Lab Members

Principal Investigator

Gareth M. Thomas, Ph.D

Gareth Thomas

Gareth is an Associate Professor in the Shriners Hospitals Pediatric Research Center at Temple University School of Medicine, Philadelphia. He is also a member of the new Department of Neural Sciences. 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

Natasha Hesketh, graduate student

I graduated with a BFA from Pratt Institute in 2015 and gained experience teaching before obtaining an MS in Cell and Molecular Biology from Rowan University. In 2021, I joined the Thomas lab as a PhD student. Currently my work is centered on the degradation of palmitoylated axonal proteins with the goal of better understanding axon degeneration.

Xiaotian Zhang, graduate student

I earned my Bachelor’s degree from UMass Amherst and then completed a Master’s in Nutrition and Metabolism in 2021 at Boston University School of Medicine. I joined the Thomas lab in 2022 as a graduate student, where I am seeking to identify new regulators of axon integrity and degeneration.

Brittany Rotanz, Research Assistant

I joined the Thomas Lab in late 2021, after prior work at Charles River Labs and Genesis Diagnostics. In addition to keeping the lab running smoothly, I am looking to identify new roles for the DLK/JNK pathway in neurons.

Kirvani Buddhiraju, Research Assistant

I joined the Thomas Lab in summer 2023 after completing my undergraduate degree at Temple. I help look after the mouse colony and am also looking at proteins that are rapidly degraded after damage to neuronal axons

Lab Alumni

Heykyeong Jeong, Postdoctoral Fellow

Current position: Scientific Investigator, GlaxoSmithKline, Collegeville, PA

Jingwen Niu, Postdoctoral Fellow.


Current position: Research Scientist, Alphathera, Philadelphia

Luiselys (Sely) Hernandez (Research Assistant)

Current position: MD/PhD student, Perelman School of Medicine, University of Pennsylvania

Shaun Sanders, Postdoctoral Fellow.

Current position: Assistant Professor, University of Guelph, ON, Canada

Dale Martin, Postdoctoral Fellow.

Current position: Assistant Professor, University of Waterloo, ON, Canada

Francesca DeSimone, Postdoctoral Fellow.


Current position: Postdoctoral Fellow, Lab of Dr. Dianne Langford, Temple University School of Medicine

Sabrina Holland, Postdoctoral Fellow.


Current position: Associate Scientist, Lab of Dr. Gianluca Gallo, Temple University School of Medicine

Audrey Montersino, Postdoctoral Fellow.


Current position: Development & Licensing Manager at Brain and Spine Institute (ICM) & Institut de la Vision

Joju George, Postdoctoral Fellow.

Joju pic

Current position: Research Scientist, Elanco Animal Health in Indiana.

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

Kaitlin pic cropped

Current position: Pathology Resident, Thomas Jefferson University

Santi Karnam, Temple Undergraduate Honors Student


Current position: Ophthalmology Resident, University of Nebraska Medical Center

Lauren Sibeck, Temple University Medical School Student

Current position: Resident, Family Medicine, University of Pittsburgh Medical Center St Margaret’s.

Prasad Kanuparthi, Temple University Medical School Student.

Current position: Resident, Neurology, Temple University Hospital.

Kevin Hendrickson, Temple University Medical School Student.

Current position: Clinical rotations, Temple University Medical School.