First Year Scholars

First Year Scholars

Dr. Lisa Antoine

Dr. Lisa Antoine

Dr. Lisa Antoine received a BS in Electrical Engineering from Mississippi State University in 1990 and an MS in Electrical Engineering from North Carolina A&T University in 1993. In 2020, she was awarded a PhD in Interdisciplinary Engineering from the University of Alabama at Birmingham. Dr. Antoine is performing her postdoctoral research under the mentorship of Nina Kraguliac, MD, Assistant Professor of Medicine, developing advanced analytics for diffusion imaging, including Neurite Orientation Dispersion and Density Imaging, and probabilistic tractography.

Dr. Taylor Buchanan

Dr. Taylor Buchanan received a BS in Physical Activity and Health in 2014 and an MS in Exercise Science in 2015, both from Auburn University. In 2020, she was awarded a PhD in Applied Physiology and Kinesiology from the University of Florida. Dr. Buchanan is performing her postdoctoral research under the mentorship of Thomas Buford, PhD, Associate Professor of Medicine, elucidating mechanisms of exercise and aging.

Dr. Kasi McPherson

Dr. Kasi McPherson received a BS in Biology from the University of Louisiana in 2010 and an MS in Medical Sciences from Mississippi College in 2011. In 2017, she was awarded a PhD in Pharmacology and Toxicology from University of Mississippi Medical Center. Dr. McPherson is performing her postdoctoral research under the mentorship of Brittany Lasseigne, PhD, Assistant Professor of Cell, Developmental and Integrative Biology, utilizing multidimensional genomic data and bioinformatics in disease modeling.

Second Year Scholars

Second Year Scholars

Dr. Kristen Allen-Watts

Dr. Kristen Allen-Watts

Dr. Kristen Watts received a BS in General Health from the University of Alabama in 2011 and an MPH in Health Care Organization and Policy from UAB in 2014. In 2018, she was awarded a PhD in Health Education and Promotion from the University of Alabama. Dr. Allen-Watts is performing her postdoctoral research under the mentorship of Drs. Ronit Elk, Professor of Medicine, and Pauline Jolly, Professor of Epidemiology, examining the efficacy of culturally-based palliative care interventions in rural communities.

Dr. Allen-Watts has selected Dr. Elaine Vanterpool, Professor and Chair of Biology, at Oakwood University as her MERIT Teaching Mentor.

Dr. Matthew Madison

Dr. Matthew Madison

Dr. Matthew Madison received a BS in Biology from Southeastern University in 2013 and received a PhD in Translational Biology and Molecular Medicine from the Baylor College of Medicine in 2019. Dr. Madison is performing his postdoctoral research under the mentorship of Dr. Amit Gaggar, Professor of Medicine, investigating the role of neutrophil-derived proteolytic exosomes in smoke-related inflammation and pulmonary damage.

Dr. Madison has selected Dr. Brett Noerager, Professor of Biology at the University of Montevallo, as his MERIT Teaching Mentor.

Dr. Christina Morra

Dr. Christina Morra

Dr. Christina Morra received a BS in Genetic Engineering from Cedar Crest College in 2011 and, in 2019, was awarded a PhD in Molecular and Biomedical Science from the Baylor College of Medicine. Dr. Morra is performing her postdoctoral research under the mentorship of Dr. Carlos Orihuela, Professor of Microbiology, examining molecular mechanisms of bacterial growth and virulence.

Dr. Morra has selected Dr. Steven LaiHing, Associate Professor of Chemistry, at Oakwood University as her MERIT Teaching Mentor.

Dr. Ninecia Scott

Dr. Ninecia Scott received BS degrees in Biology and Pharmaceutical Science from North Carolina Central University in 2013. She was awarded a PhD in Molecular Microbiology and Microbial Pathogenesis from Washington University in 2019. Dr. Scott is performing her postdoctoral research under the mentorship of Dr. Carlos Orihuela, Professor of Microbiology, elucidating the role of neutrophils in severe pneumococcal infections. 

Dr. Scott has selected Dr. Elaine Vanterpool, Professor and Chair of Biology, at Oakwood University as her MERIT Teaching Mentor.

Third Year Scholars

Third Year Scholars

Dr. Melissa LaBonty

Dr. Melissa LaBonty

Dr. Melissa LaBonty received a BS in Biological Sciences from Ohio University in 2008. She was awarded a PhD in Cellular, Molecular, and Developmental Biology from Tufts University in 2018. Dr. LaBonty is performing her postdoctoral research under the mentorship of Dr. Brad Yoder, Professor and Chair of Cell, Developmental, and Integrative Biology, investigating mechanisms of ciliogenesis and cilia mediated signaling pathways in C. elegans.

Dr. LaBonty is continuing her teaching instruction with her MERIT Teaching Mentor, Dr. Heather Tinsley, Associate Professor of Biology at the University of Montevallo. To this end, she served as guest lecturer for Introductory Biology and Cell Biology courses at Montevallo. She also provided guest lectures and served as lab instructor for genetics courses at UAB.

Dr. Will Ryan

Dr. Will Ryan

Dr. Will Ryan received a BS in Environmental Biology in 2007 and an MS in Biology in 2010 from California State University. He was awarded a PhD in Biology from Florida State University in 2017. Dr. Ryan is performing his postdoctoral research under the mentorship of Dr. Stacey Krueger-Hadfield, Assistant Professor of Biology, elucidating mechanisms of eco-evolutionary mutation accumulation within metastatic tumors. He  

Dr. Ryan is continuing his teaching instruction with his MERIT Teaching Mentor, Dr. Christine Sestero, Associate Professor of Biology at the University of Montevallo and MERIT Scholar Alumnus. In this regard, he served as Co-Instructor for the Introduction to Parasitology course  at Montevallo; he also served as Instructor for the Marine Ecology Seminar course at UAB. In addition, Dr. Ryan continued directing the Undergraduate Research Journal Club online for the UAB Department of Biology.

Fourth Year Scholars

Fourth Year Scholars

Dr. Keri Kemp

Dr. Keri Kemp

Dr. Keri Kemp received a BS in Biology from Kansas State University in 2001. Following experiences working in the conservation sector, she entered graduate studies earning an MS in Biology from the Georgia Institute of Technology in 2011 and a PhD in Ecology from the University of Georgia in 2017. Dr. Kemp is currently a post-doctoral fellow in the Department of Pathology. She is co-mentored by Dr. Craig Maynard (Pathology), and Dr. Jennifer Pollock (Nephrology). Her research is focuses on investigating how early life stress (ELS) increases the likelihood of subsequent inflammatory autoimmune diseases.

 Dr. Kemp completed her teaching instruction with Dr. Sami Raut, Associate Professor of Biology at UAB. Under Dr. Raut’s guidance, Dr. Kemp served as Instructor of the Bacterial Symbiosis Seminar Course for the UAB Honors College in Fall 2019. Dr. Kemp has also received a non-competing continuation of her NSF-funded PALM Fellowship Award, which provides small grant funds for the development of active learning resources.