Professor and Department Head

Janko Nikolich-Žugich received his MD and PhD from Belgrade University School of Medicine in Serbia and subsequently trained with Michael Bevan at the Scripps Clinic and Research Foundation. In 1990, he joined the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York and became an Assistant Professor at both the Cornell University Graduate School of Medical Sciences and the Cornell University School of Medicine. In 2001, Janko Nikolich-Žugich assumed the position of Senior Scientist at the at the Vaccine and Gene Therapy Institute of Oregon Health & Science University, along with joint appointments as a tenured Professor in the Department of Molecular Microbiology and Immunology, and a Senior Scientist at the Oregon National Primate Research Center. In 2008, he moved to the University of Arizona to lead the Department of Immunobiology and the Arizona Center on Aging. Besides planning and discussing his research and mentoring trainees, he enjoys playing tennis year-round.


Research Assistant Professor

Megan Smithey received her doctoral degree from Oregon Health & Science University in 2005, and joined the Nikolich-Zugich research group in 2008. Her research is primarily focused on understanding how persistent viral infections impact the aging immune system in both model organisms and human translational research. After growing up in the soggy Pacific Northwest, she finds the Tucson climate to be a revelation, and tries to get outside as much as possible.

Ilija Jeftic obtained his medical and doctoral degree from University of Kragujevac, Serbia. In 2017, he joined the Nikolich-Zugich lab as a postdoctoral researcher, where he is currently investigating molecular pathways behind age-related increase in lymph node fibrosis. When not spending time with his family, Ilija enjoys playing tennis, exploring new locations and painting.   

Research Specialist, Senior

Carmine Martinez graduated from the University of Arizona in 2004 with a BA in Interdisciplinary Studies/Gerontology. She began working at the University of Arizona in 1995 at the Women’s Health Initiative, and joined the Nikolich-Zugich Lab in 2009. She is the primary liason and coordinator for all of the clinical research studies performed in the lab. When not at work, she enjoys spending time with her family and two grandchildren.

Research Associate, Immunobiology

Dragana Nikolich-Zugich obtained her legal specialist degree from the School of Management and Government in Belgrade, Serbia, and attended law school in the same city. She joined the laboratory in 1990 as a part-time flow cytometry specialist, subsequently performing PCR-based CDR3 length polymorphism analysis, as well as various organizational and clerical duties. When not spending time with her family of five or re-designing and renovating her home, Dragana enjoys Tucson’s year-round warm weather and plants in her back yard. 

Assistant Specialist, Immunobiology

Jose Padilla-Torres graduated from the UABC, Mexicali, Mexico in 1980 with a B.S. in Veterinary Medicine. He joined the Nikolich Lab in 2008 and manages the extensive transgenic mouse colony, assists in parabiosis and other surgeries, and maintains and supervises the biosafety, radiation safety and other compliance trainings and records. When not in the lab, he likes mountain biking, traveling, and enjoying the beaches of Mexico (Lets all go!!!).

Assistant Research Scientist, Immunobiology

Jennifer Uhrlaub received a BA from McDaniel College and a Masters in Biotechnology from Johns Hopkins University. She has been with the Nikolich Lab since 2005 working on a diverse array of projects to understand immune determinants of increased susceptibility to acute viral infection with age. One of her favorite things about Tucson is entertaining on her patio in the middle of “winter”.  

Postdoctoral Research Associate I

Mladen Jergovic obtained his masters and doctoral degrees at the University of Zagreb, Croatia. In 2015, he joined the Nikolich-Zugich lab as a postdoctoral researcher, where he is currently investigating the molecular mechanisms behind age-dependent vulnerability to infection with intracellular pathogens. Mladen is a postdoc with two small children, so he has no free time or hobbies.

Undergraduate Student

Carly Cabel is an undergraduate student at The University of Arizona pursuing dual degrees in Physiology (BSHS) and Molecular and Cellular Biology (BS). She had been working in the lab since 2014 and is currently studying the impacts of CMV on aging using clinical frailty asessments. In her free time she enjoys reading, watching TV series, and playing video games. 

Graduate Student, Nikolich Lab

Nico Contreras attended The University of Arizona, graduating in 2012 with a BS in Physiological Sciences, and in 2014 with a MS in Applied Biosciences. In 2015, he joined the UA ABBS graduate program and is currently a student in the Nikolich-Žugich lab, investigating dietary manipulation of the immune system and adipose tissue contribution to immune responses. When not in the lab, Nico enjoys playing soccer, snowboarding, and riding his road bike.

Undergraduate Student

Justin Frere is currently a undergraduate student at the University of Arizona studying Molecular and Cellular Biology. He joined the lab in Fall 2014 and has since worked on projects exploring the immunological response to cytomegalovirus. Outside of the laboratory, Justin enjoys playing basketball and volleyball. 


Heather Linn Thompson
Postdoctoral Research Associate I