September 29, 2023 7:00 am


Megan Lindsay Povelones, PhD

Megan received her PhD from the Cellular and Molecular Medicine graduate program at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine in the laboratory of Paul T. Englund. During her graduate work, she studied the replication mechanism of the unusual, complicated, and truly fascinating mitochondrial DNA network found in Trypanosoma brucei and related parasites. For her postdoctoral work, she traveled to the United Kingdom to work with Professor Gloria Rudenko investigating epigenetic mechanisms of antigenic variation in T. brucei, first at the University of Oxford and then at Imperial College London. In 2012, she returned to the US as an assistant professor at the Penn State Brandywine campus and began working to explore mechanisms of mitochondrial dynamics in kinetoplastid parasites and to establish Crithidia fasciculata as a model system. She moved to Villanova University in 2020. Megan is passionate about teaching and training the next generation of undergraduate researchers and to providing opportunities for individuals from all backgrounds.

Maddie Malfara

Maddie graduated with honors from Penn State Brandywine in 2019. While at Brandywine she was Captain of the Women’s Softball team, a campus tour guide and an undergraduate researcher in Megan Povelones’s lab. Her Schreyer Honor’s thesis entitled “Mitochondrial Dynamics in Crithidia fasciculata and Trypanosoma brucei” investigated the role of dynamin-like protein (DLP) in trypanosomes and focused on expanding genetic techniques for Crithidia. After graduating Maddie was hired full-time as a research technician in the Povelones lab. In 2020 Maddie moved with the lab to Villanova University, where she currently works as a full-time technician. She plans to apply to MD-PhD dual degree programs next cycle to pursue a career in infectious disease, specializing in neglected tropical disease. In her free time (when she isn’t studying for the MCAT!) Maddie likes to run, spend time with her dog and try local breweries with her mom.

Blyssalyn Bieber

Blyss is a technician working on the collaborative Crithidia bombi project investigating how different pollens are impacting the parasite. She recently graduated with her master’s degree working in the Murphy Lab at the University of Denver. Her thesis focused on how wildfire severity was impacting floral visitors and how that in turn impacted pollination services for an important floral resource. Her background is in ecology, and she is excited to be working with the molecular aspects of pollinator health!

Kelly Hodges

Kelly is a master’s student pursuing a degree in cell and molecular biology. She started at Villanova University in the Fall 2020 semester. Kelly received her bachelor’s degree in biology from Radford University in Radford, VA in the Winter of 2019. Kelly’s current research for her master’s thesis focuses on the role of cyclic-AMP signaling in the cellular adhesion and parasite-vector interactions of kinetoplastid parasites, using Crithidia fasciculata as a model organism. After she finishes her master’s degree, Kelly hopes to continue her studies in pathogenic biology/microbiology.

Nikki Holmes

Nikki is a sophomore pursuing a biology major with a Spanish minor. At Villanova, she is on the Executive Board of the Pre-Medical Club, a member of Best Buddies and Global Medical Brigades, and a Special Olympics volunteer. After graduating, she aspires to attend medical school and is interested in a career as a radiologist. She joined our lab because of the potential applications this research could have in the medical field. Focusing on the mitochondrial dynamics of T. brucei, she is currently working on an RNA library screen and looking at the effects of Mdivi-1. In her free time, she enjoys going to the gym and exploring the Villanova area.

Alexa Pereira

Alexa is a rising junior in the Honors program pursuing a Biology major with Medical Humanities and Computer Science minors. At Villanova, she is on the Panhellenic Executive Board and the Media and Marketing Chair of LEVEL’s AbilityBoss. Alexa is also a member of Tri-Beta Honor Society, Girls who Code, and Global Medical Brigades. She joined our lab through an interest in the applications of parasite research in the healthcare field. Alexa’s current research focuses on the effect of putative DLP interactors on the mitochondrial phenotype in Trypanosoma brucei. In her free time, she enjoys reading and playing tennis. After graduating, Alexa plans on attending medical school to pursue a career as a dermatologist.

JP Maree (departmental postdoctoral fellow)

JP received his PhD in Biochemistry at the University of Stellenbosch, South Africa, in the laboratory of Professor Hugh Patterton. During his postgraduate research he collaborated with groups at the Imperial College London and University of Southern Denmark to investigate genome-wide nucleosomal architecture and histone epigenetics in Trypanosoma brucei. His research focusses on epigenetic mechanisms and marks that are employed by this organism to 1) direct gene transcription and regulate an atypical nuclear genome that lacks canonical eukaryotic transcriptional control and 2) package kinetoplast DNA to possibly regulate mitochondrial activity through epigenetic transcriptional throttling across different life stages of the parasite.

Sarah Lockett

Sarah is a freshman student pursuing a biology major. At Villanova, Sarah participates in multiple organizations, including Back on my Feet, CASA, and intramural basketball. She has joined our lab through an interest in different applications of biology in the professional world. She will be focusing on the molecular mechanisms of Crithidia bombi, and its impact on the diet of its host, bumble bees. This will expand into attempting to understand the connection between pathogen transmission and survival in the presence of different floral resources. In her free time, Sarah enjoys writing, reading, and spending time with friends and family. 

Frank Donio

Frank is a junior biology major and criminology minor. He is currently completing his EMT certification for Villanova Emergency Medical Services and is involved in other on-campus organizations such as Sidekicks, Pre-Medical Club, and College Democrats. He gained an interest in our lab after taking a parasitology course taught by Dr. Povelones and Dr. Maree. Frank is researching the phenotypic effects of a pyridothiazinone compound and knockdown of TbDLP in Trypanasoma brucei within the context of mitochondrial dynamics. Outside of the lab, his interests include spending time with friends, skiing, and true crime. After completing his undergraduate degree, he has plans to go to medical school with hopes of becoming an Internist.

Lab alumni

Andre Williams

Andre is a senior majoring in Biology with minors in Spanish and Philosophy. A member of several organizations such as Tri Beta, Student musical theatre, VGS and more, Andre hopes to diversify his life experiences as well as his scientific studies. After graduating, Andre plans to pursue a career in virology after the field caught his eye during high school. He joined our lab because of the infectious nature of parasites. His interest in viruses stems from pathology and how they infect their hosts as well as the effects produced once infected, meaning that parasites meet the criteria for piquing his interests. He has gone through several projects but currently he is focusing on the effects of several drugs on the adhesion and growth rates of Crithidia fasciculata. Using protein sequences and phenotypical results he hopes to prove that these drugs are targeting cyclic amp pathways to prevent the cells from adhering, specifically the inhibition of phosphodiesterases which down regulate the cAMP, which we believe is the cause of cells transitioning from mobile to adherent. In his spare time Andre likes to write and play tabletop RPGs with friends.

Thomas Criswell

Thomas is a sophomore Biology major with minors in Global Health and Ethics. He is a Match Secretary of Villanova’s Rugby Club, a mentor for VUnited, an advisor and the Mental Health Chair of Pre-Med Club, and an Outreach Chair for VUOS. He joined our lab after both an interest he took in parasites, after learning about them in Biology classes, and the opportunity to work in a research lab. The current research topic he is focused on is observing the effect of candidate genes on mitochondrial dynamics in Trypanosoma brucei via RNAi knockdown. Upon graduating, he hopes to attend medical school and eventually pursue a career directly dealing with patient care. In his free time, he loves to listen to music, play