Current Lab Members

Peg Riley

Position: Principal Investigator/ Professor/President Massachusetts Academy of Sciences/Co-Director Center for Drug Resistance/Co-founder of Bacteriotix LLC

Lab Member Since: 1991

Dr. Margaret (Peg) Riley, Ph.D., is a Professor in the Department of Biology at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. She received her Ph.D. at Harvard University in 1991 and joined the faculty at Yale University, where she was granted tenure and remained for 15 years while developing an internationally renowned research program in antimicrobial drug discovery. She has published over 100 articles and edited four books in her research area. Her early studies in microbial ecology and the evolution of antibiotic resistance suggested an alternative to the current paradigm of antibiotic drug discovery, one that recognizes the power of targeted approaches to therapeutic intervention, which result in lower levels of antibiotic resistance and reduced collateral damage to the healthy human microbiome. In 2009 Dr. Riley co-founded a biopharmaceutical company, Bacteriotix, whose mission is to provide proof of concept for this new drug development paradigm, with a focus on therapeutic interventions for catheter acquired urinary tract infections. In 2009, she co-founded the Institute for Drug Resistance, whose mission is to facilitate novel, multidisciplinary approaches to addressing the challenge of drug resistance and created a new Gordon Research Conference on Drug Resistance.

In 2008 Dr. Riley created the Massachusetts Academy of Sciences, a non-profit organization whose mission is to increase levels of civic science literacy. She currently serves as its President and oversees science outreach and education reform efforts aimed at engaging middle and high school students in independent research experiences and providing their teachers with professional development opportunities in inquiry-based teaching methods. She is a fellow of the American Academy of Microbiology and recently joined the Board on Life Sciences of the National Academy of Sciences.

Sandra (Robinson) Roy

Position: Lab Manager/ Graduate Student

Lab Member Since: 2007

Sandra began working in the Riley lab in May of 2007 as an undergraduate at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. She graduated with a B.S. in Microbiology and became the lab manager and a Research Fellow in the Riley lab. She is currently a graduate student in Animal Biotechnology and Biomedical Science. She is currently finalizing a large project examining the evolutionary history of beta-lactamase genes - genes that encode proteins which confer resistance to beta-lactam antibiotics. Her thesis focuses on the development of novel therapeutics for the treatment of catheter-acquired urinary tract infections. She has also founded a small biopharmaceutical company (Bacteriotix) and is working on the development of narrow-spectrum therapeutics.

Patrick Aoude

Position: Undergraduate Researcher

Lab Member Since: 2014

Patrick is an undergraduate student in the Commonwealth Honors College at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. Majoring in biochemistry and molecular biology and pursuing a minor in computer science, he began working in the Riley lab in the spring of 2014. He is currently working on a project analyzing the evolutionary history of beta-lactamase genes, which encode proteins for resistance to beta-lactam antibiotics. Additionally, he has maintained and further developed the Massachusetts Academy of Sciences website.

Danielle Snider

Position: Undergraduate Researcher

Lab Member Since: 2014

Danielle is an undergraduate student in the Commonwealth Honors College at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. She is majoring in Biology with a minor in Psychology. She is currently working on an ongoing project that is testing the stability of bacteriocins from several different species of bacteria under a wide variety of environmental conditions.

Jessica Furtado

Position: Prep Person

Lab Member Since: 2015

Jessica is an undergraduate student in the Commonwealth Honors College at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. Her major is Biochemistry and Molecular Biology and she hopes to pursue a career in the Pharmaceutical Sciences. She has been working in the Riley lab since the Spring of 2015 and assists in lab prep work and caring for Doc the African Grey.

Gina Chesmore

Position: Undergraduate Researcher

Lab Member Since: 2015

Gina is an undergraduate student at the University of Massachusetts Amherst with an interest in Evolutionary Biology. As an Animal Science major on the pre-veterinary track, she joined the Riley lab in Spring 2015 to gain exposure to antibiotic research and development. Gina is responsible for the organization of laboratory data and expenses, also assisting in the care of Doc the African Grey Parrot and Monty the Python.

Meghan Gerson

Position: Interim Director, UMass STEM Ambassadors Program

Lab Member Since: 2014

Meg was brought into the Riley lab in 2014 as director of the UMass STEM Ambassadors Program, a new outreach effort spear-headed by the Riley Lab. STEM AP seeks to increase retention rates of undergraduate STEM majors by providing students a supportive academic and social community rich in a culture of research and inquiry. Meg came directly from the University of New Mexico where she worked as a Program Specialist for the STEM Gateway Program, designing programing to promote accelerated student achievement in STEM disciplines. In 2012, she graduated with a M.Sc. in Biology from the University of Western Ontario and in 2006 received her M.S.Ed. from Niagara University in Secondary Science Education. Meg has a B.S. in Environmental and Forest Biology from the State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry.

Sarah Goodwin

Position: Graduate Assistant - STEM Ambassador Program

Lab Member Since: 2014

Sarah is the graduate assistant for the STEM Ambassador program, a new outreach effort spear-headed by the Riley Lab. STEM AP seeks to increase retention rates of undergraduate STEM majors by providing students a supportive academic and social community rich in a culture of research and inquiry. Sarah is also a graduate student in the Organismic and Evolutionary Biology Program at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. Her thesis work focuses on vocal communication and evolution in songbirds, with a special emphasis on how males and females assess and compare sexual signals.

Daryl Choa

Position: Undergraduate Assistant - STEM Ambassador Program

Lab Member Since: 2012

Daryl is an undergraduate student in the Commonwealth Honors College at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. Majoring in biology and psychology, she began working for the Massachusetts Academy of Sciences in 2012 as a social media intern. Since then she has been a part of the Engage in STEM program, mentoring middle school students in Quaboag and Holyoke in an after school science fair program. She has currently returned to work in an administrative position for the STEM Ambassadors program. On the side, she is currently working on developing an after school science program for middle school students that incorporates Art into STEM to encourage creativity, communication and collaboration among students.

Anna Hessler

Position: Undergraduate Assistant, STEM Ambassadors Program

Lab Member Since: 2014

Anna is an undergraduate Microbiology major at UMass Amherst with an interest in science education and public health. Anna began working with the Massachusetts Academy of Sciences in 2012 and is now an undergraduate assistant in the STEM Ambassadors Program. Anna also works with freshman STEM majors at the university as a Peer Mentor for the Foundations of Science Residential Academic Program in order to increase the retention rates of STEM students in college.

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