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OUR TEAM

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GONZALO VAZQUEZ-PROKOPEC, PH.D.

Associate Professor

 

Gonzalo’s research interests are multidisciplinary and lie at the interface of ecology, spatial epidemiology, and global health. He bases his research program on the notion that disease occurrences are the result of intricate and complex interactions between hosts, pathogens, and natural or human-altered environments. He centers on vector-borne diseases such as dengue virus, West Nile virus and Chagas disease. He is motivated by the public health challenges faced by our increasingly urbanized world.

 
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Kristina Roy

Laboratory Manager

 

Kristina is the manager for the Prokopec Lab. She received her B.S. in Biology and Biotechnology at East Stroudsburg University of Pennsylvania in 2018. At ESU she studied the presence of tick-borne pathogens in various tick species via molecular detection (qPCR). Prior to joining the Prokopec lab in 2021, Kristina worked for Sanofi Pasteur in the Global Clinical Immunology Department, focusing on clinical assay development. She also worked at the University of Massachusetts Amherst in the Laboratory of Medical Zoology. Her research interests include tick-borne disease transmission and pathogenesis.

Contact: kristina.roy@emory.edu
 

     
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    OSCAR DAVID KIRSTEIN, PH.D.

    Postdoctoral Researcher

     

    Oscar studied Biology, Zoology, and Botany at the National University of Northeast Argentina where his work focused on paleontology and biology of invertebrates and associated zoonotic diseases. He specialized as a medical entomologist working with parasitology of Chagas disease. Before earning his M.S. in Environmental Sciences and his Ph.D. in Biomedical Sciences from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem with work focusing on the eco-epidemiology and transmission dynamics of visceral leishmaniasis in Ethiopia. At the Prokopec Lab, he is the general coordinator of the T-IRS project and aids in undergraduate lab research. He is motivated to research using an interdisciplinary approach to understand disease transmission, gene expression, and improve health equity for the people most affected.

    Contact: odkirstein@emory.edu

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    James Earnest, PH.D.

    Postdoctoral Researcher

     

    James studied Biology at Wake Forest University before obtaining a M.S. degree at the University of Georgia where he studied diagnostic and vaccination strategies for influenza infection at the population level. James went on to get a Ph.D. at Loyola University in Chicago researching how coronaviruses infect human cells and move between species. Following his Ph.D., James started a postdoc at Washington University in St. Louis studying the immune response of mice and humans to alphavirus infection. In the Prokopec lab, James is interested in applying his knowledge of viral immunology to the study of viral ecology, mapping population susceptibility to emerging arboviruses, and developing mechanisms to predict disease transmission and severity.

    Contact: james.thomas.earnest@emory.edu

     
     
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    SEBASTIÁN DURÁN

    Graduate Student - Population Biology, Ecology, and Evolution

    Sebastián is a Fulbright scholar and Ph.D. student from Colombia. He earned both his B.Sc. in biology and his M.S. in agricultural sciences from the National University of Colombia. While at UNC, he was involved in research on the ecology of mosquitoes. His research interests center around biology, ecology, and the control of mosquito vectors that transmit diseases to humans. His current research delves into the release of lab-reared mosquitoes containing the endosymbiont Wolbachia as a biological control mechanism against mosquito species that are invasive to Latin America. He is motivated by the real-world applications of his ecological research to help fight disease.

    Contact: jdurana@emory.edu

     
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    Steph Bellman

    Graduate Student - Environmental Health Sciences

     

    Steph is an MD/PhD student in the Environmental Health Science PhD program. She received two Bachelor’s of Science in Molecular Biology and Animal Sciences from Auburn University in 2017. She is interested in emerging tick-borne viruses, climate and environmental impacts on vector-borne disease, and the use of phylogeography and metagenomics to understand viral dynamics in the environment. Her current research focuses on applying these interests to Heartland virus in Lone Star ticks in Georgia.

    Contact: stephanie.m.campbell@emory.edu

     
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    XORLA OCLOO

    Graduate Student - Population Biology, Ecology, and Evolution

     

    Xorla is a Ph.D. candidate in the Population Biology, Ecology, and Evolution program. She received her B.Sc. in Integrative Biology from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and M.S. in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology from the University of Michigan. She is interested in researching social-ecological systems, agroecology, and sustainable development. Her current work involves sustainable rice-farming practices in norther Senegal using a multifaceted aquatic system. She is motivated by her commitment to her Ghanaian heritage, human rights, economic empowerment, and environmental stewardship. 

     

    Contact: xorla.seyram.ocloo@emory.edu

     
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    Tim Walsh

    Graduate Student - Environmental Health

     

    Tim Walsh is a second-year MPH student studying Environmental Health. He received his B.S in Biological Sciences from DePaul University in Chicago where he worked as a research assistant in a genetics and molecular biology lab on zebrafish promoter analysis. Tim joined the lab in the spring of 2021 and is currently working on his Master’s thesis, focusing on the variation in tick population abundance and disease transmission potential during the field season. He is broadly interested in how the principles behind vector ecology can be applied to prevent disease outbreaks as well as how different environmental factors may impact the suitable habitats of disease vectors. 

    Contact: timothy.walsh@emory.edu

     
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    Carlos Culquichicon

    Graduate Student - Environmental Health and  Epidemiology

    Carlos is currently enrolled in the MSPH of Environmental Health and Epidemiology. His current research is about the age structure of mosquito populations intervened under a targeted insecticide residual spraying in communities from Merida-Mexico.  His methodological interests rely on g-methods for time-variant treatments and other causal inference methods applied in arboviral disease trials. 

     
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    LUIZA KARRER

    Undergraduate Student - Biology and Psychology

    Luiza is a junior studying biology and psychology. She joined the Prokopec Lab in the spring of 2019 as a volunteer helping with mosquito trapping and data collection. She currently helps in DNA extraction and PCR procedures studying epidemiology of tick-borne diseases. She intends to attend medical school after graduating from Emory.  

     
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    Clare McCarthy

    Undergraduate Student - Environmental Sciences

    Clare is an Environmental Sciences major and Community Building minor (EC '23) in the dual degree Environmental Health program at Rollins. She is interested in environmental health as it relates to environmental justice in vulnerable communities and is excited to gain hands-on field and lab experience that will inform a likely future career in addressing the social determinants of health at a community level.

     
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    Kieran Aguirre

    Undergraduate Student - Environmental Sciences

    Kieran is a sophomore majoring in environmental science and a SIRE scholar with hopes to achieve an MPH and MD. Kieran joined the Prokopec Lab in 2021 looking for a way to experience field work and explore his academic interests in the effects of a changing climate on human health. Kieran currently works under Sebastián assisting with mosquito rearing and ongoing research about the endosymbiont Wolbachia as a biological control for mosquitos.

     
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    ELLIE FAUSSETT

    Undergraduate Student - Environmental Sciences

     

    Ellie is a junior majoring in environmental sciences. She joined the Prokopec Lab in 2019 to work with diapose eggs and to improve hatching procedures. She is currently researching under Yamila to establish H. Longicornis as a new species of tick in Georgia. She enjoys learning about the entomological aspects of disease vectors and hopes to one day earn her Ph.D. and continue studying epidemiology. 

     
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    NIK CHAUDHRY

    Undergraduate Student - Human Health and Biology

     

    Nik is a sophomore at Emory College majoring in human health and biology. He joined the Prokopec Lab in 2019 as an undergraduate volunteer working with Sebastian on insecticide resistance research, and his research interests include the epidemiology of arboviruses and zoonotic diseases. After graduation, he hopes to attend law school and pursue a career in biotechnology patent law.

     
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    ERICA KAHN

    Undergraduate Student - Environmental Sciences

     

    Erica is a junior majoring in environmental science with hopes of pursuing an MPH degree. Erica began volunteering in the lab in 2020 and was greeted by a welcoming community. Erica worked to improve hatching procedures, and she currently works with Ali and Zhuoran studying atypical insecticides like pyriproxyfen within the lab. She has enjoyed studying mosquito biology and arboviruses and looks forward to furthering her involvement in the lab.

     
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    Erin Phillips

    Undergraduate Student - Environmental Sciences

    Erin is a fourth-year majoring in Environmental Sciences with a minor in Global Health, Culture, and Society. She is hopeful to eventually receive her MPH and work to improve the health conditions in underserved communities. She joined the lab in 2021 because of her interest in disease ecology (and bugs!) and is excited to do hands on work in both a lab and field setting.

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    HENRY MANGALAPALLI

    Undergraduate Student - Biology and African American Studies

     

    Henry is a junior studying Biology and African American Studies. He joined the lab in 2020 with an interest in infectious diseases and disease vectors. He is currently working on an independent study project on the role of marmots in propagating the Bubonic Plague in Central Asia via transcontinental trade routes. His research interests include vector-borne diseases and prevention strategies with the goal of expanding access to medical treatment and community health education, especially among those whose circumstances or location prevent them from accessing medical treatment and educational materials on diseases. After graduation, he plans to continue studying the socioeconomic drivers of disease transmission and eventually become a trauma surgeon where this insight can be used to improve health equity for diverse communities.