Current Students

Joseph Gary Skeate

Education: M.S. in Molecular Microbiology and Immunology, 2013, University of Southern California; B.S. in Biochemistry and Microbiology, 2008, University of Minnesota

Research Project: Herpesvirus extracellular vesicle-mediated changes in high-risk HPV infection

Background: Currently a doctoral candidate in the medical biology program at USC, Joseph originally joined the Kast Lab as a student pursuing his master’s in 2011. Before this time he worked for 3M in the Security, Safety, and Protective Services division where he was awarded two records of invention (ROIs) for his role in the development of microbial detection devices patented by the company. Additionally he is a science teacher for K-12 students for the Neighborhood Academic Initiative, which is a weekend program run by USC’s Joint Educational Program to supplement inner-city students STEM education. His other hobbies include (but are not limited to) an abnormal amount of cycling, outdoor rock climbing, and even roasting coffee.

Personal Research Website

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Julia Taylor, PhD StudentJulia Rose Taylor

Education: B.S. in Biomedical Science, 2013, Lynchburg College_____________________

Research Project: Contributions of the Annexin A2 Heterotetramer to HPV16 Endocytosis

Background:  Julia is a 5th year doctoral candidate investigating the role of a specific protein complex in the host entry and intracellular trafficking of HPV. Using a combination of cellular, molecular, and imaging-based experiments, she is working to further understand how HPV hijacks the normal host cell machinery and travels from the surface of the cell to its final destination, the nucleus. Julia is as equally passionate about communicating science as she is conducting it, and advocates for the use of art and technology to enhance how we communicate our findings. Outside of the lab Julia takes great pleasure in cooking, live music, her cat Luna, and learning new skills. 

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Shantaé Marie Thornton

Education: B.S. in Health Sciences, 2016, Chapman University

Research Project: Characterization of the role of A2t in birbeck granule (BG) biogenesis occurring in Langerhans Cells and their potential role in HPV processing and antigen presentation.

Background: Shantaé joined The Kast Lab in 2016 to pursue her master’s degree in the Molecular Microbiology and Immunology (MMI) program in the Keck School of Medicine. Before she began working on her thesis research project at USC, her undergraduate research project involved studying molecular regulators of obesity. Following completion of this program, she plans to continue her education by pursuing a PhD and a career in translational research. 


Ruben Prins

Education: B.Sc, 2015, Saxion University, the Netherlands

Research Project: Utilization of small-molecule inhibitors against STAT3 in HPV-driven tumors

Background: He’s back at it again! Previously Ruben was a visiting scholar in the spring of 2014 while he was working on his degree from Saxion University of Applied Sciences. Spending time after graduation he has carried out research in immunotherapy with an emphasis on CAR T-cell development. Seeking to advance his scientific career he has joined the MS program at USC in the MMI department and rejoined the Kast lab. In his spare time Ruben enjoys a good bike ride and sending volleys across the tennis court. 

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Mikk Otsmaa

Education: B.S. in Biological Sciences, 2017, USC

Research Project: Targeting LIGHT into solid tumors through vascular targeting peptides

Background: Prior to joining the Kast lab in 2017, Mikk had taken part in research that focused on the anti-aging effects of Ru-486 on drosophila models under Dr. Gary Landis at USC. He has also spent time behind the pharmacy counter as a clerk in Beverly Hills and continues to moonlight as a piano man. Mikk enjoys playing pool and salsa dancing during his free time.

Linkedin profile for Julia Taylor