Our Team

ROBERT ROSTOMILY, MD
PRINCIPAL INVESTIGATOR

Dr. Rostomily has a long-standing clinical and research interest in neuro-oncology. His clinical specialties are skull base surgery, stereotactic radiosurgery and multidisciplinary management of brain metastasis. He is the director of Translational Research for the Houston Methodist Department of Neurosurgery, the Brain Metastasis Clinic and Co-Director of the Houston Methodist Gamma Knife Center slated to open in 2018. His research interests include i) understanding basic mechanisms of glioma invasion and epithelial mesenchymal transition (EMT) and their potential as therapeutic targets, ii) patient derived organotypic slice cultures and 3D tissue engineered tumors-on-chip as platforms for pre-clinical therapeutic screening on microfluidic devices to enhance precision cancer medicine, iii) the implications of aging and genomic instability on intra-tumor molecular heterogeneity and treatment responses, and iv) characterizing the electro-physiologic properties of gliomas (the “Electrome”) to identify new therapies and mitigate tumor related morbidity. When not dissecting the brain, he is busy smoking a mean brisket, fishing or spending time with family.

ANDREI MIKHEEV, MD
SCIENTIST; PRINCIPAL INVESTIGATOR
Andrei Mikheev graduated with an MD from St. Petersburg Medical School in Russia and PhD from Petrov Research Institute of Oncology. He was awarded IARC research training fellowship at the laboratory of Dr. Montesano at IARC (International Agency for Research on Cancer, Lyon, France) and International research training fellowship at Instituto Nazionale per la Ricera sul Cancro, Genoa, Italy.He received his Post-doctoral training at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center. His research interests then took him to University of Washington, Seattle with Dr. Robert Rostomily in 2007. Since then he has been leading the lab for glioblastoma research. Andrei enjoys a good game of volleyball, horseback riding and reading.

Svetlana Mikheeva
Sr. Research Assistant
Svetlana earned her MS from Polytechnic University at St. Petersburg, Russia. Upon graduation, she joined Dr. Kevin Jarrell’s laboratory at the Boston University and was involved in a research that focuses on studies of group II intron as a tool to direct nucleic acid manipulations. After moving to Seattle she continued her work as a molecular biologist at the University of Washington. She was involved in microarray studies of human cells following HIV-1 infection and performed experiments to study expression profiling of day 9 mouse embryos following teratogen treatments. She joined the Rostomily lab in 2005 to work on glioblastoma. She is applying recombinant DNA technology to alter glioma stem cell genotype to investigate how to inhibit cell tumorigenicity and invasiveness. In her free time, she loves to play piano, knitting and enjoys gardening.

ZEYNEP DERELI KORKUT, PhD
POSTDOCTORAL FELLOW
Zeynep Dereli Korkut specializes in BioMEMS to develop microfluidics technologies for mimicking 3D tumor microenvironments. Her goal is to adopt those technologies to solve translational problems in precision cancer medicine. She will focus on the designing of a novel microfluidic platform for pre-clinical drug sensitivity testing on patient-derived brain tumor samples using tissue engineering methods. Zeynep has a strong background in microfluidics, BioMEMS, drug testing and molecular biology of cancer. She received her PhD degree in Biomedical Engineering from the City University of New York. She developed 3D microfluidic devices to address the impact of the tumor microenvironment on cellular responses to targeted cancer therapies. She also developed cloning strategies for the construction of reporter cells for real-time monitoring of oncogenic signaling in microfluidic platforms. Zeynep enjoys dancing, sailing, swimming, traveling and attending traditional weddings in different parts of the world.

Naze Avci
PostDoctoral Fellow

Naze earned her Ph.D. in biomedical engineering from the University of Houston. Her graduate studies led to the development of in vitro 3D Glioblastoma models using hydrogel-based microwells, where she investigated the signaling pathways that play role in the interaction of tumor cells with the microenvironment. She also investigated the therapeutic effect of Delta-24RGD on in vitro 3D tumor models. She showed that microwell platform helps tumor to mimic the in vivo tumor microenvironment and can be used as a robust tool to investigate the oncolytic potential of the viruses in vitro. Prior to joining Dr. Rostomily lab in February 2018, Naze worked as a postdoctoral fellow for the Neurosurgery Department at MD Anderson Cancer Center, focusing on understanding the molecular signaling pathways and gene regulatory events that promote angiogenesis and its role in Glioblastoma. In her free time, Naze enjoys outdoors often running, camping, travelling and playing hang drum.

Pooja Gandhi

Sr. RESEARCH Assistant

Pooja earned MS in Microbiology from India and MS in Cell and Molecular Biology from Long Island University, New York. After completion of her MS in Microbiology, she joined Wockhardt Research Center where she conducted Bioefficacy and Bioidentity studies for erythropoietin and insulin. Later with her degree in Molecular Biology, she joined Center for stem cell and Regenerative Medicine, University of Texas Health Science Center where she worked on ex vivo expansion of Human Hematopoietic stem cells and gene editing using ZFNs. After that she worked on NOTCH signaling pathway in the process of Spermatogenesis at M D Anderson Cancer Center. In order to better understand the specific regulation of RBPJ which is central player of NOTCH signaling and its downstream targets, she used Yeast-2-hybrid assay with RBPJ as bait and discovered novel binding partner called BHC80. She then confirmed protein-protein interactions via co-ip as well as mass spectrometry. Her recent poster presentation on finding novel binding partners of RBPJ received an outstanding award at TFRS conference. Pooja enjoys travelling, camping, hiking and painting.

Sai Ashish Vasa

Rice University under graduate student

Ashish is currently enrolled as an undergraduate at Rice University. He is pursuing a Bachelors of Science in Biochemistry and Cell Biology and is minoring in Neuroscience on the Natural Sciences and Engineering track. His interest in medicine and later shadowing experience with the Neurosurgical ICU at Houston Methodist motivated him to pursue research in Glioblastomas. Ashish plans to enter medical school in order to pursue a career as a practicing scientist physician. His hobbies include practicing clarinet, hiking, bouldering, programming, and finding new music, coffee shops, and books.

Shawn Brisby

Lab manager

Shawn an original Houstonian after a stint in the 82nd airborne as a medic, earned his BS from Texas A&M in Marine Biology.  He has worked and managed in Molecular Pathology and Veterinary Pathology at MD Anderson, Integrative Biology and Pharmacology at UT Health before joining the Rostomily Laboratory.  He enjoys scuba diving, ice hockey and working on Harley Davidson engines when time allows.

Sawana Tillett

Administrative Assistant

Sawana Tillett is Dr. Rostomily’s Clinical, Research and Administrative Assistant for his Neurosurgery practice and Translational Research.  Sawana is a native Texan with over 17 years of experience in research administration.  She began her admin research career at Baylor College of Medicine in Cardiology, Pulmonary and Surgery Departments, with her final stop in Medical Ethics before joining Houston Methodist.  Her career at Methodist began in the Office of Governance & Faculty Affairs and where she joined the department of Cardiovascular Sciences.  Sawana joined Dr. Rostomily soon after he arrived at Methodist.Sawana enjoys spending time with family, traveling and all things outdoors, fishing, biking, football, basketball, and music.  She’s a member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. and volunteers regularly with The Bread of Life (St. Johns United Methodist Church, Downtown), her passion is serving others.

Past Members of the Rostomily Lab:
  • Maria Elias, Research Assistant; Current- PhD University of Utah, Scientist Myriad Genetics, Salt Lake City, Utah. 
  • Rob Oxford, MD, Post-doctoral Fellow; Current – Neurosurgeon, Carolina Spine and Neurosurgery
  • Sutapa Ray PhD, Post-doctoral Fellow; Current- Business Development Manager Impel NeuroPharma, Seattle WA
  • Elizabeth Stoll, PhD Student (co-mentored with Phil Horner); Current- CANDO Research Fellow Newcastle University UK
  • Mari Tokita MD, Post-doctoral fellow, Current- Associate Laboratory Director at Rady Children's Institute for Genomic Medicine, San Diego CA
  • Hunter Underhill MD PhD, Post-doctoral fellow; Current-Assistant Professor Pediatrics University of Utah.
  • Rohan Ramakrishna MD, Post-doctoral fellow; Current-Assistant Professor of Neurosurgery Weill Cornell Medical Center
  • Kathleen Fink (nee Tozer) MD, Post-doctoral fellow; Current- Assistant Professor Neuroradiology, University of Washington School of Medicine
  • Liza Severs (nee Kobelt), Research Assistant, Current- PhD Student, Department of Neurobiology, University of Washington, Seattle
  • Lisa Horowitz, Post-doctoral Fellow; Current- Research Scientist Department of Pathology University of Washington, Seattle, WA
  • Julia Pollak, Post-doctoral fellow; Current- Scientist, Resolution Biosciences, Seattle, WA
  • Maga Sanchez, Research Assistant; Current- Histotechnologist MD Anderson Cancer Center