Meet the Team
Julia Willett, PhD Assistant Professor
Ruth Isenberg, PhD NIH K12 IRACDA Postdoc Fellow
I was born and raised in the Pacific Northwest near Tacoma, Washington. I graduated from the University of Puget Sound with a BS in Molecular and Cellular Biology in 2016. I earned my PhD in Microbiology from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 2023 in Dr. Mark Mandel’s lab where I studied cyclic diguanylate regulation of beneficial host colonization using the Vibrio fischeri-Hawaiian bobtail squid symbiosis as a model system. In the Willett lab, my research focuses on investigating the mechanisms that underlie Enterococcus faecalis killing by Streptococcus mutans. My goal is to become a professor at a primarily undergraduate institution where I can continue teaching and mentoring undergrads in the classroom and the lab!
LIKES: knitting/crocheting, seafood, video games, reality TV
DISLIKES: untangling yarn
Amanda Haeberle, MS Microbiology, Immunology, and Cancer Biology PhD Program
I grew up in northern Colorado and graduated from the University of Colorado Boulder where I studied Molecular Cellular and Developmental Biology and graduated in 2018. After a brief sabbatical from school, I returned back to school in 2020 to the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus where I studied small RNA mediated gene regulation in Group B Streptococcus in Dr. Kelly Doran's lab. I graduated with my master's in 2022 and then moved to Minnesota to pursue my PhD in microbiology at the University of Minnesota. I am interested in host-pathogen interactions, polymicrobial interactions and bacterial pathogenesis.
Carlo Castillo Microbiology, Immunology, and Cancer Biology PhD Program
Emily Carson, MS
I graduated from St Olaf College, where I researched biofilm formation in Pseudomonas aeruginosa, in ‘22 and just finished my Masters in Biomedical Sciences at Vanderbilt University in August of ‘23. At Vanderbilt, I investigated the role of transcriptional regulation in the proliferation of cardiovascular inflammation which is thought to play a role in the development of atherosclerotic plaques. I am now working in the Willett Lab to investigate biofilm development in simulated wound conditions and in the presence of various antibiotics.
Alex Snell, BS
I am currently a junior at the University of Minnesota studying biochemistry with minors in health psychology and mathematics on a pre-medical track. I grew up in Iowa City, Iowa. The project I am working on for the Willett lab involves studying E. faecalis biofilm formation in simulated wound conditions, and I am really excited to explore this further!
Faduma Mohamed Undergraduate Researcher
Celine Sackih Undergraduate Researcher
DISLIKES: cottage cheese and spiders
Sarah Zar Undergraduate Researcher
I'm from St. Louis, MO and moved up to Minneapolis to attend the University of Minnesota, where I'm currently a junior majoring in microbiology. I'm currently investigating biofilm formation in antibiotic-resistant mutants that arose from E. faecalis isolated from blood or prosthetic joint infections. I'm excited to keep learning new techniques for studying bacterial genetics and biofilm formation as I continue to explore my interests within microbiology! Outside of the lab, I enjoy cooking, watching sports, and checking out different parks and lakes near Minneapolis.
Kelli Vasek, undergraduate researcher (August-December 2022)
Ethan Robertson, laboratory technician (2019-2023)