Contact ICRU

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​If you are looking for a specific person to contact, scroll through the biographies below to find contact information.  Not sure who to direct your question to?  Click on the link above to submit a general inquiry to ICRU.

 Bob Kirby - Director
  Blank Honors Center

  Bob has a PhD in biopsychology from the University of Virginia. 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's primary roll at UI is serving as the Associate Director of the University of Iowa Honors Program.  He is also an Adjunct Associate Professor in Psychology. 

Beyond the University of Iowa, Bob loves to spend his time in the outdoors.

Melinda Licht - Program Coordinator
   401 Blank Honor Center

   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 is excited to join ICRU as the Program Director.  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 - Former 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 is so often a result of this
   type of scholarly engagement.  Particularly, she is committed to
   familiarizing undergraduates with various aspects of scholarly
   communication, especially in the development of skills that make research
   accessible and exciting to general audiences.
Lindsay also serves as a Program Facilitator for the University of Iowa Honors Program and 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
     Biomedical Science and Dance Majors

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
Biomedical Sciences Major

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
Neuroscience Major

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
Biochemistry, International Studies, Engaged Social Innovation Major

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.  Other interests of mine 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
Biosciences Major

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
Neurobiology and Microbiology Major

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
Neurobiology Major

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
Biochemistry and Spanish Majors

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
Human Physiology Major

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
Physics, Astronomy, and Mathematics Major

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
Biomedical Engineering Major

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 repurposed as antiepileptics. We use zebrafish as 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
Chemistry Major

Hello! I am currently conducting research in Dr. Stone's analytical/atmospheris chemistry group and have been since my sophomore year. My research is centered on

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
Environmental Engineering Major

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.
If you have any questions about my research, study abroad opportunities, or environmental engineering, shoot me an email!

Tim Nguy

Class of 2019
Biology Major - 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.

Alexa Santaniello

Profile Coming Soon!

Our Partners:

University of Iowa Honors Program (UIHP)

Office of the Vice President for Research and Economic Development (OVPR)

Office of the Provost

Latham Science and Engagement Initiative (LSEI)

Women in Science and Engineering (WISE)

Ronald E. McNair Scholars Program Iowa

Iowa Biosciences Advantage Program (IBA)

Iowa Research Online

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 - Professor, Geography

Lon Moeller - Associate Provost for Undergraduate Education and Dean, University College

Lindsay Marshall - ICRU Associate Director

Craig Just - Assistant Professor, Civil and Environmental Engineering

Rebekah Kowal - Associate Professor, Dance

Cornelia Lang - Associate Professor, Physics and Astronomy

Ann Ricketts - Assistant Vice President for Research, Communication and External Relations

Sarah Vigmostad  - Associate Professor, Biomedical Engineering