The University of Chicago
GCIS W338 | 929 East 57th Street
Chicago, Illinois 60637
Phone: (773) 834-8309

Our Team

kay-macleodKay F. Macleod, Ph.D.

Principal Investigator

Dr. Macleod is a graduate of the University of Edinburgh, Scotland (B.Sc. Hons) and obtained her Ph.D from the Beatson Institute for Cancer Research at the University of Glasgow, Scotland. Following post-doctoral fellowships at the Pasteur Institute, Lille, France (with Dominique Stehelin) and at the MIT Center for Cancer Research, Cambridge, MA (with Tyler Jacks), Dr. Macleod set up her own independent research laboratory at the University of Chicago in 2002. Building on her work performed as a post-doc at MIT, the Macleod Lab initially focused on the role of the RB tumor suppressor gene in stress responses and cellular homeostasis and how these mechanisms are derailed in cancer.

Findings from this research (showing regulation of autophagy modulators by RB/E2F) lead to exciting new directions in more recent times (post-2008) examining the role of autophagy and mitochondrial dysfunction in cancer. The current research goals of the lab are to understand how autophagy modulates tumor progression to metastasis, with an emphasis on understanding the role of autophagy in breast cancer. Related work examines the role of mitochondrial dysfunction in breast cancer, pancreas cancer and liver cancer in addition to analysis of mitochondrial homeostasis in normal liver metabolism.

Current Lab Members:

michelleMichelle Beaton

After graduating with Honors in Chemistry from Villanova University, Michelle ventured out west where she studied the enzymology and metabolism of styrene monooxygenase, a member of the microbial styrene pathway, in the laboratory of Dr. George Gassner at SFSU. There she became interested in metabolic regulation and decided to pursue her doctorate in Molecular Metabolism and Nutrition at the U of C. Michelle joined the Macleod Lab in 2010 and has been working to define the regulation of BNip3, a protein involved in mitophagy that is highly expressed in the liver. Additionally, Michelle is interested in understanding how the nutrient-dependent regulation of BNip3 influences hepatic mitophagy and other aspects of liver metabolism. Michelle was awarded one of the prestigious a Chicago Biomedical Consortium Scholarships for 2013-2015

laurenLauren Drake

Lauren grew up outside of Rochester, NY and headed east for college on the North Shore of Boston.  She earned her bachelor’s of science in biology from Gordon College, where she solidified her enjoyment of studying biology and made the decision to pursue a Ph.D.  After graduating from Gordon College, Lauren spent two years as a research technician studying neuroblastoma in the laboratory of Dr. Rani George at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston.  Lauren entered the Molecular Pathogenesis and Molecular Medicine program at the University of Chicago in the fall of 2010 and joined Dr. Kay Macleod’s laboratory in the spring of 2011.  Her research project is focused on understanding the role of the mitophagy regulator, BNip3, in the initiation and progression of hepatocellular carcinoma.

aparajitaAparajita H Chourasia

Aparajita obtained her Bachelor’s degree in her native India and then graduated with a M.S. in Biochemistry and Molecular Genetics from the University of Illinois at Chicago in 2008. Prior to joining the Cancer Biology graduate program at UChicago, Aparajita worked on targeted combination therapeutics for cancer (Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Novartis Institutes for Biomedical Research) as well as in assay development for early detection of myocardial infarction (Johnson & Johnson) that provided her with an understanding of immediate implications of bench-to-bedside research. Since joining the Macleod lab, Aparajita has worked on the function of BNIP3-dependent mitophagy in breast cancer using the MMTV-PyMT mouse model of mammary tumorigenesis. Her current project explores the functions of BNIP3 in pancreatic tumorigenesis focusing on its potential as a marker for early stage disease and also examining mechanistic aspects of BNIP3 function in stress responses in the pancreas and early stage cancer lesions (PanINs). Her research and academic performance have led her to be awarded the NIH funded CTSA TL1 Research and Training Award (2014-2015) from the Institute of Translational Medicine at the University of Chicago as well as the Bernice Goldblatt Scholarship (2012-2013) from the Committee on Cancer Biology.

erinErin Mowers

Erin Mowers grew up in west Michigan and graduated from the University of Chicago in 2009 with a BA with honors in Biology and a specialization in Endocrinology. Through her undergraduate research work, she developed an appreciation for cancer biology and translational research that motivated her 2009 entry into the Medical Scientist Training Program at the University of Chicago to pursue her MD and PhD in Interdisciplinary Sciences/Cancer Biology. She joined the Macleod lab early in 2013, and her research projects focus on the role of autophagy in cell migration and metastasis.

mayaMaya Zafrir Springer

Maya obtained her B.S. in biological sciences from DePaul University in 2010. She worked as a research technician at the University of Chicago before matriculating as a graduate student in the Committee on Cancer Biology in 2013. Her research project investigates the role of autophagy and the tumor microenvironment on tumor progression and metastasis using a genetically engineered mouse model of breast cancer. Ultimately, Maya is interested in defining the mechanisms underlying metastasis in order to devise novel therapies that both prevent and target this stage of cancer.

Headshot LoganLogan Poole

Logan earned his B.S. in Biology and Biochemistry at the University of Northern Iowa in 2014. Upon graduating, he matriculated as a graduate student in the Committee on Cancer Biology at the University of Chicago, joining the Macleod lab in 2015. Logan’s research project investigates the role of BNIP-3 in pancreatic tumorigenesis.

chanelleChanelle Robinzine

Chanelle grew up Chicago where she attended Illinois State University from where she graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Biological Sciences with a chemistry minor. After college, she worked in the food science industry for 2 years as a microbiologist and a quality assurance technician. In November 2014, Chanelle joined the Macleod Lab as a Research Specialist.

caseyCasey Kim

Casey is a second year undergraduate student at the University of Chicago majoring in Biological Sciences. Her research project focuses on understanding the role of BNIP3 in Ras driven transformation. When not in lab or cramming for the next midterm, Casey likes to walk by the point (weather permitting) and explore cheap places to eat in Chicago.

Former Lab Members:

Huiping Liu, MD, Ph.D. 2006 (Pathology)
“The role of the RB tumor suppressor in determining chemo-sensitivity”
Post-doctoral fellow in Michael Clarke’s lab, Stanford University 2006-2009
First recipient of the University of Chicago Fellows Program (Cancer)
Current Position: Assistant Professor, Case Western University


Benjamin T. Spike, Ph.D. 2007 (Cancer Biology)
“The RB tumor suppressor in stress erythropoiesis”
Post-doctoral fellow in Geof Wahl’s lab, The Salk Institute 2007-2015.

Current position: Assistant Professor, The Huntsman Cancer Institute, The University of Utah.


Alexandra Dirlam, Ph.D. 2007 (Immunology)
“De-regulated E2f-2 underlies defects in Rb null erythroblasts”
Current Position: Principal Medical Policy Research Consultant, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Minnesota


Benjamin Dibling  Ph.D. Post-doctoral fellow (2003-2005).
Present position, Director, Technology Transfer Office, UCLA


James Knabb, Ph.D. 2010 (Cancer Biology)
“Caspase-1 cleavage disrupts BNIP3 function in mitochondrial clearance”
Current Position: Licensing Associate at Georgetown University Office of Technology Commercialization


Corbin Meacham Undergraduate 2008-2009
Graduate School at MIT (Hemann Lab).
Current position: Post-doc at UT Southwestern (Morrison Lab).


Kristin Tracy, Ph.D. 2010 (Cancer Biology)
“Functions of BNIP3 in mammary tumorigenesis”
Current Position: Staff Scientist, Biomarin Pharmaceuticals Inc.


Sandra Barth, Ph.D. Post-doctoral fellow (2008-2011)
Present position, Medical Adviser, Yes Pharmaceuticals, Germany


Danielle Glick, Ph.D. 2011 (Cancer Biology)
“Functions of BNip3 in liver metabolism”
Current position: Post-doctoral fellow in Jalees Rehmann’s lab, UIC


Marina Sharifi, Ph.D. 2013 (Cancer Biology/MSTP)
“Autophagy in tumor cell migration and metastasis”
Current position: Pritzker School of Medicine, 4th year


Chris Collier Medical School Student 2011-2012
Current position: Medical School Resident


Alexander Terry Undergraduate 2013-2014
Current position – MD/PhD program at UIC.


Bryan Ulrich Undergraduate 2014-2015. Current position – research technologist, The Belfer Institute for Applied Cancer Science, Harvard University.