Research Students

Current Students

Kovarik Lab – Summer 2018: Jason Deck, Greg Kalminskii, Michelle Kovarik, Misha Mehra, and Sababa Anber

Misha Mehra (2018) is using physiological and pharmacological interventions to study the specificity of several peptide substrate reporters for protein kinase B in Dictyostelium lysates.

Sababa Anber (2018) is doing enzyme assays to determine the Michaelis-Menten kinetics of several peptide substrates for serine-threonine kinases with the human and Dictyostelium forms of protein kinase B.

Jason Deck (2018) is working on a MatLab program to automate data analysis of our single-cell electropherograms and is looking at the effect of glucose concentration on oxidative stress in Dictyostelium.

Rahuljeet (RJ) Chadha (2017-2018) characterized how peptide loading by electroporation and myristoylation influences the metabolism of a peptide substrate reporter in intact Dictyostelium cells. In 2018, he began looking at the specificity of several peptide substrate reporters in Dictyostelium lysates.

Greg Kalminskii (2017-2018) optimized and characterized pinocytic loading methods for introducing peptide substrate reporters into Dictyostelium. In 2018, he began a collaboration with Prof. Guardiola-Diaz in Trinity’s Department of Biology to look at mTOR activity in oligodendrocytes.

Jessica Duong (2015-2017) started in the lab by exploring the (non!)compatibility of supported bilayer membranes and surfactants used in micellar electrokinetic chromatography (MEKC) on hybrid PDMS-glass microchips. She applied her expertise in microfabrication and microscopy to chemical cytometry experiments to look at the heterogeneity of oxidative stress response in Dictyostelium cells treated with hydrogen peroxide.

Former Students

Julia Clapis (2016-2018) researched the role of supported lipid membrane coating composition on their function in microfluidic devices. In 2016-2017, she extracted and purified lipids directly from eggs to explore how the purity of the lipids affects the coatings. In 2017-2018, she examined at the role of lipid coatings in minimizing cell adhesion.

Josh Knopf (2016-2017) optimized an electroporation  method for loading peptide substrate reporters into Dictyostelium. He is currently in medical school at the University of Connecticut.

Kovarik Lab - Summer 2016

Kovarik Lab – Summer 2016: Kunwei Yang, Kathy Rodogiannis, Prof. Kovarik, and Allie Tierney

Kathy Rodogiannis (2016-2017) wrote her senior thesis on chemical cytometry of Dictyostelium discoideum. Her focus was characterizing heterogeneity in reactive oxygen species in these cells. She went on to work in clinical research at the NYU Langone Medical Center and will soon begin teaching middle school science in New York City.

Allie Tierney (2015-2017) led our research on capillary electrophoresis-based assays of peptide degradation in Dictyostelium lysates and in lysates from other cell types. She went on to explore how degradation of the peptide-based reporters differs in intact cells compared to lysates. In particular, she looked at the effects of peptide myristoylation on peptide metabolism. She is currently completing a master’s degree in chemistry at Florida State University.

Kunwei Yang (2014-2016) developed capillary electrophoresis methods for phosphorylation assays of protein kinase B (PKB) in Dictyostelium lysates. This work combined research on PKB activity in Dictyostelium with a peptide reporter for PKB previously developed for use in human cells. She went on to work as a research assistant at the University of Pittsburgh.

Kovarik Lab – Summer 2015: Zachary Garber, Kunwei Yang, Allie Tierney, Prof. Kovarik

Casey Crowley (2016, Trinity College) began our chemical cytometry experiments on Dictyostelium by optimizing dye loading and on-chip lysis procedures. She is currently completing her undergraduate degree at Case Western University.

Zachary Garber (2015, Trinity College) studied the effects of lipid bilayer composition and divalent metal cations on the stability of support bilayer membrane coatings in microchip electrophoresis.


The Kovarik Lab at the ACS-CVS meeting in April 2015. From left to right, Livia Shehaj, Kunwei Yang, Prof. Kovarik, and Allie Tierney.

Livia Shehaj (2013-2015, Trinity College) characterized supported bilayer membrane coatings in PDMS-glass hybrid microfluidics. She wrote a custom LabView program to record conductivity data for measurements of electroosmotic flow, which we are using as a readout for membrane stability. She also made LIF measurements of fluorescein and carboxyfluorescein to investigate the effects of natural vs. synthetic lipids and initiated studies on the effect of cholesterol content on coating stability. She is currently a graduate student in the Kritzer Lab at Tufts University.

Ellie Clerc (2014, Trinity College) helped to design and construct the microchip electrophoresis-laser induced fluorescence set-up for the lab at Trinity College. She  wrotea LabView program for high voltage control, soldered together leads for electrophoresis, designed an adapter plate for our detector in SolidWorks, and fabricated chips for gated injections. She also determined the current LOD of our system: 10^-19 mol.

Berjana Nazarko (2014, Trinity College) followed up on Lorena Lazo de la Vega’s project, loading an exogeneous reporter peptide into Dictyostelium discoideum cells. She studied the effects of loading time and concentration for a myristoylated peptide and did preliminary experiments on Dicty development. She started a Master’s program at Central Connecticut State University in fall 2016 and is now a Senior Supervisor for cell culture at Charles River Laboratories.

Summer 2014 Research Group

Research Group – Summer 2014 (from the left: Berjana Nazarko, Livia Shehaj, Prof. Kovarik, and Ellie Clerc)

Lorena Lazo de la Vega (2013-2014, Trinity College) wrote her senior thesis on methods to load a reporter peptide into Dictyostelium  cells. This work involved her in cell culture, pinocytosis, electroporation, and fluorescence microscopy. She started graduate school in the PIBS program at the University of Michigan in 2014 and is currently pursuing her PhD in pathology in the Tomlins Lab.

Ranjit Poonen (2012-2013, UNC-Chapel Hill) developed a method for fabricating silica-like microfluidic devices from a sol-gel material and explored the surface characteristics of the resulting devices and their application to cell culture. He also did extensive fabrication with PDMS and electrophoretic separations of cell lysates on microchips for published work on peptidase activity in leukemia cells. He went on to pharmacy school at Campbell University.

Uduak Udoeyo (2012, Temple University) worked with Abby Turner and me in the Allbritton lab as part of the Biophysical Society Summer Course at UNC-Chapel Hill. She characterized the enzyme kinetics for a potential peptide reporter for spleen tyrosine kinase (SYK) and presented this work at Pittcon 2013 in Philadelphia. She is a quantitative consultant at Manatt, Phelps, and Phillips, LLC.

Ronald Smith (2011, NC A&T SU) started a new project on giant unilamellar vesicles, which we hope to use as proxies for cells in characterizing new single-cell instrumentation. He started this work with me at NC A&T SU, gained admission to a summer program at UNC-CH to continue over the summer, and then completed the project for credit with me at A&T the following semester. Ronald experimented with different applied voltages, lipid and buffer compositions, using fluorescence microscopy and flow cytometry to characterize the resulting vesicles. In 2011, he won a travel award to present this work at the Annual Biomedical Research Conference for Minority Students in St. Louis, MO. He is currently attending pharmacy school at Howard University, where he was student body president in 2015-2016, and is pursuing research on HIV.

Jessie Xiong (2010-2011, UNC-Chapel Hill) worked on numerous aspects of a project to characterize sample transport on a microfluidic device for single-cell analysis. She fabricated devices, prepared lipid coatings, cultured, stained and fixed cells, ran electrophoretic separations on-chip, and analyzed video data of flow in the device. Her contributions led to co-authorship on a publication on this work in the journal Electrophoresis in 2011. She went on to work in the Lineberger Cancer Center at UNC.

Graham Erwin (2008-2009, IU-Bloomington) investigated the maximum electric field strength and minimum frequency that bacteria can tolerate before electroporation compromises the cell membrane. His work helped our lab think about how we could use electroosmosis to transport bacteria in microchip devices without damaging them. Graham presented this work at the 2010 Microscale Bioseparations conference in Prague. He completed his PhD in biochemistry in the Ansari Lab at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 2016 and is currently a postdoctoral scholar in the Kim Lab at Stanford University.

Sam Sudhoff (2006, IU-Bloomington) developed a method to isolate individual nanopores in a polymer film using photolithography at IU-Bloomington. Sam used scanning electron microscopy and current measurements on a picoammeter to characterize the patterned films. He is now a research technician at Molecular Products.

Noah Herron (2005, IU-Bloomington) used fluorescent microparticles to study the variables affecting rachet-like flow driven by alternating electric fields in a series of diverging or converging microchannels. To do this project, Noah learned fluorescence microscopy, electrokinetic transport, and LabView design. Noah has since founded his own business, Urban Farmer, selling organic seeds.