Team

Principal Investigator

  • Mariana Byndloss

    Assistant Professor
    Pathology, Microbiology and Immunology
    Phone
    (615) 353-0087
    Lab Address
    MCN
    1161 21st Ave. S
    Room / Suite
    A5303
    Nashville
    Tennessee
    37232

    Mariana Byndloss received her D.V.M. and a Ph.D. from Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais in Brazil. After completing her postdoctoral fellowship at the University of California, Davis, Mariana started her lab in the Department of Pathology, Microbiology, and Immunology at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in 2018. Her research aims at understanding how inflammation-mediated changes in gut epithelial metabolism lead to gut dysbiosis and increased risk of infectious gastroenteritis by Salmonella Typhimurium and noncommunicable diseases, namely obesity-associated cardiovascular disease and colon cancer. Mariana has authored over 70 scientific publications, including some in high-impact journals such as Nature and Science, and has been named a Clarivate highly-cited researcher (field: Microbiology) in 2021. She has received multiple awards throughout her career, including the Science NOSTER Microbiome Prize (runner-up), a V Scholar Award (from V Foundation of Cancer Research), a Bergmann Memorial Research Award (United States-Israel Binational Science Foundation), an HHMI Gilliam Fellowship (graduate student Nic Shealy), and a Medal of Honor from her Alma Mater in recognition of her significant contributions to Society. When not in the lab, Mariana loves to spend time trying new restaurants or exploring the outdoors with her family and her German Shorthaired Pointers. As an authentic Brazilian, she will never say no to watching a good soccer game while enjoying some Brazilian barbecue.

Postdocs

  • Tamara Machado

    Postdoc
    PMI Molecular Pathogenesis

    Originally from Brazil, Sao Paulo, Tamara is a Biologist and earned her PhD in Biosciences and Biotechnology Applied to Pharmacy/Bacteriology from UNESP -São Paulo State University, Brazil. She is currently investigating the role of diet and gut microbiota members in the development of colorectal cancer.

    In her free time she enjoys hanging with her family and her lovely dogs, and sometimes cooking or watching TV series. She loves to travel abroad, experience new cultures, and make new friends.

  • Camila Brito

    Postdoc
    PMI Molecular Pathogenesis

    Camila is originally from Belo Horizonte, Brazil. She is a pharmacist from the Federal University of Minas Gerais (UFMG), where she also received her master's degree (2016) and doctorate (2022) in microbiology. In 2022, Camila completed her first postdoc in Immunology. Camila joined the Byndloss lab in 2023, where she has been studying how diet interferes with the inflammatory response and colonization resistance to Salmonella Typhimurium. In her free time, Camila enjoys hanging out with her husband and friends, discovering new restaurants and outdoor events, and watching TV shows.

  • Joanna Olivas

    Postdoc
    PMI Molecular Pathogenesis
               Joanna was born in El Paso, TX, but her roots extend deep into Mexico. She pursued her B.S. in Molecular and Cellular Biochemistry at the University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP), a vibrant institution on the US border. After graduating, she joined the NIAID as a post-baccalaureate researcher. There, she investigated how malaria parasites acquire and utilize nutrients from their human hosts.
     Joanna's academic path then led her to Harvard University, where she earned her Ph.D. in Biological Sciences in Public Health. At Harvard,she studied CD4 T cell responses in the clearance of infection by the intracellular pathogen Chlamydia trachomatis in Dr. Michael Starnbach's lab.
    In 2024, Joanna took the next step in her scientific career by joining the Byndloss lab. Here, she explores the dynamic interactions between the gut microbiota, intestinal epithelium, and the immune response. Outside the lab, Joanna is an avid bird photographer and loves immersing herself in cultural experiences. She enjoys attending concerts, soccer games, and community events, embracing the vibrant life around her.

Research Staff

  • Savanna Telaak

    Research Assistant III
    PMI Molecular Pathogenesis

    Savanna grew up in Huntsville, AL and received a B.S. in Microbiology from the University of Alabama in Huntsville. After graduating, she moved to California, where she worked in Industrial microbiology labs, including Merle Norman Cosmetics. After a couple of years she relocated to Nashville, TN and then settled in as a research assistant II in the Byndloss Lab. In her free time she enjoys spending time with her husband and son while playing outdoors. 

Graduate Students

  • Catherine Shelton

    Ph.D. Candidate
    MHI Graduate Program

    Catie is from Seattle, WA, and earned her B.S. in Biochemistry from Western Washington University in 2016. After graduating, she worked as a research assistant at the Infectious Disease Research Institute in Seattle, WA and investigated mechanisms of resistances in M. tuberculosis. Catie joined the Byndloss laboratory in 2019 to study how the gut microbiota interacts with enteric pathogens and the intestinal epithelium.

  • Nicolas Shealy

    Graduate Student
    MHI Graduate Program

    Nicolas (Nic) Gray Shealy

    Originally from Columbia, South Carolina, he graduated from the College of Charleston in 2018 cum laude with a B.S. in Biology and minor in Chemistry. Immediately following, he participated in a post-bac (PREP) at MUSC studying post-translational modification of collagen. Nic joined IGP as a Russell G. Hamilton scholar in 2019 and subsequently joined the lab in 2020. In the summer of 2021, Nic was named a Howard Hughes Medical Institute James E. Gilliam Foundation fellow. Nic’s work focuses on understanding how the enteric pathogen Salmonella enterica serovar Typhimurium (S. Tm) gains advantage over the collection of commensal bacteria known as the gut microbiota. Specifically, he studies utilization of amino acids and short chain fatty acids by S. Tm. He ultimately aims to start a lab one day of his own interrogating beneficial and deleterious microbe-microbe/microbe-host interactions centered on the gut microbiota. In the past year, Nic served as a Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Liaison for the PMI GSA as well as writes for the PMI GSA newsletter, The Pathogen. Starting March 2022, Nic will serve as a student member for the Vanderbilt Institute for Infection, Immunology, and Inflammation Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (VI4 DEI) committee as well as the Basic Science DEI committee. In his free time, Nic enjoys cooking/baking, knitting, painting, and hanging out with his friends whenever he can. His favorite creation to date is a lemon custard tart with a raspberry compote. 

  • Katerina (Kat) Jones

    Graduate Student
    PMI Molecular Pathogenesis

    Katerina (Kat) grew up in Southern Indiana and graduated from Indiana University Bloomington in 2022 with a B.S. in Microbiology and a minor in Epidemiology. She joined IGP the same year and is an IMSD student who joined the Byndloss lab in 2023. Kat studies microbiome-mediated regulation of Salmonella enterica serovar Typhimurium (S. Tm) intestinal invasion and pathogenesis. Once she finishes her PhD, she plans to stay in academia and ultimately start her own lab. In her free time she enjoys taking her dog for long walks, spending time with friends, and repeat binging TV shows.

  • Tomas Bermudez

    Graduate Student
    MHI Graduate Program

    Tomas received a B.S. at The University of the South in 2019. He is interested in studying antibiotic resistance and biofilm production in E. coli. Enjoys cooking and hiking outside of lab and used to row in the Sewanee Crew Team.

  • Julia Lane

    Graduate Student
    MHI Graduate Program

    Julia is originally from Dallas, TX, and graduated from the University of Edinburgh in 2022 with a B.S. in Biological sciences with honors in Immunology. After graduating, she worked as a research assistant in the Burton lab at the University of Texas at Dallas and investigated the role of immune cells in colitis induced nociception. She joined the Byndloss lab in 2024 to study how the gut microbiota interacts with the intestinal epithelium. In her free time, she enjoys embroidering, dungeons and dragons, and playing with her cat Coupon.

  • Hallie Avalos

    Graduate Student
    MHI Graduate Program

    Hallie grew up in Harrisonburg, VA and graduated from the College of William and Mary in 2022 with a B.S. in Biology. Following her graduation, she participated in PREP at Virginia Tech, where she worked on engineering a phage response to Salmonella. She joined IGP in 2023, and then the Byndloss lab in 2024. She studies Salmonella enterica serovar Typhimurium colonization in underexplored gut geographies. Hallie is part of IMSD, and she likes to draw, watch movies, and play soccer in her free time.

Undergrads

VERTICES PREP Scholars

MSTP Student

  • Max Van Belkum

    MSTP Student
    MPI Graduate Program

    Max is originally from Oahu, Hawaii and was raised in Destin, Florida.  He completed his undergraduate studies at the University of Florida where he earned a B.S. in Microbiology and Cell Science and a B.S. in Nutritional Science, two degrees he believed would equip him to study the intestinal microbiome.  He then spent two years as a molecular biology research scientist at a startup biotechnology company in Gainesville, FL before committing to the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine's Medical Scientist Training (MD/PhD) Program in Nashville, TN.

    Max has longstanding interests in the intersection of intestinal function, microbiota, mucosal immunology, metabolism, nutrition, microbiology, and human disease.  He is interested especially in the potential role of microbiota in metabolic syndrome and in the etiology of the increasing incidence of colorectal cancer in individuals below 50 years of age.  He plans to become an academic gastroenterologist physician-scientist with clinical duties and a laboratory to one day bridge the exploding basic science findings in the microbiome field with the relative dearth of clinical treatments currently derived from them.

    In his free time, Max plays ping-pong and tennis, goes to trivia, spends time with friends and explores Nashville.

Former Lab Members

  • Nora Foegeding

    Postdoc
    PMI Molecular Pathogenesis

    Nora Foegeding is a postdoctoral fellow in the lab. She completed her B.S. in Biology at the College of William and Mary and her Ph.D. in Cell Biology at Vanderbilt. Currently she has a broad interest in the interplay between host cells and gut microbes. She enjoys doing Western blots, she loves Thai food, and her favorite movie is The Barkely Marathons: The Race that Eats Its Young. 

  • Mandy Truelock

    Rotation Student

    Mandy is originally from Houston, TX and went to Oklahoma State University to earn her BS in Microbiology and Molecular Genetics. She is currently a first-year IGP student at Vanderbilt and wants to study pathogenic bacteria and infectious disease. 

  • Simone Lee

    Undergrad
    PMI Molecular Pathogenesis

    Born and raised in Houston, TX, Simone is a current undergraduate student at Cornell University majoring in Human Biology, Health, and Society. She plans to earn her Bachelor of Science Degree in 2022.

  • James Zieba

    Undergrad
    PMI Molecular Pathogenesis

    Born and raised in Indiana, Alex is a undergraduate student at Purdue University studying biology. He joined the lab during the summer of 2019 and plans to go to graduate school for Molecular Biology.

  • Julia Thomas

    Undergrad
    PMI Molecular Pathogenesis

    Born and raised in New Jersey, Julia is a current undergraduate student at Vanderbilt University studying Medicine, Health, and Society and Spanish. She joined the lab at the end of 2018 and plans to earn her Bachelor of Arts Degree in 2021. 

  • Jessica Mo

    Undergrad
    PMI Molecular Pathogenesis

    Jessica grew up in Carmel, IN, and is now a sophomore at Vanderbilt. In her free time she writes for the satirical magazine on campus, is a graphic designer, and works with local environmental groups to try to do her part to mitigate climate change.

  • Zachary Jones

    MSTP Student
    MPI Graduate Program

    Zach grew up in Middletown, Delaware, and earned his B.S. in biochemistry at the University of Delaware. He is interested in how the innate immune system interplays with the gut microbiome, and is currently pursuing his Ph.D. in immunology. Zach would like to become a pediatric physician scientist in either pediatric hematology/oncology or rheumatology.

  • Jacob Zieba

    Research Assistant I
    PMI Molecular Pathogenesis
    (615) 875-3953

    Jacob grew up in Indianapolis, IN and got a bachelors of Anthropology from DePauw University. Worked at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory before getting a masters in biology from Purdue University. Currently working towards a PhD at Michigan State University. 

  • Woongjae Yoo

    Postdoc
    PMI Molecular Pathogenesis

    Woongjae Yoo, Ph.D.

    Originally from Republic of Korea, Woongjae earned a Ph.D. in Food and Biotechnology from Seoul National University. Woongjae joined the Byndloss Lab in Sep. 2018.

    Woongjae’s work focuses on understanding how high-fat diet-induced gut dysbiosis causes human diseases. He also focuses on figuring out the mechanism how Salmonella enterica serovar Typhimurium (S. Tm) gains growth advantage in the inflamed gut by interacting with microbiota and the host.

    In his free time, he enjoys watching Netflix with his wife.

  • Kennedy Reed

    PREP Student
    PMI Molecular Pathogenesis

    Kennedy Reed is a native of Terry, Mississippi.  She graduated magna cum laude from Alcorn State University with a Bachelor of Science in Chemistry with a concentration in Biochemistry.  During her matriculation, she was very involved in her local community by educating grade school children in science through Alpha Chi Sigma.  In 2019, she was awarded the NASA scholarship award for her outstanding achievements and participation in the Alcorn State University chemistry department.  In Fall 2020, Kennedy was initiated into the Gamma Phi chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated.  Her specific research interest is the gut microbiome as it relates to disease specifically skin diseases. Kennedy plans to pursue a Ph.D. in her perspective field.  After completion of her Ph.D., Kennedy wants to become a medical science liaison.  In her free time, she enjoys spending time with her family and friends, shopping, working out, trying new food, and going on adventures.

  • Elizabeth Sing

    Undergrad RA
    PMI Molecular Pathogenesis

    Elizabeth grew up in Indianapolis, IN and is starting her senior year at Vanderbilt pursuing a bachelor's degree in Biochemistry. Her favorite things to do are volunteer with Wags & Walks and the Nashville Humane Association, go to the farmer’s markets, and play tennis with her friends on the club team.

  • Pollyana Castro

    Postdoc
    PMI Molecular Pathogenesis

    Originally from Belo Horizonte - Brazil, Pollyana is Graduated in Nutrition and earned her MSc and PhD in Biological Sciences (Physiology) from the Federal University of Minas Gerais (2012, 2016). During her doctorate, she was internship in the laboratory of Prof. Mark Slevin at Manchester Metropolitan University (UK). Currently, she is a postdoctoral fellow at the Universidade de Campinas (UNICAMP) – SP/ Brazil (Laboratory of Immunoinflammation) and Visiting Research Scholar at Byndloss Lab. She is interested in investigating: diet, microbiota and host interactions, mucosal immunology, and intestinal stem cells physiology. In her free time, she enjoys traveling, reading books and meeting with friends and family.

  • Madi Baltagulov

    Undergrad RA
    PMI Molecular Pathogenesis

    Madi grew up in Almaty, Kazakhstan, moving to Kent, CT, for high school. At Vanderbilt, Madi spent a full year in Bordenstein lab working on Wolbachia. Madi is currently working with Nicolas, studying the way diet affects host susceptibility to pathogens. In his free time, Madi enjoys playing racquetball and ultimate frisbee with friends, debate, as well as watching MMA competitions.