People

People

Rawls Lab Alumni →

 

John Rawls
PRINCIPAL INVESTIGATOR
Email
Biosketch
(919)-613-7212
John was raised in Lexington KY, received his undergraduate education at Emory University, then pursued his Ph.D. in developmental biology at Washington University in the lab of the late Dr. Stephen Johnson.  John stayed at Washington University for his postdoctoral training in gastroenterology and host-microbiota interactions in the lab of Dr. Jeffrey Gordon.  John started his independent laboratory in 2006 at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, then relocated his lab to Duke University in 2013.
Jia Wen
POSTDOCTORAL ASSOCIATE
Email
(919)-660-0894
Jia was born in Wuhan, China. She received her PhD in Microbiology in the laboratory of Dr. Elizabeth Fozo at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. Following her curiosity on how host and microbes shape each other, she joined Rawls lab in August 2016. Currently, she is trying to understand the mechanism by which intestinal microbes promote lipid absorption in zebrafish. Jia always dreams of becoming a light-resistant vampire so that she can enjoy the sun, the sea, and the breeze without worrying about time passing by.
Jessica McCann
SENIOR RESEARCH ASSOCIATE
Email
(919)-660-0894
Jess grew up in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. Her love for host-microbe interactions began during an undergrad research semester at the Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole, MA, where she worked with Dr. Ned Ruby studying the squid symbiont Vibrio fischeri. Jess completed masters with Dr. Ruby in Hawaii, moved to NC with her family and did her PhD work with Dr. Miriam Braunstein at UNC Chapel Hill studying protein secretion in Mycobacterium tuberculosis. After a finishing a postdoc with Dr. Joe St. Geme and Dr. Patrick Seed examining the effect of early life exposure to bacteria on development of allergy and asthma, Jess is now a research associate in the Rawls lab. Jess works with Dr. Rawls and a group of PIs at Duke and Northwestern studying gut bacteria that may contribute to obesity in adolescents. Her interests include reading fiction, listening to live music, traveling, and re-learning French after coming in 9th in the NH state French exam her senior year of high school, and then promptly forgetting it all.
Cece Kelly
GRADUATE STUDENT
Email
(919)-660-0894
Cece is originally from Colorado, but has lived in Albuquerque, New Mexico of most of her life. She received her B.S. in biochemistry from the University of New Mexico. While at UNM, she did her undergraduate thesis project in the lab of Dr. Irene Salinas, studying rainbow trout mucosal immunity. She joined the Rawls lab in 2017. Her project explores the molecular regulatory mechanisms underlying host transcriptional responses to microbiome colonization and inflammation. Outside of the lab, she enjoys traveling, playing board games, and trying out new recipes.
Jay Jawahar
GRADUATE STUDENT
Email
(919)-660-0894
Jay is originally from Chennai, India. He received his B.S in microbiology from the University of Minnesota in 2017. Here, he undertook several short research projects involving heavy metal-resistant bacteria, Enterococcus biofilms, and E.coli physiology. He spent his senior year in Dr. Christine Salomon’s lab, building and screening a microbial strain collection for antibiotic activity against P.destructans. Jay joined the Rawls lab in 2018 and is studying bacterial metabolites that can impact host physiology and microbial ecology in the gut. While in Durham, he hopes to have wild adventures that he can brag about at dinner parties, assuming he gets invited to any.
Gil Padilla Mercado
GRADUATE STUDENT
Email
(919)-660-0894
Gil is originally from Long Beach, CA. He received his undergraduate degree from the University of California, Los Angeles. During his undergraduate career he worked in the lab of Dr. Tracy Johnson, studying the role of the nuclear cap-binding complex in splicing and export of a transcription factor for glycolytic genes. He joined the Rawls lab in 2018 and is studying intestinal regionalization in the context of epigenetics and microbiome-mediated inflammation. In his free time he enjoys hitting the gym, making geometric digital illustrations, and keeping up with the latest space-themed TV series.
Ian Williamson
POSTDOCTORAL ASSOCIATE
Email
Ian was born and raised in Sunrise, Florida. He completed his undergraduate studies at The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 2011, where he remained as a lab technician and graduate student in the Department of Biomedical Engineering and UNC. He focuses on the development of in vitro technologies to study metabolism and host-microbiota interactions. Outside of lab he enjoys cycling, playing soccer, and coffee. Ian is jointly mentored with the laboratory of Xiling Shen.
Briana Davis
GRADUATE STUDENT
Email
(919)-660-0894
Briana has lived in North Carolina all of her life. Born and raised in Charlotte, NC, she went on to complete her undergraduate studies at North Carolina Central University and received her B.S. in Biology. She joined the Rawls lab in the spring of 2019 and is very excited to be studying the microbial regulation of transcription factors in the intestinal epithelium. When not in lab, Briana enjoys watching Duke basketball and shopping with friends.
Matt Tillman
POSTDOCTORAL ASSOCIATE
Email
(919)-660-0894
Matt was born in Mobile, Alabama, but mostly grew up in Atlanta, Georgia. He completed his undergraduate studies at Georgia Tech, and then joined the laboratory of Dr. Eric Ortlund at Emory University for his PhD studies in biochemistry. There he studied how lipids interact with proteins to signal through the cell. This curiosity in how cells signal led him to join the Rawls lab in 2020 to investigate how microbes are communicating with intestinal epithelial cells. On the side, Matt enjoys many hobbies, which he plans to pursue more if he ends up a failure in science, like being a singer-songwriter, house flipper, or opening up a joint barber-shop/BBQ restaurant called “Barber-Q”.
Maggie Morash
GRADUATE STUDENT
Email
(919)-660-0894
Maggie grew up in Bernardsville, NJ and completed her undergraduate studies at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, NJ. She majored in genetics, minored in computer science, and completed her senior thesis in Dr. Maureen Barr’s lab studying post-translational modifications to microtubules in ciliated neurons in C. elegans. She matriculated into the Medical Scientist Training Program at Duke in 2018 and joined the Rawls Lab in the spring of 2021. She’s excited to be studying enteroendocrine cells in the gut and how their function is modulated by diet and microbes. Outside of lab, Maggie loves playing soccer, going for hikes along the Eno River, and watching cheesy reality TV with her friends.
Yelizaveta(Liza) Rassadkina
GRADUATE STUDENT
Email
(919)-660-0894
Liza is originally from Moscow, Russia, but mostly grew up in New Jersey. She received her B.S. in microbiology from Rutgers University. During her undergraduate career she worked in the lab of Dr. Tamar Barkay, studying the microbial community and their heavy metal resistance in hot springs from Yellowstone National Park. She then joined the lab of Dr. Xu Yu in Cambridge, MA, studying the pathogenesis and the immune cell response of HIV-1 and SARS-CoV-2. Liza joined the Rawls lab in 2022 and is studying genetic strain diversity of bacteria that induce inflammation in the gut. In her free time, she likes to read, visit museums, swim, rock climb, and travel.
Julia Godwin
FISH RESEARCH TECH
Email
(919)-660-0894
Julia was born and raised in Wilmington, North Carolina. She completed her undergraduate
degree at The University of North Carolina at Greensboro in 2021. She is excited to be studying the host-microbiota interactions in the gut and its affects on the enterohepatic system. Her interests include listening to music, knitting, and hanging out with friends.
Colin Lickwar
SENIOR RESEARCH ASSOCIATE AND LAB MANAGER
Email
(919)-660-0893
Colin is originally from Duxbury, Vermont where he was once the 6th grade chess champion of the state. Under the assumption that all things are organized in the same way, he studies chromatin genomics and transcriptional regulation of the host response to microbes in the gut. His favorite fruits include: grapefruit, peaches, cherries, blueberries, and limes.

Aditya Kotla
Tiffany Liu

UNDERGRADUATE STUDENTS