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Matriculating 2019

  • Vincent N. Azzolino

    Vincent N. Azzolino

    Vincent N. Azzolino is a graduate of Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) with a BS in Chemistry. Before entering UMassMed as an MD/PhD Candidate in 2019, he conducted research at WPI in the fields of organometallic and green chemistry utilizing synthesis techniques and computational modeling. He also worked as UMassMed in the department of Dermatology, investigating the pathogenesis of vitiligo through the use of animal models in Dr. John Harris’s Lab.

    He has finished rotations in the labs of Dr. Celia Schiffer, studying novel APOBEC applications through computational modeling, and Dr. Sanjay Ram on preventing chlamydia trachomatis and understanding it’s co-infection with Neisseria gonorrhoeae. As a current first year, he expects to rotate with more PIs during the summer of 2020. curriculum prior to choosing a thesis advisor.

  • Jillian Belgrad

    Jillian Belgrad

    Originally from Weston, MA, Jillian graduated from Colgate University in 2017 with a B.A. in Cellular Neuroscience and a minor in Biology. After graduation, Jillian worked for two years as a post-baccalaureate research fellow at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, MD. There, she researched the development of myelinating glial cells, in particular oligodendrocytes, in the lab of Dr. R. Douglas Fields.

    As a first-year student in the MD/PhD program, Jillian is now excited to continue in the field of neurobiology investigating the contributions of neuron-glia interactions in neurological disorders. During the summer of 2019, Jillian rotated in Dr. Paul Greer’s lab, inquiring how olfactory chemoreceptors expressed on the brain’s resident immune cells, or microglia, regulate the microglia’s ability to phagocytose synapses. She will select a thesis advisor after completing two additional lab rotations during the summer of 2020.

    In her free time, Jillian loves to run, bake cookies, and is excited to become involved in neurology and pediatric interest groups on campus. Jillian’s favorite aspect about UMassMed are the people, especially the incredibly warm, brilliant, and dedicated professors and the immense support and mentorship networks on campus.

  • Theodore Carrigan-Broda

    Theodore Carrigan-Broda

    A College of Charleston graduate, Theodore is an aspiring physician-researcher with a liberal-arts BS in biochemistry and chemistry. In addition to performing heterocyclic organometalloid synthesis and computation-based conformational analysis research under Dr. Gamil Guirgis during his undergraduate education, Theodore conducted investigations into antimalarial drug candidates derived from natural sponge products in the lab of Dr. Mark Hamann at the Medical University of South Carolina. Theodore is also a licensed Emergency Medical Technician.

    Theodore’s interdisciplinary research interests reside in the basic-science fields of biochemistry, pharmacology, and medicinal chemistry; he is particularly drawn to small-molecule therapeutics research. Theodore has completed a research rotation in the lab of Dr. Celia Schiffer, where he chemically synthesized putative inhibitors of flavivirus proteases and characterized their in vitro biological activity. Theodore will select his thesis advisor following the completion of his further research rotations in summer 2020.

  • Jason Freedman

    Jason Freedman

    Jason Freedman graduated from Oberlin College in 2016 with a BA in Neuroscience. While at Oberlin, he investigated the patterns that underlie basic human decision-making under the mentorship of Dr. Michael Loose. Prior to entering UMass Chan Medical School as an MD/PhD candidate in 2019, he worked at Columbia University in the lab of Dr. Richard Axel. There, he studied olfactory learning and helped develop novel experimental methods for conducting fast-timescale, whole-brain calcium imaging in drosophila.

    Since matriculating at UMMS, he has rotated in the lab of Dr. Paul Greer, where he examined the possible role of a non-classical olfactory receptor in the function of microglial cells and Alzheimer's disease. His current research interests are centered around furthering our understanding of the fundamental building blocks of the CNS and neural circuity, specifically with the hope of learning how these systems give rise to complex behaviors and neurological diseases. He is continuing to explore various options for his thesis research topic, and thus has yet to decide on a mentor.

  • Abigail J. Hiller

    Abigail J. Hiller

    Abigail J. Hiller graduated from Vassar College with a B.A. in Psychological Science in 2017. After conducting undergraduate thesis research on the impact of alcohol on fear memories in mice, she spent two years studying metabolic dyshomeostasis in mouse models of Alzheimer’s Disease in Dr. Makoto Ishii's lab at Weill Cornell Medical College.

    Abigail is broadly interested in the physiological and neural basis of behavior. As an MD/PhD candidate at UMass, she has completed a rotation in the lab of Dr. Paul Greer, where she continued work developing an assay to identify new ligands of the chemoreceptor MS4A1, with the ultimate goal of characterizing its role in the murine olfactory system. She will complete two additional rotations over the summer of 2020 before choosing a thesis advisor.

    In her free time, Abigail enjoys listening to podcasts, science fiction novels, and juggling! She is looking forward to exploring Worcester and getting more involved in the community in the coming years.


  • Ayush Kumar

    Ayush Kumar

    Ayush Kumar graduated as the valedictorian from Washington University in St. Louis in 2019 with a BS in Biomedical Engineering along with a major in Healthcare Management. As an undergraduate, he conducted research in Dr. Joshua Swamidass’s lab in the field of computational pharmacology to predict the metabolite formation and toxicity of small drug molecules utilizing machine learning algorithms.

    His current research interests on engineering RNA interference therapies to make them more effective in treating diseases. He has finished a rotation in Dr. Erik Sontheimer’s Lab, which focused on developing a novel methodology to identify the off-target sites of CRISPR-dCas9. Ayush is still working on deciding his thesis advisor as he continues to rotate through other labs at UMassMed.

  • Eli Min

    Eli Min

    Eli Min graduated from Columbia University with a major in biology in 2016. He then conducted biological psychiatric research from 2016 to 2019 at Columbia University-New York State Psychiatric Institute Molecular Imaging and Neuropathology Department. His research focused on genetic and epigenetic changes in Major Depressive Disorder and Bipolar Disorder. In addition, he studied Glutamic Acid Decarboxylase mRNA and protein level changes in alcoholic post mortems using gender and aged-matched brain samples. Since matriculating into the MD/PhD program at UMassMed in 2019, he has rotated in the lab of Dr. Alexandra Bryne and plans to continue rotating and exploring his interests in Neuroregeneration and degeneration.

  • Laël Nethania Ngangmeni

    Laël Nethania Ngangmeni

    Laël N. Ngangmeni is a graduate of Geisinger Commonwealth School of Medicine with a Master’s degree in Biomedical Sciences. She received her BA in Pre-Medical studies and Psychology from Bard College at Simon’s Rock. While there, she completed a year-long senior thesis project on the consequences of the over-medicalization of childbirth practices in the United States and the new age revolt against such medicalization. She joined UMassMed as an MD/PhD candidate with a focus on Clinical and Population Health Research.

    Shaped by her experience as a Cameroonian immigrant to the United States, Laël’s research interests include infant and maternal health issues, health disparities—especially with regards to race and religion, immigrant and refugee health, and mental illness. She has completed a lab rotation with Dr. Nancy Byatt on screening for various mental illnesses in women during the perinatal period. She has yet to decide on a thesis advisor.

  • Yen Anh H. Nguyen

    Yen Anh H. Nguyen

    Yen Anh H. Nguyen attended Denison University in Granville, Ohio where she completed a BS in Biochemistry and a BA in Art History. At Denison, she studied RNA thermometers in bacteria messenger RNA under the supervision of Dr. Rachel Mitton-Fry. The year before matriculating at UMass Chan Medical School, she worked in the lab of Dr. Karl Obrietan at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center. In the Obrietan lab, she studied the signaling pathway of circadian rhythms in mice via protein profiling and two-photon in vivo imaging of animals.

    Her current research interest is in RNA therapeutics for genetic diseases. She has completed a rotation in the lab of Scot Wolfe on improving Cas12a (Cpf1) proteins to be utilized as gene-editing therapy. She is looking forward to completing rotations in translational research labs. As a first year, she has yet to decide on a thesis advisor.