Willing to Mentor

    Available to Mentor:

    High School Students, PhD/MSTP Students, Post-Baccalaureate Students, Postdocs, Residents and Fellows, Undergraduate Students

    • 4090

    Research activity per year

    Personal profile

    Research interests

    We use human pluripotent stem cells to model β cell development and differentiation. We have successfully generated a new state-of-the-art protocol for the in vitro generation of glucose-responsive SC-β cells secreting high amounts of insulin with secretion dynamics approaching that of primary islets, presenting robust first and second phase insulin secretion curves capable of rapidly reversing diabetes in mouse models. Using our SC-β cell differentiation strategies and expertise with bulk and single-cell RNA sequencing technologies we have identified and are investigating novel signaling pathways regulating β cell differentiation and functional maturation.


    I believe that my scholarly mission goes hand in hand with my professional service activities and support for diversity, equity, and inclusion. I have an established track record of professional service and supporting diversity, equity, and inclusion in my career as an independent investigator. I have experience teaching biological and bioengineering research courses, specifically integrating biological and engineering concepts such as in the graduate-level Markey Pathways series. I supervised the dissertation work for several Ph.D. candidates and supervised the successful defense from both the DBBS and the Department of Biomedical Engineering programs. I have also dedicated much of my time engaging with college and professional students, including undergraduates, and introducing them to a research setting. In addition to my graduate students, I have trained participates from the Amgen Scholars Program, the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases Medical School program, and undergraduate students from Washington University in St. Louis.

    I am the first person in my family to receive a Ph.D. and grew up in a poor, rural community with limited access to education. This upbringing has reinforced my belief that early STEM education and diversity inclusion are crucial for advancing future research and have a strong record of hiring and mentoring women and men from diverse ethnicities, races, cultures, and socioeconomic backgrounds. As such, I have a strong track record in recruiting and training women and individuals from underrepresented minority (URM) backgrounds. I strongly believe that these are excellent opportunities for educational outreach activities to engage students, particularly URM, in STEM to install these interests and ideas early to promote careers and long-time interest in science and engineering.

    Since 2016, I developed and partnered with JDRF, a type 1 diabetes patient organization, to bring in school-aged children and their families with type 1 diabetes to tour my laboratory and participate in a day of activities to encourage STEM education. This has allowed for children, their families, and others within the greater diabetes community to see first-hand the diabetes research being conducted and to meet and be inspired by the young people that work in my lab, some of whom have diabetes themselves. In addition, I have given educational seminars to diverse audiences about STEM research in partnership with JDRF, with lay audience primarily consisting of children, their families, and patients with diabetes. I have similarly worked with the Osher Lifelong Learning Institutes to give talks to lay audiences primarily consisting of elderly individuals wishing to stay engaged and learn about a wide range of scientific topics. I have also recently be interviewed and features on diabetes-related podcasts (The JuiceBox Podcast and The Sugar Science Podcast). These frequent lay speaking engagements allows me to further expand awareness of STEM and synergizes with the program I developed to bring in individuals into my laboratory.

    In addition to my scholarship, mentorship, and outreach/volunteer work, I have been actively engaged in other types of professional service. Within my university, I have taken on a leadership role in the Diabetes Research Center by supervising and advising on members use of core metabolic profiling equipment. I am a co-organizer for weekly islet biology interest group meetings and monthly stem cell biology work-in-process meetings. I am a PI multiple grants from the NIH, JDRF, and the biotechnology industry. Outside of my university, I have served as an external expert advisor for an European Union-funded diabetes initiative at the Royal College of Surgeons in Dublin and am currently an external expert advisor for the NIH Human Islet Research Network (HIRN) Consortium on Human Islet Biology (CHIB). Finally, I was invited and participated in a Food and Drug Administration (FDA) symposium to educate them on stem cells in the use of diabetes cell replacement therapy. 

    Available to Mentor:

    • High School Students
    • Undergraduate Students
    • Post-Baccalaureate Students
    • PhD/MSTP Students
    • Postdocs
    • Residents and Fellows


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