2024 Student Recognitions

Portraits of six students who received awards during the academic year.
Top row: Jacob Blanchar, Samuel Dettle, Melissa Fiorentino. Bottom row: Phoebe Hayes, Anna Just, Preethi Saravanan.

May 20, 2024


Samuel Dettle, a graduate student in the lab of Igor Slukvin, M.D., Ph.D., won a 2024 Stem Cell and Regenerative Medicine Center Graduate Research Training Award. His research focuses on developing a differentiation system capable of generating engraftable hematopoietic stem cells (HSCs) from induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs). These cells have historically been impossible to generate in the lab; however, this research project utilizes a novel hepatic leukemia factor (HLF) cell line that is known as the gold-standard marker of engraftable HSCs. Using this cell line in tandem with high throughput design of experiment screening, they aim to identify the set of culture conditions that give rise to engraftable HSCs. This work is an important first step in developing the translational clinical therapy of donor/banked iPSC derived bone marrow HSC engraftment for the treatment of chronic genetic illnesses, HIV, and blood cancers.


Hilldale Awards

Preethi Saravanan received a Fall 2023 Hilldale Research Fellowship Award for her senior honors thesis in biology. Her project title was Distribution of mesoamygdaloid dopaminergic innervation in hemiparkinsonian monkeys. She is mentored by Marina Emborg, M.D., Ph.D., who directs the UW–Madison Preclinical Parkinson’s Research Program. Preethi plans to continue doing research and pursue a degree in medicine.

Anna Just received a Hilldale Undergraduate Research Fellowship for 2024-2025. Anna is a junior majoring in biology with an interest in obstetrics and gynecology. She is mentored by David Abbott, Ph.D., Jon Levine, Ph.D., and Elise Barteld, a graduate student in the Levine lab. Anna presented her recent research at the Undergraduate Symposium on April 25. Her project was Ovarian Over-Expression of CYP17A1 Will Indicate Polycystic Ovary Syndrome-Like Pathology in Female Monkeys with High Testosterone.

Honors  Summer Research Apprenticeships

Phoebe Hayes has finished her sophomore year at UW-Madison as a neurobiology major on the pre-med track. She is currently an undergraduate researcher in the Abbott lab and has been a member of the Ovary Team within the lab for the entirety of this school year. This March, she received an L&S Honors Summer Research Apprenticeship, which includes 8-10 weeks of an immersive research experience and a generous stipend. She will be working under Elise Barteld and Dr. David Abbott to characterize and validate the androgenic capacity of rhesus macaque ovarian follicle theca cell cultures from monkeys with and without naturally occurring hyperandrogenic polycystic ovary syndrome.

Melissa Violet Fiorentino received a 2024 Honors Summer Research Apprenticeship. She is a sophomore with honors in neurobiology. Her co-mentors are Marina Emborg, M.D., Ph.D., who directs the UW–Madison Preclinical Parkinson’s Research Program, and Julia Colwell, a graduate student in the Emborg lab. Her project title is Optimization of rhesus macaque stem cell culture for in vitro modeling of frontotemporal dementia. Melissa plans to continue in stem cell research.

McNair Scholars Program winner

Jacob Blanchar in Dr. David Abbott’s lab won a McNair Scholarship in January.  The scholarship is part of the Federal TRIO program and supports 206 McNair Scholars nationwide. Jacob is a junior majoring in biology. His project focuses on defining criteria for a diagnosis of polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) in female rhesus monkeys with naturally occurring high testosterone. This will be the first time PCOS is diagnosed outside humans.

WALSAA Outstanding Sophomore Award (announced June 4, 2024)

Patrick Colegrove, a biology major who worked in Scientific Protocol Implementation at the WNPRC in 2023 and also volunteered for center outreach events, won one of ten Outstanding Sophomore Awards from the Wisconsin Agricultural and Life Sciences Alumni Association. Students winning this award demonstrate excellence in academics, leadership, and service to the university and their communities and receive a financial gift to apply to their junior-year tuition. (Patrick is pictured second from left here.)

Undergraduate Research Symposium Presentations and Abstracts

Primate Center research was well represented by more than 30 students at the 26th UW–Madison Undergraduate Research Symposium on April 25, 2024. Their research, names and mentors follow.


Are Fluorescent Proteins Packaged into Adeno-Associated Virus 8 Reliable Long-Term Biomarkers of Neuronal Infection with Gene Silencing RNA? Lillian Marrah, Meadow Leisen, Saige Wojkiewicz. Mentors: David Abbott, Daniel Uhlrich, Jon Levine.

Identifying Testosterone Producing Cells in Ovaries of Naturally High Testosterone Adult Female Resus Monkeys. Anna Just, Natalia Badillo.  Mentors: David Abbott, Elise Barteld.

Relationship Between PCOS-Like Phenotypes and Naturally Occurring High Testosterone in Female Rhesus Macaques. Jacob Blanchar, Suzanne Oriel, Phoebe Hayes, Lora Dang. Mentors: David Abbott, Jon Levine.

Social Interaction in the Presence of Gum Feeder Stimuli, in Common Marmosets. Jolena Vang, Sophia Grams-Weston. Mentor: Peter J. Pierre.

Gene Knockdown of Estrogen Receptor Alpha in the Hypothalamus Alters Neuropeptide S Expression. Andi Pieczynski. Mentors: David Abbott, Daniel Uhlrich, Jon Levine.

Endometriosis Associated With Gene Knockdown of Estrogen Receptor Alpha in the Hypothalamus. Brandon Simpraphone, Norisha Badhwar, Andi Pieczynski. Mentors: David Abbott, Daniel Uhlrich, Jon Levine.

Total Estrogen Deprivation Eliminates Sexual Behaviors in Female Rhesus Macaques (Macaca mulatta). Emma Swanson, Lamees Elhassan. Mentors: David Ab­bott, Emily Greinwald, Jon Levine.

Assessing Viral Population Dynamics in Pregnant Non-Human Primates With Prolonged Zika Virus Infection. Livia Romanov. Mentor: Hunter Ries.

Effects of Total Estrogen Deprivation on Sweet Water Preference in Female Rhesus Macaques (Macaca mulatta). Mihika Sathe, Sadie Larson. Mentors: David Abbott, Emily Greinwald, Jon Levine.

Posters and Art/Project Displays and Poster Displays                                           

Impact of Prenatal Zika Virus Exposure on Infant Macaque Sensory Responsiveness. Logan Talbot. Mentor: Karla Ausderau.

Gene Expression Profiles of Macaque Extravillous Trophoblasts Dif­ferentiated In Vitro in Standard 20% Versus 5% Oxygen Conditions. Emily Ren. Mentor: Jenna Schmidt.

Short-Lived Zika Virus-Specific Antibodies in Infants: Findings from a Translational Macaque Model. Laura Arroyo. Mentor: Emma Mohr.

Assessing Decidual Leukocyte Traffic in the Macaque Pregnancy Model. Emily M. Bove. Mentors: Jessica Vazquez, Thaddeus G. Golos, Aleksandar K. Stanic.

Developmental Changes of Circulating miRNAs in ZIKA Virus Infected Pregnant Non-Human Primates. Eva Winston. Mentor: Emma Mohr.

AI-Powered Video Coding of Cognitive and Motor Performance in 1-Year-Old Rhesus Macaques Prenatally Exposed to Zika Virus. Dean Johnson. Mentor: Karla Ausderau.

Visual Abnormalities and Ventral Contact in Zika-Exposed Ma­caque Infants. Tracy Pham. Mentor: Emma Mohr.

Handedness as a Predictor of Approach Motivation and Persistence in Common Marmosets. Braden King. Mentor: Peter Pierre.

Comparing the Development of the Approximate Number System in Children and Infant Monkeys. Hannah Sutin, Samantha Brungardt Alvarez. Mentor: Stephen Ferrigno.


Story last updated June 6, 2024