Post-Doctoral Fellows

Leslie Climer, Ph.D.

Post-Doctoral Fellow

Biography

Leslie received her Bachelor’s degree from Brigham Young University in Laie, Hawaii. Afterward, she tried her hand at research in a few different topics. She studied childhood leukemia at Dartmouth Medical School in NH and alcoholism at the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center in CO. While studying osteoporosis at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS) in AR, Leslie decided that she would need to obtain a Ph.D. in order to fulfill her dream of taking over the world. Leslie successfully defended her dissertation from UAMS on the topic of Golgi-related protein trafficking and is now a Postdoctoral Fellow at Baylor University in the Simmons Lab — saving the world one ear at a time.

Post-Doctoral Fellows

Doctoral Graduate Students

Kaitlin Murtha

Doctoral Graduate Student

Biography

Kaitlin is a third-year Ph.D. student in the Biology Department. She obtained a B.S. in Biology from Wagner College in Staten Island. Although Wagner was a small, liberal-arts school, she fell in love with molecular and cellular biology after taking a class in psychopharmacology during her freshman year. Due to the lack of research labs at Wagner, she spent her summers interning at a biopharmaceutical company called Regeneron. It was there where she decided to pursue a career in research. She enjoys the thrill that comes with finding answers to questions by doing benchwork and is happiest when working with a team. Throughout her research in the Simmons lab, she aims to understand the roles of calcium-binding proteins in outer hair cells (OHCs) of the inner ear. She enjoys spending time with her two dogs: Tex and Bamm Bamm and loves to bake in her spare time. 

Yang Yang, MS

Doctoral Graduate Student
Anhui, China

Biography

He obtained his Master’s degree in Genetics and Development. He was trying to rescue aberrant embryos using different techniques including genetic modification. After joining the Cellular/Molecular/Health/Disease program at Baylor, he is now trying to rescue mice from hearing loss. He hopes that graduate research will help to improve his problem-solving skills and help him to complete more challenges. He loves all kinds of music. He has played the violin for nearly 10 years. Sometimes he also plays guitar if there is no one around.

Research Staff

Aubrey Hornak

Lab Manager/Research Associate

Biography

Aubrey is a long-time colleague of Dr. Simmons and has probably clocked more hours in his laboratory than anyone. She joined the Simmons Lab in 1999 as an undergraduate in biology at Washington University in St. Louis, where she received both her BA in Biology and BFA in Painting. She took a minor detour then made her way out to Los Angeles with Dr. Simmons to manage his lab at UCLA… and, apparently, to find a husband. After yet another detour – this time into the interior fabric design world – and becoming a mom, she has reprieved her role as the Simmons Lab Manager at Baylor.

Aside from immunofluorescence and confocal microscopy, Aubrey is addicted to sewing. She and her husband Robert have a spectacular collection of homemade pajama bottoms that they cycle through on a regular basis. She also loves Sci-Fi, woodworking, roller skating, British telly, baking and cooking… though if you invite her to dinner, you should know that cilantro and olives make her gag. Lastly, she has legitimately slipped on 3 banana peels in her life and will be happy to provide photographic proof of said peels.

Undergraduate Students

Forrest Jones (2021)

Undergraduate Researcher
Donna, TX

Biography

Forrest is a senior studying Biology and Religion on the Pre-Med track. He has been a member of the Simmons lab since 2018, and most his work focuses on quantifying gene expression through mRNA and protein analyses. Learning about the intricacies of the human body fascinates Forrest, so learning and discovering more about the inner ear has been a very enjoyable experience for him! In his spare time, Forrest enjoys wade fishing, exercising, playing the guitar, and spending time with friends and family. After graduation, Forrest plans to attend medical school and return to South Texas as a family physician.

JinHee Kim (2021)

Undergraduate Researcher

Biography

My name is Jin Hee Kim and I am an international student from South Korea. I grew up as a missionary kid in Central Asia and I am graduating from Baylor as a University Scholar with concentrations in Biology and Public Health. I am working with cell culture in Simmons lab, and I am studying the effects of Antimycin and Thapsigargin on cell signaling in mammalian cells. I am looking forward to studying Global Health in Yale School of Public Health in August. As a follower of Jesus, I hope to use the tools of public health for spreading the good news of the gospel.

Andy Le (2022)

Undergraduate Researcher
Fort Worth, TX

Biography

Andy is a Junior Biochemistry major in the honors program and pre-medical track. Andy joined Simmons Lab the summer after his freshman year because he wanted to practically apply what he learned in the classroom. Andy has benefited from the mentorship of older lab members and learning the intricacies of bench research. In his free time Andy enjoys playing intramural sports with Phi Chi, making pour over coffee, and watching movies by Christopher Nolan.

Jack Charles (2022)

Undergraduate Researcher
Nashville, TN

Biography

Jack is junior at Baylor University studying Neuroscience on a pre-med track with hopes of attending medical school to continue his interest in science and medicine. In joining the Simmons lab, he looked for exposure to the problem-solving side of medicine and contributing to the world of scientific knowledge. In doing so, he found an appreciation outside of his major for molecular biology and currently enjoys dissections of the inner ear, immunocytochemistry, and western blots to discover the role oncomodulin in regulating hearing loss. In his free time, he volunteers as an EMT, golfs, and hangs out with his friends.

Namitha Palnati (2022)

Undergraduate Researcher
Glendale, AZ

Biography

I am studying biology on the pre-med track at Baylor University. I got involved in research to further my exploration in the sciences as my curiosity and love for learning expands beyond the classroom. After graduation, I hope to attend medical school. I aspire to become a physician as a I believe medicine combines the best of both worlds— blending my passion for service and love for sciences in a beautiful way to heal people. At the moment, I am interested in neurology. I love traveling and spending time with friends and family. 

Pierce Thompson (2022)

Undergraduate Researcher
Kansas City, KS

Biography

Pierce Thompson is from Kansas City, Kansas, studying biology with a concentration in cell and molecular biology at Baylor University. Pierce initially got involved in research because of his interest in learning aspects of biology that were beyond the scope of a classroom. Pierce enjoys spending time with friends and playing ping pong in his free time. 

Sinchana Basoor (2023)

Undergraduate Researcher
Tyler, TX

Biography

Sinchana is a sophomore cell and molecular biology major in the honors program. She is interested in pursuing a career in medicine, particularly a surgical specialty. Sinchana believes that hearing provides a unique depth of connection to the world, particularly through the human capacity to communicate and interact. She hopes to contribute to attempts to understand the mechanisms behind hearing and explore the possibility of ameliorating hearing loss. Sinchana spends her free time drawing, reading historical fiction novels, and attempting to roller skate. 

Ritu Chanagiri (2023)

Undergraduate Researcher
Cupertino, CA

Biography

Ritu is a sophomore Biology major and Business minor on the pre-health track from Cupertino, California. Ritu got involved in the lab in hopes of learning new techniques and having the opportunity of contributing to the fascinating hearing research being done. In her free time, she loves to spend time with family and friends as well as design jewelry.

Yehyung Kim (2023)

Undergraduate Researcher

Biography

Andrew Yehyung Kim is a Sophomore at Baylor University majoring in Biology with a minor in Biochemistry. He was born in Seoul, South Korea, but has lived most of his life in Chicago, IL and Dubai, UAE. As an undergraduate member of the lab, he is always grateful that he could learn from the amazing senior staff and contribute to the research. In his free time, he enjoys reading, meditating, and baking. 

Post-Doctoral Fellows

Lab Alumni

Andrew Cox, MS

Lab Manager/Research Associate
Batesville, AR

Andrew is a Baylor (M.S.) and University of Arkansas (B.S.) alumni. He loves helping to solve problems through research. His wet lab skills span: biological molecule (DNA, RNA, proteins) isolation and analysis, surgical removal and microdissection of rodent cochlea, perfusions, immunochemistry, mammalian cell culture, genetic engineering, mass spectrometry, and confocal fluorescent microscopy. In his free time he enjoys jiu jitsu, running and exercising, and going on outdoor excursions with his family.

Update: Pursuing Ph.D. at University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center

Taronish Madeka (2018)

Undergraduate Researcher
Plano, Texas

Taronish is in the middle of his senior year pursuing a B.S. in Biology on a pre-health track. He became involved in scientific research to obtain new skills and explore various career directions. More importantly, he is thrilled to be playing a small part in contributing knowledge to the world, which could potentially improve the quality of life for people in the future. He says “conducting research in the Simmons lab has been a privilege”, and he is hoping that his experiences will boost his pursuit of a medical degree.

Pic of Preston Simpson

Preston Simpson (2020)

Undergraduate Researcher
Allen, Texas

Preston Simpson is from Allen, Texas and is studying biology at Baylor University. Preston got involved in research because he wanted to learn more about science beyond what was being taught in the classroom. In his free time, Preston enjoys reading and spending time with his family.

Pic of Preston Simpson

Hannah Gage (2020)

Research Technician/Undergraduate Researcher
Fountain Hills, AZ

Hannah is a junior Biology major and French minor from Fountain Hills, Arizona. As a lab assistant, she performs much of the genotyping for different mouse colonies and loves contributing to the exciting research being done. After graduation, she plans to pursue an M.S. in Genetic Counseling. When not in lab or in class, Hannah is a member of Alpha Chi Omega and loves hiking, spending time with friends, and listening to music.

Jemima McCluskey

Research Associate/Lab Technician
Canton, MI

Jemima studied biology and biochemistry at Baylor University. She got involved in research because she wanted to explore other options besides medical school, and found that she enjoys working in a laboratory setting. She really likes the general research process: coming up with a research question or hypothesis, designing an experiment, and getting an answer (usually in the form of more questions). She also like learning and developing new skills. A personal interest of hers is reading, and she tries to read at least one book a week.

Update: Jemima began pursuing her M.S. in Civil and Environmental Engineering in August of 2018 at UT San Antonio where she works on using DNA tracers for aquifer characterization.

 

Kelsey Chaykowski (2019)

Undergraduate Researcher
Manhattan Beach, CA

Kelsey is a Junior Biology major from Manhattan Beach, CA. In her free time, she loves to travel, play tennis, and spend time with friends and family. Currently, she is studying to pursue a career in the pharmaceutical industry and become a part of the drug research and discovery process. Getting to be involved in undergraduate research has been an enriching experience as she puts it “research has expanded my learning beyond the knowledge gained in the classroom. So far, I have loved gaining a deeper understanding for science and getting the opportunity to apply these new skills in an exciting field of research.”

Update: Pursuing Ph.D. at University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center

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Banahene Glover (2021)

Undergraduate Researcher

Briana Walker (2018)

Undergraduate Researcher
Pflugerville, TX

Brianna enjoys being new to this (research) and learning something each day. “Applying what I learned in class during lab is valuable to my growth as a student and eventually a professional.” Specifically she has worked on PCR experiments dealing with the application and purification process and also designing primers for PCR. Her work also involves understanding the underlying mechanisms of the outer hair cells and its proteins. She is currently performing immunocytochemistry experiments on fixed cochlear tissue and analyzing some outer hair cell proteins via fluorescent confocal microscopy.

Fun fact – She plays three instruments: flute, piano, and guitar.
Pic of Preston Simpson

Matthew Tateossian (2020)

Undergraduate Researcher
Houston, Texas

Matthew is a Baylor University Scholar, and wants to become an otolaryngologist and spend his days restoring people’s hearing. “I think hearing is a fascinating and even indispensable part of life – but I didn’t want to have to wait until medical school or even residency to learn about the mechanisms and biology of the ear, so I joined the Simmons lab. The idea that our discoveries might one day translate into a world where more people can enjoy music or hear the voices of their loved ones greatly excites me!” He loves listening to classical music, playing the violin, and composing music! Also, if you ask him about it, he’ll tell you why he has three citizenships….

Pic of Preston Simpson

Savannah Brakefield (2020)

Undergraduate Researcher
Houston, TX

Savannah is studying cell and molecular biology at Baylor University. She enjoys the privilege it is to study and learn alongside astute colleagues and leading mentors. Her aim in the lab is to understand the changes in ovi cochlear connections that relate to aging using immunohistochemistry and fluorescent microscopy. She hopes to pursue a Ph.D. in the near future and continue a career in research. In her free time, she enjoys camping, spending time with friends and family, and playing guitar.