Bob Kirby - Director

Bob has a PhD in biopsychology from the University of Virginia and a B.S. in psychology from Washington State University. His interests feature neural control, human behavior, the effects of drugs, and their mechanisms of action. As a member of the psychology department, his research focused on cardiovascular responses to stress during early development and his teaching concentrated on the science and regulation of drugs. 

Bob is an Adjunct Associate Professor in Psychology. 

Beyond the University of Iowa, Bob loves to spend his time in the outdoors and visiting his daughter and family in coastal Maine.

Melinda Licht - Program Coordinator

Melinda obtained a Bachelors of Arts in Religion Studies from the U of Iowa in 2007 and a Master’s in Theological Studies in 2010, focusing her thesis work on the religious and philosophical background that shaped the western world’s attitudes toward non-human animals.  She then returned to the University of Iowa to earn a Bachelor’s in Science in biology.  As an undergraduate, Melinda began her science research career under Michael Wright in the Physiology Department. She continued working in the Wright lab before eventually moving to the Ophthalmology Department. 

Melinda joined ICRU as the Program Coordinator in fall 2016.  She believes strongly that a research built on ethics, communication, collaboration, and intellectual practices are crucial for a positive future in society.  She is excited to combine her love of research with her broad experiences across both the sciences and humanities to help students use research to discover themselves, find their passions, and build critical leadership skills. 

Former Staff (Who ICRU Still Depends On)

Lindsay Marshall - Associate Director

Once an undergraduate researcher herself at James Madison University in Virginia, Lindsay has a Master's degree in Applied Medical Anthropology from Oregon State University. Lindsay is a bold advocate for the undergraduate research experience (across all disciplines and majors) and believes in the personal and academic growth that so often results from this scholarly engagement.  She is committed to familiarizing undergraduates with various aspects of scholarly communication, especially developing skills that make research accessible and exciting to general audiences.
Lindsay has been certified by the National Research Mentoring Network as a Mentor/Mentee Training Facilitator.

ICRU Research Ambassadors

The Research Ambassadors are a group of UI undergraduates who are involved in research and creative work on campus.  They assist with campus recruiting and outreach, event planning, and other ways to promote undergraduate involvement. Contact them if you have any questions about getting involved in research.  They know first-hand what it takes to be a successful undergraduate researcher at the University of Iowa.

Mik Mallin
Class of 2019
Majors: Biomedical Science, Dance

I perform genetic and developmental research with Dr. Robert Cornell of the Department of Anatomy and Cell Biology, as well as dance history research with Dr. Rebekah Kowal of the Department of Dance. With Dr. Cornell, I work to understand the genetic causes of melanoma by investigating the gene regulatory network responsible for the development of melanocytes in the model organism zebra fish. With Dr. Kowal, I study how movement is an agent of social, cultural, and political change. Specifically, I examine how the presence of international dance in 1950s America shaped both our immigration laws and notions of race and ethnicity. 

I aim to pursue an MD/PhD dual degree through the NIH's Medical Scientist Training Program and work toward a career in performing clinical and translational research. (All while dancing on Broadway of course!). In my free time I love dancing, shopping, watching Hawkeye football, and hanging out with friends!

Rana Hewezi
Rana Hewezi
Class of 2020
Major: Biomedical Sciences

Rana Hewezi works in the Dale Abel laboratory, focusing primarily on how the absence or presence of a mitochondrial protein, OPA1, in adipose tissue, affects diabetes and obesity. Rana is majoring in Biomedical Sciences with a minor in English on the pre-med track.

She loves anything cheesecake related.




Rikki Laser
Rikki Laser
Class of 2020
Major: Neuroscience

In the Blumberg lab, Rikki studies how myoclonic twitching (the little jerky movements we make during REM sleep) works in the brain to help it figure out which muscle connects to which neuron.  The project she is currently on involves examining the differences between twitching in autism mouse models and regular, wild-type mice. 

Along with being a neuroscience major, Rikki is a part of the Iowa Biosciences program and is a student ambassador for both ICRU and the biology department.  She plans to continue with neuroscience through graduate school, and her biggest wish is to be someone's favorite professor one day.  

Rikki very much enjoys talking to students and helping them in any way she can!  In her free time, she likes to read fantasy novels and crochet.

Allexis Mahanna
Allexis Mahanna
Class of 2020
Majors: Biochemistry, International Studies, Engaged Social Innovation

I am a sophomore who is triple majoring in Biochemistry, International Studies, and Engaged Social Innovation, along the Pre-Med Track.  I have been doing research since my freshman year with Dr. Daniel Weeks in his Biochemistry Lab, which is focused on amyloid research using Xenopus Laevis (frogs).  Amyloids are aggregates of protein that cause diseases like Alzheimer's and Huntington's.

I love to help people, so in my free time I volunteer with hospice patients, the UI hospital, and the Crisis Center, and in addition I tutor. My other interests include hiking, traveling, and cooking. If you have any questions about research or just generally getting involved at Iowa, send me an email, as I'd love to help!

Tori Cassady
Tori Cassady
Class of 2020
Major: Biosciences

The Weigel Lab studies the relationship between a few specific transcription factors and cancer cells - particularly in breast cancer.  OUr projects focus on tumor growth, invasion, metastasis, and "tumorigenesis" (which refers to a cancer cell's ability to take root in a tissue and proliferate), and how transcription factors we study regulate gene expression to affect these processes.  

Outside of the lab, I love playing violin with my string quartet, knitting, gardening, and watching Game of Thrones.  I am also working toward my fourth degree black belt in Tae-Kwon-Do.

Anj Droe
Anj Droe
Class of 2020
Majors: Neurobiology, Microbiology

I've worked in Dr. Michael Dailey's neurobiology lab since freshman year.  We study glial cells (the "other" cells of the brain), in particular microglia and their role in brain injury and recovery.  Currently, I'm working on a project using microparticles in an attempt to reduce the harmful inflammatory effects of microglia.

In addition to my neurobiology and microbiology majors, I'm working on a minor in German and a certificate in Clinical and Translational Sciences.  Outside of school I am very involved in music, playing viola in the symphony orchestra and a quartet, as well as playing guitar for cancer patients at the hospital.

Akanksha Chilukuri
Akanksha Chilukuri
Class of 2020
Major: Neurobiology

I work in the Psychiatry and Early Neurobiological Development Laboratory with Dr. Hanna Stevens in the UIHC Department of Psychiatry.  We study preeclampsia, a medical condition in pregnancy that is characterized by high blood pressure and proteinuria, and how it affects the cortical development and cortical dependent behavior of offspring.

In my free time, I enjoy reading, writing, dancing, and hanging out with my friends.  After graduation, I would love to further explore my interest in public health and anthropology by pursuing and MPH or MD.

Alexa Kort
Alexa Kort
Class of 2020
Major: Biochemistry and Spanish

Hi there! I am a junior majoring in biochemistry and Spanish. I work with Dr. Hillel Haim in the Department of Microbiology and Immunology studying HIV-1 virus evolution. We are currently investigating the envelope glycoprotein, which allows the virus to enter host cells. Our aim is to apply mathematical models that can predict the genetic mutations of the enzyme that enable the virus to escape host antibodies and drug therapies. To accomplish this, we use genetic sequences of the virus from all over the world! 

In my free time, I like to travel, climb, read, and spend time with friends! After graduation, I hope to pursue an MPH in epidemiology and an MD. 

Aishwarya Kothapali
Aishwarya Kothapali
Class of 2019
Major: Human Physiology

Aishwarya is a Junior majoring in Human Physiology and minoring in Spanish and Music. She works with Dr. Arlene Drack studying retinal degenerative disorders such as Bardet-Biedl Syndrome and Batten Disease. She also works with Dr. Alina Dumitrescu examining surgical outcomes in patients with Nystagmus.

In her free time, Aishwarya likes singing with the University Choir on campus, spending time with friends and drinking lots of coffee. 

Sam Ponnada
Sam Ponnada
Class of 2020
Major: Physics, Astronomy, and Mathematics

Hello!  I currently work with Professor Philip Kaaret in the Physics and Astronomy Department.  Our research group studies the Universe in high energy wavelengths (mostly X-ray and gamma) by both analyzing observations taken by telescopes and developing instruments to do so ourselves.  Right now, I am involved with the former, using archived data from the Chandra X-ray Observatory.  My current research focuses on studying local counterparts to the early galaxies to determine a relationship between metal content and the production of high mass X-ray binaries to see whether they played a significant role in the reionization of the Universe.

Outside of research, I enjoy reading, playing tennis, and engaging in amateur astronomy.  I hope to pursue doctoral studies in Astrophysics after graduating from college with the long-term goal of becoming a research scientist.

Russell Martin
Russell Martin
Class of 2020
Major: Biomedical Engineering
Minor: Computer Science

Hello! I work in Dr. Robert Cornell’s lab in collaboration with Dr. Alex Bassuk, where I study epilepsy. Specifically, my research focuses on discovering new pharmacological methods to treat seizure disorders. I study drugs that are already FDA-approved for treating other diseases, and look to see if they can be repurposedas antiepileptics. We use zebrafishas a model organism to simulate seizures, and then try to minimize those seizures using a drug of interest. Outside of the Cornell lab, I have also spent a summer doing a Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) at the University of Delaware. There, I worked in Dr. Thomas Buchanan’s biomechanics lab, studying the development of osteoarthritis in young athletes who have torn their anterior cruciate ligament.

In my free time, I like to train for marathons and dabble in piano and guitar. When I graduate, I hope to attend graduate school and earn my PhD studying biomechanics. Feel free to contact me if you’re interested in getting involved in any type of research! I’d be happy to help you craft an email to a professor, put together a resume, or just chat about what is best for you.

Alissia Milani
Class of 2020
Major: Chemistry

Hello! I am currently conducting research in Dr. Stone’s analytical/atmospheric chemistry group and have been since my sophomore year. My research is centered on the Lake Michigan Ozone Study. We investigate air quality in the Lake Michigan region by studying airborne particles and attributing them to different sources. This allows us to determine which sources of air pollution are negatively impacting air quality and human health the most. The results from our study will give engineers and politicians the information needed to improve air quality around Lake Michigan and other coastal regions.

When I’m not in the lab, I enjoy hiking, knitting, cross stitching (really any sort of crafting!), and drinking ungodly amounts of coffee. After graduation, I hope to travel and work in industry for a year before deciding to pursue graduate school! 

Maeve Bittle
Class of 2020
Major: Environmental Engineering
Minor: Religious Studies, Environmental Science

Hello! I work in Prof. Keri Hornbuckle's lab, where I am looking at sources of polychlorinated biphenyls, or PCBs. Our lab is also researching how PCBs affect human processes. PCBs are a persistent organic pollutant that are present in our air, soil, and water. My project is focused on home sources of PCBs in the Indiana Harbor in East Chicago. This is also where our lab previously found extensive amounts of PCB contamination in sediments.

In my free time I enjoy traveling, writing, and exploring the multitude of coffee shops in the Iowa City/Coralville area. After graduation I plan on working for an environmental engineering firm managing pollution in waterways and water sustainability, before heading to graduate school for natural resource management. I eventually want to do research for climate change relating to ecology or geology.
If you have any questions about my research, study abroad opportunities, or environmental engineering, shoot me an email!

Tim Nguyen
Class of 2019
Major: Biology - Genetics and Biotechnology Focus

The broad goal of Dr. Songhai Chen's Lab is to elucidate the regulation of heterotrimeric G proteins, specifically WD40 repeat-containing proteins whose function is to assemble protein complexes in many signaling pathways relating to breast/prostate cancer and diabetes. Tim performs research on a separate project, where he uses biochemical and cellular approaches to characterize novel tumor suppressors identified by an in vitro/in vivo CRISPR screen. These genes, when down-regulated in estrogen receptor-positive (ER+) breast cancer cells, show greater resistance to tamoxifen.

Tim aims to pursue a career in biomedical research, and hopes to one day educate undergraduates on biology and continue with outreach work. In his free time, Tim enjoys portrait photography, cooking with friends, and drinking matcha green tea.

Willow Schanz
Class of 2020
Major: Microbiology

Willow has been involved in research since joining the Maretzky’sLaboratory in May of 2017. Her research focuses on inflammatory diseases, such as Rheumatoid Arthritis and Inflammatory Bowel Disease. A current project she is working on is the characterization of the Fibroblast Growth Factor Receptors, and what physiological effects arise from their shedding from the cell membrane.

When not in the lab, Willow is involved in Fraternity and Sorority Life and enjoys reading, trying new recipes, and hanging out with her bunny, Dottie.

Jack Feng
Class of 2019
Majors: Biochemistry, Ethics & Public Policy

I have worked in Dr. MacGillivray's lab for more than a year and half. My efforts involve the crystal engineering towards improving reactivity in the organic solid-state in the field of supramolecular chemistry. Currently, I am working on a project that aims to improve the bioavailability of HIV drugs through crystal engineering methods. I also work in the Eugenic Legacies Lab mentored by Dr. Novak in College of Public Health, and the Health Equity Advancement Lab.

My participation in undergraduate research is one of my most rewarding experiences in Iowa. To me, research really means to keep engaging and learning. There is nothing cooler than knowing that you are contributing to the discovery or development of something that can make a difference in people’s lives or a change in the world. I got informed of this opportunity by my Latham Science Fellows, some of whom are involved in ICRU. I  love to contribute and help others!

Jasmine Ling
Class of 2020
Major: Nursing Interest

I have involved in Dr. Moon Chooza’s research since January 2018. I’m currently mainly doing the literature review now. And our research is looking for the impact of the circadian rhythm change in coronary artery disease. At first, I couldn’t believe there are two thousand articles need to be reviewed for our research. But now, we have done first round of selecting literature articles and get excited for the next step! 

In my free time, I love volunteering in UIHC at cancer inpatient unit, playing the piano, violin, and spending time with friends! I will apply the nursing program in College of Nursing this spring 2019. Hope I can get admission successfully. And after graduation, I hope to attend graduate school and earn an MSN in a field that I have passion.

Yuwei Guo
Class of 2020
Major: Biochemistry, Pre-Dental Track




Tatiana Castillo

Class of 2020
Major: Human Physiology
Minors: Psychology and Global Health






Our Partners:

Office of the Provost

University of Iowa Honors Program (UIHP)

Latham Science and Engagement Initiative (LSEI)

Iowa Biosciences Advantage Program (IBA)

Office of Sustainability and the Environment

Belin Blank Center

University of Iowa Libraries

University of Iowa Museums

Office of the State Archeologist

Women in Science and Engineering (WISE)

Ronald E. McNair Scholars Program Iowa

Obermann Center


ICRU Steering Committee

The ICRU Steering Committee consists of faculty and staff members, each representing a different area of the University of Iowa.

Bob Kirby - ICRU Director and Committee Convener

Marc Armstrong - Associate Dean for Research and Infrastructure and the Social Sciences; Professor, Geography

Stephanie Gilbertson-White, Assistant Professor, Nursing

Craig Just - Assistant Professor, Civil and Environmental Engineering

Rebekah Kowal - Associate Professor, Dance

Melinda Licht - Program Coordinator, ICRU

Ann Ricketts - Assistant Vice President for Research

Christine Shea, Associate Professor, Spanish and Portuguese

Madeline Shea, Professor, Biochemistry

Tanya Uden-Holman - Associate Provost for Undergraduate Education; Dean, University College

Sarah Vigmostad  - Associate Professor, Biomedical Engineering