Rob Mitra

Rob Mitra

Professor, Principal Investigator

Rob Mitra is the Alvin Goldfarb Professor of Computational Biology in the Department of Genetics and the Edison Family Center for Genome Sciences and Systems Biology at Washington University in St. Louis. He received his BS, MS and PhD from MIT. His current research interests are focused on understanding how transcription factors achieve their in vivo specificities, developing new genomic technologies, and applying these to understand disease processes.


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Tamara  Abou-Antoun

Tamara Abou-Antoun

Senior Scientist

Tamara earned her Bachelor of Science degree in Biomedical Sciences from Victoria University in Melbourne, Australia and her PhD in Molecular Medicine from the George Washington University in Washington DC. She joined WashU in March 2021 as a senior scientist in the Rubin Lab where she works in collaboration with the Mitra lab to identify key transcription factors responsible for driving the sex-differences in pediatric brain tumor development and therapeutic response. In the Mitra lab, Tamara is utilizing the transposon calling-cards technology to map out genomic localization of key transcription factors that may be responsible for inducing the expression of oncogenes and tumor suppressor genes in a sex-bias manner. During her free time, Tamara enjoys the outdoors with her family and friends, hiking, biking, swimming, camping and canoeing.

Xuhua  Chen

Xuhua Chen

Staff Scientist

Xuhua Chen got a B.S. in medicine from Shandong University of Traditional Chinese Medicine in 1990. She completed her master’s degree in bioscience at the University of Missouri, Columbia. Xuhua has worked in the Mitra lab since 2007. Her research foci include working on transposon “calling cards,” recording transcription factor biding events in yeast and mammalian cells, and inducing and reprograming gene activation in different stages of neural differentiation.

Fengping  Dong

Fengping Dong

Postdoctoral Research Associate

Fengping received his PhD from the Pennsylvania State University where he studied risk genes related to schizophrenia and autism spectrum disorders. He joined the Milbrandt and Mitra labs with interests of applying a series of functional genomics tools to understand neurodevelopmental diseases. Combining CRISPR/Cas9-mediated gene regulation with next-generation sequencing, he aims to discover underlying molecular mechanisms of neurological diseases. His work will focus on understanding how risk genes contribute to intellectual and developmental disabilities using induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs).

Lillian Encarnation

Lillian Encarnation

Post Bac Student

Lillian Encarnation received a B.A. in Organismal Biology and Ecology from Colorado College. During her undergraduate degree she researched temporal patterns in bat activity in Denmark, the evolution of epigenetic silencing systems in yeast, and most recently explored utilizing epidemic simulation in contact networks to predict infected case counts over time in zip codes based on county level data. Lilly joins the lab as part of the Opportunities in Genomics Research (OGR) Extended Study program. She is currently researching how transcription factors find their DNA targets in the genome, particularly seeking to understand whether there is bias in the search process and if so, how this information may be used to improve TF binding predictions. In her free time, Lilly enjoys mountain biking, playing guitar, and reading fantasy novels. 

Emma Gries

Emma Gries

Research Technician II

Emma studied psychology and biology with a focus on cognitive neuroscience at the University of Denver, during which she researched the selection frequency and affective outcomes of cognitive reappraisal tactics using fMRI. Emma joins the lab as a Research Technician working to develop a bulk RNA barcoding and sequencing (BRB-seq) pipeline and plans to apply to neuroscience PhD programs. In her free time, Emma enjoys golfing, cooking, and traveling.

Juanru  Guo

Juanru Guo

Graduate Student

Juanru Guo is a current graduate student in the CSB program. She graduated from Tongji University, China with a major in Statistics and a minor in Artificial intelligence in 2021. She aims to facilitate researchers with easier-to-use tools. She is now trying to develop interesting and fancy computational algorithms for single-cell calling card data.

Paul Hime

Paul Hime

Staff Scientist

Paul Hime is an Instructor in the Department of Genetics and McDonnell Genome Institute at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis. Prior to joining the School of Medicine, Paul earned a BA in Biology from Washington University in St. Louis, a PhD in Evolutionary Biology from the University of Kentucky, and completed postdoctoral training at the University of Kansas Biodiversity Institute and Natural History Museum. Formerly an amphibian and reptile keeper at the Saint Louis Zoo, Paul’s research interests span structural biology, phylogenetics, molecular evolution, and biodiversity genomics. His current research focuses on computational approaches to understand the relationships between 3D protein structures and enzymatic functions, with applications for precision human medicine. Outside of the lab, Paul and his wife enjoy sharing their love of hiking, rock climbing, gardening, and natural history with their three children.

Allison Kao

Allison Kao

Graduate Student

Allison is an MSTP student currently in the MGG PhD program. She studied neuroscience and computer science at Harvard, during which she was part of a project in the Sanes lab to classify and compare retinal neuron types across vertebrate species. Post-graduation, she worked in the Schuman lab at the Max Planck Institute for Brain Science, characterizing the spatiotemporal landscape of mRNA translation in neurons. Allison is interested in taking a computational and systems approach to better understand the unique cellular biology of neurons, from evolution, to development, and now to disease. She joined the Mitra and DiAntonio labs in 2023 and is applying functional genomics to investigate the molecular axon degeneration program. In her free time, Allison enjoys yoga, tennis, exploring coffee shops, and playing music with others.

Paige  Kirschner

Paige Kirschner

Undergraduate student

Paige Kirschner is a current undergraduate student at Washington University in St. Louis. She is earning a bachelor’s degree in Biology on a Microbiology track. She most recently has worked in the Gale Hammell Lab at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, where she studied how TDP43 aggregation affects ALS. At WashU she has participated in the SEA-PHAGES program. Paige joined the Mitra lab in 2022 and is looking at transposons as a factor in transcription events and somatic cell lineage tracing. Post-graduation, Paige hopes to earn a PhD in biology. In her free time, Paige enjoys reading, writing, and playing tennis.

Josh Langmade

Josh Langmade

Staff Scientist

Josh Langmade received a B.S. in genetics and an M.S. in biochemistry and molecular biology both from The University of Kansas. He has worked at Washington University for over 17 years, with the majority of that time spent in the Ory/Schaffer lab within the Cardiology department. Through his previous research experiences, he developed an interest in projects involving next-gen sequencing and bioinformatics, which helped lead him to his current position. Josh joined the Mitra and Milbrandt labs as a staff scientist in May of 2019. His current research, through the MGI pilot project, involves helping to develop a method to encode cellular phenotypes with fluorescence. When not working in the lab, Josh enjoys spending time with his wife and kids, enjoying a variety of outdoor activities and cooking BBQ.

Xiaoyue Li

Xiaoyue Li

Graduate Student

Xiaoyue Li is a current graduate student in the biostatistics and data science program. She graduated from Miami University with a major in data science and statistics in 2022. She is now trying to develop Differential analysis algorithms for calling card data. Outside the lab, Xiaoyue finds pleasure in embracing novel experiences, whether it’s experimenting with new culinary creations, exploring new cities through travel, or simply hanging out with her friends.

Lori  Llaci

Lori Llaci

Graduate Student

Lori Llaci, originally from Albania, moved to the United States to get her Bachelor of Science in biochemistry from Arizona State University. She worked in the Neurogenomics Division at the Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen) in Dr. Vinodh Narayanan’s laboratory studying mitochondrial dysfunction in patients with epileptic encephalopathy where she discovered the beauty of clinical research. She decided to start graduate school at Washington University because of her interest to incorporate a bioinformatic approach to her work while applying it to clinical research and joined the Mitra lab because of their expertise in technology development. Her work will focus on understanding the epigenetics of sex differences in glioblastoma at a single cell level. In her free time, she likes to read, explore new cuisines, travel and play the piano.

Waleed  Minzal

Waleed Minzal

Post Doc

Waleed received his Ph.D. from the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, Israel, where he studied the intracellular signaling mechanisms underlying abnormal proliferation in the setting of blood cancer transformation. Waleed became interested in the basic questions regarding the role of mitochondria biology and its contribution to neuronal death and axon degeneration and joined the Milbrandt and Mitra labs. Combining a functional genomics approach using CRISPR technology and induced Pluripotent Stem Cells (iPSCs)-derived neurons, Waleed is aiming to help uncover fundamental cellular and molecular mechanisms underlying axonal degeneration under multiple cellular stress and disease conditions. Outside the lab, Waleed enjoys hiking, swimming, and reading.

Pamela  Recio

Pamela Recio

Research Technician

Pamela graduated from CSU Monterey Bay with a Bachelor of Science in Molecular Biology in 2018. After graduating, she participated in a year long post baccalaureate research program called Opportunities in Genomics Research in the Mitra lab. The goal of her yearlong project was to understand how gene expression is a function of TF binding in budding yeast. Pamela enjoyed her post baccalaureate experience so much that she decided to start a PhD program at Washington University in St. Louis in 2019, and then joined the Mitra lab. She is interested in better understanding the determinants of GAL4p in vivo binding in budding yeast. She went on to complete her PhD in July 2023. In her free time, she likes to spend time with her dog Lola, collecting plants, and drawing.

India  Reiss

India Reiss

Graduate Student

India Reiss received a B.S. in Neuroscience from Johns Hopkins University, where she studied the genomics of fruit fly color vision. As a graduate student in the Mitra lab, she is working to adapt Calling Card technology to the Sleeping Beauty transposase, which will improve the ability of Calling Cards to record transcription factor binding over time.

Reilly  Sample

Reilly Sample

Graduate Student

Reilly earned his Bachelors of Science in biochemistry and his Bachelors of Arts in English literature from the University of Texas at Austin. He then started his medical training at UT Southwestern Medical School, and took a leave of absence to obtain a Masters of Science at WashU. During his masters year, Reilly studied head and neck cancer genetics in the Puram lab. Now as a PhD student, he joined both the Mitra and Puram labs. In his graduate studies, Reilly plans to leverage transposon calling cards technology to understand the genetic and epigenetic factors that drive cancer invasion and metastasis. In the future, Reilly hopes to have a career as a physician-scientist to search for new therapies that are better and safer for cancer patients. In his free time, Reilly enjoys reading, cooking, swimming, and exploring the great outdoors.

Jieun  Seo

Jieun Seo

Post Doc

Jieun received her Ph.D. from the Seoul National University in Seoul, Korea, where she investigated the genetic mechanisms of human neurological disorders through next generation sequencing (NGS) analysis. Jieun joined the Milbrandt and Mitra labs with interests in characterizing potentially pathogenic genome variants identified in neurodegenerative disease patients and finding genetic/epigenetic modifiers affecting pathological feature of disease. Using CRISPR screening and iPSCs-derived neurons, she aims to discover underlying mechanism of mitochondia dysfunction and axon degeneration of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). Outside of lab, she enjoy playing with her cat and cooking.

Christian  Shively

Christian Shively

Staff Scientist

Christian Shively began his postdoc training in the lab in 2014, after completing a B.S. in biology at Indiana University and a Ph.D. in cellular and molecular biology at the University of Michigan. His work in the Mitra lab is focused on understanding how transcription factors “know” where to bind DNA. Paralogous transcription factors often recognize the same consensus binding site in vitro, yet bind to distinct genomic targets and regulate disparate cellular processes in vivo, and Christian’s research seeks to delineate the mechanisms that enable this specificity by studying a well-conserved pair of paralogous transcription factors in a model organism.

Mark Valentine

Mark Valentine

Clinical Fellow

Mark completed his MD and PhD through the Washington University Medical Scientist Training Program in 2019. During his PhD in Human and Statistical Genetics, he studied infant leukemogenesis using a variety of genomic approaches as well as an iPSC-based model of developmental hematopoiesis. After graduation from the MSTP, Mark pursued further training as a Resident Physician in Obstetrics and Gynecology at the Barnes Jewish/Washington University combined program which he completed in 2023. He is currently a Fellow in the Division of Gynecologic Oncology and joined the Mitra lab in this capacity in 2023. Mark is using single cell technologies to better understand the origin, progression and behaviour of high grade serous ovarian cancer.
Michael  Wilkinson

Michael Wilkinson

Graduate Student

Science has always been an extension of Michael Wilkinson’s passion for tackling real-world problems. He was a participant in the MARC scholars program at Hunter College in NYC, where he not only learned how to address scientific problems but to also have fun while doing it. The Mitra Lab is Michael’s home in St. Louis, where he and other researchers develop molecular tools to help better understand biological problems. He is fortunate to use such tools in understanding the transcriptional networks that govern cell fates, whether in development or in disease. Michael’s personal interests are to elucidate the inter- and intra-cellular mechanisms that govern cell state in a heterogeneous population, whether it be in regeneration or in cancer. Outside of the lab, he enjoys fitness and music. Michael likes applying his understanding of science to bring well-being to others. As a previous participant of many minority support programs over the years, he hopes to share his opportunities with those in underserved communities.


Lab Alumni

  • Daniel Lyon
  • Lloyd Tripp, Graduate Student, Washington University in St. Louis
  • Aditya Kondepudi, Undergraduate Student, Johns Hopkins
  • Karan Singh, Undergraduate Student, University of Texas Arlington
  • Brian Muegge, Assistant Professor, Washington University in St. Louis
  • Anna Bass, Research Technician, Washington University in St. Louis
  • Vincent Gillespie, Graduate Student, Washington University in St. Louis
  • Alara Sutcu, Graduate Student, Columbia
  • Justin Melendez, Post Doc, Washington University in St. Louis
  • Malik George, Graduate Student, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
  • Wesley Agee, Graduate Student, Washington University in St. Louis
  • Jiayue Liu, Scientist, Guardant Health
  • Jesse Cohn,
  • David Song, Medical School
  • Abby Coco, Medical School
  • Grace Jaramillo
  • Kate Brickner
  • Arnav Moudgil, Resident Stanford Medicine
  • Jonathan Romero
  • June He, Statistical Analyst Washington University in St. Louis
  • Matt Lalli, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, Instructor in the Department of Psychiatry,
    Division of Seaver Autism Center for Research and Treatment
  • Denis Avey, Postdoc, Rush Medical School
  • Oshri Avraham, Assistant Professor, University Of Georgia
  • Rafael Feliciano, Graduate Student, Washington University in St. Louis, MGG program
  • Sumithra Sankararaman, Staff Scientist at Washington University in St. Louis
  • Kristy Shady
  • Zongtai Qi, Postdoc, Washington University in St. Louis
  • Maxim Schillebeeckx, Scientist, Appistry
  • Francesco Vallania, Postdoc, Stanford University
  • Scott Higdon, Staff Researcher at Washington University in St. Louis
  • Michael Brooks, Postdoctoral fellow with Max Wicha at University of Michigan
  • Arjun Bahl, Resident, Internal Medicine, University of Washington
  • Lee Tessler, Project Manager at Millipore
  • David Mayhew, Scientist, GlaxoSmithKline
  • Tom Cohen, Senior Analyst, BioGenerator Ventures
  • Gabe Bien-Wilner, Medical Director, MolecularHealth
  • K-T Varley, Postdoctoral fellow with Rick Myers at Hudson Alpha Institute
  • Haoyi Wang, Postdoctoral fellow with Rudy Jaenisch at MIT
  • Yue Yun, Pioneer Hybrid
  • Ayo Adesanya, Physican and Instructor Ohio State University
  • Kay Tweedy, Retired
  • Todd Druley, Faculty at Washington University in St. Louis, Pediatrics and Center for Genome Sciences
  • Jackie Barnes
  • Olivia Knowles
  • German Leparc, Postdoctoral fellow with David Kreil, Universitat fur Bodenkultur Wien