Profiles of the speakers for the 30th Annual CBB Conference

Edgar Valencia-Morales, PhD., Microbial Viability Lab Lead, Bayer's Crop Sciences Division Chesterfield, MO

Edgar Valencia-Morales is a Sr. Scientist working for Bayer’s Crop Sciences Division in Chesterfield, MO as the Microbial Viability Lab Lead. He received his PhD from the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México. During his PhD studies Edgar was supported by a grant from  CONACyT, México. He graduated Suma Cum Laude in 2000. His PhD, research was focused on genome dynamics in the nitrogen fixing bacteria Rhizobium etli, particularly on the homologous recombination and replication mechanisms that increase or decrease the copy number of the whole symbiotic island. His graduated research was an important factor in deciding to look for postdoctoral training at UC Davis in Steven Kowalczykowski’s lab. In the Kowakzykowski lab, Edgar performed studies on the relationships between proteins involved in DNA reparation, replication and recombination and was sponsored by the UC-MEXUS program.

After his postdoctoral training, Edgar was hired by Monsanto in 2008 and has remained with the company since then. He has been involved in three main projects. First, he was the Cotton Genotyping lab lead in Winterville, MS from 2008 to 2011. Edgar developed qPCR methods and protocols to test all transgenic and conventional cotton lines from Monsanto in order to confirm presence or absence of genetic events. Edgar was then transferred to the main campus in St Louis, MO and had different roles for Monsanto’s large scale RNA production project, BioDirect, from 2011 to 2017. After BioDirect, Edgar became the Microbial Viability Lab lead for Bayer-Monsanto. His current responsibilities involve coordinating analysis of all Bayer’s materials containing microbes, validation of internal and external labs to perform microbial analysis, training of Bayer’s scientist in US and Latin America as well as developing new methods for microbial analysis.


Kristan S. Worthington, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Biomedical Engineering, Roy J. Carver Department of Biomedical Engineering, The University of Iowa, Iowa City, IA

Kristan Worthington is an Associate Professor of Biomedical Engineering at The University of Iowa, where she is also affiliated with the Iowa Neuroscience Institute and Institute for Vision Research. After earning a B.S. in Biological Engineering from Utah State University, Kristan completed her Ph.D. and post-doctoral training at the University of Iowa in Chemical Engineering (Guymon Lab) and Ophthalmology (Tucker Lab), respectively. Her primary research and teaching interests include 3D micromanufacturing techniques, regenerative engineering of soft tissues, stem cells, cell-material interactions, and drug delivery. Kristan is also passionate about inclusive teaching, health and research equity, and best practices for cultivating diverse and welcoming communities in STEM and higher education.  


Isaac Cann, Ph.D., Professor, Department of Animal Sciences, Division of Nutritional Sciences, Center for East Asian and Pacific Studies and the Carl R. Woese Institute for Genomic Biology University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign (UIUC), Urbana, ILL

Isaac Cann is a Professor at the Department of Animal Sciences, Division of Nutritional Sciences, Center for East Asian and Pacific Studies and the Carl R. Woese Institute for Genomic Biology at University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign (UIUC). Isaac is also an Affiliate Professor at the Department of Microbiology. He received his BSc (Agric) with honors from University of Ghana and his M.S. and PhD from Mie University in Japan. He later joined the labs of Professors Roderick I. Mackie and Bryan A. White at UIUC as a postdoctoral fellow in the field of Anaerobic Microbiology. He next joined the Biomolecular Engineering Research Institute (BERI) in Osaka, Japan, where he rose to the position of Senior Scientist. Isaac returned to the United States through an invitation as a Visiting Scientist at the Biotech Company, New England Biolabs. After a year and half at this industry position, he joined UIUC as an Assistant Professor in 2001 and was promoted to full professorship in 2011 both in the Department of Animal Science and Department of Microbiology. Isaac’s group studies DNA replication in Archaea with Methanosarcina acetivorans as the model, enzymes of plant cell wall hydrolysis for biofuel production, and the human lung and colonic microbiomes and their impact on the host. He has been honored with the National Science Foundation Career Award to further his studies on archaeal DNA replication. He has also received several honors at UIUC, including Excellence in Guiding Undergraduate Research, Fellow of the Center for Advanced Study, and the Paul A. Funk Award, the highest award in research and teaching at the College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences. Isaac served as the Deputy Director of the Energy Biosciences Institute, a $500 million collaborative effort among UIUC, UC-Berkeley, Lawrence Berkeley National Labs, and the sponsor, British Petroleum. He was the founding theme leader of the Microbiome Metabolic Engineering (MME) Theme of the Carl R. Woese Institute for Genomic Biology, and he serves as editor for several journals, including Applied and Environmental Microbiology. His research has been funded by the National Science Foundation, the National Institutes of Health, the US Department of Agriculture, and the NASA Astrobiology Institute, and he is an elected fellow of the American Academy of Microbiology.


Melissa Bates, Ph.D., FAPS, Adjunct Associate Professor of Internal Medicine, The University of Iowa and Founder and CEO, LSF Medical Solutions, Iowa City, IA

Melissa Bates, PhD, FAPS, is an accomplished integrative cardiorespiratory physiologist with expertise in measuring heart and lung function. Starting at the University of Iowa in 2014, she recently moved to a position as an Adjunct Associate Professor in order to focus on developing LSF Medical Solutions. Serving as Founder and CEO, she supports LSF's mission to increase access to healthcare by allowing patients to make measurements where they are most comfortable, enhance communication between patients, families, and clinicians, and improve quality of life. She and her team are motivated to decrease barriers to care, particularly for people who live in "healthcare deserts" who live more than an hour from a major medical facility. LSF Medical Solutions has been named the John Pappajohn Entrepreneurial Center's Best Technology Startup and has been nominated as Technology Startup of the Year by the Technology Association of Iowa.



Arnon Lavie, Ph.D., Professor, Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Genetics College of Medicine, University of Illinois at Chicago, Chicago, Ill and Co-founder and CEO, Enzyme by Design Inc, Chicago, ILL

Dr. Lavie embarked on his scientific journey by pursuing a B.Sc. at Tel Aviv University in Israel. Initially aspiring to become an organic chemist, his path took a fascinating turn when he discovered the captivating world of x-ray crystallography during his graduate studies at Brandeis University. This revelation led him to delve deeper into structural biology, honing his expertise at the Max Planck Institute in Dortmund, Germany, before returning to the United States to assume a faculty position at UIC. From the outset, Dr. Lavie's research laboratory has been dedicated to unraveling the structures of medically significant proteins. The aim is to leverage this structural knowledge to guide the development of therapeutics, whether through protein inhibitors or engineered variants with enhanced functionalities. While the initial focus centered on enzymes activating nucleoside analog prodrugs, attention later shifted to a group of enzymes known as asparaginases. These studies ultimately led to the discovery of a novel asparaginase with exceptional medical potential, culminating in the co-founding of Enzyme by Design (EbD) in 2017. EbD is currently conducting critical IND-enabling studies for this groundbreaking asparaginase. Outside science, he enjoys hiking in the Colorado Rockies with his wife and their new puppy, Peep.


Autumn Moore, Ph.D., was part of Robert Kern’s Research Group, Department of Pharmaceuticals, Medicinal and Natural Chemistry, College of Pharmacy, The University of Iowa, Iowa City, IA

Dr. Autumn Moore completed her doctorate in Medicinal and Natural Products Chemistry at the University of Iowa. She joined Dr. Robert Kerns’ Group to focus primarily on organic synthesis of small molecules and gained expertise in evaluating structure-activity relationships of small molecules in different physiological settings. She developed skills for synthesis, retrosynthetic analysis, and interpretation of analytical spectra such as mass spectrometry, high performance liquid chromatography, and 1D/2D nuclear magnetic resonance. She was introduced to molecular physiology and felt excitement toward Dr. Julien Sebag's role, her collaborator, in the research project. She decided to pursue a postdoctoral fellowship in his laboratory in the Department of Molecular Physiology and Biophysics to learn more about the conceptual and technical aspects of his research. Her interest in molecular physiology and biophysics arose because it is a necessary skill set within drug discovery and pharmaceutical science. She plans on expanding her competencies within a postdoctoral appointment while utilizing her medicinal chemistry background. She aspires to continue conducting research in the pharmaceutical field to serve both academic and industrial communities. She is also pursuing an Iowa Master of Business Administration at the Tippie College of Business to deepen her understanding of managing funds, analyzing data, and developing business strategies. Her ultimate goal after completing her MBA is to start and run a pharmaceutical company.


Souradip Sinha, Ph.D. Candidate, Munir Tanas's Research Group, Department of Pathology, The University of Iowa, Iowa City, IA

Born and raised in Kolkata, India, I earned a bachelors degree (B.Sc.) in Botany (Hons.) from Scottish Church College, University of Calcutta, and then pursued a masters in Biotechnology (M.Sc.) in the department of Life Sciences & Biotechnology at Jadavpur University. Having developed a keen interest in studying the molecular biology of cancers during my educational journey, I joined the lab of Dr. Munir Tanas in the Department of Pathology, University of Iowa, where I am currently studying the role of the ATAC histone acetyltransferase complex as a key oncogenic driver in both fusion protein -positive and -negative sarcomas. In the future, I intend to work on identifying novel therapeutic approaches in cancers, especially sarcomas.