FFIRE Faculty Mentors

The following UGA faculty members are approved to serve as mentors in the Future Faculty for Inclusive Research Excellence (FFIRE) UGA Postdoctoral Scholars Program.  Additional mentors are being added.

Dr. Justin Bahl
Department of Infectious Diseases

Available Projects: There are a range of project opportunities for postdocs in the applied molecular epidemiology research group. The overarching goal of this research program is to use pathogen genomic information to learn about unobserved drivers of infectious disease dynamics across biological scales. Current projects include understanding the role of race/ethnicity in epidemic patterns of transmission of HIV, SARS-CoV-2, Influenza and Respiratory Syncitial Virus; characterizing the immune landscape to predict influenza variant fitness; ecological and epidemiological modeling of pathogens with pandemic potential (ie HPAI); developing methods for the rapid identification of transmission clusters; developing mathematical and phylodynamic models to understand impacts of co-circulating pathogens on epidemic dynamics. Trainees will also have the opportunity to contribute to establishing a national agenda for enhanced molecular surveillance of emerging pathogens and pandemic preparedness through the Pathogen Genomics Centers of Excellence and training and funding opportunities through the Centers of Excellence for Influenza Research and Response. Read the full description of available projects here. Mentoring philosophy available upon request.
Dr. James Beasley
Terrell Professor of Forestry and Natural Resources
School of Forestry and Natural Resources/Savannah River Ecology Laboratory

Available Projects: 1) Ecology and conservation of African apex carnivores at the interface of protected areas and human-dominated landscapes; 2) Effects of the Chernobyl and Fukushima-Daiichi nuclear accidents on wildlife and development of improved dosimetry for estimating radiation dose to free-ranging wildlife; 3) Ecology and management of invasive wild pigs; 4) Effects of anthropogenic contaminants on wildlife health.

Read the full description of available projects here.

Mentoring philosophy available upon request.
Dr. Holly Bik
Associate Professor
Department of Marine Sciences

Available Projects: The Bik Lab currently has NSF funding for a postdoc to contribute to two significant projects focused on marine microbial eukaryotes (nematode worms and other microbial metazoan taxa), including research on bacteria/archaea as part of host-associated microbiome project aims. NSF Project #1: “Do molecular data support high endemism and divergent evolution of Antarctic marine nematodes and their host-associated microbiomes?”, OPP-2132641, National Science Foundation Office of Polar Programs. NSF Project #2, "CAREER: Characterizing the phylogenetic lineages and genomic factors enabling adaptation in free-living marine nematodes", DEB-2144304, awarded by the National Science Foundation CAREER Program. Read the full description of available projects here.

Read Dr. Bik's mentoring philosophy.
Dr. Krista Capps
Associate Professor
Odum School of Ecology/Savannah River Ecology Lab

Available Projects: The FFIRE postdoctoral researcher will have the opportunity to collaborate with me on existing interdisciplinary projects, but they would also have the flexibility to design their own projects in freshwater community or ecosystem ecology or freshwater conservation ecology. If it is of interest, they would have the opportunity to conduct empirical work in watersheds/ephemeral wetlands in the southeast (most likely around Athens, Atlanta, or in systems on the Savannah River Site in Aiken, South Carolina) or in tropical systems in southern Mexico. I am collaborating with researchers at UGA who are experts in public health, engineering, geographic information systems, and crop and soil science, and am working with researchers in the public and private sector who are experts in environmental justice. I am excited to welcome applicants proposing projects that integrate these fields with aquatic ecology and conservation. I am motivated to add experts from freshwater ecology and from other fields to our research team to expand our understanding of freshwater science.
Dr. John Drake
Regents' Professor & UGA Distinguished Research Professor
Odum School of Ecology/Center for the Ecology of Infectious Diseases

Available Projects: 1) NSF - Predictive Intelligence for Pandemic Preparedness; 2) NIH - Interactive model for Ebola spillover; 3) An algorithm for forecasting respiratory infections: This project aligns with ongoing activities of the Center for the Ecology of Infectious Diseases Forecasting Working Group. This working group is developing new models and computational workflows for predicting both seasonal and pandemic outbreaks of respiratory infections like influenza and SARS-CoV-2.

Read the full description of available projects here.

Read Dr. Drake's mentoring philosophy.
Dr. Arthur Edison
Georgia Research Alliance Eminent Scholar and Professor
Complex Carbohydrate Research Center/Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology/Department of Genetics/Institute of Bioinformatics

Available Projects: The Edison lab is highly collaborative, and we have several projects. All of these have a theme of metabolomics or metabolism. 1) NIH R35 - Platform for in vivo Metabolism; 2) NSF STC - Center for Chemical Currencies of a Microbial Planet (C-CoMP); 3) NSF - An Engineering Research Center for Cell Manufacturing Technologies (CMaT); 4) NSF - Collective Behavior of Cellular Oscillators.
Dr. Mary Goll
Associate Professor
Department of Genetics
Available Projects: Primary funding in my laboratory is through an R35 MIRA grant for established investigators from the National Institutes of General Medicine. This funding provides the flexibility for our laboratory to broadly pursue projects in the area of chromatin regulation in the context of development and disease using zebrafish as a primary model system. Our laboratory currently has strong focal expertise in the area of heterochromatin biology. Current projects in the lab focus on several research questions: 1) we are interested in understanding the mechanisms that drive segregation of eukaryotic genomes into distinct regions of open and compacted chromatin during the window of zygotic genome activation, 2) we are broadly interested in the relationship between repressive chromatin, transposon control, and gene expression during embryonic development, 3) understanding the relationship between DNA methylation loss, DNA damage and human disease (cancer, ICF syndrome) and 4) exploring the capacity for early life exposure to environmental toxicants to disrupt heterochromatin mediated repression. Read Dr. Goll's mentoring philosophy.
Dr. Cheryl Gomillion
Associate Professor
School of Chemical, Materials, and Biomedical Engineering

Available Projects: Culturing Platforms for Therapeutic Mesenchymal Stromal Cell Expansion. The work of my research group focuses on the following general areas: (1) design and evaluation of biomaterials for therapeutic purposes; (2) application of materials for engineering tissue systems; and (3) advanced engineering strategies for developing in vitro models and culture systems. Central to these areas is an emerging area of research within my group focused on (4) integration of biomedical and engineering education research with a specific focus on evaluating classroom innovations for improving biomedical engineering student learning and exploring factors that facilitate success for diverse graduate students. The ongoing research efforts in my lab are diverse and interdisciplinary, with a number of collaborations being built through our work.

Read the full description of available projects here. Mentoring philosophy available upon request.
Dr. Robert Haltiwanger
Georgia Research Alliance Eminent Scholar and Professor
Complex Carbohydrate Research Center

Available Projects: The Haltiwanger laboratory investigates the structure, biosynthesis, and function of O-linked glycans on several cysteine-rich domains including Epidermal Growth Factor-like (EGF) repeats and Thrombospondin Type 1 Repeats (TSRs). 1) How does addition of O-glucose to EGF repeats affect the structure and function of fibrillin- 1 microfibrils? 2) How do CADASIL mutations affect O-glycans on NOTCH3 EGF repeats?

Read the full description of available projects here.
Dr. Natarajan Kannan
Georgia Cancer Coalition Distinguished Scholar and Professor
Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology/Institute of Bioinformatics

Available Projects: 1) NIGMS R35 - Mapping genome-phenome relationships in large gene families; 2) NCI U01 - Application of AI and data integration tools for protein classification and function prediction; 3) Building a Translational Informatics Network for Personalized Medicine-Based Treatment Strategies for Alzheimer's and Parkinson's Diseases. This new project, developed in collaboration with faculty at the Center for Neurological Disease Research (CNDR) at UGA, focuses on discovering new kinome-based biomarkers for neurological diseases through integrative mining of patient-derived data from the NIH AMP-PD consortium. This project offers the opportunity to train in translational neuroscience by working collaboratively with computational and wet-lab scientists within the UGA CNDR.
Read the full description of available projects here. Read Dr. Kannan's mentoring philosophy.
Dr. James Leebens-Mack
Distinguished Research Professor
Department of Plant Biology

Available Projects: My lab uses comparative genomics analyses to pursue a wide range of questions relating to the gene/c and molecular underpinnings of macroevolutionary innovations such as flowering, the shifts from C3 photosynthesis to CAM, shifts from hermaphroditism to dioecy, and changes pollination syndromes. We have several projects that a postdoc could jump into, but I am also open to launching new research that could be pursued using a comparative genomics toolkit.

Read the full description of available projects here.

Read Dr. Leebens-Mack's mentoring philosophy.
Dr. Janani Rajbhandari Thapa
Associate Professor
Department of Health Policy and Management

Available Projects: Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and Food Insecurity related Healthcare Costs in the High Obesity Counties in the United States. Project Aims: Evaluate SNAP policy, healthcare infrastructure, and food and built environment that affect child health outcomes related to food and nutrition insecurity.

Read the full description of available projects here.

Mentoring philosophy available upon request.
Dr. Rachel Roberts-Galbraith
Assistant Professor
Department of Cellular Biology/Regenerative Bioscience Center/Neuroscience Program

Available Projects: Regulation of regenerative neurogenesis (funded by NINDS R01)

Read the full description of available projects here.

Read Dr. Roberts-Galbraith's mentoring philosophy.
Dr. Pejman Rohani
UGA Athletic Association Professor in Ecology and Infectious Diseases & Regents' Professor
Odum School of Ecology

Available Projects: 1) NIAID Centers of Excellence for Influenza Research and Response: Center for Influenza Disease and Emergence Research; 2) Computational Methods for Influenza Forecasting; 3) Using Validated Transmission Models to Inform Pertussis Vaccine Development and Policy.

Read the full description of available projects here.

Read Dr. Rohani's mentoring philosophy.
Dr. Brandon Rotavera
Associate Professor
Department of Chemistry & School of Environmental, Civil, Agricultural, and Mechanical Engineering

Available Projects: 1) U.S. Department of Energy, Office of Science, Basic Energy Sciences, Computational Chemistry of Biofuel Functional Group Effects for Sustainable Transportation Energy. Includes collaboration opportunity with National Laboratories. Interdisciplinary impact: physical chemistry and computer science/algorithm development. 2) National Science Foundation, Chemical Measurements and Imaging Program, Data Science and Machine Learning for Spectral Analysis to Advance Chemical Sciences. Includes collaboration opportunity with National Laboratories. Interdisciplinary impact: spectroscopy for energy applications + machine learning/data science.

Read the full description of available projects here. Mentoring philosophy available upon request.
Dr. Tania Rozario
Assistant Professor
Department of Genetics

Available Projects: 1) Transgenesis in tapeworms; 2) Neuronal control of tapeworm regeneration; 3) Quorum sensing among tapeworms and its effect on stem cells; 4) Segmentation in tapeworms

Read the full description of available projects here.

Read Dr. Rozario's mentoring philosophy.
Dr. Breeanna Urbanowicz
Assistant Professor
Complex Carbohydrate Research Center

Available Projects: 1) DOE - Center for Bioenergy Innovation (CBI). *Includes National Lab and Interdisciplinary Collaborations; 2) DOE - Center for Plant and Microbial Carbohydrates at the University of Georgia Complex Carbohydrate Research Center. *Includes National Lab and Interdisciplinary Collaborations; 3) DOE - Functional characterization of glycosyltransferase in duckweed to enable predictive biology. *Includes National Lab and Interdisciplinary Collaborations; 4) DOE - BioPoplar: A tunable chassis for diversified bioproduct production. *Includes National Lab and Interdisciplinary Collaborations; 5) DOE - Cell-type Specific Pectins in Plant Cell Walls: Structure, Interaction and Function. *Includes National Lab and Interdisciplinary Collaborations
Read the full description of available projects here. Read Dr. Urbanowicz's mentoring philosophy.