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Lab Members

Mary Munson

Mary Munson, PhD


Office: LRB 905
Lab: LRB 970

Tel: 508-856-8318
Mary Munson was a double major in Chemistry and Biology at Washington University (St. Louis), receiving her bachelor's degree in 1989. In 1996, she received her Ph.D. from Yale University in Molecular Biophysics and Biochemistry. She was a postdoctoral fellow in the Department of Molecular Biology at Princeton University, where she was awarded both American Heart Association and NIH postdoctoral fellowships. She joined the faculty of Biochemistry and Molecular Pharmacology in 2001. The lab is highly collaborative and currently supported by Along with funding from NIGMS for her exocytosis research, she has also received, and funding from the DoDNIAID for the VPS45 project, and, in 2015, was awarded the inaugural Bassick Family Worcester Foundation Award for the nuclear export project. In addition to her passion for research, she has also been involved with teaching and curriculum development for in the GSBS, and is the recipient of several Dean’s awards for her outstanding contributions to curriculum development and student mentoring. She is the current Faculty advisor for our student SACNAS chapter. She is a leader of the Diversity Action committee in the BMP department, and organized and leads the new GSBS Faculty Focused on Inclusive Excellence committee, to engage and educate GSBS faculty to promote diversity, equity and inclusion on our campus, in our labs, and in our broader scientific communities. She is currently the co-chair of the ASCB’s Women in Cell Biology committee and a co-investigator of the ASCB’s AMP MOSAIC program for select K99 scholars. She recently became a Trained Facilitator for “Entering Mentoring,” a program sponsored by the Center for the Improvement of Mentored Experiences in Research (CIMER) to enable her to be a strong and supportive mentor to enable mentees to reach their full potentials in exciting and successful scientific careers.

Other Affiliations

Jen Forcina

Jen Forcina, PhD

Postdoctoral Associate

I earned my PhD in Molecular Biology, Cell Biology, and Biochemistry from Brown University in 2018. In general, I am interested in how membranes fuse and the proteins that regulate these fusion events. My post-doctoral research focuses on the VPS45 protein, and I am using both cell biology and biochemical approaches to investigate its function.

Favorite lab equipment:  P2 pipette
Favorite Lab Buffer:  Tris pH 8.0, because it's versatile
Favorite Candy:  Dark Chocolate

Leonora Martinez-Nunez

Leonora Martinez-Nunez, PhD

Postdoctoral Associate

I earned my Ph.D. in Cell Biology and Microbiology at the Center of Scientific Research and Higher Education of Ensenada (CICESE) in Baja California, Mexico (2016). As a postdoc, my work focuses on studying the architecture of the Exocyst complex across morphogenetically diverse eukaryotes. Additionally, I have a great interest in Scientific Illustration and Science Visualization. Visit my portfolio here.

Illustration featured in the Introduction to the June 2020 Special Issue of Protein Science, entitled “Cellular Dynamics

Favorite lab equipment:  ultracentrifuge
Favorite Buffer:  PE buffer, 80% ethanol by volume
Favorite Candy:  Reese’s
Favorite Music:  90’s grunge

Mike Feyder

Mike Feyder

Graduate Student

After graduating from Emmanuel college, I worked at Brown University as a research tech for 2 years before coming to UMass Med. I work on structural biology of the exocyst complex, mapping out interactions with SNAREs and trafficking proteins using cryo EM, and other biophysical techniques.

Favorite Lab equipment:  FPLC
Favorite Lab buffer:  Liquid nitrogen, because I'm so cool 
Favorite candy:  Skittles
Favorite music:  Hip hop 

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 

Brenda Thomas

Brenda Thomas

Lab Technician

I earned my B.S in Biology and minored in Chemistry from Worcester State University. I am focusing on the impact of the dysfunctional VPS45 protein and understanding its role in Severe Congenital Neutropenia (SCN). Both biochemistry and neutrophil biology are applied in researching this study.  

Favorite Lab equipment: Confocal Microscope  
Favorite candy: Snickers 
Favorite music: Gospel music

Brittany Jette

Brittany Jette

Undergraduate Student (WPI)

I am a senior at Worcester Polytechnic Institute studying Biology and Biotechnology with a minor in Global Public Health. I am currently working on categorizing exocyst mutants and their corresponding human diseases, as well as creating and testing the mutant phenotypes in yeast cells.

Favorite lab equipment: The scrub brush
Favorite candy: Hershey’s Bar
Favorite music: Everything and anything