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Director and Principal Investigator
Raina Fichorova

Raina N. Fichorova, MD, PhD

Professor of Obstetrics, Gynecology and Reproductive Biology | Harvard Medical School
Artium Magistrum Honoris Causa | Harvard University
The Walter Channing MD Distinguished Chair in Obstetrics and Gynecology

Raina N. Fichorova, MD, PhD, AMHC, is Chief of the Division of Genital Tract Biology in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH), the Walter Channing MD Distinguished Chair in Obstetrics and Gynecology, and Professor of Obstetrics, Gynecology and Reproductive Biology at Harvard Medical School (HMS). She was born in Bulgaria and obtained her MD and PhD from Sofia Medical University, the top medical school of Bulgaria. She then completed a fellowship in reproductive immunology at HMS/BWH and has been on the Harvard Faculty since 1997. She is the recipient of NIH grants, and multiple honors and awards, including a Harvard University Artium magistrum honoris causa and the Excellence in teaching Award from the Academy at HMS. The Laboratory of Genital Tract Biology founded by Dr. Fichorova is the first research laboratory accredited by the College of American Pathologists at BWH.

The mission of Dr. Fichorova’s research division is to advance medical knowledge, prevention and cure of inflammatory conditions in the female reproductive tract and to improve reproductive and sexual health through research. The focus of her research is on the healthy immunobiome, the inflammatory pathways of disease and preventable immunoinflammatory conditions in the mother that are linked to child health outcomes. Her latest findings unveil galectin function in the host-parasite cross-talk, the role of endosymbiont protozoan viruses in human disease, neonatal inflammatory indicators of developmental disturbances, and maternal microbes associated with newborn health.

Lab Manager
Hidemi YamamotoLab Manager

Hidemi is a graduate of Harvard University with a BA, and a focus in biology. She started training with Dr. Fichorova as a Faculty aid while in college and later joined the lab as a full-time researcher.  She was promoted to Lab Manager in 2010. Hidemi has co-authored a pending patent application and thirty original articles, including one first-authored article. She has presented our research on fifteen occasions. Hidemi continues to participate in Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School mentoring programs such as: Summer Training in Academic Research and Scholarship (STARS) program, and the Student Success Jobs Program (SSJP) where she was one of the co-recipients of the “Partners in Excellence Team Award” in 2011 and 2016.

Administrative Assistant
Bernadette AidonidisAdministrative Assistant

Bernadette has over 27 years’ experience working at Brigham and Women’s Hospital research departments as an Administrative Assistant.  Prior to working at the Brigham, she worked in banking as an assistant in commercial real estate after attending Burdett Secretarial coop program. Currently, as the administrative assistant in the Ob/Gyn Epidemiology Center and Genital Tract Biology Laboratory at Brigham and Women’s Hospital she is responsible for grant submissions, IRB applications, MTA’s, DTA’s, calendar maintenance, special projects and general office duties ensuring compliance with BWH, HIPPA and NIH regulations. Outside of the office she enjoys being at the ice hockey rink watching one of her 3 boys play in the winter or on the fields for lacrosse and football in the spring and fall.

Lab Members
Yashini Govender

Yashini graduated from the University of Cape Town, South Africa with her Ph.D. degree in Molecular & Cell Biology in 2015. Yashini initially joined the Fichorova Lab for 3 months in 2012 while doing her graduate studies. Her Ph.D. research focused on hormonal contraceptives and female genital tract inflammation. She investigated the differential effects, molecular mechanism of action and steroid receptor involvement of two progestin-only injectable contraceptives medroxyprogesterone acetate and norethisterone enanthate in inflammatory gene expression. Yashini then did a Postdoctoral Fellowship in a Translational HIV Immunology Lab at the National Institute of Communicable Diseases in Johannesburg, South Africa. Her research there focused on identifying biomarkers that are associated with HIV-1 control in a cohort of HIV-1 long-term non-progressors. She returned to the Fichorova Lab in November 2016 as a Postdoctoral Research Fellow, and her research is focused on investigating factors that influence female genital tract inflammation and HIV-1 risk. Outside the lab, Yashini loves to travel and experience different cultures.

Ngan Luu

Ngan is currently an undergrad student at Simmons University studying Biochemistry and Biostatistics. Ngan’s future plans include attending Medical school and traveling the world to aid patients in third world countries. She has been mentored in the Fichorova lab since her sophomore year in high school and continuing her internship every semester. In the lab, she contributes to data checking, chemical inventory, and assisting with Trichomonas vaginalis culture. Outside of work, she enjoys canoeing, movies, bowling, and collecting snow globes from her travels.

Stephanie Nartey

Stephanie is a recent graduate from Fitchburg State University with a BS in Biology. Her Undergraduate research aimed to discover the missing DNase 2 Alpha gene in chickens and determine how they were able to compensate for this loss, by using their DNase 2Beta gene. Upon receiving her degree, Stephane joined the lab and excelled in performing immunoassays on various clinical samples from national and international studies run in the lab. In the future she plans to continue her education by obtaining a Master’s degree in public health and epidemiology while continuing to research at the Fichorova Lab.

Alsaniz Porrata

Aslaniz, also goes by Lanie, attends the Community Academy of Science and Health high school, and is working in the Laboratory of Genital Tract Biology through a program called the Students Success for Jobs Program (SSJP) where students who are interested in science and medicine are selected based on application and GPA to participate in an internship program at Brigham and Women’s Hospital. Lanie was selected for this lab based on her interests. Though she is only a junior in high school, working in this lab setting through the SSJP program has shaped her interest in science as a rising senior in high school.

Alumni
Karla Bachiller

Karla graduated from Johns Hopkins University with a Bachelor of Science in Neuroscience and minor in French in the spring of 2018. Her first experience in the Genital Tract Biology Lab was as a research trainee through the STARS Program. During this time, she investigated the effect that hormonal contraceptives have on vaginal immunity. She loved this experience and decided to come back as a full time intern in the fall, post-graduation. Outside of the lab, Karla enjoys reading, attending concerts, and traveling. This following year, she will be traveling to Malaysia to each English to secondary students, but she will miss working in the lab and the friendships she has made with her coworkers.

Chris Bukowski

Chris graduated from the University of Massachusetts Boston with his BS in Biology in 2016. His undergraduate research involved trace element fingerprinting and genomic analysis of Mytilus in the gulf of Maine, along with investigating the social epidemiology of financial debt in the Boston area. Chris joined the Fichorova Lab upon receiving his degree, and has been focusing on performing cytokine assays for various ongoing studies. He plans to continue his education in the near future focusing on infectious disease epidemiology and public health.

Tiffany Chen

Tiffany is a current Harvard graduate student studying Immunology. She earned her B.A. in Biology and Art History from Wellesley College in 2015. Her thesis research is focused on the role of exosomes and microRNAs in modulating the immune response to vaginal infections. In addition to the immune system, she also enjoys thinking and writing about 20th century American architecture and design.

Kene Ezeigwe

Kene is a Bachelor of Science in Public Health candidate at Rutgers University. For the Summer of 2016, she is a research student through the Summer Training in Academic Research and Scholarship (STARS).  Her project is focused on theTrichomonas vaginalis Virus, specifically in finding inhibitors that can obstruct the inflammatory pathway used to cause increased inflammation in women with trichomoniasis.

Damilola Junaid

Dami holds a BS in Biology (Premedicine), an MBA and also founded a public health nonprofit (The ARISE Africa Foundation) while working at the Fichorova lab. Her research was primarily focused on two of the studies in the lab – identifying inflammation markers in children born prematurely and understanding the increasing susceptibility of African women to HIV due to the use of contraceptives. With ARISE, she leads her team to increase the number of Nigerians that get tested and treated for STD through education, leveraging the power of the media to instigate change, and providing means to individuals to get medical care. Her work so far resulted in a recent feature by CNN. Dami was later promoted to Project Coordinator at Boston Medical Center, working towards building a career in healthcare leadership.

Jordan

Jordan is a research scientist with a passion for implementation science especially on HIV prevention. He holds a Masters degree in Molecular Biology, an MPH and a Ph.D in Biomedical Sciences. Jordan provides oversight on HIV, gender based violence and health systems strengthening operations research at LVCT health, a local non-governmental organization based in Kenya. He is a co-chair of the Research Sub-Committee in the Kenya national PrEP technical working group and a member of the Kenya AIDS Research Coordinating Mechanism (KARSCOM). Jordan did research in the Fichorova Lab in 2013 as part of the multi-country Vaginal Biomarkers study and his PhD training. Work done in the lab focused on quantifying soluble immune markers (antimicrobial proteins) in cervicovaginal samples and getting to know and spend time with the wonderful team at the lab! Outside the lab, Jordan enjoys live music, writing, traveling and meeting people.

Shani Legore

Shani received a Bachelors of Arts degree from Southern Connecticut State University. She studied Psychology and Public Health. Shani  visited her homeland, Jamaica, to conduct her honors thesis research, which consisted of identifying attitudinal variations and breastfeeding patterns among rural Jamaican women. Also, during her undergraduate career, Shani worked  in a nueorscience laboratory examining sex differences in stroke outcome. Recently, Shani has completed a post-baccalureate pre-medicine program at the University  of Connecticut and shortly thereafter, joined Fichorova Lab as an intern. During her leisure time, Shani enjoys a good game of tennis, badminton, peer mentoring and performing monologues in her native language.

Taruna Madan

Taruna graduated in Pharmacy in 1999 from the University of Delhi, India. Her research was focused on ‘Host-pathogen Interactions’ as part of the collaborative program with CSIR-Institute of Genomics and Integrative Biology, Government of India and Delhi Institute for Delhi Institute of Pharmaceutical Sciences and Research (DIPSAR). She did her post-doctoral studies on ‘Role of lung surfactant proteins in host defense’ in MRC Immunochemistry Unit, Department of Biochemistry, University of Oxford, UK.  She is working as a Scientist with the ICMR-National Institute for Research in Reproductive Health, Department of Health Research, Government of India from 2007. Taruna has been collaborating with Dr. Fichorova since 2007 on her research program of ‘Development of a Host-friendly Microbicide against HIV’. She worked in the Fichorova Lab 2018-2019 under the Indo-U.S. WISTEMM: Women Overseas Fellowship Program 2018 to pursue a project entitled ‘Host factors silencing vaginal inflammation promote resistance to HIV’ that was selected for an award under the category of ‘Senior Scientists’.

Sam Martin

Sam is entering his senior year at Oberlin College. He studies Biochemistry with a minor in History. Besides enjoying researching in laboratories, Sam is a member of the Oberlin football team and plays as a defensive back. Sam began in the Fichorova Lab during the summer of 2015 and has returned twice because he enjoys his time in the laboratory so much. He enjoys data checking and aliquoting for the multiple clinical trials the laboratory partakes in. Outside of the lab, Sam enjoys going to the museum.

Osaruese Odeh

Osaruese graduated from Hamilton College with degrees in Biology and Philosophy. His senior thesis focused on measuring the metabolic rate of the Manduca sexta fed on varying concentrations of vitamin C. He has also completed research on mapping the pathways of different neurotransmitters of the Manduca sexta. Combining his knowledge in biology, Osaruese focused his philosophy thesis  around understanding and attempting to determine the best way to analyze human motivation and behavior. In doing so he speculates, that this is a biological dependence often overlooked when analyzing behavioral patterns.  In his spare time, Osaruese participates in spoken word poetry and is a part time trainer in students participating in speech and debate in the greater Boston area.

Ryan_Stanthia

Stanthia started her experience in the Laboratory of Genital Tract Biology as a SSJP student and continued doing research in the lab for three years after graduating from Hamilton College. She worked on various projects in the lab in the fields of women’s sexual and reproductive health. She then completed the Georgetown Experimental Medical Studies (GEMS) Post-baccalaureate Program at Georgetown University School of Medicine and returned to the lab for a third time in the summer of 2018 to complete a STARS scholarship under Dr. Fichorova’s mentorship. Stanthia matriculated into the school of medicine’s class of 2021. She plans to pursue a residency in OB/GYN and a fellowship in maternal fetal medicine where she will work with women with high risk pregnancies. She is also interested in working in underserved communities in Boston and the Caribbean, which is where her family is from. In her spare time, Stanthia enjoys bike-riding, traveling, and cooking with friends.

Gabbi Santone

Gabriella received her bachelors of Science in 2016 (HUGE Wildcats Fan) and her Masters of Science from Villanova in 2017 with thesis focused on gene identification and characterization in Salmonella typhimurium.  In Fichorova’s lab Gabbi has worked on experimenting on T. vaginalis– mycoplasma relationship as well as well mechanisms of Trichomonasvirus signaling to human cells. Gabbi is now working on cancer vaccines. She also has scuba-dived in the Great Barrier Reef and Thailand islands.

Radiana Trifonova

Radiana was trained as a Postdoctoral Fellow in Dr. Fichorova’s lab for 5 years after completing her Ph.D. thesis on Notch receptors signaling. In Fichorova’s lab she studied epithelial immunology of the female genital tract and participated in the development of new experimental models for preclinical safety assessment of microbicides including in vitro epithelial colonization assays to test the effect of microbicides on the commensal flora and HIV infection. She later worked in Dr. Judy Lieberman’s lab at Boston Children’s Hospital, specializing in siRNA-based microbicide methods and the role of mucosal myeloid cells in HIV infection, and in Dr. Todd Allen’s lab at the Ragon Institute, joining a team testing new strategies for HIV reservoir elimination in a humanized mouse model. Radiana has also an M.D. from the Medical University, Sofia, Bulgaria, and in 2019 is starting her Residency in Pathology at Albany Medical Center, NY, which will allow her to combine her research experience with clinical diagnostic applications and pursue an academic career in Pathology.

Rositsa Tropcheva

Rositsa received her Ph.D. degree in microbiology in 2014 from The Stephan Angeloff Institute of Microbiology, part of The Institute Pasteur International Network, Sofia, Bulgaria. Her research focuses on lactic acid bacteria and probiotics. Rositsa is an Assistant Professor at Sofia University, Bulgaria and a research and development manager of ProViotic AD. She joined the Fichorova Lab in summer 2016 for a collaborative research project funded by the EU and ProViotic AD. Rositsa enjoys music concerts, motorbike riding, paragliding and other extreme sports.

Yasmin Uzamere

Yasmin is a PGY-1 at Baylor’s Family Medicine Program, who truly exemplifies her alma mater’s mission statement: “Worship of God through service to mankind.” While at Meharry Medical College, she developed a passion for primary care, with a specific interest in women’s preventative health and education in underserved communities.During her first two years of medical school, she sat on the board of directors for Meharry’s student-run community clinic, 12 South, where patients got basic medical care, free of charge, every week. Yasmin spent the spring break of her first year traveling to Fusagasuga, Colombia, for a medical mission trip where she provided medical care for thousands of impoverished women and children. In the summer after her first year, Yasmin wasa research trainee in Dr. Fichorova’s Genital Tract Biology Lab through the STARS Program. During this time, she investigated the effects of seminal plasma on Trichomonas vaginalis, furthering her interest in women’s health. Through sponsorships from the UHF/NMF, she developed the #WomensHealthMatters Initiative, aiming to provide nutrition and exercise information in the form of educational tools to women in underserved communities in Nashville. Dr. Uzamere plans to continue serving her community by providing nutritional health education, improving health literacy, and highlighting the importance of preventive medicine in underserved populations throughout Houston.

Jackie Robinson Foundation Headshots

Olatunde is a graduate of Harvard University with a degree in Molecular and Cellular Biology and a secondary concentration in the History of Science. He is currently a medical student at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas. He did research in the Fichorova lab through the Summer Training in Academic Research and Scholarship (STARS) program in 2019. His project focused on evaluating how a novel contraceptive gel affected elements of the vaginal microbiome.

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