Members and Alumni


Joyce NairMenonJoyce Nair-Menon, Ph.D.
Laboratory Manager - Research Specialist III

During my post-doctoral fellowship at Johns Hopkins University, I investigated the molecular immunological aspects of rejection in Xeno transplantation. As a Research Associate at USC Columbia, I studied the effects of alkylphenols and polychlorinated biphenyls on immune function and reproductive capacity. I also worked on the effects of vitreous on the epithelial to mesenchymal like transformation of retinal epithelial cells leading to proliferative vitreoretinopathy, a major cause of vision loss in developed countries. More recently at MUSC, I was investigating how the malignant nature of lung cancer is driven by epithelial-mesenchymal transformation and cancer stem cells. My current work in the lab focuses on elucidating the role of adherens junctions in cancer progression.

Mary Catherine BridgesMary Catherine Bridges, M.Sc.
Ph.D. Graduate Student

Following my undergraduate career at the University of Georgia, I obtained my Masters degree in Marine Biology from the College of Charleston. For my Masters thesis, I cloned and characterized a novel fluorescent protein from the diseased tissues of a coral species. My background in Molecular Biology facilitated a transition into the biomedical research field. I worked for several years at MUSC in the Pathology Department studying the role of miRNAs in aging and reparative processes of the inner ear. As a Ph.D. student, I am continuing to pursue my interest in RNA biology and non-coding RNAs in the context of pro-tumorigenic transformation of epithelial cells.

Amanda DaulagalaAmanda Daulagala, B.S.
Ph.D. Graduate Student

During my junior year of undergraduate studies, I studied the interaction between two bacteria in the gut microbiota of Drosophila melanogaster. In the senior year, I focused on biochemical studies and investigated Carbon Monoxide effects in redox state in cells. Since obtaining my Bachelor’s degree from the State University of New York at Oswego, I worked in the department of Chemistry at the same university and studied the inhibition of Phosphoenolpyruvate carboxykinase by Diabetic related plants. In addition, I investigated the effect of vacation on certain biomolecules. As a graduate student, I am focusing my studies on the role of the adherens junctions, miRNAs and the RNAi machinery in gastrointestinal diseases.

Alyssa RisnerAlyssa Risner, B.S.
Ph.D. Graduate Student

I graduated from Coastal Carolina University with a Bachelor of Science in Biology. As an undergraduate, I conducted olfactory memory assays using transgenic Drosophila as a model for Alzheimer’s disease. I was also selected as a summer researcher for a National Science Foundation Research Experience for Undergraduates (NSFREU) at Coastal Carolina University to analyze temperature and wind pattern data from NASA’s AURA satellite. To become well-rounded in molecular biology techniques, I participated in the South Carolina IDeA Networks of Biomedical Research Excellence (SC INBRE) program. For this project, I studied the toxic diatom Pseudo-nitzschia which is known to be associated with toxic algal blooms. My current studies as a Ph.D. student at MUSC aim into elucidating novel interactions of cadherin junctions with RNA-binding proteins and small RNAs, and their roles in pro-tumorigenic transformation of epithelial cells.


  • Megan Sheridan - Ph.D. Graduate Student, 1st Year rotation
  • Paul Hager - Summer Student (Darien High School - currently: Dartmouth College)
  • Lauren Rutledge - Summer Student (Centre College)
  • Colin McDowell - Ph.D. Graduate Student, 1st Year rotation
  • Bridgette Wellslager - Ph.D. Graduate Student, 1st Year rotation
  • Trevor Penix - Summer Student (Rochester Institute of Technology)
  • Maddie Davis - Summer Student (College of Charleston)
  • Valentina Ortega - Summer Student (American Heritage High School)
  • Jensen Tomberlin - Ph.D. Graduate Student, 1st Year rotation
  • Katie Garrabrant - Ph.D. Graduate Student, 1st Year rotation



  • Amanda Daulagala: Essay Writing Award, International Student Association, 2020, MUSC
  • Alyssa Risner: T32 Pre-doctoral Clinical and Translational Research Training Award TL1, 2020-21
  • Catherine Bridges: Individual Award for Excellence in Service, 2020, MUSC
  • Catherine Bridges: Travel Award, ASCB-EMBO Annual meeting 2019, Washington, DC
  • Amanda Daulagala: Travel Award, Dept. of Regenerative Medicine and Cell Biology to attend AACR Annual meeting 2019, Atlanta, GA
  • Catherine Bridges: Scholarship Award, Keystone RNA-Protein Interactions meeting, Whistler, Canada, 2019
  • Catherine Bridges: TL Blue Ribbon Award, Poster Presentation, ACTS Annual Conference 2018, Washington, DC
  • Catherine Bridges: Travel Award, Dept. of Regenerative Medicine and Cell Biology to attend ASCB-EMBO Annual meeting 2017, Philadelphia, PA
  • Catherine Bridges: T32 Pre-doctoral Clinical and Translational Research Training Award TL1, 2017-19