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18th Annual K-INBRE Symposium

Speaker Biographies

Hyatt Regency Wichita
Wichita, KS


James Balthazor, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor, Fort Hays State University, Hays, Kansas

Title: Probing the Unfolded Protein Response: mRNA knockdowns in Acyrthosiphon pisum

James Balthazor is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Chemistry at Fort Hays State University who has experienced many levels within the K-INBRE program. First as a funded student, then to a funded faculty member, and now the FHSU K-INBRE campus coordinator, his experience is best summed in his own words. “I have been beyond blessed by the opportunities that K-INBRE has continually afforded me to grow as a researcher through my academic career, and without the support I received, I would have been greatly disadvantaged.” He is a biochemist who teaches courses in biochemistry, forensics, bioinformatics, and a myriad of introductory chemistry courses. His research is focused on RNAi silencing in various nuisance organisms with a special focus on developing commercial applications, primarily in the agricultural setting. His primary research targets mRNAs of the unfolded protein response where his lab aims to affect the organisms they study by inducing death or reducing fecundity.


Moriah R. Beck, Ph.D.

Associate Professor, Wichita State University, Wichita, Kansas

Title: New actin branching mechanism facilitated by palladin

Moriah R. Beck is an Associate Professor in the Chemistry Department at Wichita State University. She received her Ph.D. in biochemistry from Washington University in St. Louis where she used NMR to solve the structure of a novel virulence factor from a pathogenic, dimorphic fungus. As a Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center postdoctoral fellow at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Dr. Beck continued to use NMR to study protein structure and function, but focused on actin binding proteins involved in metastasis. Her current research is funded by an AREA grant from NIH and involves a wide variety of biochemical tools aimed at understanding regulation of the actin cytoskeleton in processes that include cancer, cardiomyopathy, and Listeria infections. Moriah has already mentored over 50 students in her lab since joining WSU in 2011 and was named a National Academies Education Fellow in the Life Sciences in 2013.


Eric Gillock, Ph.D.

Professor, Fort Hays State University, Hays, Kansas

Title: The potential spread of porcine endogenous retrovirus C among feral swine populations

Eric Gillock is a Professor of Microbiology in the Department of Biological Sciences at Fort Hays State University. He teaches courses in general microbiology, microbiology of the pathogens, and immunology. During his time at Fort Hays State, his students have worked on a variety of projects including antimicrobial resistance, plasmid evolution, plant virology, and yeast prions. His lab is currently engaged in examining the endogenization dynamics of porcine endogenous retroviruses in feral swine herds.  


Sonia Hall, Ph.D.

President & Chief Executive Officer, BioKansas, Fairway, Kansas

Title: Building a career: The value of mistakes, perspective, courage, and exploration

Sonia Hall is the President & Chief Executive Officer at BioKansas, a non-profit organization that aims to foster and support the regional bioscience ecosystem. She received her PhD in Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology at the University of Kansas in Lawrence under the mentorship of Robert Ward. She continued her scientific training at the University of Massachusetts Medical School completing both research and academic administration postdocs. During her career, she has developed multiple educational outreach activities, including co-founding Kansas DNA Day. Sonia has advocated for policy change to modernize graduate education and designed communication projects to highlight the important contributions of scientists with diverse life histories. With her team at BioKansas, she continues her commitment to making careers in science and the paths towards them more equitable.


David Long, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor, Wichita State university, Wichita, Kansas

Title: Generating morphological models of endothelial monolayers from limited data: A computational framework for mechanobiology to understand and predict cell behaviors

Dr. David Long is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Biomedical Engineering at Wichita State University (WSU) and the director of the Mechanobiology and Biomedicine Laboratory at WSU. Before WSU, Dr Long was a Principal Investigator in the Auckland Bioengineering Institute, a Lecturer in the Department of Engineering Science at the University of Auckland in New Zealand, and an Associate Investigator in the Maurice Wilkins Centre for Molecular Biodiscovery. Prior to that, he was a NIH postdoctoral fellow in the Department of Biomedical Engineering at Duke University where his research focused on cardiovascular mechanobiology. Dr Long’s laboratory is interested in mechanobiology and cell-tissue biophysics, with the aim to better understand the determinants of disease, to better understand the mechanical determinants of disease, to identifying novel surrogate markers of disease, and to contribute to the development of therapeutic interventions. Specifically, they study how mechanical cues influence wound healing and angiogenesis, the endothelial glycocalyx, intercellular forces, mechano-genomics, and cardiovascular disease.


Rob Unckless, Ph.D.

Assistant professor, University of Kansas, Lawrence, Kansas

Title: Recurrent evolution of a virulent viral haplotype in a Drosophila/DNA virus system

Rob Unckless is an assistant professor of Genomics at the the University of Kansas Lawrence. His research focuses on the evolution of the innate immune system. Because of their interaction with pathogens, genes involved in immune defense are often under strong evolutionary (selective) pressure. The Unckless lab studies how Drosophila hosts interact with their pathogens and how new mutations in these genes either rapidly spread through a population or are maintained because they are only conditionally beneficial. The lab uses genomics, genetics, microbiology and biochemical assays to study the evolution of immunity from large scale population patterns to molecular interactions. Rob’s research is funded by an NIH R00 award and an NIH R01 award.