptor 2-mediated phagocytosis-multivesicular body-exosome pathway. The absorbed PGN and its derivatives may facilitate maintenance of intestinal immune homeostasis. First authors Heng-Fu Bu, PhD and Xiao Wang, MD, PhD are postdoctoral fellows. Tan is co-director of the Center for Digestive Diseases and Immunobiology of the research center.

Jennifer Krcmery PDZ-LIM proteins have wide-ranging and multicompartmental cell functions during development and homeostasis. Facilitating the assembly of protein complexes, they can act as signal modulators, influence actin dynamics, regulate cell architecture and control gene transcription. Recent work in the laboratory of Hans-Georg Simon, PhD has revealed that the protein family member Pdlim7 has important activities at the cellular level, mediating signals between the nucleus and the cytoskeleton, with significant impact on organ development. In the February 2010 BioEssays, the group reviews and integrates current knowledge about the PDZ-LIM protein family and proposes a new role: sequestering nuclear factors in the cytoplasm. The cover photograph for the issue showing a developing coronary vessel and the surrounding myocardium is the work of the Simon laboratory. First author Jennifer Krcmery is an IGP student. Simon is a member of the Developmental Biology Program of the research center. 
Catherine Drerup Catherine Drerup, Northwestern University Interdepartmental Neuroscience Program (NUIN) graduate student in the laboratory of Jill Morris, PhDHuman Molecular Genetics Program of the research center, defended her thesis on February 13, 2009. The title of her talk was “Cloning, characterization, and functional analysis of the zebrafish Disrupted in Schizophrenia 1 ortholog.” Drerup has accepted a postdoctoral fellowship at Oregon Health and Science University in the laboratory of Alex Nechiporuk, PhD.
Shih-Hsing Leir Shih-Hsing Leir, PhD, postdoctoral scientist in the laboratory of Ann Harris, PhDHuman Molecular Genetics Program of the research center and the Department of Pediatrics at the Feinberg School, was awarded a grant from the Katten Muchin Roseman Travel Scholarship Program of the Robert H. Lurie Comprehensive Cancer Center of Northwestern University, to attend the American Association of Cancer Research 100th meeting in Denver, April 18-23, 2009.
Troy Camarata Troy Camarata, graduate student in the laboratory of Hans-Georg Simon, PhD, Developmental Biology Program, defended his thesis on Nov 19, 2008 and received his diploma from Northwestern University in December. The title of his thesis was “Pdlim7 regulates nuclear/cytoplasmic localization and activity of Tbx5 during cardiac development”. Camarata will begin a postdoctoral fellowship at Harvard University, focusing on progenitor cells in the adult kidney for therapeutic approaches in acute and chronic kidney disease.
Katharine Hardy Katharine M. Hardy, PhD, has joined Mary Hendrix’s laboratory as a postdoctoral fellow. She will be examining how the reactivation of embryonic pathways influences the plasticity of aggressive melanoma, with particular emphasis on nodal signaling. Hardy obtained her MS in Gerontology and her doctorate in Cell Biology and Anatomy from the University of Arizona, Tucson in 2003 and 2008, respectively. Her master’s research concentrated on the cellular trafficking pathway of the protein product of the glaucoma gene known as Myocilin, in the trabecular meshwork of the eye. Her doctoral thesis focused on the regulation of cell behavior by multiple signaling pathways during the early developmental process of avian gastrulation.
Tyler Schwend, graduate student in the laboratory of Sara Ahlgren, PhD, Developmental Biology Program, has been awarded a Ruth L. Kirschstein National Research Service Award for Individual Predoctoral Fellows from the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research. His award is entitled “Sonic hedgehog signaling in zebrafish branchial arch development”. The research will seek to delineate the signaling mechanism whereby the Sonic hedgehog (Shh) pathway promotes zebrafish skeletal development in the branchial arches (jaw and gills) of the fish. Human craniofacial diseases arise from the misregulation of the Shh signaling pathway during early development; a better understanding of its temporal and spatial regulation will be fundamental in helping to explain phenotypic variation in the human disease state.

Jorge CantuJenny Kerschner

Cantu and Kerschner selected for CMBD Training Grant
Jorge Cantu (graduate student in the laboratory of Jacek Topczewski, PhD, Developmental Biology Program) and Jenny Kerschner (graduate student in the laboratory of Ann Harris, PhD, Human Molecular Genetics Program) have been selected as trainees for the Cellular and Molecular Basis of Disease Training Program at Northwestern University. The CMBD, funded through the National Institutes of Health, Institute of General Medical Sciences, is an interdisciplinary and cross-campus program that provides state-of-the-art training in the cellular and molecular sciences for highly qualified predoctoral candidates.

Colleen Morrison  Colleen Morrison, MD, completed medical school at Loyola University Stritch School of Medicine and a residency in Pediatrics at Loyola University Ronald McDonald Children’s Hospital. She is in the second year of a fellowship in Pediatric Hematology, Oncology and Stem Cell Transplant at Children’s Memorial, and has joined Mary J.C. Hendrix’s laboratory to complete her fellowship. Read more.
Barbara Sisson Postdoctoral fellow Barbara Sisson, PhD, has been awarded a Ruth L. Kirschstein National Research Service Award (NRSA) for Individual Postdoctoral Fellows (F32) from the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, NIH. The title of the grant is “The role of RhoA and its targets in craniofacial cartilage morphogenesis.” Read more.
Kate Meyer Kate Meyer, graduate student in the laboratory of Jill Morris, PhD, is first author on a paper published in the September 2008 issue of Gene Expression Patterns, entitled “Immunohistochemical analysis of Disc1 expression in the developing and adult hippocampus.” Read more.
Tbx5 cartoon Andre Kulisz, PhD, a postdoctoral fellow in the laboratory of Hans-Georg Simon, PhD, is first author of a study suggesting that the T-box transcription factor, Tbx5, uses a mechanism for protein relocalization that evolved early, thus setting a new paradigm for T-box protein functions during developmental and disease processes.  Read more.
Jennifer Krcmery from the laboratory of Hans-Georg Simon, PhD, was one of three graduate students invited to present at the 7th Annual Cardiovascular Developmental Biology Symposium at the Medical University of South Carolina, March 19–21. Read more.
Troy Camarata Troy Camarata, a graduate student in the Simon laboratory, was awarded a platform presentation entitled “Tbx5 subcellular regulation by LMP4 during pectoral fin development” at the Experimental Biology meeting held April 5–9 in San Diego. Read more.

Christina Khodr, PhD, and Qin Chang, PhD, each presented research at the 11th Annual Meeting of the American Society of Gene Therapy in May, in Boston. Read more.

Camarata awarded AHA fellowship

The Greater Midwest Affiliate Research Committee of the American Heart Association (AHA) has awarded Troy Camarata with a Predoctoral Fellowship for his proposal entitled “Regulation of Tbx5 during cardiac formation by Lmp4”. The AHA Predoctoral Fellowship program is a competitive award and provides tuition support as well as funding for laboratory supplies for a period of two years. Troy is a Northwestern University graduate student in the Integrated Graduate Program and conducts his graduate thesis work in the laboratory of Dr. Hans-Georg Simon at Children’s Memorial Research Center. Employing chicken and zebrafish models, the Simon lab is studying limb and heart development and genetic disorders as they relate to human birth defects. 

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