Michael D. L. Johnson received his bachelors from Duke University. He obtained a Ph.D. in Biochemistry and Biophysics from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where he studied the effects of calcium on bacterial motility and attachment under the mentorship of Matthew Redinbo. For his postdoctoral training, Michael Johnson went to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in order to work with Jason Rosch on metal homeostasis of Streptococcus pneumoniae and subsequently with Douglas Green on the mechanisms of LC3-associated phagocytosis. Michael Johnson joined the faculty of the University of Arizona in 2016.
Joe received a BS in Neuroscience in 2011 from St. Lawrence University in upstate (really upstate) New York. He completed a PhD in Chemical and Physical Biology from Vanderbilt University in 2016 under the mentorship of Dr. Borden Lacy. His thesis involved the structural study of bacterial toxins from Clostridia, with an emphasis on the glycosyltransferase domains and candidate inhibitors. Currently, he studies the biochemistry of metal toxicity in pathogens.
Meucci Watchman Ilunga, a 20-year-old Zairian-Diné member of the Dear Spring and Red Running into Water clans, will graduate summa cum laude from the University of Arizona with a degree in Biochemistry. Meucci is from Kinłichíí, AZ, a small village in northern Arizona and one of the Navajo Nation’s 110 chapters. Drawing from the experiences of his mother—a former sheepherder—and his father—an immigrant from central Africa, Meucci has longed hope to live up to the example of service that both of his parents set for him growing up.
Meucci has been a volunteer peer mentor for Native American students at Carrillo elementary school, a dog-walker and kitten-socializer at the Humane Society of Southern Arizona, has devoted time to the UA Astronomy Department’s MESCIT tutoring program, served as a departmental ambassador for the UA Dept. of Chemistry and Biochemistry, and has lead efforts within his tribe to revitalize his culture through new technologies such as machine learning and geographic information system technologies.
In addition to his commitment to service, Meucci is an avid student of the biological sciences. He first started doing research in the lab of Drs. Christina Laukaitis and Robert Karn in the UA Cancer Center, then later in the lab of Dr. Michael D. L. Johnson in the UA Department of Immunobiology under the NIH Maximizing Access to Research Careers program. He also spent a summer at MIT studying computational protein techniques in the lab of Dr. Amy Keating.
Meucci has received many awards during his time at the University of Arizona. A sample of these distinctions includes earning the Navajo Nation’s prestigious Chief Manuelito scholarship for academic excellence, the UA’s Wildcat Excellence Award, and earning thrice the American Indian College Fund’s Full Circle scholarship.
Upon graduation, Meucci plans to go on to graduate school and to pursue a PhD in the field of synthetic biology—hopefully managing to bring the Diné idea of Hozhó along with him.
2020 University of Arizona awards:
(1) CBC Outstanding Biochemistry Senior
(2) College of Science Galileo Circle Scholar
(3) Dean of Students Nugent Award
Sanjay Menghani grew up in Vineland, NJ and received his bachelors from UPenn in biochemistry and economics. During his undergrad years, he spent time working in the lab of Dr. Sara Cherry, a renowned virologist and microbiologist. In her lab, he studied Rift Valley fever virus and innate mechanisms of antiviral defense. After spending a year working at the NIH Clinical Center as a Post baccalaureate IRTA Fellow, he moved to Tucson to begin his MD/PhD training at the University of Arizona. After completing his first 2 years of medical school, Sanjay officially joined the Johnson Lab and is working towards his PhD in Immunobiology. Sanjay is interested in understanding infections from both the host cell and pathogen's perspectives. In the Johnson Lab, he will venture to better understand the role of copper and other metals in the infection process, with the end goal of helping to develop novel therapeutic strategies against bacterial infections that he can bring to the bedside down the road.
Miranda Neubert received her Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology from Boston University. After working in Neuroscience at OHSU and the Portland VA Medical Center for over 10 years, Miranda enthusiastically joined the Johnson Lab in July 2016. In her spare time, Miranda enjoys organizing large art projects, gardening, cooking and hiking.
Henrik received his Bachelor’s degree in Biology from the University of Utah in 2016. He joined the lab in March of 2018 and is pursuing a PhD in Molecular Medicine – Immunobiology. He is interested in identifying and understanding bacterial pathways utilized in overcoming copper stress. In his spare time, he enjoys hiking, playing board games, and solving puzzles.
Yamil earned her Master's degree at the University of Oklahoma, where she studied microbial communities, biogeochemistry and remediation strategies. She joined the Johnson lab in 2019 as a Research Technician and is currently working to better understand the role of metals in bacterial pathogenesis. In her spare time she enjoys spending time with her family, gardening and painting.
Alison Watson received her Bachelor's degree in Biology from Northern Arizona University. In 2019, she joined the Johnson lab as a Post-Baccalaureate Research Education Program (PREP) student at the University of Arizona. Outside of lab, she enjoys traveling, watching Taika Waititi movies, and hanging out with her cat.