Michael Abrams, Ph.D.
I grew up in California, and earned my bachelor’s degree in molecular biology at San Jose State University. I earned my Ph.D. in molecular microbiology at UT Southwestern, and joined the Diamond lab in August 2020. My research interests include mechanisms by which tau strains develop and are maintained, and their effects on cell biology.
Graduate Student: Immunology
Raised in Delhi, India, I came to the U.S. for my studies, graduating from SUNY Buffalo with a B.S. in biochemistry and biology and a minor in pharmacology and toxicology. As the only immunology student in the Diamond lab, I focus on the role of the immune system in tauopathies, studying cellular tau entry and transfer of tau aggregates between astroglia cells, as well as identifying the proteins that play a part in the aggregation and release of tau. I enjoy sketching, stand-up comedy, and nephology.
Research Technician II
I earned my bachelor’s degree in cell biology at the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor, and worked as a research technician in physiology and regenerative medicine at Texas A&M. in 2019 I joined the Diamond lab, where I specialize in cell culture and molecular biology techniques. I enjoy reading, chess, and being a brony.
Julita Chlebowicz, M.S.
Graduate Student: Cell and Molecular Biology
I earned my master's in biotechnology from the Warsaw University of Technology. I came to UTSW to study WNK kinases under Dr. Elizabeth Goldsmith in the Biophysics Department. The diverse opportunities here inspired me to apply to the graduate school. Currently, I am developing biosensors to detect protein aggregation of alpha synuclein, amyloid beta, and tau. When I’m not racking my brain trying to understand these proteins, I can be found painting, at the theater, or exploring the United States.
Research Associate (Lab Manager)
I received my bachelor of science in 1999 from Randolph-Macon Woman’s College in Lynchburg, Virginia. My career began at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, followed by the University of Louisville in Kentucky, and Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri. I recentenly earned certification as an assistant laboratory animal technician (ALAT). I am an avid local tourist and I dote on my fur-baby, Dolche, a Chihuahua/terrier mix.
Dana Dodd, Ph.D.
Senior Research Scientist
I received my B.A. in biochemistry and molecular biology at UC Santa Cruz and my Ph.D. in microbiology and immunology from Stanford, where I studied poliovirus proteins. For my postdoc, I worked at the University of Zurich, investigating the neurite inhibitor Nogo-A. I then moved to UTSW’s Microbiology Department, where I discovered how a bacterial protein inhibits phagocytosis. Now, in the Diamond lab, I employ CRISPR-Cas9 screens to find proteins involved in tau seeding and propagation.
Sandi Jo Estill-Terpack
I grew up around Dallas, and earned a B.S. in genetics from Texas A&M. I then joined UTSW's Department of Biochemistry, where I helped plan, perform, and oversee various animal studies, including discovery of the neuroprotective drug P7C3. In the Diamond lab, I assist in studies of tau protein’s physiology and pathology in mouse models. I am a total science nerd, sci-fi geek, steampunk enthusiast, and painter; if I am not devouring a new book, I'll have a paintbrush in hand working on my next masterpiece.
Lab Inventory Coordinator
I am from Dallas, born and raised, where everything is bigger in Texas. I joined UTSW in 2015 as an animal care attendant, earning three PACT cards recognizing my dedication and hard work. I was promoted to a junior animal technician in March 2016 and completed the assistant laboratory animal technician certification (ALAT) in animal husbandry. I joined the Diamond lab in June 2017 as a Lab Technician Assistant II. I am working towards achieving my goals for the future, as well as getting to know each individual lab member.
Jan N. Garcia
Research Study Coordinator
I earned my B.A. in neuroscience from Skidmore College in 2015, where I studied the mechanisms of Alzheimer’s disease using a Drosophila model. I then completed my pre-medicine requirements at Brooklyn College while working as a project coordinator in emergency medicine at NYU School of Medicine. At UTSW, I work with study participants in Dr. Hitt’s translational research, developing biomarker assays for neurodegenerative diseases. I enjoy playing the guitar, singing, dancing, exercising, and meditating.
Graduate Student: Neuroscience
I was born and raised in Turkmenistan, and earned my bachelor’s degree in molecular biology at the University of Kansas. In the Diamond lab, I am interested in designing tools to study tau exocytosis and implementing this tool in human induced pluripotent stem cells. I enjoy being with my family, reading and spending time in nature.
Haris Girish, D.V.M., Ph.D.
I am from Chennai, India, where I earned my doctorate in veterinary medicine at Madras Veterinary College. After working as a veterinarian, I earned my master’s and doctoral degrees in animal genetics at MVC. As a postdoctoral associate at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, I studied the effects of gut microbiome on lactation in mice. I recently joined the Diamond lab, and currently support the ongoing research.
Brian Hitt, M.D., Ph.D.
Behavioral Neurology Fellow
I started at the Center for Alzheimer's and Neurodegenerative Diseases in 2017 during my Neurology residency. My research focuses on harnessing the insights and tools developed by the Diamond lab’s basic research to directly benefit patients with neurodegenerative diseases. By targeting the molecular changes that underlie these diseases, we hope to develop new methods for diagnosis and treatment.
Lab Technical Assistant II
A Dallas native, I am working on my associate’s degree in veterinary technology at Cedar Valley College. I joined UT Southwestern as an animal tech, and in August 2019 joined the Diamond/ Bailey labs. I will soon complete my certification as an laboratory animal technician. Outside of work, I enjoy spending time with my husband and daughter, having family get-togethers, traveling, and having fun!
Sourav Kolay, Ph.D.
I am from India, and earned my Ph.D. at the National Centre for Biological Sciences in Bangalore, where I studied lipid signaling in neuronal cells. I joined the laboratory in August 2017. I am interested in understanding the mechanisms and machinery that underlie the progressive spread of tau. I am currently working on a screen, using advanced genetic methods, to identify the molecules involved in the spread of tau.
I grew up in Buffalo, Minnesota, and earned a B.S. in neuroscience with a minor in psychology at the U of M Twin Cities. I am pursuing a joint M.D./Ph.D. through UTSW’s Medical Scientist Training Program. I investigate the diversity of diseases that may contain tau prions, especially inflammatory brain conditions. We hope to uncover the breadth of tau pathology, and better understand factors that initiate tau seed formation. I enjoy rock climbing, playing music, spending time with my family and friends, and petting my two cats.
Ayde Oliva, M.S., Ph.D.
I grew up in Hidalgo, Mexico, and earned my B.S. degree in biomedical research, and my M.S. and Ph.D. in biochemistry, at the National Autonomous University of Mexico. In the Diamond lab, I study the relationship between the conformational diversity of tau protein aggregates and other amyloid proteins present in neurodegenerative diseases. We think that co-existence of a specific tau strain with certain states of associated proteins could define the neuropathology and clinical symptoms of neurodegenerative disease.
Graduate Student: Molecular Biophysics
I was born and raised in Laredo, Texas, and received my B.S. in chemical engineering from Stanford University. Now, under the guidance of my co-mentors, Drs. Lukasz Joachimiak and Marc Diamond, I investigate the roles that different molecular chaperones play in neurodegenerative diseases. I am also interested in developing novel therapeutic and imaging strategies for neurodegenerative diseases. I enjoy collecting cute things, making origami sculptures, and trying to keep my plants alive.
Bill Russ, Ph.D.
I received my bachelor's degree in biochemistry from Cornell, and my Ph.D. in molecular biophysics and biochemistry at Yale. I came to UTSW as a postdoc, and then became a research-track professor in the Green Center for Systems Biology. I study the types of energetic interactions that establish protein structure and function, how they are distributed in proteins, and how evolution guided the organization of natural proteins. I am now identifying the sequence determinants underlying high-order protein aggregatation.
Clarissa Valdez, Ph.D.
I am from Chicago, and received my B.A. in molecular biology from Pomona College. I then earned my Ph.D. in neuroscience from Northwestern University. While there, I worked with Dr. Dimitri Krainc to study whether reduced progranulin expression due to PGRN mutations in frontemporal dementia causes lysosomal dysfunction. I joined the Diamond lab as a D-SPAN postdoctoral scholar to investigate mechanisms of tau aggregation and propagation in iPSC-derived neurons.
Graduate Student: Neuroscience
I earned my bachelor’s degree in cellular and molecular biology from the University of Puerto Rico-Rio Piedras, where I studied neurodegenerative diseases under Dr. Irving Vega (now at Michigan State University). I am currently interested in developing tools to characterize amyloid structures, to understand the relationship between the conformational diversity of tau protein aggregates and the various tauopathy syndromes.
Tony Vega, Ph.D.
A native Texan, I received my bachelor’s degree in physics from St. Mary’s University and my PhD in molecular biophysics from UT Southwestern, developing computer vision tools to characterize protein interactions and organization at the single-molecule level. In a joint position with the Rajaram lab, my postdoctoral research focuses on using machine learning to better characterize tissue pathologies caused by various tau strains, particularly in patients with more than one neurodegenerative disease.
Ting Yang, M.D.
I study biochemistry and molecular and cell biology of neuronal degeneration during aging of the mammalian brain, particularly in Alzheimer's disease (AD). I also research therapies for AD based on anti-tau therapies. I joined the CAND in 2017, following work with Dr. Dennis Selkoe at Harvard Medical School developing biomarkers to treat and diagnose AD.
Amy Zwierzchowski-Zarate, M.S.
Graduate Student: Neuroscience
Originally from Chicago, I earned a combined B.S./M.S. in neuroscience at UT Dallas, investigating synaptic and cellular mechanisms that underly autism and attention. After working with dementia patients in clinical research, I joined Marc’s lab to study sporadic neurodegenerative disease. I focus on the roles of tau protein in normal and pathological states, and what mechanisms drive the protein between these forms. I also enjoy science communication and outreach, advocating for women in science, and teaching.