How do intestinal microbiota interact with host genome-encoded
processes to impact vertebrate health and disease

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John Rawls - PI

Jim Davison
Grad Student
Jim is originally from the Twin Cities and received his Bachelor of Arts in Chemistry from the University of Minnesota, Morris.  He is a UNC-Chapel Hill graduate student and was a member of the Bankaitis lab for the first 3 years of his graduate career.  He joined the Rawls lab in 2012 where he is finishing his thesis project on microbial control of host transcription.  When away from the bench, Jim spends his time hiking, canoeing or playing tennis.

Sol Gomez De La Torre Canny

Sol is originally from Arequipa, Peru. She received her PhD in the laboratory of Dr. Daniel Wagner in the department of Biochemistry and Cell Biology at Rice University in Houston, Texas. Sol joined the Rawls lab in April, 2014. Currently, she is studying the alteration of gut microbiota composition in the zebrafish as a result of the exposure to chemical obesogens found in the environment. When Sol is not taking care of zebrafish larvae, she enjoys learning new words from any language, writing letters, reading comic books, and exploring the bike trails in Durham.  

Ted Espenschied
Grad Student

Ted was born in McAllen, Texas, and, after moving around quite a bit, settled in NC in 2001.  He completed undergraduate studies at The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, then worked for a while before entering the graduate program in the Department of Molecular Genetics and Microbiology at Duke University.  He is interested in understanding how signals from the gut microbiota modulate host immunity.  Outside of lab, he enjoys cooking, brewing beer, SCUBA, and endurance running.

Cait Murdoch
Grad Student

Lihua Ye

Lihua is originally from Wuyuan, China. She received her PhD in Cellular and Integrative Physiology in the laboratory of Dr. Ryan Anderson at Indiana University, Indianapolis. She joined the Rawls lab in August 2015. She is currently trying to understand how enteroendocrine cells in the gut sense the environment and communicate this information to the whole organism. She loves all kinds of fuzzy animals. She dreams to have pet llamas and be friends with squirrels someday.

Jia Wen

Jia was born in Wuhan, China.  She received her PhD in Microbiology in the laboratory of Dr. Elizabeth Fozo at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville.  Following her curiosity on how host and microbes shape each other, she joined Rawls lab in August 2016.  Currently, she is trying to understand the mechanism by which intestinal microbes promote lipid absorption in zebrafish.  Jia always dreams of becoming a light-resistant vampire so that she can enjoy the sun, the sea, and the breeze without worrying about time passing by.

Jessica McCann
Senior Research Associate

Jess grew up in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. Her love for host-microbe interactions began during an undergrad research semester at the Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole, MA, where she worked with Dr. Ned Ruby studying the squid symbiont Vibrio fischeri. Jess completed masters with Dr. Ruby in Hawaii, moved to NC with her family and did her PhD work with Dr. Miriam Braunstein at UNC Chapel Hill studying protein secretion in Mycobacterium tuberculosis. After a finishing a postdoc with Dr. Joe St. Geme and Dr. Patrick Seed examining the effect of early life exposure to bacteria on development of allergy and asthma, Jess is now a research associate in the Rawls lab. Jess works with Dr. Rawls and a group of PIs at Duke and Northwestern studying gut bacteria that may contribute to obesity in adolescents. Her interests include reading fiction, listening to live music, traveling, and re-learning French after coming in 9th in the NH state French exam her senior year of high school, and then promptly forgetting it all.

Rebecca Graham
Research Technician

Rebecca is originally from Opelika, Alabama. She completed her undergraduate studies at University of Arkansas Pine Bluff. Her interests include aquaculture, water conservation, and plants. She also enjoys cooking, music, traveling, and current events.

Camil Craciunescu

Alvin Han


Clarie Mckenzie


Colin Lickwar
Senior Research Associate
and Lab Manager

Colin is originally from Duxbury, Vermont where he was once the 6th grade chess champion of the state.  Under the assumption that all things are organized in the same way, he studies chromatin genomics and transcriptional regulation of the host response to microbes in the gut.  His favorite fruits include: grapefruit, peaches, cherries, blueberries, and limes.

Rawls Lab Alumni 

Graduate Students
Sandi Wong, Ph.D. (subsequent position: Postdoctoral Fellow with Dr. Patrick Seed, Duke University)
Ivana Semova, Ph.D. (subsequent position: Postdoctoral Fellow with Dr. Robert Farese, Gladstone Institute of Cardiovascular Disease, University of California - San Francisco)
Gray Camp, Ph.D. (subsequent position: Postdoctoral Fellow with Drs. Gill Berjerano and David Kingsley,  Stanford University)
Michelle Kanther, Ph.D. (subsequent position: Postdoctoral Fellow with Dr. Meera              Sundaram, University of Pennsylvania)

Postdoctoral Fellows:

James Minchin, Ph.D. (current position: Principal Investigator, BHF Centre for Cardiovascular Science, University of Edinburgh, Queens Medical Research Institute, Edinburgh, UK)
Jordan Cocchiaro, Ph.D. (current position: Program Manager, Duke Human Vaccine Institute, Durham, NC)
Linh Pham, Ph.D. (subsequent position: IRTA Postdoctoral Fellow with Dr. Karen Adelman, NIEHS)

Research Staff:

Shelia Janardhan

Patrick Williams
Edward Flynn
Lantz Mackey
Michela Osborn
Jessica Russell
Laura Schulte
Chad Trent

Undergrad Students:

Adriana Guzman Holst

Dustin Hadfield

Sung Baek
Jamie-Lee Beckford
Gabriel Beluchukwu
Amber Bivins
Ian Cassidy
Jaquay Davis 
Howard Deng

T. Conor Guest

Christopher Harvey
Yasmine Jackson
Amelia Jazwa
Gabrielle Johnson
Caitlin McCormick
Janine Rose 
Dolvin Speight
Connor Traugot

Amanda Velez

Jenny Yang

Jinee Yoon 
Soraya Zakerin