Current Lab Members

Name Position/Degree Project

John Boothroyd

PhD (Edinburgh Univ.)

The overall goal of the lab is to understand how Toxoplasma infects and persists within a huge number of warm-blooded hosts and why the outcome of that infection ranges from essentially no symptoms at all through to fatal encephalitis?

Melanie Espiritu

Research Technician
BS (Cal State Fresno)
Lab support and tissue culture. [Most of our experiments rely on the growth of Toxoplasma in vitro in a variety of host cells and their careful culturing is thus an essential foundation.]

Abel Ferrel


Postdoctoral Scholar
PhD (Stanford)

How do bradyzoites engage with the host cell? [Bradyzoites express a discrete arsenal of "effectors" that likely alter host cell function in ways beneficial to the establishment of a chronic infection or initiation of a new infection in a naïve host.]

Alma Mendoza PhD Student
BS (Northeastern Illinois Univ.)
How do folded proteins cross the PVM? [Moving proteins across a membrane is hard; doing this with proteins that have been folded in the secretory pathway, including those with disulfide bonds, is even harder.]

Michael W. Panas

Research Scientist
PhD (Harvard)

How do tachyzoites modulate the host cell?  [Tachyzoites introduce many dense granule effector proteins by a novel mechanism and these have profound effects on many host functions, including modulating the host cell cycle.]

Suchita Rastogi

MD/PhD Student
BS (Washington Univ.)

How do tachyzoites alter cells they inject but don’t infect? [Rhoptries inject protein effectors directly into the host cell during invasion but sometimes injection occurs without invasion. How does this occur and what does it tell us about how rhoptry effectors co-opt host functions?]

Li-av Segev-Zarko

Research Scientist
PhD (Weizman Institute)

How are rhoptry proteins injected into the host cell? [Rhoptries are the source of the proteins that Toxoplasma uses to co-opt host functions but how the rhoptry contents are introduced into the host cell, which involves crossing three membranes, is not known.]

Terence Theisen

PhD (Stanford)
BS (Michigan State Univ.)

What is the role of the massively expanded SRS gene family? [SAG1-related surface (SRS) proteins are encoded by over 100 diverse genes but their specific roles are not known. Modern methods allow this long-standing question to be revisited.]