Former Members


Julie Breitenbach
Laboratory Manager
Phone: (734)615-6156
E-mail: jmbbach@umich.edu

Julie was the Paulson lab manager from 2001 to 2014. She worked in different labs over the years eventually moving away from science into laboratory management. Julie's special talent  in the lab was finding things that no one else can find.


Biswa Ramani
Graduate Student
Phone: (734)615-6156
E-mail: bramani@med.umich.edu

Biswa was a MD/PhD student who defended his thesis in 2015 in the Neuroscience Graduate Program. He explored the pathogenic mechanisms underlying SCA3, which is caused by an abnormal polyglutamine expansion in ataxin-3. His work sought to determine the mechanisms by which mutant ataxin-3 accumulates and aggregates in the brain, using a novel knock-in mouse model of SCA3. He also identified aberrant transcriptional changes that may contribute to toxicity in SCA3. He is currently completing his medical degree work. 


Bo Wang
Graduate Student
Phone: (734)615-6156
E-mail: makiwang@med.umich.edu

Bo Wang was a MD/PhD student who defended his Neuroscience Graduate PhD thesis in 2015. His dual degree is with Shanghai Jiao Tong University where he is now completing his medical degree work. Bo studied the in vivo function of Ube2W, an E2 ubiquitin conjugating enzyme that uniquely links ubiquitin to the amino-termini of proteins rather than to internal lysine residues. He generated and characterized Ube2W knockout mice, in the process establishing that this unusual E2 is important in a variety of tissues. He also explored the role of Ube2w in regulating the neurodegenerative disease protein in Huntington disease, Htt.


Li Zeng
Postdoctoral Fellow
Phone: (734) 615-6156
E-mail: lizeng@umich.edu

Li was a postdoctoral fellow in the Paulson lab until 2014. Her research projects focused on 1) identifying the mechanism by which ataxin-3 modulates gene expression, 2) testing whether ataxin-3 modulates toxicity of a second polyQ disease protein, huntingtin, in a HD knock-in mouse model, and 3) defining the relationship between Ubiquilin 2 and polyglutamine disease proteins.


Graham Atkin
Former Graduate Student
Phone: (734) 615-6156
E-mail: atking@med.umich.edu

Graham Atkin was a neuroscience graduate student who defended his PhD thesis in 2014.   He studied the role of ubiquitin proteasome pathways in handling the Alzheimer’s disease protein APP and in modulating synaptic plasticity. His thesis worked focused on how the F-box adaptor subunit protein, Fbxo2, regulates activity-dependent receptor trafficking and expression in normal and pathological contexts. He is now an Assistant Professor at Michigan State University.


K. Matthew Scaglione, PhD
Former Research Fellow
Phone: (314)322-3594
E-mail: mscaglione@mcw.edu

The maintenance of proper protein quality control in the neuron is essential for proper neuronal function. Dr. Scaglione’s research involved identifying the mechanism that the protein quality control ubiquitin ligase CHIP (C-terminus of Hsc70-interacting protein) utilizes to facilitate the ubiquitination of chaperone bound substrates. Dr. Scaglione had a second project which focuses on determining the biological role of specific ubiquitin chain linkages.
Update: In August 2013, Matt began a tenure track assistant professorship at the Medical College of Wisconsin, Milwaukee, where he continues his work on ubiquitin pathways begun as a postdoctoral fellow in the Paulson lab. His current email address is mscaglione@mcw.edu.  


Kai Chun Chen
Postdoctoral Fellow
E-mail: dionysus.chen@gmail.com

Kai Chun is originally from Taiwan.  She received her PhD in biochemistry with the focus on the biophysical properties of protein folding.  Her projects in the Paulson Lab involved identifying the roles of ubiquilin-2 in the pathogenic mechanisms of Amyltrophic lateral sclerosis.  She also worked on the SCA3 pathogenesis caused by the polyQ expansion in ataxin-3.


Katiuska Luna-Cancalon, PhD
Former Post-doctoral Fellow
Phone: (734) 615-5634
E-mail: katiuska@med.umich.edu

Dr. Luna-Cancalon was a postdoctoral fellow in the Paulson and Shakkottai labs. She received her PhD in Neuroscience at the Eberhard-Karls University Tuebingen, in Germany, where she focused on studying physiological changes in the motor system during learning and recovery of motor behavior after injury. Her research involved understanding neuronal dysfunction in two movement disorders, ataxia and dystonia. Her studies were based on the hypothesis that neurons in the cerebellum are key players in the progression of these disorders. Her goal was to characterize the physiological properties of these individual neurons in order to identify targets for pharmacological treatment. She is also interested in in vivo delivery therapies for ataxia. Dr. Luna-Cancalon now works as an academic advisor and counselor for the University.


Eiko Minakawa
Former Research Fellow
Phone: (734)615-6156
E-mail: minakawa@ncnp.go.jp

Eiko was a research fellow in the Paulson lab from 2011 to 2013. She received her MD from Kyoto University, Japan, in 2003. After completing her neurology residency, she joined the PhD program at Kyoto University Graduate School of Medicine in 2009, where she worked on generating a novel cell model of Parkinson's disease. She joined the Paulson lab in 2011 as a visiting researcher and then worked as a research fellow. Her main research interest lies in the mechanism and treatment of neurodegenerative diseases; her research at the Paulson lab focused on elucidating how multiple protein quality control systems are integrated and involved in the pathomechanism of neurodegenerative diseases through studying the function of ubiquilin-2, a causative gene of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis/frontotemporal lobar degeneration (ALS/FTLD).
Update
In August 2013, Eiko returned to Japan as a research fellow at Department of Degenerative Neurological Diseases, National Institute of Neuroscience, National Center of Neurology and Psychiatry. She continues to collaborate with the Paulson lab in the ubiquilin-2 research. 


Takahiro Seki
Former Postdoctoral Fellow
Phone: (734)615-6156
E-mail: tseki@umich.edu


James M. Dell’Orco
Former Sr. Research Assistant / Lab Manager
Phone: (734) 615-5634
E-mail: jamesmd@umich.edu

Jim served as primary research support staff to the Paulson Lab from 2007-2011. His research interests involved the molecular and neurobiological underpinnings of neurodegenerative disease as it applies to the human condition from a systems neuroscience perspective. Jim is currently working in the laboratory of Dr. Vikram Shakkottai here at the University of Michigan.


Lijie Gong
Former Research Assistant

Lijie was a research assistant focusing on functional regulation of deubiquitinating enzyme (DUB) activity and studying if DUB expression levels could be altered by overexpressing others in vitro. DUBs are a family of proteins that are critical to protein degradation and overall cellular homeostasis. She is also interested in identifying which DUBs are necessary for cell survival in various stress, especially when cells undergo mutant protein misfolding and aggregation in polyglutamine neurodegenerative disease. Lijie now works as a research assistant elsewhere in the university.


John Konen
Former Research Assistant

John originally began work in the Paulson lab exploring RNA interference (RNAi) as a selective therapy for Alzheimer’s disease, assaying miRNA-based constructs targeting both APP and tau transcripts. He spent some time working on protein quality control pathways and their role in neurodegeneration, specifically the ubiquitin ligase CHIP and the Ub-conjugating enzyme UbE2W. He received his B.S. in Neuroscience from UM in 2010 and is currently in Medical School at Michigan State University.


Wei Ling Tsou
Former Graduate Student

Wei Ling was a neuroscience graduate student and PhD candidate at the National Yang Ming University in Taiwan. She joined the Paulson lab during the summer of 2008 to further her training in neurodegenerative disease. Her studies focused on the design and testing of RNAi as a therapy for Spinocerebellar Ataxia type 6 (SCA6). She also worked on determining whether disease-linked mRNA splice variants (/CACNA1A/) can be specifically targeted using shRNA-based RNAi systems. Wei Ling is now a postdoctoral fellow at Wayne State School of Medicine.


Ana Djarmati, PhD 
Former Postdoctoral Fellow 
  

Dr. Djarmati was a Fellow in the Paulson lab for two years, finishing in 2010. She holds a PhD in Molecular Biology and Biochemistry from the University of Belgrade, Serbia, and received part of her doctoral and initial postdoctoral training with Prof. Dr. Christine Klein at the University of Lübeck, Germany. While molecular genetics of movement disorders has been her main scientific interest, in the Paulson lab Dr. Djarmati directed her research toward functional studies of the Parkin protein, a ubiquitin ligase implicated in Parkinson's disease pathogenesis. Dr. Djarmati's research was funded by a German research fellowship.
Update: Dr. Djarmati returned to Germany where she is a Research Group Leader in the Institute of Neurogenetics at the University of Luebeck, Germany. Her email is ana.westenberger@neuro.uni-luebeck.de


Mary Y. Heng, PhD 
Former Research Fellow

After completing her neuroscience PhD thesis at UM, Dr. Heng performed a brief postdoctoral research fellow in the Paulson lab in 2008-2009.  She continued work on a novel knock-in mouse model of Huntington disease in which she discovered early formation of microaggregates and  early involvement of autophagic pathways in disease pathogenesis. Dr. Heng’s research during her postdoc also investigated the role of the protein quality control ubiquitin ligase, CHIP, in the normal aging brain and in Huntington Disease. 
Update: Currently, Dr. Heng is a Postdoctoral Fellow at UCSF.  Her email address is mary.heng@ucsf.edu


Edgardo Rodriguez, PhD
Former Research Investigator

Dr. Rodriguez was a postdoctoral fellow in the lab from 2006 to 2010, focusing on the development of RNAi therapy for neurodegenerative diseases. In the lab, he designed and tested miRNA-based RNAi delivery systems in cell-based and animal models of Alzheimer’s disease, Spinocerebellar Ataxia type 3, and Spinocerebellar Ataxia type 6. These continuing projects are focused on improving the safety and efficacy of viral-based RNAi as potential therapy for various human neurodegenerative diseases.  His work was funded in part by a training grant through the NIH.
Update: Dr. Rodriguez moved to the University of Iowa where he worked as a Research Assistant Professor with Dr. Beverly Davidson. In September of 2014, he will begin a faculty position as assistant professor at the University of Florida. His current email address is edgardo-rodriguez@uiowa.edu


Masayoshi Tada, MD, PhD
Former Research Fellow 
  

Dr. Tada was a research associate in the Paulson lab from 2008 to 2010, when he returned to his academic home, the Department of Neurology at Niigata University, Japan. Masa received his MD from Akita University in 1997, and his PhD in molecular neuroscience from Niigata University in 2007. His thesis examined the DNA repair function of aprataxin, the causative gene product for ataxia with oculomotor apraxia 1. He completed his neurology training at Niigata. Dr. Tada has a special interest in spinocerebellar ataxias. His research interests include exploring the role of abnormal protein aggregates in the development of neurodegenerative disease. In the Paulson lab , he created cell-based models to capture the earliest steps in oligomers formation by the polyglutamine disease protein, ataxin-3. With these novel models, he  then screened libraries of compounds to identify potentially useful compounds for preventive therapy in SCA3 and possibly other polyglutamine neurodegenerative diseases. 
Update: Dr. Tada returned to Niigata in 2010 where is an Assistant Professor in Neurology. He continues to collaborate with the Paulson lab in the search for drugs that reduce oligomers formation by the disease protein in SCA3. His email address is tadamasa@bri.niigata-u.ac.jp


Sokol V. Todi, PhD
Former Research Investigator

Originally from Tirana, Albania, Dr. Todi finished his undergraduate studies in Biology at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, received a doctorate in Neuroscience at the University of Iowa, and finished his postdoctoral work with the Paulson lab in December 2010. . Dr. Todi’s research in the lab focused primarily on cellular properties and functional regulation of the polyglutamine disease protein, ataxin-3. Ataxin-3 is a deubiquitinating enzyme, one member of a family of enzymes comprising almost 100 proteins in humans. These enzymes are integral components of ubiquitin pathways, yet very little is known about their function in the nervous system. Based on recent findings that ataxin-3 activity is carefully regulated in cells, Dr. Todi is expanding his research to other deubiquitinating enzymes, and their relationship to neurodegenerative processes. Dr. Todi's work in the lab was funded by grants form the Nations Ataxia foundation and a K99 Pathway to Independence Award through the NIH.
Update:  In December 2010, Sokol began a tenure track assistant professorship in Pharmacology at Wayne State University where he continues his work begun as postdoctoral fellow in the  Paulson lab. eh remains a collaborator o studies in the Paulson lab. His current email address is stodi@med.wayne.edu


Aislinn Williams 
Former MD-PhD Graduate Student

Aislinn was a neuroscience graduate student and MD/PhD trainee at the University of Iowa, who finished her thesis in Ann Arbor when the lab moved to the University of Michigan.  In the lab, she studied protein aggregation and protein quality control in mouse models of spinocerebellar ataxia type 3 (a.k.a Machado-Joseph disease). Aislinn's studies investigated how protein misfolding and aggregation contribute to neuronal dysfunction in neurodegenerative diseases. She is hopeful her work  has advanced our understanding of how the disease develops over time and what interventions can be utilized to stop it. Aislinn successfully competed for a Predoctoral NRSA fellowship when performing her thesis work.
Update:  Aislinn completed her MD, PhD at Iowa in 2009 and recently began her Psychiatry residency at the University of Michigan. Her current e-mail address is aiwillia@med.umich.edu 


Brett Winborn
Former Graduate Student

The complexity of the ubiquitination pathways is emerging, and Brett studied how this complexity is regulated. In his thesis work, he determined that the neurodegenerative disease protein ataxin-3 is a deubiquitinating enzyme that edits topologically complex ubiquitin chains. His main project was to decipher the biochemical properties of ataxin-3, such as its ubiquitin binding and protease activities. Brett also worked to identify the role of ataxin-3 in the cell, especially relating to pathways of ubiquitin-dependent protein degradation.  
Update:  After Brett completed his PhD in cellular and molecular biology at Iowa in 2009, Brett became a Postdoctoral Research Associate at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee, working with J. Paul Taylor. His current e-mail address is brett.winborn@gmail.com


Gautam Rajpal, PhD
Former Postdoctoral Research Fellow

Dr. Rajpal received his BA in Biology from the University of Pennsylvania and his PhD in Cell and Molecular Biology from the University of Michigan where he studied the process of insulin folding in pancreatic beta cells. Dr. Rajpal’s interest in protein folding led him to pursue neurodegenerative disease in which protein (mis)folding plays a prominent role. Dr. Rajpal is currently utilizing a high-throughput screen approach to identify inhibitors of Ataxin-3 aggregation, as well researching antisense oligonucleotide technology to treat SCA3.
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