Lab Members

Shelby O’Connor: Associate Professor

Shelby grew up in St. Louis, MO. She earned her undergraduate degree in the Biology Honors program at UIUC. She then obtained her PhD in Dr. Shigeki Miyamoto’s lab at UW-Madison. After grad school, she spent one year at the UW School of Pharmacy setting up labs for first year pharmacy students. Then, she worked in David O’Connor’s lab as an Assistant Scientist from 2006 until 2011, when she obtained independent funding and began her own lab.  In addition to research, Shelby enjoys teaching and participates in the Biocore program.

While Shelby likes doing experiments, she almost never gets to touch a pipet anymore. So sad….so very sad. Instead, she tries to live vicariously through everyone else. She also likes running, riding her bike, and playing racquetball. While she likes fruit and vegetables, she is also a huge fan of cookies with a lot of frosting.

Shelby’s favorite ice cream: Cookie Dough

Amy Ellis: Associate Scientist

Amy grew up in LaCrosse, WI. She stayed in LaCrosse for undergrad (wow – she must really like LaCrosse!), earning two undergraduate degrees in Biochemistry and Cellular/Molecular Biology. She obtained her PhD in Dr. Janet Mertz’s lab at UW-Madison in the Cancer Biology program. After grad school, Amy studied Ebola and influenza in our neighbor’s lab, Dr. Yoshi Kawaoka. She decided to move across the parking lot to our building, which is where she has been for the past 3+ years.

Amy likes cloning in the lab. She thinks it is fun! She also has trained in the martial art of aikido for about 10 years, and she once worked for the USGS where she got to wear hip waders and collect mud samples.

Amy’s favorite ice cream: Chocolate Shoppe Zanzibar

Alexis (‘Lexie’) Balgeman: Research Specialist

Lexie grew up in Lyle, MN, which is on the MN/IA border. Lexie describes it as a very very very very small town. She went to Drake University and earned her undergraduate degree in Biochemistry, Cell, and Molecular Biology. Lexie has worked in the lab for three years, and she thankfully takes care of a lot of stuff for all of us, which is why she has earned the name, “Lab Mom” at the young (very young) age of…..

Lexie came straight to the lab after graduating. In college, she studied abroad in Egypt and England. She claims she doesn’t have a ‘favorite thing’ in lab, so I’ll assume that means she likes everything. She is an avid reader, and she likes hot yoga and dogs….or was it yoga and hot dogs…..I don’t remember.

Lexie’s favorite ice cream: Zanzibar chocolate or Salted caramel

John (JJ) Baczenas: Associate Research Specialist:

JJ grew up in Discovery Bay, CA.  He mentioned that it is a small town in the middle of nothing but corn. He earned his undergraduate degree in Marine Biology from Hawaii Pacific University. During his time in Hawaii, he worked in David Hyrenbach’s lab alongside the non-profit group Oikonos Ecosystem Knowledge. He used next-gen sequencing to see what specific birds on the Kure Atoll were eating.

Outside of the lab, JJ enjoys board games, video games, climbing, and scuba diving. He is your friendly-neighborhood nerd and gets way too excited about nerdy things.

JJ’s favorite ice cream: Graeter’s Mint Chocolate Chip

Ryan Moriarty: Graduate Student (MDTP)

Ryan M grew up in Mukwonago, Wisconsin. She went to school at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and she earned a degree in Genetics. During her undergrad years, she did research in Chris Hittinger’s lab. Her favorite part of her undegrad research project was to create a ‘super hybrid’ of saccharomyces species. She was excited because nobody had done it before, and many people didn’t think it was possible!  She was in our lab for two years as a technician and then joined as a graduate student in September of 2019.

Outside of science, Ryan M is on a cheer team, makes wine, and likes to sew. She also likes spending time outside, especially with dogs.

Ryan’s favorite ice cream: Ben and Jerry’s Phish Food

Athena Golfinos: Graduate Student (CMP)

Athena is from Cambridge, Wisconsin — just down the road.  She went to UW-Madison and earned a B.S. in Biology. During this time, she worked with Dr. Jill Barnes and Dr. Cameron Currie. She likes writing bioinformatic scripts and analyzing sequence data.

Outside of lab, Athena likes bouldering and downhill skiing.  Her goal is to ski double blacks out west in the next year or two. Yowzers!!!   But, where does she ski in Wisconsin?  You’ll have to ask her.  She also owns a dwarf, albino, lion head rabbit.

Athena’s favorite ice cream:  Butter Pecan

Olivia Sayer: Graduate Student (CMP)

Olivia is from Littleton, Colorado. She went to Colorado Mesa University and earned a B.S. in Biology with minors in Chemistry and Dance. She did research with Dr. Kyle McQuade, and did a summer research project with Dr. Steven Wilhelm at the U. of Tennessee.  Wow – she also went on a research trip to Antarctica (rumor has it that it was cold)! In lab, she likes to design and run flow cytometry panels. She also likes pipetting ‘things.’

Outside of lab, Olivia enjoys knitting, running, and doing aerial silks. She likes dogs, but doesn’t have one yet.  (clearly, she needs one!)

Favorite ice cream: Banana ice cream with chocolate and peanut butter

Anna Batchenkova:  Undergraduate student at MATC.

Anna was previously part of the Youth Apprenticeship Program.

Karigynn Hansen:  Masters in Bacteriology Student

Jayden Lee: High School student in the Youth Apprenticeship Program.

Dillon Herbst:  Undergraduate Student

Nadean Kannal: Carroll University undergraduate student (comes back on  occasion!)

Nadean comes to us from Oregon, Wisconsin. She was part of the Youth Apprenticeship Program run by the State of Wisconsin when she was in high school. We were fortunate that she came back this past summer to work, and we hope she does again! Note – she was also a famous discoverer of MR-1 alleles. Her favorite thing to do in the lab is perform gel extractions and analyze sequence data. Outside of the lab, Nadean likes to try out various restaurants in Madison with friends, paint/draw, and cheer on the Badgers and the Packers!

Nadean’s favorite ice cream: Vanilla with hot fudge and brownie pieces