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Dr. Matthew J. Merrins

Principal Investigator

After completing a double major in Biochemistry and Biology at Oberlin College, Matt received his Ph.D. in Physiology from the University of Michigan, where he studied exocytosis in adipocytes and pancreatic beta cells with Dr. Ed Stuenkel. From there he joined Dr. Les Satin's islet biology lab at the Brehm Diabetes Center at the University of Michigan. Matt joined the faculty at UW-Madison in 2014. When not teaching or conducting research, Matt enjoys road trips to upstate NY with his wife and two kids, playing ultimate frisbee, and running with his dog Shasta. 



Dr. Hannah Foster

Posdoctoral Researcher

Hannah is a postdoctoral fellow with a passion for protein biochemistry. A lifelong musician, she received her Bachelor's of Music in harp performance from the University of Michigan in 2005. She explored her love for the natural world in the Frontiers Master's Program in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at Michigan in 2008. Her thesis examined the effect of the pharmaceutical Prozac on tadpole development. After a year developing her cell biology skills in the lab of Dr. Sean Morrison, Hannah went on to receive her Ph.D. in Biochemistry from Harvard University in 2016. There, she worked under Dr. Briana Burton to characterize a protein that contributes to the spread of antibiotic resistance. When she is not in the lab, Hannah enjoys studying Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and spending time with her family, which includes her wife and three dogs.


Sophia M. Sdao

Graduate Student (IPiB) 

Sophie Sdao is a graduate student in the Integrated Program in Biochemistry.  As an undergraduate at Michigan State University, she earned a B.S. in biochemistry and molecular biology with a minor in computer science. Sophie enjoys applying her computer science background to islet biology and is interested in examining the roles and mechanisms of cell cycle regulators in metabolism and insulin secretion. In her free time Sophie chairs the IPiB recruiting committee, and enjoys critically watching horror movies and playing classical piano.


Sophie L. Lewandowski

Graduate Student (IPiB)

Sophie Lewandowski is a graduate student in the Integrated Program in Biochemistry (IPiB).  In 2016, she graduated from Oberlin College with a B.A. in Biochemistry. Conducting research in the laboratories of Dr. Jason Belitsky at Oberlin, and Dr. John Lazo and Dr. Elizabeth Sharlow at University of Virginia, inspired Sophie to pursue biochemistry.  Her research interests led her to join the Merrins lab, where she studies alpha-to-beta cell communication in the islet using 3D lightsheet microscopy and optogenetics. Outside of the lab, Sophie likes to volunteer at science outreach events, cook, run, and play soccer.


Thuong Ho

Graduate Student (IPiB)

Thuong is a graduate student in the Integrated Program in Biochemistry (IPiB). He earned his Bachelors in Biochemistry at University of Washington-Seattle. During his undergraduate career, Thuong participated in research on the role of endocytosis in colorectal cancer metastasis in Dr. Jihong Bai’s lab. Coming to Madison with the hope to further pursue enzymology, Thuong is thrilled to be working in Dr. Merrins’ group to study the mechanisms of insulin secretion controlled by pyruvate kinase and creatine kinase. Outside the lab, he enjoys the occasional concerts, movies, cooking and staying active.


Emily Knuth

Graduate Student (IPiB)

Emily is a graduate student in the Integrated Program in Biochemistry (IPiB). She earned her Bachelors in Agricultural Biochemistry with minors in Agronomy and Human Nutrition at Iowa State University. While at ISU, Emily worked in Dr. Adam Barb's lab synthesizing biorenewable chemicals using bacteria. Emily's current research in the Merrins lab focuses on investigating alpha cell cAMP regulation as well as the mechanisms by which pyruvate kinase controls mitochondrial respiration and insulin secretion. In her free time, Emily enjoys jigsaw puzzles, video games, and spending time with friends and family.


Erli Jin, M.S.

Graduate Student (IPiB)

Erli is a graduate student in the Integrated Program in Biochemistry (IPiB). He earned his Bachelors in Bioengineering at East China University of Science and Technology, and Master of Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins University. During his masters, he participated in research in Dr. Rong Li’s lab on misfolded proteins and aging. The study revealed a novel machinery of mitochondria dealing with misfolded proteins. Erli is very interested in imaging technologies and now studies pancreatic alpha cells using 2D and 3D imaging. Outside the lab, he enjoys detective stories, music, and hanging out with friends.


Dr. Evgeniy Potapenko


Evgeniy joined the Merrins lab in 2019 as a scientist and full time electrophysiologist, following postdoctoral fellowships at the University of Connecticut and Augusta University, and graduate work at the Bogomoletz Institute of Physiology at the National Academy of Sciences in Ukraine. Evgeniy's work in the Merrins lab focuses on single-channel KATP measurements in beta cells, and brain slice electrophysiology experiments for our NIA-funded work on Alzheimer's Disease (a joint project with our neighbor Dudley Lamming). Outside the lab, Evgeniy enjoys time outdoors, traveling, and spending time with his family.