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LAB MEMBERS

Our collaborative and productive group benefits from the diverse backgrounds, professional experiences, and research focuses of each individual.

 
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UTPAL PAL, PH.D.

Principal Investigator

Dr. Pal has led this lab since 2006, when he first brought his tick-borne disease studies to the University of Maryland. Since then, he has secured numerous grants in support of his research, published in high-impact and peer-reviewed journals, and mentored dozens of students and junior scientists, among other professional accomplishments in the field of vector-borne diseases. Dr. Pal enjoys reading, traveling, and listening to music.

https://agnr.umd.edu/about/directory/utpal-pal

https://vetmed.umd.edu/people/faculty/dr-utpal-pal

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XIULI YANG, PH.D.

Research Assistant Professor

Dr. Yang received her Immunology Ph.D. degree from Fudan University in China. Since joining the Pal Lab in 2007, her research interest focuses on understanding the pathogenesis of Lyme disease. Dr. Yang seeks to reveal the mechanisms by which the pathogen survives in hosts and causes the disease.

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CHRYSOULA KITSOU, PH.D.

Research Assistant Professor

Drawing on her background in biotechnology and reproductive biology, Dr. Kitsou entered our lab in 2018. She leads several projects aimed towards the development of therapeutic or preventive strategies. Her work includes a focus on transgenics in rodent models of Lyme disease. Dr. Kitsou likes to read (especially about philosophy), dance, and travel.

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SANDIP DE, PH.D.

Research Assistant Professor

Dr. De joined our group in 2019. He is keenly interested in understanding the epigenetic regulation of gene expression and its relation to arthropod development and vectorial capacity. He loves watching and playing tennis and soccer.

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VIPIN RANA, PH.D.

Assistant Research Scientist

Dr. Rana obtained his Ph.D. degree from the University of Delhi in India. He joined the Pal lab in September 2018 and is currently working as Assistant Research Scientist. His project involves discovering the mechanisms of cross-species signaling between the Ixodes scapularis tick and its mammal host. Dr. Rana also focuses on understanding the tick innate immune responses regulated by JAK/STAT pathway. He enjoys listening to music, traveling, and exploring new places.

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KATHRYN NASSAR, B.S.

Research Coordinator

After graduating from UMD with a Bachelor's degree in Biology, Kathryn worked with wildlife and led a conservation program. Now, she is fortunate to have worked with the Pal lab since 2019, where she handles administrative duties and oversees the day-to-day activities of the lab. Kathryn loves animals, is a fan of baseball and ice hockey, and enjoys traveling.

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OLEKSANDRA KEPPLE, D.V.M., PH.D.

Postdoctoral Fellow

Dr. Kepple joined our lab in 2021. Her research interests focus on understanding host-pathogen interactions for developing new vaccine or therapeutic strategies against Lyme disease. Dr. Kepple likes dancing, oil painting, and traveling.

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MIN ZHANG, PH.D.

Faculty Specialist

Dr. Zhang received his Ph.D. degree from Fudan University. He has more than 10 years of research experience in the field of infectious diseases, particularly tuberculosis and malaria. He entered our group in January 2019. Dr. Zhang's current research interest focuses on tick immunity.

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SHELBY FOOR, B.S.

Graduate Student, Ph.D-track

Shelby is a graduate student in the Biological Sciences (BISI) Graduate program at the University of Maryland. Since joining the lab in 2017, she has worked to understand Borrelia burgdorferi pathogenesis and Lyme disease. Her research investigates essential proteins required during pathogenesis, with a special interest in applications for vaccine or therapeutic development. When you can't find her in lab, she enjoys attempting new recipes in the kitchen, spending time outdoors with friends and family, and curling up with a good book!

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SANDHYA BISTA, BVSC

Graduate Student, Ph.D-track

Sandhya joined the lab in 2017 as a Ph.D. student in the Vet Med department. She has educational and professional experience in the veterinary sciences. In addition to supporting our research involving rodent models, she performs studies to better understand microbial virulence and protein-protein interactions.

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SHRABONI DUTTA, M.SC

Graduate Student, Ph.D-track

Shraboni is a Ph.D. student in Dr. Pal's lab. She completed her MS degree in India and joined the Pal Lab in 2017. Her research interests include vector biology and vector-host-pathogen interactions. Currently she studies Ixodes scapularis genes and their roles in tick biology. Along with research, Shraboni also enjoys painting, gardening, and long drives.

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KAZI ANTARA, M.SC 

Graduate Student, Ph.D-track

Before starting as a Ph.D. student in Dr. Pal's lab, Kazi earned her MS and BS (Hons) in Microbiology at the University of Dhaka in Bangladesh. She entered the Pal Lab in 2019, where she is examining the Ixodes scapularis tick - the vector of Lyme disease - with a focus on the genetic regulation of tick blood meal digestion.

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MICHAEL RONZETTI, B.S.

Graduate Student, Ph.D-track

(Graduate Partnership Program with NIH)

Michael is a graduate student split between the Pal Lab (which he joined in 2019) and the National Institutes of Health/National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences Graduate Partnership Program (under the mentorship of Dr. Anton Simeonov), working on elucidating and finding inhibitors for druggable targets in Borrelia burgdorferi and related spirochetes. Outside of this fascinating work, he enjoys publishing scientific communication in biotech and business of science, and mountaineering/ bouldering in his free time.

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BIBEK BHATTACHAN, BVSC

Graduate Student, Ph.D-track

Bibek joined the Pal lab as a Ph.D. student in 2021. Previously, his academic and professional life focused on veterinary and animal sciences. Bibek now supports our mission by helping to investigate the pathogenesis of Lyme disease. In addition to research, he likes to travel and explore new places.

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KRUTHI VAVILIKOLANU, B.TECH.

Graduate Student, Ph.D-track

Kruthi came to our lab in May 2021, after earning a Bachelor of Technology degree in biotechnology from the Vellore Institute of Technology in India. Now, Kruthi investigates the molecular mechanisms behind Lyme disease transmission. Outside of research, her interests lie in curling up with a good book while listening to music or spending time doing puzzles. She enjoys going to museums and historical places.

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YIZHU LU

Graduate Student, Ph.D-track

Yizhu joined Dr. Pal's lab in the fall of 2021. Her research interests focus on the understanding of the Toll and JAK/STAT signaling pathways in tick innate immune responses. She loves jogging and enjoys traveling.

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SAVANNAH CARLSON

Undergraduate Technician

Savannah became a member of our team in 2019. She works with and cares for the animals in our lab and monitors their health. She also assists in various laboratory procedures. Her hobbies include stationary and spending time with her pet rabbit.