School of Dentistry

Minnesota Craniofacial Research Training Program


Bios of Current MinnCResT Fellows

Current MinnCRest Fellows

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Prokopios Argyris, DDS, MS

Dr. Argyris joined the MinnCResT Program as an international dentist fellow in September 2013. He holds a DDS and MS in Oral and Maxillofacial Pathology from the University of Athens. He is now working toward a PhD in Oral Biology under the direction of faculty mentor Mark Herzberg. His current research explores the expression calprotection and CK2 in head and neck cancer.  Fun Fact: Prokopios is an excellent tennis player.Minnesota.

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Kyle Biesecker

Kyle began his MinnCResT predoctoral fellowship in July 2014. A student in the Graduate Program in Neuroscience, Kyle works with faculty mentor Eric Newman, PhD. He studies the role of glial Ca2+ signaling in neurovascular coupling, the mechanisms of blood flow regulation in the central nervous system.

 Bierle110x150 Craig J. Bierle, PhD

Craig joined the MinnCResT Program in August 2014 after completing his PhD at the University of Washington. He began his research career as an undergraduate studying the microbial ecology of peatlands and was specifically interested in culturing and characterizing cellulolytic bacteria resident to this environment. As a graduate student, he studied the molecular arms race between the antiviral Protein Kinase R and antagonists of this pathway encoded by human cytomegalovirus, focusing on how these viral proteins bind double-stranded RNA. Before joining the MinnCResT program, Craig investigated how Group B Streptococcus penetrates the amniotic membrane during ascending bacterial infections of pregnancy as a postdoctoral fellow. His MinnCResT research, under faculty mentor Mark Schleiss, focuses on the β-herpesviruses, cytomegalovirus and roseolovirus—the leading preventable causes of neurologic disability in children. Craig’s current research aims to understand how the pathogenesis of these viruses leads to central nervous system damage and he seeks to develop novel vaccine or therapeutic strategies that can prevent congenital disease. Craig is looking forward to an academic career either as research or teaching faculty. Fun fact: Craig has traveled as far as 64° North and Solina.


Alita Caldwell

Alita joined the MinnCResT Program in July 2015 a DDS/PhD fellow. She holds an MS from Colorado State University. Alita is rotating through labs and hopes to begin her thesis research in 2017. She is interested in the interaction of a tumor with its microenvironment and how the immune system involvement can be manipulated to fight cancer.


Giuseppe Cataldo, PhD

Giuseppe joined the MinnCResT Program in May 2014 as a postdoctoral fellow. He earned his PhD at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York, where his research addressed “Sex Differences in Systemic and Central Morphine Analgesia in Rats: Organizational-Activational Gonadal Hormone Interactions and Roles of Gonadal Hormone Accumulating Nuclei.” Under the direction of faculty mentor Donald Simone, PhD, Giuseppe’s MinnCResT research looks at pain caused by sickle cell disease.


Andrew Crane, PhD

Andrew began his postdoctoral MinnCResT fellowship in March 2015 after receiving his PhD in Neuroscience from Central Michigan University. The focus of his PhD research was on the use of mesenchymal stem cells for the treatment of experimental Huntington’s Disease. His MinnCResT research with faculty mentor Walter Low will lead to a greater understanding of the role of Pitx3, a transcription factor involved in the development of jaw muscle, lens, and dopaminergic neurons.

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Jennifer Dale, PhD

Jenny joined the MinnCResT Program in April 2013 as a postdoctoral fellow working with faculty mentor Gary Dunny. She earned her PhD at the The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston where she gene regulation of the master virulence regulator AtxA in the bacterial pathogen Bacillus anthracis and how AtxA expression impact virulence and development. Her MinnCResT research looks at the genetic basis of biofilm-induced antibiotic resistance in the opportunistic bacterium Enterococcus faecalis. Jenny aims to become an independent investigator in biotechnology or industry.

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Jeffrey W. Hall, PhD

Jeff joined the MinnCResT Program as a postdoctoral fellow in June 2014 after receiving his PhD at the University of Minnesota. His predoctoral research looked at the two-component system and transcriptional regulation of Staphylococcus aureus. His MinnCResT research with Mark Herzberg looks at the regulatory mechanisms of adhesin expression in Streptococcus gordonii. Jeff seeks a future in applied industry or teaching undergraduates at a small university/college. Fun fact: Jeff recently adopted a sweet and loving 13-year old cat.

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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.  She successfully defended her PhD thesis on “Studies on the Origins of HIV-1 Mutation and Genetic Diversity”  in 2013. Colleen will graduate with her DDS in May 2016. Fun fact: Colleen has 2 beautiful children under the age of 3!


Raphael Huntley

Rafi joined the MinnCResT Program in August 2011 as a DDS/PhD fellow. His research with faculty mentor Raj Gopalakrishnan, BDS, PhD addresses osteoclast differentiation. Fun Fact: Rafi plays the bagpipes.

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Fahad Kidwai, BDS, PhD

Dr. Kidwai joined the MinnCResT Program in October 2013 as an international dentist fellow. He holds a BDS (dental degree) from the Baqai Medical and Dental University in Pakistan, an MSc from Queen Mary College at the University of London, and a PhD from the National University of Singapore. In London, his research explored the role of CD44 as a cancer stem cell marker in oral squamous cells carcinoma. In Singapore, his work focused on keratinocyte differentiation from human embryonic stem cells. In Minnesota, he works with faculty mentor Dan Kaufman on osteogenic differentiation from RUNX2-YFP transfected human embryonic stem cell and induced pluripotent stem cells in serum free conditions. He looks forward to a career in academic dentistry. Fun fact about Fahad: He has worked with dentistry faculties in 6 countries (Pakistan, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom, Singapore, Malaysia, Australia, and USA).

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.


Leanna McDonald, PhD

Leanna joined the MinnCResT Program in January 2014 as a postdoctoral fellow. She received her PhD from the University of North Carolina where her thesis addressed the relationship between dynamics, structure and function in an allosteric model protein, CheY. Her postdoctoral research with faculty mentor Gianluigi Veglia, PhD aims to understand calcium regulation in cardiac and skeletal muscle.


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  • Last modified on July 21, 2015