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Summer Undergraduate Research Experience

Doctoral Students

Our students come from a variety of educational backgrounds, but have in common a love for research and a desire to make scientific discovery part of their career goals. This page will focus on a group of our current doctoral students, indicating where they came from, what they are working on, what their specific goals are and their future plans.

Jennifer Romer

Jennifer Romer: I am a first year Ph.D. student in the Cell and Molecular Biology Program at the UMDNJ-Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences. I graduated from Ursinus College in 2007 with a B.S. in Biology, and then earned a Masters Degree in Biomedical Sciences with a focus in Research from the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine in 2009. My thesis work focused on the entry mechanism of Mouse Hepatitis Virus A59. Following the completion of my Master's degree, I obtained a job in industry working for a small biotechnology company in Delaware, Elcriton, Inc. There, we engineered microorganisms with the goal of producing renewable chemicals and alternative biofuels. After two years of working in the private sector, I decided to take the next step in my career and pursue a doctorate degree. I am currently working through first year lab rotations and have not selected a permanent lab.


Shawna M Rotoli

Shawna M. Rotoli: I am a first year Ph.D. student in the Cell and Molecular Biology Program at the UMDNJ-Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences. I graduated from Temple University in 2009 with a B.S. in Biochemistry. After graduation I started a laboratory technician position when I gained invaluable laboratory experience. The main focus of my research was studying prokaryotic DNA replication initiation in Bacillus anthracis. After two years of laboratory research I realized I definitely wanted to further my career as a scientist and obtain a doctorate. I am currently in my third lab rotation with Dr. Subhasis Biswas working on a project involving DNA replication in eukaryotic cells and really enjoyed the option of rotating in various labs and learning numerous different techniques. After graduation, I hope to obtain a postdoctoral position to open up my opportunities to either go into industry or academia.


My name is Benny Wu, and I am a first year student in the PhD portion of the DO/PhD dual degree program, which a joint program between UMDNJ-SOM and UMDNJ-GSBS. I began my journey by earning my B.S. in Biological Sciences from the University of California-Irvine. Afterward, I came here to the UMDNJ-GSBS to complete a Master of Biomedical Sciences (M.B.S.) degree. My success in the MBS program helped me earn admission into the SOM for the Fall of 2009. During the first year of medical school, I participated in the Summer Medical Research Fellowship program and found that basic science research would enhance my understanding and further advance my work in the field of medicine. During my second year at SOM, I applied to the PhD program in Cell and Molecular Biology, was admitted and passed the first part of the COMLEX exam. I began the PhD program in the Fall of 2011 and have chosen to do my thesis research work in Dr. Kingsley Yin's laboratory. Dr. Yin's lab focuses on sepsis and the mechanisms of survival (during sepsis) in animal models. The reason I chose to Dr. Yin’s lab is because I am fascinated by the immune system. When the immune system becomes defective, many different kinds of disease can occur (even affecting multiple organs at the same time). In the future, I would like to continue research in the field of medicine I am in (hopefully, Dermatology). My other research interests for the future are psoriasis and autoimmune disorders of the skin. Outside of lab, I am an avid runner and enjoy wine tasting and eating at all the wonderful restaurants Philadelphia has to offer!


Julia L. Crawford

Julia L. Crawford: I am a second year Ph.D. student in the Cell and Molecular Biology Program at the UMDNJ-Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences. I graduated from Rutgers-Camden in May 2010 with a B.A. in Biochemistry. During the Summer of 2009, I attended the Summer Undergraduate Research Experience (SURE) program here at UMDNJ and affirmed that research was my ultimate career goal. My research passion has always been DNA replication and I therefore chose to do my thesis with Dr. Subhasis Biswas. My project is based on studying the mechanisms of DNA replication and origin activation in mammalian cells. I am currently working with the Origin Recognition Complex from Humans (HsORC) along with other essential protein components to origin activation. Our goal is to purify the HsORC and perform various biophysical analyses on the complex in attempt to gain more insight into the activation process. After completing my thesis research I hope to find a postdoctoral position and have a future in academia.


Jeff Viviano : I am a second year Ph.D. student in the Cell and Molecular Biology Program at the UMDNJ-Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences. I graduated from Richard Stockton College of New Jersey in May 2010 with a Bachelors degree in Biochemistry/Molecular Biology. As an undergrad I researched Hepatocyte Growth Factor (HGF) and its connection to neural tube birth defects. I have always known that I wanted to do research so applying to UMDNJ for my doctorate was the next logical step to my reach goal. My thesis mentor is Dr. Venkat Venkataraman and my project consists of the analysis of neuronal calcium sensor proteins; specifically Neurocalcin-δ and Hippocalin. These sensor proteins are thought to be involved with memory and may be relevant to diseases like Alzheimers. After graduating my goal is to obtain a post-doctoral position and hopefully have a future in academia.


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