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

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 and is helping to finalize a large project examining the evolutionary history of beta-lactamase genes - genes that encode proteins which confer resistance to beta-lactam antibiotics. More recently, she has founded a small biopharmaceutical company (Bacteriotix) and is working on the development of narrow-spectrum therapeutics.

Christopher Roy

Position: Graduate Student

Lab Member Since: 2009

Chris is a graduate student in Organismic and Evolutionary Biology. His research focuses primarily on molecular evolution with additional work on the use of bacteriocins as target-specific antimicrobials. He is currently working on a large antibiotic resistance project looking at the evolutionary and selective histories of genes that confer resistance to beta-lactam antibiotics in both clinical and environmental bacterial populations.

Morgan Dennis

Position: Undergraduate Researcher/ Prep Person

Lab Member Since: 2010

Morgan is a senior microbiology major and Massachusetts native. At the lab, he assists with research projects and also does prep work. Currently, his work has been focused on bacteriocins and their potential use as targeted therapeutics. Recently he has been investigating the potential of bacteriocins to treat certain skin conditions.

Jenna Farrell

Position: Executive Director, Massachusetts Academy of Sciences

Lab Member Since: 2009

Jenna was a Massachusetts Academy of Sciences intern during her senior undergraduate year at UMass Amherst and became the Executive Director upon graduation. Jenna is responsible for administering the portfolio of programs the Academy offers, as well as fundraising, partnership building, and operations management. Additionally, she oversees student interns and the care of the MAS mascots, Charles Darwin the Bearded Dragon, Monty the Python, and Doc the African Grey parrot.

Danielle Federa

Position: Co-Director, Information and Project Management, Institute for Drug Resistance Database Manager, Riley Lab

Lab Member Since: 2009

Federa got her MBA at the Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania and spent over 20 years as a management consulting specializing in the integration of strategic and financial planning. She developed a Thought Leadership practice within the firm to guide clients in the prudent acquisition and implementation of emerging technologies. She founded a successful consulting firm that provided services to the health services sector and recently expanded her portfolio to include information management through the completion of a Masters in Information and Library Science degree. Currently, Federa is responsible for the strategic and operational planning for the Institute for Drug Resistance.

Vivian Liu


Lab Member Since: 2011

John Sisay Beckford


Lab Member Since: 2013

John is a Junior Microbiology Major. He currently does prep work and assists with research projects. He is working with two other undergraduates on a project investigating bacteriocin stability for his independent study in microbiology.

Clarissa Ronzio


Lab Member Since: 2013

Clarissa Ronzio is in her senior year as a microbiology undergraduate at UMass Amherst. She is currently conducting her senior honors thesis which is testing the stability of bacteriocins. She is also researching the use of bacteriocins to combat acne.

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