In This Section

Maria BriscioneMaria Briscione
Emory University

Maria was born and raised in Oceanport, New Jersey. She studied Biochemistry at American University in Washington, DC. There she worked in a neuropharmacology lab and discovered her passion for neuroscience. She is currently a second year neuroscience doctoral student at Emory University. Her research focuses on applying acoustic-startle based phenotypes to understand genetic and neurobiological mechanisms underlying sex differences observed in survivors of combat and civilian trauma. The broader goal of her research is to contribute to our understanding that may lead to improved treatment and preventative strategies for combating PTSD and other psychological disorders. Maria believes the ASPET Washington Fellows Program will allow her to use her research training to advocate for a greater understanding of how basic science intersects with the needs of society to ultimately influence science policy.


Tamara EscadilloTamara Escajadillo
University of California at San Diego

Tamara was born in San Diego, California and received her bachelor's degree in biochemistry from California State University Dominguez Hills, in Los Angeles County. While doing so she worked in the research laboratory of Dr. Marion Seweray at the University of California San Diego, focusing on the regulation of steroid hormone production and lipid homeostasis in the adrenal gland, where she more specifically worked on the role of an oxysterol binding protein called ORP2 in steroidogenesis. Tamara is currently an incoming graduate student at the University of California, San Diego.


Ben LeiblongBenjamin J. Lieblong
University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences

Ben was born in Mississippi, but raised in Little Rock, AR from age two. He earned a bachelor's degree in biology from Centenary College of Louisiana and is currently a fourth-year pharmacology PhD candidate at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences. Ben researches radiation-induced heart disease, a delayed side effect of radiotherapy for thoracic tumors, such as those found in breast or lung cancers. Specifically, his project focuses on characterizing radiation-induced endothelial dysfunction within coronary arteries, and developing a technique for early detection of the pathology. His interest in science policy is an extension of one of his core philosophies: promoting scientific literacy through science education at all levels. Ben believes that having a science- and health-literate populace is critical to electing officials that recognize the importance of biomedical research.


AAndrew Merluzzindrew Merluzzi
University of Wisconson-Madison

Andrew Merluzzi grew up in Vermont and completed his undergraduate degree at American University in Washington, DC. He is currently working towards his doctorate at the University of Wisconsin - Madison, and is interested in studying how the brain changes over the course of development in response to environmental stress, poverty, lack of education, malnourishment, and injury. In doing so, his goal is to understand how these factors contribute to reduced human capital, and to analyze various policy options for ameliorating the resulting societal burdens. Andrew is conducting lab rotations within the Neuroscience and Public Policy Program at UW and is currently working on a longitudinal study of children with PTSD. He plans to analyze how cortical thickness in fear and learning circuitry changes over the course of development for adolescents with PTSD. This area of research, as well as many others in child development and human capital, represent fertile ground for implementation of sensible policy based on a sound scientific foundation.


Dhara PatelDhara Patel, PhD
New York Medical College

Dhara was born and raised in India. After receiving her bachelor's and master's degrees in biochemistry from India, later, she joined the PhD program at New York Medical College. She graduated with PhD in Physiology from New York Medical College in May 2013. As part of her PhD dissertation, she had generated mice models of pulmonary hypertension to investigate role of extracellular peroxide in the vasculature of this model. She also investigated novel signaling mechanisms involved in regulation of Protein Kinase G in vasculature of this mouse model of pulmonary hypertension as well as in PKG-KI (Protein Kinase G-Knock In) mouse model. Because of the strong collaborative team of scientists available for investigation of exciting science that can lead to an independent collaboration, she decided to continue at New York Medical College as a postdoctoral fellow. As a postdoctoral fellow, she has been working on a project that is mainly focused on the disruption of heme biosynthesis in pulmonary hypertension and how ferrochelatase inhibition affects this pathway. She believes that biomedical science is not just about investigating one particular protein or gene but it is about how that protein or gene affects human body. Many people are not aware of the advantages of biomedical research and it is necessary to explain in a very simple manner about any scientific area to the people in non-scientific field to expand the overall benefits of biomedical science. ASPET’s Washington Fellows program is a first step towards her journey in public policy/science policy.


Phil Saccone Phillip Saccone
University of Michigan Medical School

Phillip Saccone is a fourth year PhD candidate in pharmacology at the University of Michigan Medical School. Under the supervision of Dr. James Woods, Phillip is developing novel procedures to study the intranasal administration of opioid medications, as well as gastrointestinal transit in non-human primates. The goal of this research is to determine whether intranasal opioid delivery will result in direct absorption to the CNS, and if so, will the peripheral side effects of opioid medications, such as constipation, be reduced. He currently serves as Graduate Study Body President and is the recipient of a Ruth L. Kirschstein Individual National Research Service Award. Before attending Michigan, Phillip worked as a lab manager for Dr. Sandra Comer at the New York State Psychiatric Institute where he studied the reinforcing effects of prescription opioids in humans, and investigated novel pharmacological strategies for the treatment of opioid abuse. As an ASPET Washington Fellow, Phillip is interested in helping to improve the understanding between scientists and lawmakers with the goal of finding new and innovative ways to strengthen federal research programs. Phillip was born and raised in NYC and currently lives with his wife, Meredith in Ann Arbor, MI.


Katie SerafineKatherine M. Serafine, PhD
University of Texas Health Science Center, San Antonio

Katie was born and raised in San Antonio, TX but decided to attend college in a much cooler climate, at Norwich University in Northfield, VT.  As a psychology major she had the opportunity to conduct research and teach a laboratory course in the principles of learning which sparked her interest in both experimental science and classroom teaching. In order to pursue these interests, she enrolled in graduate school at American University in Washington, DC and received her master's degree in psychology and PhD in behavior, cognition, and neuroscience. She accepted a postdoctoral fellowship in the Department of Pharmacology at the University of Texas Health Science Center in San Antonio. Her research investigates how age, sex, and diet can impact abuse vulnerability to drugs like cocaine. Living, attending graduate school, and teaching undergraduate courses in Washington, DC opened her eyes to the interface between science, education, and policy. Katie hope that the ASPET Washington Fellows program will help her learn how to communicate as a scientist with politicians that are responsible for making policy decisions that impact science. She also hopes to bring this training home to Texas, to help other scientists in her community learn how to more effectively communicate with their elected officials. She is excited about the opportunity to make an impact by advocating for science in her home state.


Ed Stahl 2Ed Stahl, PhD
Scripps Research Institute (Florida)

Ed was born and raised in Harrisburg, PA. He attended Lycoming College in Williamsport, PA where he received a bachelor's degree in computer science. Following college, he decided to explore a different career path and began working as a technician in a research laboratory. In the interest of broadening his academic training in biology, he briefly attended Messiah College. He was then accepted into the pharmacology PhD program at the Penn State College of Medicine. Ed’s thesis focused on developing and applying mathematical models of neuroreceptor activation in the lab of Prof. John Ellis. After completing his degree, he was hired by GraphPad Software, Inc to provide support and modeling assistance for their scientific software users. He is currently a postdoctoral fellow in Prof. Laura Bohn’s lab at the Scripps Research Institute in Jupiter, FL. His research focuses on studying novel mechanisms of drug action. Ed feels there is a real need to express to the general public, and to policy makers, the value and importance of public investment in biomedical scientific research.


Mark TrenterMichael C. Tranter, PhD
University of Cincinnati College of Medicine

Michael was born and raised in rural southern Illinois and received his bachelor's degree in molecular biology from Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology in Terre Haute, IN. Michael did his graduate work at the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine where he received a PhD in molecular pharmacology for his work on gene expression in the heart and how regulation of these changes protects cardiac muscle during a heart attack. Now an assistant professor at the University of Cincinnati, Michael’s research focus is aimed at understanding the molecular and gene expression changes that drive the pathological progression of heart failure. Michael has been active in science advocacy for the American Heart Association and believes we must urge everyone in the scientific community to be more pro-active in advocating for science funding and education.


Meglu YuanMenglu Yuan
University of California, Irvine

Menglu is a pharmacology and toxicology doctoral candidate at the University of California, Irvine (UCI). Her research examines underlying mechanisms of the “Gateway Theory,” with a focus on adolescence and addiction. Utilizing techniques in neuroscience and behavioral pharmacology, her dissertation investigates how nicotine and the antidepressant Prozac create maladaptive changes in brain development during adolescence, resulting in enhanced reward sensitivity. Menglu was born in Chengdu, China and grew up in Missouri. Her interest in addiction-related diseases was inspired while she was an undergraduate researcher at Boston University, where she obtained a bachelor's degree in biochemistry and molecular biology. As a graduate student, Menglu served as the Pharmacological Sciences Program Student Representative and led diversity efforts to improve campus climate, access, and inclusion at UCI. With the ASPET Washington Fellows Program, she would like to gain greater exposure to public policy and learn how to cultivate scientifically informed, evidence-based laws and regulations.


To learn more or apply to the 2016 Washington Fellows Program, click here.

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