Jason M. Schenkel, M.D., Ph.D., received his bachelor of science degree in human communication sciences at Northwestern University outside of Chicago. While there, Dr. Schenkel got his first hands-on experience doing immunology research in Dr. Lena Al-Harthi's Laboratory at Rush University Medical Center, where he examined CD8 T cells in people with HIV. His time there ignited his passion for T cell immunology. Dr. Schenkel then matriculated in the Medical Scientist Training Program at the University of Minnesota. He completed his Ph.D. studies in the laboratory of Dr. David Masopust, studying the location, differentiation and function of resident memory CD8 T cells that develop after acute viral infection. Dr. Schenkel's work demonstrated that resident memory CD8 T cells, after sensing cognate antigen, orchestrated robust and diverse innate and adaptive immune responses that drove a local anti-pathogen state within a tissue.
After completing his M.D. and Ph.D. at the University of Minnesota, Dr. Schenkel completed a residency in clinical pathology at Brigham and Women's Hospital and a clinical fellowship in Transfusion Medicine at Harvard Medical School. He completed a postdoctoral fellowship in the lab of Dr. Tyler Jacks at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. There, Dr. Schenkel was focused on understanding the relationship between T cells in the tumor draining lymph node and tumor microenvironment in a mouse model of lung adenocarcinoma. Dr. Schenkel was able to demonstrate that the tumor draining lymph node contains a functional reservoir of tumor specific CD8 T cells that can be therapeutically harnessed to drive tumor regression.
At MD Anderson, Dr. Schenkel is continuing to study T cells in the context of cancer. He hopes to develop better tools and methodologies to try and understand the natural course of T cell immunity in tumors. Lessons learned will then hopefully be translated to help drive new therapies.
Nikesh Kunder, Ph.D., received his bachelor's degree in biotechnology from the University of Mumbai in 2012, followed by his master's degree in biotechnology in 2014. Dr. Kunder joined the department of Hematopathology at Tata Memorial Hospital where he worked on evaluating diagnostic markers for leukemia and lymphomas as well as trained on the basics of flow cytometry.
Dr. Kunder completed his doctoral degree in cell and molecular biology from The University of Texas at Dallas in 2022 where he worked on understanding post-transcriptional regulation in sensory neurons in Dr. Zachary Campbell’s lab. During his doctoral studies, he identified mRNA targets that were preferentially translated within sensory neurons in response to inflammatory stimuli as well as elucidated the role of RNA-binding proteins in pain. His expertise is RNA biology, and he is interested in mRNA therapeutics.
He joined the Schenkel Lab as a research scientist so that he can explore the field of immunology. His goals are to understand T cell dysfunction and to identify mRNA transcripts or RNA-binding proteins for therapeutic intervention.
Anna Meyer studied Asian Studies and Biochemistry and Cell Biology at Rice University, where she earned her Bachelor of Arts with a Biosciences Distinction in Research in 2018. Following her undergraduate studies, she worked as a research technician in a natural killer (NK) cell lab where she studied the mechanisms of NK cell cytotoxicity and worked on a method to define the NK cell immunological synapse proteome. Anna matriculated into the UTHealth Houston MSTP program in 2020 and joined the Schenkel Lab after completing her lab tutorial. Here, she will continue pursuing her goal of advancing human health through scientific discovery. She is interested in elucidating how tumor progression systemically affects the white blood cell compartment.
Charles Inaku holds a bachelor’s degree in pharmacology from the University of Lagos, Nigeria, and a master’s degree in biotechnology from the University of Texas at Tyler. His master’s thesis focused on the study of the functional impact of Ethyl-beta-D-glucuronide — an alcohol-derived metabolite — on Alveolar Macrophages in response to Mycobacterium tuberculosis in Vankayalapati’s lab at the department of Pulmonary Immunology. He is skilled in Multiplex ELISA, cell culture, macrophage isolation, Seahorse analysis and RT-qPCR. His experience working with alveolar macrophages ignited his passion for immunology.
He joined the Schenkel Lab as a research assistant, where he focuses on research exploring the migration of immune cells in the body. He has interests in cancer immunology and stem cell research and aims to continue working in these fields. During his free time, he enjoys cycling, walking, window-shopping real estate and hanging out with friends.
Natalie Hagan received her Bachelor of Science in biochemistry from Louisiana State University in 2022. During her undergraduate work, she assisted in the research for the N-terminal domain (NTD) of biotin carboxyl carrier protein’s (BCCP) role in the catalytic mechanism of acetyl-CoA carboxylase (ACC). As part of the study, she amplified and purified AbCT, BCCP, MCR, MCR-C, MCR-N and SaCT proteins. Natalie also participated in genetic research. Natalie’s interest in immunology brought her to MD Anderson. She joined the Schenkel Lab of cancer immunologists as a research assistant and is eager to excel academically. Natalie’s goal is to make a groundbreaking discovery in the immunology world.