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Meet the 2018 Class of Molecular Medicine PhD Students


Lerner Research Institute recently welcomed its 12th class of Molecular Medicine PhD students. The seven new incoming students look to join the 42 other students who have graduated from the program since its development in 2007.

The incoming class of students recently began their coursework, taking the first steps towards becoming the newest generation of independent biomedical researchers. The program—part of the Cleveland Clinic Lerner College of Medicine of Case Western Reserve University (CWRU)—involves class-based instruction, research rotations in the laboratories of faculty members, and completion of an independent research thesis in an advisor's laboratory. Core curriculum courses are taught on the Cleveland Clinic campus, with advanced electives available at both the Cleveland Clinic and CWRU campuses.

The impressive and competitive group of students is one of the largest classes the program has ever had. The diverse group includes:

  • Shilpa Rao (back left): Shilpa graduated from Loyola University (Chicago) in December 2017 with a BS in Molecular Biology. Following graduation, she joined the Lathia laboratory as a research technician. Her research interests include endocrine diseases and pharmacology.
  • Javier Lopez (back, second from left): Javier received a BS in Cell and Molecular Biology from John Carroll University (JCU) in May 2018. He spent three years at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) before transferring to JCU. He is interested to study the molecular and genetic mechanisms involved in the progression of human disease.
  • Cassandra Gilmour (back, second from right): Cassandra graduated in August 2015 from California State University with a BS in Biochemistry. Prior to joining the Molecular Medicine program, she worked at Genmark Diagnostics. Her research interests include diabetes and cancer research.
  • William (BJ) Massey (back right): BJ has a BA in Biology and Chemistry, which he earned in May 2018 from the College of the Holy Cross. He intends to pursue research in immunology and metabolism.
  • Mishka Gidwani (front left): Mishka graduated from Cornell University in June 2015 with a BS in Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering. She spent the last three years working as an engineer at Regeneron Pharmaceuticals. She says she is interested in the impact of manipulating intercellular signaling pathways on disease progression.
  • Jessica Castrillon (front middle): Jessica earned a BA in Biology and Medical Humanities from Baylor University in June 2012 and a MS in Biomedical Science from Tufts University School of Medicine in May 2015. In the time between graduating with her Masters and starting the PhD program, she worked at the Broad Institute of Harvard and MIT and the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. Her research interests include molecular biology and public health.
  • Morgan Engelhart (front right): Morgan has a BS in Biochemistry, which she received in May 2018 from Mount Union University. She plans to expand upon her experience and interest in immunotherapy research.

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