Recent Graduates

Casey Derella (Graduated Jan 2023)

My overall research interest is to better understand how various diseases impact the vascular health of humans and contribute to cardiovascular disease. My current work focuses on better understanding the factors contributing to microvascular and skeletal muscle dysfunction in people with type 1 diabetes.

Mentor: Dr. Ryan Harris

Kasey Belanger  (Graduated Dec 2021)  

My research interests are sex differences of the pathophysiology of hypertension. My current work focuses on better understanding the contribution of the immune system, and Tregs in particular, on blood pressure development and control between males and females. I am also interested in examining sex differences in the cerebrovascular and cognitive consequences within my hypertension model.

Mentor: Dr. Jennifer Sullivan

Shinjini Chowdhury  

My research interests revolve around the role of aldosterone in obesity-associated hypertension. My current project focuses on elucidating the signaling pathways involved in the regulation of aldosterone production in response to very low-density lipoprotein and sphingosine-1-phosphate receptor activation.

Mentor: Dr. Wendy Bollag

Elinor Mannon 

My research interests include inflammation and chronic disease, such as hypertension and type II diabetes. My current work focuses on understanding the immunologic and metabolic effects of sodium bicarbonate therapy, as well as elucidating the signaling mechanism of the cholinergic anti-inflammatory pathway.

Mentor: Dr. Paul O'Connor

Lindsey Ramirez

I am interested in the impact that early life stressors have on long term cardiovascular, renal, and cognitive health. I am currently investigating the effect of low oxygen during the first week of life and how that insult can increase likelihood of hypertension in later life. My newest project is determining whether a maternal high fat diet will produce a pro-inflammatory profile in the offspring and increase likelihood of hypertension in later life. Soon, I would like to do some behavioral studies to determine the impact of these stressors on cognition.

Mentor: Dr. Jennifer Sullivan 

Sarah McLarnon

My research interests include the pathophysiology of acute kidney injury (AKI) and the associated long-term sequelae. My current work focuses on better understanding the factors which contribute to the development of vascular congestion following ischemia-reperfusion in both males and females, as well as the potential role of vascular congestion in the development of hypertension and chronic kidney disease after AKI.

Mentor: Dr. Paul O'Connor

Yanna Tian

My overall research interest is to better understand vascular dysfunction in aging and disease conditions, such as heart failure with preserved ejection fraction. My current project to investigate the mechanisms that underlie the excess release of a protein shedding enzyme (ADAM17) and how the increased shedding of specific proteins could alter vascular function in aging.

Mentor: Dr. Zsolt Bagi

Physiology Graduates

Student Faculty Mentor (PI) Research Interests Where Are They Now

Mahmoud Abdelbary

Mahmoud Abdelbary


Dr. Jennifer Sullivan

My research interest is the contribution of renal cell death in the control and development of hypertension in Spontaneously Hypertensive Rats.

Postdoctoral scholar at Oregon Health and Science University

Immunology/T-cell biology.

Student Faculty Mentor (PI) Research Interests Where Are They Now

Yue (Penny) Pan

Yue Pan


Dr. Xiaoling Wang

My research focus is on determining whether specific circulating leukocyte subpopulations and their activation status could serve as markers of the chronic, low-grade inflammatory response to obesity status, and thereby, of obesity-associated CVD & T2D risk in Caucasians and African Americans. My current study is to explore whether ALPL, a gene encoding neutrophil alkaline phosphatase and showing significance changes in DNA methylation, gene expression and proteomics in response to obesity, may serve as a potential biomarker for neutrophil activation and mediate obesity's effect on CVD risk.  
Student Faculty Mentor (PI) Research Interests Where Are They Now

Trevor Hardigan


Dr. Adviye Ergul

My research is focused on the effects of Toll-like receptor 2 (TLR2) signaling in hypertension. There has been research done in our lab showing involvement of other TLRs in hypertension, most notably TLR4. Currently, we are studying contractility responses in aortic and mesenteric vessels in response to TLR2 activity, as well as examining TLR2 expression in vascular smooth muscle cells. Neurosurgery Resident at Mt. Sinai Hospital in New York City.
 Lia Taylor Dr. Jennifer Sullivan The goal of my research is to determine the role of female sex hormones and immune cells in high fat diet (HFD)-induced hypertension and vascular dysfunction. Current studies are exploring 1) changes in the vascular T cell profile in response to a HFD 2) the role of T cells in HFD-induced increases in blood pressure and vascular dysfunction in females, and 3) the crosstalk between female sex hormones and T cells in response to a HFD. As a rich source of immune cells and cytokines, adipose tissue has the potential to play a pivotal role in promoting the low-grade inflammation that is a hallmark of hypertension. Perivascular adipose tissue (PVAT), in particular, surrounds blood vessels and can directly influence vascular function. Thus,it is of interest to also determine the role of PVAT in our studies.  

Becca Ward

Dr. Adviye Ergul


My research is focused on vasoneuronal changes in diabetes and its contribution to worsened stroke outcome. Current studies are exploring the role of the NLRP3 inflammasome in vascular and neuronal dysfunction in the hippocampus leading to cognitive impairment and worsened functional outcome after diabetic stroke. Scientific Writer at Massachusetts General Hospital.



2018 MCG Physiology Graduates - Drs. Becca Ward and Trevor Hardigan with Mentor Dr. Ergul width: 170; height: 173

Drs. Hardigan and Ward with mentor Dr. Ergul.

Student Faculty Mentor (PI) Research Interests Where Are They Now

Ryan Crislip


Dr. Jennifer Sullivan

To better understand mechanisms that contribute to ischemia reperfusion injury in males and females.  Ongoing studies are focused on a novel role of pericytes’ ability to unclog renal microvasculature, the activation of the immune system, and cell death in response to ischemia reperfusion in hypertensive animals. Postdoctoral Fellow at University of Florida.
Student Faculty Mentor (PI) Research Interests Where Are They Now

Cam McCarthy


Dr. R. Clinton Webb

My research project is aimed at investigating the role of the innate immune system in the development of vascular disease. Specifically, I am elucidating the contribution of Toll-like receptor (TLR) 9 activation in the development of aortic stiffening and hypertension. Postdoctoral Fellow at University of Toledo College of Medicine and Life Sciences

2016 Physiology Graduate Students


2016 Physiology Graduate Students

Top Row: Cam McCarthy, Trevor Hardigan, John Paul Valenzuela
Middle Row: Marcelo Filho, Rebecca Ward, ♦Samuel Legeay
Bottom Row: Fernanda Marins, Yue Pan, Lia Taylor
Not pictured: Ryan Crislip, ♦Pitra Soledad
♦Visiting PhD Student


Student Faculty Mentor (PI)
Research Interests Where Are They Now

Wenting Du


Dr. Jessica Filosa

Our lab is interested in the mechanism of neurovascular coupling (NVC) which is bidirectional communication between cerebral arterioles and brain cells (e.g. neurons, astrocytes and microglial cells). The main question for my thesis is how do vasopressin-ergic neurons in the hypothalamic supraoptic nucleus (SON) signal to local arterioles within the nucleus. Since vasopressin is a known potent vasoconstrictor and recent study indicated it could be released within the SON, I am testing the hypothesis: dendritic released vasopressin from hypothalamic SON VPergic neurons increase local arteriole tone.  

Inas Helwa


Dr. Wendy Bollag

My primary training as a dentist made me interested in research projects that seem to have a direct clinical translation, especially those dealing with drug therapies. This translational interest is also the reason for why I was attracted to studying the physiology of keratinocytes. These cells seem to have multiple potential fates and unique differentiation and proliferation capacities such that they protect all body surfaces including the oral cavity. My current project is studying Monomethylfumarate (MMF) and its mechanism in treating psoriasis. This project may have a direct translational application so that knowledge about its functioning may create interest in seeking approval for the drug for the treatment of psoriasis in the United States. Postdoctoral Fellow at Augusta University with Dr. Liu.

Jennifer Iddings


Dr. Jessica Filosa

Our lab studies the mechanisms underlying neurovascular coupling (NVC), a process in which cerebral blood flow increases in response to increases in neuronal activity. Chronic hypertension has been shown to impair NVC. However, the mechanisms by which this cerebrovascular dysfunction occurs remain unclear. The goal of my thesis project is to elucidate how hypertension disrupts NVC in an effort to identify new therapeutic targets that can be used to develop improved treatment & prevention strategies for the deleterious cerebrovascular complications of chronic hypertension. Postdoctoral Fellow at the Hulse Spinal Cord Injury Lab at the Shepherd Center

Inger Stallmann-Jorgensen

(graduated with M.S. 2015)

Dr. R. Clinton Webb

My research interest is the contribution of innate immune system activation to vascular dysfunction including erectile dysfunction and hypertension. Specifically, I am interested in the effect of activation of the innate immune system Toll-like receptor 4 on vascular smooth muscle contractility.  


Student Faculty Mentor (PI) Research Interests Where Are They Now

Maha Coucha


Dr. Adviye Ergul

My research interest is in studying the mechanisms underlying ischemia/reperfusion injury. I would like to participate in finding novel ways of improving therapeutics and preventive strategies for the management of stroke, which is the fourth leading cause of death and disability in the USA. My project studies the impact of ischemia/reperfusion injury on the functional and structural properties of cerebral vessels from both hemispheres in the presence and absence of acute hyperglycemia, and how early contralateral cerebrovascular myogenic dysfunction contributes to stroke outcomes. Part time teaching position at Mercer School of Medicine, Savannah Campus.

Bhavna Desai


Dr. Ruth Harris

The primary focus of my graduate research is to understand how the hormone leptin acts centrally to regulate energy balance. My project is based on the hypothesis that both forebrain and hindbrain leptin receptors are required to be activated and that leptin signals from both areas integrate to decrease food intake, reduce body fat and body weight. Our studies involve infusions of low doses of leptin through cannulas placed in different regions of the brain to identify their importance in body weight regulation and to also identify any interaction between them that may be critical for the reduction of body fat. Postdoctoral Fellow at the Flier lab at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Harvard University. 

Jonathan Heimlich


Dr. David Pollock

I have completed my first two years of medical school and have recently begun working on my PhD thesis project. Current project is investigating the role of endothelin in the initiation and progression of sickle cell nephropathy. This work will provide new mechanistic insight to one of the most lethal chronic manifestations of the disease and provide a foundation for new treatment modalities using existing therapeutics. These advances have the potential not only to increase the life span of people who suffer from sickle cell disease but also improve their quality of life while they live with their chronic disease.  

Krishna Naskar


Dr. Javier Stern

My research project aims to understand cellular mechanisms controlling neuronal activity in these brain areas, and to see how alteration in these mechanisms could contribute to an altered neuronal activity and hence altered brain control of cardiovascular system. We will identify how the coupling between an intrinsic (such as voltage?gated K+current) and extrinsic (such as activation of extrasynaptic NMDA receptors) mechanism can influence neuronal activity. We will assess the nature of coupling between these two mechanisms resulting in altered neuronal activity. We will also assess how the interaction of astrocytes with the neurons can activate this novel mechanism influencing neuronal excitability in disease state such as hypertension.  

Marvin (Zhi) Qu

(graduated with M.S. 2014)

Dr. Adviye Ergul

The overall goal of our lab is to better understand the regulation of vascular function and structure in diabetes in order to prevent, delay or reverse diabetes-associated complications including stroke and cognitive impairment. Diet-induced obesity and resulting diabetes are two important clinical problems that threaten our society today. There is new evidence that stroke age is getting younger. My general interest is to understand how high fat diet/obesity impacts stroke injury and repair. My project involves the investigation of the early effects of a new high fat diet model on brain injury and specifically study the role of danger associate molecular patterns (DAMPs) in exaggerated bleeding that occurs in high fat-fed animals after stroke.  

Mutsa Seremwe


Dr. Wendy Bollag

Our lab is interested in the intracellular signaling pathway that occurs in response to Angiotension II and potassium stimulation, leading to the production of aldosterone in adrenal glomerulosa cells. It is important to develop a better understanding of this signaling pathway and try to identify potential therapeutic targets for the hypertension. I am investigating the calcium-dependent cysteine protease, calpain and its role in angiotension II-induced aldosterone production in adrenal glomerulosa cells. Postdoctoral Fellow at Augusta University with Dr. Liu.

Katie Spitler


Dr. R. Clinton Webb

I am currently studying the role of endoplasmic reticulum stress in the vasculature during hypertension. In particular, I am interested in how the neurohormone, Angiotensin II can induced endoplasmic reticulum stress in vascular smooth muscle cells and how this may be involved in the stiffening of the aorta during hypertension.  

Cathy (Ying-Ying) Tsai

Dr. Wendy Bollag

The goal of my research is to investigate the mechanism by which VLDL induces aldosterone production. Specific focus is on phospholipase C (PLC) signaling, and also in determining if phospholipase D (PLD) is involved in VLDL-mediated aldosterone production. Previous studies have demonstrated that VLDL can stimulate aldosterone production; therefore, future studies are focused on determining which part of VLDL stimulates aldosterone secretion. These studies will be used to investigate how VLDL mediates aldosterone under physiological and pathological condition.  

Margaret Zimmerman



Dr. Jennifer Sullivan

My research interest is focused on understanding the mechanisms behind sex differences in hypertension. There has been much experimental evidence in multiple animal models and tissues to show that on the molecular basis the renin angiotensin pathway differs between males and females. Current studies are examining the functional implications of sex differences in key renin angiotensin system components on blood pressure control. Instructor in Dr. Sarah Lindsey's lab at Tulane University.


2013 Physiology Graduate Students

Top Row: Hicham Labazi, Sherif Hafez, Hildebrando Neto, Krishna Naskar, Margaret Zimmerman
Middle Row: Maha Coucha, Justin Van Beusecum, Brett Heimlich, Wenting Du, Lawrence Olala
Front Row: Zhi Qu, Ying-ying Tsai, Inas Helwa, Inger Stallmann, Soledad Pitra
Not pictured: Ryan Crislip, Bhavna Desai, Trevor Hardigan, Jennifer Iddings, Cam McCarthy, Yue Pan, Mutsa Seremwe, Katie Spitler, John Paul Valenzuela, Rebecca Ward


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