Lab Members

Principal Investigator

Gareth M. Thomas, Ph.D

Gareth Thomas

Gareth is an Assistant Professor in the Shriners Hospitals Pediatric Research Center at Temple University School of Medicine, Philadelphia. He is also a member of Temple’s Anatomy and Cell Biology Department. Gareth obtained his undergraduate degree from the University of Cambridge and then did his graduate research in the laboratory of Sir Philip Cohen, a world leader in the field of protein kinase signaling. Gareth was then awarded a Wellcome Trust Fellowship to join the laboratory of Dr. Rick Huganir, Chair of the Department of Neuroscience at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine. In the Huganir Lab, Gareth developed an interest in the roles of the protein-lipid modification palmitoylation in the regulation of neuronal synapses. This work led to several key papers focusing on palmitoylation-dependent targeting of neurotransmitter receptors. Now, Gareth’s own laboratory combines the skills learned from the Cohen and Huganir Labs to focus on a largely unexplored area, namely how palmitoylation controls the localization and activity of neuronal protein kinases and other signaling enzymes. This work has broad implications for our understanding of how neuronal signaling is regulated in both health and disease.


Current Lab Members

Jingwen Niu, Postdoctoral Fellow.











I joined the lab after postdoctoral work with Drs. Wenqin Luo and Steve Thomas at UPenn. I am using mouse genetic approaches to determine novel roles for palmitoylation and am also carrying out studies of nerve injury responses in vivo.


Francesca DeSimone, Postdoctoral Fellow.









I received my PhD in Systems Biology from the University of Salerno, Italy, in 2014. I spent my last two years of PhD research in the Neuroscience Department at The Lewis Katz School of Medicine at Temple University as a visiting Research Scholar. I joined the Thomas lab in late 2015 and my research focuses on the regulation of neuronal signaling and scaffolding proteins by palmitoylation.



Shaun Sanders, Postdoctoral Fellow.








I was a graduate student in the lab of Professor Michael Hayden at the University of British Columbia, where I studied a palmitoyl acyltrasferase that regulates Huntingtin, the gene product that is mutated in Huntington’s Disease. I joined the Thomas Lab in September 2016, where I am determining the roles of palmitoylation in retrograde trafficking and signaling.


Dale Martin, Postdoctoral Fellow.






I performed my graduate research in the lab of Luc Berthiaume at the University of Alberta, Canada, focusing on regulation of proteins by myristoylation. I then carried out initial postdoctoral studies in Michael Hayden’s lab, focusing on palmitoylation in neurodegenerative disease. I joined the Thomas Lab in late 2016, and am focusing on novel screening assays to identify neuroprotective compounds that act by inhibiting palmitoylation.


Prasad Kanuparthi, Medical Student.

I am a second year Medical Student at the Lewis Katz School of Medicine at Temple University. I carried out summer research in the Thomas lab in 2017, working on novel roles for palmitoylation in nervous system development.

Gone but not Forgotten…

Sabrina Holland, Postdoctoral Fellow.


Sabrina obtained her PhD at the Institute of Clinical Pharmacology of Prof.Dr.Dr. Geißlinger at the Goethe-University, Frankfurt/Main, Germany on PAM-mediated signal transduction in peripheral nociception. She joined the Thomas Lab in 2011 and was the driving force for a really nice study on the regulation of the MAP3K DLK by palmitoylation. She established a lentiviral knockdown/rescue approach in combination with microfluidic neuronal cultures to study DLK-dependent retrograde injury signals. She went on to carry out additional postdoctoral work in the lab of our collaborator Dr. Gianluca Gallo.

Audrey Montersino, Postdoctoral Fellow.










Audrey received her PhD in Neuroscience from the University of Marseille (France), working under the supervision of Benedicte Dargent. In the Thomas Lab she carried out some very nice work on the regulation of retrograde injury signaling by palmitoylation and then returned to France to take up a position with Sevier Pharmaceuticals.


Joju George, Postdoctoral Fellow.

Joju pic

Joju was the intrepid first post-doc to join the lab after his graduate school studies with Dr. Thomas Murray on the influence of sodium channels on neuronal morphology and function. He was instrumental in establishing our live imaging set-up and broadening the lab’s expertise into the field of cytoskeletal regulation. He did some great work on palmitoylation-dependent control of dendritic spine morphology, which you can read about here and then moved to a Scientist position at Eli Lilly/ Elanco Animal Health in Indiana.


Kaitlin Collura, M.D./Ph.D. candidate

Kaitlin pic cropped

Kaitlin was a terrific MD/PhD student, whose research background before she joined the lab was already very strong from work at the NIA in Baltimore. Her studies on palmitoylation-dependent regulation in sensory neurons, which we are currently writing up, will open up new avenues of research relevant to both health and disease. Although her time in the lab was all too short, we wish her well as she returns to clinical rotations in order to complete her degree.


Santi Karnam, Temple Undergraduate Honors Student


Santi was a prize-winning undergraduate student, whose work focused on identifying binding partners and substrates for synaptic palmitoyl acyltransferases. We miss his upbeat personality and intellectual curiosity, and wish him well as he works his way through Medical School


Lauren Sibeck, Temple Medical School Student

Lauren completed her undergraduate degree at Swarthmore College and then took an Advanced Core Medical Science (ACMS) to transition to Temple’s Medical School Class of 2019. Before starting Medical School she spent the summer with us pursuing her interests in nerve repair and regeneration and showed great aptitude for learning new imaging and bioinformatic methods.