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People in the Ortlund Lab


Eric A. Ortlund, Ph.D.

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. 

Mireille El Bejjani


Mireille El Bejjani, M.D.

Fellow, Pediatric Endocrinology

Mireille completed her pediatric residency at the Children’s Hospital of Michigan in 2013. She is currently training in pediatric endocrinology at Emory. She joined the Ortlund lab in 2015 and her research focuses on the nuclear receptor LRH-1 regulation.

Filipp Frank, Ph.D. 

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. 

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Regan Esposito

Graduate Student, BCDB Program

Regan received her B.S. in Biochemistry from Colgate University in 2014. She enrolled in the BCDB program the same year and joined the Ortlund lab in 2015. Her research is focused on using biochemical and structural approaches to investigate the role that lncRNA Gas5 plays on transcription and cell regulation. Regan is currently a BCDB Training Grant Awardee.

Kristal Maner-Smith


Kristal Maner-Smith, Ph.D.

ADA Postdoctoral Fellow

Dr. Kristal Maner-Smith holds a Ph.D. degree and a Master’s degree in Analytical Chemistry from Cornell University.  She will be working as a Postdoctoral Fellow in the laboratory of Dr. Eric Ortlund where her research will focus on performing cellular and biophysical studies on lipid binding proteins involved in both normal metabolism and disease.

Jen Colucci, Ph.D.

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. 

Mike Tuntland

Mike Tuntland, Ph.D.

Postdoctoral Fellow

Dr. Tuntland obtained his Bachelor of Science in Chemistry at Illinois State University in 2009. His Ph.D. studies were completed at the University of Illinois at Chicago, which involved the biophysical and structural studies of enzymes involved in purine synthesis from Bacillus anthracis. Dr. Tuntland joined the Ortlund lab in 2015 to investigate the structure-function relationships of full length nuclear receptors with endogenous ligands and their interacting proteins.


Heather 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. 


Emily Rye Weikum

Graduate Student, BCDB Program

Emily earned her BS degree in Biochemistry from Kennesaw State University in 2011. Emily is currently an NIH NRSA Predoctoral Fellow and studies glucocorticoid mediated gene repression. 

Suzanne Mays

Suzanne Mays

Graduate Student, MSP Program

Suzanne received a B.S. from Kennesaw State University in 2008.  Before starting graduate studies, she spent five years in the Petros/Liotta lab at Emory, researching anti-cancer effects of novel sphingolipids.  She enrolled in Emory’s MSP Ph.D. Program in 2013 and joined the Ortlund lab in April 2014.  Suzanne’s research focuses on ligand regulation of the orphan nuclear hormone receptor, LRH-1.

Denise Okafor


C. Denise Okafor, Ph.D.

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.

Manoj Khadka, Ph.D. 

Post-Doctoral Fellow

Manoj received his MS in Medical Microbiology from Tribhuvan University and PhD in Molecular Bioscience from Middle Tennessee State University. He joined Dr. Ortlund's lab as Postdoctoral Fellow to work on lipidomics of various infectious and non infectious diseases.

Matthew Tillman

Matthew 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.


Jeffrey Kohn

Graduate Student, MSP Program

Jeff received his BS in biochemistry from SUNY Binghamton in Binghamton, NY in 2009. He enrolled at Emory in the MSP program later that year, and joined the Ortlund lab in 2010. His research focuses on the structural biology behind the specificity of synthetic ligands for corticosteroid receptors, and of phosphlipids for the orphan nuclear receptor LRH-1.

Former Lab Members

Postdoctoral Fellows
Manish Pathak 2011 Indian Institute of Science Education and Research
Michael Murphy 2013 Microlytic, Inc.
Graduate Students

Jennifer Colucci

2013 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 2015 Post Doc, Rafi Ahmed, Emory University Department of Microbiology and Immunology
Other lab members/visitors

Monah Clark

Austin Herbst



Emory Summer Undergradaute Research (SURE) Fellow
Emory Summer Undergradaute 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

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.