Sarah Cohen, PI


Sarah is the Principal Investigator of the Cohen Lab. Her work centers on studying how lipids move within and between cells.  Sarah earned her PhD from the University of British Columbia in 2011, where she studied how viruses get into the nucleus of their host cells.  She then performed her postdoctoral work on lipid droplet dynamics with Jennifer Lippincott-Schwartz at the National Institutes of Health. She joined UNC as faculty in 2017.

Contact: sarahcoh[at]

Greg Miner, Post-Doc

Greg is a Postdoctoral Research Associate in the Cohen Lab. His PhD research focused on protein-lipid interactions and how these interactions are regulated, specifically in the context of vacuolar membrane fusion. He is continuing this line of research by examining the role of lipid binding proteins in mediating organelle contacts and lipid transfer. Greg received degrees in Chemistry and Biochemistry from the University of Washington at Seattle in 2012 and his PhD in Biochemistry from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 2018.

Contact: gminer2[at]

Maria Clara Zanelatti, Post-Doc

Maria Clara is a Postdoctoral Research Associate working with co-mentorship between Sarah Cohen and Mohanish Deshmukh. Her PhD research focused on investigating age-related genes conserved between C. elegans and mammals, focused on peroxisomal ROS and lipid metabolism. She is continuing her research on aging with particular attention of the neurodegenerative effect of APOE variants through the study of organelle morphodynamics, during hiPSc differentiation into neurons and astrocytes. She got her degree in Biology from the University of Milano-Bicocca in 2014 and her PhD degree in Molecular Life Science at ETH Zurich in 2021.

Contact: maria_zanellati[at]

Ian Windham, PhD Student



Ian is a PhD student in the Cell Biology and Physiology curriculum.  He graduated from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville in 2017 where he researched atypical motor proteins and cytoplasmic streaming in Arabidopsis. He is currently studying the trafficking of Apolipoprotein E, a major risk factor for late-onset Alzheimer’s Disease, in astrocytes.

Contact: iwindham[at]


Shannon Rhoads, PhD Student


Shannon is a PhD student in the Neurobiology curriculum. She graduated from the University of Maryland in 2016 then worked as a Lab Manager at Uniformed Services University where she examined the biophysical characteristics of Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS)-associated proteins. She is continuing her research in ALS through a co-mentorship with Sarah Cohen and Todd Cohen studying the impact of ALS pathology on organelle contacts and dynamics.

Contact: srhoads[at]

Sherry Hsu, PhD Student


Sherry is a PhD student in the Cell Biology and Physiology curriculum. She graduated from National Chiao Tung University in Taiwan with an M.S. in Molecular Medicine and Bioengineering where she studied non-centrosomal microtubule nucleation in primary neurons using an optogenetic tool. In the Cohen Lab, she is currently investigating the impact of microtubule post-translational modifications in organelle contacts and dynamics during hiPSC differentiation into neurons to model Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) pathology. Sherry loves animals.

Contact: chhsu[at]



Alex Powers, PhD Student

Alex is a PhD student in the Cell Biology and Physiology curriculum. He graduated from Emmanuel College in 2018, where he studied prenatal fluoxetine exposure on rodent behavior. While in school, he studied biochemical and biophysical properties of Parkinson’s Disease associated alpha-synulcein mutants at Brigham and Women’s University. After graduation, Alex worked at Biogen and Voyager Therapeutics, where he studied novel therapeutic development for neurodegenerative diseases. He is currently studying the role of Apolipoprotein E in lipid droplet regulation.

Contact: apowers[at]

Vickie Williams, PhD Student


Vickie is a PhD student in the Cell Biology and Physiology curriculum. She graduated from Davidson College in 2019. After graduation, she pursued a post-baccalaureate at the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke and the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences where she studied Drosophila models of Parkinson’s disease. She is currently studying the role of organelle morphodynamics in the context of Parkinson’s disease.

Contact: vwilliams1[at]

Joey Ragusa, Technician

Joey is a post-baccalaureate technician with a B.S. in Biomedical Sciences from the University of Central Florida. There, he researched the impact of estradiol on primary effector CD4+T-cells and the role of a molecular chaperone as a potential therapeutic intervention to block and reverse alpha-synuclein protein aggregates commonly associated with Parkinson’s disease. In the Cohen lab, he is currently using various microscopy techniques to study trafficking of lipids between astrocytes and neurons.

Contact: joey.ragusa[at]

Wendy Showalter, Undergraduate Research Assistant

Wendy is a junior at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill pursuing a B.S. in Biology.
She is very excited to be joining the Cohen Lab during her summer program! During her time in the Cohen Lab she will be using  dimerization-dependent fluorescent probes to study contact sites between lipid droplets and other organelles. In her spare time she enjoys playing with her two dogs, Lucky and Archie, trying new taco joints, and watching thriller movies with her husband.Contact: wendyshowalter[at]



Amit Joshi, Postdoc (2018-2020). Current: Assistant Professor, University of Tennessee


Sidney Smith, PREP Scholar (2021-2022). Current: PhD Student at Penn (Cell and Molecular Biology)

Valerie Dong, Technician (2021-2022). Current: PhD Student at UC Davis (Animal Science)

Colby Wagner, Undergraduate Research Assistant (2021-2022). Current: Research Associate at AskBio

Christina So, Technician (2019-2021). Current: PhD Student at UNC (Cell Biology and Physiology)

Tim Qi, Technician (2018-2019). Current: PhD student at UNC (Pharmacy)