Graduate Alumni Updates

Dr. Heather Megosh (Lin Lab, 2006)

Dr. Heather Vita (Kuhn Lab, 2004)

Dr. Paloma Giangrande (McDonnell Lab, 1999)

Dr. Giangrande received her PhD in Pharmacology and Cancer Biology from Duke University in 1999, under Dr. Donald McDonnell when the therapeutic potential of RNAi-based therapies had just been unveiled. This moved her to pursue postdoctoral training positions to learn about breakthroughs in cell/molecular biology and RNA therapeutics. Her first postdoc position was with Dr. Joseph Nevins in the Department of Genetics at Duke. Under Joe’s mentorship, she worked on transcription factors and their role in regulating the cell cycle and in disease. In 2004, she pursued a second postdoc in the lab of Dr. Bruce Sullenger, in the Department of Surgery at Duke University, to learn about RNA therapeutics and delivery technologies.  During this time, she pioneered the use of aptamers for cell-targeted delivery of siRNAs. In 2007, Dr. Giangrande was appointed Assistant Professor in the Department of Internal Medicine at the University of Iowa. Over the past 13 years, her laboratory has pioneered the development, optimization, and in vitro and in vivo characterization of cell-specific RNA aptamers (RNA SMART Drugs) for the treatment of cancer (breast and prostate), vascular disease, and critical illness. In 2013, she was promoted to Associate Professor of Internal Medicine at the University of Iowa. In April of 2018, Dr. Giangrande also joined Moderna Therapeutics in Cambridge, MA as Director to develop messenger RNA-based therapies for rare metabolic diseases.

Her contributions to the field have been recognized with awards from the American Association for Cancer Research and the University of Iowa and a prestigious Young Investigator Award from the American Society for Gene and Cell Therapy (ASGCT). She serves on the Board of Directors of several scientific societies including; ASGCT and the Oligonucleotide Therapeutics Society, and is a member of the Scientific Advisory Board for the Keystone Symposia. (updated January 2019)

Dr. Kristina (Dam) Chadwick (Slotkin Lab, 2000)

Kristina Dam ChadwickDr. Kristina D. Chadwick received her PhD in Pharmacology and Toxicology from Duke University under Dr. Theodore Slotkin with a dissertation on neurodevelopmental toxicity of the pesticide, chlorpyrifos. She continued her research with pesticides at the University of Washington in Seattle before joining the pharmaceutical industry, first at Targeted Genetics, then Roche Palo Alto, and now at Bristol- Myers Squibb where she is currently a Director and Therapy Area Head for Fibrotic and Metabolic Diseases in Drug Safety Evaluation. In her current capacity she is involved with therapeutics at all stages of development, discovery through life-cycle management. She engages with global health authorities to support the development of human medicines and had a direct role in the marketing approval for Onglyza, Kombiglyze XR, and Qtern.

Dr. Chadwick is a Full Member of the Society of Toxicology, American College of Toxicology and is a Diplomate of the American Board of Toxicology (DABT). She has been a very active member of the Women in Toxicology Special Interest Group of the SOT, served as Co-Chair of SOT’s Special Interest Group Collaboration Group, and is currently Co-Chair of the SOT Membership Committee. (updated March 2018)

Dr. Kevin Jones (VanDongen Lab, 2001)

Kevin JonesDr. Jones holds a PhD in Pharmacology from Duke University (2001). He is currently an Assistant Professor in the Department of Pharmacology at the University of Michigan Medical School. His research interests include the neurophysiology and neuropharmacology of mental health disorders. His current work focuses on discovering novel medicines for treating post-traumatic stress disorder and identifying novel drug targets for the treatment of major depression and schizophrenia. Dr. Jones’ work has appeared in many journals including Neuron, The Journal of Neuroscience, the International Journal of Comparative Psychology, and others. Dr. Jones’ past affiliations include, Howard University, Instituto Ramon y Cajal, in Madrid, Spain; Johns Hopkins University Medical School, College of Osteopathic Medicine of the Pacific, University of Cincinnati, Pomona College and Charles Drew University Medical School. Dr. Jones is a member of the Society for Neuroscience, and is the immediate Past-President of the DC metro chapter of the Society of Neuroscience. He currently serves as the chair of the Diversity in Neuroscience Sub-Committee of the SfN Professional Development Committee. He is a member of the Executive Committee of Neuropharmacology Division of the American Society for Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics. In addition to managing his research team, Dr. Jones is also an award-winning instructor who enjoys teaching both undergraduate and graduate students. Each summer he teaches in the Summer Program in Neuroscience Ethics and Success (SPINES) held at the Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole, MA. In his spare time he enjoys spending time traveling with his family and coaching his two sons football teams. (updated December 2017)

Dr. Melissa Rhodes (Slotkin Lab, 2003)

Melissa RhodesMelissa Rhodes, PhD DABT earned her PhD from Duke University in Pharmacology/Integrated Toxicology with a focus on developmental toxicology (1999-2003) and received board certification from the American Board of Toxicology (DABT) in 2007. She completed a postdoctoral fellowship at the National Toxicology Program (NTP) at the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (RTP, NC). She then managed nonclinical safety assessment and DMPK for Erimos Pharmaceuticals (Raleigh, NC) before joining GSK where she directed nonclinical projects in various stages of drug development. She received two GSK Pipeline Awards for key contributions to the development of integrase inhibitors for the treatment of HIV and received the American College of Toxicology (ACT) Young Investigator Award in 2011. In 2015, she moved to Roivant Sciences as Vice President of Nonclinical Research where she is responsible for nonclinical research groups including pharmacology, toxicology, drug metabolism/pharmacokinetics, and bioanalysis. She has been a key contributor to >18 IND submissions and 2 NDA/MAA approvals (Tivicay and Triumeq) and has participated in multiple meetings with regulatory agencies in the US, Europe, and Canada. (updated December 2017)

Dr. Dan Kaplan (Casey Lab, 2004)

 Dan KaplanI was a Pharmacology doctoral student in Pat Casey’s lab from 1999-2004. In Pat’s lab, I studied the intersection between G proteins and cadherin/beta-catenin signaling and discovered a role for beta-catenin in centrosome separation during cell division. Perhaps more important than any discovery I made, my time working with Pat taught me the importance of persistence and a positive attitude in science. Though most of my experiments failed, I always walked out of our data discussions with a plan and hope that the next experiment might work. Occasionally, they did.

Following completion of my Ph.D., I moved on to Stanford, where I was a postdoc working jointly in the labs of Matt Scott and Tobias Meyer. From there I transitioned into biotech as a scientist at NGM Bio in South San Francisco, where I currently serve as Associate Director of Biology. At NGM, I lead a research group and manage drug discovery programs in numerous therapeutic areas, including metabolic disease, immune-oncology, and antimicrobials. When I am not sciencing, I can probably be found riding my bike, enjoying the outdoors and training for my next 12 hour mountain bike race. (updated December 2017)

Dr. Aisha Chow (Means Lab, 2005)

Aisha ChowI was a graduate student from 1999 to 2005 and completed my doctoral work with Dr. Tony Means, elucidating the transcriptional regulation of calcium/calmodulin-dependent protein kinase IV (CaMKIV), a player in calcium-signaling pathways important in immune regulation and synaptic plasticity. After graduation, I waived a post-doc and went directly into industry, starting as a scientist at FibroGen, a biotech company in San Francisco. Years later, I am still at the same company (now as a Principal Scientist) and still having fun – I lead a research group focused on mobilizing my company’s expertise toward developing first-in-class treatments for diseases where there is unmet patient need, including fibrosis and cancer. The lessons I first learnt at Duke – that optimism should be balanced with extreme scientific rigor, skepticism, and unbiased analysis – have served me well in my career. In my life outside the lab/office, I am an avid rower. In 2016, I represented my home country, Trinidad & Tobago, at the Rio Olympics, and I continue to compete and represent Trinidad & Tobago at elite international rowing competitions. (updated December 2017)

Dr. Zach Schafer (Kornbluth Lab, 2006)

Zach SchaferI was a graduate student from 2001-2006 with Dr. Sally Kornbluth studying the regulation of apoptosis downstream of mitochondrial cytochrome c release in cancer cells. Following the completion of my dissertation, I joined Dr. Joan Brugge’s laboratory at Harvard Medical School where I worked on understanding the relationship between detachment from the extracellular matrix (ECM), cell metabolism, and the viability of cancer cells. In 2009, I returned to my undergraduate alma mater (Notre Dame) as an Assistant Professor in the Biological Sciences department. I was promoted to Associate Professor with Tenure in 2015. My lab ( continues to study how cancer cells evade cell death programs that are induced by ECM-detachment and we have become very interested in mitochondrial changes that impact cancer cell viability. Our most recent paper on this topic was published in Nature Cell Biology:

I remember my time at Duke quite fondly and am particularly grateful for the training I received from Sally and other lab members. She taught all of us in the lab to be thoughtful, enthusiastic, and incisive scientists and promoted an environment where questions were asked abundantly and openly. I have heard numerous times that Sally’s influence on how I do science is evident when I talk about my own lab’s work—this is probably the highest compliment I have ever gotten! I am still a big Duke basketball fan, although Notre Dame being part of the ACC has become an issue. When not at work, I am spending time with my family. My wife, Veronica, and I are proud parents of 5 children: Noah (11 and born in Durham), Ethan (9), Claire (5), Ava (4), and Simon (2 weeks old). (updated February 2018)

Dr. Nicole Moore (Kuhn Lab, 2009)

Nicole Moore completed her PhD in Pharmacology in 2009 in the Kuhn lab. She studied developmental differences in learning and memory impairment from tetrahydrocannabinol, the psychoactive component of marijuana, in rats. After completing her PhD, she did postdoctoral work at Purdue University and then received a postdoctoral fellowship from the National Academies to do preclinical studies in traumatic stress at Walter Reed Army Institute of Research. Following the end of her fellowship, she commissioned as a Research Psychologist in the US Army. After serving as a project manager, Captain Moore became the chief scientist of the DoD’s principal laboratory for drug development to treat post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). She also oversees a broader research task area developing pharmacological approaches to support psychological health relevant to military service. A unique aspect of being a scientist in the military is the opportunity to learn new fields and positions in R&D with different research assignments, she is looking forward to taking on a new challenge next year. (updated December 2017)

Dr. Matt Howe (Haystead Lab, 2015)

Matt HoweFollowing Matt’s PhD at Duke, he was a postdoctoral fellow at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases in the Laboratory of Infectious Diseases. While at the NIH, he completed an internship in the NIAID Technology Transfer and Intellectual Property Office. Subsequently, he was the Innovation and Entrepreneurship Fellow at the UNC Eshelman Institute for Innovation at the UNC Eshelman School of Pharmacy. There he focused on commercializing intellectual property generated in the School of Pharmacy. Recently, Matt became a Licensing Analyst in the Office of Technology Commercialization and New Ventures at NC State. (updated December 2017)

Dr. Kaleb Naegeli (Sherwood Lab, 2017)

Kaleb NaegeliKaleb reports that he is now in the UNC Eshelman School of Pharmacy’s Catalyst for Rare Diseases, a research group working on biology and therapeutics for rare and understudied genetic conditions. We are also very excited to share that the bulk of Kaleb’s PhD work has come out in Developmental Cell as the feature article! It’s online here. (updated December 2017)