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Lab Members

Natasha Buwa, Ph.D.

Postdoctoral Fellow

Natasha completed her PhD from IISER, Pune, India before joining the lab as a postdoc. In the lab, she is trying to understand the structure and function of the exocyst complex in exocytosis. Natasha thinks curiosity can only kill ignorance, which is sometimes made to look like a cat. 

Melonnie Furgason, Ph.D.

Senior Research Scientist

I graduated from Spring Arbor University in 2001 with a major in Biochemistry and minor in Math. I earned my Ph.D. In Biomedical Sciences from the UMass Medical School Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences in 2009 in the Munson lab studying the role of yeast Vps45p in membrane fusion. I spent 3.5 years as a postdoctoral fellow at Colorado State University in the Biochemistry and Molecular Biology Department. In 2013 I became a faculty member at Kettering College. In October of 2022 I returned to the Munson lab as a Senior Research Scientist. My area of interest focuses on how variants of human VPS45 affect its role in SNARE assembly.

Favorite lab equipment: FPLC (more like a love/hate relationship)
Favorite lab buffer: His Lysis Buffer
Favorite candy: Snickers
Favorite music: Disney and Soundtracks

Kristyn Norris

Kristyn Norris

Graduate Student

I graduated from Mount Holyoke College with a B.A. in Biochemistry (2016). In lab, I work on the VPS45 project, connecting genotype and phenotype on a variety of different levels. I perform characterization and functional analysis of neutrophils and other cell types that have been modified using CRISPR/Cas9. I am also studying the VPS45 protein and how the mutations are affecting it using an array of biochemical techniques to look at function and conformation.

Favorite Lab equipment:  that one pipette aid that actually works
Favorite Lab buffer:  pH 2 Glycine Buffer, I deal out harsh burns 
Favorite candy:  Skittles
Favorite music:  Classic “dad” rock and punk rock 

Helen Magana

Graduate Student

I graduated with my B.S. in Biology and a minor in Chemistry from Rhode Island College in 2020. Specific mutations in VPS45 cause a rare, severe congenital neutropenia. I hope my research can inform us about VPS45 function and regulation in endocytosis and how mutations effect this process.

Favorite Lab Equipment: the rusting microwave and the step stool
Favorite Lab Buffer: KPhos buffer
Favorite Candy: Almond Joy
Favorite Music: soft pop   

Havi Fisher

Research Associate

After completing a B.S in Integrated Biology and Chemistry at The Evergreen State College (2022), Havi was accepted as an NIH-PREP scholar at UMass Chan. They currently work on understanding the function of the exocyst complex in exocytosis. In addition to their work in the lab, they are dedicated to advocating for health equity, diversity, and disability inclusion within medicine and science.   

Rinalda Proko

Postdoctoral Fellow

I completed my Ph.D. in Cell and Molecular Biology program at the University of Arkansas. Additionally, I hold a Bachelor’s degree in biology and a Master's degree in Molecular Biology from the University of Tirana in Albania. For three years, I worked as a molecular biologist at the Institute of Public Health in the Infectious Disease Control Department in Tirana, where I focused on monitoring viral diseases and conducting biosecurity risk assessments. Moreover, I am a member of the Postdoctoral and Student Committee at the American Society of Cell Biology, where I am committed to science outreach activities that enhance networking, visibility, inclusivity, and diversity in science.
In the lab, my research interests center on understanding the molecular mechanisms of exocytic vesicle docking and fusion to the plasma membrane.

Favorite Lab equipment: Microscope
Favorite Lab buffer: RIPA lysis buffer
Favorite candy: Kinder
Favorite music: Classic and jazz   

Roey Chen

Undergraduate Student

I'm currently pursuing a B.S. in Biochemistry and a minor in Bioinformatics and Computational Biology at Worcester Polytechnic Institute. I'm excited to learn more about intracellular transport mechanisms as I explore how mammalian VPS45 functions and interacts with its SNAREs.

Favorite equipment: Multichannel pipette (and thin colored sharpies!!!)
Favorite candy: Sour patch watermelon
Favorite music: Pop, R&B, and jazz