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.
Emma Dester – Medical Student
Emma received her B.S. in Biosystems Engineering from Michigan State University in May 2021. She proceeded to obtain her M.S. from the same department in May 2022 with a thesis on extraction and detection of foodborne pathogens using glycan-coated magnetic nanoparticles and a colorimetric gold nanoparticle biosensor. Emma is now a first-year student at the Cleveland Clinic Lerner College of Medicine and joined the Claesen group in July 2022. She is currently assisting with research investigating the impact of aryl polyenes in E. coli on the cellular immune response.
In her free time, Emma enjoys cooking, reading, and spending time with family and friends.
Maggie Ginter-Frankovitch – Undergraduate Student
Maggie Ginter-Frankovitch was born in Nanning, China, and grew up in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. She currently attends Case Western Reserve University, where she is a second-year pre-med student studying Medical Anthropology, with minors in chemistry and
nutrition. This is Maggie’s first research laboratory experience, but in the past she loved participating in the Small World Initiative through the University of Pittsburgh during high school. The program encourages students to study STEM and engage with research in their future careers, and focuses on the isolation of antibiotic-producing bacteria from the soil that could become novel antibiotics. Outside of the lab, Maggie volunteers for a refugee resettlement agency in Pittsburgh, and teaches incarcerated youth and her college community about health
through Case Western’s chapter of the national organization PERIOD.
In her free time, Maggie enjoys playing volleyball and basketball with friends, baking, taking film and digital pictures, and catching up on sleep.
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.
Yaheya Idris – Research Technician
Yaheya was born in Rawalpindi, Pakistan before moving to the United States. He lived in Texas for some time before making the move to Ohio. Yaheya joined the Claesen lab as a research technician in the summer of 2022. He graduated earlier that same year from The Ohio State University receiving a B.S with Honors in Neuroscience. Yaheya will be continuing research on the role of the diet and gut microbial metabolites in the prevention of colorectal cancer. Furthermore he is excited at the opportunity to continue his love for organic chemistry, microbiology, and mice work by helping with projects of other Claesen Lab members.
In his free time, Yaheya enjoys playing soccer and lacrosse, watching movies, building Legos, arguing about Star Wars, and spending time with friends and family.
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.
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.
Luke Osborn – Graduate Student and later (1 year) Postdoctoral Fellow – Current position: CPEP Medical & Public Health Lab Microbiology Fellow, Children’s Hospital LA, Los Angeles, CA
Beckey DeLucia – Research Technician – Current position: Aspiring Medical Student
Shreyaa Nagajothi – Undergraduate Student – Current position: Neuroscience Student at the University of Pittsburgh, PA
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: MD/PhD student at Princeton University, NJ