Your browser is unsupported

We recommend using the latest version of IE11, Edge, Chrome, Firefox or Safari.

UIC DRTP Fellows

Joseph Zapater, MD, PhD

Education History:
Medical School: University of Illinois Chicago
Residency: University of Illinois Chicago

Research Interests: Diabetes, Glucose, and Lipid Metabolism
Career Path: Physician Scientist Your Content Goes Here

Highlighting Post-Doc & Graduate Students Heading link

Brian Layden, MD, PhD Lab:

Kristen R. Lednovich, BS

Kristen is a PhD candidate in the Layden Lab, where she studies the role of short-chain fatty acid receptors FFA2 and FFA3 in mediating the effects of the gut microbiome on metabolic homeostasis. Her thesis project involves elucidating the functions of these receptors within the intestine, and she is strongly motivated by their potential as therapeutic drug targets. Her long-term research interests center on unraveling the complex relationship between diet, the gut microbiome, and human metabolism for the purpose of developing novel treatments for metabolic disorders.

Jose Cordoba-Chacon, PhD Lab:

Samuel M. Lee, PhD.

Lee received his PhD from University of Adelaide in 2017, and he spent a year as a postdoctoral fellow in Northwestern University before joining the Division of Endocrinology at UIC as a postdoctoral research associate in 2019. Dr. Lee is assessing the role of hepatocyte PPARgamma-regulated mechanisms in the development of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. He recently published a manuscript in Cellular and Molecular Gastroenterology and Hepatology (PMID: 33444819) related with this project. He plans to use mouse models and mouse primary hepatocytes to investigate the specific contribution of PPARgamma to the development of fatty liver disease.

Rhonda Kineman, PhD Lab:

Maria del Carmen Vazquez Borrego, PhD

Maria del Carmen Vazquez-Borrego is a Postdoctoral Research Associate working in the laboratory of Dr. Rhonda Kineman, at the University of Illinois Chicago. She earned her PhD in Biomedicine at the University of Cordoba (Spain) in 2019. Her main research focus is to understand the role growth hormone (GH) signaling (GHR/JAK2/STAT5b signaling pathway) and IGF1 plays in protecting the liver against excess fat accumulation. She specifically explores how GH controls directly controls hepatocyte de novo lipogenesis, using a unique adult-onset hepatocyte-specific growth hormone receptor knockdown mouse model (aHepGHRkd) under different nutritional states (fast-refeeding conditions).

Mercedes del Rio-Moreno, PhD

Mercedes del Rio-Moreno is currently a Postdoctoral Research Associate in the laboratory of Dr. Rhonda Kineman, at the University of Illinois Chicago. She graduated with first class honors in Biochemistry from the University of Cordoba, Spain, and received her MS in Biotechnology and PhD in Biomedicine from the same university before moving to Chicago. Her research focus is to understand how growth hormone (GH) controls non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH) development and progression. She is specifically exploring if GH acts directly on hepatocytes, through Stat5b-dependent or Stat5b-indpendent signals, to inhibit steatosis and prevent liver injury, with the ultimate goal of revealing novel drug targets to treat NASH.

Rob Sargis, MD, PhD Lab:

Margaret (Maggie) Schulz, B.S.

Maggie’s overall research interests focus on health disparities, environmental metal exposures, and cardiometabolic disease risk. She is a third year MD/PhD student in UIC’s Medical Scientist Training Program (MSTP) working under the joint mentorship of Dr. Robert Sargis, MD, PhD, and Dr. Maria Argos, PhD. Maggie studies the relationships between metal exposures and trajectories of blood pressure, blood sugar, and body weight in a Hispanic/Latino population living in Starr County, Texas. Maggie is also interested in the intersection between environmental exposures and genetic predisposition to disease. This work will illuminate health disparities and their environmental origins while providing insights into preventable drivers of cardiometabolic diseases, such as diabetes, hypertension, and obesity.

Pingwen Xu, PhD Lab:

Hui Ye, Ph.D., Postdoctoral Fellow

Dr. Ye is a postdoctoral researcher who joined Dr. Pingwne Xu’s lab at the Divison of Endocrinology, Diabetes, and Metabolism in August 2019. He obtained his Ph.D. in biochemistry and working in the ligand-included conformational changes of estrogen receptors and the consequences on human health settings. With the strong and continuous interest in the physiologic roles of sexual hormones, Dr. Ye’s current research focus is to investigate the central regulation of sexual hormone receptors expressed in the medial amygdala on energy homeostasis. This research may help identify specific targets for the development of novel estrogen and testosterone-related approaches to combat obesity.

Pei Luo, BS, Exchange Graduate Student

Pei is an Exchange Graduate Student joining Dr. Pingwen Xu’s lab in October 2019. His overall research focuses on the central metabolic effects of short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs). Pei obtained his Bachelor’s degree (2014-2018) from South China Agricultural University, a highly respected institute in China. His reach work during the undergraduate phase resulted in two first-authored papers and three co-authored papers. Pei’s productivity is certainly impressive at this stage of his career. Pei’s research aims to establish the physiological relevance of free fatty acid receptor 2/3 in the brain and identify novel FFA 2/3 neural circuits that are important for microbiota-mediated central regulation of energy homeostasis.

Valeria C. Torres Irizarry, BSc, Graduate Student

Valeria is a graduate student from the Integrative and Translational Physiology (ITP) Research Concentration. She received her Bachelor’s degree in Biology from the University of Puerto Rico at Cayey. Valeria is part of the Graduate Education in Biomedical Sciences (GEMS) Program and is doing her predoctoral training under the mentorship of Dr. Pingwen Xu. Her work consists of using optogenetic tools and neuronal tracing techniques to understand the role of estrogen receptor alpha (ERα) signaling in the brain and elucidate the mechanisms by which ERα-expressing neurons regulate adipose tissue function and energy homeostasis. Valeria is also an NSF Bridge to the Doctorate (BD) Program Fellow.

Papasani Subbaiah, PhD Lab:

Poorna CR Yalagala, Ph.D.

Dr. Yalagala’s research is focused on the role of omega 3 fatty acids in neurological diseases including Alzheimer’s disease, as well as in diabetic retinopathy. These studies, employing a novel dietary carrier of omega 3 fatty acids, could lead to improved therapeutic strategies for the prevention and treatment of these diseases. He is currently supported by a VA Merit Review grant.