Information for Applicants

Prospective graduate students should apply to the Graduate Division of Biological and Biomedical Sciences (GDBBS):

Dr. Ortlund is a training faculty member of the Biochemistry, Cell and Developmental Biology (BCDB) and Molecular Systems Pharmacology (MSP) programs within the GDBBS.

Interested postdoctoral fellows should contact Dr. Ortlund directly by email. Applications should include a summary of research experience and interests, and a C.V. with contact details for at least three potential references. Candidates with their own funding or interested in applying for fellowships should contact Dr. Ortlund at any time.


OrtlundEric A. Ortlund, PhD
Associate Professor

Eric received his B.S. and Ph.D. at the University of South Carolina, and followed this with postdoctoral research at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, NC. Eric was a Lineberger Cancer Center NRSA postdoctoral fellow and joined the Department of Biochemistry at Emory as an Assistant Professor in September 2008. 

Jennifer ColucciJen Colucci, PhD
Senior Research Specialist 

Jen earned her Ph.D. from Emory University's Department of Biochemistry in 2013. Her research focuses on the historical mechanisms driving ligand specificity in steroid hormone nuclear receptors. 

Xu Liu, PhD
Postdoctoral Fellow

Xu received a B.S. in food science and engineering from Shandong Normal University in 2005 and M.S. in biochemistry from Beijing Normal University in China in 2008. He finished his PhD studies centered on PDZ domain-mediated protein/ligand interactions in University of Iowa in 2014. He then performed a short-term postdoctoral research in structure and inhibition of a histone demethylase family in Cheng lab in Emory University before he joined Ortlund lab in 2016. Here he focuses on investigating the structure-dynamics-function relationship of glucocorticoid receptor and an acyltransferase called tafazzin.

FFFilipp Frank, PhD
Postdoctoral Fellow

Filipp received a B.S. and M.S. in molecular biotechnology from Ruprecht-Karls-University in Heidelberg, Germany, and a PhD in biochemistry from McGill University in Montreal, Canada. He then carried out postdoctoral research in single-molecule biophysics at UC Berkeley before he joined Emory in 2016. Here he spends half his time as an HHMI curriculum development postdoctoral fellow and the other half investigating the functional and structural characteristics of the lncRNA Gas5 in the Ortlund lab. 

Denise OkaforC. Denise Okafor, PhD
FIRST Postdoctoral Fellow

Denise received a B.S. in Biomedical Chemistry at Oral Roberts University. She then completed an M.S. and Ph.D. in Chemistry at Georgia Institute of Technology. She joined the Ortlund lab in September 2015, where she will use molecular dynamics simulations to investigate interactions between nuclear receptors and ligands. She is currently a FIRST postdoctoral fellow at Emory.

Elizabeth Millings

Elizabeth Millings, PhD
Postdoctoral Fellow
Emory FIRST Fellow

Elizabeth received a B.S. in chemistry from Stony Brook University, and a PhD in nutritional and metabolic biology from Columbia University. She joined the Ortlund lab in 2017, where she studies the role of nuclear receptors in metabolic disease using mouse models. She is also a FIRST postdoctoral fellow at Emory.


Anamika Patel, Ph.D.

Anamika Patel, PhD
Assistant Professor

HeatherHeather Donaldson
Research Specialist

Heather received her BS in Biology from the University of Georgia in Athens, GA in 2014. Previously, Heather did research in evolutionary genetics at UGA before joining the Ortlund lab in late 2014. 

Matthew TillmanMatthew Tillman
Graduate Student, MSP Program

Matt received his B.S. in Biology from Georgia Tech, Atlanta, GA in 2013.  Matt enrolled in the MSP graduate program the following year and joined the Ortlund lab in 2015. His research centers on the role of fatty acid binding proteins in the cell using structural and biochemical analysis.

Emma D'Agostino
Graduate Student, BCDB Program

Emma received her BS degree from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in Biology and Chemistry. While at UNCCH, Emma worked in the lab of Dr. Matthew Redinbo where she studied structural and functional diversity of the bacterial beta-glucuronidase enzyme. Emma enrolled in the BCDB program in the Fall of 2016 and joined Dr. Ortlund's lab in 2017. Emma will be studying the roles of liver receptor homolog-1 (LRH-1) and Steroidogenic Factor-1 (SF-1) in metbolism and systems biology. 

SamSam Druzak 
Graduate Student

Sam received his BS from Emory University majoring in Chemistry. During his time as a student he worked in Dr. Parr’s lab studying social cognition in rhesus macaque, and Dr. Salaita’s lab where he helped in the development of a nanozyme. Sam then worked for 2 years in Dr. Li’s lab at the Aflac center for Pediatric Hematology and Oncology as a Research Technician.  During this time, Sam worked on characterizing GPV, a member of the GPIb-IX-V complex. Sam enrolled in Emory’s MSP program in 2017 and officially joined the Ortlund Lab in 2018. His research focuses on PCTP's role in the regulation of various biological processes through associations with nuclear receptors.

SamM. Lee Cato 
Graduate Student

Cato received his BS degree from Wofford College in Biology. He enrolled in the BCDB program in 2017 and joined Dr. Ortlund's lab in 2018. Cato will be studying the conserved mechanisms of START domain-mediated regulation of lipid metabolic networks. 

David HerculesDavid Hercules
Research Specialist

David graduated from Emory University in 2017 with a B.S. in Chemistry, and joined the Ortlund lab in 2018. He will be working with Dr. Okafor, investigating the evolution of ligand-selectivity in steroid receptors using molecular dynamics simulations.

no pictureYashuo Wang
Lab Volunteer 

Yashuo received a B.S. in marine biology from Ocean University of China in 2014. She is now a PhD candidate at Ocean University of China. Here she focuses on the structure of glucocorticoid receptors.

Former Members

Postdoctoral Fellows

Mireille El Bejjani, MD

2017 Medical Doctor, Al Jalila Children’s Hospital (Dubai, UAE)

Michael Tuntland, PhD


Research Scientist, Discovery Crop Protection Group at Dow AgroSciences

Kristal Maner-Smith, PhD   


 Technical Director, Emory Integrated Lipidomics Core (EILC)

Michael Murphy, PhD 2013

Microlytic, Inc.

Manish Pathak, PhD


Indian Institute of Science Education and Research

Graduate Students

Suzanne Mays

2018 Marie Curie Postdoctoral Fellow; Center for Genomic Regulation (Barcelona, Spain)

Regan Esposito

2018 Cheif Content Officer; Esports News Organization

Emily Rye Weikum

2017 Medical Writer; SciMentum 

Jen Colucci

2013 Senior Research Specialist; Emory University Department of Biochemistry

Paul Musille

2014 Program Manager; NineSigma, Cleveland, OH
Eric Armstrong 2014

Faculty; Montgomery Bell Academy Preparatory School

Will Hudson


Postdoctoral Fellow; Rafi Ahmed, Emory University Department of Microbiology and Immunology

Jeffrey Kohn


Postdoctoral Fellow; Rockefeller University

Other lab members/visitors

Ayushi Sharma


Medical Student at William Beaumont School of Medicine

Monah Clark


Emory Summer Undergraduate Research (SURE) Fellow 

Austin Herbst

2014 Emory Summer Undergraduate Research (SURE) Fellow

Christine Youn

2011 Emory Summer Undergradaute Research (SURE) Fellow
Conner Carter 2010

Visiting Student from Morehouse

Kirti Desphande 2008

Research Specialist

Sean Carroll 2009

Visiting Student from the University of Oregon

June Keay 2008  

Visiting Student from the University of Oregon