The Taylor Lab Members

Derek J. Taylor, PhD - Principal Investigator

Dr. Taylor received his BS degree from Fort Lewis College in Durango CO and his PhD from the University of California, San Diego. Dr. Taylor was an HHMI-sponsored postdoctoral fellow in the lab of Nobel Laureate Dr. Joachim Frank, where he learned cryo-electron microscopy (cryo-EM) and its application in structure determination of biological complexes. Dr. Taylor then spent a year working with Dr. Tom Cech (another Nobel Laureate) and his group where he began to investigate the structure and function of telomere complexes. Dr. Taylor began his independent position in 2009 when he joined the Department of Pharmacology at Case Western Reserve University. Dr. Taylor has been recognized with a Research Scholar Award from the American Cancer Society and a prestigious Director’s New Innovator Award from the NIH.

Wei Huang, PhD - Research Scientist

My professional career has focused on understanding the molecular interactions involved in fundamental biological pathways. I have benefited from a diverse and complete training in a range of techniques, both computational and experimental, under the tutelage of several young and ambitious mentors. As a graduate student, I was trained in RNA biology, macromolecular biophysics, nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy and molecular dynamics simulations jointly under Dr. Fareed Aboul-ela (now at Zewail City of Science and Technology) and Dr. Shantenu Jha (now at Rutgers University). My graduate studies have focused on understanding the structure and functional dynamics of the SAM-I riboswitch under the modulation of small molecules, where I began the journey of integrating experimental data with computational simulations to synergetically improve the information obtained from experiments and theoretical calculations.

Current Students

Wilnelly Hernandez-Sanchez, Ph.D. - Graduate Student

Wilnelly received her bachelor’s degree from the University of Puerto Rico, Mayaguez, in Industrial Biotechnology. As an undergraduate, she spent two years doing research with Dr. Elsie Pares-Matos, studying gene regulation and analyzing the promoter regions of Nuclear Factor for Interleukin 6 (NF-IL6).After completion of her bachelor degree, she was accepted in the Postbaccalaureate Research Education Program (PREP) at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine in June 2012. As part of the PREP program, she worked full-time in a research lab under Dr. Mark Jackson supervision in the Cancer Biology department at CWRU. Her project focused on studying protein interactions between two newly discovered oncogenes FAM83B and FAM83A. Upon acceptance into graduate school at Case Western, she joined the lab of Dr. Derek Taylor, in the Pharmacology Department. During her graduate career, Wilnelly had the opportunity to study a novel telomerase inhibitor and the kinetics consequences of nucleotides concentration over telomerase catalytic activity.

Mengyuan Xu, Ph.D. - Graduate Student

Mengyuan received her bachelor’s degree from Nankai University in China, majoring in biological science and minoring in mathematics and science. After college, she continued to pursue her master’s degree in biochemical and molecular biology at Nankai University. Mengyuan’s research experience as an undergraduate shaped her future research endeavors as she chose to pursue structural biology as her primary research interest. Due to the fact that structural biology requires a solid mathematical background, the knowledge, and most importantly, the spirit of mathematics would always benefit her in her future research undertakings. In the pursuit of her master’s degree, Mengyuan solved the crystal structure of the N-terminal fragment of FILIA, which revealed a unique N-terminal extension beyond the canonical KH region that is well known for its RNA binding ability. This experience generated her interest in nucleic acid binding proteins and their cellular consequences. Therefore, she decided to continue her research career as a PhD student in the Department of Pharmacology at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine.

Daniel Leonard - MD-Ph.D. Student

Daniel received his bachelor’s degree from the State University of New York at Albany. During his time there he spent two years with Dr. Melinda Larsen, interrogating the development of the human salivary gland. This initial exposure to research prompted Daniel to continue his research training at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), under the guidance of Dr. Thomas Bugge, investigating the physiologic and pathologic recycling mechanisms of extracellular matrix proteins such as collagen. After two years at NIH, Daniel began his medical training at the Cleveland Clinic Lerner College of Medicine (CCLCM), a program that integrates numerous opportunities for independent research. These independent research blocks provided through CCLCM and his Medical Scientist Fellowship awarded by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute reminded Daniel of his passion for research and so he joined the Case Western Reserve University Medical Scientist Training Program (MSTP) to pursue a Ph.D. in addition to the MD from CCLCM.

Tawna Mangosh, Pharm. D. - Graduate Student

Tawna received her Doctor of Pharmacy degree from the University of Findlay College of Pharmacy. During this time, she spent six years in the laboratory of Dr. Ryan Schneider in the College of Pharmacy focusing on cancer pharmacology-based research. During Tawna’s undergraduate pharmacy research experience, she made significant contributions to studies aimed at identifying the mechanism by which non-steroidal anti-inflammatory agents exert their anti-cancer effects. In addition to continuing her undergraduate research, Tawna’s pharmacy graduate research involvement included two separate drug screening and validation studies with a library of compounds designed as either sigma-2 receptor agonists or autophagy inhibitors with the goal of eliciting cancer cell cytotoxicity. In addition to research-based cancer pharmacology training, Tawna received extensive training in pathophysiology, pharmacology, medicinal chemistry, and pharmacotherapy of human diseases while earning her Doctor of Pharmacy.

Nathaniel Robinson - MD-Ph.D. Student

Nathaniel received his B.S. in molecular genetics and mathematics from The Ohio State University in 2013. While at OSU, his research focused on the mechanisms of translational regulation of gene expression in bacteria and developing informatic methods to identify new regulatory pathways. After graduating, he worked as a research assistant at Nationwide Children’s Hospital studying the molecular genetic bases of inherited epilepsy before joining the Medical Scientist Training Program at CWRU in 2014.

Alexander Day - Graduate Student

Alex received his bachelor’s degree from The College of Wooster with majors in both Biochemistry and German language. During college his research focused on the duplicate gene family Calcineurin in Paramecium and the mechanisms by which the organism maintained and separately evolved these duplicate genes to have similar but distinct roles in the cell. Following graduation, he worked as a research assistant at Case Western Reserve University studying the rare genetic disease, Cystic Fibrosis (CF) in the lab of Rebecca Darrah. Here he focused on studying the molecular genetic mechanisms of a single nucleotide mutation in the Angiotensin receptor type II that was identified to result in a significantly better phenotypic outlook for CF patients harboring the mutation. During this experience he gained an appreciation for the molecular therapeutic methods utilized to interrogate the mechanisms of action of this receptor in the context of the disease, which lead him to apply to the molecular therapeutics training program (MTTP) at CWRU in 2019. In Dr. Taylor’s lab, Alex’s research focuses on elucidating the mechanisms of the trimeric protein PP2A, and more specifically the role of one of the scaffolding isoforms known as Abeta. He is interested in uncovering how this isoform affects the overall structure and function of PP2A in comparison to the Aalpha isoform and the role the isoform plays in the context of diseases such as cancer.

Nikhil Vasireddi - Undergraduate Student

Nikhil is an undergraduate student researcher majoring in Systems Biology at Case Western Reserve University and is currently studying the oncoprotein c-Myc and its life cycle in recombinant protein systems in the lab.  Specifically he focuses on determining how its modifications affect its interaction with the tumor suppressor protein phosphatase 2A (PP2A) and ultimately how these modifications affect cellular signaling and cancer progression.

Jenish Venancius - Undergraduate Student

Jenish is currently pursuing a dual-degree as an undergraduate student in Biology and a Master of Public Health (MPH). Additionally, he is minoring in Spanish and Chemistry and is active in research throughout the lab and on-campus leadership.

Jasmine Encarnacion - PREP Scholar

Jasmine received her bachelor’s degree in Microbiology and Cell Science from the University of Florida. During her time at UF, she assisted with research at two different labs; one in actin dynamics in the Spring of 2020, and the other in metabolic neurobiology in Spring 2021. These experiences inspired her to pursue a career in research. She is now participating in the Postbaccalaureate Research Education Program (PREP) at Case Western Reserve University.

Jackie Spieles - Undergraduate Student

Jackie is a Class of 2022 biology major at the College of Wooster and plans to pursue a PhD in the biomedical sciences. In the Taylor lab, she has worked to troubleshoot and optimize protein purification techniques for PP2A subunits and substrates. At Wooster, she is a member of the WOODs Outdoors Club and works as a teaching assistant and tutor for chemistry and biology courses.

Anjali Raju - Undergraduate Student

Anjali is a Biochemistry major at CWRU in the Class of 2024. She is involved in the Discussions Undergraduate Journal and is the COmmunity Outreach Director for the PERIOD chapter at CWRU. In the Taylor Lab, she is working on refining protein purification methods for PP2A and its substrates with the ultimate goal of solving a structure of PP2A and a substrate.