Kendal Hirschi Lab

Lab Alumni

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The following are a sampling of alumni from the Hirschi lab. 

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Jian Yang, Ph.D.

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Jian Yang
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I obtained my Bachelor of Science degree in biology from Peking University in China. Subsequently, I came to the United States and obtained a Ph.D in plant biology from the University of Texas. My Ph.D thesis was based on Arabidopsis apyrase functional characterization in pollen exine development. My postdoctoral training was obtained in Dr. Kendal Hirschi's USDA lab at Baylor College of Medicine, where I had the opportunity to expand my area of interest and develop my skill set beyond plant biology.  I undertook a project to study dietary plant microRNA uptake in mammalian consumers. I used mouse as a model to demonstrate that a particular plant small RNA, MIR2911, which is derived from 26S rRNA, is abundant in most plant foods and is bioavailable to animal consumers. I also worked on a plant calcium antiporter CAX1 and 3 and characterized their roles in anoxia tolerance, through genetic analysis, physiological characterization, RNA-seq, and hormone analysis, etc. I've transitioned my career from academia to industry. Specifically, I work as a molecular biologist performing Next Generation Sequencing-related work for various ongoing clinical trials. Outside of work, I consider myself an avid fisherman and outdoors man. I also enjoy playing tennis and dog training.

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Cecilia Primo, Ph.D.

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Cecilia Primo
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I am an Agricultural Engineer (Sp in Biotechnology) and obtained my MS in Molecular Plant & Cellular Biotechnology from the Universidad Politécnica de Valencia (Spain). I received my Ph.D. in Biotechnology also from the Universidad Politécnica de Valencia, where I presented my thesis in June 2015, focused on the regulation of ion homeostasis (and specifically the role of Hal4 and Hal5 kinases in plasma membrane transporter trafficking) as well as the reciprocal connection between potassium and TOR signaling pathway in the model organism Saccharomyces cerevisiae. 
 
As for my post-doctoral studies (although I had to leave my beloved Valencia) I had the great opportunity to join Professor Hirschi’s laboratory where I expanded my expertise in the plant transport field. At the Children’s Nutrition Research Center I did research on the basic mechanisms of plant nutrient transport and creating rationale strategies for the nutritional enhancement of crops. Specifically, I worked with the H+-Pyrophosphatase from Arabidopsis thaliana (AVP1) characterizing a novel function of this protein to work in reverse and synthesize pyrophosphate (PPi) by heterologous expression of AVP1 in Saccharomyces cerevisiae, as. I have recently been funded to start my second postdoc at the Laboratory of Molecular Physiology of the Cell in the Université Libre de Bruxelles (Belgium) where I aim to dissect the role of plant H+-ATPases in TORC1 regulation.
 
During my free time, I love reading, doing exercise (outdoors if the Belgium weather allows it), cooking, listening to music (Belle and Sebastian or Arcade Fire are some of my musts!) or traveling! Recently I have discovered Bois de la Cambre which I love exploring on the weekend for some peace of mind!

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Ismail Elbaz Younes, Ph.D.

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Ismail Elbaz Younes
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One of my nicknames is “The wedding singer”.
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I graduated medical school from Cairo university in Egypt (land of the pharaohs). After that I came to the United States to start practicing as physician; however, my CV needed work. I thus started a three year stint at Baylor College of Medicine where I managed to get a lot of publications before applying for residency positions. I got lots of interviews thanks to the research and because I am awesome. I matched into University of Illinois (don’t mess with the bulls). After residency, I will join Moffitt cancer center for my hematopathology fellowship then after finishing that I will start my molecular fellowship in Cleveland clinic. In my free time, I play soccer (I take it way too seriously-but ask about my bicycle kicks), watch movies and play piano.

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Murli Manohar, Ph.D.

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Murli Manohar
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I hail from Patna, the capital and largest city of the state of Bihar, India. I graduated with a B.S degree in Agriculture from the Allahabad Agricultural Institute, obtained M.S degree in Biotechnology from the Indian Institute of Technology, Roorkee, and earned my Ph.D. in Molecular and Environmental Plant Sciences from the Texas A&M University, College Station, Texas. During my Ph.D., I worked with Professor Kendal Hirschi on the aspects of functional and structural characterization of calcium transporters. After my Ph.D., I joined Boyce Thompson Institute at Cornell University and currently serving as a senior research associate. My research at BTI is largely focused on understanding the role of small-signaling molecules in mediating plant-pathogen interactions. I am also a co-founder of Ascribe Bioscience, agricultural biotech start-up company based in Ithaca NY, and currently leading its R&D effort as a chief technology officer (https://ascribe-bio.com). Ascribe is developing biopesticides and other agricultural products based on soil microbiome-derived naturally occurring small signaling molecules. I have published 20+ peer-reviewed research articles and several book chapters and served as editor/reviewer for peer-reviewed journals including Nature, Scientific Reports, Frontiers in Plant Science, etc. In my time away from work I enjoy long-driving, cooking, watching science-fiction movies, my family, and especially time with my son Aadi.
 

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Hui Mei, Ph.D.

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Hui Mei
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Originally from China, I obtained my B.S. in Biology from Yunnan University. After moving to the United States, I studied molecular biology under the guidance of Professor Kendal Hirschi and received my Ph.D. from Texas A&M University. During my Ph.D. years, I developed my interest in genetics, especially in human genetics (a big jump from plant to human). I completed my clinical fellowships at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York. I am board certified by the American Board of Medical Genetics & Genomics in cytogenetics and clinical molecular genetics. I worked at Diagnostic Laboratory of Baylor College of Medicine for two years, focusing on mitochondrial disorders. I joined GeneDx, a world leader in clinical genetic testing, and switched to cardiology genetics. With the rapid advances in technologies and applications, I enjoy being a geneticist and working in this challenging field. Besides my work, I am a very positive person. I like cooking, gardening, camping, and hiking with my family.

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Jay Morris, Ph.D.

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Jay Morris
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Holding a smoked octopus tentacle Jay’s fiancée bought in Lithuania.
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I got my B.S. at Texas Tech in Food Science; I am a Red Raider to the core. During my Ph.D. research in the Hirschi lab, I focused on two main research projects. The first was investigating the functions of a cation transporter in mineral uptake and homeostasis in plants. The second project was developing in vivo mouse models to study the nutritional impact of modified food stuffs. Building upon that, I was a part of a multidisciplinary team who conducted a first of its kind clinical trial in young adults assessing the nutritional availability of increased calcium from intrinsically fortified carrots. I am currently a medical science liaison for a cancer diagnostic company. Prior to Covid, I was always traveling from meeting to meeting and enjoying the nomadic work schedule. Hopefully soon that chaos will return.  In the non-work hours I enjoy playing golf, Tech sports, the Atlanta Braves, and traveling to far off places.