School of Dentistry

Minnesota Craniofacial Research Training Program


Bios of Current MinnCResT Fellows

Current MinnCRest Fellows

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Sharbani Banerjee, PhD

Sharbani joined the MinnCResT as a postdoctoral fellow in March 2010. Her mentors are Dr. Meri Firpo and Dr. Walter Low in the Stem Cell Institute. Her research focuses on developing a stem cell based cure for MPSI (Mucopolysaccharidoses I), also known as Hurler Syndrome. MPSI is a metabolic disorder, caused by a loss of activity of the α-L-iduronidase (IDUA) enzyme. This is manifested as growth delay, coarsening facial features, excess urinary GAG, skeletal abnormalities and neurological defects. Current treatments options include enzyme replacement therapy (ERT) and Hematopoietic stem cell transplantation (HSCT). Sharbani is investigating an iPS (induced pluripotent stem cell) based approach and subsequent transplantation in mouse models. Sharbani received her PhD in Biochemistry, Molecular Biology, and Biophysics from the University of Minnesota.

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Matthew Hamilton, PhD

Matt joined the MinnCResT Program in 2010 as a postdoctoral fellow working in the lab of Dr. Alex Khoruts. He received his doctoral degree in 2009 through the Microbiology, Immunology and Cancer Biology PhD program at the University of Minnesota. His PhD research was focused on the study of fecal pollution and E. coli in the environment. The main goal of Matt's current project is to investigate changes in the microbial composition of the human gut in response to bacteriotherapy treatment of Clostridium difficile infection. The project utilizes high throughput, next generation sequencing technology to quickly examine 16s rRNA gene sequence to determine the microbial taxa present. The long term goal of this project is to develop a standardized treatment for this debilitating disease.

 Benjamin Harrison, PhD

Ben joined the MinnCResT program in January 2011 as a postdoctoral fellow working under Dr. Judith Berman in the Department of Genetics, Cell Biology & Development. In Dr. Berman’s lab, Ben is studying the mechanism underlying the genomic alterations associated with the development of antifungal resistance in the human fungal pathogen Candida albicans. Systemic candidiasis can be lethal, making the development of antifungals imperative. However, resistance to the most widely used antifungals is becoming an increasingly common problem. A large portion of C. albicans strains resistant to these antifungals contain an abnormal number of chromosomes (aneuploidy). Thus, it is important to understand how these strains develop aneuploidy. To this end, Ben utilizes fluorescence microscopy to track nuclei in cells treated with commonly used antifungal drugs. The goal of this research is to uncover the mechanisms by which C. albicans becomes resistant to antifungals and to identify targets for novel antifungal drug development. Ben received his BS in Botany from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and his doctorate in Biology from the University of North Carolina.

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Colleen Holtz

Colleen joined the MinnCResT Program in September 2008 as a DDS/PhD fellow; her mentor is Prof. Louis Mansky. Her MinnCResT research will focus on how uracil levels affect HIV-1’s fitness. She received a BS in Microbiology from the University of Minnesota, where her undergraduate research focused on the mutation and evolution of HIV-1 and HIV-2.


Lisa Koodie, PhD

Lisa joined MinnCResT in July 2010 as a Postdoctoral fellow. Her mentor is Dr. Sundaram Ramakrishnan in the Department of Pharmacology. She received her PhD in Pharmacology in 2009 from the University of Minnesota. Here she began her studies in opioid drug biology, tumor growth, angiogenesis and in vivo leukocyte migration and trafficking. Currently, she is focusing on understanding the physiological roles of hypoxia induced-micro RNAs during wound healing. Lisa completed her BS in Molecular
Biology and Pre-Professional Biology Options at the Florida Institute of Technology.

Thinh Le

Thinh Le

Thinh joined the MinnCResT Program in 2009 as a DDS/PhD fellow working in the lab of Dr. Gary Dunny in the Department of Microbiology. His current research focuses on the regulatory mechanisms involving cell-cell signaling by a peptide mating pheromone in Enterococcus faecalis. Enterococci are opportunistic Gram-positive bacteria that inhabit the gastrointestinal track and the oral cavity. They can cause a variety of life-threatening diseases in human and currently enterococci rank among the top three nosocomial bacterial pathogens and up to 90% of enterococcal infections in humans are caused by Enterococcus faecalis. In addition to its pathogenic abilities, E. faecalis is also resistant to many commonly used antimicrobial agents. This poses a great threat in hospital settings, particularly to patients experiencing long-term hospitalization and requires the use of a variety of antibiotics. Understanding the mechanism of conjugation will provide insight on the development of strategies to better treat enterococcal infections and the spread of antibiotic resistance genes. Thinh received his BS in Biochemistry and BA in Physiology from the University of Minnesota.


Larry Masterson, PhD

Larry joined the MinnCResT Program in 2010 as a postdoctoral fellow working in the lab of Dr. Gianluigi Veglia and co-advised by Dr. Jiali Gao. He received his doctoral degree in Chemistry in 2008 at the University of Minnesota. His PhD research focused on the study of protein-protein interactions in the context of heart muscle contractility. Larry is now focused on understanding the inhibitory mechanism behind protein kinase A mediated catalysis. Using a battery of techniques, including thermal calorimetry, steady-state kinetics, MD simulations, and NMR spectroscopy, Larry is working to establish a general framework for efficient and selective inhibition of protein kinase A. The long term goal of this project is to establish a clearer understanding the connection between protein structure, conformational dynamics, and enzyme function, particularly in the context of disease.


Lan Pham

Lan joined MinnCResT in January 2009 as a DDS/PhD fellow; her mentor is Prof. Kim Mansky (Department of Developmental & Surgical Sciences). She began her studies in the Graduate Program in Oral Biology, where her research has focused on the mechanisms of bone remodeling. Specifically she is studying the role of a secreted protein, twisted gastrulation (Twsg1), in the modulation of bone cell development and skeletal remodeling. Understanding the role of Twsg1 could enhance applications in dental medicine associated with bone formation and resorption linked to pathology, tooth movement, implant stability, and craniofacial growth. She received her BS in Biology from University of Minnesota.


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  • Last modified on August 27, 2012