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Shelby O’Connor: Assistant Professor (PI)

Shelby grew up in St. Louis, MO. She earned her undergraduate degree in the Biology Honors program at UIUC. She then obtained her PhD in Dr. Shigeki Miyamoto’s lab at UW-Madison. After grad school, she spent one year at the UW School of Pharmacy setting up labs for first year pharmacy students. Then, she worked in David O’Connor’s lab as an Assistant Scientist from 2006 until 2011, when she obtained independent funding and began her own lab.

While Shelby likes doing experiments, she almost never gets to touch a pipet anymore. So sad….so very sad. Instead, she tries to live vicariously through everyone else. She also likes running, riding her bike, and playing racquetball. While she likes fruit and vegetables, she is also a huge fan of cookies with a lot of frosting.

Shelby’s favorite ice cream: Cookie Dough
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Amy Ellis: Assistant Scientist

Amy grew up in LaCrosse, WI. She stayed in LaCrosse for undergrad (wow - she must really like LaCrosse!), earning two undergraduate degrees in Biochemistry and Cellular/Molecular Biology. She obtained her PhD in Dr. Janet Mertz’s lab at UW-Madison in the Cancer Biology program. After grad school, Amy studied Ebola and influenza in our neighbor’s lab, Dr. Yoshi Kawaoka. She decided to move across the parking lot to our building, which is where she has been for the past 6 months.

Amy likes cloning in the lab. She thinks it is fun! She also has trained in the martial art of aikido for about 10 years, and she once worked for the USGS where she got to wear hip waders and collect mud samples.

Amy’s favorite ice cream: Chocolate Shoppe Zanzibar
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Matthew Sutton: Graduate Student

Matt grew up in Manassas, Virginia. He earned his undergraduate degree in Biology at UVA in 2012. As an undergraduate, he studied regenerative pathways in Drosophila melanogaster. After graduation, he was a post baccalaureate IRTA at the NIH in John Mascola’s lab. Last year, he made a big move from the East coast to Wisconsin, and he is still adjusting to the central time zone.

Matt’s favorite thing to do in the lab is flow cytometry. He is in awe at what we can learn from flow, and he enjoys developing new staining panels. He also likes asking questions — a critical important feature of a graduate student! (see the lab philosophy page). Matt is a huge NBA fan; he likes the Washington Wizards, but he is beginning to embrace the Milwaukee Bucks.

Matt’s favorite ice cream: Chocolate, but he also says he’ll eat any ice cream.
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Alexis (‘Lexie’) Balgeman: Associate Research Specialist

Lexie grew up in Lyle, MN, which is on the MN/IA border. Lexie describes it as a very very very very small town. She went to Drake University and earned her undergraduate degree in Biochemistry, Cell, and Molecular Biology. Lexie has worked in the lab for just over one year, and she thankfully takes care of a lot of stuff for all of us, which is why she has earned the name, “Lab Mom” at the young (very young) age of…..

Lexie came straight to the lab after graduating. In college, she studied abroad in Egypt and England. She claims she doesn’t have a ‘favorite thing’ in lab, so I’ll assume that means she likes everything. She is an avid reader, and she likes hot yoga and dogs….or was it yoga and hot dogs…..I don’t remember.

Lexie’s favorite ice cream: Zanzibar chocolate or Salted caramel
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Katie Zarbock: Associate Research Specialist

Katie grew up in the beautiful west central Wisconsin town of Menomonie.  She went to St. Catherine University in St. Paul, MN and earned her undergraduate degree in Biology, as well as earning a minor in French.  Katie just joined the lab, but her favorite thing to do in a lab is to suit up in stylish personal protective equipment (PPE) and prepare PCR samples. She hopes to go graduate school so she can obtain a Ph.D. in a microbiology or cellular biology field using molecular techniques.

The closed-toed converse that Katie wears in lab often can be seen outside of the lab at swing dance events. Katie is hoping to find some great studios for East Coast, West Coast, and Lindy Hop Swing soon! When not dancing, Katie can be found baking treats for family, friends, and lab mates, playing board games, or hanging out with her brother's adorable cats.

Katie’s favorite ice cream: Cookie Dough or Mexican Chocolate



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Jaffna Mathiaparanam: UW-undergraduate student hourly

Jaffna grew up in Appleton, WI. She is currently a student at UW-Madison, in the Biocore program, and majoring in Neurobiology. Jaffna just started in the lab this summer, but she likes doing everything in the lab. She says, “I’m a happy dedicated minion.”

Besides working in the lab, she worked on an Urban Farm at home for the past few summers. She also works at the Biocore prairie. She likes playing tennis too. Jaffna hopes to travel to Jaffna, Sri Lanka someday. So - you may ask yourself, is Jaffna named after the city, or is the city named after Jaffna?

Jaffna’s favorite ice cream: Butter Pecan
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Nadean Kannal: Oregon High School student and YAP program participant

Nadean comes to us from Oregon, Wisconsin. She is currently a senior in high school. She has been working in the lab for nearly a year. She has gotten a lot of experience cloning and sequence immune genes that we think are important for host immune responses to M. tuberculosis. Her favorite thing to do in the lab is perform gel extractions and analyze sequence data. Outside of the lab, Nadean likes to try out various restaurants in Madison with friends, paint/draw, and cheer on the Badgers and the Packers!

Nadean is also part of the Youth Apprenticeship Program run by the State of Wisconsin. We were fortunate that the program helped us find such a great young scientist!


Nadean’s favorite ice cream: Vanilla with hot fudge and brownie pieces
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Nico Fesser: UW-undergraduate student hourly

Nico grew up in Madrid, Spain and moved to Upstate New York when he was 14 years old. He is currently a senior at UW-Madison in the Neurobiology program. Last year, Nico studied abroad in Ghana and was an intern at the West Africa AIDS foundation. He also spent a few weeks in Tanzania as part of an HIV/AIDS service trip with the Global Health department from UW-Madison. He has an interest in learning flow cytometry, as well as sequencing, in the lab. Outside of research, Nico is also very interested in foreign affairs and journalism. We are excited that Nico is joining us!

Nico’s favorite ice cream: Sea Salt Butter Pecan