Principal Investigator

Erik Wright (Google Scholar)
PhD Microbiology @ UW-Madison
M.S. Civil & Environmental Engineering @ UW-Madison
B.S. Electrical & Computer Engineering @ Cornell University

Erik's research integrates experimental and computational approaches to tackle the problem of antibiotic resistance. Although antibiotics have been used by microorganisms for eons, it remains unclear how these organisms have mitigated the rise of antibiotic resistance in their competitors. Erik studies the strategies that naturally antibiotic-producing bacteria have evolved to discourage the build-up of resistance, how we might employ similar tactics in the clinic, and how some pathogens have adapted to overcome antibiotics while paying a minimal price for resistance. The goal of this research is to develop new strategies for treating infectious disease, ultimately turning the tide against increasing antibiotic resistance.

Program Manager

Monica Jo Tomaszewski
PhD Infectious Diseases and Microbiology @ University of Pittsburgh
M.S. Engineering Management @ Point Park University
B.S. Biology & Environmental Protection Science @ Point Park College
Project Management Professional

Like much of the lab, Monica is interested in simple solutions to complex problems. However, the problems that she tries to solve are: “What is the best way to shape the public facing image of the lab?” and “How can we be more efficient in generating and presenting our data?” As someone who collects degrees and certifications for fun, Monica has a large range of talents that allows her to help guide research plans, mentor students in experimental development, and know useless scientific trivia. As program manager, Monica prefers to tug all the strings from behind the scenes, but as a scientist, she doesn’t mind getting her hands dirty.

Administrative Assistant

Maria Bond
MLIS @ University of Pittsburgh
B.A. Humanities @ University of Pittsburgh

Maria is an administrator in the Department of Biomedical Informatics. She manages administrative matters for the Wright lab, including lab ordering, maintenance of equipment, safety plans, and scheduling. She is dedicated to helping the scientists do their science.

Software Engineer

Nick Cooley
PhD Chemistry @ University of Missouri
B.S. Microbiology; BS Molecular Genetics @ Ohio State University

Nick is a software engineer responsible for developing and maintaining the R package SynExtend. His work focuses on developing novel tools for detecting genes that perform the same function across diverse biological systems. This involves developing and validating new methods for orthology inference and applying those methods to many thousands of genomes. The end goal of this work is the construction of a database and framework for fast discovery of previously undetected clusters of co-evolving genes with coordinated and intertwined functions in their respective unique systems. Nick has an interdisciplinary background with considerable prior training and experience in wet lab environments. However upon completion of his PhD decided he wanted to be able to wear sandals into work as much as possible, and pursued a different path.

Research Specialists

Shania Khatri
B.S. Biology @ Georgia Institute of Technology

Shania, currently a research specialist, is interested in the mechanisms of developing antibiotic resistance. Her main research focus is unveiling the mechanisms that drive Vancomycin resistance in Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA). Shania is the force that manually drives the experimental evolution in MRSA. As an aspiring physician, she is hopeful that her research will translate into clinically useful findings that directly benefit patients, countering the rise of drug-resistant infections.

Graduate Students

Samuel Blechman
B.S. Biochemistry @ University of Akron

Sam is a graduate student in the Department of Biomedical Informatics studying the use of electronic health records to inform prescribing practices related to antibiotics.

Shu-Ting Cho
M.S. in Plant Pathology and Microbiology @ National Taiwan University
B.S. in Life Sciences @ National Central University

Shu-Ting is a graduate student in the Joint CMU-Pitt Ph.D. Program in Computational Biology (CPCB) at the University of Pittsburgh. She is currently studying the evolution of tandem repeats in genomes, which underlay many human diseases

Aidan Lakshman
B.S. Mathematics @ University of Central Florida

Aidan is a doctoral fellow in the Biomedical Informatics Training Program at the University of Pittsburgh. His work involves using causal modeling to unravel the evolution of prokaryotic genomes. The goal of his research is to show what can be gleaned from tens of thousands of genomes that cannot be learned from only having a few genomes.
Nishant Panicker
B.S. Biology @ Azim Premji University

Nishant is a graduate student in the Integrative Systems Biology program at the University of Pittsburgh. The goal of his research is to predict the evolutionary pathway(s) toward antibiotic resistance to inform clinical decisions on antibiotic treatment strategies. Nishant uses a combination of mathematical models and experimental approaches.