Current members:

Mario Alberto – Undergraduate Student

Mario Alberto was born in Salt Lake City, Utah and grew up in the Cleveland area. He is currently a third-year undergraduate at Cleveland State University studying chemical engineering with minors in mathematics, physics, and chemistry. Prior to joining Dr. Claesen’s lab group, Mario was one of nine students selected from across the nation to participate in the National Science Foundation’s “Synthesis, Assembly and Characterization of Soft Matter” REU program, where he investigated a protein based soft matter system, and presented his findings at a national bioengineering conference hosted at Duke University. He has also interned with a fortune 500 pharmaceutical company working on automation and bio-analytics, worked as a lab technician and as a cell-based assay scientist determining the immunogenicity of novel therapeutics. In addition to his work with Dr. Claesen at the Lerner Research Institute, Mario also works in the lab of Dr. Nolan Holland at Cleveland State University, where he designs and studies novel viral-like nanoparticles and their possible use as theranostic tools.

In the times that he is not working in a laboratory, Mario enjoys reading novels, running, and being very bad at competitive programming and code golf.


Sara Alqudah – Graduate Student

Sara was born in Saudi Arabia to a Jordanian father and a Yemeni mother, she earned her bachelor’s degree in Medical Laboratory Sciences from Jordan University of Science and Technology (JUST) and was ranked the top of her class in 2013. She then started her academic career by working as a Teaching Assistant in the Medical Laboratory Sciences department while earning her master’s degree in Hematology and Blood Banking at JUST in 2016. Her master’s thesis was about investigating the dysregulation of the RANKL/RANK/OPG axis in thalassemia intermedia patients. In 2015, she worked as a full time Medical Lab Technician in the Pathology and Medical Laboratory department at King Abdullah University Hospital where she also trained students in advanced equipped medical laboratory techniques. She moved to Cleveland to start her PhD journey in 2021, studying Clinical Bioanalytical Chemistry at Cleveland State University, and after rotating in the Claesen Lab, she decided to join the lab, where she is working on the dietary effect of flavonoid metabolites in a diabetic mice model.

In her free time, Sara enjoys jogging, trying different kinds of food, listening to music, traveling, discovering new places, and spending time with her family and friends.

Viharika Bobba – Postdoctoral Fellow

Viharika was born and raised in Andhra Pradesh, India. She obtained a BS, and MS degree in chemistry and Biochemistry from Andhra University, India where she received an excellence award for outstanding performance in chemistry. In 2009, she worked as a research associate at GVK Biosciences, India. Her project involved developing the GOBIOM database by identifying various biomarkers as biological indicators specific for each cancer type and resolving the organic chemical reaction mechanisms for CAS. After moving to the United States, Viharika joined Dr. Bin Su’s lab at Cleveland state university and she received her Ph.D. in Clinical and Bio-analytical chemistry in 2020. Viharika’s thesis focused on “design and synthesis of small molecules as potential drug candidates using organic synthetic procedures and biological evaluation of these compounds for activity”. After graduation, she joined as a post-doctoral fellow in the Claesen lab, where her work focuses on generating substrate analogs to interrupt APE biosynthesis.

In her free time, Viharika enjoys gardening, cooking, and traveling while spending time with family and friends.


Jan Claesen – Principal Investigator

Jan was born and raised in Alken, a small town with a big brewery in Belgium. He obtained a B.S. and M.S. in Biological Engineering at the KU Leuven, Belgium, and specialized in Cell and Gene Biotechnology. Next, Jan joined the lab of Prof. Mervyn Bibb and he received his Ph.D. in Molecular Microbiology in 2011 from the John Innes Centre and University of East Anglia, Norwich, UK. His Ph.D. studies involved the genetics and biosynthesis of ribosomally synthesized and post-translationally modified peptide antibiotics in Streptomyces. After his graduate studies, Jan was a postdoctoral scholar in the lab of Dr. Michael Fischbach in the Department of Bioengineering and Therapeutic Sciences at the University of California, San Francisco, USA. There, his work focused on the characterization of bacterial metabolites that mediate microbe-microbe and microbe-host interactions in human gut and skin. The Claesen group was established at the Lerner Research Institute, Cleveland Clinic in November 2017. Our aim is to characterize the role of bioactive microbial and dietary small molecules in microbiota-associated diseases.

In his free time, Jan enjoys hiking, outdoors activities, cooking, traveling, RPG computer games, heavy and alternative music, Lego, and spending time with his wife and two daughters.

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Beckey DeLucia – Research Technician

Beckey joined the Claesen lab as a research technician in March of 2020 after completing her bachelor’s in biological sciences at the University of South Carolina. Beckey’s research is focused on the role of diet and gut microbial metabolites in the prevention of colorectal cancer. Something Beckey enjoys about being a part of the Claesen lab is the immense opportunities to work collaboratively with others. During her time in the lab she has had the joy of working with other labs within the LRI, the engineers located at the Cleveland clinic, and pathologists. She feels that because of these collaborative opportunities, the resources and support here are endless.

Outside of the lab, Beckey enjoys painting, finding record shops to expand her vinyl collection, and visiting her friends and family back in Rochester, NY.


Layan Hamidi Nia – Graduate Student

Layan was born in the southern part of Iran and raised in the United Arab Emirates. She obtained a B.S. in Biomedical Engineering – Mechanical Engineering Track and minored in Chemistry at the University of Akron (UA), where she graduated with an honors degree. During her junior undergrad year, Layan completed a 1 year CO-OP as a Quality Engineer at Core Molding Technologies. Next, she was an Undergrad Research Assistant at the Chemistry Department at UA where she performed microscopic analysis of fluorescence of cells and assisted with general lab tasks. In her senior Capstone Project, she worked on Left Ventricular Assist Device (LVAD) Infection where she pursued FDA device design process and developed the risk management of the project. In fall 2021, Layan started her PhD in Applied Biomedical Engineering at Cleveland State University.

In her free time, Layan enjoys cooking, listening to rap music, and spending time with friends.


Rachel Markley – Postdoctoral Fellow

Rachel was born and raised in Harleysville, Pennsylvania, a suburb of Philadelphia. She obtained a B.S. in Biology and a B.A. in Fine Arts from Gettysburg College. She later went on to obtain a M.S. in Biotechnology from The Pennsylvania State University (Penn State). After a short interlude studying the proteomic profile of Chlamydia trachomatis at a pharmaceutical company she returned to Penn State to work in the lab of Dr. Girish Kirimanjeswara. While in the Kirimanjeswara lab, her work focused on the effects of dietary selenium on macrophage response to the intracellular bacteria Francisella tularensis. Rachel finished her Ph.D. in Immunology and Infectious Diseases in 2017. After completion of her graduate studies she moved to the Cleveland area where she is presently a postdoctoral fellow in the lab of Dr. Jan Claesen at Lerner Research Institute, Cleveland Clinic. She is currently studying the role of aryl polyenes, a product of a biosynthetic gene cluster (BCG) in Escherichia coli and other Gram-negative bacteria . Rachel is focused on gaining a better understanding of how aryl polyene expression influences bacterial colonization, immune response and resulting pathogenesis.

In her free time Rachel enjoys spending time with her family and dog hiking, gardening, cooking and traveling.

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Shreyaa Nagajothi – Undergraduate Student

Shreyaa Nagajothi was born in Detroit, Michigan and grew up in Canton, Ohio. She is currently a Chancellor’s scholar at the University of Pittsburgh majoring in neuroscience. Shreyaa’s first experience in research was with Dr. Mark Dahlman of Kent State University, studying the prevalence of MRSA in various fitness facilities. She started working with Dr. Jan Claesen at Cleveland Clinic in June of 2019. She is also a member of Dr. Udai Pandey’s lab at the University of Pittsburgh, which studies the molecular mechanisms of ALS pathogenesis.

In her free time, Shreyaa enjoys spending time with her friends and family and trying new restaurants in Pittsburgh.


Luke Osborn – Postdoctoral Fellow

Luke was born in Ft. Collins, CO where he spent much of his childhood roaming the Rocky Mountains. In 2013, he obtained his B.S. in Biomedical Laboratory Diagnostics from Lyman Briggs College of Michigan State University. Luke then completed an internship at the Cleveland Clinic’s School of Medical Technology where he became a board-certified Medical Laboratory Scientist. He then worked in the Immunohematology and Clinical Microbiology labs at the Cleveland Clinic for several years before joining the Cleveland Clinic/Case Western Reserve University Molecular Medicine PhD program in 2017. After rotating in the labs of Mark Brown, Stanley Hazen, and Jan Claesen, Luke joined the Brown and Claesen labs, leveraging their experience in nutrition and microbiology, respectively, where he’s working on the microbial metabolism of dietary input in cardiometabolic disease.

In his free time, Luke enjoys spending time with his wife, dirt biking, traveling, and managing his small petting zoo of 2 cats, 2 dogs, and 4 chickens.


Tharika Thambidurai – Undergraduate Student

Tharika Thambidurai was born in Chennai, India and raised in Fremont, California. She is currently a freshman at Case Western Reserve University majoring in biology and minoring in bioethics and medical humanities on the pre-medical track. Her first experiences in research were at Aspiring Scholars Directed Research Program, studying both how self-cleaning photocatalysts reduce air pollution and how nitrogen and water content in native and invasive bromes affect wildfires in California. She started working with Dr. Jan Claesen at the Lerner Research Institute, Cleveland Clinic in September of 2021. 

In her free time, Tharika enjoys spending time with her family and friends, singing, sightseeing, and attempting to bake.


Past members:

Kelsey Ouyang – Medical Student (summer internship) – Current position: Medical Student at Cleveland Clinic Lerner College of Medicine, Cleveland, OH

Karlee Schultz – Undergraduate Student – Current position: Medical Student at Ohio State University, Columbus, OH

Carter Powers – Medical Student (summer internship) – Current position: Medical Student at Cleveland Clinic Lerner College of Medicine, Cleveland, OH

Isabel Johnston – Postdoctoral Fellow – Current position: Postdoctoral Fellow in the McDonald lab, Lerner Research Institute, Cleveland, OH

BJ Massey – Rotation Graduate Student – Current position: Graduate Student in the Brown lab, Lerner Research Institute, Cleveland, OH

Jade Larney – Undergraduate Student – Current position: Leasing and Operations Manager at Equity Management, Youngstown, OH

Liz McManus – Undergraduate Student (summer internship) – Current position: Postbaccalaureate Fellow at National Cancer Institute, NIH, Bethesda, MD