Current Lab Members

Tony Fehr

Name: Anthony Fehr

Title: Principal Investigator

Project: All of them

From: I was born in Norfolk, Nebraska, but spent nearly my entire childhood on a farm outside the small town of Davenport, Nebraska. I got my bachelor’s degree in Biochemistry at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, then spent 7 years in St. Louis where I got my PhD in Microbiology from Washington University. I then lived in Iowa City for 6 more years as a post-doc at the University of Iowa before moving to Lawrence KS in 2018.

Prior Scientific Experiences: As an undergraduate I worked in Dr. James Van Etten’s lab where we studied algal viruses and I identified several small RNAs produced during infection. In graduate school I did my PhD work with Dr. Dong Yu on a small Human Cytomegalvirus protein, pUL21a, which we found modulated cell cycle progression. As a post-doc in Dr. Stanley Perlman’s lab, I began working on coronaviruses and carried out several projects pertaining to host-pathogen interactions.

Interests Outside Science: Growing up I was a huge sports fan, and continue to enjoy watching and going to ballgames, especially Nebraska football, St. Louis Cardinal baseball, and KU basketball. My kids are now heavily involved in softball and baseball so most of my weekends revolve around their tournaments. I also enjoy camping, playing pool, grilling, and hanging out with my family as much as possible.

Jessica Pfannenstiel

Name: Jessica Jeannin Pfannenstiel

Project: Testing antivirals targeting the macrodomain, engineering macrodomain mutant viruses

Title: Graduate Student

From: I was born in Kansas City, Missouri, and grew up in the small town of Lone Jack, Missouri. I received my bachelor’s degree from the University of Kansas, and in the Fall of 2022, I am starting my graduate study at the University of Kansas as a direct hire in the Fehr lab. I currently live in Lawrence, Kansas.

Prior Scientific Experience: As an undergraduate, I worked for Dr. Anthony Fehr as an undergraduate research assistant since April of 2019. My work has primarily been focused on BAC recombination to make recombinant genomes for various strains of Coronaviruses. Before working for Dr. Fehr, I worked briefly in Dr. Joy Ward’s lab, assisting a graduate student with their analysis of the effect of CO2 on plant’s development of trichomes. Lastly, I was a part of REU in collaboration with The University of Kansas’ Biodiversity Institute. We performed biodiversity surveys and population estimates for skinks and birds on Tetepare island conservation located in the Solomon Islands.

Interests Outside Science: My husband and I are really into going to concerts, hosting cookouts, and watching the Kansas City Chiefs or KU Basketball. I love to be outdoors, hiking or bird watching when I get some downtime. Though, reading is my favorite downtime activity.

Joseph O'Connor

Name: Joseph O’Connor

Title: Graduate Student

Project: Determining the role of Mac1 binding activity in the viral life cycle; Investigating the mechanism of nucleocapsid protein ADP-ribosylation

From: I was born and raised in Grand Island, NE. I received my B.S. in Biology from Nebraska Wesleyan University in Lincoln.

Prior Scientific Experiences: I previously worked under the guidance of Dr. Glen Dappen in assaying nematode populations in agricultural samples.

Interests Outside Science: I enjoy scuba diving, board games, and talking about movies I haven’t seen. I also love growing and showing off my carnivorous plant collection.

Catherine Kerr

Name: Catherine Kerr

Title: Graduate Student

Determining the role of PARP12 in restricting coronavirus replication and pathogenesis. I use PARP12-/- mice to investigate the role of PARP12 in coronavirus replication and pathogenesis in both a cell culture model and in vivo. Using a CoV lacking a macrodomain, I look at viral titers in various organs and the disease progression of the infection.

From: I was born in Illinois, but a majority of my childhood was spent in the Pacific Islands (Hawaii and Guam). From there I moved to Wyoming for middle school and high school. I got my bachelor’s degree from the University of Wyoming in Laramie.

Prior Scientific Experiences: As an undergraduate, I worked in Dr. Dagmara Motriuk-Smith’s lab studying parasitology. I identified four novel parasites, one in box turtles and three in eastern moles. I also aided in the development of an assay to screen for Polar Organizing Protein Z (PopZ) mutants to study intrinsically disordered proteins.

Interests Outside Science: In my spare time, I enjoy doing dance and acrobatics. I’m a certified barre fitness instructor at Amber. I also practice aerial arts several times a week and my favorite apparatus is the trapeze.

Srivatsan Parthasarathy  

Name: Srivatsan Parthasarathy           

Title: Postdoctoral researcher

Project: Role of PARP14 in coronavirus infection and host immune response to it

From: I was born and raised in Chennai, India and completed by bachelor’s degree in Biotechnology at VIT university, Vellore, India. After completing my MS in Biochemistry at Colorado State University, I moved to University of Kansas, Lawrence for my PhD in Microbiology.

Prior Scientific Experiences: My undergraduate project was to identify the mechanism of silvernanoparticles (SNP) resistance in Gram-positive and negative bacteria, under the mentorship of Dr. Amitava Mukherjee.During my Masters degree, I identified and isolated the cellulase-coding region of the transcript from a fungus Penicillium spinulosum. In my PhD, I characterized the role of transcription factors (RRNPP proteins) in biofilm formation and alternate sigma factor (SigV) in lysozyme resistance, under the mentorship of Dr. Lynn Hancock, in nosocomial infection-causing bacteria, Enterococcus faecalis. As a post-doc in Dr. Fehr’s lab, I investigate the role of PARP14 in coronavirus replication and host immune response to it.

Interests outside Science: I enjoy working out, playing cricket, watching football, soccer and basketball with friends and spending time with my family. 

Nancy Schwarting

Name: Nancy Schwarting

Title: Lab Manager

Project: MHV animal studies

From: I was born in Fort Worth, Texas to an itinerate museum director and a naturalist. We moved frequently, and I lived in San Antonio, Baltimore MD, Sioux City, IA, and Kansas City, before graduating high school in the small rural town of Dell Rapids, SD.  I began college at KU, attended Northern Arizona University-Flagstaff for 2 years (initially to attend a NHS Grand Canyon semester) before returning to Lawrence to graduate with a double major in Biology and Psychology.

Prior Scientific Experiences: I have over 30 years of diverse experience in animal research and oversight. Initially, I worked under the KU Veterinarian and with the IACUC to provide hands-on training and oversight of all University animal protocols to assure alignment with approved animal use statements. Here I developed a training data base, and trained researchers on animal techniques. In 2004 I began work with Dr. Roger Rajewski, in the KU core facility, BIO (Biopharmaceutical Optimization and Innovation) Center, doing pharmacokinetics focusing on drug delivery of novel compounds.  I began in the Molecular Biosciences Dept. in 2014, joining Dr. Lynn Hancock’s lab working with enterococcus infection models, and for a brief time the Picking lab’s immunological and vaccine studies. The following year I joined Dr. Scott Hefty’s lab working with a mouse chlamydia model, and finally in 2019, just in time for the pandemic, joined Dr. Fehr’s lab.

Interests Outside Science: I enjoy volleyball and wallyball with friends when I can, and camping, hiking and rockhounding with family. I am usually outside if I am not at work, caring for, socializing with and enjoying a larger-than-average number of domestic and exotic pets.

Lab Alumni

Name: Yousef Alhammad (2020-2022)

Yousef Alhammad

Title: Postdoctoral Researcher

Project: Characterization and pathogenesis of the SARS-CoV-2 macrodomain

From: I was born in Saudi Arabia in a small town at the far east of Alahssa region where grow up and got my Bachelor of Veterinary Medicine from the King Faisal University. After working as a junior veterinarian at Falcon Birds care center in Riyadh, I moved to Melbourne, Australia to study molecular virology.

Prior Scientific Experiences: I completed my Masters and PhD degrees by research at Dr Heidi Drummer’s Lab at the Burnet Institute in Melbourne through Monash University. My main projects during that time were studying the function of variable regions of the Hepatitis C Virus glycoprotein E2. After finishing my PhD, I moved back to Saudi Arabia and worked as a virology specialist at Riyadh veterinary diagnostic laboratory. There, I developed more skills on viral diagnosis as well as using the next-generation MySeq Illumina sequencer machine to study the whole genome of avian and equine influenza viruses and MERS-CoVs. To increase my research skills, I moved to the US to work with Dr Anthony Fehr at KU where I started as a postdoctoral researcher to characterize the nsp3 macrodomain of coronaviruses including COVID-19 SARS-CoV-2 virus.

Interests Outside Science: I like to do light sports like jogging and playing volleyball. I enjoy reading books during my free time as well as travelling to explore new areas especially natural scenes.

Name: Emily Giri (2020-2022)

Title: Undergraduate Research Assistant

Project: Role of ADP-ribosylation in restricting CoV replication in myeloid derived cells

From: I was born in Grand Rapids, Michigan but grew up in Salt Lake City, Utah. After finishing high school in 2018 my family moved to Smithville, Missouri and I moved to Lawrence, Kansas to pursue a B.S in Microbiology. I plan to relocate to Columbia, Missouri to complete my PhD in Microbiology at the University of Missouri in 2022.

Prior Scientific Experiences: In 2016 I participated in a summer research program at the University of Utah in Dr. Lou Barron’s lab who worked on natural product drug discovery. From 2019-2021 I participated in an internship with Dr. Sharon Billings at the University of Kansas who researched forest and grassland biogeochemical cycling.

Interests Outside Science: I enjoy reading and I am currently learning to speak Hindi. I also like to run, hike, cook new recipes, and watch Netflix with my husband in my free time. One day I hope to travel to India, Japan, New Zealand, Canada, and Hawaii for hiking trips

Name: Lynden Voth (2018-2020)

Title: Undergraduate Researcher and Lab Manager

Project: Understanding how different residues in the macrodomain binding pocket impact coronavirus replication and pathogenesis

From: Newton, Kansas

Prior Scientific Experiences: Prior to working with Dr. Fehr, I had worked in a hospital lab for a year.

Interests Outside Science: I am interested in horticulture, sand volleyball, and playing guitar.

Name: Ethan Doerger (2018-2019)

Title: Lab Manager

Project: Role of the macrodomain during MHV infection

From: Cincinnati, OH

Prior Scientific Experiences: C.elegans developmental genetics, Wisconsin River microbiology and water quality, Panama tropical ecology

Interests Outside Science: Sports, Travel, and Pediatric Nursing