Lab Members

Principle Investigator

  • Eric P Skaar, Ph.D., MPH

    Ernest W. Goodpasture Professor of Pathology, Microbiology, and Immunology
    Director, Division of Molecular Pathogenesis
    Director, Institute for Infection, Immunology, and Inflammation (VI4)
    Vice Chair for Basic Research
    Department of Pathology, Microbiology, and Immunology
    Medical Center North A5303B
    1161 21st Ave South

    Eric earned his B.S. in Bacteriology from the University of Wisconsin at Madison, his Ph.D. in Immunology and Microbial Pathogenesis from Northwestern University, and his M.P.H. in Epidemiology and Biostatistics from Northwestern University.

Research Staff

  • Nichole A Lobdell, M.S.

    Senior Project Manager

    Originally from Ohio, she earned her B.S. from the University of Mount Union and her M.S. from the University of Cincinnati. She supports laboratory and Departmental operations.

  • Sydney is from Hague, Virginia and earned her B.S. in Biochemistry at Virginia Tech. She joined the Skaar laboratory in 2018 to study light killing and photodynamic therapies against S. aureus and P. acnes.

  • Tess McNeely, B.S.

    Research Assistant I

    Tess grew up in Hohenwald, TN and earned a B.S. in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Honors from Belmont University. She joined the lab as an undergraduate in 2019 and joined as a full time Research Assistant I in 2022 to characterize interactions between Clostridioides difficile and members of the intestinal microbiota.

  • Juan was born in Mexico City and earned his B.S. in Biochemistry from the University of Texas at Austin. He started his graduate work in Austin with Marvin Whiteley and moved with his lab to Georgia Tech, where he obtained his PhD. His work focused on the development of tools for characterizing the spatial structure of microbial communities within the context of infectious diseases. In 2022, Juan started his postdoctoral work in a joint venture with the Cassat and Skaar lab at the Vanderbilt Institute for Infection, Immunology and Inflammation. His project incorporates quantitative imaging, clinical samples and single cells assays to answer basic questions about host-pathogen interactions in the gut. He is an avid cyclist, live music enthusiast and is working towards developing a world-class taco experience from his kitchen.

  • Callie Valtierra, M.S.

    Research Assistant II

    Callie grew up in middle Georgia and earned a B.S. in Biology from Georgia Tech. After her undergraduate studies, she started her professional career in a forensic toxicology lab while working on her M.S. in Criminal Justice. As a Research Assistant II in the Skaar lab, Callie is currently supporting a project focused on macrophage responses to S. aureus. In her spare time, Callie has continued her studies and is obtaining an M.S. in Microbiology and Cell Science with a concentration in Biochemistry. 

Clinical Fellows

  • Jeff grew up in the suburbs of Atlanta, GA prior to obtaining a bachelor’s degree in biology and environmental science from the University of Virginia. After working for several years in Dr. June Scott’s lab at Emory University studying S. pyogenes pathogenesis, he moved to Baltimore where he earned an MD/PhD from the University of Maryland, Baltimore. His dissertation work in Dr. Mark Shirtliff’s lab focused on understanding antibiotic tolerance in S. pyogenes biofilms. He subsequently moved to Nashville and joined the VUMC Physician-Scientist Training Program. He completed his clinical training in internal medicine prior to becoming an infectious diseases fellow. As part of the Skaar lab, Jeff will be studying the mechanisms responsible for antibiotic tolerance during biofilm-mediated S. aureus infections.


  • Valeria was born and raised in Puerto Rico and received her B.S. in Microbiology from the University of Puerto Rico at Humacao. After graduating, she moved to Philadelphia where she earned her PhD with Dr. Sunny Shin at the University of Pennsylvania. For her doctoral work, she investigated immune detection of bacterial components by the human NAIP/NLRC4 inflammasome.  Her current project focuses on understanding how S. aureus responds to manganese in the heart and defining bacterial and host factors affecting susceptibility to infection.

  • Caitlin grew up on Merritt Island, a barrier island on Florida’s Space Coast. After receiving her B.S. in Microbiology from the University of Florida, she moved to Durham, NC to pursue graduate studies at Duke University. There, she earned her PhD in Molecular Genetics and Microbiology in the lab of Dr. John Rawls. For her dissertation, she used zebrafish to study mechanisms by which the microbiota shape the development of the innate immune system. In the Skaar lab, Caitlin continues to use gnotobiotic zebrafish as a model to investigate the impact of metals on shaping inter-bacterial interactions in the intestine.  

  • Dillon grew up in western Pennsylvania and earned his B.S in biology from Point Park University in Pittsburgh, Pa. He stayed in Pittsburgh for his doctoral work, where he earned his Ph.D from the University of Pittsburgh in Dr. James Bina’s lab, where he studied the link between Vibrio cholerae RND multidrug efflux pumps and bacterial adaptive responses. In the Skaar lab Dillon studies the struggle for nutrient metals at the Acinetobacter baumannii host-pathogen interface.

  • Marty was born and raised in Long Beach, CA, and earned his B.S in Microbiology at California State University Long Beach. For his doctoral work, he studied in the laboratory of Dr. Stephen Trent at the University of Georgia, where he used genetic approaches to understand lipid transport to the outer membrane of Gram-negative bacteria. In the Skaar lab, Marty is studying how C. difficile responds to host-mediated immune responses.  

  • Sarah Price, Ph.D.

    Post Doctoral Researcher


    Sarah Price, a Tennessee native, completed her bachelor's degree in microbiology at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. After working for several years in Dr. Lucio Gama’s lab at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, she relocated to Kentucky where she pursued her PhD under the guidance of Dr. Matt Lawrenz at the University of Louisville. During her doctoral research, Sarah studied the mechanisms of zinc acquisition in Yersinia pestis, the bacterium responsible for the plague. In the Skaar lab, she continues to focus on bacterial pathogenesis and host interactions, with a particular emphasis on Clostridioides difficile.

Graduate Students

  • Jeanette grew up in Melbourne, Florida and earned her B.S. in Advertising from the University of Florida before going on to earn a B.S. in Microbiology from the University of South Florida. She joined the Skaar laboratory in 2018 to study how nutrient metals affect the immune system. In 2019 she joins the laboratory as a Graduate student.

  • Matthew Munneke

    Graduate Student

    Matt hails from Wisconsin Dells, Wisconsin, and earned a B.S. in Biochemistry from Carroll University. Following graduation, Matt entered Vanderbilt’s IGP in 2019 and joined the Skaar laboratory in 2020. His research focuses on using analytical biochemistry to study how pathogens acquire, prioritize, and distribute metals to proteins during infection.

  • Elias was born and raised in Omaha, Nebraska. He earned his B.S. in Biology from Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles, California. Elias joined the Skaar Lab in 2021 through the IGP program, and his project focuses on iron acquisition systems utilized by C. difficile during infection when in competition with the immune system and gut microbes.

  • Kyle began his academic studies at Stanford University, obtaining a B.Sc. in Chemistry and an M.Sc. in Biology in 2020, after which he joined the Vanderbilt Medical Scientist Training Program (MSTP). At Stanford, he conducted basic research in the lab of Dr. Lynette Cegelski, studying the biochemistry underlying uropathogenic E. coli biofilm formation and the function of curli amyloid fibrils. In addition, he assisted with clinical infectious disease research in the group of Dr. Dora Ho. Since transitioning to his graduate studies in the Skaar Laboratory, Kyle’s work is focused on investigating the competition for essential metals between S. aureus and the human host during infection.

  • Jacqueline Van Ardenne

    Graduate Student

    Jacqueline is from Moraga, California and received her B.S. in Math and Chemistry from the University of Puget Sound. She is working on developing strategies for high spatial resolution MALDI imaging mass spectrometry to study S. aureus infections.

  • Kacie Traina

    Graduate Student

    Kacie was born and raised in Santa Clarita, California and earned a B.S. in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology from Yale University. Kacie entered Vanderbilt’s IGP program in 2021 and joined the Skaar lab in 2022. Her research focuses on understanding the effect of zinc at the host-pathogen interface during Acinetobacter baumannii infections.

  • Jesse Chen

    Graduate Student

    Jesse grew up in both Taiwan and Fullerton, California. She obtained her B.A. in Molecular and Cell Biology from UC Berkeley (Go Bears!). Jesse joined the Skaar lab in 2023, and her project focuses on iron acquisition and homeostasis in S. aureus at the host-pathogen interface.

  • Jacquelyn Spathies

    Graduate Student


    I am from the west suburbs of Chicago, I graduated from Eastern Illinois University with my BS in biology. I am a part of the 2022 IGP cohort and will be working with MALDI imaging mass spectrometry to study host-microbe interactions through the lens of metabolomics. 

Undergraduate Researchers

  • Tiffany Zhou

    Undergraduate Researcher

    Tiffany grew up in Concord, North Carolina. She is currently a student at Vanderbilt working towards a double major in Biochemistry and Medicine, Health, and Society. After completing her bachelor's degree, she hopes to continue to pursue scientific research in graduate school. She joined the lab in 2021 under the mentorship of Dillon Kunkle, Ph.D. 

  • Karen Nie

    Undergraduate researcher

    Karen grew up in Needham, Massachusetts. She is currently an undergraduate student at Vanderbilt University pursuing a degree in Molecular and Cell Biology with a minor in Neuroscience on the pre-med track. She joined the lab in the summer of 2022 under the mentorship of Jeanette Miller working on Acinetobacter baumannii.