Meet Our Team
I study microbial ecology, looking at the dynamics that govern microbe-microbe interactions, mechanisms that drive nutrient cycling, and how microbe-microbe interactions drive human and environmental health. We address these questions using a combination of culturing and enrichment techniques, quantitative molecular approaches, metagenomics, and modeling.
I am a microbiologist and immunologist using computational methods to explore the relationships between the human gut microbiome and childhood cognitive development, and to understand complex microbial communities. I also teach about the immune system and infectious disease, as well as introductory programming for biology students, and am interested in investigating and addressing barriers to women entering computational biology.
I am a microbial ecologist with experience in marine microbiology and trace metal biogeochemistry. I earned a M.S. in Oceanography from the University of Connecticut where I studied methyl bromide metabolism by marine microbes and microbial sulfur cycling in stromatolites. From there I moved west to the U.S. Geological Survey in Menlo Park, CA where my work focused on the microbial ecology and biogeochemistry of Mono Lake, CA. After enjoying many sunny years in CA, I’m happy to back on the east coast and working in the VKC lab at Wellesley. I’m excited for the opportunity to explore microbial ecology in New England biomes, to expand my experience to the human microbiome, and to share my knowledge and love of growing anaerobes.
Guilherme Fahur Bottino
I am a Bioinformatician employing Machine Learning to investigate the complex relationships between the gut microbiome and cognitive development, building predictive models that help improve human health. I started my career on the University of Campinas, Brazil, where I obtained my Ph.D. in Chemistry using neural network tools to build 3D protein models, and joined the VKC lab in 2022 to employ my AI knowledge on the lab projects.
I graduated Wellesley in 2016 where I worked on the evolutionary development of the red flour beetle and milkweed bugs in the lab of Yuichiro Suzuki. This inspired me to pursue my PhD in Cell and Molecular Biology at UPenn where I studied the mechanisms of molecular cytotoxicity and comparative genomics of the human commensal Prevotella melaninogenica. I am excited for the opportunity to return to Wellesley as a postdoc in Vanja's lab and continue working on the associations between the gut microbiome and different aspects of child cognitive development and early-life associated inflammatory diseases.
Annelle Abatoni Kayisire ('23)
I am a Biology and Media Arts and Sciences double major, and I am particularly interested in the intersection of computational design and biological concepts. I am currently working on finding out and creatively exhibiting the microbial composition of Wellesley’s greenhouse, the Global Flora and exploring their different functions. In the past, I’ve worked on developing a software package that manipulates and analyzes microbial community data. After college, I hope to keep working with computational modeling tools to better understand biological systems. Outside of lab and school, I enjoy playing tennis and spending time with my friends.
Anika Luo ('23)
I am a Biochemistry major and Music minor at Wellesley, and after I graduate I plan to pursue a Ph.D. in Biomedical Sciences. My career goal is to conduct research in biomedical science and advance the field of pharmaceutical medicine. In this lab, I have worked on various engineering and computational projects in which I have built tools to study microbial communities and to streamline analysis of metagenomic data. My current project investigates a method of using gut microbes to restore normal function in neurotransmitter deficient Caenorhabditis elegans, which may have important therapeutic implications for neurological conditions. When I’m not in lab, I can be found dancing with the Wellesley Asian Dance Organization, singing with the Wellesley College Choir and Chamber Singers, or reading in a cozy corner with some hot chocolate.
Cassie Potter ('23)
I am a Biochemistry major and Education Studies minor. I am particularly enthusiastic about running protein gels and personifying all the cool lab instruments. In lab, I am currently working on a project that investigates how environmental conditions impact carbohydrate metabolism in the human gut microbe Bifidobacterium infantis. I don't have any plans for after Wellesley — we shall see where my interests end up taking me.
Caroline MacVicar ('23)
I plan on majoring in biological sciences on the pre-med track. I am interested in pursuing a career in medicine after college, though I am also considering a career as a scientific researcher. I am very passionate about the climate, and I have an increasing interest in the relationship between microbes and our environment and health. Outside of lab, I am a member of the Wellesley golf team, and I enjoy reading and writing!
Trisha Rahman ('25)
I am a prospective biochemistry major. I am interested in working in healthcare and medicine in the future, with a focus on the gut-brain connection and anxiety. In the lab, I am helping Cassie investigate B. infantis growth, an important infant gut microorganism. In my free time, you can find me reading or making jewelry!
Sandra Quintana ('25)
Although I haven't declared yet, I plan on majoring in English while going on a premed track as I want to take advantage of attending a liberal arts college. I currently plan to pursue a career in medicine, but I like to keep my mind open to other possibilities both in and out of the STEM realm. As part of the First Year Apprentice Program, I shadow other members in the lab in their investigations of the microbial systems across various places in Wellesley's campus. Outside of the VKC lab, I play the clarinet in the Chamber Music Society, volunteer with the Boston Healthcare for Homeless Program, and am a content editor for Kaleidoscope Magazine!
Deniz Uzun ('23)
I am a Biology major and English minor. In the lab, I love to focus on the computational side of things. I have most recently worked on the workflow orchestration of the pipeline used for metagenomic data analysis. After Wellesley, I intend to refine my skills as a research assistant before applying to graduate school. I plan to work somewhere in the medical field, and to use my research experience to further advance the technology in this field. Outside of the lab, I love to explore new places, visit family, as well as indulge in a good book!
Buanna Francois ('24)
I am currently a Biology major and plan on double majoring in Biology and Classical Studies. In lab, I am studying the microbial communities in Wellesley's Lake Waban. I am on the pre-PA track and plan on attending Physician's Assistant school after graduating, but microbial research has been a huge interest of mine. Outside of lab, I am the secretary for Wellesley for Caribbean Development, but you will most likely find me in my room reading.
Aeka Tomita '26
Hi, this is Aeka! I'm a first year from New York, planning to major in Data Science. For now, I'll be helping out one of the seniors in the lab, Anika Luo, who is exploring the link between microbially-produced neurotransmitters on the brain through through the model organism C. elegans and its locomotion. I am currently pre-health, but after college, I am open to working in any field of work that helps the advancement or maintenance of quality healthcare!
Nina Zheng '25
I am a biochemistry major planning to go to pharmacy school or graduate school after college. I am helping Anika with her thesis investigating the connection between the gut microbiome and brain, using C. elegans as the model organism. In my free time, I enjoy dancing with the Wellesley Asian Dance Organization, playing piano, and doodling.