Principal InvestigatorSenior Research TechnicianGraduate studentsPostdoctoral Associates

Principal Investigator

Thorold Theunissen, PhD  

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Thor grew up in The Netherlands and received his A.B. in Biology from Harvard in 2007. He became interested in stem cells and developmental biology during his undergraduate work in the laboratories of Christine Mummery (Hubrecht Institute) and Stuart Orkin (Harvard Medical School). He completed his graduate studies in Jose Silva’s laboratory in the Wellcome Trust Center for Stem Cell Research and Department of Biochemistry at the University of Cambridge in 2011. His doctoral thesis focused on the role of the homeodomain transcription factor Nanog in epigenetic reprogramming. As a Sir Henry Wellcome Postdoctoral Fellow in Rudolf Jaenisch’s laboratory at the Whitehead Institute/MIT, Thor developed methods to isolate naive human pluripotent stem cells. He was appointed Assistant Professor in the Department of Developmental Biology and Center of Regenerative Medicine at Washington University School of Medicine in 2017. He is a recipient of the NIH Director’s New Innovator Award (DP2), the Edward Mallinckrodt Jr New Investigator Award and the Shipley Foundation’s Program for Innovation in Stem Cell Science Award.

Download Thor’s CV

Senior Research Technician

Kyoung Mi Park, MSc


Kyoung earned a Master of Science in Biology from Yonsei University, South Korea. In January 2018, she joined the Theunissen lab as Research Technician. Previously, she worked on the development of influenza virus vaccines using novel technologies based on virus-like particles with Drs. Sang-Moo Kang and Richard Compans at Emory University, and investigated the molecular mechanisms of microRNA biogenesis with Dr. Il-man Kim at the Medical College of Georgia. Kyoung also studied endothelial function and plaque lipidomics in the setting of peripheral arterial disease and diabetes in Dr. Mohamed Zayed’s laboratory in the Department of Surgery at Washington University School of Medicine.

Graduate Students

Chen Dong

Chen graduated from the College of William and Mary with a B.S. in Biology in 2018 (go Tribe!). He worked in Dr. Margaret Saha’s laboratory for three years, studying the anterior-posterior neural axis plasticity as well as the TRPV channels in Xenopus laevis during early embryonic development. He came to WashU the same year as a graduate student in the Developmental, Regenerative, and Stem Cell Biology program. Chen joined the Theunissen lab in March 2019, and is interested in the mechanisms, differentiation potential, and disease modeling applications of distinct pluripotent states.

Laura Fischer

Laura is a member of the Developmental, Regenerative and Stem Cell Biology Program and joined the Theunissen lab in March 2019. She earned her B.S. in Biochemistry from The University of Iowa in 2018. Her previous research involved studying the role of Replication Protein A in DNA replication and repair under Dr. Marc Wold. Specifically, she investigated the role of Replication Protein A in preventing the expansion of CAG repeats, which underlies the protein aggregation that causes Huntington’s Disease. Laura also studied the functional interactions of exonuclease SNM1B in Fanconi anemia in Dr. JoAnn Sekiguchi’s laboratory at the University of Michigan.

Postdoctoral Associates

Rowan Karvas, PhD

Rowan received her BS and PhD in biological sciences from the University of Missouri in Columbia. She joined the Theunissen lab in February of 2020 as a CRM postdoctoral fellow. Her undergraduate research was done in the lab of Dr. D Cornelison and involved the localization of guidance cue molecules Eph receptors and ephrin ligands in satellite cells, the stem cells of muscle. Between her undergraduate and graduate work, she was a research technician in the lab of Dr. Dennis Hallahan in Radiation Oncology at WashU where she was involved in research identifying compounds that induce radiation sensitivity in cancers while protecting nearby healthy tissues. Her doctoral research was done in the labs of Dr. Laura Schulz and Dr. R. Michael Roberts and focused on characterizing a model of human trophoblast differentiation from human embryonic stem cells, providing evidence that the model represents trophoblast from the first trimester. In her extracurricular life, Rowan has continuously performed as a clarinetist in chamber ensembles, wind bands, and orchestras.

Shafqat Ali Khan, PhD

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Shafqat joined the Theunissen lab in January 2019 as a Postdoctoral Associate. He is interested in the mechanisms involved in the maintenance, resetting and differentiation of primed and naive human pluripotent stem cells. Previously, as a CRG/Marie Curie Postdoctoral Fellow, he worked on human germ cell differentiation and X chromosome reactivation using pluripotent stem cells with Dr. Bernhard Payer at the Centre for Genomic Regulation in Barcelona, Spain. For his doctoral thesis, Shafqat investigated the role of histone modifications and other chromatin modifiers in human gastric cancer in the laboratory of Dr. Sanjay Gupta at Tata Memorial Centre-ACTREC, India.

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