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.

CV/Biosketch is available upon request


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!

CV/Biosketch is available upon request
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Research Technician

Mackenzie Bender recently graduated from the University of Pittsburgh with a degree in Biology and Philosophy. Her main focus of interest is genetics and regulatory pathways of gene expression, though she also loves microbiology. She hopes to one day go to graduate school for genetics and become a professor. Her other interests include spending time with friends, cats, and swimming. One fun fact about her is that she has gone skydiving and is desperate to go bungee jumping next!

CV/Biosketch is available upon request


Research Technician

Interests: I am fascinated by enzymes and how their function contributes to pathology. I am starting to learn to program and better understand computer science because the way 1's and 0's work to make modern life possible is a topic I like to learn more about. Also, I am incredibly bad at doing daily housekeeping things at home and would like to automate them, one-by-one. 

Fun fact: I enjoy reading non-profit hospitals' 990-EZ tax return forms because I find them interesting. I often use this to win "I am the most boring person in the world" arguments. 

CV/Biosketch is available upon request
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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.

CV/Biosketch is available upon request
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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.