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Former Members

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Aditi Kannan ('22)

At Wellesley, I majored in Biochemistry and minored in Music. I currently work as a Research Technician in the Kwon Lab at the Ragon Institute in Cambridge, MA where I am studying the vaginal microbiome. Outside of the lab, I enjoy reading, listening to and playing music, and wandering around the city!

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Annelle Abatoni Kayisire ('23)

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Hannah Dong ('22)

I majored in Media Arts and Sciences with an emphasis in Media Arts. In the lab, I combined my love for science and art through design. I worked on the lab website and created project pages to highlight our lab research. Outside of lab, I danced with the Wellesley Asian Dance Organization, organized events with the Chinese Students Association, and took lots of photos.

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Jacquelyn Cai ('22)

I majored in Computer Science and Neuroscience at Wellesley. After graduation, I moved to New York City to work as a software engineer. While I’m no longer in academia, I miss the tight-knit community that the VKC lab cultivated. 

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Nisreen Abo-Sido ('18)

As a researcher with the Lexicon of Sustainability, I am working on interdisciplinary and collaborative projects aimed at involving diverse stakeholders in promoting more sustainable food systems.

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Sophie Rowland ('17)

I worked in the VKC Lab for two years as an undergraduate investigating anaerobic microbial manganese oxidation and three years as a research associate investigating the connection between the gut microbiome and brain development on the ECHO project. I am now pursuing a career in public health having earned a Master's of Public Health degree from Boston University in May 2024. I specialize in program design and evaluation and am interested in applying these skills toward furthering reproductive health and disability justice. In my free time, I enjoy crafting with yarn and fabric. I just finished knitting my first sweater and cannot wait to cast on another. I also love to go birdwatching with my husband.

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Lisa Luka ('18)

I majored in Biochemistry and graduated in 2018. I worked in the VKC Lab for two years.

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Serry Park ('16)

I am currently a software engineer at Slack where I build backend components on the Platform Team.

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Amelia Winter ('15)

I am attending the University of Central Florida (UCF) College of Medicine.

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Rachel Harris ('14)

I received my A.B. in Biological Sciences and Russian from Wellesley in 2014, and my M.A. and Ph.D. in Geosciences at Princeton in 2017 and 2020, respectively, under the late Tullis Onstott. While in Vanja's lab, I studied the effects of nutrient uptake and hydrodynamic shear on the morphology of cyanobacterial mats. Since graduating from Wellesley, my research has explored the habitable limits of microbial life through the lens of Subsurface Lithoautotrophic Microbial Ecosystems (SLiMEs), with particular interest in methane biogeochemistry of astrobiological targets of interest (e.g., Mars and icy moons) and the ecophysiology of archaea involved in anaerobic methane cycling. As a postdoc in Peter Girguis' lab at Harvard, much of my work has focused on characterizing the extent and magnitude of microbial anaerobic methane oxidation at hydrothermal vents in the northern Guaymas Basin and Western Galapagos Spreading Center. On May 1st 2024, I will begin splitting my time between Harvard and Washington D.C., where I will begin a NASA Postdoctoral Management Program (NPMP) Fellowship in the Astrobiology Program at NASA HQ. As an NPMP, I will serve as the Editor-in-Chief for the 2025 NASA Astrobiology Strategy. I will engage in interdisciplinary collaboration, community outreach, and strategic planning to advance Astrobiology Program research aligned with NASA's mission. This includes embedding astrobiology in missions, addressing ethical considerations, and exploring innovative technologies. I live in Waltham, MA with my fiancé Matt and our rapidly growing Leonberger puppy, Winnie.

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Anika Luo ('23)

At Wellesley, I majored in Biochemistry and minored in Music, and my research in the VKC Lab investigated the effect of microbially produced neurotransmitters on the function and motion of Caenorhabditis elegans. I am currently pursuing a PhD/DPhil in Biochemistry at the University of Oxford, where I am working on the development of new vaccines against malaria with the Draper Lab. Outside of lab, I can be found dancing, singing, or reading in a cozy corner with some hot chocolate.

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Caroline MacVicar ('23)

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Steph Consuegra ('22)

Thanks to my time at Wellesley, I was fortunate enough to graduate with a Psychology major and Biochemistry minor. I also found great joy in the pioneering research I conducted in the VKC lab as our team explored the soil microbial communities of the newly renovated Global Flora greenhouse. Uplifting others and making the most out of the opportunities given to me are two of the many things that bring me the most life. I am currently pursuing a career in medicine and am hopeful that all of my experiences in and out of the lab will make me a great doctor!

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Ropafafadzo Shava ('23)

As a person who is fascinated by how technology determines the future, I intend to major in Computer Science/ Data Science. I am especially interested in medical coding and the use of computation and data to solve complex medical problems for individuals and in public health.

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Danielle Peterson ('20)

At Wellesley, I majored in biological sciences and minored in statistics. My senior thesis compared the efficacy of 16S and metagenomic sequencing in analyzing infant and child microbiomes investigating the role of various environmental factors on the development of children’s gut microbiota and cognitive development. I am currently working as a Data Scientist at Novartis Institutes for BioMedical Research in Cambridge, MA. 

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Anna Farrell-Sherman ('19)

I studied microbial communities and the algorithms we use to understand them as a Computer Science Major. I began working in the VKC Lab during my sophomore year at Wellesley, studying anerobic manganese oxidation in Fayetteville Green Lake, NY. I wrote my senior honors thesis on how to apply machine learning algorithms for the differentiation of protein functions. Outside of lab, I love to rock climb, cook, read, and play outside!

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Alexa Rodriguez ('17)

In August I will start my MD program at USC's Keck School of Medicine.

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Michaella Montana ('16)

Greetings! My name is Michaella and I am a forever nerd who studied Biochem at Wellesley. I was lucky enough to help out with the cheese microbial ecology project in Vanja’s lab. After attempting Medical School I switched gears to earn a Masters in Depth Psychology at Pacifica Graduate Institute. Currently I am working as a clinical research coordinator at UCSF and am dreaming of starting an astrology practice part time on the side. There is so much I loved about Vanja’s lab, but what I loved most was the wonder of discovering the hidden worlds in our everyday lives. The genuine curiosity of the quotidian and ubiquitous is a perspective I hope to nurture in all I do going forward. I am so grateful to Vanja and her lab for fostering this approach in my time at Wellesley.

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Rebecca Rubinstein ('15)

I studied biology and Spanish at Wellesley. I worked on a manuscript arguing for the inclusion of microbiology and ecology in the premedical curriculum to prepare medical students to study and apply new insights from the human microbiome into their practice. I also completed a thesis on the succession of bacterial communities in marine mats.

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Prioty Sarwar

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Cat D'Hennezel ('21) 

I majored in Biology and Psychology while at Wellesley College. I currently work as a Research Technician II in the Infectious Disease and Microbiome Program in the Xavier Lab at the Broad Institute. I'm working on isolating and purifying tissue microbial strains collected from patients with inflammatory bowel disease. 

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Alexa Gross ('22)

I'm a Neuroscience and Studio Art major passionate about systems neuroscience, mental health, and the intersection of art and science. I enjoy working with microbes in a combined science and art context.

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Lauren Tso ('20)

At Wellesley, I studied the genomic characterization of the microbe Bifidobacterium longum infantis and had a great time learning everything from PCR to pipelines from all my VKC labmates. I am currently back in school at MIT studying computational and systems biology. If you're in the area and ever want to chat or toss a frisbee, come and find me!

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Alyssa Fishbein ('19)

I majored in Biology and minored in Psychology at Wellesley. In lab, I studied the prevalence of Bifidobacterium longum infantis to understand the relationship between the infant gut microbiome and cognition. I am currently a Research Technician at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute studying lung cancer. 

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Manjot Nagyal ('17)

I am a research associate at Finch Therapeutics.

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Amelia McClure ('16)

Since graduating, I have pursued different opportunities related to environmental science, climate change resilience, and water resources management. Most recently, I spent a year as a Peace Corps volunteer in the Philippines, working with the local government to develop and implement community-based flood and landslide prevention and preparedness strategies.

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Connie Rojas ('14)

Connie is currently a Microbiome Scientist at AnimalBiome, a company dedicated to pet health. She received her PhD in Ecology, Evolution, and Behavior from Michigan State University and her dissertation work focused on the micro- and macroscale factors associated with microbiome variation in African mammals. She received additional postdoc training in metagenomics and bioinformatics at the University of California, Davis.

At Wellesley, she was a Biology and Psychology double major and worked on the Fayetteville Green Lake project which characterized microbial communities from the anoxic layers and investigated the roles of organic electron donors and terminal electron acceptors in shaping community structure. The work was published in Frontiers in Microbiology. She loved how collaborative the VKC lab was and how there was opportunities to lead your own project. She received fundamental training in microbiome sampling and analysis while working with Vanja; training that she uses to this very day.

On her free time, Connie likes to cook, travel, spend time with family and friends, and enjoy the outdoors.

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