Christina Kaszuba

Christina Kaszuba, MS

Christina is a Dansville, New York native. She graduated from Rochester Institute of Technology in May of 2021 with a Bachelor’s of Science in Biomedical Engineering, a minor in Business Administration and a concentration in Cell and Tissue Engineering. She is in the Biomedical Engineering Ph.D. program at the University of Rochester and Dr. Bajaj’s first graduate student!

Outside of the lab, she enjoys reading, traveling, skiing, puzzling, birdwatching and gardening. She has an ever-growing plant collection and loves to cook and learn about new cuisines. She also enjoys spending time outdoors on the Finger Lakes in the summer boating, fishing, camping and hiking.

Aashee Budhwani

Aashee Budhwani

Aashee is a senior at The University of Rochester. She is a first generation student pursuing a bachelors in Biomedical Engineering with a concentration in Cell and Tissue Engineering, a minor in Chemical Engineering, and American Sign Language. In the last 10 years, she has lived in 5 different countries which fuels her passion for travelling, backpacking, and exploring culturally significant restaurants, clubs, museums, and attractions. Outside the lab, she weight lifts, plays basketball, swims, and tutors for ‘She’s the First’. Working in the lab has strengthened her wet lab skills, while also helping her gain insight on understanding research protocols, lab etiquettes, building professional relationships, and so much more. She is very excited to learn new skills and explore new realms of research!

Jeevisha Bajaj

Dr. Jeevisha Bajaj, Ph.D

Dr. Bajaj has a long-standing interest in defining the role of cancer-niche interactions on promoting disease progression. As a graduate student at the National Center for Biological Sciences, Bangalore, she identified the adhesive molecule CD66 as a novel marker of metastasis associated cervical cancer stem cells. Since adhesive signaling is known to promote cell-cell as well as cell-matrix interactions, she became interested in determining the functional role of these interactions in sustaining the disease propagating cancer stem cells. As a postdoctoral fellow and an American Society of Hematology Scholar in Prof. Tannishtha Reya’s lab at UCSD, she identified a critical role for CD98 and Tetraspanin3-mediated adhesive interactions of aggressive myeloid leukemia stem cells (LSCs) with their niche on disease progression. These studies provide genetic and mechanistic support for the use of Tspan3 and CD98 inhibitory antibodies in adult and pediatric myeloid leukemias. In an effort to comprehensively define the biological regulators of aggressive leukemias, including those expressed on the cell surface and respond to cues from the niche, she carried out an ambitious genome-wide in vivo CRISPR/Cas9 screen in LSCs. This work not only identified known developmental and oncogenic signals essential for leukemogenesis, but also led to the discovery of several novel genes and programs essential for myeloid leukemia growth, such as the RNA-binding protein Staufen 2. Dr. Bajaj moved to the Wilmot Cancer Center at the University of Rochester Medical Center in November 2019 to start her independent laboratory focusing on defining LSC-microenvironmental interactions critical for leukemic growth and progression.

Awards and Honors
2021: American Society of Hematology Scholar Award (Junior Faculty)
2017: American Society of Hematology Scholar Award (Postdoctoral Fellow)
2014: National Cancer Center Post-Doctoral Fellowship

Ben Rodems

Benjamin Rodems, MS

Ben spent six years as a high school science teacher, before deciding that it was time for a career change to something more dexterous and scientific. He was missing the critical thinking, problem solving, and hands-on techniques that come along with trying to optimize experiments and protocols. He was the first person to join the lab in early 2020 and has had the pleasure of helping build it from the ground up. What started with two lab members has now grown to a lab of six!

Outside of the lab he enjoys many activities that involve his friends like kickball, softball, video games, and even a skee-ball league. He also loves running and cycling and one day hopes to get into triathlons.

Erika Davidson

Erika Davidson

Erika is a Buffalo native, with a BS in Chemistry from Baldwin Wallace University. She worked as an EMT through the COVID pandemic to help people and gain experience working in health care. While the work was very interesting, she soon realized that she missed conducting medical research. She joined the Bajaj lab to grow as an academic researcher and hone her experimental skills. Excitingly, she will be attending Medical School at University at Buffalo Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences in the fall of 2022 to pursue a career as a physician.

Outside of the lab she enjoys many different hobbies. She is an avid hiker and has climbed 11 out of the 46 high peaks in the Adirondacks and looks forward to eventually hiking them all! She loves snowboarding, camping, reading, going out with friends, and following her favorite NFL team, GO BILLS!! Rochester, NY offers plenty of extracurricular activities that she enjoys, including the nation’s largest adult kickball league, trivia nights, and an incredible selection of restaurants to try. If you have any questions regarding her time working in the lab or throughout my career becoming a physician, please feel free to reach out!

Sonali Sharma

Dr. Sonali Sharma, Ph.D

Dr. Sonali Sharma grew up in the beautiful mountains of northern India, and moved to Europe for a Masters in Biotechnology. As an Erasmus student, she had an opportunity to live in different countries in Europe for an internship and Master’s thesis. She carried out her graduate studies at the Central European Institute of Technology (CEITEC) in the Czech Republic. Her dissertation research defined a novel role of the miR-29-TRAF4 axis in CD40 signaling in Chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL). She is very enthusiastic about studying the microenvironmental interactions in leukemia. Her research focuses on deciphering the novel interactions between leukemia and stromal cells in acute myeloid leukemia.

Outside the lab, she enjoys reading (mostly fiction), cooking and gardening. She is very fond of traveling and recently started playing a ukulele.