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Susan K. Murphy, PhD ( is an Associate Professor in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology and has been in her current position for 11 years.  She is passionate about research that will improve the lives of women with ovarian cancer, and having recently become a breast cancer survivor herself, has a new appreciation for the urgency of research to make a difference in the individualization of therapies and improved knowledge about the basis for and prevention of cancer recurrence. Her other major research interest is understanding how epigenetics (particularly DNA methylation) is involved in the developmental origins of disease and neurodevelopmental disorders. In this regard, she co-founded the Newborn Epigenetics STudy here at Duke, and is the Program Director for the Duke NICHES Children’s Environmental Health and Disease Prevention Research Center which is working to understand if early life exposure to tobacco smoke increases the risk of ADHD through epigenetic mechanisms.  Her other interests include her family, hiking, tidepooling, and her pets, including a 44-year old Mealy Amazon parrot, ornamental shrimp and land hermit crabs.

Zhiqing Huang, MD, PhD ( is currently a Senior Research Scientist at Duke.  Her projects include identifying new biomarkers for ovarian cancer based on DNA methylation and gene expression profiles, studying the response of cancer stem cells to chemotherapy using a xenograft model and ovarian cancer cell lines and leading epigenetic efforts, including DNA analysis using pyrosequencing and Sequenom MassArray. She is responsible for training and supervising of lab personnel. Through many years of experience, she has gained a wealth of knowledge and hands-on experience in cancer research including identifying and validating biomarkers using tumor and normal tissue samples and generating an animal tumor model for testing novel chemotherapeutic approaches. She has extensive experience with assay development, including high-throughput epigenetic tests (pyrosequencing, Sequenom, MS-PCR, and bisulfite sequencing) and gene expression (microarrays and real-time PCR). She has been working in the lab for ~10 years and is very happy to work with Dr. Murphy, the technicians, students and research fellows. Outside of the lab, she likes running and ballroom dancing.

Carole Grenier, BS ( is currently a Laboratory Research Analyst and has been working in the lab for 8 years. She manages the lab and assists with all of ongoing research projects. "Eight years ago I was interesting in being a part  of a great research team. I am still very excited today to go forward in finding answers we are all looking for in cancer research.”  She likes being in the lab because of the “fantastic team and great students to work with.” Outside the lab she enjoys the arts and "challenging myself with new activities I never did before.” She “enjoys every day because you don't know what will happen tomorrow.”

Michele Taylor, PhD ( is a postdoctoral researcher working on the NICHES Project (Neurodevelopment and Improving Children's Health following Environmental Tobacco Smoke exposure). She has been following the epigenetics literature for several years and initially became interested in the field while writing a dissertation chapter on the role of gene/environment interactions in attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) etiology.  She was drawn to this laboratory after learning about the Newborn Epigenetics Study (NEST). Her research goal is to better understand how environmental factors such as nutrition and toxicant exposures during fetal development can modify adult disease susceptibility (fetal origins of adult disease); particularly neurodevelopmental disorders and neurodegenerative diseases. She loves what she's doing in the lab because "epigenetics holds a great deal of promise for expanding our knowledge of human health and disease.  It's exhilarating to work on the frontiers of science and I get to do so with a really great group of people!” Her other interests include long distance running, cooking and keeping up with her two very exuberant boys!!!

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Isabel Rodriguez, BS ( is a third year Duke medical student who is performing research on the function of an imprinted long non-coding RNA in epithelial ovarian cancer.  

Rashmi Joglekar ( is a graduate student (co-mentored with Dr. Joel Meyer) working on the effects of oxidative stress on mitochondrial and nuclear DNA methylation.


Lisa Guo ( is a Duke undergraduate student (class of ’16) working on the TIEGER project.  Her interest in epigenetics started from an introductory biology class, where the topic was mentioned briefly in passing.  However, that was all that was needed to spur on a frenzy of googling that left her unable to stop thinking about the subject.  She is fascinated by how our environment can influence the way genes are expressed and the inheritance patterns of our genetic makeup, making the nature versus nurture distinction even more blurred. She really enjoys what she is doing becausee she thinks the topic of epigenetics is the direction that molecular genetics is moving in. "There is so much that we still don't know, especially in regards to the heritability of certain epigenetic marks. TIEGER investigates how lifestyle choices may influence the epigenome of offspring, meaning the decisions we make may not be limited to our own bodies. Whether or not this is a daunting prospect or an opportunity remains to be seen, but either way it is very exciting work." During the school year she volunteers at the Duke Hospital with the Kidz Need Hugz program, which provides buddies for children who are alone during the day. In her spare time, she enjoys reading, watching the Food Network, and "trying to replicate recipes with friends, often with only marginal success."

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Zach Visco ( is a Duke undergraduate in Biomedical Engineering  (class of ’17) and works on functional validation and characterization of epigenetic/transcriptomic changes in recurrent ovarian cancer with Dr. Huang. Specifically, he and Dr. Huang are examining tight junction proteins in primary and matched recurrent ovarian cancers.  "I chose to join the lab because I wanted to gain research experience. I'm hoping this position will help me determine what path I might pursue after I finish my undergraduate studies. I haven't yet decided if I would rather attend medical school, or pursue a more research based path.” Zach says he has very much enjoyed the freedom given to him in the lab. "Dr. Huang has allowed me to perform many of her experiments by myself, which has given me valuable hands-on experience.” Zach loves watching Game of Thrones, seeing movies with friends, and reading in his free time. 

Kelly Tomins ( is a Duke undergraduate (class of ’16) working on the effects of tobacco smoke exposure on zebrafish gamete methylation profiles.


Marie Boudreau ( is an undergraduate from Appalachian State University (class of ’18) who is working as a Summer Research Assistant in Gynecologic Oncology and for the NICHES Children’s Center.


Ethan Whitaker is an undergraduate from Campbell University (class of ‘18) and is working as a Summer Research Assistant in Gynecologic Oncology.


Catherine Birtles is an undergraduate at McGill University (class of ’16) and is working as a Summer Research Assistant for the NICHES Children’s Center.

 Sabrina Simpson is an undergraduate at Boston University (class of ’18) and is working as a Summer Research Assistant in Gynecologic Oncology.  

© The Murphy Lab 2017