Our Team

Postdoctoral Associates

Melissa Maczis, PhD

Melissa Maczis received her PhD in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology in July 2020 at Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU). Her PhD research examined the role of sphingolipids and tumor suppressor p53 in breast cancer tumor progression, metastasis, and microenvironment. Following her graduation, she became a Postdoctoral Assistant in the Department of Biology at VCU with a fellowship through the Institutional Research and Academic Career Development (IRACDA) program. During her postdoctoral career, she researched the alternative metabolism, cellular trafficking, and development of pathological symptoms of the genetic neurodegenerative lipid storage disease Niemann-Pick Type C (NPC). She also gained experience teaching through an internship at VCU and an externship at Virginia Union University where she individually designed, taught, and ran a Biochemistry course.

Melissa is joining the Department of Neurology as a Postdoctoral Associate in Dr. Matt Farrer’s lab where she will be studying Parkinson’s disease. She is excited to start her research and be a part of the team at the University of Florida. Outside of work, Melissa, who usually goes by Mel, enjoys staying active outside, listening to true crime podcasts, and experimenting with new recipes.

Jordan Follett, PhD

Jordan Follett

Dr. Follett is a cell biologist whose research seeks to understand the molecular basis of familial Parkinson’s disease. He obtained a PhD from the University of Queensland, Australia, where his thesis studies focused on the role of endosomal protein sorting and lysosomal dysfunction in neurodegeneration. In 2016, Dr. Follett joined the Center for Applied Neurogenetics at The University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada, where he trained with Dr. Matthew Farrer and focused on how genes linked to Parkinson’s disease impact membrane trafficking and lead to dopaminergic cell vulnerability and pathology. He joins the UF Department of Neurology as a postdoctoral research associate where he will continue his work with Dr. Matthew Farrer on familial Parkinson’s disease. His long-term goal is to use biology across multiple model systems to elucidate molecular pathways that could contribute to developing successful therapies.


Graduate Students

Anthea Bu, BSc.

Athena Bu

Anthea Bu is a graduate student with Dr. Matthew Farrer. Her thesis is focused on exploring PD-linked mutations affect striatal dopaminergic neurotransmission. Specifically, electrophysiology and microscopy to study dopamine transporter trafficking in physiological and pathological conditions. Anthea majored in neuroscience during her undergraduate study at McGill university. Her goal is to understand how malfunction in dopamine neurotransmission contribute to the selective vulnerability of midbrain dopaminergic neurons in PD.


Dylan Guenther, BSc.

Dylan Guenther is a neuroscience graduate student in the biomedical sciences program at the University of Florida. His research focus is on characterizing how the effects of cellular dysfunction caused by missense mutations alter local network connectivity and functionality. Dylan graduated with a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from the University of Florida in 2017. During his undergraduate studies, Dylan first became interested in research after working as a research assistant where his job entailed designing both automated spatial behavioral paradigms and novel drug abuse models. Dylan’s goal is to better understand how local neurons work in concert with one another in the service of cognition, both in a behavioral and neurodegenerative context.


Program Staff

Lee Kugelmann, MMSc, GC

Lee Kugleman

Lee Kugelmann is a genetic counselor at the Norman Fixel Institute for Neurological Diseases. She joins the Clinical Genomics Program to promote whole-genome sequencing for brain health disorders and other conditions, and to provide genetic counseling to research subjects. Lee received her Master’s degree in Human Genetics and Genetic Counseling from Emory University’s Genetic Counseling Training Program. Her capstone project involved developing educational materials for patients undergoing molecular tumor profiling at Atlanta’s Grady Memorial Hospital. Prior to her graduate training, Lee worked as a clinical research coordinator at UF’s Powell Center for Rare Disease Research. She coordinated a number of clinical trials for inherited neuromuscular diseases, including a first-in-human gene therapy trial for children with x-linked myotubular myopathy. Her clinical and research interests involve promoting genetic education and health literacy to enable therapeutic development, and characterizing the lived experiences of people affected by genetic disease.

Shannon Wall, AA

Shannon Wall

Shannon has been with UF for over a decade and is excited to be joining Dr. Farrer’s team as lab manager. Shannon is skilled in animal surgical procedures, health, and behavior. Her skill-set includes training and experience in cannulation implant surgery, viral vector, jugular catherization, suturing, blood collection, end point tissue collection and processing, and novel tissue processing protocols. She is proficient in multiple wet lab procedures such as lmmunohistochemistry, in-situ hybridization, PCR amplification, Western Blotting, ELISA assay, and Protein Quantification.

Robert Sharp, PhD

Robert Sharp is joining Professor Matthew Farrer’s Laboratory of Neurogenetics and Neuroscience as a Cell Culture Biologist (Biological Scientist II). He will be working with the Farrer lab on their studies on the role of the leucine-rich repeat kinase 2 (LRRK2) protein in Parkinson’s disease pathogenesis. With his expertise in cell line and primary cell culturing, immunocytochemistry, flow cytometric immunophenotyping, gene editing, and overall molecular/cell biology, he hopes to provide support and new ideas for the Farrer lab. As a clinical immunologist, Dr. Sharp has studied various of autoimmune diseases throughout his Bachelor’s (Biotechnology, University of Central Florida, 2013), his Master’s (Biomedical Sciences, University of Central Florida, 2014), his Ph.D. (Biomedical Sciences, University of Central Florida, 2018), and his postdoctoral career (University of Florida Diabetes Institute, 2019-2022). These autoimmune diseases include: Crohn’s disease, rheumatoid arthritis, ulcerative colitis, and type 1 diabetes. As such, he is interested to work with the Farrer lab in order to find the connection of LRRK2 to both neurological and immunological diseases.

Suzanne Sharpe

Sharpe, Suzanne

Suzie Sharpe joins Dr. Farrer’s team as an OPS Clinical Research Coordinator at the Norman Fixel Institute for Neurological Diseases. She previously worked as a community health worker, connecting community members with available resources and research studies. She completed her BS in Biology at the University of Florida with a minor in Anthropology. She is interested in the application of genetic screenings to preventative medicine and public health.  

Leyna Xoi

Xoi, Leyna

 Leyna Xoi joins the Laboratory of Neurogenetics and Neuroscience (PI Matt Farrer) as a Molecular Biologist. Leyna is coming from the UF ICBR Gene Expression and Genotyping Core. Her expertise includes nucleic acid isolation, 10x single cell library construction, 16s library construction, Axiom Array, qPCR, and ddPCR. She is a very big fan of process improvement and has worked to increase output while decreasing cost through the use of robotics such as the Biomek fxp liquid handler, SPT mosquito, SPT dragonfly, and Qiacube HT.

In terms of education, she has a B.S. in Microbiology and Cell Sciences and she is currently working on a M.S. in Biostatistics. She has a high interest in data analysis, especially molecular genetics data. A goal that she hopes to achieve very soon is to analyze libraries that she has created during the wet-lab process.

Outside of work, she enjoys exploring new food recipes with her Fiancé and goofing around with their cat, Ruby. She is very adventurous and likes spending her long breaks exploring hobbies such as snow-boarding, sky-diving, and exploring the busy streets of New York.

Genevieve Wimsatt

Wimsatt, Genevieve

Genevieve Wimsatt has joined the Laboratory of Neurogenetics & Neuroscience as an OPS Research Assistant. She is a graduate of Regis University with a Bachelor of Science in biochemistry. She is obtaining her master’s in medical physiology and pharmacology online at UF. She is excited to be working in neuroscience research as this is a passionate interest of hers. In her free time, she enjoys training her dogs, hiking, and engaging in various arts and crafts activities.

Isaac Bul Deng

Isaac Bul Deng, Ph.D. joins us as a postdoctoral associate in the Laboratory of Neurogenetics and Neuroscience (LNN) with Dr. Farrer. Dr. Deng earned his first degree in Medical Science as a Joint degree from the Australian National University and the University of South Australia, Australia in 2016. He obtained his PhD in Medical Science in 2022 from the University of South Australia, Australia, where his thesis focused on the characterization of lipopolysaccharide animal models of Parkinson’s disease. He is inspired to use his knowledge of in-vivo models of Parkinson’s disease to better understand its pathophysiological mechanisms, and to facilitate the identification of disease biomarkers and effective therapeutic approaches. Other research topics of interest include Alzheimer’s disease, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, and neuropsychiatric disorders. Isaac enjoys playing basketball, reading and outdoor recreational activities.

Alyssa Dellutri joins us with a strong background in routine lab tasks,making her a valuable asset to our research team. Her responsibilities include tasks such as DNA isolation and PCR genotyping of mouse models, quantification of protein biochemistry through Western blotting, qualitative and quantitative immunocytochemistry of cells, and immunohistochemistry of brain sections. Alyssa is a Lab Assistant and will work under the supervision of Drs. Jordan Follett and Melissa Maczis, contributing to data generation for publications and grant submissions.

Open Positions:

Post Doctorate Position: Molecular Genetics