People

Alison Criss, PhD Associate Professor

Alison Criss, PhD

Alison Criss, PhD — Associate Professor

Alison received her PhD from Harvard Medical School on Salmonella infection of polarized epithelial cells. As a postdoctoral fellow at Northwestern University, she investigated the process of gonococcal pilin antigenic variation and developed new approaches for studying gonococcal interactions with human neutrophils. Her lab investigates the mechanisms underlying survival of gonococci to neutrophils, which allow the bacteria to evade innate immune-mediated clearance.


Asya Smirnov, PhD Research Scientist

Asya Smirnov, PhD

Asya Smirnov, PhD — Research Scientist

Asya received her PhD in Animal Sciences from the Hebrew University in Jerusalem in Israel. As a postdoctoral fellow at Cornell University, she studied the mechanisms of C. trachomatis interaction with host cells. In the Criss lab, Asya has examined how N. gonorrhoeae suppresses neutrophil ROS production. She developed an imaging flow cytometry protocol for measuring bacterial phagocytosis and is using it to discover how N. gonorrhoeae is engulfed by neutrophils.

Stephanie Ragland Graduate Student

Stephanie Ragland

Stephanie Ragland — Graduate Student

Stephanie received her bachelor’s degree in Biology from Virginia Commonwealth University in 2009. She worked as a research specialist with Dr. Jason Carlyon at VCU investigating Anaplasma phagocytophilum infection of granulocytes. Stephanie entered the BIMS graduate program at UVA in Fall 2012 and joined the Criss lab in Spring 2013. Her research explores how modifications to peptidoglycan affect Neisseria gonorrhoeae interactions with neutrophils.

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 — 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 — 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.


Picture of 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 bioactive compounds released during infection modulate neutrophil responses to Neisseria gonorrhoeae.

Mary Gray, Lab Manager

Mary Gray – Lab Manager

Prior to joining the Criss Lab, Mary managed and performed research in the lab of Dr. Erik Hewlett in the Division of Infectious Diseases and International Health in the UVA Department of Medicine. In the Criss Lab, Mary is investigating the factors that mediate neutrophilic inflammation and bacterial survival after Neisseria gonorrhoeae encounters neutrophils.

Rhea Kapania

Rhea Kapania  — Undergraduate Fellow

Rhea is a Nanomedicine major at the University of Virginia. Rhea is working with the Criss and Columbus labs to functionalize liposomes with opacity proteins from N. gonorrhoeae and investigate their interactions with human cells.

Former Lab Members

Jacqueline Stevens MSTP Student

Jacqueline Stevens

Jacqueline Stevens — MSTP Student

Current Position: Medical Student in the MSTP.

Urmila Barathan

Urmila Barathan

Urmila Bharathan — Undergraduate Fellow

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

Katie Hill

Katie Hill — Undergraduate Fellow

Current Position: Healthcare Associate, Guidepoint, Boston.

Richard Juneau, PhD Postdoc

Richard Juneau, PhD

Richard Juneau, PhD — Postdoctoral Fellow, 2011-2016

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

Brittany Johnson, PhD Postdoc

Brittany Johnson, PhD

Brittany Johnson, PhD — Graduate Student, 2009-2014

Current Position: Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Marriott Laboratory, UNC-Charlotte.

Jonathan Handing Graduate Student

Jonathan Handing, PhD

Jonathan Handing, PhD — Graduate Student, 2011-2016

Current Position: Scientist, DNA Technical Development, Moderna Therapeutics.

Kylene Daily

Kylene Daily


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

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


Louise Ball Senior Laboratory Specialist

Louise Ball

Louise Ball — Laboratory Specialist, 2009-2015

Current Position: Graduate Student, University of Florida.