Principal InvestigatorResearch TechnicianGraduate studentsPostdoctoral AssociatesUndergraduateLab alumni

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. In 2022 the Theunissen lab became affiliated with the newly formed Center for Women’s Health Engineering at Washington University.

Download Thor’s CV

Research Technician

Brittany Meyer, MSc – Research Technician II

Brittany received her Bachelor of Science in Biology from Eastern Illinois University. She also received her Master of Science in Biology from Eastern Illinois University in 2019. She joined the Theunissen lab in August of 2022 as a Research Technician II. She previously worked as an Adjunct Biology instructor at Lake Land Community College in Mattoon, IL. Brittany is interested in researching stem cells and their applications in disease therapy and regenerative medicine. Brittany is an active member of the American Chemical Society and is a Women in STEM Mentor. Outside the lab, she spends time with her husband, daughter, and two huskies. In her free time, she loves to read!




Graduate Students

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.

Joey Zemke

Joey graduated from the University of Washington in 2019 with a degree in Biology. While at UW, they studied resource allocation in Brassica rapa and lateral root development in Arabidopsis thaliana in the laboratory of Professor Jennifer Nemhauser as both an undergraduate researcher and laboratory technician. The idea of plant cell plasticity and regenerative capacity lead them to pursue a PhD in the Developmental, Regenerative, and Stem Cell Biology program at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis. Joey joined the Theunissen lab in April of 2022. They are interested in stem cell pluripotency and using stem cells to create models of disease and early human development.

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.




Eshan Sane

Eshan graduated in June 2019 from Westborough High School in Massachusetts, and is currently an undergraduate at Washington University in St. Louis, in the class of 2023. He’s studying Biomedical Engineering with a minor in Neuroscience. In high school, he worked in a lab at Worcester Polytechnic Institute on a project studying and predicting protein folding. He also worked on a science fair project to help patients monitor and track thyroid disease, and has a patent pending on it. Eshan joined the Theunissen lab in June 2020, and is interested in researching throughout undergrad and pursuing medical school afterwards. In his free time, he volunteers as a tutor at East St. Louis High School and enjoys Jiu-Jitsu and other types of Karate.



Lab alumni

Brian Chew – Research Technician from 2020 to 2022

Brian was a Research Technician in the Theunissen lab from 2020 to 2022. He contributed to our studies on naive pluripotency, working closely with Shafqat Khan, and 2D and 3D models of trophoblast development, working under supervision of Chen Dong and Rowan Karvas. In 2022 Brian joined the Interdisciplinary Biomedical Graduate Program at the University of Pittsburgh.

Chen Dong – Graduate student from 2018 to 2022

Chen was a graduate student in the Developmental, Regenerative, and Stem Cell Biology (DRSCB) Program from 2018 to 2022. His PhD thesis was focused on methods for deriving human trophoblast stem cells (hTSCs) and specialized trophoblast cell types from naive hPSCs. He also performed a genome-wide CRISPR screen in collaboration with Bo Zhang’s lab at WashU, identifying essential and growth-restricting genes in hTSCs. Chen holds the distinction of being the first student to graduate from our lab. In 2022 he joined the Boston Consulting Group as a Consultant.

Kyoung Park – Senior Research Technician from 2018 to 2022

Kyoung served as Research Technician and subsequently as Senior Research Technician in the Theunissen lab from 2018 to 2022. She played a major role in starting the lab and contributed to our studies on naive pluripotency and trophoblast differentiation. She also collaborated closely with Dr. Jianlong Wang’s lab at Columbia University on the OCT4 protein interaction network in naive and primed hPSCs, identifying pluripotent-state-specific interactions with distinct subunits of the BAF chromatin remodeling complex. In 2022 Kyoung joined the Developmental, Regenerative, and Stem Cell Biology (DRSCB) PhD Program at WashU.