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Brody School of Medicine
Department of Physiology

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Currently we have 11 doctoral students working in a variety of areas of research and study. Each student's picture and a short biographical sketch are posted so our readers may get to know what high caliber students we have in our department. Each one is dedicated and focused on career in the medical community.
Reece, Shaun-pic Shaun Reece
I graduated from East Carolina University with a B.S. in microbiology in 2001. From 2006 to 2010 I worked in Dr. Van Scott's lab assisting in the evaluation of candidate pharmaceutical drugs for the treatment of asthma. During this time I became extremely interested in the pathological effects of the immune system on the cardio pulmonary systems. I desired to increase my understanding of physiology and contribute more to the field. I joined the Physiology PhD program in the summer of 2010. My current project focuses on preventing myocarditis using GMCSF covalently linked to cardiac peptides. I enjoy working with in vivo systems and large data sets. When not working I enjoy hiking, swimming, sailing, and camping.
Cody Smith Cody Smith
While working on my Master's degree in physiology and developmental biology at Brigham Young University, I realized that I wanted to make a career of research and teaching. My thesis work was on characterizing a protein complex integral to the AMP-activated protein kinase pathway in skeletal muscle. Upon graduating from BYU in December 2010, I came to ECU to work with Dr. Darrell Neufer studying the bioenergetics of skeletal muscle and how it relates to the onset of insulin resistance and diabetes. Aside from studying metabolism, I enjoy exercising my own metabolism. I am an avid sports and exercise enthusiast with an equal love for cooking and tasting new foods. I also enjoy reading a good novel and spending time with my wife and family.
Rick Alleman Rick Alleman
I graduated from the University of Memphis in 2012 with a M.S. in Health and Sport Science. My thesis work consisted of comparing two dietary restriction models on changes in blood lipids and biomarkers of oxidative stress and inflammation. I am interested in cardiovascular function, metabolism, and how obesity related diseases can influence changes in these parameters. As a first year student I have decided to join Dr. Brown’s lab where we are investigating the mechanisms behind exercise induced cardioprotection. Outside of research I enjoy spending time with my fiancé, exercising, sports, and technology.
Andrew Holt Andrew Holt
I graduated from the Virginia Military Institute in 2007, where I earned a B.S. degree in Biology. Under the guidance of my Chemistry and Physiology professors, I developed a strong interest in scientific research. Following graduation, I was commissioned as a Field Artillery Officer in the U.S. Army, earning a Ranger tab and continuing a range of experience from duty stations at Alaska and Iraq. Upon completion of my military commitment, I renewed my interest in science by pursuing my passion for research in ECU’s physiology doctorate program. I am currently studying in Dr. David Tulis’s lab where we are interested in identifying the various mechanisms that underlie aberrant vascular smooth muscle growth. When not studying or working, I enjoy exercising and spending time with my wife, Beth.
Becak,-Daniel-web Daniel Becak
I graduated from Western Carolina University in 2012 with a B.S. in Emergency Medical Care. I then worked as a paramedic serving Brunswick County, North Carolina as well as an Anatomy and Physiology instructor for the local community college. I wanted to delve into the physiology that served as an underpinning for my clinical care. This led me to ECU where I am working on particulate matter exposure and vascular dysfunction. In my spare time, I enjoy brewing, graphic novels, sandwiches, and woodworking.
Reese,-Lauren-web Lauren Reese
I graduated from Colorado State University in 2013 with a M.S. in Nutrition Science. My thesis work investigated the role of endoplasmic reticulum stress in obesity-related endothelium dysfunction. My interest in metabolism, diabetes and in particular the onset of insulin resistance led me pursue my degree at ECU with Dr. Darrell Neufer. As a student I hope to focus my research on the potential link between mitochondrial bioenergetics and the progression of insulin resistance and diabetes. In my time away from the lab I enjoy being outdoors and staying active, attempting to cook, and reading.
Williams,-Oksana-web Oksana Williams
I graduated from East Carolina University with BS in Biology. While being an undergraduate student, I worked in Dr. Murashov's Lab as a Research Technician.My areas of interest are electron microscopy,genetics,epigenetics, and neuroscience. I am a first-year PhD student and will be working on Epigenetics Project with Dr. Murashov.I am a goal-oriented individual, prepared to work hard to achieve my dreams. In my free time, I enjoy horseback riding, gardening, swimming, and reading.
Alexander Yllanes Alexander Yllanes
I graduated from North Carolina State University in 2014 with a B.S. in Biology concentrating in integrative physiology and neurobiology. During my time as an undergraduate I was able to foster the continually growing interest I held regarding neuronal organization and function in relation to both the brain and spinal cord. This fascination with neuronal action, especially at the spinal cord level led me to pursue my PhD with Dr. Stefan Clemens here at ECU. I am hoping my research here helps me better understand the mechanisms behind neuropathic pain related to spinal cord injury and neurodegenerative disorders. In my spare time I enjoy film/TV, music, sports, a good beer, and being with friends and family.
Madaniah Zakari Madaniah Zakari
I graduated from King Abdul Aziz University, SA with a B.S in Medicine in 2010. In 2011, I finished my Internship. From 2011 to 2013, I worked as a Teaching Assistant in the Dept. of Physiology at Taibah University, SA. In 2013, I worked as a volunteer in the Physiology Researches Laboratory at Virginia Commonwealth University. In 2014, I was interested in Dr. Virag’s project. I have read her papers that were published in PubMed, which are very interesting, investigate MI pathophysiology, and factors that modulate the pathogenesis and how to prevent it. This motivated me to pursue my Ph.D. at ECU to learn from her expertise and pursue my own project in the future in Cardiovascular Physiology.
Nathan Holland Nathan Holland
I graduated from Western Carolina University in 2012 with a B.S. in Emergency Medical Care. My experiences as a paramedic strongly fostered an interest in cardiovascular physiology, particularly in the areas of cardiac ischemia/reperfusion injury. I received a M.S. in Biomedical Science from East Carolina University in 2014. My thesis work focused on how pulmonary exposures to engineered nanomaterials drive the expansion of cardiac ischemia-reperfusion injury. For my dissertation I am continuing my work with Dr. Wingard, elucidating mechanisms of how environmental exposures may drive heart failure following myocardial infarction. In my free time I enjoy playing with my dog, cooking, photography, and bombing atomically.
Cameron Schmidt Cameron Schmidt
I graduated from the University of Akron in Akron, Ohio in 2013 with a B.S. In biology and minors in both applied mathematics and chemistry. I came to North Carolina to be a part of a well established community of biomedical scientists. I work in Dr. Joe McClung's research group in the Dept. of Physiology and the East Carolina Diabetes Obesity Institute. The group's primary interest lies in evaluating genetic factors underlying differential response to surgically induced hind limb ischemia in inbred strains of laboratory mice and the translational implications those differences have for humans with cardiovascular and/or metabolic disease. We test our hypotheses using laser doppler imaging, animal husbandry, immunocytochemistry, viral transfection, as well as other established and developing methods. I enjoy relating biology with mathematical formalism and using computational tools such as object oriented programming, molecular dynamics simulations, and biomolecular sequence analysis to predict and analyze biological phenomena. When I'm not doing, talking about, or thinking about science I enjoy running, biking, and brewing mediocre beer with my wife and best friend Denise.