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Principle Investigator

Dr. Marlies Meisel is the principal investigator of the lab. Marlies is passionate and eager to dissect the impact of systemic commensal signals on the immune system during health and disease. 

Marlies is a cellular Immunologist, has a strong background in Nutritional Sciences (M.S.), received her PhD from the Medical University of Innsbruck, Austria in 2012, and completed her postdoctoral training at the University of Chicago (Lab of Dr. Bana Jabri) in 2018. She started her lab at the University of Pittsburgh, Department of Immunology in October of 2018. 

Marlies does not only work with microbes in the lab; also at home she utilizes the power of microbes to brew her own beer, kombucha and sourdough bread. Besides that Marlies is a passionate triathlete and outdoor fan.

CV/Biosketch is available upon request


Graduate Student

Alex McPherson is a PhD student in the Graduate School of Public Health, pursuing her doctoral degree in Infectious Diseases & Microbiology. Her research interests focus on the microbiome’s ability to protect against infectious pathogens and its impact on host immunity.

Originally from Massachusetts, she received her Bachelor of Science degree from Bucknell University and worked as a clinical researcher in NYC, before moving to Pittsburgh for graduate school.

A fun fact about her is that she played men’s ice hockey in college and is now an avid Penguins fan.



Graduate Student

Catherine Phelps is a PhD student currently pursuing a degree in Microbiology and Immunology through the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine. She is primarily interested in understanding how commensal microbes impact the host immune response in cancer.  

Prior to moving to Pittsburgh, she received her B.S. in Microbiology and M.S. in Molecular Biosciences from Albany College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences.

Outside of the lab, Catherine enjoys spoiling her guinea pigs, long-distance running, and catching Pokémon!

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Graduate Student

Amanda is a Program of Microbiology and Immunology PhD student through the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine. Her research interests center around deciphering mechanisms of the tumor microbiome modulation of cancer immunotherapy efficacy in gut distal cancers. She received her B.S. in Chemical and Biomedical Engineering from Carnegie Mellon University in 2020. After graduating, she worked as a research tech in Boston before returning to Pittsburgh. In her free time, she enjoys attempting to run through Pittsburgh's many hills, catching up with friends over a good meal, and playing the daily Wordle.

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MIDS Scholar

Jake Shapira is an Undergraduate Chancellor and MIDS Scholar at the University of Pittsburgh pursuing a degree in Biology. Originally from Rochester, New York, he is very interested in how different biological systems and mechanisms impact cancer.

A fun about him is he is an avid gardener and can bake a great zucchini bread.

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Research Technician

Colin Laughlin is a research technician in the lab and a University of Pittsburgh graduate, with a bachelor’s degree in biological sciences. His main research interests involve the dynamics between bacterial metabolic pathways and their influences on cancer progression and immune interaction. Along with gaining research experience as a technician, Colin wants to eventually apply to graduate programs in immunology and continue his education. While not doing research, Colin loves to cook, hike, and collect vinyl records.



Visiting Tsinghua student

Yue Zhang is a visiting student from Tsinghua University School of Medicine, majoring in clinical medicine. His research interest involves the gut microbe's influence on host's immune response to cancer.

Fun fact \( ̄▽ ̄)/ Yue loves playing badminton, and he is from badminton team of Tsinghua University School of Medicine. MBTI personality test shows that Yue is an INFJ (very introverted), but he will try his best to become more social and outgoting.



Research Technician

I just graduated from the University of Pittsburgh with a bachelor's degree in Microbiology and a minor in Chemistry. I am driven by the passion for scientific exploration and want to continue this passion by eventually pursuing a Ph.D. degree. My interests lie in infectious diseases and microbial pathogenesis- the thrilling domains where microbes and human health intersect. Here, under the guidance of Dr. Meisel, I will be focusing on the human eye microbiome during homeostasis and human tumor microbiome using cutting-edge techniques like culturomics, imaging, and sequencing. 

Beyond the laboratory, I have a deep love for the sport of polo and dream of one day competing at a professional level, bringing the same dedication and drive that fuels my scientific pursuits. I also find joy in sports like tennis and swimming. Apart from that, I also find solace and creativity in baking.

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