Aylin Rodan M.D. Ph.D.

Principal Investigator

I am a physician-scientist with an interest in hypertension, electrolyte disorders, and the underlying epithelial ion transport mechanisms in the kidney driving these clinical syndromes. I obtained my bachelor’s degree at Yale University and got started in my scientific career studying the role of endoplasmic reticulum chaperones in protein folding. I then enrolled in the Medical Scientist Training Program at UCSF, where I studied the mechanisms of behavioral changes in Drosophila melanogaster in response to alcohol, examining the effects of protein kinase A signaling in different parts of the brain, as well as the role of insulin signaling. I continued at UCSF for internal medicine residency, then moved to Dallas for nephrology fellowship training at UT Southwestern, where I deepened my understanding of renal physiology and clinical nephrology. The next logical step was to use my favorite organism, Drosophila, to study questions of relevance to mammalian renal physiology. Using this system, my lab is now studying ion channels and transporters, and the signaling cascades that regulate them, in the Drosophila renal tubule; this work is ongoing at the University of Utah. Our goal is to understand these transporters, channels and their regulation in greater mechanistic detail, identify new regulatory factors by performing forward genetic screens, and translate these insights into improved understanding of human kidney disorders. We also have projects studying ion transport pathways in osmoregulation, circadian rhythm and stroke. I also see patients with kidney disorders and teach undergraduate, graduate and medical students and housestaff, with an emphasis on renal physiology.

Gayani Nanayakkara Ph.D.

Research Associate

I am a pharmacologist with a keen interest in studying the role of immunity in progression of sterile inflammatory disorders. In the Rodan lab, I am studying the cellular and molecular mechanisms mediated by salt stress that activate an immune response in Drosophila Malpighian tubules and the hind gut. Drosophila melanogaster has been extensively used as a model system to dissect molecular mechanisms that control innate immunity. In one of my projects, I am particularly focusing on a gene named locomotion defect (loco) in flies and testing whether this gene is an important regulator in mediating an immune response in Drosophila under salt stress. Additionally, I am studying the role of loco in regulating the longevity of Drosophila. Before joining the Rodan lab, I received my postdoctoral training in vascular diseases at Lewis Katz School of Medicine at Temple University, Philadelphia. I got my PhD in Pharmacology from Auburn University, Alabama, where I studied how PPAR-g (peroxisome proliferator activated receptor-gamma) agonists exert protective effects against myocardial ischemia reperfusion injury.

Kate Beebe Ph.D.

Post Doctoral Fellow

I am a developmental biologist passionate about developmental timing and how organisms achieve regulated switches in gene expression. My research focus is on energy homeostasis, and how programmed changes in metabolism are regulated and encoded in the genome. As a postdoctoral researcher in the Rodan Lab, I am studying how metabolic gene expression is regulated in the renal system of Drosophila melanogaster, and consequences of misregulation on whole organism energy homeostasis. Previously, as a Ruth L. Kirschstein NRSA Postdoctoral Fellow in the laboratory of Dr. Carl Thummel, we discovered a role for Estrogen-Related Receptor in regulating a metabolic switch in glycolytic gene expression at the onset of adulthood. My previous science and research training includes a Bachelors in Biology from Brown University, and PhD in Developmental, Regenerative, and Stem Cell Biology from Washington University School of Medicine under the supervision of Dr. Craig Micchelli. I am an enthusiast of active learning in the classroom and promoting diversity in STEM, and am nearing completion of a Higher Education Teaching Specialist Certification at the University of Utah.

Clothilde Penalva, Ph.D.

Post Doctoral Fellow

John Pleinis M.S.

Lab Specialist

I am a biochemist with an interest in kinase cascades and epithelial ion transport mechanisms. I obtained my bachelor’s degree in chemistry at Tennessee Technological University. I furthered my education by obtaining a master’s degree in chemistry at Tennessee Technological University. My scientific career started in graduate school, where I studied the mechanism of the mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPKs) activity via purified protein in vitro kinase assays. Simultaneously, I was trained in computational methods to help further characterize protein interactions in kinase cascades. After completing my master’s degree, I realized I needed experience with organisms. This lead me to the University of Utah, where I accepted a Lab Specialist position in the InsandOuts Lab, under Dr. Aylin Rodan’s supervision. Currently, I work with Drosophila, and their renal tubules, to study ion channels and transporters, and the signaling cascades that regulate them. I use assays/techniques, such as: renal tubule bathing, western blot, and circadian rhythm, to further understanding of ion channel and transporter mechanisms in several environments, including: various osmolarity, pressure, and protein inhibitors.

Daryl Morrison B.A.

Lab Technician

I am a neurobiologist who is interested in fostering a wholistic understanding of biological systems. I am an outdoor enthusiast, so when I am not in the lab you can generally find me skiing, mountain biking, or hiking in the Wasatch. Prior to moving to Salt Lake City, I earned my bachelor’s degree from Middlebury College where I studied the effects of growth factor mimetics on spatial memory in an aged, transgenic mouse model of Alzheimer’s Disease, the effects of hormone replacement therapy on aged male rats, and the relationship between spatial ability and markers of cellular turnover in wild male meadow voles. I plan to return to graduate school in the next few years but until then, I am enjoying learning the finer points of molecular biology and genetics in the Rodan lab!

Aaron McMurray

Undergraduate Researcher

I am an undergraduate researcher and current applicant to medical school, set to graduate in spring 2020 (BS Biology, Arabic minor) and aiming to start med school next fall. My previous research experience is in pharmaceutical consumer behavior but I’m interested in internal medicine and hope to continue doing research professionally so I’m very excited to have joined the Rodan lab! I applied to med school as an MD-MPH and hope to practice and research at the intersection of internal medicine with public health and preventive medicine, and my favorite undergrad lab course was molecular bio and DNA so I’m especially excited to keep learning about medical genetics, molecular bio, and work with Drosophila.  When I’m not in school or the lab I love anything outdoors (especially in the mountains around my native SLC), traveling, and maintain a secret alter ego as a professional musician.

Ashlee Roberts

Undergraduate researcher

I am a full time undergraduate student here at the University of Utah studying Kinesiology and Chemistry. I am currently in my third year and expecting to graduate in Spring 2023, when I will be applying for medical school. I’m especially interested in internal medicine and pediatric works, but am eager to learn everything I can. I am very excited and fortunate to be working with the Rodan Lab! This lab has enabled me to strengthen my research skills and techniques by working with and learning from other researchers in the lab. In my spare time away from lab I love hiking, painting, and coaching/playing lacrosse.