Personnel‎ > ‎

Lab Members

Alexandra Calinescu, MD, PhD, received her M.D. degree from the University of Medicine and Pharmacy “Carol Davila”, Bucharest, Romania, and her Ph.D. in Neuroscience from the University of Michigan. Her graduate work, mentored by Drs. Peter Hitchcock and Pamela Raymond, focused on cytokines that regulate injury-induced regeneration in the neural stem cell niche, using the teleost retina as a model system.

After joining the Castro-Lowenstein Laboratory in May of 2012, Alexandra is currently pursuing two distinct lines of research: investigating the mechanisms of immunosuppression caused by glioblastoma multiforme and perfecting methods to induce spontaneous gliomas by altering gene expression in the subventricular zone of neonatal mice.


Molly Dahlgren, MOS-M, serves as the lab Administrative Specialist Associate. A position she earned in just over two years after joining our group in April of 2012. She earned an Associate’s Degree in Office Technology from Thomas Nelson Community College in Hampton, Virginia where she graduated magna cum laude. Additionally, Molly is a Certified Microsoft Office Specialist, Master – having passed four extensive exams in Microsoft Outlook, Word, PowerPoint and Excel. A native of Ohio, Molly moved back to the Midwest in 2012.

Molly’s background comes from the business sector where she has worked for a prominent Hampton Roads Virginia Hotel, a world renowned heavy equipment company, a medical device design and manufacturing company, and for Lincoln Middle School (7 & 8 grade) in Green River, Wyoming. She is actively involved with the Boy Scouts of America, Troop 416 in Saline where she is a merit badge counselor, one of the Eagle Scout Coordinators and the primary teacher for internet safety and appropriate cyber skills. She also volunteers her time at the Lenawee County Humane Society.

Since becoming a member of the lab, Molly has mastered many of the U of M’s software programs and has become adept at completing NIH grant applications, submitting journal articles, updating PubMed, and many other valuable skills. She works closely with Drs. Castro and Lowenstein to keep track of their busy schedules including peer reviewing articles, writing articles, reviewing grants, preparing for invited speaking engagements, teaching and conference attendance. 
Marta Edwards, MD, joined the Castro/Lowenstein Lab in January 2013. She received M.D. degree from the Medical Academy of Lublin, Poland.  After moving to Michigan she worked in Immunohistochemistry, the Department of Pathology.  Later she moved to research and worked in several laboratories:

- Kresge Hearing Institute, Department Of Otolaryngology with R. Altschuler, Ph.D.
-Served as a Technical Director of the Morphology Core, Center For Organogenesis in the Department of Cell and Developmental
  Biology under Deborah Gumucio, Ph.D.
-Department of Pediatrics and Pulmonary Medicine with Marc Hershenson, M.D.
-Department of Internal Medicine and Genetics with Steven Weiss, M.D.

Marta is now the lab’s manager and her responsibilities include all aspects of histology, immunohistochemistry, microscopy, including training other lab members in these procedures. She is also responsible for sample preparation, and imaging on Sigma 3View Scanning Electron Microscope and sectioning on a Leica Cryomacrotome.  Additionally, Marta ensures that the lab and its members have the necessary supplies and materials to keep our busy lab functioning in top condition.
Padma Kadiyala, B - graduated from the University of Michigan-Dearborn with a Bachelor’s of Science in Biochemistry in 2014. As an undergraduate, she has been an active part of multiple on campus labs, where she gained strong working experience in the fields of analytically chemistry, biochemistry and biology. Outside of lab she has been a part of honors transfers innovators, chemistry and biochemistry student organizations, where she developed a tutoring program for helping special needs children.

Currently she is working on elucidating how glioma cells escape immune surveillance to fabricate an immune suppressed microenvironment. Her study primarily focuses on gaining an insight into GBM tumor biology mediated by Toll-like receptors (TLRs), which facilitate growth, maturation, and migration of immune cells. She is also working on utilizing nanoparticle as means of delivering chemotherapeutics to the tumor microenvironment past the blood brain barrier. She is interested in advancing her work in the field of life-sciences and designing novel therapeutics to treat GBM effectively. 
Neha Kamran, PhD, is a research fellow working on understanding the mechanisms contributing to GBM immunosuppression. She received her Bachelor's and Master's Degree in Biomedical Sciences from Delhi University, India. She finished her Ph.D in Immunology from the National University of Singapore in 2012 and joined the Castro-Lowenstein laboratory in March 2013.

Her project focuses on studying the role of Myeloid Derived Suppressor Cells in regulating immune responses against glioma. Understanding these molecular mechanisms of immuno-supression will provide for targets that can be potentially manipulated to improve therapeutic strategies against glioma.
Carl Koschmann, MD, is a Pediatric Neuro-Oncology Fellow.  He received his bachelor degree from the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign and his medical degree from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.  He finished his pediatrics residency at Seattle Children’s Hospital in 2010 and then worked for a year as a Pediatric Oncology-BMT Hospitalist at Seattle Children’s Hospital. He will complete his Pediatric Hematology-Oncology Fellowship at the University of Michigan in the summer of 2014, and continue as a Pediatric Neuro-Oncology Fellow at the University of Michigan from 2014-2015.

Carl is primarily interested in pediatric brain tumors. He joined the lab of Drs. Pedro Lowenstein and Maria Castro in the summer of 2012 as a research fellow. He is interested in the mutations specific to pediatric and adolescent glioblastoma (GBM), and works primarily on a project determining the impact of loss of the ATRX gene on GBM progression and treatment response. He is also involved in a clinical pilot project studying MRI changes associated with radiation-induced cognitive injuries with Drs. Dan Hamstra and Patricia Robertson. Carl plans to pursue a career as a physician-scientist providing research and clinical care for pediatric brain tumor patients. His hobbies include cross-country skiing and climbing play structures with his sons.
Flor Mendez, BS, is a graduate of the University of Houston, Cullen College of Engineering with a BS in Biomedical Engineering.  Currently, Ms. Mendez is a student at the University of Michigan and is enrolled in the Program in Biomedical Sciences.  She has earned the prestigious Rackham Merit Fellowship and the Patten Fellow award from CDB. Ms Mendez is working toward a PhD in Biomedical Science.  Ms. Mendez joined the Castro-Lowenstein lab in May 20154 as a rotation student.  She was an immediate fit with our group and Ms. Mendez decided to complete her PIBS training with us.  After passing her preliminary exam with exemplary marks, she is on track to complete her training in 2016.
Felipe Núñez Aguilera, PhD, is a Biologist and holds a PhD in Cell and Molecular Biology from University of Concepcion, Chile, where he worked in transcriptional regulation of genes related with gastrointestinal cancer and the Wnt/b-catenin signaling pathway until 2010. He then moved to Buenos Aires, Argentina, to work in the Laboratory of Molecular and Cellular Therapy under the supervision of Dr. Osvaldo Podjahcer at the Leloir Institute Foundation. There, Felipe worked on the development of a novel Oncolytic Adenovirus vector for gene therapy implementation in gastrointestinal and pancreatic cancer. The replication of these novel vectors was restricted to tumor cells by using specific tumor promoters in conjunction with a novel enhancer element that involves aspects of epigenetics regulation to improve their activity.

In September of 2013, Felipe joined the Castro-Lowenstein Laboratory to study the pro- and anti-tumor mechanisms mediated by HMGB1 and another genes involved in DNA repair in mouse models of Glioblastoma multiforme (GBM). To accomplish this, Felipe will attempt the disruption of target genes using the CRISPR system for genome editing and the development of conditional HMGB1 KO mice. Felipe’s goal is to establish the basis for generating new treatments for GBM based at manipulating the HMGB1 mediated signaling cascade, as well as other genes that may mediate DNA repair and genome stability. Ultimately, these novel therapeutic approached could be translated into the clinic in Phase I trials 
for GBM patients.
Masha G. Savelieff, PhD, began her scientific career in chemistry with a Bachelor’s degree and Master’s degree from the American University of Beirut, with an emphasis in inorganic chemistry and metal-oxygen clusters. She continued her academic journey with graduate studies in the field of bioinorganic chemistry, specializing in metalloprotein design and engineering, which earned her a PhD from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Her post graduate work expanded her expertise to chemical biology and medicinal chemistry with postdoctoral training at the University of Michigan, focusing on Alzheimer’s disease. Currently, she is pursuing her interests in biology as a Research Laboratory Specialist Associate in the Castro-Lowenstein lab, where she is studying genetic subtypes of GBM brain cancer and the influence of various mutations on tumor progression.



Diana Shah, PhD, is a Magna Cum Laude graduate of Humboldt Universität zu Berlin, Berlin Germany.  Her thesis was entitled:  Mechanism and efficacy of GD2-specific immunotherapy using NK cells.  She has attended several international conferences earning travel awards to attend many of them.  She has presented posters and made oral presentations at these conferences.  Dr. Shah as also published eight papers, with one as first author.

Dr. Shah joined the Castro-Lowenstein lab in November 2015 as a postdoctoral research fellow and is currently beginning her research on GBM and will continue her work with NK cells and Notch signaling. 
 Viveka Nand Yadav, PhD, has received his PhD degree in Biotechnology from National Center for Cell Science (NCCS), a prime research institute in Pune, India. During his PhD, he worked to understand the molecular mechanism of immune evasion by the devastating smallpox virus. Specifically, he dissected out the functional moieties of the complement regulatory protein of smallpox virus named SPICE. 

He joined Castro-Lowenstein lab in July 2013 as a postdoctoral research fellow and currently he is pursuing two different research projects: Role of neoangiogenesis in de novo as well as in orthotropic implanted brain tumor model by using a conditional suicidal gene expressing transgenic mice.

He is also trying to understand the molecular mechanisms responsible for glioma growth towards blood vessels. Perivascular growth of glioma cells are very poorly understood and he believes that ways to attenuate glioma invasion onto blood vessels could be a potential treatment strategy for GBM.