Lab Members

Postdoctoral Associates

Rohit Mahar

Rohit Mahar, Ph.D.

  • Ph.D. received from Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, India in 2017

Research Focus: My research work is focused on the measuring metabolic flux study in the living systems using the advanced Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR) spectroscopic techiniques. I am using 2H and 1H NMR to measure de novo lipogenesis (DNL) of fatty acids in the liver, where the purtubation in DNL is linked with the non-alchoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) and ultimately steatohepatitis. I am also applying standard 1H NMR metabolomics methods to study overall metabolic homeostasis in these models.

Graduate Students

Marc MacLeod

Marc McLeod, B.S.
Graduate Student Research Assistant

Research Focus: My current research goals are focused on developing novel magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) techniques to improve categorization of the stage of non-alcoholic fatty liver
disease (NAFLD) noninvasively and develop mechanistic insights into changes of fatty acid oxidation. Towards this end I am undertaking a Ph.D. in biomedical sciences with a  concentration of biochemistry and molecular biology in order to become an independent research scientist. Throughout my 3rd and 4th year of undergraduate I conducted research in the Dr. David Waddell lab on debilitating muscular atrophy through the lens of molecular genetics. In doing so I learned to develop and use reporter constructs in cell culture for the analysis of DNA regulatory elements and subcellular localization of a gene target.

During my PhD rotations decided to join the Dr. Matthew Merritt lab for their expertise in metabolomics experimentation through magnetic resonance (MR) based methodologies and the opportunity to engage computational methods. Under Dr. Merritt’s guidance I have become proficient with MR/MRI & mass spectrometry (MS) based methodologies, the usage of various scripting languages (e.g.matlab, python, R) and modeling approaches to assess metabolic flux at several steps in central carbon metabolism. I now seek to marry the functional insights I glean from isotopic tracer studies of metabolism and progressive changes in transcriptional cascades to study potentialdrug targets that regulate liver damage during a branched chain amino acid and high fat stimulated diet. After completing my Ph.D I want to continue my research into metabolic disease and develop translational insights into the inter-organ etiology of insulin resistance and hyperlipidemia for future remediation efforts.

Anna Rushin

Anna Rushin, B.S.
Graduate Student Research Assistant

Research Focus: My research focuses on understanding disease metabolism using a range of techniques and disease models. I am applying deuterium metabolic imaging to patient-derived xenograft mouse models of glioblastoma. Alongside the imaging, I am characterizing glucose metabolism in glioblastoma cells from multiple patients using NMR and GC-MS. Separately, I am also examining pancreatic islet metabolism using live pancreas slices from mice and organ donors to gain insight into Type 1 Diabetes pathogenesis.

I chose to join the Merritt lab for the people and the range of research techniques and applications available. My background is in molecular biology and biochemistry, where I developed interests in cell signaling and metabolism, but I am particularly fascinated by applied biomedical research. My projects allow me to apply metabolic techniques such as NMR and GC-MS to cancer and diabetes research. Additionally, joining the Merritt lab has also enabled me to gain experience with coding, highly technical procedures, and in vivo imaging.

Mario Chang Reyes

Mario Chang Reyes, M.S.
Graduate Student Research Assistant

Research Focus: My current research is focused on establishing novel combinatorial cancer therapies by identifying compounds synergistic with the chemotherapeutic agent, β-lapachone. Extensive research has shown significant anti-proliferative effects of β-lapachone against several cancers. However, human clinical trials have reported serious side effects caused by β-lapachone treatment. Identifying synergistic compounds with β-lapachone could significantly improve cancer treatment efficacy and overall patient outcome, which is an area of urgent need in the field. To this end, I am utilizing 2H and 13C isotope tracer methods, employing GC-MS, NMR, and deuterium metabolic imaging techniques to study metabolic perturbations in cancer caused by combinatorial treatments with β-lapachone as a way to assess treatment efficacy.

I decided to become a member of the Merritt lab because of the wide variety of research approaches and techniques performed, as well as the overall research environment maintained by the lab members. I previously worked with Dr. Merritt during my Master’s degree research, during which I developed a passion for metabolism and cancer biology. Joining the Merritt lab allowed me to take on projects focusing on cancer metabolism with direct applications to biomedical research while teaching me skills in analytical GC-MS and NMR, isotopomer analysis, in vivo imaging, and statistical coding.