Meet our Awardees

2024 UPRIME Recipients

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Kira Albers

kira albers

My name is Kira Albers, and I am entering my junior year at the University of Minnesota as a Human Physiology major with a minor in pharmacology. This summer, I will continue my research in the van Berlo lab, which studies cardiovascular maturation and remodeling at the molecular and cellular levels. Cardiovascular disease is a major health burden to the United States accounting for at least one in every five deaths. Immune responses after cardiac injury have been associated with cardiac remodeling and heart failure. I am passionate about learning more about immune cell activation after cardiac injury. Specifically, this summer, I will be investigating the effect of Galectin-1 (Lgals1) on macrophage physiology and phenotype, in vitro, and how Lgals1 abundance changes in the heart after transaortic constriction (TAC) surgery. Outside of the lab, I enjoy traveling, baking, and spending time with my friends.
Lab: van Berlo

Anneliese Brown


Anneliese is a recent Northern Arizona University graduate. She has degrees in Biomedical Science as well as Modern Languages with a focus in Spanish. She will be working in Dr. Ruan’s lab this summer and is excited to further her research career. She would like to go to medical school in the future with hopes of being an OB-GYN. Outside of the lab, she likes to spend time outside, travel, and try new things.
Lab: Ruan

Joi Gary

Joi Gary pic

Joi Gary is currently a Remarkable Futures and Zell Miller Scholar obtaining two bachelor’s degrees in Biology and Biomedical Physiology on the pre-medicine track at the University of Georgia. After finishing her undergraduate program, she aspires to attend medical school with hopes of pursuing a career as a research physician with a concentration in immunology and drug delivery systems. Outside of the lab, she enjoys reading books, dancing, weightlifting, volunteering at her local hospital, and spending time with her family. 
Lab: Revelo

Ryan Gemilere

pic of ryan gemilere

My name is Ryan, a fourth-year undergraduate human physiology student. I’m an aspiring physician with a particular interest in emergency medicine and trauma surgery. I’ve worked the last three years as an EMT in an emergency department here in Minneapolis and am hoping to contribute research that will inform future patient care. This summer I will be working in Dr. Liu’s lab studying calcium handling in myocardial mitochondria which is heavily implicated in cardiac myocyte death during MI and cardiac arrest. Outside of school and the ED, I really enjoy camping, spending time with my family, or winding down with some video games.
Lab: Liu

Sahil Kamat


Hi, my name is Sahil Kamat. I recently finished my third year at the University of Minnesota, majoring in biology. This summer, I will be working in the Townsend lab on characterizing protein synthesis in dystrophic cardiomyopathy. My project aims to understand the fundamental limitations present in dystrophic mice following injury so we can better understand molecular mechanisms related to Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy. Outside the lab, I like watching football (go Steelers), exploring new restaurants, and spending time with family. 
Lab: Townsend

Echo Nelson

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My name is Echo Nelson and I will be a senior next year at the University of Minnesota. I am majoring in Mathematics and Human Physiology with a minor in Spanish. I am excited to be working in Dr. Yuk Sham’s lab this summer. In my free time, I enjoy traveling, going on walks, spending time with friends, and dancing!
Lab: Sham

2023 UPRIME Awardees

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Ushmil Azad


My name is Ushmil Azad, and I am entering my senior year at the University of Minnesota. I have always been interested in research because it works to build a foundation where people can challenge current theories and ideas in an effective manner. This summer, I will be working in the O’Connell Lab examining the neuropathology in AD (Alzheimer’s Disease) mice that lack FFAR4 (Free fatty acid receptor 4). I will specifically be studying histological assessments to define the relationship between the two. This is because neuroinflammation is a hallmark of AD, marked by the activation of microglia and astrocytes. The ability of FFAR4 to diminish inflammation makes FFAR4 an attractive, druggable target for mitigating AD pathology. When I am not in the lab, I enjoy traveling, shopping, reading, and swimming in the lake!

Gloria Friedman

gloria friedman

Gloria Friedman will graduate from the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities with a Neuroscience B.S., Spring 2023. Gloria will work on animal models for the social determinants of health and aging to better understand the molecular physiology of obesity and stress-related diseases. Her future plans include gaining real-world experience through an internship in neurodevelopment, research about the autonomic nervous system, and launching a business selling her art. She has a special interest in mental health, biofeedback, and neuromodulation. She has traveled to 9 countries and 18 US states. She is currently a chess coach at local elementary schools. She enjoys painting, podcasts, and playing the piano.

Konrad Kulesza


My name is Konrad Kulesza and I will be entering my final year at the University of Minnesota majoring in Neuroscience. I am thrilled to be working in Dr. Eric Batchelor's lab this summer. I plan on exploring what molecular and cellular mechanisms are affected by aging and stress responses, and how changes contribute to the onset of neurodegenerative diseases. Proteins such as p53 and pCREB are of particular interest to me. My experiences in hospice care have encouraged me to explore neurodegeneration and aging mechanisms in the brain as a whole. When I'm not in the lab I enjoy weightlifting, exploring Minneapolis, playing soccer, and learning fun dance moves!

Avram Liban


Avram Liban is an incoming Junior majoring in Human Physiology at the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities. His overall research will test how changes in p53 levels, rising and falling, play a role in determining the cell fate decision between differentiation and quiescence. This summer, he will work in the Liu Lab, aiming to express a fluorescently-tagged p53 reporter gene in human immortalized myoblasts and monitor p53 levels over time during myoblast differentiation through time-lapse microscopy. Outside the lab, he volunteers for the county hospital, performs stand-up comedy shows around the metro, and sails for the University of Minnesota Sailing Team.

Ashley Peters


My name is Ashley Peters and I am entering my senior year here at the University of Minnesota. I am pursuing a major in Human Physiology with minors in Sociology and Spanish Studies. I have the opportunity to work with an incredible team at the Alejandro lab to conduct further research on O-GlcNAc and OGT in order to understand the molecular components contributing to beta cell health and diabetes. My research this summer will be focused on investigating the effect of deleting OGT on beta-cell mass at birth and whether the overexpression of Pdx1 will normalize the bihormonal phenotype in mice with OGT-deficient beta-cells. Outside of the lab, I enjoy baking, creative writing, spending time outdoors, and playing the guitar!

Enrique Rios

enrique rios

My name is Enrique Rios, and I am entering my junior year at the University of Minnesota as a Physiology major on the pre-med track. This summer I’ll be working with Dr. Revelo’s lab, which focuses on studying the relationship between inflammation, the immune system, and cardio-metabolic diseases such as liver cancer and heart failure. I am particularly interested in finding out how the accumulation of proinflammatory cytokines such as IL-6 and TNF-alpha in the brain and the immune system can increase the likelihood of developing autoimmune disease. In my free time, I enjoy hiking, running, reading novels, and traveling to new places.

2022 UPRIME Awardees

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Ahmed-Rashad Ahmed


Hello, my name is Ahmed-Rashad Ahmed and I am entering my junior year here at the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities, and I am pursuing a degree in Human Physiology on the pre-med track. This summer I will be working in Dr. Timothy O’Connell’s lab researching the cardioprotective effects of the fatty acid receptor, FFAR4, in mice. My specific project will examine whether Cre recombinase that is transduced with adeno-associated virus 9 will mediate genetic recombination (and induce FFAR4 overexpression) in cardiac myocytes. In my spare time, I enjoy playing basketball, watching action movies and traveling.

Sarah Larson

sarah larson

Hello! My name is Sarah Larson and I am entering my final year as a Human Physiology major at the University of Minnesota. My long-standing interests in health, fitness, and nutrition have made me eager to explore the underlying mechanisms governing metabolic disorders like type 2 diabetes and obesity, drawing me to the Alejandro Lab. As a researcher in the lab, I am interested in examining the link between intrauterine growth restriction (IUGR), a common complication during pregnancy often arising from placental insufficiency, and the development of various metabolic diseases later in life. My research this summer will be focused primarily around investigating how placental mTOR signaling regulates mitochondrial function in both mouse mTOR knockout and IUGR human placenta. Outside of the lab, I enjoy weight lifting, teaching fitness classes, cooking, and spending time outdoors! 

Huy Nguyen

huy nguyen

Hello, my name is Huy and I am entering my senior year here at the University of Minnesota. I am majoring in Human Physiology with a minor in Chemistry. This year I have the privilege to work with the amazing researchers at Dr. Xavier Revelo's lab. Our focus is on immune mechanism and inflammation as it affects the pathophysiology of heart, liver, and obesity-related diseases. My research in particular will focus on exercise and how that will affect heart functions of mice and study the changes exercise has on cardiac immune cells in mice. In my down time, I love to explore the food scene here in the city, as well as play volleyball and work out.

Joseph (Joey) Quick

joe quick

Joey Quick is a rising senior at the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities pursuing a degree in Human Physiology with a minor in Spanish Studies. This summer, Joey will be working with the Metzger Lab to conduct research on Duchenne muscular dystrophy mechanisms and experimental therapeutics. His specific project involves analyzing the contractility and calcium kinetics of dystrophin-deficient skeletal muscle in order to quantify the therapeutic effect of copolymer-based membrane stabilizers. Outside of the lab, Joey enjoys sports, working out, traveling, and DJing.

Kevin Tran


Hi! My name is Kevin Tran and I am a Human Physiology major entering my final year at the University of Minnesota. This summer I will be conducting research as a part of the Ruan Lab to investigate the factors surrounding supraclavicular brown adipose tissue (BAT) expression in mice. BAT expresses mitochondrial uncoupling protein 1 (UCP1) which is responsible for nonshivering thermogenesis; therefore BAT is a possible way to combat obesity. We will investigate factors such as age, high-fat diet, and temperature affect Tbx1-mT/mG lineage cells of BAT. In my free time I enjoy weightlifting, boxing, and cooking.

2021 UPRIME Recipients

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Briana Clifton


Briana (she/her) is a third-year student at the University of Minnesota Twin-Cities majoring in Human Physiology and Asian and Middle Eastern Studies. Her research interests mainly focus on exploring placental insufficiency in maternal programming of obesity and type 2 diabetes. This summer, she is investigating how the placenta nutrient sensor, mTOR regulates amino acid transporter activity, abundance, and localization in both human and mouse placenta tissue. In her spare time, Briana likes to try new foods, watch horror movies, and explore new parks and hiking trails around Minnesota.

Jeffy Jeffy


Jeffy Jeffy is an undergraduate senior with a major in Chemistry and minor in Computer Science. Her passion for chemistry along with her interest in drug design and discovery has provided her with the motivation for her research interest. Currently, Jeffy is working with Dr. Yuk Sham and Dr. Ramaiah Muthyala to conduct simulation and synthesis of alpha-blocker and its analogues to modulate alpha 1 adrenergic receptors. The goal of the research project is to develop the next generation of alpha blockers that can be used to treat hypertension with a lower risk of heart failure. After her undergraduate, Jeffy plans to pursue a Master’s/PhD in computational chemistry with an emphasis on medicinal chemistry. When Jeffy is not in a research lab, she enjoys reading, hiking, and exploring new ice cream shops in downtown Minneapolis. Jeffy also loves rockets and is part of the University of Minnesota Rocket Team.

Peyton Nelson


Hi there! My name is Peyton Nelson and I am going to be a senior at the University of Minnesota - Twin Cities this fall. I am majoring in Biology with a minor in Spanish Studies. Currently, I am a researcher in the Liu Lab on campus, where we investigate the role of mitochondria in generating, signaling, and responding to cellular stress, in addition to how mitochondrial calcium handling affects physiology. My specific research looks at a gene called EMRE, which encodes a mitochondrial inner membrane protein essential for calcium uptake. I predict that the deletion of the EMRE gene will help to protect hearts during cardiac injury, such as ischemia/reperfusion, and will be testing this hypothesis on both EMRE knockout cells and mice. A couple fun facts about me are that I have four dogs at home and studied abroad in Madrid, Spain last spring!

Chris Tadros

chris tadros

Hi! My name is Chris Tadros and I am a Human Physiology major entering my final year at the U of MN. Cardiovascular research is of particular interest to me, and thus I will be studying the role of free fatty acid receptor 4 (Ffar4) in white adipose tissue during heart failure as a part of the O'Connell Lab. Heart failure is usually accompanied by metabolic syndrome, factors of which include obesity and diabetes. It is not well known if white adipose function is affected during heart failure, nor if Ffar 4 plays a role in its function, thus my project will focus on this intersection. In my free time, I enjoy reading as well as cooking and eating, though I hope the latter doesn't lead me to need my own research in the future! 

Alisha Zhu


Hi! My name is Alisha, my pronouns are she/her, and I am a rising junior double majoring in Human Physiology and Sociology on the pre-med track. I’m interested in researching stress physiology, specifically how psychological stress relates to inflammation and the immune system. My current research project is with the Williams Lab in which I research the function of adrenal gland macrophages in relation to stress through atherosclerotic mouse models. In my spare time, I like to read, go rock climbing, and hang out with my friends. A fun fact about me is that I’m allergic to more than four jumbo shrimp!