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Open University

Ph.D. degree at the Stowers Institute for Medical Research

Scientific slide at the Stowers Institute

Affiliated Research Centre of the Open University

Since 2006, The Stowers Institute has been an Affiliated Research Centre (ARC) of the Open University.

Predoctoral research students perform all experimental research at the Stowers Institute while being registered with the Open University. We follow Open University procedures for student progress and assessment; this was ideal for students who had already acquired advanced and specialized knowledge in a field of study and were ready to start lab-based research.

The research degree arrangements in this Open University program comply with the UK’s Quality Assurance Agency (QAA) requirements for postgraduate research degree programs and collaborative provision. Over thirty students have completed their graduate degree in the program. Remaining students in the program will submit in the coming year. The program will then come to conclusion given the accreditation of the Graduate School of the Stowers Institute.

Meet our Students

Michelle DeVore

Michelle joined the Bazzini Lab in 2016 as a research technician with a bachelor’s degree in human biology from the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs, and a professional bachelor of science degree in molecular biotechnology and clinical laboratory science from the University of Kansas Medical Center. As an Open University doctoral student, she is studying post-transcriptional gene regulation.

Cellular information is stored in genes, which are protein-making instructions, or codes, in the form of DNA. In order for this genetic code to be used to make proteins, it must first be copied into mRNA, which serves as a message informing the ribosome which amino acids to use in the protein. The iterative process of the ribosome interpreting the genetic code, written in mRNA, and then translating that message into a polypeptide, is known as protein synthesis. Interestingly, Bazzini and others have shown that there is yet another layer of information in the code—the stability of the mRNA is shaped by the act of translation. In other words, the information present in the genetic code not only controls the protein makeup, it also dictates the half-life of the transcript. This can have a profound effect on the overall level of expression of a gene.

Michelle believes that understanding more about how this effect influences expression—at the cellular level and beyond—will provide vital information about gene regulation. Her experiments will attempt to illuminate the regulatory role of translation during homeostasis, as well as under stress conditions.

Cici He (Xi He)

CiCi joined the Institute in 2000 and has focused on defining the molecular and cellular mechanisms that regulate the formation, maintenance, and function of stem cells in the hematopoietic, intestinal, and skin systems and identified key genes and signaling pathways that govern control of stem cell niche properties through gene profiling analyzing the consequences of genetic disruption.

She has shown that BMP inhibition of Wnt-b-catenin signaling is critical for intestinal stem cell self-renewal, and that BMP signaling also regulates epithelial stem and progenitor cell activation in the hair follicle. This highlighted the conserved and broad role of specific signaling pathways in stem cell maintenance, behavior, and function. Subsequently she discovered that loss of function of PTEN/AKT signaling, which is also regulated by BMP signaling, results in intestinal polyposis suggesting that mis-regulation of normal developmental signaling leads to tumor disease.

The interaction between the tumor microenvironment and tumor stem cell remained largely unaddressed. This led her to explore the mechanism by which the cancer cells escape anticancer therapy. Her hypothesis is that following chemoradiation, a therapy resistant tumor-initiating stem cell survives in the tumor due to a protective microenvironment. She recently showed that the tumor stem cells upregulate stress-response genes and are slow-cycling. Following chemoradiation therapy and elimination of the cycling tumor cells, tumor associated macrophage and some types of monocytes are recruited by the surviving slow cycling tumor-initiating stem cells which express chemo-attractive cytokines. The macrophages in turn play a role in promoting tumor stem cell proliferation and support tumor regrowth. The tumor macrophages are a critical component of the tumor microenvironment as they mediate immunosuppressive signaling to protect the tumor stem cell from immune attack by cytotoxic lymphocytes.

Li Lab

Meet our


Open University alumni at the Stowers Institute

Alice Bedois, Ph.D.

Graduated: January 20, 2023
Mentor: Robb Krumlauf, Ph.D.
LampRA: A Study of the Evolution of the Retinoic Acid Signalling Pathway and Its Coupling to Vertebrate Hindbrain Segmentation Using the Sea Lamprey Petromyzon marinus
Current Position: Postgraduate Researcher, Stowers Institute

Shaolei Xiong, Ph.D.

Graduated: December 21, 2021
Mentor: Nicolas Rohner, Ph.D.
How cavefish gain high body fat to adapt to food scarcity
Current Position: Postdoctoral Researcher, Kamberov Lab, Perelman School of Medicine, University of PA

Mickael DeCarvalho, Ph.D.

Graduated: September 28, 2021
Mentor: SaraH Zanders, Ph.D.
wtf genes are ancient meiotic drivers
Current Position: Postdoctoral Researcher, Matthieu Falque Lab, INRAE, Paris, France

Sergio Garcia-Moreno Alcantara, Ph.D.

Graduation Date: July 27, 2021
Mentor: Julia Zeitlinger
Thesis: Analysis of the structural organization of TFIID in vivo using ChIP-nexus
Current Position: Technical Support, NGS Technologies

Rishabh Raj, Ph.D.

Graduation Date: February 12, 2021
Mentor: Ron Yu
Thesis: An Adaptive Strategy for Sensory Processing
Current Position: Postdoctoral Researcher, Stowers Institute

Wenjing Xu, Ph.D.

Graduation Date: January 11, 2021
Mentor: Ron Yu
Thesis: Non-coding RNAs function on olfactory sensory neuron development
Current Position: Software Engineer, Google

Devika Salim, Ph.D.

Graduation Date: March 26, 2020
Mentor: Jennifer Gerton
Thesis: Regulation of stability and copy number of tandem repeats in Saccharomyces cerevisiae
Current Position: Remote Site Monitor, Clinical Monitoring Team, PPD, part of Thermo Fisher Scientific

Theo Tettey, Ph.D.

Graduation Date: August 17, 2017
Mentor: Joan Conaway
Thesis: Roles of the histone chaperone FACT in Drosophila gene regulation and chromatin architecture
Current Position: Research Fellow, NCI Gordon Hager Lab, Bethesda, MD

Sneha Gopalan, Ph.D.

Graduation Date: August 17, 2017
Mentor: Joan Conaway
Thesis: Regulation of transcription by RNA polymerase II in S. pombe
Current Position: Post Doctoral Associate Fazzio Lab, Molecular Cell & Cancer Biology Department, University of Massachusetts Medical School

Karthik Dhatchinamoorthy, Ph.D.

Graduation Date: June 17, 2017
Mentor: Jennifer Gerton
Thesis: Analysis of kinetochore and centromere changes during the cell cycle in Saccharomyces cerevisiae
Current Position: Post Doctoral Associate, Rock Lab, Pathology Department University of Massachusetts Medical School

Yunming Wu, Ph.D.

Graduation Date: April 17, 2017
Mentor: Ron Yu
Thesis: Critical Period for Murine Olfactory Map Formation
Current Position: HHMI Postdoc Associate, Liqun Luo Lab, Department of Biology, Stanford University

Agne Kozlovskaja-Gumbriene, Ph.D.

Graduation Date: April 17, 2017
Mentor: Tatjana Piotrowski
Thesis: Zebrafish posterior lateral line organogenesis regulation by Notch signaling
Current Position: Embryologist, Center of Reproductive Medicine, Department of Obstetrics and Gyneclogy, Kaunas Clinics, Lithuania

Aurimas Gumbrys, Ph.D.

Graduation Date: March 17, 2017
Mentor: Alejandro Sanchez Alvarado
Thesis: Epidermis and re-epithelialization in Schmidtea mediterranea
Current Position: Product Development Project Manager, Thermofisher, Vilnius, Lithuania

Kevin Liang, Ph.D.

Graduation Date: May 16, 2016
Mentor: Ali Shilatiford
Thesis: MLL/COMPASS in transcription, cell cycle and disease control
Current Position: Director, Research Center for Medicine and Structural Biology, School of Basic Medical Sciences, Wuhan University

Parama Paul, Ph.D.

Graduation Date: September 1, 2015
Mentor: Rong Li
Thesis: HDAC5 mediated regulation in Autosomal Dominant Polycystic Disease
Current Position: Licensing Manager, Corteva Agriscience

Nina Koenecke, Ph.D.

Graduation Date: July 1, 2015
Mentor: Julia Zeitlinger
Thesis: Genome-wide identification of markers for active and repressed enhancers in the Drosophila melanogaster embryo
Current Position: Quality Manager Design Quality Assurance, Roche Diagnostics GmbH

Liang Liang, Ph.D.

Graduation Date: April 1, 2014
Mentor: Matt Gibson
Thesis: Functional genomic analysis of the periodic transcriptome in the developing Drosophila wing
Current Position: Life Science Research Scientist, Stanford University

Dominic Heinecke, M.Phil.

Graduation Date: March 1, 2014
Mentor: Rong Li
Thesis: Identification of Genes that Affect Chromosomal Instability (CIN) in a Dosage-Sensitive Manner in Saccharomyces cerevisiae
Current Position: Quality Expert Batch Record Review, Roche, Penzberg, Bavaria, Germany

Jin Zhu, Ph.D.

Graduation Date: January 1, 2014
Mentor: Rong Li
Thesis: The Consequences of Aneuploidy in Budding Yeast
Current Position: Senior Research Fellow, Mechanobiology Institute, National University of Singapore

Bony De Kumar, Ph.D.

Graduation Date: November 1, 2013
Mentor: Robb Krumlauf
Thesis: Induction of ‘Hox’ genes and genome wide identification of Hox binding sites in mice
Current Position: Director of Operations, Genome Analysis Center, Yale University

Marina Yurieva, Ph.D.

Graduation Date: September 1, 2013
Mentor: Robb Krumlauf
Thesis: Analysis of the Hox transcriptional programs in vertebrate segmentation
Current Position: Assistant Computational Scientist, Jackson Laboratory, Farmington, CT

Kai Chen, Ph.D.

Graduation Date: May 1, 2013
Mentor: Julia Zeitlinger
Thesis: Establishment of Zygotic Transcription and Chromatin Organization in the Early Drosophila Embryo
Current Position: Professor, Kunming University of Science and Technology

Chengqi Lin, Ph.D.

Graduation Date: January 29, 2013
Mentor: Ali Shilatiford
Thesis: The Super Elongation Complex (SEC) in Development and Disease
Current Position: Professor, Southeastern University, China

Rio Sugimura, Ph.D.

Graduation Date: October 1, 2012
Mentor: Linheng Li
Thesis: Non-canonical Wnt Signaling Maintains Hematopoietic Stem Cell through Flamingo and Frizzled8 Interaction in the Niche
Current Position: Assistant Professor, School of Biomedical Sciences, University of Hong Kong

Arupratan Das, Ph.D.

Graduation Date: February 1, 2012
Mentor: Rong Li
Thesis: GDI-mediated Cdc42 recycling at polar cortex in dynamic maintenance of cell polarity in Saccharomyces cerevisiae
Current Position: Assistant Professor (Tenure-track), Indiana University School of Medicine

Praveen Suraneni, Ph.D.

Graduation Date: January 18, 2012
Mentor: Rong Li
Thesis: Arp2/3 complex in mammalian cell motility
Current Position: Research Assistant Professor of Cell and Developmental Biology, Northwestern University

Chia-Hui Lin, Ph.D.

Graduation Date: July 1, 2011
Mentor: Jerry Workman
Thesis: Identification and Characterization of Histone H3K36 Demethylases in Drosophila melanogaster
Current Position: Scientist, Guardant Health

Manju Shivaraju, Ph.D.

Graduation Date: July 1, 2011
Mentor: Jennifer Gerton
Thesis: Regulators of Centromeric Nucleosomes in Saccharomyces cerevisiae
Current Position: Principal Scientist, Boehringer Ingelheim, Boston Massachussetts

Kiki Kanakousaki, Ph.D.

Graduation Date: March 1, 2011
Mentor: Matt Gibson
Thesis: The role of E1 SUMO activating enzyme in the development of Drosophila
Current Position: Scientific Liaison, Causaly, Athens, Greece

Charles Banks, Ph.D.

Graduation Date: July 1, 2010
Mentor: Joan Conaway
Thesis: Regulation of RNA polymerase II transcription in Schizosaccharomyces pombe by SpELL and associated factor SpEAF
Current Position: Research Specialist, Proteomics, Stowers Institute

Stefan Tümpel, Ph.D.

Graduation Date: August 1, 2005
Mentor: Robb Krumlauf
Thesis: Transcriptional regulation of Hox genes during hindbrain development
Current Position: Staff Scientist, The Leibniz Institute on Aging, Germany


For all inquiries regarding our Affiliated Research Center Open University programme, please contact:

Leanne Wiedemann, Ph.D.
Research Degree Coordinator
Stowers Institute for Medical Research
An Affiliated Research Centre of the Open University
1000 50th St Kansas City, MO 64110 USA
LMW at

or send a letter to:

Leanne Wiedemann, Ph.D.
Research Degree Coordinator
Stowers Institute for Medical Research
An Affiliated Research Centre of the Open University
1000 50th St, Kansas City, MO 64110 USA

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