Lianghao Ding, Ph.D., Assistant Professor
Dr. Ding earned his Ph.D. at Tohoku University, School of Medicine in Sendai, Japan. He received post-doc training at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in biophysics and bioinformatics. He later joined UTSW to work on multiple NASA-funded radiation research projects in the Story Lab and help run a genomics core facility under Simmons Cancer Center. His latest research is to study the risk of carcinogenesis for space radiation, especially the risk of hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) caused by high-energy ion (HZE) radiation that affects astronauts during deep space expeditions. By analyzing genomics profiles in mouse models, Dr. Ding has identified subgroup of human HCC patients that share genomics features with HZE radiation-induced HCC in mice, which will help other studies that focus on mechanisms of radiation-induced carcinogenesis, and better estimate the risk of space radiation.
Dr. Ding’s long-term research focus is to discover non-invasive biomarkers, such as circulating miRNAs, that can be used for early diagnosis of diseases and for prediction of therapeutic outcomes. Overall, these efforts will facilitate personalized medicine. Dr. Ding is also interested in discovering functionally significant isoform switches associated with cancer and radio sensitivity via computational biology approaches.
Zengfu Shang, Ph.D., Research Assistant Professor
Dr. Shang earned his Ph.D. from Beijing Institute of Radiation Medicine. His research interests include the molecular mechanism of IR-induced DNA damage repair and identifying an approach to radiosensitize cancers to prevent IR-induced normal tissue injury.
Narasimha Kumar Karanam, Ph.D., Instructor
Dr. Karanam earned his Ph.D. at the University of Greifswald in Germany with Professor Uwe Volker and he later joined Dr. Michael Story’s lab to study the role of miRNAs in high-risk head and neck cancer. His long-term research interests involve understanding key developmental pathways of gene alteration and protein expression in cancer and disease phenotypes. Dr. Karanam is currently working on elucidating novel mechanisms of TTFields mechanisms of action. His contribution to finding a novel role of TTFields in DNA damage response and replication stress pathways has led to proposing novel combination therapies using PARP1 inhibitors and DNA damaging agents together with TTFields. He recently received a career development award from AACR to understand the system level effects caused by TTFields exposure through trans-omics approaches in order to find novel combination therapies that can be translated into tangible benefits for cancer patients.
Britta Langen, Ph.D., Visiting Instructor
Dr. Langen received her Dipl.-Biol. with an informatics minor from RWTH Aachen University, Germany, and wrote her graduate thesis in radiation biology at the German Aerospace Center (DLR) in Cologne, Germany. Moving to Sweden, she earned her Ph.D. in bioscience at Chalmers University of Technology. Her dissertation on radiation biomarker screening for normal tissue exposure was awarded the Assar Gabrielsson Award for best thesis in experimental research. She completed her postdoc training at University of Gothenburg, Sweden, where she pioneered age and sex bias research and translational chronobiology to improve pre-clinical radiation research. For this purpose, she also established a bioinformatics collaboration to apply machine learning and genetic algorithms to radiation biomarker discovery.
During her training, Dr. Langen has gained experience with unbound radionuclides and labeled radiopharmaceuticals, drug combination therapy of patient derived xenografts, external beam radiotherapy, and accelerated heavy ions. She has been on prolonged research visits to the HIMAC-NIRS facility in Chiba, Japan, and the Institut de Biologie Physico-Chimique (IBPC) in the Campus Curie in Paris, France. Dr. Langen is Vice Chair of the Scholars-In-Training Committee of the Radiation Research Society and founding member of the Initiative Radiation Researchers for Equity, Diversity, and Inclusivity.
She joined the Story Lab to improve cancer therapy using superoxide dismutase mimetics as radioprotectors and enhancers of radioimmune therapy.
Elizabeth Polsdofer, M.S., Graduate Student
Elizabeth received her B.S. in physics from Iowa State (2013) where she completed research on the CERN-based ATLAS project as a Bernice Black Durand Scholar. After graduating, Elizabeth took a research year at the Space Telescope Science Institute to investigate infrared variable stars before beginning her M.S. in medical physics at the Oregon Medical Physics Program (2016). Her master’s dissertation focused on improving dose estimates to normal tissues from eye plaque brachytherapy.
Since joining the biomedical engineering graduate program and Dr. Story’s lab in 2016, Elizabeth’s research has focused on the tumor response to different radiation modalities. Her doctoral dissertation involves modeling tumor response to radiation for predicting the clinical benefits of heavy ion radiation. Additionally, Elizabeth manages a grant funded through NASA that examines the risk of space-radiation-induced lung carcinogenesis in wild type BALB/c mouse models.
Once she earns her Ph.D. from UT Southwestern, Elizabeth plans to enter the medical physics match and become a board-certified medical physicist.
Outside the lab Elizabeth enjoys volunteering at St. Monica's where she teaches confirmation and sings in the adult choir. She also enjoys quilting, listening to podcasts, baking, and spending time with her coonhound Bentley. Follow Elizabeth on Twitter!
Mingming Yang, M.S., Research Associate
Mingming received her M.S. from Peking University in 2014 and M.D. equivalent from Anhui Medical University in 2011. She worked as a research assistant in the Pathology Department since 2016 where her main focus was basic research of epigenetic regulation on PARP1-dependent DNA damage and repair. In August 2019, Mingming joined the Molecular Radiation Biology Division, working on the interaction between nanomedicine and immune cells and its implications of cancer therapy.
In March 2021, Mingming joined Dr. Story’s Lab where she will focus on studying the role of an SOD (super oxide dismutase) mimetic drug, GC4419, on immune response induced by radiation therapy—especially to investigate the effect on activating/inhibiting macrophages. She is also interested in exploring the damage and repair mechanism of GC4419 after radiation, specifically through PARP1 hyperactivation.
James Nicholson, Research Assistant II
James earned his B.S. in biochemistry at the University of North Texas, where he studied the symbiotic relationship between Rhizobia and Medicago truncatula in the nitrogen fixation process. He joined the Molecular Radiation Biology Division in the fall of 2017 and moved into Dr. Story’s lab in the summer of 2018. One of his focuses in the lab is performing in vivo studies with radiation while looking for synergistic effects with various therapeutics.
In his free time, he enjoys spending time with family, going on walks in the park with his girlfriend, and picking locks for fun.
Alexander Pieper, Research Assistant II
Alex graduated with a B.A. in psychology and a B.S. in anthropology from Southern Methodist University in 2017. Following graduation, he began working in the clinical research division of a national gastroenterology group, where he helped publish and present findings on the improved efficacy of biologic treatments, compared with steroidal alternatives, in the treatment of inflammatory bowel disease. In 2018, Alex began pursuing a master's degree in biochemistry and molecular biology at the University of Nebraska Medical Center. Throughout his studies, he worked with Dr. Kate Hyde’s research group to investigate the mechanism through which histone deacetylase-1 regulates the transcriptional activity of runt-related transcription factor-1 (Runx-1) in the progression of inversion-16 leukemia.
In the fall of 2019, after earning his master's, he joined Dr. Story’s lab as a research assistant. In his role, Alex works in close conjunction with the clinical research team to oversee tissue processing and management for Radiation Oncology clinical trials. He also works alongside Deepti to identify cancer biomarkers in blood plasma for early detection of HNSCC.
In his free time, Alex enjoys spending time with friends and family, playing golf, reading spy novels, and spending time with his French bulldog, April.
Delaney Felix, Research Assistant I
Delaney earned her bachelor's degree in biology from Texas A&M University in Corpus Christi. While there she focused on marine biology in her coursework and worked in a marine ecology lab with Dr. Lee Smee. She also accepted an internship with Texas Parks and Wildlife’s Coastal Fisheries department and learned even more about the local marine life and legal processes.
She joined Dr. Story’s lab after working within the ARC as a senior animal technician. Delaney will be working with Elizabeth on a grant funded through NASA to study the risks of space radiation induced lung carcinogenesis in mice.
In her free time, she enjoys taking her dogs to the park, reading good books, and baking.
Alexander Brennan, Research Assistant I
Alex received his bachelor's degree in biology from Trinity University in San Antonio in 2018. He then joined the Herz Lab in the Molecular Genetics Department where he primarily handled genotyping for Alzheimer's research. In 2021, Alex joined the Story Lab where he studies Tumor Treating Fields.
In his free time Alex enjoys listening to and playing music, video games, and outdoor activities like camping, sailing, and shooting.