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Lab Members

Mary Munson

Mary Munson, PhD

Professor

Office: LRB 905
Lab: LRB 970

Tel: 508-856-8318
  
Mary Munson was a double major in Chemistry and Biology at Washington University (St. Louis), receiving her bachelor's degree in 1989. In 1996, she received her Ph.D. from Yale University in Molecular Biophysics and Biochemistry. She was a postdoctoral fellow in the Department of Molecular Biology at Princeton University, where she was awarded both American Heart Association and NIH postdoctoral fellowships. She joined the faculty of Biochemistry and Molecular Pharmacology in 2001. Along with funding from NIGMS for her exocytosis research, she has also received funding from the DoD for the VPS45 project, and, in 2015, was awarded the inaugural Bassick Family Worcester Foundation Award for the nuclear export project. In addition to her passion for research, she has also been involved with teaching and curriculum development for the GSBS, and is the recipient of several Dean’s awards for outstanding contributions. She is currently the chair of the ASCB’s Women in Cell Biology committee

Other Affiliations

Dante Lepore

Dante Lepore, PhD

NIH Postdoctoral Fellow

I received my PhD at Cornell University in 2016 for Biochemistry, Molecular, and Cellular Biology. I ’m a postdoctoral researcher studying the structural architecture of the exocyst complex using biochemical techniques and negative stain electron microscopy.

Favorite Lab Equipment:  Ball mill for cryogenic grinding
Favorite Lab Buffer:  Tris (pH 8.0) 200mM Sodium Citrate because I’m a little salty and slightly basic
Favorite Candy:  Starburst
Favorite music:  Country Music

Jen Forcina

Jen Forcina, PhD

Postdoctoral Associate

I earned my PhD in Molecular Biology, Cell Biology, and Biochemistry from Brown University in 2018. In general, I am interested in how membranes fuse and the proteins that regulate these fusion events. My post-doctoral research focuses on the VPS45 protein, and I am using both cell biology and biochemical approaches to investigate its function.

Favorite lab equipment:  P2 pipette
Favorite Lab Buffer:  Tris pH 8.0, because it's versatile
Favorite Candy:  Dark Chocolate
 

Leonora Martinez-Nunez

Leonora Martinez-Nunez, PhD

Postdoctoral Associate

I earned my Ph.D. in Cell Biology and Microbiology at the Center of Scientific Research and Higher Education of Ensenada (CICESE) in Baja California, Mexico (2016). As a postdoc, my work focuses on studying the architecture of the Exocyst complex across morphogenetically diverse eukaryotes. Additionally, I have a great interest in Scientific Illustration and Science Visualization. Visit my portfolio here.

Illustration featured in the Introduction to the June 2020 Special Issue of Protein Science, entitled “Cellular Dynamics

Favorite lab equipment:  ultracentrifuge
Favorite Buffer:  PE buffer, 80% ethanol by volume
Favorite Candy:  Reese’s
Favorite Music:  90’s grunge
 

Mike Feyder

Mike Feyder

Graduate Student

After graduating from Emmanuel college, I worked at Brown University as a research tech for 2 years before coming to UMass Med. I work on structural biology of the exocyst complex, mapping out interactions with SNAREs and trafficking proteins using cryo EM, and other biophysical techniques.

Favorite Lab equipment:  FPLC
Favorite Lab buffer:  Liquid nitrogen, because I'm so cool 
Favorite candy:  Skittles
Favorite music:  Hip hop 

Kristyn Norris

Kristyn Norris

Graduate Student

I graduated from Mount Holyoke College with a B.A. in Biochemistry (2016). In lab, I work on the VPS45 project, connecting genotype and phenotype on a variety of different levels. I perform characterization and functional analysis of neutrophils and other cell types that have been modified using CRISPR/Cas9. I am also studying the VPS45 protein and how the mutations are affecting it using an array of biochemical techniques to look at function and conformation.

Favorite Lab equipment:  that one pipette aid that actually works
Favorite Lab buffer:  pH 2 Glycine Buffer, I deal out harsh burns 
Favorite candy:  Skittles
Favorite music:  Classic “dad” rock and punk rock 
 

Billie Reneker

Billie Reneker

Lab Technician

I earned my B.S. from Georgia College and State University in December of 2019. As an undergraduate, my project focused on identifying protein-protein interactions of the Sec6 protein through a classic genetic screen. As a member of the Munson lab, I am excited to continue studying the exocyst complex through more biochemical and biophysical approaches as I try my hand at a few different projects.  

Favorite Lab equipment: DNA gel electrophoretic equipment  
Favorite Lab buffer: Elution buffer 
Favorite candy: Snickers 
Favorite music: 2000’s alternative
 

Brenda Thomas

Brenda Thomas

Lab Technician

I earned my B.S in Biology and minored in Chemistry from Worcester State University. I am focusing on the impact of the dysfunctional VPS45 protein and understanding its role in Severe Congenital Neutropenia (SCN). Both biochemistry and neutrophil biology are applied in researching this study.  

Favorite Lab equipment: Confocal Microscope  
Favorite candy: Snickers 
Favorite music: Gospel music
 

Rob Orr

Rob Orr

Visiting Graduate Student (WPI)

I graduated from the University of Colorado at Boulder with a B.S. in Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology. I'm currently a PhD candidate at WPI, but collaborate and work in Mary's lab for all things biochemistry.  I have the unique position in the lab of working with plants, and my work is trying to discover how plants self-organize to drive polarized growth.  This isn't only a plant specific question, but could have broader implications for all polarized systems. 

Favorite lab equipment: Dishwasher
Favorite book: The Name of the Wind 
 

Brittany Jette

Brittany Jette

Undergraduate Student (WPI)

I am a senior at Worcester Polytechnic Institute studying Biology and Biotechnology with a minor in Global Public Health. I am currently working on categorizing exocyst mutants and their corresponding human diseases, as well as creating and testing the mutant phenotypes in yeast cells.

Favorite lab equipment: The scrub brush
Favorite candy: Hershey’s Bar
Favorite music: Everything and anything 
 

Jacqueline Forson

Jacqueline Forson

Undergraduate Associate (WPI)

I am a senior at Worcester Polytechnic Institute studying Biochemistry and Biology & Biotechnology. I am currently studying exocyst-Sec1 binding interactions during SNARE assembly and membrane fusion.

Favorite Lab equipment: The sink
Favorite Lab buffer: Lysis Buffer
Favorite Candy: Raisinets
Favorite Music: Indie rock
 

Camille Pearce

Camille Pearce

Undergraduate Associate (WPI)

I am a senior studying Biology and Biotechnology at Worcester Polytechnic Institute. I am currently working on characterizing the CorEx bundles of the exocyst complex in yeast using biochemical techniques.

Favorite Lab equipment: The incubator
Favorite Lab buffer: M9 buffer
Favorite Candy: Reese’s
Favorite Music: Pop
 

Laura Marcotte

Laura Marcotte, PhD

Visiting Assistant Professor

Assistant Professor

Assumption College, Worcester, MA
https://www.assumption.edu/faculty-profile/laura-l-marcotte-phd