CDT Research Fellows

Current Fellows

Abiodun Anifowose

aanifowose1@student.gsu.eduAbiodun Anifowose

Abiodun is a first year PhD student in Dr. Binghe Wang’s Lab. His passion for drug development has prompted his interest in the development of small molecules of biological importance. As an undergraduate at the University of Lagos, he did some organic research one of which was the synthesis of Pyrrolo [1, 2-a] [1, 4] Benzodiazepine – 3, 5 – dione (a compound which has antiviral activities as it inhibits HIV – 1 reverse transcriptase (RT) enzyme and prevents HIV – 1 cythopatho – genecity in T4 Lymphocytes.Abiodun Anifowose received his Bachelor’s degree from the University of Lagos, Nigeria after graduating with First Class honors. He joined Dr. Binghe Wang’s Laboratory in the Department of Chemistry, Georgia State University in August 2014.

He is very enthusiastic about drug development and believes that a strong collaborative effort with a team of uncanny imagination and dedication can lead to the discovery of array of organic molecules with amazing therapeutic effects for the entire spectrum of human afflictions.

Garrett Edmunds

gedmunds2@student.gsu.eduGarrett Edmunds Profile Picture

Garrett received his Bachelors of Science degree in Biochemistry from Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah in 2013. Currently, he is pursuing a Ph.D. in the Department of Chemistry under the direction of Dr. Peng George Wang at Georgia State University.

His research focuses on the efficient synthesis of complex glycoproteins found in human biology.  To accomplish this, the core structures of common sugars are synthesized via chemical means. These structures are then elongated to more complex oligosaccharides via enzymatic extension. These techniques overcome the issues that commonly plague carbohydrate synthesis, namely producing large quantities of oligosaccharides without sacrificing quality of purity. It is anticipated that the techniques developed over the course of this research can be used in the development of solid-phase automated oligosaccharide synthesis, and work is currently being carried out to ascertain the feasibility of that goal. Garrett has presented his work at the Southeast Glycoscience Symposium at Georgia State University, the Glycomics Symposium at the Complex Carbohydrate Research Center at the University of Georgia, and at the Chemistry Research Symposium at Georgia State University.

Rakshya Gorkhali

Rakshya Gorkhali

Rakshya received her Bachelor’s degree in Biochemistry from Hamline University, Minnesota in 2011. She is currently a second year PhD student working in Dr. Jenny Yang’s Lab.

She works in the Gap Junction project to elucidate the molecular basis of gating mechanism of Connexin 26 protein. These interesting proteins assist in exchange of information between cells and are associated with various genetic abnormalities related to hearing loss and skin disorders. She will be using biophysical methods such as fluorescence, NMR, CD, MS and EM, and site directed mutagenesis to understand how extracellular calcium, and intracellular calcium activated calmodulin protein regulate the functioning of the full-length protein. Furthermore, electrophysiology will be used to conduct functional studies and also, permeability studies will be carried out in mammalian cells lines. With these studies Rakshya and her team aim to understand the link between Connexin 26 related genetic diseases and their molecular regulations.

Dandan Liu
Dandan Liu
Dandan Liu is a first year Ph. D student in the laboratory of Dr. Suri S. Iyer. She received her B. S. degree in Pharmacy Department at Shandong University in Shandong province, China. As an undergraduate student, she isolated compounds from Litsea glutinosa and characterized its physicochemical properties, then detected the effects of these compounds to Nrf2 / ARE signaling pathway.
Dandan joined in Dr. Suri S. Iyer’s laboratory in January 2016. Her research at GSU focuses on the development of diagnostics for infectious diseases such as influenza viruses, noroviruses using electrochemical and fluorescent based assays. Also she synthesized the lead compounds to measure enzyme kinetics and improve the electrochemical assay.
She is very interested in biochemistry, which promotes her understanding the biochemical mechanisms very well.

Oluwatosin Odubade
Oluwatosin Odubade

Oluwatosin (Tosin) received her Bachelor’s degree in Industrial Chemistry from the University of Lagos, Nigeria in 2011. She is currently a PhD student in Dr. Jenny J. Yang’s lab, where she focuses on the development of novel metal-binding protein imaging reagents with broad applications for disease diagnosis. Using various biochemical and biophysical methods, she aims to improve metal binding affinity and selectivity, as well as and biomarker targeting capability in vitro and in vivo.

Chelsea Severin

Chelsea Severin

Chelsea received her B.S. in Chemistry from Columbus State University in Columbus, GA, in May of 2014. She is currently working towards the Ph.D. degree in the Department of Chemistry under the direction of Dr. Ming Luo at Georgia State University.

Her research is primarily focused on the development of novel antiviral drugs for negative strand RNA viruses. She is currently working on structure-based design of antiviral drugs to treat influenza virus in humans.

She is particularly interested in the design of novel drugs that can inhibit the unique viral transcription of the influenza virus. ​

James Ross Terrell
James Terrell is a first year Ph.D. student in the laboratory of Dr. Ming Luo. Prior to his work at Georgia State University, James received his B.S. degree in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at Mercer University in Macon, Georgia in 2012. During his time at Mercer University, James studied under Dr. Kevin Bucholtz and Dr. James Thomas and worked towards the development of novel hormone sensitive breast cancer growth inhibitors targeting the enzyme 3-β-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase type I. He then went on to Georgia State University where he received his M.S. in Chemistry under the direction of Dr. Aimin Liu in 2014. During his time in the laboratory of Dr. Liu, James researched enzymatic mechanisms of metalloproteins and worked on the development of novel antibiotics for the treatment of Mycobacterium tuberculosis infection.

Under his new advisor, James is studying the structural characteristics of negative sense, single-stranded RNA viruses. Currently, he is working on the characterization of Ebola virus glycoprotein. He will be utilizing x-ray crystallography, cryo-electron microscopy, and flow cytometry to elucidate structure/function relationships of the glycoprotein and how it relates to Ebola virus infectivity. These findings may give additional insights into how to fight this deadly virus.

Mahathi Venkat
Mahathi Venkat
Mahathi is a 1st year Ph.D. student working with expert innate immunologist and leukocyte biologist Dr. Yuan Liu. The strong interest in understanding the mechanisms of innate immune system during different disease states has prompted her entrance into the Molecular Genetics and Biochemistry program at Georgia State University in spring 2015. Mahathi received her B.S in Biology from Georgia State University in July 2013. Afterwards she conducted research in the laboratory of Dr. John Houghton where she primarily focused on yeast apoptosis under the influence of heavy metal. Later she changed her research interest after excelling in graduate coursework that focused on molecular biology and immunology. Now her project in the new laboratory is to understand the changes in the function of innate immune cells such as macrophages and neutrophils under chronic inflammatory states i.e. colitis and intestinal bowel disease.

Seyoum Wolde

Liangwei LiSeyoum Wolde received his Bachelors of Science degree in physics in 2000 and his Master of Science degree in 2002 in quantum optics from Addis Ababa University, Ethiopia. He began graduate studies at Georgia State University in 2011. He is currently working towards the Ph.D. degree in the Department of Physics and Astronomy, Georgia State University, Atlanta, Georgia.

He is working in the optoelectronics lab since fall 2012, under supervision of Prof. A.G. Unil Perera. His research focus is on designing and developing novel infrared photodetectors with multiband capability which will be useful in various applications including but not limited to security, defense, biological, medical, and chemical. Multiband selectable detectors with polarization sensitivity are crucial in detecting manmade objects, and for situational awareness. For example, for detecting a gas or a toxic chemical, the response of the detectors will need to be strong in different narrow band regions. In order to remove the false positives, more than one response band will be needed. Rather than having multiple detectors with separate power supplies etc., a single device which can easily select the required band out of the two or three bands will reduce the cost and the weight of the device making it useful for field applications. Removing the moving optical components such as filters to select the wavelength required is another advantage of this approach.

He has four quantum dot infrared photo detectors papers published in Applied Physics Letters. His work focuses on design and development of quantum dot infrared photo detectors (QDIP) to achieve both high sensitivity and improved performance at higher operating temperature(or room temperature) for practical applications of focal plane arrays (FPAs). Furthermore, he is also working to extend the response of QDIPs to terahertz region. It is known that both X-rays and terahertz radiation (or T-rays) have the ability to penetrate living body, but unlike X-rays, T-rays will not damage cells or DNA. Therefore this terahertz detector has potential of applications to biological, chemical, gas sensing, and imaging; bimolecular, etc. characterization.

Previous Fellows

Ramazan Atalay

Ramazan AtalayAs a Ph.D candidate in Physics at Georgia State University, Rahmazan workes in the laboratory of Prof. Nikolaus Dietz, serving as fifth year graduate student, and as a fellowship member from Center for Diagnostic and Therapeutic at the Georgia State University. Prior to his studies at Georgia State, he worked with Prof. Feride Severcen as an undergraduate student at the Middle East Technical University in Turkey, studying protein structure. His research efforts greatly benefited from the outstanding mentorship of Prof. Nikolaus Dietz. He has recently published 7 papers plus two more pending. He has presented his works in 15 conference presentations and 5 poster contributions. His expertise is in Raman spectroscopy. He is interested in applying and extending his expertise in the area of cell decease evolution.

He is interested in applying novel physics ideas to innovative technologies in condensed matter physics, nanotechnology, and Biophysics. He is currently working with a lab that develops solar energy and low power technology materials. He is also interested in collaborative efforts between nanotechnology and biophysics such as inorganic capsulated organic materials. In the past he has also done research in atomic physics, medical physics, and experimental semiconductor physics.

Sarah Burroughs

Sarah BurroughsSarah is currently a 3rd year PhD student in the Chemistry Department working under Dr. Binghe Wang. Sarah obtained her BS in Chemistry in 2005 from Auburn University. She began her graduate studies at Emory University in 2006 and transferred to Georgia State in 2009. She received her MS in Organic Chemistry in 2010.

Her main research focus is medicinal organic chemistry. She is currently working on anti-cancer small-molecule therapeutics that target hypoxic tumors. These compounds target the HIF-1 pathway, which has been shown to contribute to tumor malignancy, lead to resistance to both chemotherapy and radiation, and is overall a marker for poor patient prognosis. Sarah is also working on a strategy for identifying the mechanisms of action of these molecules.

Liangwei Li

Liangwei LiLiangwei Li received his bachelor degree in Anhui University, China, in 2002. He did his master study on engineering anti-ErbB2 antibody in University of Science and Technology of China and received his M.S. degree in 2006. Currently he is a Ph.D. candidate in Dr. Zhi-Ren Liu’ lab in Biology Department, Georgia State University.

His research mainly focuses on studying the angiogenesis role of pyruvate kinase M2 in tumor growth. Cancer cells over-express an isoform of the glycolytic enzyme pyruvate kinase type M2 (PKM2). PKM2 has also been reported to be detected in cancer patients’ blood serum and stool sample. Due to its importance in cancer progression, PKM2 is utilized as a cancer biomarker for diagnosis in various cancer types, especially colorectal, gastric and lung cancer. Liangwei and his colleagues found that extracellular PKM2 induces endothelial cell attachment and migration by activating integrin downstream signaling pathways. He also revealed that PKM2 promotes tumor growth and wound healing process by facilitating angiogenesis in mice model. Currently, he is working on the detailed molecular mechanism of PKM2-induced angiogenesis.

Fange Liu

Fange LiuFange Liu obtained her B.S. in Biology from Capital Normal University in Bejing, China, in the summer of 2008. She joined Dr. Aimin Liu’s research group in Chemistry Department as a graduate student in August 2008. Ever since she has been working on metal-dependent modulation mechanisms of cellular signal transduction, her major focus has been placed on NF-κB, which is a sequence-specific transcription factor involved in the inflammatory and innate immune responses in cells. Fange has studied the effect of both free and protein-bound metal ions on NF-κB’s DNA binding ability by using highly purified NF-κB proteins and cell nuclear extracts from normal and cancer cells. She has employed a wide array of biochemical (cloning, mutagenesis, FRET, SPR, QCM-D, and EPR spectroscopy etc.) and structural approaches (e.g. X-ray crystallography) to determine the complex protein-protein and protein-DNA interactions in the absence or presence metal ions. Her work has resulted in a novel mechanism of immune activation in response to oxidative stress or insults.

Eric Owens

Eric Owens

Eric Owens received his Bachelors of Science degree from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 2010 working in Professor Malcolm D. E. Forbes physical organic chemistry laboratory.  There he studied temperature dependent polymer photodegration of various co-polymers through time-resolved electron paramagnetic resonance spectroscopy (TREPR). He arrived at Georgia State University in 2010, obtained his Masters of Science in 2012 and is pursuing his Ph.D. in the design and synthesis of modified near-infrared fluorophores for implication in image-guided surgery under the direction of Dr. Maged Henary in the Department of Chemistry.  In collaboration with Drs. John Frangioni and Hak Soo Choi at Harvard Medical School, Eric has helped establish previously unknown molecular requirements that directly influence in vivo performance.  This work has led to over 10 co-authored peer-reviewed publications mostly focused on the highly versatile cyanine scaffold.  Additionally, Eric has worked on various other projects during his tenure as a CDT fellow; specifically, he has been investigating the energetics of an interesting and facile silica-catalyzed acyl transfer reaction in the synthesis of novel hydroxychavicol analogs which have been shown to induce an apoptotic response in cancer cells as determined by the Ritu Aneja Lab here at GSU.

Also, Eric has been very active in the synthesis of highly discriminative g-quadruplex stabilizing compounds which is an emerging area for new chemotherapeutics with minimal side effects.  The success of this project has been heavily aided by biophysical and NMR techniques through a very active collaboration with Drs. David Wilson and Markus Germann at GSU.  This work has yielded two publications with several more in preparation.  He has been very active in participating in scientific conferences with presentations in Raleigh, NC and Pittsburgh, PA for the American Chemical Society.  Eric has also presented his work at internal events, placing first in the inaugural CDT conference. Additionally, as a current intern at Emory’s Office of Technology Transfer, he intends to use his experience in these emerging areas as a scientific advisor working in patenting and licensing new and exciting biomedical technologies.

Vaishali Pannu

Vaishali PannuVaishali Pannu received the B.Tech degree in Biotechnolgy, Jaypee Institute of technology, India, in 2006, and the M.S. degree in Biology from Georgia State University, in 2010. She is currently working towards the Ph.D. degree in the Department of Biology, Georgia State University (GSU), Atlanta, Georgia.

Her Ph.D. research mainly focused on identifying mechanisms underlying centrosome clustering as a rational approach to uncover diagnostic biomarkers. She has successfully established a direct correlation between the expression of a minus-end directed microtubule motor protein and the proliferative potential of cancer cells. She is also exploring cancer cell-selective clustering molecules, which can be exploited both as novel biomarkers for diagnostic applications and as targets for cancer drug discovery. The long range goal of her work is to contribute in developing therapeutic agents that can selectively induce centrosome declustering in cancer cells thus inducing cell death and apoptosis. She has been actively participating in various scientific conferences including poster presentation at a Cold Spring Harbor meeting on Cell Cycle and Cancer in 2010 and at American Society for Cell Biology Annual Meeting in 201; and an oral presentation at the Annual National Symposium on Prostate Cancer, Clark Atlanta University in 2012. She also received a First author Publication Award (2010) by the Biology department and currently has 5 peer-reviewed publications in high impact journals including two first authored.

Crystal Smitherman

Liangwei LiCrystal was a PhD student in the Chemistry Department working with Prof. Giovanni Gadda. Crystal obtained her BS in Chemistry with a concentration in Biochemistry in 2008 from Berry College in Rome, GA. She began graduate studies at Georgia State University in 2010. While carrying out her PhD studies, she earned an MS in Chemistry at Georgia State in 2013 concomitantly.

The focus of her graduate research is in mechanistic enzymology. She is currently working on characterizing Class I nitronate monooxygenases using rapid and steady-state kinetics, pH, solvent viscosity, and kinetic isotope effects, CD and fluorescence spectroscopy, and mass spectrometry. These flavin- dependent enzymes catalyze the oxidation of toxic nitro compounds through radical chemistry. Crystal is currently developing analytical methods to rapidly and quantitatively detect the products of these enzymatic reactions. She has given numerous poster and oral presentations at local, national, and international conferences since joining Georgia State including Gordon Research Conference on Enzymes, Coenzymes and Metabolic Pathways, Southeast Enzyme Conference, and Southeastern Regional Meeting of the American Chemical Society. She currently has 2 peer-reviewed publications.

Shuo Wang

Shuo WangShuo began graduate studies and research in Biophysical Chemistry under the direction of Dr. W. David Wilson at Georgia State University since August 2009. During her Ph.D. program, Shuo was investigating a range of designed small molecules that interact with different sequences and structures of DNA and have shown excellent therapeutic activities by forming complexes in the DNA minor groove. She was also interested in modulating DNA-transcription factor interactions with minor groove binders. Shuo was nominated as a Center for Diagnostics and Therapeutics (CDT) graduate fellow from 2012-2014. After obtained her Ph.D. degree in July 2014, she started working in Takeda California as a Staff Scientist focusing on biophysical assays for drug design.

Chen Zhang

Chen ZhangChen Zhang came to United State three years ago in 2008 and since then she joined in the challenging project which focused on differential activation of intracellular calcium oscillations by multiple calcium and L-Phe binding sites in Calcium Sensing Receptor (CaSR)–a transmembrane protein belongs to G-protein coupled receptor. BY collaborating with researchers at Oxford University, they could further analyze disease related mutations on this receptor identified from patients in a more detailed way. She is trying to play a leading role in understanding the molecular mechanism of how the CaSR integrates information about these two completely different classes of agonists—one an inorganic divalent cation, the other a nutrient – and how the receptor senses these agonists in health and in disease states.

Ying Zhang

Ying ZhangYing Zhang received the B.S. degree in School of Pharmaceutical Science and Technology at Tianjin University, Tianjin, China, in 2006, and M.S. degree in Department of Chemistry, Georgia State University, Atlanta, Georgia, US, in 2009. She is currently working towards the Ph.D. degree in Department of Chemistry, Georgia State University, Atlanta, Georgia, US.

Her current Ph.D. research mainly focuses on structural biology via X-ray crystallography to study proteins. Her major research projects include HIV-1 protease structure and drug design for resistant virus and structure of green fluorescent proteins with Ca2+-sensor. Her research work on HIV-1 protease drug resistant mutant L76V has been published in Biochemistry in 2011. Meanwhile, she has performed several public oral presentations and lectures in conferences and advanced classes. She was the recipient of Diagnostics and Therapeutics fellowship sponsored by Second Century Initiative Programs, GSU in 2011.