Current Lab Members

Research Assistant Professors

Dr. Joseph Conrad

JosephJoseph, a Research Assistant Professor in Chemistry, completed PhD school in Microbiology and Immunology at Vanderbilt (dissertation mentor: Dr. Spyros Kalams) in 2011. Joseph contributes Immunology expertise, experience in international and global health, and a background in human subjects research to the overarching group research agenda that is focused on low resource diagnostics and eradication of infectious, tropical, and neglected diseases. With a background in cellular immunology, Joseph is heading up a project to apply mobile solid phase extraction technology to cellular enumeration diagnostics. He is also active in developing low resource diagnostic technologies in the context of diseases such as HPV, TB, and malaria. Joseph works as a Program Manager for the IeDEA Network Coordinating Center and is involved in molecular phylogenetic investigations of HIV transmission clusters in Chinese MSM. Previously a Global Health Fellow at the Vanderbilt Institute for Global Health (VIGH) and a Rural Aquaculture Project Volunteer with the United States Peace Corps in Zambia, he enjoys cycling his two little girls to school and participating in triathlons with his wife. Holla. Link to his CV.


Dr. Alex RutledgeAlex

Alex received her Ph.D. in Chemistry from Vanderbilt University in 2009 for systems biology studies exploring the role of fatty acid oxidation in the disruption of macrophage function. In 2011, she completed a post-doctoral fellowship at Pacific Northwest National Lab under the guidance of Richard Smith and Joshua Adkins with research focused on using proteomic measurements for comparative omics, software development, and genome refinement/proteogenomic applications. Currently, Alex’s efforts in the Wright Lab are concentrated on studying the impact of lipid peroxidation on specific intracellular signaling cascades. Outside of lab, Alex loves spending time with her husband, two children, and two dogs, and enjoys knitting, cooking, and hiking.



Graduate Students



Chris Gulka

Chris was born in Suffern, NY and grew up in Medway, MA before graduating from the University of Richmond with a B.S. in chemistry and a minor in spanish. A group member since 2010, his current project includes developing nano and micromaterials for malarial diagnostic platforms. In addition, working in the lab allows him to explore his favorite two topics in science: surface plasmon resonance and the gold-thiol bond.





Jenny NesbittJenny

Jenny grew up in Cincinnati, OH and graduated in 2010 from Wake Forest University with a B.S. in Chemistry and a French minor. She spent a semester studying abroad in Dijon,France – home to lots of mustard and Burgundy wine!! Her undergraduate research under Dr. Abdessadek Lachgar focused on the synthesis of metal organophosphate frameworks for their use as ion-exchange resins, absorbents, catalysts, and more. She is currently working on a biomimetic project, modeling silica formation in sponges and diatoms to develop new ways to control and pattern silica and other metal oxide materials. Outside of lab, she enjoys crossword puzzles, running outside, and traveling.




Keersten Davis

Keersten was born in Paterson, NJ but moved to NC with her family when she was two years old.  She received her B.S. in Chemistry from North Carolina State University in Raleigh, NC (go wolfpack!)  She was an intern at Lord Corporation during her undergraduate years and also worked under Dr. Reza Ghiladi researching the bifunctional enzyme Dehaloperoxidase B.  Currently, her research focuses on the creation of a low-resource diagnostic tool for the detection of the malarial biomarker Histidine Rich Protein II.  In her free time, she enjoys eating, cooking and working out while trying to keep up with her husband and furry dog-child Andy.




Anna BittingAnna

Anna joined the lab in March 2012 and is working on malaria diagnostics, specifically using saliva. She is from the Pittsburgh, PA area (Go Steelers!) and graduated from Allegheny College in May 2011 with a B.S. in Chemistry and a minor in History. She enjoys craft beer and even brewed her own during her last semester at Allegheny – and got 2 credits for doing so. Aside from being a giant history and beer nerd, she has played the euphonium (Google it) since 10th grade and is a member of the Vanderbilt Community Concert Band. In her spare time, she enjoys reading books about the American Revolution, Harry Potter, and watching The Sound of Music on repeat.





Kim FongKim

Kim was born and raised in Lewiston, Idaho with her venture to Tennessee being her first time living outside of the Pacific Northwest. She graduated from Lewis-Clark State College with a B.S. in chemistry and minors in biology and Spanish. As an undergraduate, she did an REU program at Portland State University under Dr. Andrea Goforth where she made silicon nanoparticles for the use of biomedical imaging agents. Currently, she is focused on developing new techniques to classify antimalarial drugs based on their mechanisms of action. In her spare time she enjoys volunteering, cooking, and basking in the great outdoors.




Adam Ryan TravisAdam

Originally from Woodlawn, TN, Adam graduated from the University of Tennessee at Martin in 2011 with a B.S. degree in Chemistry and minor in Biology. His undergraduate research focused on the chromatographic isolation of an enzyme known as tadpole erythrocyte ferrireductase. Presently, however, he works on synthesizing bifunctional gold nanoparticles and cell imaging using DNA-functionalized gold nanoparticles. When not slaving away in the lab, he enjoys botany, entomology, collecting old books, talking to Kim (see above), and vegetating on the couch.







Westley Bauer

Westley was born in Menomonie, WI. Tragic as that may sound he got his life together and moved to Minnesota by the age of one. He obtained a B.S. in chemistry and a minor in business administration from the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, MN. Westley joined the lab in 2013 and his current research focus involves using CD4 count as a surrogate biomarker to develop low-resource diagnostic technologies for initial assessment and monitoring therapeutic efficacy of the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). In his free time he enjoys long walks on the beach, giving high fives, and to be called Milton.



Nicholas Wright

NicholasNicholas, originally from Berea, KY, graduated from Western Kentucky University (Go Hilltoppers!) in 2012 with a B.S. in Chemistry and a minor in mathematics. He worked under Dr. Hemali Rathnayake since fall 2009 researching two different approaches for the creation of poly(3-hexylthiophene)-functionalized siloxane nanoparticles for organic based solar cells. Nicholas was awarded the National Science Foundation's Graduate Research Fellowship before graduating from WKU. He was also awarded his Kentucky Colonelship months later by the Governor of Kentucky for receiving the NSF GRF, granting him the title The Honorable Colonel Nicholas Wright, or The Colonel as the Wright Lab calls him after finding out about the award. He joined the Wright lab in winter 2012 and currently works on using the "coffee ring effect" and dendrimers to create nanoscale patterns.


Alexis WongAlexis

Alexis was born and raised in Knoxville, TN. In 2012 she graduated with a B.S. in Chemistry from Furman University, where she studied the cellular uptake of chromium(III) tris-diimine complexes under Drs. John and Sandy Wheeler. As an undergraduate, she also worked with Dr. Jim Maher at the Mayo Clinic, where she researched the use of artificial RNA aptamers to inhibit the NF-kappaB transcription factor. Alexis joined the lab in 2013 and her current research is focused on using DNA functionalized gold nanoparticles to develop a diagnostic for human papillomavirus. Outside of lab she enjoys reading, taking pictures, and traveling.




Lauren Gibson


Lauren grew up in Murray, KY and graduated from Murray State University in May 2012 with a B.S. in chemistry and a music minor. Her undergraduate research on the thermal properties of ionic liquids was done under Dr. R. Daniel Johnson. Lauren joined the Wright lab in March 2013 and is working on the discovery of aptamer based molecular recognition elements and the development of low resource diagnostics. In her free time she enjoys running and other outdoor activities, playing the piano and hanging out with family and friends.






Christine Markwalter

Christine was born and raised in Burke, VA. She graduated from Agnes Scott College in 2013 with a B.S. in chemistry and math and a minor in Spanish. As an undergraduate, she researched polymeric materials at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and the Naval Research Lab (NRL). Currently, her research focuses on the detection of the malarial biomarker Plasmodium Lactate Dehydrogenase. In her free time, she enjoys spending time with her husband, cooking, losing racquetball, and winning board games.


Visiting Students

Lab Technicians

Undergraduate Students