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Iweala Team Presentations!

Soorya at the Biology 395 Poster Session
Christa at TARC Poster Session
Kevin at Biology 395 Poster Session, April 2022
Jada’s Defense, November 2022


Iweala Team Dinner!

Current Members

Yugen Zhang, Ph.D. 

Dr. Yugen Zhang joined the Iweala Lab as a research associate. He obtained his Bachelors in Veterinary Medicine (DVM) from Nanjing Agricultural University, and further got his Master Degree and Ph.D. in microbiology and immunology from China Agricultural University, Beijing, China, where he studied the molecular pathogenesis of Fowlpox virus (FPV) and recombinant vector FPV for use in vaccination of non-avian species. In 2013, Dr. Zhang joined the Department of Microbiology and Immunology, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill for his post-doctoral research. During the last seven years, his research was focused on host-pathogen interactions and the innate immune responses during viral or bacterial infections.


Onyinyechukwu Mazi

Onyinyechukwu Mazi is a senior pre-research undergraduate student at UNC-Chapel hill who is pursuing a Medical Anthropology degree as well as a Health and Society and Chemistry double minor. She is hoping to learn more about alpha-gal syndrome and pursue a career in either immunology or epidemiology. Outside of the lab, Onyinyechukwu is the co-president of the OneAfrica club, she also loves volunteering at local elementary schools and learning about random historical disasters and societal shifts.


Soorya Vasan

Soorya Vasan is a third-year undergraduate student at UNC-Chapel Hill majoring in biology and minoring in music. After graduating, she hopes to pursue a career in healthcare. Outside the lab, Soorya loves playing violin and volunteering with Musical Empowerment, South Orange Rescue Squad, and the Refugee Support Center at Carolina!

Daaniya Rana

Daaniya Rana is a first-year undergraduate majoring in Biology and Global Studies with a concentration in Middle Eastern Health. She hopes to pursue a career in healthcare after graduating, particularly in the fields of food allergy or international health. Outside of the lab, Daaniya volunteers with the Refugee Support Center, Carolina Pediatric Attention and Love, and UNC Hospitals, and she enjoys baking, reading about medical anthropology, and watching David Attenborough documentaries in her free time.


Yinghui Wang, M.B, M.S

Dr. Wang joined the Iweala Lab as a Postdoc Research Fellow. She received her Medical Degree from Tianjin Medical University (China, 2013), and her Master’s Degree in Immunology from Guilin Medical University (China, 2018), where she studied the dual role of innate immune response on the pathogenesis of metabolic disease. During the past five years, her research was focused on the field of cancer immunotherapy, such as CAR-T, CAR-NK-based pre-clinical/clinical studies, as well as investigation on Treg-mediated immune escape.

Dawn Ritzwoller B.A.

Dawn Ritzwoller is a secondyear Masters in Public Health candidate in the Gillings School of Global Public Health at UNC-Chapel Hill. She received a B.A. from the University of Colorado Boulder as a double major in Psychology and Biology with a minor in Public Health. She hopes to pursue a career particularly focused on prevention, control, and treatment for individuals with food allergies and other chronic conditions. She is very passionate about conducting research on alpha-gal, given she was diagnosed with mammalian meat allergies at the age of 13. She also faces a multitude of anaphylactic food allergies, driving her to become an advocate for the quality of care for allergy and immunology patients.  

Katherine Fitzgerald

Katherine Fitzgerald is a senior undergraduate student at UNC-Chapel Hill majoring in biology and sociology and minoring in chemistry. Outside of the lab, Katherine likes to cook, bake, and brew kombucha along with teaching yoga. She also enjoys her time working as a peer mentor for organic chemistry classes. After graduation, she plans on pursuing a PhD or DO/PhD.

Lab Alumni

Nikhil Milind

Nikhil Milind received a B.S. in Genetics and Computer Science from North Carolina State University in 2021 with the goal of conducting biomedical research in the field of complex trait genetics. After his time with the Iweala Lab, Nikhil went on to study human genetics and disease at Cambridge University in 2022, and is now currently pursuing a Ph.D. in Genetics at Stanford University.


Julie John, B.S.

Julie John received her B.S. in Biology from University of North Carolina Chapel Hill in 2019 and completed an M.S. in Physiology at North Carolina State University. In the Iweala lab, she was interested in optimizing an in vitro rat basophilic leukemia (RBL) based assay to assess glycolipid-mediated allergic effector cell activation. Since then, she has continued working in research with a focus on AI incorporation in healthcare to improve patient care.





Camille Kapita, M.Sc

I started working with Dr. Iweala as her Lab Research Technician and Manager in April 2019. I received my M.Sc. in Biology from NCCU. I love research because for me knowing the causes of underlying diseases and finding ways to cure them, is not only a scientific satisfaction but also a source of joy and freedom from my ingrained beliefs. Camille is now working with the United States government under their United States Geological Survey in Wisconsin where he continues to pursue his love of research.






Sosa Evbuomwan, B.S.

Sosa Evbuomwan was a Research Assistant in the Iweala Lab and has recently received her Psychology (BS) from UNC Chapel hill in 2021. She intends on attending medical school and becoming a surgeon, immunologist, or women’s fertility specialist. In addition to the lab, she has served as a 2x Speaker Pro Tempore of the Undergraduate Senate, 3x Undergraduate Senator, UNC Admissions Ambassador, is a MacDonald Scholar, and a 2021 Senior Class Marshall. In the lab she assists with organizing lab notes, assisting the lab staff, and serves as the web designer for the Iweala Lab. Her passions include medicine, women’s health, music, and dance.

Kevin Thomas, B.S.

Kevin Thomas is a UNC Alumni from UNC Chapel Hill who has recently received his degree in Biology (B.S). He became interested in alpha-gal after he obtained an irrational fear of becoming allergic to mammalian meat at the tender age of 12 after learning about the allergy in his random scrolls through Wikipedia. In his free time, he likes to read Wikipedia and learn about mythology, ancient history, and infectious diseases, and other random stuff and he was also an active member of the UNC Quiz Bowl Club.

Cissy (Claire) Amelio, RN, BSN

Cissy received her B.S. in Nursing and has been a Registered Nurse since 2008. She brings over a decade of patient-centered care to the team, including Labor & Delivery and managing high-risk Home Health Care patients. Cissy joined our department in early 2018 managing Dr. Scott Commins’ Alpha-gal Syndrome clinical research projects in collaboration with the Centers for Disease Control. She recently joined Dr. Onyi Iweala’s team and continues to contribute to ongoing Alpha-gal Syndrome studies, but now manages Mast Cell Activation Syndrome projects given her intimate knowledge of this disease. Cissy is passionate about advancing clinical and translational research efforts in the field of Allergy and Immunology aimed at bringing efficacious treatment options to patients suffering from this debilitating condition.

Jada Suber, Ph.D.

Dr. Jada Suber has obtained her Ph.D. in Microbiology and Immunology at the Univerisity of North Carolina. She was formerly affiliated with the labs of Dr. Onyi Iweala and Dr. Wesley Burks. Her current work involves investigating inhibitory mechanisms of effector cells in peanut allergy and alpha-gal allergy. Before receiving her Ph.D., she obtained her B.S. in Chemistry from Presbyterian College and completed a Post-Baccalaureate Research Education Program (PREP) at the Medical University of South Carolina.

Audrey Carson

Audrey Carson received her B.S. in Biology at Case Western Reserve University. She is currently working with the NIH pursuing a career related to infectious disease. Outside the lab, she enjoys volunteering in the emergency room at University Hospital in Cleveland, reading about public health and medical anthropology, crafting, and being outdoors.

Christa Dudley, B.S.

Christa Dudley completed her Postbaccalaureate Research Education Program (PREP) student at UNC-Chapel Hill. Her plan is to get into a Ph.D. program to study microbiology and infectious diseases. Before becoming a PREP student, she received a bachelor’s degree in Biology with a minor in Spanish at Fayetteville State University. Outside of the lab, she enjoys cooking, listening to music, and hanging out with friends.