Alison Criss, PhD

Alison Criss

Alison Criss, PhD — Professor

Alison received her PhD from Harvard Medical School on Salmonella infection of polarized epithelial cells. As a postdoctoral fellow at Northwestern University, Alison investigated the process of gonococcal pilin antigenic variation and developed new approaches for studying gonococcal interactions with human neutrophils.

Alison co-directs the UVA Infectious Diseases and the UVA Global Biothreats Training Programs with Dr. William Petri, and is co-founder and Director of the UVA Global Infectious Diseases Institute (

picture of Aimee Porte, PhD postdoctoral researcher

Aimee Potter, PhD

Aimee Potter, PhD — Postdoctoral Researcher

Aimee received her PhD from Vanderbilt University in the lab of Dr. Jim Cassat on how Staphylococcus aureus obtains nutrients from bone during osteomyelitis. In the Criss lab, she is conducting genome-wide investigation of bacterial gene products that confer resistance of Neisseria gonorrhoeae to killing by immune cells.

Allie Palmer

Allie Palmer

Allie Palmer — Graduate Student

Allie received her BS in Biology from Allegheny College in 2014 and her MSc in Microbiology from Clemson University in 2016. She joined the Criss Lab in 2017. Allie’s research explores how opacity protein expression by Neisseria gonorrhoeae affects bacterial interactions with primary human neutrophils.

Jocelyn Ray

Jocelyn Ray

Jocelyn Ray — MSTP Student

Jocelyn received her undergraduate degree from William and Mary in 2014 and performed postbaccalaureate research at the National Institutes of Health before matriculating into the UVA MSTP in 2015. Jocelyn joined the Criss Lab in 2017. Her research investigates how Neisseria gonorrhoeae acquires essential metals from human metal-sequestering proteins to overcome nutritional immunity.

Lacie Werner

Lacie Werner

Lacie Werner — Graduate Student

Lacie earned her B.S. in Biology from St. Vincent College in Latrobe, PA in 2017. She entered the BIMS program in 2017 and joined the Criss lab in 2018. Lacie is investigating how soluble components affect the ability of Neisseria gonorrhoeae to activate human neutrophils.

Amaris Cardenas

Amaris Cardenas

Amaris Cardenas — Graduate Student

Amaris graduated from the University of Dallas with a B.S. in Biology in 2017. She matriculated into the BIMS program after graduation and joined the Criss lab in 2018. Amaris is studying how modifications to gonococcal lipooligosaccharide modulate neutrophil antimicrobial responses and bacterial susceptibility to killing by neutrophils.

Ian Liyayi

Ian Liyayi

Ian Liyayi — Graduate Student

Ian received his B.S. in Biochemistry from Stevenson University, MD in 2018. He participated in the NIH Post-baccalaureate Research Education Program (PREP) at the University of Georgia in the Avci lab until he enrolled in the BIMS program in the summer of 2019. He joined the Criss lab in the spring of 2020. Ian is investigating how Neisseria gonorrhoeae overcomes metal sequestration and nutritional immunity during infection.

Evan Lamb

Evan Lamb

Evan Lamb — MSTP Student

Evan graduated from the University of Iowa in 2019 with his B.S. in Microbiology and Human Physiology. He matriculated into UVA’s Medical Scientist Training Program in 2019 and joined the Criss Lab in 2021. Evan is investigating the effects of neutrophil transepithelial migration on neutrophil-gonococcal interactions.

Mary Gray, Lab Manager

Mary Gray

Mary Gray – Lab Manager

Mary is leading the efforts in Core D of the Gonorrhea Vaccine Cooperative Research Center (NIH U19 AI144180) to identify vaccine antigens that elicit host-protective antibody responses against Neisseria gonorrhoeae. She also conducts experiments in support of ongoing research on the interactions between N. gonorrhoeae and host immune cells and molecules. As lab manager, Mary keeps the lab organized and in compliance with research requirements. Prior to joining the Criss Lab, Mary managed and performed research in the lab of Dr. Erik Hewlett (retired) in the Division of Infectious Diseases and International Health, UVA Department of Medicine.

Mary Gray, Lab Manager

Keena Thomas

Keena Thomas – Research Specialist

Keena joined the Criss lab in 2021 after many years in Dr. Amy Bouton’s lab in the Department. Keena provides support for Criss lab research and is investigating how N. gonorrhoeae colonizes epithelial cells to stimulate inflammatory responses.


Former Lab Members


Asya Smirnov, PhD Research Scientist

Asya Smirnov, PhD

Asya Smirnov, PhD — Research Scientist

Asya Smirnov, DVM, PhD – Research Associate/Research Scientist, 2011-2020.

Current Position: Instructor, Washington University School of Medicine, St. Louis.

Stephanie Ragland Graduate Student

Stephanie Ragland

Stephanie Ragland — Graduate Student, 2012-2018

Current Position: Postdoctoral Fellow, Kagan Lab, Harvard Medical School/Children’s Hospital Boston

Jacqueline Stevens MSTP Student

Jacqueline Stevens

Jacqueline Stevens — Graduate Student, 2014-2018

Current Position: Resident, Dermatology, Harvard Medical School.

Urmila Barathan

Urmila Barathan

Urmila Bharathan — Undergraduate Fellow, 2015-2018

Current Position: Medical Student, Virginia Commonwealth University School of Medicine.

Katie Hill

Katie Hill

Katie Hill — Undergraduate Fellow, 2016-2018

Current Position: PhD Student, George Washington University School of Public Health.

Becky Dunning

Becky Dunning

Rebecca Dunning — 2015-2016

Current Position: Senior Research Associate, Battelle, National Defense Institute.

Rhea Kapania

Rhea Kapania

Rhea Kapania — Undergraduate Fellow, 2017-2018

Current position: Medical Scribe, Bon Secours Hospital, Richmond.

Richard Juneau, PhD Postdoc

Richard Juneau, PhD

Richard Juneau, PhD — Postdoctoral Fellow, 2011-2016

Current Position: Associate Professor of Biology, Virginia Western Community College.

Brittany Johnson, PhD Postdoc

Brittany Johnson, PhD

Brittany Johnson, PhD — Graduate Student, 2009-2014

Current Position: Assistant Professor, University of North Carolina-Charlotte.

Jonathan Handing Graduate Student

Jonathan Handing, PhD

Jonathan Handing, PhD — Graduate Student, 2011-2016

Current Position: Senior Scientist, Process and Technical Development, Moderna Therapeutics.

Kylene Daily

Kylene Daily

Kylene Daily — Undergraduate Student, 2012-2015, Laboratory Specialist 2015-2016

Current Position: MD-PhD Student, The Ohio State University.

Louise Ball Senior Laboratory Specialist

Louise Ball

Louise Ball — Laboratory Specialist, 2009-2015

Current Position: Graduate Student, University of Florida.