Our Team

Current lab members:

Scarlet Shell, Ph.D.USE Scarlet cropped
Principal Investigator

Scarlet leads the Shell lab in our quest to understand how mycobacteria regulate their transcriptomes to tolerate stress. She received a B.A. in Biological Sciences from Smith College in 2001 and a Ph.D. in Biomedical Sciences from the University of California, San Diego in 2008. She received postdoctoral training in Sarah Fortune’s lab at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health were she investigated the role of DNA methylation in M. tuberculosis and developed methodology to map mycobacterial transcription start sites and RNA cleavage sites transcriptome-wide. Scarlet joined the department of Biology and Biotechnology at WPI as an assistant professor in 2014.

More on Scarlet’s background

Carla Martini, Ph.D.
Postdoctoral Fellow

Carla received a bachelor’s degree in Biotechnology and Molecular Biology from the School of Exact Sciences, La Plata National University (Argentina). She then obtained a Doctorate Fellowship from the National Council of Scientific and Technological Research of Argentina (CONICET) and acquired the PhD degree in Exact Sciences from the Institute of Biotechnology and Molecular Biology in 2016. She joined the Shell lab as a postdoc in October 2016 and is investigating the role of RNAse J in the resistance to certain antibiotics and other stresses in mycobacteria.


Ying Zhou, M.S.
Ph.D. candidate

Ying received a bachelor’s degree in Biopharmaceutics from Beijing University of Chinese Medicine and a master’s degree in Biotechnology from the NYU School of Engineering. She joined the Shell lab as a Ph.D. student in 2014 and is investigating the roles and regulation of mycobacterial RNases.

Diego Vargas Blanco, M.S.
Ph.D. candidate

Diego’s fascination with understanding how things work, alongside a passion for biological sciences, led him to study biotechnological engineering at Universidad Católica de Santa María (Arequipa, Peru). He then came to WPI with a Fulbright scholarship to pursue a Ph.D. in the Shell lab. Diego was intrigued to find that after over a hundred years of research on TB, there are many secrets hidden in the genome of this bacterium that confer a remarkable ability to survive stress conditions. He is focused on understanding the regulation of mRNA stability as an adaptive response to deleterious environment changes. In addition to doing research, Diego enjoys oil painting, baking and ballroom dancing.

Diego describes his research and experience at WPI

More on Diego’s path to WPI


Huaming Sun, M.S.
Ph.D. student

Huaming received a Bachelor of Science in Information and Computational Science from Qingdao Agricultural University, followed by a Master of Science in Applied Statistics from WPI. He is now pursuing a Ph.D. in Bioinformatics and Computational Biology under the joint mentorship of Scarlet Shell and Dmitry Korkin. He is harnessing his background in statistics and computer science to address questions relating to gene regulation and mRNA metabolism in mycobacteria with focus on refined understanding of mRNA degradation mechanism.

Julia Ryan, M.S.
Ph.D. student

Julia studied Biology, Biochemistry, and English at Brandeis University, graduating in 2019 with experience studying protein biochemistry and X-ray crystallography. She is working towards a Ph.D. in Biology and Biotechnology and joined the Shell lab in Spring 2020. Julia is excited to learn more about the molecular mechanisms regulating mycobacterial stress tolerance and hopes to contribute something meaningful to the broader research effort. Beyond the lab, Julia enjoys reading, writing, Netflix, and spending time with friends.


Ryan Peters

Ryan is an undergraduate student pursuing a B.S. in Biology & Biotechnology. He is amazed at the vast complexity of gene regulation and enjoys studying and exploring how so many components work together seamlessly. He works on determining the role of 5’ UTRs in ribosomal gene regulation in mycobacteria, especially in the cell response to antibiotic stress. Outside of research he enjoys camping, hiking and technical theatre.

Alexa Davis

As a highly curious and detail oriented person with a love for life sciences, Alexa quickly found a passion in molecular biology and genetics. Currently, Alexa is pursuing a B.S. in Biology and Biotechnology and a B.S. in Biochemistry. On Summer of 2019 Alexa began exploring the role of 5’ UTRs of mRNA transcripts that encode ribosomal proteins in mycobacteria. She is interested in learning how these 5’ UTRs may be regulating mRNA stability or protein expression under stress conditions, a project that she will be continuing as her Major Qualifying Project.



Shell lab alumni:

Tien Nguyen

Tien graduated from WPI on 2019 with a B.S. in Biology and Biotechnology. His work focused on the effect of 5′ UTRs on mRNA stability in mycobacteria, specifically for the sigma factor sigA.


Sam Randall

Sam graduated from WPI on 2019 with a B.S. in Biology and Biotechnology. Her work in the Shell lab focused on understanding the role of DNA methylation in mycobacteria.

Oscar Lee

Oscar graduated from WPI on 2019 with a dual B.S. in Biology & Biotechnology and in Biochemistry. While at the Shell lab, he performed structure-function analysis of the mycobacterial RNase E.


David Morgan

David received his B.S. in Biology and Biotechnology from WPI in 2017. He spent 2.5 years in the Shell lab as an undergraduate investigating the regulation of heat-shock proteins in mycobacteria.

Charlotte Reames

Charlotte received her B.S. in Biology and Biotechnology from WPI in 2017. Her senior research project in the Shell lab focused on tagging and quantifying RNA degradation proteins to understand how their abundance is regulated in stress conditions.


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Paula de Camargo Bertuso

Paula received her M.S. in Biology and Biotechnology from WPI in 2016. Her thesis work in the Shell lab focused on understanding the role of RNase J in mycobacterial mRNA metabolism as well as understanding the mechanistic basis of the mycobacterial response to oxidative stress. Her studies at WPI were funded by a Science Without Borders scholarship from the Brazilian government. Prior to coming to WPI, Paula received a bachelor’s degree in biotechnology from the Federal University of Sao Carlos in Brazil.

Izzy Garver

Izzy is currently an undergraduate at WPI pursuing a degree in Biology & Biotechnology with a focus on the pre-health track. She received a fellowship from the WPI’s Arts & Sciences Advisory Board and the WPI Life Sciences Advisory Board to spend the Summer of 2016 in the Shell lab, where she worked on understanding the relationship between RNase J, mutation rate, and acquisition of drug resistance in M. smegmatis.

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Daniel Santos

Daniel is a Biotechnology major at the Federal University of Paraiba in Brazil and spent his junior year at WPI through a fellowship from the Brazilian government sponsored by the International Institute of Education. He spend a summer with the Shell trying to find new antibiotics against M. tuberculosis from soil strains, which were isolated and screened for antibiotic production.


Brianna Courteau

Brianna is pursuing a B.S. in Biology and Biotechnology at WPI on a pre-health track. She received a WPI Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship to spend the summer of 2017 in the Shell lab investigating the antimicrobial properties of the medicinal plant Artemisia Annua.


John de Rivera, B.S.

John received his B.S. in Biochemistry from WPI in 2016. His senior research project focused on investigating the determinants of transcript stability for the mycobacterial esxB transcript.


Nicholas Lemere, B.S.

Nick received his B.S. is Biology and Biotechnology from WPI in 2016. His senior research project aimed to investigate the role of DNA methylation in promoting survival of hypoxia in mycobacteria.


Kristen Behrakis

Kristen investigated the effects of colloidal silver on mycobacterial growth and survival while attending high school at the Massachusetts Academy of Math and Science at WPI.