Tansey Lab Members

Malu Tansey

Malú G, Tansey, PhD
Professor and Laboratory Director
malu.tansey@emory.edu

Malú Gámez Tansey is a tenured professor at Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta and a member of the Center for Neurodegenerative Diseases (CND). She obtained her B.S/M.S in Biological Sciences from Stanford University in Palo Alto, CA, and her Ph.D. in Cell Regulation from UT Southwestern Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences in Dallas, TX, where she studied the role of MLCK phosphorylation in regulation of smooth muscle contraction in the laboratory of Dr. James T. Stull in the Department of Physiology.

After a short post-doc with Kate Luby-Phelps in the same department, she moved to Washington University Medical School in St. Louis, Missouri to the laboratory of the late John P. Merlie where she elucidated the signaling mechanisms required for ARIA/Heregulin-induced acetylcholine receptor epsilon gene expression at the neuromuscular junction before settling in the laboratory of Eugene M. Johnson Jr. in 1996. She and her colleagues in the laboratory of Jeff Milbrandt identified new members of the GDNF Family of Ligands (GFLs: Neurturin, Persephin, and Artemin) and their paired GFR binding co-receptors (GFRalpha2 and 3) and demonstrated their potent bioactivities on multiple neuronal populations. Their work was the first demonstration that ligand-induced recruitment of a neurotrophic receptor (Ret) to lipid rafts for interaction with c-Src was functionally required for GFL-induced neuronal survival and differentiation.

Prior to setting up her academic research lab in 2002, she was head of the Chemical Genetics group at Xencor, a private biotechnology company in Monrovia, California whose mission is to create superior biotherapeutics through protein engineering technology. She and her colleagues engineered soluble TNF-selective biologic inhibitors with a novel dominant negative mechanism of action which her lab has used as powerful tools to investigate the role of TNF signaling in neurodegenerative and neuropsychiatric diseases using in vitro and in vivo models. The translational research goal of these studies is to target soluble TNF with the brain-permeant lead clinical candidate XPro1595 in clinical trials for CNS diseases characterized by chronic central or peripheral inflammation. The general interests of her laboratory include investigating the role and regulation of neuroinflammatory and immune system responses in modulating the gene-environment interactions that determine risk for development and progression of neurodegenerative and neuropsychiatric disease.

In her spare time, Malú enjoys cooking, running, sailing, scuba-diving and spending time at home with her family.

CJ BarnumChristopher (CJ) Barnum, PhD

Dr. Barnum is now a Medical Science Liaison at Takeda
Pharmaceuticals

Laura Butkovich, Neuroscience Graduate Student

Laura Butkovich joined the Tansey lab in 2014 as a graduate student in the Neuroscience PhD program. After earning a B.S. in Psychology from the College of Charleston, she spent several years working in the music industry as a Tour Manager and as the Director of Operations for music festivals. She returned to school taking post baccalaureate classes at Georgia State University and working in the lab of Dr. Anne Z. Murphy, where her research focused on the role of neuroinflammation in the sexually dimorphic effects of opioid analgesia. Her research projects in the lab include the role of inflammation and neuron-glia interaction in the pathogenesis and pathophysiology of PD. Since beginning grad school, she spends her spare time cooking, container gardening, and skating with the Atlanta Rollergirls Rec League.

Xi (Tracy) ChenXi (Tracy) Chen, PhD

Xi (Tracy) is now in a Masters in Nursing Program at Emory University.

Jaegwon ChungJaegwon Chung

Jaegwon Chung is now in Physiology and Pharmacology at the
University of Georgia College of Veterinary Medicine.

Madelyn Crawford Houser, Immunology and Molecular Pathogenesis Graduate Student


Madelyn Crawford Houser, a native of Knoxville, TN, is a Ph.D. student in Emory's Immunology and Molecular Pathogenesis program. She earned her B.S. from The University of Tennessee where she conducted structure/function studies of G protein-coupled receptors in Saccharomyces cerevisiae and transcriptomic analyses of the agricultural fungal pathogen Fusarium graminearum. She joined the Tansey lab in 2014, and her graduate work has focused on various aspects of intestinal immunity. When she is not in the lab, Madelyn enjoys reading, cooking, ballroom dancing, and spending time with her family.

Billie Jeanne Duke, Research Specialist

Billie Jeanne Duke, RM (NRCM) is a Research Specialist, Senior with 35 years experience in tissue culture at Emory University. She received her Bachelor's Degree from the University of Connecticut in 1979 after studying the Characterization of Osmotic Remedial Mutants of Escherichia coli, Dr. Robert T. Vinapal in the Department of Microbiology. She began her career at Emory University in 1979 working under the direction of Dr. Robert L. DeHaan, Department of Anatomy and Cell Biology where she developed her skills is both primary and cell line culture studying the development of excitable cardiac cells and developing clonal cell lines to study human serotonin and norepinephrine transporter. In 1989 she received her certification as a Registered Microbiologist, RM (NRCM) in Molecular, Cellular, and General Biology of Eukaryotes. Then in 1995 she began her work with Dr. Douglas C. Eaton in the Department of Physiology, continuing to develop her skills in tissue culture while working with Dr. Eaton and his team on the signaling aspects of sodium transporter (ENaC) proteins in epithelial cells. In 2015 she joined Dr. Malu Tansey's laboratory where she continues using her tissue cultures skills to assist the research team in aspects involving regulation of neuroinflammatory and immune systems responses in the development and progression of neurodegenerative and neuropsychiatric disease.


Lori N. Eidson, Postdoctoral Research Fellow
Lori Eidson is a Postdoctoral Fellow in the Tansey lab. She obtained her BS in psychology and her PhD in Neuroscience at Georgia State University. Her graduate work was completed under the direction of Dr. Anne Z. Murphy and focused on understanding the contribution of the innate immune system to the development of opioid tolerance. Ultimately, Lori is interested in understanding how our innate and adaptive immune system contributes to normal brain functioning, aging, and disease states. In her spare time, Lori enjoys cooking, frisbee golf, swimming, kayaking, and drawing.

Brianna HarrisSanam Golshani

Sanam Golshani is a Research Technical Specialist with the Tansey Lab. She was born and raised in Atlanta, GA and received her Bachelor’s in Biology from Kennesaw State University. She then went on to receive her Master’s in Medical Sciences from the University of Kentucky. During her time at UK, she worked as a research assistant where she examined how the loss of PTPRF expression alters cell proliferation by controlling EGFR and Wnt signaling pathways in colon cancer. She currently contributes to several ongoing projects in the Tansey Lab that investigate the role of inflammation in mouse models of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease. During her free time, she enjoys cooking, going to the gym and spending time with her family. 

Matthew Goodson, Lab Manager

Matthew Goodson is the Lab Manager and Research Coordinator for the Tansey lab. He was born in Atlanta, GA and received a B.S. in Biology from Columbus State University in 2011. He's worked for labs in a variety of fields ranging from endangered plant genetics and conservation to human lung physiology. Matt also serves as the clinical research coordinator for human subject recruitment. When not in the lab, Matthew is a part time musician, voice over artist, and a regular attendee of local art, cinema, and science fiction events in and around Atlanta.

Brianna HarrisBrianna Harris

Brianna is now in a Masters in Physics program at
Clark Atlanta University

Mary Herrick, Graduate Student

Mary Herrick is a member of the Neuroscience Graduate Program and joined the Tansey lab in 2016. During her undergraduate career, she worked in a number of labs at Auburn, Vanderbilt and the University of Cambridge. She received her B.S. in Microbial, Cellular, and Molecular Biology from Auburn University in 2013, and then spent two years at Vanderbilt University working as a research assistant. Her research focused on the role of microglia in hypothalamic inflammation due to diet-induced obesity, which spurred her interest in neuroinflammation in neurodegenerative diseases. Currently, she is Emory's GSGA Executive Vice President and the GIN Treasurer. When she's not in lab she enjoys working out, traveling, and cheering on her Auburn Tigers and New York Yankees.

Valerie Joers, Post-doctoral Fellow

Valerie Joers is a Postdoctoral Fellow in the Tansey lab. She obtained both her BS in biology and her PhD in Neuroscience at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Her graduate work was completed under the direction of Dr. Marina Emborg and centered on developing a nonhuman primate model of cardiac dysautonomia to help understand cardiac dysautonomia and neurodegeneration in Parkinson's disease. Ultimately, Valerie is interested in the role systemic inflammation may have on developing non-motor symptoms in Parkinson's disease and understanding how this interaction may contribute to the etiology of the disease. In her spare time, Valerie enjoys biking, hiking, volleyball, gardening and cooking.

Michelle Johnson, Graduate Student

Michelle Johnson is a graduate student co-mentored in the labs of Dr. Malu Tansey and Dr. Gary Miller. She received her B.A. in neuroscience and biology from Oberlin College before starting at Emory University in the Neuroscience Doctoral program. Previously, Michelle worked in a lab examining the role genetic variations plays in modulating a person's ability to integrate various external sensory stimuli into a coherent perceptual experience, termed multisensory integration. Currently, Michelle uses multiple approaches and various genetic models including Caenorhabditis elegans and mice to study how Parkinson's Disease risk genes may modulate a person's response to toxic environmental triggers.

Sean Kelly, Research Specialist, Sr.

Sean Kelly was born in Savannah Georgia and grew up in Atlanta. Before joining the Tansey lab he obtained his B.S in Biology and Chemistry from UNCW in 2010. As an undergraduate he was exposed to his first research experience in the Virology lab of Arthur R. Frampton Jr., Ph.D, studying Herpes virus as an oncolytic vector for brain cancer therapeutics (2 years). From there he moved on to Emory University to work in the Neuroscience lab of Gretchen N. Neigh, Ph.D, as a Lead Research Specialist and Lab Manager (5 years). In the Neigh lab he studied the effects of chronic stress and its effect on a host of systems, with a main focus on the HPA axis. Sean then transitioned into the Tansey lab as a Senior Research Specialist, assisting with lab management duties and research. His main research focus in the lab is on selective inhibition of soluble tumor necrosis factor in rodent models of depression with increased inflammation: a potential approach to treating treatment-resistant depression. Sean is a jack of all trades when it comes to lab work and is fluent in a plethora of techniques ranging from qRT-PCR, to CO-IP, to confocal microscopy and beyond. When not in lab he's either grilling, skateboarding, surfing, playing drums, or exploring Atlanta eateries.

Elizabeth Kline, Neuroscience Graduate Student

Elizabeth Kline is in Emory University's neuroscience Ph.D. program. She graduated from the University of Pittsburgh in 2013 with her B.S. in Neuroscience and B.A. in History and Philosophy of Science. Her first undergraduate research experience was in the lab of Robert Gibbs, Ph.D., studying estrogen's influence on cognition in aging rats. She took a summer internship at West Virginia University in the lab of Miranda Reed, Ph.D. who studies the behavior of mice modeling human tauopathy. She then returned to Pitt and, working with Susan Sesack, Ph.D., completed her senior thesis on the localization of an endocannabinoid synthetic enzyme in rat nucleus accumbens. She joined the Tansey lab in 2014. Elizabeth is co-president of Emory Women in Neuroscience, a teaching assistant, and co-coordinator of the seminar Frontiers in Neuroscience. She likes kickboxing, yoga, and running.

Former Lab Members

Jae-Kyung LeeJae-Kyung Lee, PhD

Dr. Lee is now an Assistant Professor of Physiology and
Pharmacology at the University of Georgia College of Veterinary Medicine.

Ben Murray, Emory graduate and Research Specialist

From Wilmington, DE, Ben graduated from Emory University in 2017 with a B.S. in Neuroscience and Behavioral Biology. He joined Malu Tansey's lab in January 2016 and has been investigating the modulation of neuroinflammation and degeneration in a rat model of Parkinson’s disease. Before joining the lab, Ben studied spinal cord injury repair with Dr. Keith Tansey at Emory. He was a member of the varsity soccer team as an undergrad at Emory and is an avid Philadelphia sports fan.

Danielle Oliver, Research Technical Specialist

Danielle is a Research Technical Specialist in the Tansey Lab. She was born in Atlanta, GA and received her B.S. in Biochemistry from Hampton University in 2015. As an undergraduate she participated in three summer internship programs: (1) Summer Undergraduate Research Experience at Emory, (2) the Summer Internship Program at the National Institutes of Health and (3) the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, WA. After graduating she moved back to Atlanta and worked as a technician in the Neigh Lab where she contributed to a project that investigated the the role of chronological aging and HIV status on Glucocorticoid Resistance at the molecular level in PBMCs. She currently contributes to several ongoing projects in the Tansey lab that investigate the role of inflammation in mouse models of Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease. During her free time, she enjoys playing the piano, painting and baking sweets.

Elizabeth (Betty) Rodrigues, Nutritional Physiology Postdoctoral Fellow

Elizabeth (Betty) Rodrigues is a PhD candidate in Nutritional Physiology of the Federal University of Sao Paulo in Brazil. She received a BS in Dentistry from the Federal University of Ceara, Brazil, and her MS in Physiological Sciences from the Estadual University of Ceara. At the Federal University of São Paulo, she developed a novel model to study how polyunsaturated fatty acids and isoflavones influence inflammatory and depressive states in obese ovariectomized rats. Elizabeth joined the Tansey lab in 2013 as an exchange PhD student to study the effect of psychological stress, high fat diet and high sugar intake on inflammation and depression. She has developed a strong interest in the influence of environmental factors on neuroinflammation and development of neurodegenerative disease. In her spare time, Elizabeth enjoys Tai Chi Chuan, gardening, music and spending time with her family.

Lindsey Sniffen, Emory Undergraduate Student in Neuroscience and Behavioral Biology

Lindsey Sniffen is an undergraduate research assistant pursuring a B.S. in Neuroscience and Behavioral Biology at Emory University Class of 2018. She is from Oceanport, NJ and joined the Tansey Lab in the Spring of 2016. She is currently working on a project on the role of soluble TNF in HFHF diet induced peripheral inflammation in Alzheimer's Disease. She is also working on a project on the neuroinflammatory features of the alpha synuclein PFF injection mouse model of Parkinson’s Disease. After graduation she plans on pursuing a Ph.D in pharmacology, and then continuing to work to develop treatments for AD patients. In her spare time she enjoys baking, watching netflix, and working out.

Yuan Yang, Research Specialist Senior

Yuan Yang is a Research Specialist Senior in the Tansey lab. She was born in Wuhan city, China. She got her M.D. in Wuhan Medical College, China. Since 1995, she has worked in the Department of Physiology at Emory University. She worked on multiple research projects in Dr. Bob Gunn's lab, Dr. Bill Agnew's lab and Dr. Douglas Eaton's lab. With 20 years of lab work experience and training, she is well skilled in molecular biology and cell-culture. In 2016, she joined Dr. Malu Tansey's lab. She loves to spend her time with her family and 91-year old father; she also enjoys swimming and cooking in her spare time.