2021 Alumni Speakers

Samson Condon

Samson Condon is a postdoctoral research associate in the Department of Biochemistry at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He graduated from Cedar Falls High School in 2009 and began attending Iowa State University in the Department of Biochemistry, Biophysics, and Molecular Biology that fall. Samson joined the Nikolau Group as an undergraduate researcher in 2010 under the mentorship of Dr. Marna Yandeau-Nelson. There, he analyzed the cuticular wax composition of maize silks using gas chromatography-mass spectroscopy and developed new protocols to increase sample throughput. He spent the summer of 2010 at SUNY-Albany as an REU intern in the laboratory of Dr. Janice Pata and the spring of 2012 at the Nihon University School of International Relations in Mishima, Japan through the ISEP study-abroad program. He graduated suma cum laude with Honors from Iowa State University in 2013 with a B.S. in Biochemistry. For his involvement in academics, research, and the BBMB Undergraduate Club, he was named a Goldwater Scholar and a Robert Stupka III Scholar.

Samson joined the laboratory of Professor Alessandro Senes at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 2013. During his studies, he received the support of the Computation and Informatics in Biology and Medicine (CIBM) traineeship. He defended his thesis, titled “Understanding membrane protein association through molecular modeling and evolution”, in the spring of 2020. He has continued his research as a postdoc in the Senes lab, combining bioinformatics, molecular modeling, and biochemistry to better understand how membrane proteins fold, interact, and evolve.

Tony Cyr

Tony is a 2006 graduate of Iowa State University from the department of Biochemistry, Biophysics, and Molecular Biology. His initial research experience involved utilizing metabolic engineering approaches to produce complex diterpenoid molecules in a bacterial host. He subsequently pursued a combined MD/PhD degree at the University of Iowa, in the laboratories of Dr. Rick Domann and Dr. Ron Weigel. There, he studied the contributions of oxidative metabolism to epigenetic signaling processes, as well as the role of AP-2 transcription factors in the pathogenesis of breast cancer. In 2014, he successfully matched into the general surgery residency program at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, where he continues to pursue surgical training. He has completed a 3 year research fellowship in the laboratory of Dr. Brian Zuckerbraun studying the contributions of aging, mitochondrial metabolism, and metabolomic flux to the pathogenesis of immunosuppression in the post-trauma period. Notably, he worked with former Stupka chair Lauran Chambers extensively during this time, as she was recruited to work in the lab prior to going to medical school herself in 2020. He now has resumed clinical work for the final two years of surgical training. Upon finishing his residency, he plans on pursuing career that allows the best combination of basic science pursuit with clinical practice.

Tyler Gilbreath

I always knew that I was going to earn a degree from ISU, my only question was which one. Thankfully, I met with Dr. Beitz and chose biochemistry. The biochemistry program and people within the department are truly something special. While I did not start out being a member of Stupka, I am quite glad I joined. During my time at ISU, I worked in Dr. Eric Underbakke’s laboratory on characterizing neuronal nitric oxide synthase’s movement from an inactive to active conformation. All of the hours spent in his lab helped tremendously increasing my knowledge as a scientist and in being comfortable in the lab setting.

Currently, I am a fourth year PhD candidate in Dr. Shannon Buckley’s laboratory at the University of Nebraska Medical Center. The focus of the lab is on how dysregulation of the ubiquitin proteasome system, one of the cell’s main protein recycling systems, can lead to leukemias or lymphomas. In my study on the E3 ubiquitin ligase UBR5, we have proven a novel role of UBR5 involvement within mRNA splicing and I am trying to figure out this role in the context of lymphoma. My advice to current ISU biochemists, keep with Stupka, ask questions, and enjoy your adventure at ISU.

Jennifer Gribble

Jennifer is from Cedar Rapids, IA and in 2016 obtained her B.S. in biochemistry from Iowa State University with minors in genetics and microbiology. She joined the Interdisciplinary Graduate Program (IGP) at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, TN in 2016 and in 2017 joined the lab of Dr. Mark Denison in the Ph.D. program of Microbe-Host Interactions. Her work in the Denison Lab has focused on coronavirus replication, with particular emphasis on RNA synthesis and viral recombination during both normal viral infection and in viral inhibition through either genetic attenuation or antiviral treatments. She has established multiple computational pipelines to study coronavirus RNA mutations and recombination, combining both traditional virological approaches with next-generation RNA sequencing platforms. Jennifer lives with her husband David in Smyrna, TN and in her free time enjoys travelling, painting, and baking for her lab.

Luke Helgeson

Luke Helgeson graduated from Iowa State University in 2009 with a B.S. in Biochemistry. During his time at ISU, he performed undergraduate research in the laboratory of Dr. Gaya Amarasinghe, where he helped to determine the structure of an Ebola protein domain using x-ray crystallography. Luke was active with the BBMB Undergraduate Club during his 4 years at ISU including: serving as President, running and organizing multiple Stupka Undergraduate Research Symposia, as well as flipping countless pancakes for the monthly Breakfast Club. He was the recipient of the 2009 Robert Stupka Memorial Scholarship. After graduating from ISU, Luke continued his training in biochemistry; completing his doctoral studies at the University of Oregon under the mentorship of Dr. Brad Nolen. While in the Nolen Lab, he published multiple articles on the regulation of branched actin nucleation. Luke was the 2014 recipient of the Pete von Hippel Award as an outstanding Senior PhD student. Upon receiving his doctoral degree in 2014, Luke remained in the Pacific Northwest, joining the laboratory of Dr. Trisha Davis at the University of Washington as a postdoctoral fellow. At the University of Washington, Luke researches the mechanisms of how kinetochore microtubule attachments are strengthened and maintained during chromosome segregation.

Mariah Hoye

Mariah received her B.S. in Biochemistry from Iowa State University in 2012. While at Iowa State, Mariah worked in the laboratory of Dr. Ravindra Singh, which studies the alternative splicing mechanism of the Survival Motor Neuron 2 pre-mRNA and its association with Spinal Muscular Atrophy. Mariah completed her Ph.D. at Washington University in Saint Louis, under the direction of Timothy Miller, MD, Ph.D. Mariah’s doctoral work was focused on identifying motor neuron-enriched microRNAs and their relationship to the motor neuron disease, Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS). Mariah’s doctoral work resulted in the development of a pharmacodynamic biomarker for ALS and other motor neuron diseases, as well as identification of a novel mechanism of microRNA-mediated communication between motor neurons and astrocytes. In June 2018, Mariah began her postdoctoral work in the laboratory of Dr. Debra Silver. The focus of Mariah’s work has been elucidating the role of DDX3X, a new intellectual disability gene, in neural progenitors and neurons during cortical development. Mariah hopes to one day have her own lab studying defects in RNA metabolism in neurological disorders and to develop new therapies for these devastating diseases.

Jacqueline Rivas

Jackie is a Post-Doctoral Fellow in the Markey Cancer Center at the University of Kentucky under Dr. Subbarao Bondada. As an undergraduate she worked with Dr. Amy Andreotti (2009-2012) researching interactions between proteins downstream of the T cell receptor. During this time Jackie participated in multiple SURS, and was the chair in 2011-2012. She obtained her Ph.D. in Immunology from UT Southwestern Medical Center with Dr. Nancy Monson (2012-2017), studying B cell responses in early Multiple Sclerosis. Here she discovered that patients experiencing their first clinical symptoms in adulthood display humoral autoimmunity to neurons, while those with pediatric onset show preference for astrocytes. Now as a post-doctoral researcher, Jackie is sponsored by a fellowship from the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society to study methods of enhancing antitumor immunity in B cell chronic lymphocytic leukemia. She discovered that immunosuppressive cytokines can be targeted to improve T cell anti-tumor immunity and responses to immunotherapy, and plans to continue pursuing research on the anti-tumor effects of T cells in an academic career.

Denis Tamiev

Denis Tamiev graduated in 2016 with a degree in biochemistry from the Department of Biochemistry, Biophysics and Molecular Biology at Iowa State University. During his undergraduate years, he worked in the laboratory of Dr. Mark Hargrove studying anaerobic nitrogen metabolism in E. coli. Denis participated in multiple Stupka Undergraduate Research Symposiums and was selected as a Stupka scholar in 2014. After completing his undergraduate degree, Denis pursued a PhD at Iowa State University in the laboratory of Dr. Nigel Reuel. Denis’ research is focused on developing spore based protein expression systems that can be used in locations with limited cold storage capacity for therapeutic applications. During his graduate research work, Denis developed an artificial intelligence based image processing algorithm to count bacterial cells on microscope images. This work enabled him to create a startup, Curiosity Labs, that Denis is currently pursuing alongside his PhD degree.