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Rock Lab Members

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James Chen

Postdoctoral Fellow

James was born and raised in Philadelphia. He received his bachelor’s degree in biophysics from the University of Pennsylvania in 2013 and his PhD from The Rockefeller University in 2020 under the mentorship of Dr. Seth Darst and Dr. Elizabeth Campbell. His PhD work focused on understanding prokaryotic transcription regulation and initiation. During the COVID-19 pandemic, he expanded his research focus to SARS-CoV-2 replication and transcription. In 2021, James went on to join the labs of Dr. Gira Bhabha and Dr. Damian Ekiert at the NYU School of Medicine for his postdoctoral studies to understand lipid transport mechanisms in mycobacteria. He joined Dr. Jeremy Rock’s lab in April 2024 as a postdoctoral fellow and will be studying cell wall biogenesis and replication in mycobacteria. Outside of the lab, James enjoys finding new food spots, strolling through museums and art galleries, hiking, and playing with his cat (Miso).

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Felipe d'Andrea

MD-PhD Student

Felipe is originally from São Paulo, Brazil and concurrently received a BA and MA in Chemistry from Johns Hopkins University in 2017. At Johns Hopkins, Felipe worked in the laboratory of Dr. Craig A. Townsend, where he studied the biosynthesis of non-ribosomal peptide synthetase natural products by combining his passion for synthetic organic chemistry and enzymology. Driven by his growing interest in infectious disease and drug resistance, Felipe came to New York City in 2018 to begin the Tri-Institutional MD-PhD Program. He joined the Rock Lab in 2020, where he studies the biology of the enigmatic Clp protease system in Mycobacterium tuberculosis. When he’s not checking cultures or running PCRs, Felipe enjoys running the Central Park loop, checking out the NYC live-music scene, enthusiastically singing karaoke, and finding the city’s best burger.

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Michael DeJesus, Ph.D.

Senior Computational Biologist/Wizard

Michael received his PhD in Computer Science from Texas A&M University in 2016. His research focused on developing statistical models to analyze data from transposon sequencing experiments (TnSeq) to determine the essentiality of genes. As part of his research he created TRANSIT (https://github.com/mad-lab/transit), a software package written in Python that provides a graphical interface to several of these methods. He joined the Rock Lab in June 2018 to do bioinformatics. His research interests include Bayesian statistics, bioinformatics and machine learning. He also has a guinea pig called “Lindo”.

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Will Doyle

PhD Student

Will grew up outside Boston and received his BA in Biology from Williams College in 2019. For his undergraduate thesis in the lab of Lois Banta, he studied the contributions of a bacterial secretion system, host hormones, and ambient humidity during plant infection by Agrobacterium tumefaciens. He then turned to human disease, working in the lab of Zuzana Tothova at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute to understand and target vulnerabilities in myeloid malignancies via drug combinations. He is now excited to pursue human infectious disease research in the Rock Lab, investigating host-pathogen interactions in M. tuberculosis infection. Outside of lab, you can find him playing jazz trombone in a haunted squash court or looking for ‘80s music in the city.

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Kathryn Eckartt

PhD Student

Kathryn graduated summa cum laude from Stony Brook University with her BS in Biochemistry where she worked in the lab of Dr. Jessica Seeliger studying the mycobacterial lipid membrane and developing chemical tools. She worked to develop a chemical system to spatially label proteins and better elucidate their location within the inner membrane of Mycobacterium smegmatis. She joined the Rock Lab in the spring of 2019 and is studying genes in mycobacteria that confer intrinsic resistance to antibiotics. When she’s not in the lab she enjoys running by the East River, fostering animals through a local shelter, and being one of the lab’s resident nerds (ahem, Michael) by playing Dungeons and Dragons and board games.

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Ruby Froom

PhD Student (Joint with Darst/Campbell Labs)

Born and raised in NYC, Ruby is thrilled to be working close to home as a graduate student in the labs of Jeremy Rock and Elizabeth Campbell/Seth Darst. She majored in Biology and Music at Williams College, where she studied plant-pathogen interactions and ethnomusicology, and also worked with Cori Bargmann at Rockefeller University on worm-pathogen interactions. These days, when she’s not in lab, you can find her making/seeing music, growing her dog-sitting business, or finding ways to hike and camp outside of the concrete jungle.

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Sebastian Gonzalez

PhD Student

Sebastian’s upbringing took place in a very quaint and small city, Mexico City. In 2020, he completed his BSc in Basic Biomedical Research from the National Autonomous University of Mexico. Under the supervision of Dr. Teresa Tusie, he studied the genetic architecture of metabolic diseases and COVID-19 severity in the Mexican population. Driven by his growing fascination with the intersection between metabolism and infection, he then spent one year working in the Pernas Lab at the Max Planck Institute for Biology of Ageing. His project was particularly focused on unraveling novel mechanisms by which mitochondria respond to stress, including infection with the intracellular parasite Toxoplasma gondii. He joined the Rock lab in the summer of 2023, where he continues to explore the host-pathogen interface (only this time with our favorite bug, Mycobacterium tuberculosis). Sebastian enjoys spending his weekends outside; trying out new activities, biking around the city, sunbathing by the park (or beach) and exploring local restaurants, bars and clubs.

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James Hickling

PhD Student

Born and raised in Massachusetts, James received his BS in Biological Sciences at Cornell University in 2019 where he conducted undergraduate research on bacterial plant pathogens. He then worked as a research technician in the laboratory of Dr. Leslie Shaw at UMass Chan Medical School studying insulin metabolic signaling in cancer cell biology. He then moved back to New York, joining the laboratory of Dr. John Maciejowski at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center where he studied mechanisms of innate immunity and genome integrity. James joined the Rock lab in the spring of 2024, where he applies functional genomics and bioinformatics approaches to identify vulnerabilities in mycobacteria that can be exploited for antibiotic development. Outside the lab, James can be found running around central park, out on a culinary adventure, and risking his life biking around the city. 

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Mariko Kanai

Postdoctoral Fellow

Mariko grew up in Tokyo and New York and earned her bachelor’s degree in biology from Columbia in 2017. She received her PhD from Columbia University in May 2023 under the mentorship of Dr. David Fidock. Her PhD work focused on harnessing a Plasmodium falciparum human malaria genetic cross that Dr. Fidock’s lab conducted in collaboration with Dr. Photini Sinnis’s lab to elucidate determinants of resistance to the antimalarials chloroquine and quinine. She joined Dr. Jeremy Rock’s lab as a postdoctoral associate in July 2023 and will be studying chemical-genetic interactions and host-pathogen interactions in Mycobacterium tuberculosis. Outside of lab, she enjoys trying new cafes/restaurants in the city, visiting museums, and going to concerts.

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Isaac Kresse

PhD Student

Isaac grew up in the suburbs of Louisville, Kentucky. Eager to see other parts of the world, he completed a BS in Chemistry and a BS in Computer Engineering at Northeastern University. Finding Boston not cold enough, he traveled to Trondheim and worked in the Biotechnology Department of SINTEF using protein engineering to turn waste products into useful materials. Having braved the Norwegian winter, he decided to see what the equator had to offer and interned at the National University of Singapore. There he discovered the joy of hawker markets and spent some time using hydrogen exchange mass spectrometry to study the dynamics of malarial proteins. Returning to Boston, he worked at Harvard Medical School designing microfluidics for single-cell RNA sequencing. He made one more hop across the Atlantic to Munich, where he studied stress-induced phase separation at the Max-Planck Institute for Biochemistry. After all the back and forth, he’s happy to say that he’ll be staying put in New York for the next few years at his new home in the Rock Lab. Here, he’ll be scaling up our CRISPR screens to look at gene-gene interactions in Mycobacterium tuberculosis. Outside of the lab, he loves cooking and making all manner of things. From 3D-printing and painting, to crochet and embroidery, Isaac loves creating something new.

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Julia Losner

MD-PhD Student

After growing up on Long Island, Julia attended Harvard College, where she graduated summa cum laude with highest honors in Human Developmental and Regenerative Biology and minored in Music. Mentored by Dr. Jessica Whited, her undergraduate thesis work interrogated the intersection between scar tissue formation and regeneration using axolotls as a model organism. In 2021, she returned to New York to join the Tri-Institutional MD-PhD Program. Curious to identify novel mechanisms of drug resistance in M. tuberculosis, she joined the Rock Lab in 2023, where she works to characterize the genetic and metabolic consequences of pharmacological treatments in this fascinating organism. Outside of lab, you can find her running through Central Park, making music, finding the best student tickets for the NY Philharmonic or the Metropolitan Opera, or on television in shows including HBO's Boardwalk Empire and Crashing and TBS' The Last OG.

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Sofia Moraes

Postdoctoral Fellow

Sofia grew up in Porto Alegre, Brazil and received her BS in Molecular Biotechnology from the Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul in 2018. As an undergraduate researcher, she characterized differences in the secretomes of pathogenic and non-pathogenic Mycoplasma species associated with virulence. She received her PhD in Biochemistry, Molecular Biology & Biophysics from the University of Minnesota in 2023 after joining the lab of Dr. Reuben Harris, where she turned to virology and the study of host-pathogen interactions. Her doctoral research focused on understanding how ancient and ongoing genetic conflicts between viruses and their hosts shape protein evolution. She joined the Rock Lab in October 2023 as a postdoc, where she continues to explore molecular mechanisms of infectious disease using comparative functional genomics to study Mycobacterium tuberculosis. Outside of the lab, you can probably find her biking around the city looking for hidden gems and her next favorite reading spot.

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Vanisha Munsamy-Govender

Laboratory Manager

Vanisha is originally from Durban, South Africa and received a Master’s in Medical Microbiology from the University of KwaZulu-Natal in 2017 whilst concurrently working at the Africa Health Research Institute. At the Africa Health Research Institute, Vanisha worked in the laboratory of Dr. Alexander S. Pym, where she conducted research on projects related to understanding the mechanisms of antibiotic resistance, improving diagnostics and understanding drug tolerance in M. tuberculosis. She has special expertise in BSL-3 mycobacterial culture and drug susceptibility testing, flow cytometry confocal microscopy and ELISA-based assays. Vanisha joined the Rock Lab in 2022 as a laboratory manager, where she will be will support the PI and laboratory scientists in their day-to-day research projects and manage the laboratory’s daily operations. Vanisha is passionate about research, more especially research that is impactful and has the power and potential to influence international policy on global health. Her interests include reading, playing video games and go-kart racing with family and friends.

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Luis Perez-Valencia

MD-PhD Student

Luis was born in Medellin, Colombia and raised in New England. In 2017, he graduated magna cum laude from Connecticut College with his BA in Biology and minor in Psychology. He then went on to work in the Emerging Pathogens Laboratory run by Dr. Daniel Chertow in the Critical Care Medicine Department of the Clinical Center at the National Institutes of Health where he studied host-pathogen interactions among several pathogens including SARS-CoV-2, Ebola virus, Zika virus, E. coli, and Klebsiella pneumoniae. In 2020, Luis decided to join the Tri-Institutional MD-PhD Program in NYC right in the middle of the largest pandemic to rock the earth in a century. He joined the Rock Lab in the fall of 2022 and is studying host-pathogen interactions during M. tuberculosis infection. When he is not in lab, you can find him walking his blue merle Frenchie named “Obie”, catching up on some sci-fi shows and movies, or discovering the newest omakase spot in the city.

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Stefany Quiñones-Garcia

Research Assistant

Stefany holds a BSc in Biological Sciences from San Marcos University and an MSc in biochemistry and molecular biology from Cayetano Heredia University in Peru. There, she worked as a research assistant and lab manager in the Zimic and Sheen laboratories, where she sought to understand the mechanism of PZA resistance in M. tuberculosis. Stefany then worked in the Gilman group at Johns Hopkins to improve parasite diagnostics. In addition to her research, Stefany taught as a teaching assistant in science courses at Cayetano Heredia University and was a volunteer at the Rosalind Franklin initiative, where she mentored elementary school girls in scientific workshops. In her free time, she loves hiking in nature.

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Abhijna Reddy

Bioinformatics Assistant

Abhijna graduated with a B.S. in Computational Biology from the University of Rochester. While she was there, she worked on various projects involving machine learning and exploring different bioinformatics tools. She continues to expand her knowledge on the same at the lab as she applies machine learning techniques, improves our lab website (pebble), and fixes bugs throughout our tools. When she’s not in lab, she enjoys doing pottery on the wheel, exploring restaurants in the city with her friends, drinking bubble tea, and picking up a new language.

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Jeremy M. Rock, Ph.D.

Principal Investigator

Assistant Professor

Jeremy is an Assistant Professor at the Rockefeller University and Head of the Laboratory of Host-Pathogen Biology. He received his undergraduate degrees in biochemistry and economics from the University of California, Berkeley, spent two years in the biotech industry at Sangamo Biosciences, earned his Ph.D. from MIT, and performed his postdoc at the Harvard School of Public Health. While a formally trained yeast geneticist, Jeremy found his true passion in mycobacterial pathogenesis.

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Natalie Sayegh

MD-PhD Student

Natalie grew up in the Boston area and received her BA in biochemistry from Columbia University. As an undergraduate student and post-baccalaureate researcher, she trained as a developmental geneticist, studying neuronal morphogenesis and programmed cell death in C. elegans. Now an MD-PhD student in the Rock lab (joined 2023), she continues to explore her love of genetics in a new system (mycobacteria). In her free time, she enjoys strolling through Central Park, drawing/painting, and consuming bakery items.

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S. Nicolai Tornow

PhD Student

Nicolai completed his B.Sc. in Life Science from University of Hanover in Germany where he worked in the lab of Dr. Thomas Scheper working on 3D cell culture models and microfluidics. He received his master’s degree in Life Science at University of Constance where he worked with Dr. Thomas U. Mayer extending previous research that yielded the kinesin-5 small molecule inhibitor Monastrol. During an exchange semester at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore, he explored the interface between Material Science and Biology, specifically how cephalopods utilize biomimicry. After an internship in the Drug Discovery department at Bayer, he joined the lab of Dr. Stuart Schreiber at the Broad Institute and Harvard University in 2018 where he furthered his understanding in screening complex biological targets for small molecule binders using DNA-encoded small molecule libraries. He discovered putative binders of the lipid transporter Apolipoprotein E, the strongest genetic risk factor for late-onset of Alzheimer’s disease. Nicolai is a graduate student in the Tri-institutional Chemical Biology Program and joined the Rock lab in 2022 where he seeks to combine his expertise in chemical biology and leverage CRISPRi to advance our understanding of host-pathogen interaction of the emerging pathogen Mycobacterium abscessus. In his free time Nicolai enjoys anything nature and adrenaline-related, scuba diving, sailing, traveling, running, playing team handball and more recently, skydiving. To compensate for the lack of green in the city, he is constantly looking for new plants that can be adopted.

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Rock Lab Alumni

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Nicholas F. Archer

Research Assistant

2019-2021

Post Rock Lab: MD Student, Drexel University

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Jesseon Chang

Research Assistant

2019-2021

Post Rock Lab: PhD Student, University of California, Berkeley

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Aiden Kolodziej

Research Assistant

Post Rock lab: Research Assistant, Brady Lab, Rockefeller University

2021-2022

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Shuqi Li, Ph.D.

Postdoctoral Fellow

2018-2022

Post Rock lab: Senior Scientist, Arbor Biotechnologies

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Kayan Tam

Postdoctoral Fellow

2020-2022

Post Rock Lab: Scientist at Janssen

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Bouchra Benghomari

Research Assistant

2021-2022

Post Rock Lab: Clinical Research Coordinator, Weill Cornell Medicine

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Andrew Wong

PhD Student

2018-2023

Post Rock Lab: Scientist at Microbial Machines

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Barbara Bosch, M.D.

PhD Student

2018-2023

Post Rock Lab: Instructor in Clinical Investigation at The Rockefeller University

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Nick Poulton

PhD Student

2018-2023

Post Rock Lab: Postdoctoral fellow at the NIH Laboratory of Malaria Immunology and Vaccinology

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Victor Chen

PhD Student (Joint with Howard Hang)

2020-2023

Post Rock Lab: Scientist at CRISPR Therapeutics

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Zack Azadian

Bioinformatics Assistant

2020-2023

Post Rock Lab: Solutions Engineer at MSK

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