July 12, 2024 8:51 pm


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.

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!

Alexa Pereira

Alexa is a senior 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, PhD (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. In 2024, JP will begin an early career fellowship program in association with the Francis Crick Institute in London, UK and Stellenbosch University in Stellenbosch, South Africa.

Sarah Lockett

Sarah is a junior 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 senior 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 Trypanosoma 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.

Faith St. Clair

Faith joined the lab after completing her undergraduate degree at the University of Mary Washington in Fredericksburg, VA, where she conducted research in the laboratory of Dr. Swati Agrawal and played on the basketball team. Faith is exploring the effects of pollen on the bumblebee parasite Crithidia bombi and plans to defend her thesis in May 2024.

Olivia Picca

Olivia is a junior student pursuing a degree in biology. At Villanova, she is a Teaching Assistant for General Biology classes, as well as being involved in many other organizations such as Villanova Leadership Program, Tri-Beta National Biological Honors Society, and intramural sports including basketball, softball, and kickball. She became interested in the lab after gaining her EMT certification in high school and finding a passion for the field of immunology. Olivia is working with Dr. Maree on proteins involved in kinetoplast DNA replication and compaction in Trypanosoma Brucei. 

Lab alumni

Edwin Owusu-Ansah

Edwin was a master’s degree student who plans to defend his thesis in spring 2024. His research involved the role of the mitofusin-like protein on mitochondrial shape in Trypanosoma brucei. Edwin is currently a researcher at Interius BioTherapeutics in Philadelphia, PA.

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. Maddie likes to run, spend time with her dog and try local breweries with her mom. Maddie is currently in a PhD program at Brown University.

Nikki Holmes

Nikki graduated with a BS in Biology in December 2023. At Villanova, she was on the Executive Board of the Pre-Medical Club, a member of Best Buddies and Global Medical Brigades, and was a Special Olympics volunteer. 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. Her main project in the lab was localizing cAMP phosphodiesterases in swimming and attached C. fasciculata. In her free time, she enjoys going to the gym and exploring the Villanova area.

Kelly Hodges

Kelly started her master’s degree program at Villanova University in the Fall 2020. Kelly received her bachelor’s degree in biology from Radford University in Radford, VA in the Winter of 2019. Kelly’s research for her master’s thesis focused 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. Kelly is currently a researcher at Villanova Commonwealth University (VCU) in Richmond, VA.

Andre Williams

Andre is majored 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 participated in an NIH bridge program at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. His senior thesis at Villanova focused on the effects of PDE inhibitors on the adhesion and growth rates of Crithidia fasciculata. In his spare time Andre likes to write and play tabletop RPGs with friends.

Thomas Criswell

Thomas is a 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.