Members

Principal Investigator

Nadja Zeltner
Nadja Zeltner, PhD

Assistant Professor
Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology
Department of Cellular Biology
Center for Molecular Medicine
325 Riverbend Road, Athens, GA 30602
Phone: 706 542 2650
nadja.zeltner@uga.edu

Bio: Dr. Zeltner was born and raised in Switzerland and received a masters degree in Zoology from the University of Zürich. She completed her PhD in Biomedical Sciences at Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York, working on the use of adeno-associated virus (AAV) for gene therapy. She then was a post-doctoral fellow and later a Research Associate in Dr. Lorenz Studer’s lab at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York, where she established disease models for Familial Dysautonomia using hPSCs. Dr. Zeltner joined UGA as a junior faculty in early 2018.

Postdoctoral Fellow

Saito-Diaz Kenyi
Vicente Kenyi Saito-Diaz, PhD

Phone: 706 542 4262
saitod@uga.edu

Bio: Kenyi was born and raised in Peru and received his Bachelor’s degree in Biology from the Cayetano Heredia Peruvian University (Lima, Peru). He completed his Ph.D. in Cell and Developmental Biology at Vanderbilt University under the supervision of Dr. Ethan Lee where he studied the role of the tumor suppressor APC in Wnt signaling transduction.

Projects: Kenyi works on disease modeling of Familial Dysautonomia. He is particularly interested in the LAMB4 mutation and the development of a small molecule for potential treatment of FD. He also works on the establishment of a protocol to derive nociceptors, mechanoceptors and proprioceptors.

Graduate Students

Hsueh Fu
Hsueh-Fu Wu

hsuehfu.wu@uga.edu

Bio: Hsueh-Fu was born in Taiwan. His research interest is in addressing neurological disorders and injuries via cutting-edge techniques and interdisciplinary approaches. During his Master’s training at Yang-Ming University, he was working on cerebellar pathogenesis of small GTPase Rab18 mutation in Warburg Micro Syndrome.

Project: Hsueh-Fu has recently established a differentiation protocol for the generation of peripheral sympathetic neurons from hPSCs. He is interested in studying how these cells are affected in Familial Dysautonomia, particularly why they are hyperactive and how stress exacerbates these phenotypes.

Lab Professional

Jessica McAlpine
Jessica McAlpine

Jessica.McAlpine@uga.edu

Bio: Jessica grew up in Daphne, AL. She got her B.S. in Biological Chemistry at Tulane University in New Orleans, LA in 2014 and spent 3.5 years working as a research technician at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center where she met Dr. Zeltner. She is currently planning to apply for graduate school. For fun she loves nature, hiking, and music.

Project: Jessica is working on optimizing protocols for the generation of intermediate mesoderm and sympathoadrenal progenitors, which she will use to generate and study adrenal gland organoids.

Undergraduate Students

Christina James
Christina James

christina.jms@uga.edu

Bio: Christina was born and raised in Georgia. She is currently a pre-med undergraduate double majoring in Biology with a Neuroscience Emphasis and Psychology. Her primary interests include genetics, cognitive neuroscience, and cell biology. Outside of the lab, she loves to hike, cook, and learn new languages.

Archie Jayesh Patel
Archie Jayesh Patel

archie.patel@uga.edu

Bio: Archie is an undergraduate student, who was born in Burlington, North Carolina and raised in both Gujarat, India and Savannah, Georgia. She is double majoring in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology and Psychology with an intended graduate program of study in Public Health (MPH). Currently, her extra-curricular time is spent serving as an active member and Community Volunteer Leader (CVL) of the American Red Cross, as a Community Services Assistant to the UGA Residence Hall Association, and as an intern for the East Georgia Cancer Coalition.

Kimata Safi Thomas
Kimata Safi Thomas

kst85805@uga.edu

Bio: Kimata was born in Atlanta, Georgia, and grew up just south of the city in Clayton County. She is currently a second-year Biology major with a Neuroscience focus. She also is a pre-med undergraduate with a minor in Spanish. Her passion for neuroscience begun with her younger brother, who was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder in 2011. She is currently a member of the Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation and Minority Science Student Association. These clubs allow her to be a more active member of the Athens community through various service opportunities.

Previous members

Kimani Smith
Kimani Nate Smith

Kimani.Smith@uga.edu

Bio: I am Kimani Smith. I was born in Alpharetta, Georgia. I am a pre-med sophomore majoring in Genetics. My favorite subject is biology, and I love learning about the different chemical reactions that take place inside the body. I currently work as a phlebotomist at the Health Center as an extracurricular activity. I also spend my time peer-mentoring for an organization called Xtension. During my down time, I love to listen to music and cook new foods.

Heidi
Heidi Ulrich

heidi.ulrichs25@uga.edu

Bio: Heidi started as an undergraduate student majoring in Biology with a Neuroscience emphasis and Spanish minor. After her graduation, she joined the lab for one year as a technician.

Project: Heidi was working on optimizing a protocol for the generation of sympathoadrenal progenitors, which she used to generate and study adrenal gland organoids.

Heidi left to join the graduate school at Emory, GA.

Jonny
Jonathan Street

jstreet7@uga.edu

Bio: Jonny received his Bachelor’s degree in biochemistry and molecular biology from the University of Georgia and then completed his Master’s degree in biology from Georgia State University, where he focused on the effects of heme on the cell wall of Streptococcus Pyogenes.

Project: Jonny was investigating the effects and mode of action of the small molecule genipin, which we found to be able to rescue cellular phenotypes in iPSCs derived from patients with severe Familial Dysautonomia. As a side project, he was working on optimizing a protocol for the generation of sympathoadrenal progenitors, which he will use to generate and study adrenal gland organoids.

Jonny left graduate school to pursue his music career.

Sara Andrea Espinosa-Garcia
Sara Andrea Espinosa Garcia

SAEspinosa@uga.edu

Bio: Sara is an undergraduate student, who was born in Mexico and raised in Milton, Georgia. She is studying Biochemistry and Molecular Biology with a pre-medical intent. Her extra-curricular time is spent serving as an active member of One Health Club as well as treasurer of GenFKD.

Project: Sara was working on the optimization of the sympathoadrenal progenitor protocol, which will later be used to generate and study adrenal gland organoids.

Undergraduate student Lukas Veltmaat
Lukas Veltmaat

Lukas.Veltmaat@uga.edu

Bio: Lukas is an undergraduate student originally from Germany, where he lived until he was nine years old. Now, he is on a pre-med track and majoring in Biology. Outside of the classroom, he participates in UGA AMSA and volunteer at the Good Samaritan Health Center in Gwinnett. He also enjoys playing and watching soccer.

Project: Lukas was working on establishing the protocol to derive sympathetic neurons from hPSCs.