Van Andel Institute Graduate School Alumni Association

The mission of the Van Andel Institute Graduate School Alumni Association is to provide support and connections for our alumni, mentoring for current students, and continued interest in the mission and impact of Van Andel Institute. Click here for our Alumni Association guidelines.

Alumni Newsletter

Get all the latest Van Andel Institute Graduate School news in your inbox twice a year! The newsletter includes upcoming Institute events, recent publications, updates on current students and recent graduates, along with Alumni Association information.

To provide suggestions or information for the newsletter, contact the Director of Student Support Services Alli Roman at Alli.Roman@vai.edu or 616.234.5536.

Past Newsletters:
May 2019
September 2018
February 2018
September 2017
February 2017
September 2016
February 2016

Van Andel Institute Graduate School’s alumni have gone on to pursue excellent careers in academia, research and industry. Please see the table below for a list of alumni.

List of Alumni

Alumni Emery Haley, Ph.D.
Mentor Juan Du, Ph.D.
Graduation 2022
Thesis/Disseration Title Untangling the structure-function relationship of the chemosensory ion channel TRPM5 by single-particle cryo-EM and patch-clamp electrophysiology
Current Placement

Science/Medical Writer, The Med Writers

Alumni Maggie Chassé, Ph.D.
Mentor Patrick Grohar, M.D., Ph.D.
Graduation 2021
Thesis/Disseration Title Therapeutically targeting SWI/SNF dysregulated pediatric solid tumors
Current Placement

Postdoctoral Fellow
Harvard Medical School
Zon Laboratory, Boston Children’s Hospital

Alumni Wooyoung Choi, Ph.D.
Mentor Wei Lü, Ph.D.
Graduation 2021
Thesis/Disseration Title Structural basis for molecular gating of two ion channels involved in cellular calcium homeostasis: CALHM2 and TRPC3
Current Placement

Postdoctoral Fellow
Cheng Laboratory, University of California, San Francisco

Alumni Zachary DeBruine, Ph.D.
Mentor Karsten Melcher, Ph.D.
Graduation 2021
Thesis/Disseration Title Structural mechanisms of Wnt-mediated Frizzled activation
Current Placement

Postdoctoral Fellow
Triche Laboratory, Van Andel Institute

Alumni Katie Hollis, M.S.
Mentor Bart Williams, Ph.D.
Graduation 2021
Thesis/Disseration Title Untangling the specific functions of individual Wnt receptors
Current Placement

Executive Director
Down Syndrome Association of West Michigan

Alumni Robert Vaughan, Ph.D.
Mentor Scott Rothbart, Ph.D.
Graduation 2021
Thesis/Disseration Title Biochemical studies of the E3 ubiquitin ligases UHRF1 and UHRF2
Current Placement

Postdoctoral Research Associate
MacKeigan Lab, Michigan State University

Alumni Leslie Wyman, Ph.D.
Mentor Darren Moore, Ph.D.
Graduation 2021
Thesis/Disseration Title Biochemical studies of LRRK2 dimerization and enzymatic activity
Current Placement

President and CEO
Lakeside Analytical, Inc.

Alumni Lindsey Cunningham, Ph.D.
Mentor Darren Moore, Ph.D.
Graduation 2020
Thesis/Disseration Title Exploring retromer deficiency as a mechanism of LRRK2-induced Parkinson’s disease
Current Placement
Alumni Minge Du, Ph.D.
Mentor Huilin Li, Ph.D.
Graduation 2020
Thesis/Disseration Title Structural studies of bacterial pili assembly by the usher and chaperone
Current Placement

Postdoctoral Fellow
Li Laboratory, Van Andel Institute

Alumni Guillermo Flores, Ph.D.
Mentor Patrick Grohar, M.D., Ph.D.
Graduation 2020
Thesis/Disseration Title Disrupting the EWS/FLI-RNAPII axis as a therapy for Ewing sarcoma
Current Placement

Completing M.D.-Ph.D. at Michigan State University College of Human Medicine

Alumni Jamie Grit, Ph.D.
Mentor Matt Steensma, M.D.
Graduation 2020
Thesis/Disseration Title Genetic and epigenetic regulation of cell signaling guides the clinical progression of NF1-related neurofibromas
Current Placement

Postdoctoral Fellow
Steensma Laboratory, Van Andel Institute

Alumni Nicole Vander Schaaf, Ph.D.
Mentor Peter Laird, Ph.D.
Graduation 2020
Thesis/Disseration Title The role of DNA methylation and Dnmt1 in intestinal tumorigenesis
Current Placement

Assistant Professor, Biology
Olivet Nazarene University

Alumni Aditi Bagchi, M.D., Ph.D.
Mentor Scott Jewell, Ph.D.
Graduation 2019
Thesis/Disseration Title Hypermutation in recurrent medulloblastoma
Current Placement

Clinical Instructor
St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital

Alumni Parker de Waal, Ph.D.
Mentor Eric Xu, Ph.D.
Graduation 2019
Thesis/Disseration Title Structural dynamics of G protein coupled receptor signaling
Current Placement

Member of the Technical Team
D.E. Shaw Research

Alumni Candace King, M.S.
Mentor Matt Steensma, M.D., Ph.D.
Graduation 2019
Thesis/Disseration Title Investigating RAS and RTK signaling in MPNST progression
Current Placement

Ph.D. Program in Science Education (Biological Sciences), University of Southern Mississippi

Alumni Erin Williams, Ph.D.
Mentor Darren Moore, Ph.D.
Graduation 2019
Thesis/Disseration Title The molecular mechanisms of VPS35-linked Parkinson’s disease
Current Placement

Laboratory Manager
Moore Lab, Van Andel Institute

Alumni Alexis Bergsma, Ph.D.
Mentor Cindy Miranti, Ph.D.
Graduation 2018
Thesis/Disseration Title Modulation of bone homeostasis by tetraspanin CD82
Current Placement

Lab Manager
Moore Lab, Van Andel Institute

Alumni Jason Cooper, Ph.D.
Mentor Jeremy Van Raamsdonk, Ph.D.
Graduation 2018
Thesis/Disseration Title Aging, stress, and pathogenesis of Parkinson’s disease: Studies using C. elegans
Current Placement

Postdoctoral Fellow
Driscoll Lab, Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey

Alumni Emily Machiela, Ph.D.
Mentor Jeremy Van Raamsdonk, Ph.D.
Graduation 2018
Thesis/Disseration Title The role of mitochondrial dynamics in stress resistance and neurodegeneration
Current Placement

Managing Partner
Leestma Management

Alumni Abigail Solitro, Ph.D.
Mentor Jeffrey MacKeigan, Ph.D.
Graduation 2018
Thesis/Disseration Title Autophagy inhibition in non-small cell lung cancer
Current Placement

Assistant Professor
Liberty University

Alumni Kevin Maupin, Ph.D.
Mentor Bart Williams, Ph.D.
Graduation 2017
Thesis/Disseration Title Galectin-3 as a regulator of bone mass
Current Placement

Science Advisor
BAMF Health

Alumni Nate Merrill, Ph.D.
Mentor Jeff MacKeigan, Ph.D.
Graduation 2017
Thesis/Disseration Title The role of PI3K class IIa in autophag
Current Placement

Research Investigator
Internal Medicine – Hematology/Oncology Medicine
University of Michigan

Alumni Agni Naidu, Ph.D.
Mentor Nick Duesbery, Ph.D.
Graduation 2017
Thesis/Disseration Title A role for MEK in arteriogenesis
Current Placement

Project Coordinator
Motive Practicing Wisely Solutions

Alumni Eric Nollet, Ph.D.
Mentor Cindy Miranti, Ph.D.
Graduation 2017
Thesis/Disseration Title Integrin α6 activity in castration-resistant prostate cancer
Current Placement

Instructor
Grand Rapids Community College

Alumni Nikki Thellman, D.V.M., Ph.D.
Mentor Steven Triezenberg, Ph.D.
Graduation 2017
Thesis/Disseration Title A human neuronal model for herpes simplex virus latency and reactivation
Current Placement

Principal Scientist, Global Therapeutics
Zoetis

Alumni Casey Droscha, Ph.D.
Mentor Bart Williams, Ph.D.
Graduation 2016
Thesis/Disseration Title Characterizing mechanisms of gene transcription in models of bone development
Current Placement

Associate Director of Research
CentralStar Cooperative, Inc.

Alumni Marie Mooney, Ph.D.
Mentor Matt Steensma, M.D.
Graduation 2016
Thesis/Disseration Title Precision medicine approaches to integrating genomics with cancer therapy: Applications in glioblastoma
Current Placement

Assistant Professor of Bioinformatics
University of North Florida

Alumni Dani Burgenske, Ph.D.
Mentor Jeff MacKeigan, Ph.D.
Graduation 2015
Thesis/Disseration Title Investigating the role of autophagy in prostate cancer chemoresistance
Current Placement

Senior Program Coordinator
Sarkaria Lab
Mayo Clinic

Alumni Chiu Ying (Cynthia) Kuk, M.S.
Mentor Nick Duesbery, Ph.D.
Graduation 2015
Thesis/Disseration Title Anthrax lethal toxin is a tumor hemorragic toxin
Current Placement

Medical Student
Michigan State University

Alumni Donald Scholten, M.D., Ph.D.
Mentor Matt Steensma, M.D.
Graduation 2015
Thesis/Disseration Title Characterizing tumor hypoxia and anoikis resistance in human osteosarcoma: Addressing critical aspects of disease progression
Current Placement

Chief Resident
Orthopedic Surgery
Wake Forest School of Medicine

Alumni Ken Valkenburg, Ph.D.
Mentor Bart Williams, Ph.D.
Graduation 2014
Thesis/Disseration Title Developing pre-clinical mouse models of prostate cancer: Deciphering the roles of tumor suppressors adenomatous polyposis coli and Smad4
Current Placement

Senior Manager
Personal Genome Diagnostics (PGDx)

Alumni Laura Westrate, Ph.D.
Mentor Jeff MacKeigan, Ph.D.
Graduation 2013
Thesis/Disseration Title Quantitation of mitochondrial dynamics reveals critical roles for mitochondrial morphology in cell cycle progression and apoptosis
Current Placement

Assistant Professor, Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry
Calvin University

Alumni Jonathan Karnes, M.S.
Mentor Jeff MacKeigan, Ph.D.
Graduation 2012
Thesis/Disseration Title PI3K class IIα is required for autophagy
Current Placement

Business Development Product Specialist
Agilent Technologies

Alumni Jeff Klomp, Ph.D.
Mentor Kyle Furge, Ph.D.
Graduation 2012
Thesis/Disseration Title Exploring the molecular genetics of onococytic kidney
Current Placement

Research Assistant Professor
University of North Carolina Chapel Hill

Alumni Natalie Niemi, Ph.D.
Mentor Jeff MacKeigan, Ph.D.
Graduation 2012
Thesis/Disseration Title A characterization of MK-STYX, a catalytically iInactive phosphatase regulating mitochondrial apoptosis
Current Placement

Assistant Professor, Biochemistry and Molecular Biophysics
Washington University School of Medicine

Request a Transcript

In compliance with the Family and Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974, the release of education records (or personally identifiable information therein, except for public directory information) will not be made without the written consent of the student. Current and former students may request official transcripts, letters verifying enrollment and/or graduation by downloading and completing the Permission to Release Non-Public Information. The completed form including the student’s signature can be sent to the Director of Enrollment and Records Christy Mayo at Christy.Mayo@vai.org or registrar@vai.org.

Questions may also be directed to Christy.Mayo@vai.org, registrar@vai.org or 616.234.5722.

Note: We accept scanned copies of the Permission to Release Non-Public Information via email or by mail. If mailing, please address the form to Van Andel Institute Graduate School 333 Bostwick Ave. NE, Grand Rapids, MI 49503.