Meet the Team...

Dr. Brian Zoltowski

Principal Investigator

Dr. Brian ZoltowskiBrian obtained a B.S. and M.S. in the lab of John Pojman at the University of Southern Mississippi working at the interface of physical chemistry and polymer science. Upon completion of his degrees, he decided to focus on more biological problems and joined the Tri-Institutional Program in Chemical Biology at Cornell University. He obtained a PhD in chemistry, focusing on biophysical methods to study circadian clock photoreceptors under the tutelage of Brian Crane. Here he published the first structure of a Eukaryotic Circadian clock photoreceptor (VVD) in Science. His studies of LOV domain structure and function has been well cited and has pioneered efforts in tuning photoreceptor chemical mechanisms. He later solved the first structure of Drosophila Cryptochrome (published in Nature, 2011). Following his PhD, he conducted postdoctoral research in the lab of Kevin Gardner at UT Southwestern Medical Center, where he focused on using NMR methods to analyze protein structure and function in bacterial photoreceptors and the PAS domain protein, Aryl Hydrocarbon Receptor (AhR). He joined the SMU chemistry department in 2011 and continues to conduct cutting edge research on circadain clock function. Basically, he is pretty awesome. If you haven't met him yet, you should.

Graduate Students

Julia Goncalves

Julia Goncalves

Julia Goncalves joined the Zoltowski lab as a graduate student in the fall of 2020. She received a bachelor's degree in biology and mathematics with a minor in chemistry, while also participating in undergraduate research. She was born and raised in Porto Alegre, Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil. On her free time, Julia enjoys playing volleyball and watching movies.

Nischal Karki

Nischal Karki

Nischal has been a graduate student in our lab since August 2017. He is from Nepal, and received a bachelor’s degree in biochemistry from the University of Southern Mississippi. He is the lab guru, he is skilled in computer programming, plant biology, and protein biochemistry. He is currently driving our efforts into understanding how plants adapt to different lighting environments through the use of LOV-domain photoreceptors. In his free time, he cooks, plays video games...who am I kidding, he doesn't have any free time.

Julia Lara

Julia Lara

Julia Lara joined the lab as a graduate student in the fall of 2018 and is a recently trained biochemist. She received a bachelor's degree in chemistry at Texas State University where she studied organometallic chemistry with a focus on polyhedral boranes. After graduating, she ventured out into industry and worked as an analytical chemist at a pharmaceutical company for two years before entering the PhD program at SMU. She is currently studying mammalian circadian clock and optogenetic gene expression systems. On her free time, Julia enjoys doing small DIY projects and loves to be outside.

Undergraduate Students

Jessica Elliott
Jessica Elliott

Jessica is a junior, who is pursuing degrees in biology, chemistry, and health and society, and later hopes to study medicine. Before joining the lab to work on Optogenetics projects, he spent time researching Alzheimer's Disease at the University of Kansas. He is also a Resident Advisor on campus, serves as Vice President of Programming for Program Council, and produces the 24-Hour Musical Project. His research interests include novel modes of genetic regulation, and the intersection between science and performance art.

Thomas Truong
Thomas Truong

Hey! My name is Thomas and I’m a sophomore studying biology and business administration with the goal of attending graduate or medical school. Before I joined Dr. Zoltowski’s lab in January 2019, I was a part of SMU’s Anxiety and Depression Research Center where I learned how mental disorders can affect us on a physical level. Currently, I work with photosensitive proteins and mutations that affect their behavior to learn more about the circadian clock of plants. Outside of that, I plan events as the Treasurer for the Vietnamese Student Association, help others as an Honors Mentor, and play ping pong and pool with my friends.

Abby Blumenfeld
Abby Blumenfeld

Abby is a senior majoring in chemistry with a minor in mathematics and hopes to pursue a career in medicine. She is involved across campus as Historian of Alpha Epsilon Delta, Resident Assistant in McElvaney Residential Commons, and in student organizations including Pre-Dental Society, Student Foundation, and SMU Hillel. Her research utilizes data analysis to better understand biological processes, combining her interests in chemistry, biology, and physics.

Alec Mason
Alec Mason

Alec is a senior chemistry major who joined the lab in 2016. His research encompasses the effects of blue light on pathogenic fungi. He plans to attend medical school.

Ronen Faur
Ronen Faur

Ronen is a senior biochemistry major, with minors in Spanish and business administration. He joined the lab in the spring of 2017. He is also a member of the SMU Swimming team. He also is treasurer of Psi Chi, a psychology honor society, and a member of AED, the pre health honor society. His research interests include the neural network models that give rise to memory and learning phenomena.

Zoltowski Lab Alumni

Former Graduate Students

  1. Ashutosh Pudasaini, Ph.D.
  2. Graduated: October 2016

  3. Jameela Lokhandwala, Ph.D.
  4. Graduated: February 2018

    Jameela is currently a postdoc at the Moffitt Cancer Center

  5. Aditi Nagar, Ph.D.
  6. Graduated: June 2018

    Aditi is currently a professor at Collin Community College

Former Undergraduate Students

Andrew Alexander
Andrew will begin Medical School in the fall of 2019 at Texas A&M.
Ana Brennan
Ana is working as a researcher at UT Southwestern Medical Center
Hailee Brown
Hailee is a medical student at UT Southwestern Medical School
Kaley El-Arab
Kaley is currently a medical student at the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio.
Taylor Escher
Taylor is currently a graduate student in the Joan Lewis-Wambi lab at the University of Kansas Medical Center.
Ricky Escobar
Ricky is currently a dental student at Nova Southeastern University College of Dental Medicine
Brandon Foley
Brandon is currently a medical student at the University of Central Florida College of Medicine.
Holt Garner
Holt is a medical Student at UT Southwestern Medical School.
Adie Hobbs
Adie is a graduate student at the Icahn College of Medicine at Mount Sinai.
Hilary Hopkins
Hilary is currently a medical student at the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio.
Claire Johnson
Claire is a Mechanical Engineer at Haliburton.
Yoojin Kim
Yoojin was a graduate student in materials science at Virginia Tech University.
Brandon Le
Brandon is currently a medical student at Baylor College of Medicine.
Kinga Malinska
Josh Marsh
Josh is currently a Developer at Amazon Cloud Services.
Hiba Mirza
Hiba is currently a Senior Consultant Intern at IBM.
Mar McCreary
Mar is currently a Materials and Process Engineer at Lockheed Martin.
Christina McConville
Christina is a graduate student in Tomce Runcevski's lab at Southern Methodist University.
Samantha Morgan
Samantha is a medical student at Baylor College of Medicine.
Priya Patel
Priya is doing Clinical Research at UT Southwestern Medical Center.
Katie Powers
Katie is currently a medical student at McGovern Medical School in Houston, Texas.
Nick Riley
Nick is pursuing his passion for acting working in several theatres across the country.
Tyler Rozanitis
Tyler is a graduate student in the biophysics program at Cornell University
Sydney Schmitt
Sydney is a medical student at Baylor College of Medicine.
Yashas Singri
Yashas currently works for Bain Consulting.
Abby Slyman
Haley Stutts
Haley currently works for Bain Consulting.
Shannon Swisher
Shannon is currently a medical student at McGovern Medical School in Houston, Texas.
Sam Weber
Sam is getting a graduate degree at the University of Oxford.
Allison Whittlesey
Allsion is currently a student in the PA program at Baylor University.
Mac Perry
Jordan Sullivan
Blake Barnett
Kenny Martin
Jaden Amilibia

Visiting Researchers

  • Jaynee Haart
  • Jaynee is currently a postdoc in Kevin Gardner's lab at CUNY.