Rob Mitra


Rob Mitra is the Alvin Goldfarb Professor of Computational Biology in the Department of Genetics and the Edison Family Center for Genome Sciences and Systems Biology at Washington University in St. Louis.  He received his BS, MS and PhD from MIT.  His current research interests are focused on understanding how transcription factors achieve their in vivo specificities, developing new genomic technologies, and applying these to understand disease processes.


Email: rmitra[at]

Wesley Agee

Post-bac Student

Wesley received a Bachelors of Science from Harris-Stowe State University in St. Louis, MO. There he utilized Drosophila to study the effects of over-consumption of MSG. Studying circadian rhythms, neuroplasticity, and epigenetic variation over multiple generations of fruit flies. Currently, he is participating in a yearlong OGR post-bac program within the Mitra Lab while preparing to apply and enroll in a PhD program for the Fall of 2021. Wesley seeks to promote diversity in STEM, as a previous Ronald E. McNair and MOLSAMP scholar. In his free time, he enjoys watching sports, reading and running.


Email: wagee[at]

Xuhua Chen

Research Scientist

Xuhua Chen got a B.S. in medicine from Shandong University of Traditional Chinese Medicine in 1990. She completed her master’s degree in bioscience at the University of Missouri, Columbia. Xuhua has worked in the Mitra lab since 2007. Her research foci include working on transposon “calling cards,” recording transcription factor biding events in yeast and mammalian cells, and inducing and reprograming gene activation in different stages of neural differentiation.


Email: xchen29[at]

Jesse Cohn


Jesse received his PhD from the University of Texas at Austin where he used C. elegans to study the effects of long-term neural activity on gene transcription and cellular morphology. Jesse joined the Mitra lab in the fall of 2019 and aims to use cutting-edge genetic tools to develop a new paradigm for high-throughput analysis of genes that govern the development of mammalian nervous systems. In his free time he loves traveling with his wife, making music, cooking, and playing chess and basketball.


Email: jessecohn[at}

Fengping Dong

Postdoctoral Research Associate

Fengping received his PhD from the Pennsylvania State University where he studied risk genes related to schizophrenia and autism spectrum disorders. He joined the Milbrandt and Mitra labs with interests of applying a series of functional genomics tools to understand neurodevelopmental diseases. Combining CRISPR/Cas9-mediated gene regulation with next-generation sequencing, he aims to discover underlying molecular mechanisms of neurological diseases. His work will focus on understanding how risk genes contribute to intellectual and developmental disabilities using induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs).

Josh Langmade

Staff Scientist

Josh Langmade received a B.S. in genetics and an M.S. in biochemistry and molecular biology both from The University of Kansas.  He has worked at Washington University for over 17 years, with the majority of that time spent in the Ory/Schaffer lab within the Cardiology department.  Through his previous research experiences, he developed an interest in projects involving next-gen sequencing and bioinformatics, which helped lead him to his current position.  Josh joined the Mitra and Milbrandt labs as a staff scientist in May of 2019.  His current research, through the MGI pilot project, involves helping to develop a method to encode cellular phenotypes with fluorescence.  When not working in the lab, Josh enjoys spending time with his wife and kids, enjoying a variety of outdoor activities and cooking BBQ.


Email: jlangmade[at]

Jiayue Liu

Graduate Student

Jiayue graduated from UW-Madison with a major in biochemistry and a certificate in computer science in 2015. During undergraduate study, she started doing research in Ansari’s lab in 2012 and became interested in biological sciences. She wanted to understand the dynamic biochemical patterns of the C terminal domain of RNA polymerase II during transcription. In 2014, She spent three months in Steinmetz’ lab at EMBL in Germany to understand the functional roles of long non-coding RNAs and became interested in quantitative biology and genomics. Jiayue decided to start a PhD degree at Washington University in St. Louis in 2015, and then joined Mitra’s lab. With all the expertise in Mitra’s lab, she wants to develop a novel method to systematically discover how protein-protein interactions affect transcription factors (TFs) binding specificity as well as the functional output. In her free time, Jiayue loves playing with her cat Clooney, reading books, watching movies, playing guitar or ukulele and just exploring anything cool.


Email: jiayue[at]

Lorida Llaci

Graduate Student

Lori Llaci, originally from Albania, moved to the United States to get her Bachelor of Science in biochemistry from Arizona State University. She worked in the Neurogenomics Division at the Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen) in Dr. Vinodh Narayanan’s laboratory studying mitochondrial dysfunction in patients with epileptic encephalopathy where she discovered the beauty of clinical research. She decided to start graduate school at Washington University because of her interest to incorporate a bioinformatic approach to her work while applying it to clinical research and joined the Mitra lab because of their expertise in technology development. Her work will focus on understanding the epigenetics of sex differences in glioblastoma at a single cell level. In her free time, she likes to read, explore new cuisines, travel and play the piano.


Email: l.llaci[at]

Justin Melendez

Graduate Student

Justin Melendez is a graduate student in the Mitra Lab. He received a B.S. in both microbiology and bioengineering from Cornell University and worked on light inducible expression technology and “smart” computer-controlled bioreactors at Princeton University before coming to Washington University. He is currently working on applying Cas9/CRISPR technology to stem cell differentiation screens looking for genes involved in neuronal differentiation of cells in the spinal cord.

Brian Muegge

Post Doctoral Fellow

Brian Muegge is an Instructor in the Division of Endocrinology at Washington University in St. Louis. He graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Chemistry from Princeton University. He earned his MD and PhD degrees from Washington University School of Medicine. Brian’s graduate thesis work was performed in the laboratory of Jeffrey Gordon, where he used experimental and computational methods to study the interplay between host diet and mammalian gut microbiome. He joined the Mitra lab in 2019 where his research interests are to understand how cells in the intestine respond to injury, with a special emphasis on the rare intestinal endocrine cell population. In the Mitra lab, Brian is defining the binding targets for key intestinal transcription factors using novel in vitro methods of development and injury. The goal of this work is to identify new mechanisms of injury repair and translational therapies that would help patients suffering from intestinal and metabolic diseases. Brian is a practicing Physician-Scientist and treats patients with Endocrine diseases at the St. Louis VA Medical Center.


Email: mueggeb[at]

Pamela Recio

Graduate Student

Pamela graduated from CSU Monterey Bay with a Bachelor of Science in Molecular Biology in 2018. After graduating, she participated in a year long post baccalaureate research program called Opportunities in Genomics Research in the Mitra lab. The goal of her yearlong project was to understand how gene expression is a function of TF binding in budding yeast. Pamela enjoyed her post baccalaureate experience so much that she decided to start a PhD program at Washington University in St. Louis in 2019, and then joined the Mitra lab. She is interested in better understanding the determinants of GAL4p in vivo binding in budding yeast. In her free time, she likes to spend time with her dog Lola, collecting plants, and drawing.


Email: p.recio[at]

India Reiss

Graduate Student

India Reiss received a B.S. in Neuroscience from Johns Hopkins University, where she studied the genomics of fruit fly color vision. As a graduate student in the Mitra lab, she is working to adapt Calling Card technology to the Sleeping Beauty transposase, which will improve the ability of Calling Cards to record transcription factor binding over time.


Email: ihreiss[at]

Christian Shively

Staff Scientist

Christian Shively began his postdoc training in the lab in 2014, after completing a B.S. in biology at Indiana University and a Ph.D. in cellular and molecular biology at the University of Michigan. His work in the Mitra lab is focused on understanding how transcription factors “know” where to bind DNA.  Paralogous transcription factors often recognize the same consensus binding site in vitro, yet bind to distinct genomic targets and regulate disparate cellular processes in vivo, and Christian’s research seeks to delineate the mechanisms that enable this specificity by studying a well-conserved pair of paralogous transcription factors in a model organism.


Email: cshively[at]

David Song

Undergraduate student

David Song is an undergraduate sophomore at Washington University in St. Louis. He is studying Computer Science and Financial Engineering. As a student in the Mitra Lab, David uses the “Calling Card” method to analyze how transcription factors bind in yeast. David enjoys cooking and playing tennis in his free time.



Michael Wilkinson

Graduate Student

Science has always been an extension of Michael Wilkinson’s passion for tackling real-world problems. He was a participant in the MARC scholars program at Hunter College in NYC, where he not only learned how to address scientific problems but to also have fun while doing it.

The Mitra Lab is Michael’s home in St. Louis, where he and other researchers develop molecular tools to help better understand biological problems. He is fortunate to use such tools in understanding the transcriptional networks that govern cell fates, whether in development or in disease. Michael’s personal interests are to elucidate the inter- and intra-cellular mechanisms that govern cell state in a heterogeneous population, whether it be in regeneration or in cancer. Outside of the lab, he enjoys fitness and music. Michael likes applying his understanding of science to bring well-being to others. As a previous participant of many minority support programs over the years, he hopes to share his opportunities with those in underserved communities.

Lab Alumni

  • Arnav Moudgil, Washington University in St. Louis, MSTP
  • Matt Lalli, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, Instructor in the Department of Psychiatry,
    Division of Seaver Autism Center for Research and Treatment
  • Denis Avey, Postdoc, Rush Medical School
  • Rafael Feliciano, Graduate Student, Washington University in St. Louis, MGG program
  • Sumithra Sankararaman, Staff Scientist at Washington University in St. Louis
  • Kristy Shady
  • Zongtai Qi, Postdoc, Washington University in St. Louis
  • Maxim Schillebeeckx, Scientist, Appistry
  • Francesco Vallania, Postdoc, Stanford University
  • Scott Higdon, Staff Researcher at Washington University in St. Louis
  • Michael Brooks, Postdoctoral fellow with Max Wicha at University of Michigan
  • Arjun Bahl, Resident, Internal Medicine, University of Washington
  • Lee Tessler, Project Manager at Millipore
  • David Mayhew, Scientist, GlaxoSmithKline
  • Gabe Bien-Wilner, Medical Director, MolecularHealth
  • K-T Varley, Postdoctoral fellow with Rick Myers at Hudson Alpha Institute
  • Haoyi Wang, Postdoctoral fellow with Rudy Jaenisch at MIT
  • Yue Yun, Pioneer Hybrid
  • Kay Tweedy, Retired
  • Todd Druley, Faculty at Washington University in St. Louis, Pediatrics and Center for Genome Sciences
  • German Leparc, Postdoctoral fellow with David Kreil, Universitat fur Bodenkultur Wien