Lab Members


Current Lab Members
Katherine Bakshian Chiappinelli, PhD

Katherine Bakshian Chiappinelli, PhD

Assistant Professor

Katherine Bakshian Chiappinelli, PhD, joined the GW Department of Microbiology, Immunology and Tropical Medicine University in 2017 as an Assistant Professor.

Dr. Chiappinelli graduated with a BS in Biology and Music from Haverford College in 2007 and received her PhD in Developmental, Regenerative, and Stem Cell Biology 
from Washington University in St. Louis under the supervision of Dr. Paul Goodfellow in 2012. Dr. Chiappinelli pursued postdoctoral studies at Johns Hopkins University with Dr. Stephen Baylin investigating the epigenetic control of immune signaling in cancer cells. Her research focuses on how epigenetic therapies can be used against cancers, specifically in the context of arming the host immune system to fight cancer cells. (Curriculum Vitae)

Kate is passionate about undergraduate science education and community science outreach, with extensive experience working with high school students in urban environments. When she is not in the lab or teaching, she enjoys spending time with her husband and children, singing with the 18th Street Singers, running, and traveling.

Melissa Hadley Beaty headshot

Melissa Hadley Beaty

Laboratory Manager/Research Associate

Melissa graduated with a MS in Biomedical Sciences-Research, Biotechnology from Eastern Virginia Medical School. For her degree at EVMS, she worked on using microRNAs as biomarkers to discriminate between lethal and metastatic forms of prostate cancer. After completing her degree, she worked as a Research Associate/Lab Manager in the department of Radiation Oncology looking at the effect of cosmic radiation on neurocognitive deficits in terms of astronauts and potential missions to Mars. Melissa joined George Washington University working the Villagra lab in January 2016 as a lab manager. Her main work involved using HDAC6 inhibitors to help modulate the immune system to combat cancer. Melissa, in 2019, joined the Chiappinelli lab as a lab manager/research associate. She hopes to continue exploring how epigenetic therapies can be used to combat cancers.

When not working in the lab, Melissa enjoys spending time with her husband and kids, exploring wineries with friends, and reading.

Erin Grundy headshot

Erin Grundy

Graduate Student in the Institute for Biomedical Sciences at GWU

Erin graduated from Bucknell University in 2018 with a BS in Cell Biology/Biochemistry, where she was first introduced to epigenetic research. Erin then worked for over a year as the Lab Manager for the Chodera Lab at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. Erin's favorite projects at MSKCC included optimizing a fluorescence assay to investigate the binding affinities of kinases and their FDA-approved small molecule inhibitors and pioneering a protocol for cell-free protein synthesis. Here Erin also learned how to use automated liquid handling instruments to conduct these wetlab projects as well how to code in Python. Erin is now pursuing her PhD in immunology at GWU in order to combine her research interests by investigating the role that epigenetics plays in regulating the immune response to cancer.

Outside of the lab, Erin loves to read, travel, dance, and is a huge Broadway fan.

Olivia Cox

Olivia Cox

Research Assistant

Olivia graduated from the University of Miami in 2020 with a BS in Biology and minors in Spanish and Chemistry. She worked in a research laboratory that studied graft versus host disease which lead her to be interested in the way the immune system functions. She then worked for a summer in the Pardoll Lab at Johns Hopkins University where she learned about epigenetics and immunotherapy. Olivia is hoping to become a better scientist in the Chiappinelli Lab and to eventually apply to PhD programs.

Other than science, Olivia loves cooking, traveling, and animals.

Reddick Walker, PhD Student

Reddick R. Walker III, BS

Graduate Student in the Institute for Biomedical Sciences at GWU

Reddick graduated from the University of South Florida in 2019 with a BS in Biomedical Sciences and a minor in Biomedical Physics. Reddick then worked for two years as a laboratory technician at the Florida State University in the Irianto Lab. Here, Reddick studied how the DNA damage response and 3D organoid culture changed in response to extracellular matrix stiffness and protein composition.  These projects heavily emphasized expertise in immunofluorescence imaging and biomaterial synthesis. Reddick is now pursuing his PhD in Cancer Biology at GWU to expand his skillsets in computational immuno-oncology and epigenetics to improve antitumor immunity in ovarian cancer.

Abby Lee

Abby Lee, BA

Graduate Student in the Institute for Biomedical Sciences at GWU

Abby graduated from Kenyon College in 2022 with a BA in Molecular Biology. Here, her research explored how antibiotics and low pH conditions alter fitness trade offs in multidrug efflux systems in the gut microbiome. Abby is now pursuing her PhD in Microbiology & Immunology at GWU, studying epigenetic regulation in the immune response to cancer and exploring potential therapies to enhance this response. Outside of lab, Abby enjoys running, listening to music, and spending time with her dog, Crayon.

Kevin Nestler, PhD Student

Kevin Nestler, BS

Graduate Student in the Institute for Biomedical Sciences at GWU

Kevin graduated from Penn State University in 2018 with a BS in Biotechnology. Following undergrad, he worked as a research technician for four years at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. While at CHOP, Kevin studied acute myeloid leukemia with projects focused on profiling histone PTM signatures to understand the chromatin landscape and identifying novel cell surface targets for immunotherapy. Here, he developed a variety of epigenetic and proteomic skillsets within a translational research environment. Currently, Kevin is pursuing his PhD in Cancer Biology at GWU to explore how epigenetic mechanisms govern the immune response to ovarian cancer.

Outside of the lab, Kevin enjoys live music, playing basketball, and hiking.

Nana Asamoah-Pratt

Nana Asamoah-Pratt

Undergraduate Student at GWU

Nana is an undergraduate student pursuing a B.S. in Biological Sciences with a minor in Psychology. Her fascination with science began in her middle school biology class, where she was initially captivated by the world of molecular-level phenomena and transformative experiments that continue to shape the landscape of modern science. Nana is an active participant in the GW LEAP program, where she delves into the vital principles of inclusivity and intersectionality within the realm of public health. Her focus extends to areas such as maternal mortality, reflecting her commitment to addressing critical issues in society. Additionally, she serves as a mentor in the Black Girl Pre-Health collective, providing support to underclassmen as they navigate their STEM course loads.

Outside the lab, Nana enjoys crocheting, quality time with her family and friends, and exercise.

Alicia Osamor, undergraduate student

Alicia Osamor

Undergraduate Student at GWU

I am an undergraduate pursuing a BS in Biology with a concentration in Cellular Molecular Bio and a Minor in Data Science. At GW I am a part of The Black Girl Pre-Health Collective, The Multicultural Association of Pre-Health students, and I have worked for the Office of Undergraduate Admissions as a student representative for 3 years. I have also spent time

volunteering at The Bee Busy Wellness Center, a Healthcare center whose mission is to provide increased access to various healthcare services to underserved communities. Within healthcare my interests include working to decrease maternal and fetal mortality in women of color, specifically in Black women. I also hope to one day become an OB/GYN with a specialty in neonatology.

Outside of science I enjoy roller skating, cooking, and spending time with family and friends.

Loretta Wang, Undergraduate Student at GW

Loretta Wang

Undergraduate Student at GWU

Loretta is an undergraduate student pursuing a B.S. in Neuroscience with a minor in Biology, and on the pre-med track. She is interested in immunology, and has previously worked at the Barnes Lab at the Feinstein Institutes in New York studying the role of kinases and interferon regulatory factors in immune signaling. Loretta is a part of the GW chapter of the American Medical Women’s Association, where she is on the Advisory Committee, and the GW chapter of the American Red Cross group. She is also an alumna of the George Washington University Women’s Leadership Program 2022-2023 Science, Health, and Medicine cohort, where she mentors current students.

Outside of science, Loretta enjoys traveling, hiking, spending time with friends and family, and reading.

Former Lab Members
James McDonald, PhD

James McDonald, PhD

Post-Doctoral Research Fellow

James McDonald graduated from Seattle Pacific University with a BS in Biochemistry. He earned his PhD in Molecular Genetics and Genomics from Washington University in St. Louis under the mentorship of Dr. John Edwards.

James has a long-standing interest in epigenetic influence over genome function. During graduate school, he directed this interest into exploration of how DNA methylation regulates tumor suppressor genes. To do this, he developed Cas9-DNA methyltransferase fusions capable of inducing targeted methylation in the genome. James joined the Chiappinelli lab to continue investigating the function of epigenetics in cancer and its application in cancer immunotherapies. He hopes to continue aiding cancer patients through his research throughout his career. When not doing research, James enjoys board games, visiting museums, and making puns. He also has a budding interest in bread baking.

Stephanie Gomez

Stephanie Gomez

 Former graduate student in The Institute for Biomedical Sciences at GWU, defended in September 2022.

Stephanie Gomez graduated from the George Washington University in 2014 with a bachelors degree in Integrated Information, Science and Technology, track in Biotechnology.

While completing her degree, she was working at Inova Translational Medicine Institute—a large genetics and genomics research lab part of Inova Health System. During her time there, she was involved in myriad aspects, though her main focus was on developing pharmacogenomics assays to be deployed as clinical tests for Inova patients. After leaving Inova, she enjoyed tutoring students part-time in high school and college-level math and science subjects.

While tutoring, Stephanie also worked as a Lab Manager in the Lab Operations department at the MedImmune site in Gaithersburg, MD — the biologics R&D arm of AstraZeneca. Stephanie joined the Hovel-Miner lab (within the department of Microbiology, Immunology, & Tropical Medicine at GW) in February 2016 as a research assistant and lab manager. During her time there she set up the new lab and completed a Trypanosoma brucei whole genome gain-of-function library.

Stephanie defended her thesis in September 2022. 

Melissa Owusu-Ansah, undergraduate student

 Melissa Owusu-Ansah

 Undergraduate Student at GWU

Melissa is an undergraduate student pursuing a BS in Neuroscience    and a minor in Biology. In 2020, she worked under the Caldovic lab for over a year studying the dysregulation of urea cycle genes across multiple cancers which, in addition to the ENCODE project, spurred her interest in epigenetics and bioinformatics. In the lab, she is currently utilizing bioinformatic tools to better understand health disparities under the scope of epigenetics and their effect on patient prognosis and treatment efficacies in ovarian cancer. 

She has a wide array of interests, from coding to community engagement. She is a member of GW's Girls Who Code and Capital Peers through which she's able to engage in peer education. Melissa is passionate about community engagement projects and likes to inspire young children to be innovative. She spearheaded the Peace Engineers program under the nonprofit Little Friends for Peace and currently works for the Office of Health Promotion & Education to encourage students to make healthy choices.

Outside of her various roles, she enjoys reading, dancing, crocheting, baking, dress-making, tennis, songwriting, modeling, trashy tv, and anything Guy Fieri-related.

Graduated May 2023!

Bianca Gede, Graduate Student

Bianca Gede, BS

Graduate Student in the Milken Institute of Public Health at GWU

Bianca Graduated from the University of Central Florida with a BS in health Science with a focus on preclinical studies. During that time, she studied how uniparentally inherited genetic elements influence evolution in fruit flies. She also worked as a laboratory technician with Aventus Health where she gained interest in infectious diseases. Bianca is now pursuing her Master’s in Public Health Microbiology and Emerging Infectious Diseases and hopes to improve her research skills and study more on infectious diseases that are associated with cancer.

Outside of the lab, Bianca enjoys weightlifting, baking, and practicing aerial silks.

Graduated May 2023!

Khadra Omar, undergraduate student

Khadra Omar 

Undergraduate Student at GWU

Khadra graduated from Northern Virginia Community College in 2021 with an AS in Science. At GWU, she studies biology and health equity in hopes of becoming a physician someday. Khadra began her time at the Chiappinelli lab shortly after receiving her admission to GWU. She is currently working on her honors thesis regarding the role of p53 in the regulation of repetitive element expression.

When not conducting research, Khadra enjoys spending time with her family. 

Graduated May 2023!


Tomas Kanholm

Tomas Kanholm

Graduate student in The Institute for Biomedical Sciences at GWU

Tomas Kanholm graduated from the University of California, Los Angeles with a BS in Psychobiology and a minor in Education. He received his Master’s in Biochemistry from the University of Southern California in 2018.

Tomas’s Master’s research focused on epigenetics and histone modifications, specifically histone tail proteolysis. Tomas also has a background in coding, and worked as a programmer for his family’s small business throughout his undergraduate and master’s education. He hopes to leverage his research and programming skills in his role as a PhD student in the Chiappinelli lab by combining wet-lab and bioinformatics techniques to interrogate cancer progression.