Current Fellows


Jimmy Budiardjo, PhD

Jimmy BudiardjoJimmy received his B.S. in microbiology and Ph.D. in computational biology from the University of Kansas. His doctoral work involved developing a generalized method for building protein-based switches and sensors that can be modulated by small molecules. His current research interests merge the two fields of microbiology and protein design and apply them to the study of outer membrane proteins of gram-negative bacteria. In the IRACDA program, he is working with Dr. Joanna Slusky on a novel method to block antibiotic efflux pumps through the design of peptide inhibitors to combat antibiotic resistant infections. He is passionate about diversification and increasing accessibility of STEM fields through integration of undergraduates in his research.

Christian Gomez, PhD

Christian GomezChristian received his B.S. in Biology from Washburn University before earning his Ph.D. in Molecular Biology from the University of Kansas. His doctoral thesis involved investigating a new function of a critical tumor suppressor protein in the mucus secreting cells of the intestinal tract. Christian joined the IRACDA program at the University of Kansas where he now works under Professor Dan Dixon in the Department of Molecular Biosciences. Here he is now evaluating drugs that could potentially be used to treat colon and pancreatic cancer, as well as the studying the mechanisms of how these drugs work. He plans to pursue a career in undergraduate education, hoping to raise students interests in STEM fields and research.

Hannah Kinmonth-Schultz, PhD

Hannah Kinmonth-SchultzHannah received her B.S. in Botany from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and her M.S. and Ph.D. in forest resources and biology, respectively, from the University of Washington in Seattle.  During her dissertation, she focused on the mechanisms through which external temperature and day length cues are perceived at the molecular level and integrated at the whole-organism level to influence when plants flower.  As an IRACDA fellow, Hannah is working under Professor Joy Ward in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at the University of Kansas-Lawrence.  She now studies the mechanisms through which changing levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide influence flowering by using molecular, physiological, and mathematical modeling approaches.  She is passionate about broadening student interest in and confidence to participate in STEM fields and is developing ways to teach students how to integrate math and science through modeling.

Patrick Lansdon, PhD

Patrick LansdonPatrick attended Truman State University and received a BS in Biology before earning his PhD in Genetics from The University of Iowa.  His doctoral thesis investigated the interactions between voltage-gated sodium channel mutations and the endogenous gut microbiota in fruit flies.  Patrick accepted a fellowship in the IRACDA program at the University of Kansas to study the evolutionary relationship of host-pathogen interactions in nematodes in the lab of Dr. Brian Ackley (Department of Molecular Biosciences).  He plans to pursue a career in undergraduate education where he will use fruit flies and nematodes to introduce students to scientific research.

Rhiannon J. LaVine, PhD

Rhiannon J. LaVine Rhiannon received her B.S. in geology from the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater and her Ph.D. in paleobiology from the Department of Geophysical Sciences at the University of Chicago.  Her research interests revolve around questions relating to the mechanisms that generate and influence patterns of morphological diversity in organisms and how that shapes evolutionary trajectories.  As such, her dissertation focused the role of developmental constraints in Cambrian fossil arthropods through the use of geometric morphometric methods.  The IRACDA program has given Rhiannon the opportunity to work with Dr. Bruce Lieberman to investigate macroevolutionary trends in trilobite morphology.  Beyond research, she is committed to promoting equity initiatives and making STEM accessible to students from all backgrounds.  As a "punk rock paleontologist", she is driven to challenge the antiquated image of a “scientist” and inspire those who strive to do the same.

Melissa Plakke, PhD

Melissa PlakkeMelissa earned her BS in Zoology and Biological Sciences from Colorado State University before attending the University of Pittsburgh and acquiring a PhD in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology and a minor in College Biology Teaching. Her dissertation focused on the co-evolution between male and female reproductive traits in butterflies and how divergence at a molecular level can lead to potential speciation. As an IRACDA fellow at the University of Kansas, Melissa is working with Dr. Jamie Walters in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology to explore the molecular and evolutionary drivers behind sperm development in butterflies and moths. Melissa strives to develop a more equitable classroom environment for all students, particularly those underrepresented in STEM, and aims to extend her experience to a position at a primarily undergraduate serving institution.