NIH Student Trainees | Medicinal Chemistry Collaborative

NIH Student Trainees

Current Fellows

Gabrielle Dailey

Gabrielle P. Dailey is a National Institutes of Health T32 funded PhD student currently working in the Taylor laboratory. She comes to us with a B.S. in Biochemistry from NC State, where she did undergraduate research for 3 years on characterizing the interaction between natural peptides and geminiviral replication machinery in plants. The Taylor group is studying the relationship between viral infection and dietary selenium, and Gabby’s research is focused on the Zika virus, an RNA based virus spread by mosquitos. There are currently gaps in the scientific knowledge surrounding how Zika viral infection leads to the onset of a congenital microcephaly in newborns whose mothers were infected with the virus. Gabby is investigating how this phenomenon occurs, specifically focusing on viral genomic RNA interactions with host cell mRNAs that code for the expression of both selenoproteins, Selenoprotein P (SePP1) and Thioredoxin reductase 1 (TR1). Gabby has taken on leadership and mentorship roles, receiving the Teaching Assistant of the Year Award in 2018, and has used her scientific communication skills to win first prize in a recent campus wide 3-minute thesis competition.

When Gabby isn’t infecting millions of cells with virus, she enjoys reading science fiction, flooding the internet with pictures of her cats, and forcing her husband to go on hikes with her.

Derick Jones

Derick D. Jones, Jr. is a National Institutes of Health T32 fellow and works under the mentorship of Dr. Nadja Cech, coming to UNC Greensboro with a MS degree in Analytical Chemistry from North Carolina A&T State University. Passionate about promoting science education, Derick plays a critical role in the T32 program, both as a scientific mentor of undergraduates and junior graduate students and as an organizer of community outreach events and activities. His research involves using metabolomics as a tool to understand virulence regulation in methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA). He has developed a new analytical method that enables simultaneous tracking of growth and virulence with this pathogen.

Derick loves fashion (you will catch him in front of a camera during his free time). He also enjoys singing and writing music. Derick’s favorite word is AMAZING!

Amber Kelley

Amber M. Kelley is a National Institutes of Health T32 fellow and PhD candidate working with Dr. Kimberly Petersen. She earned a BS degree in Chemistry from St. Norbert College in De Pere, WI and joined the T32 program having already devoted two years to undergraduate research in the laboratory of Dr. Kathleen Garber. Her dissertation research at UNC Greensboro focuses on the development of new asymmetric reactions to create chiral products. The synthesis of compounds that have enantiomerically pure fully substituted chiral centers is a major challenge in synthesis and Amber has worked on multiple projects that address this challenge. Amber will graduate with her PhD in August of 2020 and has secured a Postdoctoral Research Associate position with Dr. Kevin Frankowski at UNC Chapel Hill.

Amber loves to spend time with her dog Raleigh outside of lab. She enjoys many outdoor activities such as camping, fishing, and going for jogs. She also has a creative side which involves drawing, journaling, and cooking.

Sonja Knowles

Sonja L. Knowles is a National Institutes of Health F31 fellow and member of the Oberlies research group, where she studies the chemistry and pharmacology of fungal metabolites. She received her BS degree in Pharmaceutical Sciences from the University of Rhode Island, where she worked as an undergraduate student on a natural products research project with Dr. Navindra Seeram. A former T32 fellow, Sonja’s F31 studies the evolution of fungal pathogenicity, a project being conducted in close collaboration with evolutionary biologist Dr. Antonis Rokas at Vanderbilt University. When not using a droplet probe to study the interaction of co-cultured fungi, Sonja is engaged in mentorship of junior chemistry students and participates extensively in science education outreach activities.

Sonja enjoys reading novels of any kind, expanding her diverse wardrobe, as well as hanging out with her cat Bobo.

Heather Winter

Heather L. Winter is a National Institutes of Health T32 fellow and member of the Cech research group. She received her BS degree in Nutrition from the University of Connecticut and worked as a researcher in natural products in the laboratory of Dr. Marcy Balunas prior to joining the PhD program at UNC Greensboro. Heather’s research involves the development of novel mass spectrometry metabolomics approaches to determine mechanism of action of botanical natural products. She uses these approaches to predict mechanism of action for botanical constituents and extracts, and to improve quality control of botanical dietary supplements and gain insight into how botanical medicines can be employed in the treatment and prevention of disease. In addition to her own investigations, Heather has successfully mentored multiple undergraduates in research and has engaged enthusiastically in outreach activities.

When Heather is not analyzing data, she enjoys drawing sketches of medicinal plants, hiking with her dog, Lily, visiting family, reading mystery novels, and tending to her herb garden.

Past Fellows

Emily Rose Britton

Dr. Emily Rose Britton earned her PhD in Medicinal Biochemistry in 2018 and is currently a natural products applications chemist for Waters, Inc. As a National Institutes of Health F31 fellow in Dr. Nadja Cech’s research group, she worked on applying statistical analyses to botanical medicines to discover new antimicrobial synergists and compounds that can inhibit bacterial virulence, particularly against Staphylococcus aureus. As an F31 fellow, Emily also carried out a collaborative project with Procter & Gamble and completed a summer internship with Dr. Timothy Baker at their research laboratories in Cincinnati Ohio.

When Emily is not digging around in mass spectrometry data, she enjoys live music, sewing apparel and accessories, making jewelry, exploring nature, and persuading friends to try her homemade vegan cupcakes.

Lindsay Caesar

Dr. Lindsay K. Caesar earned her PhD in Medicinal Biochemistry in 2019 and is now a postdoctoral research associate with Dr. Neil Kelleher at Northwestern University, where she has secured her own F32 fellowship grant. She came to UNC Greensboro with a MS degree in Plant and Environmental Science from Clemson University and a scientific background in pre-veterinary medicine, biology, horticulture, and chemistry. As a National Institutes of Health T32 fellow working with Dr. Nadja Cech, Lindsay’s research focused on mass spectrometry and multivariate statistics, which were used to comprehensively evaluate complex natural products mixtures for antimicrobial activity.

Lindsay grew up on a medicinal herb farm, and has always loved anything and everything to do with the outdoors. She is known by her hiccups, which she has had once an hour for almost ten years!

Diana Kao

Dr. Diana Kao earned her PhD in Medicinal Biochemistry in December of 2019. As a National Institutes of Health F31 fellow, she had a desire to contribute a positive human impact, learn a diverse set of techniques, and incorporate massive pun-metry. For her, these interests converged and shaped her graduate studies in natural products in the Oberlies research group, leading her to investigate antivirulence of MRSA in Penicillium sp. with droplet surface sampling liquid microjunction probe.

Diana enjoys immersing herself in creative stories of various media and is an amateur sketch artist.

Joshua Kellogg

Dr. Joshua J. Kellogg is a former member of the Cech Research laboratory and an NIH F32 Postdoctoral Research Fellowship awardee. His work at UNC Greensboro centered on developing new metabolomics-based analytical approaches using both mass spectrometry and NMR methodologies, applying these innovative techniques to natural products screening and discovery as well as analysis of botanical dietary supplements. Josh is now Assistant Professor in the department of Veterinary and Biomedical Sciences at Penn State University.

Josh enjoys many outdoor activities, hiking, biking, and kayaking, and he is an avid photographer in his spare time.


Cassandra Naphen

Cassandra N. Naphen joined the PhD program at UNC Greensboro having earned a BS degree in Biochemistry and Microbiology from UC Santa Cruz, where she spent several years as a research technician in the laboratory of Dr. Phil Cruz. As a National Institutes of Health T32 fellow in Dr. Nadja Cech’s laboratory, her research involved studying medicinal plant and fungal natural product chemistry and developing ways to accelerate drug discovery using mass spectrometery and computational techniques. Cassy earned her MS degree in 2019 and is now a Lead Chemist for the biotech company Brightseed.

Cassy is an avid road tripper, nature lover, snack queen, off-road adventurer, and waterfall chaser.  She also worked in a vegan bakery and makes amazing baked goods.