Meet Our PhD Program Students

AliciaAlicia

The mission of the Marusyk Lab is to understand the development of therapy resistance from eco-evolutionary angle, considering both changes occurring in tumor cells, as well as influences of the tumor microenvironment. My research focuses on understanding the evolutionary paths cancer cells take to become resistant to therapeutic agents and exploring ways to prevent this resistance.

Major Professor: Andriy Marusyk, PhD


AngeloAngelo

My lab combines the principles of biochemistry, protein engineering, and structural biology to elucidate the molecular mechanisms that govern cancer origination, progression, and perpetuation. My research focuses on: (1) mechanistically understanding how ubiquitin and structurally related ubiquitin-like (UBLs) protein modifications regulate the function, conformation, and activity of their targets, and (2) how alterations and crosstalk between ubiquitin and UBL pathways disrupt cellular homeostasis leading to oncogenic transformation.

Major Professor: Jennifer Binning, PhD


Amanda

Amanda

I'm interested in the genetic evolution of cancer and the impacts tumor heterogeneity has on disease initiation, progression and resistance in response to therapy.

Major Professor: Michael Mann, PhD

 


AnuraagAnuraag 

I'm a mathematical and theoretical evolutionary biologist with an interest in using rigorous mathematics to understand oncology, ecology, and the connections between them. My work revolves around developing mathematical tools to understand eco-evolutionary dynamics in a wide range of problems, from therapeutic resistance in cancer to the evolution of life on earth.

Major Professor: Joel Brown, PhD


AvaniAvani

Our lab focuses on understanding p53 and its family members (p63 and p73). We aim to understand the complexity of this gene family to potentially design targeted therapies for cancer patients harboring mutations in the p53 family of genes. My research is focused on identifying the roles of long non-coding RNAs (IncRNAs) whose expression is controlled by TAp63 (p63 isoform) and correlates with breast cancer evolution and tumor grade.

Major Professor: Elsa Flores, PhD


Bina

Emerging evidence shows that cancer-associated fibroblasts can provide a strong protection against targeted therapies. However, how this protection impacts the ultimate clinical relapse remains unclear. My thesis work aims at resolving this puzzle! 

Major Professor: Andriy Marusyk, PhD


Bryce

Our wet lab's research falls under the broad umbrella of acidosis in cancer. My main focus is on better understanding how cells regulate glycolysis when faced with extracellular acidosis, how cancer cells adapt to the harsh selection pressure of acidosis, and how these may present a vulnerability to be exploited in the treatment of solid tumors.

Major Professor: Robert Gillies, PhD


ChaseChase

My research is focused on the MDSC immunosuppression can be altered by modulating fucose levels and how this will affect the outcome of immunotherapies in breast cancer.

Major Professor: Eric Lau, PhD

 


Chris

The Padron lab studies Chronic Myelomonocytic Leukemia (CMML). My project focuses on finding novel drug combinations that could help treat CMML and determining the mechanism that drives synergy in these combinations.

Major Professor: Eric Padron, MD

 


Daniel GDaniel

Daniel joined the Cancer Biology PhD program in 2020 in the Integrated Mathematical Oncology Department. He is using mathematical modeling to develop a Bayesian progression risk score, which predicts the probability that a patient will progress on treatment before their next scheduled visit.

Major Professor: Heiko Enderling, PhD, IMO

 


Daniel

Our lab investigates how post-translational modification of proteins with the plant sugar L-fucose (a.k.a., fucosylation) affects cancer biology.  My research focuses on how fucosylation in melanomas affects their interactions with immune cells.

Major Professor: Eric Lau, PhD

 


DarwinDarwin

Major Professor: First-year rotations

 

 


DeveshDevesh 

In the Gomes lab, we focus on how the aging process shapes the tumorigenic process. My research focuses on the role of circulatory changes in the aged host in modulating anti-cancer drug efficacy and therapy resistance.

Major Professor: Ana Gomes, PhD

 


ElenaElena 

My project focuses on improving efficacy of CAR-T cell therapies through the understanding of CD28 co-stimulatory signaling pathway.

Major Professor: Daniel Abate-Daga, PhD

 


ElenaElena

Major Professor: First-year rotations

 

 


Elliott MedinaElliot 

Our lab uses structural biology, directed evolution, and protein engineering to explore how cells communicate with one another. My current interest is in how cell-cell communication gives rise to polarity within tissues, and how dysregulation of this can promote aberrant proliferation, invasiveness, and metastasis in cancer.

Major Professor: Vince Luca, PhD


EmmaEmma 

My research focuses on bringing a novel strategy to target breast cancer brain metastasis by dissecting the role of fucosylated proteins secreted by brain met-associated fibroblasts.

Major Professor: Eric Lau, PhD


JanineJanine

Our lab studies how the transcription factor NRF2 impacts tumorigenesis and metabolic deregulation in non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) and pancreatic cancer. My research uses genetically engineered mouse models to understand how NRF2’s negative regulator, KEAP1, affects NSCLC progression when mutated.

Major Professor: Gina DeNicola, PhD


January

My research focus involves investigating the role of  HDAC8 in the survival of B-Cell Lymphomas and to determine the mechanism of how HDAC8 regulates Natural Killer Cell antibody-dependent cell-mediated cytotoxicity.

Major Professor:  Ken Wright, PhD

 


Jessica

Research Interests:  Immuno-oncology, PI3K/Akt/NrP2 ARE, CAR T cells

Major Professor:  Paulo Rodriguez, PhD

 


Jie - RET studentJie 

My research focus on metabolism in myeloid cells and its role in promoting breast tumor therapeutic resistance.

Major Professor: Brian Ruffell, PhD

 


Julia

My research aims to better understand how TBK1 drives oncogenesis in non-small cell lung cancer. My interests are focused on combining novel therapeutic strategies to target solid tumors with immune system engagement to enhance treatment efficacy and prevent resistance.

Major Professor:  Srikumar Chellappan, PhD


KaizhenKaizhen

Research Interests: Molecular oncology, Gene regulation

Major Professor:  Florian Karreth, PhD

 


MacLean HallMacLean

My interests are in T cell immunotherapy for solid malignancies. In particular, I’m focused on improving adoptive cell transfer (ACT) of tumor-infiltrating lymphocytes (TIL) through the manipulation of basic T cell biology.

Major Professor:  Shari Pilon-Thomas, PhD

 


MalgorzataMalgorzata

My research focuses on the evolution of resistance to targeted therapies in NSCLC. Specifically, I aim to develop mathematical and computational models to determine how this resistance emerges due to combinations of genetic and epigenetic factors, and how it can be prevented.

Major Professor: David Basanta, PhD


MostafaMostafa 

My research focuses on skeletal cancer dormancy and possible mechanisms that regulate the switch from dormancy to cancer activation.

Major Professor: Conor Lynch, PhD

 


No image availableNada

Major Professor: First-year rotations

 

 


NeelNeel

I am interested in understanding the molecular mechanisms underlying melanoma development and metastasis. I focus on signal transduction and the development of mouse models to understand melanomagenesis.

Major Professor:  Florian Karreth, PhD

 


Nicol

NicolMy Lab is focused on combining innovative mouse modeling strategies with various biochemistry and molecular biology techniques to characterize the interaction of non-coding RNAs and oncogenic signaling in tumor initiation, progression, metastasis, and drug resistance. In particular, my project is focused on studying the role of circular RNAs in melanoma development and progression.

Major Professor: Florian Karreth, PhD


Nicholas

NicholasOur lab investigates how host factors such as aging, stress and others affect tumor initiation, progression and sensitivity to anti-cancer therapies with the goal of harnessing this knowledge toward defining actionable targets for the treatment of cancer tailored to each patient’s biology. My research focus is on how age-induced and stress-induced glucocorticoids affect cellular interactions within the tumor ecosystem and how these might shape therapeutic interventions.

Major Professor: Ana Gomes, PhD


Nina ObertoppNina

My research aims to improve adoptive cell therapy using tumor-infiltrating lymphocytes (TIL) for head and neck cancer patients by using individualized radiotherapy in combination with immune-checkpoint inhibition.

Major Professor: Shari Pilon-Thomas, PhD

 


Niveditha

My research focus lies in unraveling the mechanism of HDAC inhibitors in preventing Osteosarcoma. Also, understanding molecular interactions involved in bone metastatic cancers. I focus on epigenetics, signal transduction, mouse models of cancer metastasis and cancer therapeutics. 

Major Professor: Conor Lynch, PhD


Nolan 

Recently, Follicle Stimulating Hormone Receptor (FSHR) was found to be expressed exclusively in almost all ovarian cancer subtypes. Targeting FSHR+ tumors with a newly developed Chimeric Endocrine Receptor (CER) T cell decreased tumor volume and extended life of mice in both PDX and solid tumor models. My project focuses on engineering and developing a new FSH-CER T cell that can withstand the harsh tumor microenvironment and outperform previous designs. My central hypothesis is that the TME is outcompeting FSH-CER T cells for nutrients resulting in T cell quiescence. I’m engineering CERs to outcompete cancer cells for nutrients or alternatively consume other nutrients within the tumor microenvironment.

Major Professor: Marco Davila, MD, PhD 


OlabisiOlabisi

My project focuses on evaluating the efficacy of combining immune checkpoint inhibitors with cytotoxic agents to promote anti-tumor immunity in castration-resistant prostate cancer.

Major Professor: Brian Ruffell, PhD

 


PayalPayal

My research focuses on the toxicities associated with CAR T cell therapy. CAR T cell administration to patients exacerbates their cytokine milieu that leads to the onset of cytokine release syndrome (CRS) and immune cell-associated neurotoxicity (ICAN). My aim is to delineate the underlying mechanism behind these CAR T cell associated toxicities and explore the role of immune components such as regulatory T cells in this process.

Major Professor:  Marco Davila, MD, PhD


No image availablePragya

My research focuses on the role of inflammation in altering the sensitivity to targeted therapies.

Major Professor: Andriy Marusyk

 

 


QianQian

Research Interests: cellular signaling pathways and post-translational modifications in cancer biology

Major Professor: Eric Lau, PhD

 

 


Qianqian

Research Interests: Drug Discovery

Major ProfessorUwe Rix, PhD

 

 


Rafael

Research Interests: Mathematical Oncology

Major Professor:  Alexander Anderson, PhD

 

 


RanjiniRanjini

Major Professor: First-year rotations

 

 


RebeccaRebecca

My research focuses on the immunological consequences of radiation, with the use of calibrated mathematical models of tumor growth and tumor - immune dynamics. Utilizing various theoretical analysis techniques and computational methods I will investigate whether harnessing these consequences could improve patient response to radiotherapy and immunotherapy.

Major Professor: Heiko Enderling, PhD


RobertRobert

Major Professor: First-year rotations

 

 


Sae Bom

My research focuses on exploring chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T- cell therapy to treat cancers. I focus on understanding of signal transduction triggered by CAR to ultimately design the efficient receptors with increased persistence and decreased exhaustion in vivo models of cancer.

Major Professor: Marco Davila, MD, PhD

 


SaraSara

Major Professor: First-year rotations

 

 

 


SarahSarah

My research focuses on optimizing Adoptive Cell Therapy (ACT) with Tumor Infiltrating Lymphocytes (TIL) for bladder cancer. I will be combining intravesical instillation of TIL with cancer vaccines, chemotherapy, and other techniques to improve TIL products and anti-tumor response.

Major Professor: Dr. Shari Pilon-Thomas

 


SeanSean

Research Interests – Main focus is in drug discovery, and the development of small molecules for studying and modulating therapeutically relevant cancer targets.

Major Professor: Andrii Monastyrskyi, PhD

 


Shiun

Research Interests:  Immunology

Major Professor: Paulo Rodriguez, PhD

 


SrishtiSrishti

Research Interests: Main focus is in drug discovery, protein engineering and structural biology in the field of cancer.

Major Professor: Vince Luca, PhD

 


SuraSura-Attha

Major Professor: First-year rotations

 

 


ThomasThomas

Thomas is a PhD candidate interested in evolutionary game theory (EGT). His work combines EGT and single-cell sequencing to understand how cell-cell interactions shape population structure in gastric cancers. Before coming to Moffitt, Thomas completed his undergraduate degree in Applied Mathematics at USF. With his PhD work, he hopes to contribute to a better understanding of how divergent populations within a tumor compete and cooperate while exposed to variable environments, such as DNA damaging therapies. 

Major Professor: Noemi Andor, PhD


No image availableXiomar

I am part of the Abate-Daga research group. Our team generates and studies genetically modified immune cells (CAR-T cells) that recognize and fight a variety of tumor cells. In particular, my research project focuses on gamma-delta T cells, a less common T cell subtype, that exhibit promising features for their implementation as adoptive cell therapies. We are investigating the cellular processes that distinguish gamma-delta T cells from other subtypes and modifying signaling pathways to optimize their antitumoral activity.

Major Professor: Daniel Abate-Daga, PhD