Board Members

 Gaelle Batot

Department of Biochemistry, University of Utah

Originally from France, where I did my PhD, I spent two and half years in California for a first Postdoc. Since I was missing the mountains, I moved to Salt Lake City for a second postdoc in the laboratory of Pr. Chris Hill, in the Department of Biochemistry. I am combining biochemical and structural studies to investigate the interaction between RNA polymerase II and a chaperone protein. I was involved in UCI Postdoctoral association, for which I oversaw the communication, and I am excited to be a part of the UPDA to interact with more postdocs!

Sharanya Kalasekar

Junior Chair
Huntsman cancer institute, university of utah

Following undergraduate studies in India, graduate studies in Houston,TX and a short postdoc in Arizona, I moved to the University of Utah’s Huntsman Cancer Institute to investigate the origins of liver cancer and identify therapies for the same. By being an active member of the UPDA, I intend to connect with other postdocs at the U and organize events that foster postdoc interactions and career development. My other interests include hiking, enjoying a good book, and exploring local culture.

Natalia Torres

diversity and inclusion officer, Past Chair

Originally from Argentina, I moved to Salt Lake City in 2006. Since then I have completed my doctorate and now I am doing my postdoctoral work in cardiac physiology. As a member of UPDA I am interested in helping other postdocs to get the most out of Salt Lake City and their time at the University of Utah.

Aneesa Talal Al-Soodani

Social events coordinator
Chemistry Department

I am a post-doc in the Chemistry department working under the supervision of Dr. Bethany Buck-Koehntop. My research focuses on the transcriptional regulation of zinc finger methyl-binding proteins in cancer. Before I moved to Utah last year, I was a graduate student at Washington State University in Pullman, WA where I obtained my Ph.D. in Molecular Biosciences. I joined the UPDA board because I wanted to help organize events and meet new people.

Amelia Hodges

Board Member – communication team
Chemistry Department

After my PhD in Molecular Biosciences from Washington State University, I wanted to learn new techniques and ideas, so I joined the Buck-Koehntop lab in the department of Chemistry as a postdoc.  My goals in joining the UPDA board include learning more about resources available to postdocs, networking with other postdocs and professionals, and helping to organize events and opportunities for postdocs at the U.

Jesica Jacobs

Board Member – communication team
Department of Pathology, Division of Microbiology and Immunology

After completing a bachelor’s degree in Biology in Missouri and an MS and Ph.D. researching immune responses to gastrointestinal parasites in West Virginia, I joined the lab of Brian Evavold at Emory University in Atlanta. When Brian took a position in the Department of Pathology at the University of Utah, I came along with the lab to Salt Lake City. My research is focused on the role of CD8 T cells in the development of cerebral malaria. As a member of the UPDA Board, I am excited to help create a cooperative network of postdocs who can encourage one another both in and out of the lab.

Marta Szulik

Board member, Past Chair

I am from Poland. In 2008 I came to Nashville, TN for a one-year research internship in biochemistry. I loved it so much that after completing the training I joined the PhD program in Chemistry at Vanderbilt University. After graduating, I came to Salt Lake City. Currently, I am a postdoctoral fellow with Sarah Franklin at CVRTI, where I study epigenetic factors that regulate gene expression in the heart during disease progression. I am excited to be a member of the UPDA board, helping to build a supportive community and organize events to enrich academic skills among postdocs to prepare us for future success.

Daniel Mendoza

Board Member & Former Communications Officer
Department of Atmospheric Sciences

Bio: Daniel is a postdoctoral fellow in the ITCE – Inter-University Training fo Continental-scale Ecology (ITCE) program working with John Lin in the Atmospheric Sciences department. Daniel’s research interests include quantifying and characterizing urban greenhouse gas and criteria pollutant emissions for use in human exposure estimation. Daniel also examines health effects of acute pollutant exposure, particularly in vulnerable populations.

Malini Rajan

Board Member
Molecular Medicine, University of Utah

I am from India, I completed my PhD in Germany and currently I am doing my Postdoctoral research  with Elizabeth Leibold in iron metabolism. As a UPDA member, I am interested in networking,  learning and sharing ideas on opportunities that will help the postdoctoral community to step up the career ladder.

Raziye Mohammadpour

Board Member

I am a postdoctoral fellow in the Nano Institute of Utah working on mechanism of nanoparticles toxicity and inflammation. I am from Iran, where I did my M.S. and Ph.D. in Cellular and Molecular Biology, University of Tehran. I moved to Salt Lake City in 2015. It’s my pleasure to be a UPDA member and I hope to use the experience I gained to help postdoctoral community at the University of Utah.

Elizabeth Motunrayo Kolawole

Board Member
Department of pathology

 Originally from the UK, I did my PhD at VCU Richmond Virginia. I began my postdoc at Emory University in Brian Evavold’s lab and moved with him to Salt Lake City last year. My main research projects focus of the role various diets play in infection and autoimmune disease, with a particular focus on T cell biology. As a postdoc at Emory I was part of the Atlanta Broadening Experiences in Scientific Training (BEST) program.  As a member of UPDA I hope to incorporate what I have learnt from BEST and connect with other postdocs. My interests include tennis, biking, bungee jumping, hiking, and snowboarding.

Dorina Diekjürgen

Board Member
Department of Pharmaceutics and Pharmaceutical Chemistry

I’m a Postdoc in David Grainger’s lab at the Department of Pharmaceutics and Pharmaceutical Chemistry. I received my PhD at the University of Utah and my PharmD at the Philipps-Universität Marburg, Germany. My research focuses on the characterization and improvement of an ex vivo 3D proximal tubule model for nephrotoxicity drug screening.

Noemi Paguigan

Board Member
Department of Medicinal chemistry

I’m a postdoctoral fellow in Eric Schmidt’s lab at the Department of Medicinal Chemistry. I received my PhD from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro.  My research is focused on the discovery of novel natural products from marine sources for non-opioid-based pain therapy.


Yinshen Wee

Board Member
School of Dentistry

I am a post-doc in the School of Dentistry. My research focuses on developing a novel therapeutic material that can be tailored to carry anti-inflammatory and regenerative properties to treat dental pulp damage. I am glad to be one of the UPDA board members. It is a great experience and a way to meet amazing people. I feel privileged to have had this opportunity to help out with the smallest tasks, which can make a real difference to postdoctoral fellows and the community.


Chris Cambron

Board Member
center for Health Outcomes and Population Equality (HOPE)

Chris Cambron received his PhD in Social Welfare and a graduate certificate in Demographic Methods from the University of Washington and has master’s degree in Social Work and Public Policy from the University of Utah. Chris’ doctoral research examined socioeconomic, social context, and public policy influences on substance use and abuse across the life course. At the Huntsman Cancer Institute, Chris is working with the Center for Health Outcomes and Population Equity (HOPE) and exploring socioeconomic disparities in smoking cessation with the goal of reducing cancer risk among historically disadvantaged populations.


Aaron Simmons

Board Member
Moran Eye Center

I am a postdoctoral fellow in the Hartnett laboratory at the Moran Eye center. My research is focused on discovering mechanisms of neural and vascular dysgenesis in retinopathy of prematurity, a leading cause of visual impairment and blindness in children worldwide. I received my PhD at the University of Idaho in Microbiology, Molecular Biology and Biochemistry where I performed research in developmental neuroscience. My goal as a UPDA board member is to help fellow postdocs by organizing events that provide opportunities for them to grow professionally and personally.

Kenneth Olsen

Board Member
Moran Eye Center

I am a postdoc in David Krizaj’s lab at the Moran Eye Center. I received my PhD from the Institute of Medical Sciences at the University of Toronto in Ontario, Canada. My research focuses on understanding the biomechanical signaling pathways in trabecular meshwork, retinal, and optic nerve head cells to better understand the neurodegenerative process in glaucoma. I’m excited to be working with a great group of people on this board as we continue to provide events that will help postdocs on their career paths.

List of Past Board Members