Student Profiles



Daniel Bak

Elliott Lab

The field of biochemistry has interested me since I was an undergraduate at the University of Notre Dame. After engaging in courses and research that spanned from both cellular biology to physical chemistry, I found myself drawn to understanding the chemical process by which cells and ultimately whole organisms were controlled. Research opportunities at Notre Dame afforded me an opportunity to study the mechanisms for localization of mRNA in large Xenopus (african clawed frog) oocytes, and taught me to appreciate the value of an interdisciplinary background in both biology and chemistry. This was my first experience working in a research lab, and sparked my desire to continue with my biochemistry studies.


Boston University’s MCBB program interested me specifically, because of its interdisciplinary nature. I was impressed by the collaborations that were occurring both within the department and with other departments, such as chemistry and biomedical engineering. I was convinced that I would be able to pursue a broad range of research and gain a wide variety of experimental skills. I was first made aware of the research going on in Dr. Sean Elliott’s lab after he gave a brief seminar on his work in my first month at BU. The study of metallo-proteins seemed to me the perfect mixture of chemistry and biology. I knew I would have a chance to continue to explore my interests in biochemistry, while continuing to grow and learn in a field that was new to me, bio-inorganic chemistry.


The research I am pursuing in my time here in Dr. Elliott’s lab has focused on a small human mitochondrial protein, mitoNEET. This small protein has been a focus of type II diabetes research as a drug target for the insulin sensitizer, pioglitazone. I am working on the biophysical characterization of the [2Fe-2S] cluster of this small protein, using the powerful technique of protein film voltammetry, among others. Recent work on the project has spanned from a bioinformatics protein sequence analysis of mitoNEET homologs to immunoprecipitations with partner proteins to drug binding assays.  This broad range of experimental techniques, spanning the interface of chemistry and biology, has helped me grow as a scientist and allowed me to  pursue the research and answer the questions that interest me. I am excited to continue exploring and growing both here at BU and in my future scientific endeavors.




Kellie Cotter

Callard Lab

My interests in genetics began at a relatively young age, and when it came time to decide upon a major at the State University of New York at Buffalo molecular biology seemed like the natural choice.  While there I had the opportunity to work in several different labs exploring different ends of molecular biology spectrum: genotyping coral/algae symbionts, studying DNA repair mechanisms in E. coli, and identifying receptors involved in taste signal transduction.  These experiences not only helped me to better understand my coursework, but it also showed me how rewarding research can be.

Although I knew I wanted to do research, despite my varying opportunities at Buffalo I was still unsure what facet of molecular biology I wanted to focus on.  Part of what drew me to BU was the breadth of research represented by the MCBB program and the opportunity to rotate in several labs during your first year as a graduate student.  I also knew however that I wanted to enjoy my time in graduate school and the students I met at BU seemed to have a good life/work balance.  As a plus, BU’s location in a major urban center has made it easy to find things to do during my time away from the lab.

After four first year rotations, I ended up finding a home in the lab of Dr. Gloria Callard, where I am currently finishing up my third year as a PhD. student.  My thesis work focuses on the effects on environmental pollutants on estrogen signaling in fish.  In particular I am interested in a population of killifish in New Bedford Harbor, MA that has adapted to high pollutant exposures.  Our lab is a member of the EPA Superfund Basic Research Program at BU in conjunction with several other labs from the Biology Department, the BU School of Public Health, and Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, providing with valuable collaborations.  Additionally I have had the opportunity to present my research at several conferences providing me with interactions with scientists in a wide range of fields from toxicology to endocrinology.  I am certain that my experiences at BU will prepare me well for a future career in science research.


Rama Krishna Simhadri

Frydman Lab

My interests in Biology have evolved over the course of many years and I was always fascinated and enriched by each of those experiences. Having tried my hand at many different exciting fields like Molecular Dynamics of protein structures to engineering organisms, I found it difficult to confine my enthusiasm to one particular area of research. Interdisciplinary program like MCBB at BU supports students with diverse interests to continue exploring new frontiers. With the flexibility to rotate in labs from various departments I had an opportunity to experience the multifaceted research at BU. This was of great help in choosing my lab. After receiving my Bachelor’s degree in Biotechnology at Indian Institute of Technology Madras, Boston was my obvious choice for pursuing my Ph.D.. The city has a lot to offer in terms of diversity of research options and an extraordinary blend of passionate researchers. My decision to live in Boston was cemented when I came here to attend the iGEM jamboree, a synthetic biology conference for undergraduates at MIT and that was also when I realized that the scientific community here thrives on its mosaic cultural make up.

I’m currently a joint student of Dr. Horacio Frydman and Dr. Daniel Segre and I work on a very interesting endosymbiotic bacteria Wolbachia, which can alter the reproductive behavior of wide variety of insects in nature. Being an engineer by training and having a strong interest in synthetic biology, I’m trying to create transgenic Wolbachia which could potentially be a great tool to elucidate the largely unknown molecular interactions of Wolbachia with its hosts. I also intend to model the metabolic basis for its robust adaptation to a wide range of host organisms. I believe that the Wolbachiadrosophila system is a great case study in understanding and designing synthetic ecosystems with relationships between organisms ranging from symbiosis to parasitism. I particularly like working with this organism as it lies at the intersection, and serves as an opening to many other fields like stem cell biology, evolutionary biology, ecology and developmental biology.



Check out student publications in the MCBB Graduate Program