Developmental Biology Graduate Students

Brett Deml, a graduate student in Dr. Semina’s laboratory, joined the PhD program in Basic and Translational Sciences and IDP after four years of working in a clinical genetics lab. He is also enrolled in the PHD Program in Basic and Translational Science. His project focuses on anophthalmia, microphthalmia and ocular coloboma, using whole exome sequencing to identify novel factors involved in these disorders. A number of genes have been shown to be involved in these disorders but a large proportion of cases remain unexplained.

Kathryn Hendee, a graduate student in Dr. Semina's laboratory, is also a part of the PhD program in Basic and Translational Sciences and IDP. Her project focuses on study of the PITX transcription factor family and identification of novel genetic factors involved in anterior segment dysgenesis conditions. Her scientific passion is being in the lab performing experiments and making discoveries and she values the opportunity to see her work have a direct influence on improving the lives of patients.

Kevin Wright, a graduate student in Dr. Shim’s laboratory, is enrolled in the IDP. His scholastic interests are in developmental biology and genetics, and he is currently working to understand the molecular signals that control specification of inner ear cells. His aim in the Shim lab is to use both mouse genetics and an in vitro embryonic stem cell model to get a more precise understanding of the functions of multiple signals that induce inner ear cells. The long-term goal of these studies is to inform efforts to better differentiate inner ear cells in culture for use in the treatment of hearing deficits.

Past Students

Bethany Kloss, PhD, completed her PhD work in 2012 in Dr. Semina's laboratory. Her research focused on genes involved in anterior segment development. She currently works as a Senior Scientist at University Research Park in Madison.

Kala Schilter, PhD, the first graduate of the newly established PhD in Basic and Translational Science program, completed her PhD work in 2013 in Dr. Semina’s laboratory where her research focused on the identification of new genes involved in eye diseases, primarily anophthalmia and microphthalmia. Reflecting on her experiences, Kala noted “I feel that through my basic research and translational focus, I have been prepared very well to address some of the areas of health care, such as personalized medicine, which is growing rapidly and will become very important in the treatment of patients.” Kala spent a year as the Sharon K. Wadina Postdoctoral Fellow in Sarcoma Research in the Clinical and Translational Core Lab at Froedtert Hospital and MCW and is currently working as a postdoctoral fellow in the Department of Dermatology.

Hannah Happ joined Dr. Semina’s laboratory for 10 weeks through MCW’s Summer Program for Undergraduate Research in 2013. Her project focused on using whole exome sequencing to understand the genetic causes of Peters Plus Syndrome like disorders. She also had the chance to learn about zebrafish as a model organism. She notes “the experience has certainly validated my interest in research and developmental genetics. The lab was very welcoming, and I had a wonderful experience this summer.” Upon completion of her undergraduate degree, she returned to the lab and is working on a project identifying the genetic etiology of isolated and syndromic Peters anomaly.

Eric Weh, another graduate of the PhD in Basic and Translational Science program, completed his PhD work in 2014 in Dr. Semina’s laboratory. His project focused on discovering the molecular mechanisms of Peters Plus Syndrome (PPS) through the use of whole exome sequencing and studying gene expression in zebrafish. As part of his training, Eric had the opportunity to meet with a family affected with PPS and reports that “this experience has shown me that the science we perform has an actual impact on the lives of the families and patients who provide us with genetic material for study.” Upon graduation, Eric began a postdoctoral fellowship Dr. Semina’s laboratory to and is working on developing a zebrafish model of Peters plus syndrome.

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Page Updated 08/04/2015