Developmental Biology Students

Brett DemlBrett Deml, a senior 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 and hopes to complete a Clinical Molecular Genetics fellowship after graduation. His project involves using whole exome sequencing to screen known genes and identify novel factors involved in anophthalmia (complete absence of the eye), microphthalmia (reduction in the size of the eye) and ocular coloboma (hole or gap in one or more structures of the eye). He successfully used TALEN Genome Editing to induce mutations in a gene of interest in zebrafish and generate a new animal model for microphthalmia and coloboma.

Kathryn HendeeKathryn 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.


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 Research Associate at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Hannah HappHannah 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 for a year and worked on a project identifying the genetic etiology of isolated and syndromic Peters anomaly. Hannah is currently working as a Research Assistant in the Ansel Lab at the University of California-San Francisco.


Eric WehEric Weh, PhD, 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.


Kevin Wright, PhD, completed his PhD in 2015 in the lab of Dr. Katherine Shim. His research looked at the functional interactions of fibroblast growth factor (FGF) signaling pathway with Wnt signaling components in the formation and specification of cells committed to become the inner ear. Through the use of classical mouse genetics he was able to show that FGF and Wnt function cooperatively to specify a large portion of the otic place, while a smaller portion appears to regulated by FGF, independent of Wnt signaling. Upon completion of his degree, Kevin began a postdoctoral fellowship with Dr. Andrey Sorokin at MCW in the department of Medicine.

Jeremy BellJeremy Bell worked in Dr. Semina’s laboratory for 7 weeks as part of the Research Opportunity for Academic Development in Science internship program in 2015. His work revolved around finding a link between a phenotype in zebrafish and a mutation in the gene wnt5a through genetic sequencing and microscopic observation. He notes “I learned so much throughout the experience and it has helped me to understand what a career in genetics would be like. I was treated as an equal in the lab and had an amazing time learning from the experts.”

Madelyn LeeMadelyn Lee worked in Dr. Semina’s laboratory for 10 weeks as a member of the Summer Program for Undergraduate Research in 2015. Her project involved characterizing four new, conserved upstream sequences of the PITX2/pitx2 gene, working with zebrafish and imaging for fluorescence on an Axio Imager microscope. Reflecting on her experience, she noted “My experience in Dr. Semina’s laboratory this summer was truly fascinating and opened my eyes to prestigious genetics research... I additionally learned a great deal about developmental biology, specifically the mechanisms involved in gene expression.”

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Page Updated 11/04/2015