Core Leaders


Paul Kulesa, Ph.D.
Director, Imaging/Kulesa Lab

Paul Kulesa received his Ph.D. in applied mathematics from the University of Washington, working with Prof. J.D. Murray FRS, a world-renowned expert in modeling biological pattern formation. He was an Alfred P. Sloan Foundation and Burroughs Wellcome Fund postdoctoral fellow in the lab of Prof. Scott E. Fraser at the California Institute of Technology, where he was able to draw on Fraser’s wonderful expertise in selective cell labeling and live embryo imaging. He joined the Stowers Institute in 2002 and applies his interdisciplinary background in mathematics, imaging, and biology.


Hua Li, Ph.D.
Director, Computational Biology, Bioinformatics and Biostatistics

Hua Li received an M.S. in Forestry Genetics from Beijing Forestry University in China and a Ph.D. in Bioinformatics from North Carolina State University. During postdoctoral studies at Virginia Bioinformatics Institute, she developed software (in C, SAS and R) for mass Affymetrix gene-chip data analysis and designed greenhouse and Affymetrix gene expression experiments. In 2006, she joined the Stowers Institute and completed her postdoctoral training in 2007. During that time, Li applied bi-viariate analysis to improve the power of genome-wide association studies and constructed a Bayesian network using relaxed gene ordering. She became the Computational Biology group leader in 2009 and Head of Computational Biology in 2017. With over 10 years of bioinformatics experience, including expertise in applications such as RNA-Seq, ChIP-Seq, and MNas-Seq, Li was appointed Director of Computational Biology Bioinformatics and Biostatistics in 2019.


Heather Marshall, Ph.D.
Director, Model Organism Research

Following her undergraduate studies at the University College of Wales, Heather Marshall worked as Research Assistant in the Department of Zoology at Oxford University. Later, after relocating to London, she joined the MRC National Institute for Medical Research (NIMR), working in the Division of Developmental Neurobiology then headed by Stowers Investigator and Scientific Director Emeritus Robb Krumlauf, Ph.D. It was there that she received her Ph.D. In 2000, Krumlauf asked Marshall to help establish his lab in Kansas City at the Stowers Institute. Following four successful years in the new lab, she accepted the position of Head of the Stowers Laboratory Animal Services Facility in 2005. And in 2019, she was appointed the Director of Model Organism Research at Stowers, which has oversight of all the model organism facilities that assist Stowers research endeavors. Marshall is a member of the American Association for Laboratory Animal Science and served for four years as Chair of the Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee at Stowers.


Tari Parmely, B.S.
Director, Cellular, Tissue and Molecular Biology

Tari Parmely, who grew up in Kansas, spent a year as an American Field Scholar in Pukehohe, New Zealand, before receiving a bachelor’s degree of science and education from the School of Education at the University of Kansas. After a two-year stint as a junior immunologist at the Marion Merrell Dow Research Institute in Kansas City, Parmely took a position as research associate at the Wilkinson Laboratory for Cancer Research at the University of Kansas Medical Center. Later, she oversaw the development and production of diagnostic tests as a lead research scientist for Osborne Laboratories before joining the Biomune Company as a research microbiologist in charge of the propagation and evaluation of live-virus vaccines. She joined the Stowers Institute as a research specialist in the Conaway Laboratory in 2002 and took over the management of the Stowers Tissue Culture Core Laboratory in 2008. Parmely led additional teams starting in 2012, when she was named Head of Tissue Culture, Media Prep, Histology, and Electron Microscopy. Additional scientific support teams were assigned to her management and Parmely was named Director of the newly formed department of Cellular, Tissue and Molecular Biology in 2019.


Anoja Perera, B.S.
Director, Sequencing and Discovery Genomics

With a B.S. degree in biology, Anoja Perera began honing her skills in DNA sequencing, genomics applications, automation, high throughput processing while working with Dr. Raju Kucherlapati on the original Human and Mouse Genome Projects. And after several years’ experience as group leader for sequencing at the Harvard-Partners Center of Genetics and Genomics in Cambridge, MA, she joined the Stowers Molecular Biology group. Perera served as senior lab manager from 2006 until 2019 when she was appointed Director of the Sequencing and Discovery Genomics group. In this role, Perera seeks to advance research by making cutting-edge sequencing technologies available to the scientific staff. For many years, Perera has been an active member of the Association of Biomolecular Resource Facilities and served on multiple committees including the organization’s Executive Board.


Brian Slaughter, Ph.D.
Co-Director, Microscopy, Imaging, and Big Data

After receiving a dual B.A. in chemistry and mathematics from William Jewell College in 1999, Brian Slaughter briefly returned to the area of Northwest Missouri where he had grown up to teach science and math before pursuing his graduate work at the University of Kansas. There he studied the biophysics of a calcium signaling protein with Dr. Carey Johnson, receiving a Ph.D. in chemistry in 2005. He completed his postdoctoral studies in the lab of Dr. Rong Li at the Stowers Institute where he studied the biophysics of living cells In 2010 he moved into a role as a research advisor, collaborating with Stowers investigators on adapting microscopy methods for use in a wide range of model organisms. In 2015, Slaughter transitioned to co-head of the Microscopy Center, a position he held until his appointment as co-director of Microscopy, Imaging, and Big Data in 2019.


Jay Unruh, Ph.D.
Co-Director, Microscopy, Imaging, and Big Data

Jay Intrigued by the molecular underpinnings of life, Jay Unruh pursued a B.S. degree in molecular biology at John Brown University and later a Ph.D. in chemistry from the University of Kansas. He continued his molecular studies in living cells during his postdoctoral studies in the Laboratory of Fluorescence Dynamics at the University of California, Irvine before joining the Stowers Institute as a research specialist in 2008. At Stowers, he extended his exploration of the molecular details influencing the cellular and organismal diversity. In 2010, Unruh took on the role of research advisor, then in 2015 he was appointed co-head of the Microscopy Center. And since 2019, Unruh collaboratively directs the activities of Microscopy, Imaging and Big Data.




Team Leaders

Diana Baumann, B.Sc. (Hons), RLATG, CMAR
Head, Reptile and Aquatics

Diana Baumann received her undergraduate science degree in the UK followed by post-graduate work in education. Baumann is an Institute for Laboratory Animal Management graduate and has advanced certification in herpetology. She joined the Stowers Institute in 2003 to start a new reptile facility and was promoted to Head of Reptile & Aquatics in 2005. Baumann is a member of a variety of professional organizations and serves on several of their management and educational committees. She regularly speaks at local, national and international meetings, and contributes to publications within the field. She has been a member of the Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee at Stowers for 17 years, and serves as an Ad Hoc specialist for AAALAC International. She is still active in education and teaches all three levels of the American Association for Laboratory Animal Science animal technician certification courses as well as courses in laboratory animal management. Baumann is the recipient of multiple career awards.


Dan Bradford, B.S.
Senior Laboratory Manager, Automation and PCR Technology

With a B.S. degree in biology and training as a molecular biologist, Dan Bradford started his scientific career genotyping populations of paddlefish. Dan also spent time as a microbiologist culturing the nitrogen-fixing bacteria Rhizobium for various agricultural products. Since joining the Molecular Biology Team at the Institute in 2005, Bradford has worked with numerous laboratory automation systems to develop novel high-throughput protocols and screens. He has been instrumental in developing high-throughput automated techniques including qPCR karyotyping of Saccharomyces cerevisiae and Candida albicans, yeast-based high-content screening, and spectral karyotyping. He was an earlier adopter of synthetic genetic array technology for functional genomics screens. In 2019, Bradford was appointed senior laboratory manager of the newly formed Automation and PCR Technology Team.



Juliana Conkright-Fincham, Ph.D.
Head, Screening

Julie Conkright received her dual bachelor degrees in biology and microbiology from Kansas State University and served as a Howard Hughes Medical Institute predoctoral intern during her senior year. At Cincinnati’s Children’s Medical Center, she studied surfactant biology and neonatal respiratory distress as part of her doctoral thesis and received her Ph.D. in molecular and developmental biology from the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine. After completing a postdoctoral fellowship in Bill Balch’s laboratory at The Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla, CA, where she worked on the molecular mechanism of alpha-1-antitrypsin (a1AT) secretion, Conkright moved to Florida to manage the Cell-based Screening Facility at The Scripps Research Institute in Jupiter, FL. She aided investigators in genomic and compound screening as well as participated in small molecule probe development as a part of a center-based initiative in the NIH Molecular Libraries Program. In 2010, Conkright was recruited to the Stowers Institute to establish an advanced screening core that can handle a wide array of high content imaging and biochemical technologies in mammalian and non-mammalian systems.


Kym Delventhal, B.S.
Head, Genome Engineering

Kym Delventhal joined the Institute in 2003 and has served in numerous roles within Molecular Biology and now Genome Engineering. As Head of Genome Engineering, Delventhal manages a team that provides support to the 22 labs at the Institute. Delventhal graduated from Kansas State University with degrees in microbiology and chemistry. While there, she was a research assistant in the Wheat Genetics Resource Center. Delventhal is a member of the Association of Biomolecular Resource Facilities (ABRF) and served as chair of the ABRF-Genome Editing Research Group from 2017 to 2019.


Laurence Florens, Ph.D.
Head, Proteomics

A native of France, Proteomics scientist Laurence Florens graduated from Nice University with a bachelor’s degree in biochemistry. She received her masters and her doctorate in structural biology and microbiology from Aix-Marseilles I University before completing a postdoctoral fellowship in bioenergetics at Michigan State University in East Lansing. After a short stint at the University of Washington in Seattle, Florens joined the lab of Dr. J.R. Yates, III, at The Scripps Research Institute. At TSRI, she applied Multidimensional Protein Identification Technology (MudPIT) to malaria proteomics and successfully distinguished more than 3,000 proteins at different stages of the parasite’s life cycle; identified novel parasite antigens on the surface of red blood cells and in the sporozoite stage; and established the proteome of the midgut peritrophic matrix in the mosquito Anopheles gambiae. In 2003, Florens joined the Stowers Institute, where she collaborates closely with Stowers investigators on a wide array of projects to analyze the dynamics of protein complexes and their post-translational modifications.


Jeffrey S. Haug, B.S.
Head, Cytometry

After graduating from the University of Missouri, Kansas City, with a B.S. in biology, Jeffrey S. Haug held several research and clinical positions, in which he relied on cytometric tools to gain new insights into cancer biology. In 1994, he joined the Washington University School of Medicine in the Division of Bone Marrow Transplantation, St. Louis, where he actively participated in both clinical and basic stem cell research. He designed custom flow cytometry applications for the bone marrow transplant division that were the most sensitive, accurate and rapid cytometric assays for blood stem cells available at the time. In 2000, Haug was recruited to the Stowers Institute to establish a Cytometry Core Facility, which he manages based on the collaborative style of core resource management that he developed at Washington University.


Sean McKinney, Ph.D.
Head, Microscopy

After graduating from the University of Missouri, Rolla with a B.S. in Physics and Computer Science, Sean McKinney earned his Ph.D. studying DNA conformations at the single molecule level using fluorescence resonance energy transfer (FRET) at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. He was a Research Specialist at the Janelia Farm Research Campus before joining the Stowers Microscopy team in 2009 as the group head of Optics Development. He was named manager of Microscopy in 2015, and in 2019 he was appointed head of Microscopy. McKinney and his team automate imaging with robotics and image analysis through deep learning which allows researchers to perform customized large-scale imaging screens.


Yongfu Wang, Ph.D.
Head, Histology

Yongfu Wang graduated from the Southwest University in China with a bachelor’s degree in Biology and earned his Ph.D. in Zoology from the Kunming Institute of Zoology, Chinese Academy of Sciences. Following postdoctoral training at the University of Kansas (KU), he began an assistant research professor position at KU to study brain aging and neurodegenerative diseases. In 2015, he joined the Histology team at Stowers. Wang is interested in developing new histotechnologies that can be implemented in the foundational research done at Stowers. His work has been published in journals including Nature Protocols, Nature Communications, PNAS, Diabetes, Journal of Neuroscience, British Journal of Pharmacology, Cell, and Cell Research. Wang also served as an Associate Editor for the Journal of Histotechnology.


Chongbei Zhao, Ph.D.
Head, Tissue Culture and Media Prep

Chongbei Zhao, originally from Henan Province, China, graduated from Zhengzhou University with an M.D. She earned her Ph.D. in Veterinary Pathobiology from the University of Missouri, Columbia and followed that with a two-year Science Manager Certification from the University of Kansas. Zhao joined the Stowers Institute in 2012 as a Researcher Coordinator. In 2019, she became Head of Tissue Culture and the next year was named Head of Tissue Culture and Media Prep. With 15 years’ experience in cell culture, including 3D organoid culture, primary cell culture, virus work and gene editing, Zhao collaborates with Stowers researchers to develop new projects and technologies in the cell culture field.