Vanessa V. Phelan, PhD

Vanessa earned her BS in Interdisciplinary Sciences with a focus in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology from SUNY Albany and PhD in Chemistry from Vanderbilt. Frustrated by a lack of analytical chemistry tools to study microbial chemical ecology, she completed an NIH K01 funded postdoc in the lab of Pieter Dorrestein at UCSD where she developed microbial imaging mass spectrometry and the bioinformatics platform GNPS. With tools in hand, her research interests have turned to developing in vitro culturomics techniques to grow and investigate microbiome communities in replicate environments. Outside the lab, she enjoys hiking and collecting hobbies.


Dustin Brown - 5th year

Toxicology Program

Dustin grew up in Denver, Colorado before earning his B.S. in Biomedical Sciences from Colorado State University in 2013. During this time, he began working in Dr. Elizabeth Ryan's Lab focusing on metabolomics analysis of dietary interventions in both mouse and canine models. Following completion of undergraduate studies he began working full time in Dr. Ryan's lab, assisting with human clinical trials and developing microbiological studies. Dustin joined the Phelan lab in July of 2017. His research focuses on basal dysfunction in oxylipin biosynthesis in cystic fibrosis and current medications to remediate this defect. His interests outside the lab include Colorado professional sports teams, pub trivia, and going to the movies.

Rachel Neve - 5th year

Microbiology Program

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Rachel's research interests include the chemical and microbial ecology of polymicrobial communities. Her thesis work aims to elucidate how environmental nutrients influence the metabolism and chemical ecology of pathogens that colonize the lungs of people with cystic fibrosis.  Rachel completed her undergraduate at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse, studying microbiology, biology, and chemistry before moving to Colorado for graduate school. Out of lab, Rachel enjoys the scenic views, hiking with her dog Rosie, gardening, and coffee.

Brent Carrillo - 3rd year

Pharmaceutical Sciences Program

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Brent grew up in southern New Mexico and attended New Mexico State University, graduating with a BS in chemical engineering in 2018. While at NMSU, Brent worked in a variety of labs including a nematology lab studying plant parasitic nematodes with Dr. Steve Thomas, a lab focused on improving the water retention of soil using biochar produced from waste material with Dr. Catherine Brewer, and finally a lab focused on total synthesis of marine natural products with Dr. William Maio. Brent started the PhD program for Pharmaceutical Sciences in the fall of 2018 and joined the lab September of 2019.


Justin Jens

Justin joined the lab in September 2017 as a professional research assistant. He is responsible for instrument maintenance, including several mass spectrometers, UPLC systems, matrix sprayers, and bioreactor arrays. In addition to his instrument responsibilities, Justin has redesigned 3D-printable, minibioreactor arrays for long-term microbial growth, developed spray based methods of matrix application for microbial imaging mass spectrometry, designed methods for isolation and purification of natural products, and troubleshoots all random instrument miscommunications.