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Larry J. Dishaw, Ph.D.
Principle Investigator

Associate Professor,
University of South Florida
Department of Pediatrics, Molecular Genetics
Children’s Research Institute in St. Petersburg,
801 Sixth Street South, CRI3008
St. Petersburg, Fl 33701

ldishaw [at]
office: 727-553-3601

Online profiles:
Google Scholar
ORCID: 0000-0002-2705-4573
Loop profile: 28944
ResearcherID: A-9930-2010

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Our lab, Fall 2020-Spring 2021. From Left to Right to Row: Larry Dishaw, April Ellis, Natalia Pluta, and Adam Cruz. Botton Row from Left to Right: Ojas Natarajan, Celine Atkinson, and Morgan Young.
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Our lab, Summer 2019. From Left to Right: Ojas Natarajan, Caleb Poock, Larry Dishaw, Gail Mueller (now retired; Gail is impossible to replace!), Celine Atkinson, and Alexis Peterson. Missing from this photo is Gio Duca and Cheri Lotfi.
Post Doctoral Fellow
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Dr. Ojas Natarjan earned his PhD at Clemson in 2018 studying nutraceuticals and aging in C. elegans. Ojas is now be focusing on studying the role of secreted immune effectors, such as VCBPs in Ciona, in modulating the ecology and biology of gut microbiomes. Ojas is also using recombinant engineering approaches to manipulate gut bacterial isolates.As a postdoc, Ojas is helping develop a variety of our programs, co-lead our mentorship efforts, and help steer the ship! He will also get unique opportunities to teach within USF and at St. Petersburg College.We are very lucky to have Ojas join our lab.

Graduate Students
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Celine Atkinson graduated from the University of South Florida and is joining our team to work on the impact of prophages on the gut microbiome in Ciona. Like Ojas, she is also investigating the role of VCBPs...

Celine will also be competing for a NSF graduate research fellowship award, help in our lab's mission to improve science communication, and also help develop and implement our outreach programs. We are so happy to have Celine join us! Welcome!

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April Ellis is a PhD student who graduated with a MPH degree from Emory University. She joined our lab via the USF College of Marine Sciences in the Fall of 2020 and will be studying microplastics, and how they impact animals in the marine environment— she will be modeling her investigations in Ciona.

April will also be competing fellowship awards, help in our lab's mission to improve science communication, and also help develop and implement our outreach programs.

We are so happy to have April join us! Welcome!
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Adam Cruz is a masters student with the USF Biomedical Sciences Program. In our lab, he is working on Carbon Utilization pathways of bacterial isolates from the Ciona gut. Update July 2021: Adam just defended his masters thesis! Congratulations Adam!

Research Scientists
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Morgan Young is a computer science and bioinformatics specialist who joined our team in 2020. She has become vital in our efforts to map metabolic pathways in bacteria. Welcome Morgan!

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Natalia Pluta is a graduate of the USF Biomedical Sciences program and she just got accepted to medical school (Spring 2021). Congratulations Natalia! Natalia interned for us in Fall 2020 and then we hired her for technical support on several projects this spring. She is awesome and will be great in any field!

Undergraduate Students
Current undergraduate interns include: None recently, thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic and the associated restrictions.

Summer interns 2019: Caleb Poock from U. North Florida and Alexis Peterson, our REU student on the NSF-MCB project.

Former recent undergrads: Cheri Lotfi, Gio Duca, Elliana Walster, Michael Schepps, and Julie Voelschow. Good luck to Jessica Kramarz on her mission with the Peace Corps.
Former Post Doctoral Scientists
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Dr. Assunta ("Susy") Liberti is our postdoc on the NSF phage award. Susy received her PhD training at the world-renowned marine station Stazione Zoologica Anton Dohrn in Naples, Italy, where she worked on Ciona development and immunity. She was instrumental in our work to understand the developmental expression patterns of VCBPs. In her current work, Susy is helping us develop methods and approaches to using bacteriophage to remodel the gut microbiota and influence the formation of mucosal-associated biofilms. Susy is also leading the way in some very important gene knockdown and knockout experiments.
Former Graduate Students
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Brittany Leigh was our first PhD student, who helped establish collaborative ties between the USF College of Medicine and College of Marine Sciences. Britt was co-advised with Mya Breitbart. Britt took on many roles in the lab but as senior grad student, really helped us launch, develop, and refine our germ-free mariculture system, as well as our bacteriophage and biofilm experiments. Britt, working together with Dr. John Cannon in USF Pediatrics, helped developed many skills in our lab including recombinant protein expression and purification using the FPLC.

Britt was supported by the NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Program. She is now a postdoc at Vanderbilt with Seth Bordenstein.

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Alexandria "Lexi" Creasy was a masters student (finished Summer 2018) also co-advised with Mya Breitbart. Lexi worked on on developing, together with mentorship from Dr. Cannon, some of our most complex in vitro 3D matrix assays involving various microbial ecology concepts including phage, biofilms, and direct bacterial competition & succession. Lexi's main project was to characterize single stranded viruses from isolated from the Ciona gut.
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Zachary Graham was a masters student (finished Summer 2018). Zach's main project involved studying prophages in the gut of Ciona and also investigated differential prophage induction. He is very talented in the lab and is currently staying on as a technician and works on all sorts of bacteriology experiments, including some very important phage-mediated lytic assays and prophage-induction experiments.
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Congrats to Shreya Nirmalan, who graduated with her master's degree Summer 2019. Shreya worked on two projects: a lung virome project and also helped assemble two bacterial genomes using Illumina and PacBio sequencing data and then mapped prophages along with nearby metabolic genes.

Our collaborators

  • Jeff Gralnick, Ph.D, University of Minnesota, Microbial Engineering
  • Assunta Liberti, Ph.D former Postdoc, now at SZN (Naples, Italy)
  • Paolo Sordino, Ph.D., Naples, Italy
  • Bill Baker,Ph.D, USF Chemistry
  • Les Shaw, Ph.D, USF Cell Biology, Microbiology, and Molecular Biology
  • John Cannon, Ph.D, at USF Pediatrics, Molecular Genetics
  • Gary Litman, Ph.D, at USF Pediatrics, Molecular Genetics (now Emeritus Professor)
  • Mya Brietbart, Ph.D, at USF Marine Sciences
  • Maureen Groer, Ph.D, at USF College of Nursing
  • Jack Gilbert, Ph.D, at U. Chicago and Argonne National Labs
  • Hans Peter Grossart, Ph.D, Aquatic Microbial Ecology and Biodiversity, Potsdam University
  • At USF include Stephen Kornfeld, M.D, Panida Sriaroon, M.D., Jenn Leiding, M.D. and Jolan Walter, M.D.
  • At JH-ACH, Katie Wasylik, M.D., and Suzanne Jackman, M.D.
  • Rosaria De Santis, Ph.D, and Maria Rosaria Pinto, Ph.D, at the Stazione Zoologica Anton Dorhn, Naples, Italy. These collaborators (both now emeritus professors) first introduced us to Ciona and the rest is history!
  • Several additional collaborations and projects are just developing.
*This website is not an official University of South Florida website. Only the Dishaw Lab is responsible for its content.

Our research is or has been supported by:
National Science Foundation and the
National Institutes of Health
All Children’s Hospital Johns Hopkins Medicine Foundation (several studies)
University of South Florida College of Medicine Deans Office (several early studies in