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BMMB Graduate Program
Meet our Students

The Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (BMB) Department is fortunate to have a multitude of graduate students within its Biochemistry, Microbiology and Molecular Biology (BMMB) Program dedicated to developing their research and teaching skills.  Our students are making discoveries and generating independent knowledge through their research within our labs.  Read more about our outstanding students below.

Meet our Graduate Students

Image of Samantha Hartmann holding up a stringer of fish she caught

Samantha's research focuses on papillomavirus.  Utilizing a technique called cryogenic electron microscopy, or cryo EM, she's learning about virus structure. Structure allows her to identify a region of the virus that is highly conserved across all types of HPV in the hopes of finding a vaccine target that will protect against infection of all types of HPV.

“I feel that my drive towards science comes more from those who doubted my abilities growing up than from those who actively pushed me towards science,”

Read more about Samantha

Image of Neeraja Marathe in front of the Golden Gate Bridge

Neeraja’s research focuses on understanding why ribosome rescue has evolved to become indispensable for all bacterial species utilizing small molecules known to target the trans-translation pathway.   

Outside of the laboratory Neeraja has a passion for art and enjoys sketching.  For as far back as she can remember she has always loved to dabble and doodle.  “I had a large collection of colors, paints and coloring books as a kid, courtesy of my parent who used to love getting me those.”

Read more about Neejera

Image of TJ Russell holding a Red-Tail Hawk

TJ’s research focuses on the chemical disruption of the malaria parasite Plasmodium falciparum’s gene regulation machinery.  Outside of the laboratory he volunteers at Penn State's Shaver's Creek Environmental Center training animals and leading birds of prey information sessions at the raptor center.

Read more about TJ

Image of Lynnicia Massenburg

Lynnicia’s research focuses on the structure of the cellulose synthase membrane protein and utilizes a technique called cryo-electron microscopy (cryo-EM).  Using cryo-EM, she is mapping the 3D shape of cellulose synthase and interpreting clues towards its overall function. 

“Membrane proteins are quite challenging to study, but I have the resources as a Sloan Scholar and support to take on this project.” - Lynnicia Massenburg

Read more about Lynnicia

Image of Mac Meyer holding up a trout that he recently caught while fly fishing

Mac's research investigate RNA structure in liquid-liquid phase separations, trying to understand the origins of life, as well as develop high-throughput assays for RNA enzyme (ribozyme) discovery and validation.  

“While my work may seem esoteric, understanding what happens to RNAs inside of phase separations is integral to understanding extant biology, we are just beginning to understand why and how often organisms take advantage of membraneless organelles.” - Mac Meyer

Read more about Mac

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Image of Manyu Du

Manyu's research is focused on the mechanistic dissection of long-distance chromosomal interactions that regulate gene expression.

Read more about Manyu 

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Image of Latisha Franklin

Lastisha’s research uses C. elegans, microscopic worms, as a model organism to study muscle dysfunction associated with the human disease adenylosuccinate lyase deficiency (ASLD).  

Read more about Latisha

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Image of Xiaoran Xin

Xiaoran’s research utilizes biochemical, molecular genetics, and spectroscopic approaches to investigate how plants make cellulose and seeks to provide the scientific foundations for advancements in sustainable energy.

Read more about Xiaoran