UMGC Staff

To contact staff, please use the service email listed on the Contact Us page.

Kenneth Beckman, Ph.D.


As the Director of the University of Minnesota Genomics Center (UMGC), Dr. Beckman provides expertise and tracks emerging technologies. He has been instrumental in growing the services we offer by acquiring state-of-the-art equipment.

Joined UMGC: 2009


Education: Postdoctoral Scientist – University of California, Berkeley, Ph.D. in Plant Physiology – University of Cambridge, B.A. Biological Sciences – Cornell University

Daryl Gohl, Ph.D.
Group Leader, UMGC Innovation Lab


A common thread that has run throughout Daryl’s scientific work has been a strong interest in developing new tools and technologies for answering biological questions. He leads the UMGC Innovation Lab, which has been focused on improving the accuracy and expanding the scope, scale, and resolution of genomic measurements. Current areas of research include improving microbiome measurements, developing novel genomics methods, and long read and single cell sequencing applications.

Joined UMGC: 2014

Education: Postdoctoral Scientist – Stanford University, Ph.D. in Molecular Biology - Princeton University, B.S. in Environmental Sciences - Northwestern University

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Denise Thorne
Finance Lead

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Joined UMGC: 2019

Education: B.S. Accounting  – University of Minnesota




Dinesha Walek, M.Sc.
Laboratory Operations Manager – St. Paul


As a Laboratory Operations Manager, Dinesha oversees services provided in Nils Hasselmo Hall including expression, genotyping, and 16S Next-generation Sequencing. Dinesha is also the service manager for Nucleic Acid Extraction Services.

Joined UMGC: 1990

Education: M.Sc. coursework in Biological Chemistry – University of Minnesota


Jerry Daniel
Laboratory Operations Manager – Oakdale


Jerry has worked at UMGC in various roles and started in Illumina microarray and genotyping services. Currently, Jerry serves as the service manager for single-cell biology and CLIA services. He also assists with Next-generation Sequencing and expression services.

Joined UMGC: 2011

Education: B.S. in Microbiology – The Iowa State University of Science and Technology

John Garbe, Ph.D.
Informatics Lead


John is the Informatics Lead at UMGC. Prior to coming to the UMGC he was a bioinformatics analyst at the Minnesota Supercomputing Institute.

Joined UMGC: 2016

Education: Ph.D. in Animal Science – University of Minnesota, B.A. in Computer Science – Macalester College


Karina Sartorio
General Operations Manager


With over 10 years of laboratory experience, Karina understands our workflows and process to develop rates. Since 2011, Karina has been the UMGC’s General Operations Manager where she monitors our finances and agreements.

Joined UMGC: 2001

Education: B.A. in Biology from the University of Minnesota


Ray Watson
Research & Development Lead

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As Research and Development Lead, Ray coordinates the development and implementation of new services and technologies at the UMGC as well as improving the quality and efficiency of existing services. Throughout the course of the COVID-19 pandemic, Ray’s work has focused on COVID-19 detection and variant identification, including clinical test development and wastewater monitoring. Prior to working at the UMGC, Ray’s research focused on genomic evolution during domestication, and he still maintains a passion for plant biology.

Joined UMGC: 2019

Education: Visiting Scholar – University of California, Berkeley. M.Sc in Biology, Evolution and Ecology – University of Virginia. B.A in Biology, Swarthmore College. 

Shea Anderson
Communications Manager

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Shea has a diverse professional background at the UMN including genomics research at the UMGC and in CVM, chemistry teaching labs, COVID lab support, and now assists the UMGC in developing and executing communication and outreach plans. Shea works across the many UMGC services, as well as with other UMN cores, to coordinate content for newsletters, website, and email marketing, and she organizes user groups and client-facing events to build awareness of UMGC technologies and services.

Joined UMGC: 2015

Education: B.S. in Biochemistry – University of Minnesota

Aaron Becker
Next-generation Sequencing Service Manager


He has worked at U of MN core labs in various roles since 1997. Aaron’s first role was working for Dr. Kevin Mayo as a peptide synthesis technician. He subsequently moved into DNA sequencing as a scientist in the Micro Chemical Facility and the AGAC under the direction of Dr. Vivek Kapur. Aaron moved to the Microarray Facility core in 2003. Aaron is now serving as the Next-generation Sequencing Services Manager and enjoys working with clients to design, manage and successfully complete large NGS projects. Outside of work, Aaron enjoys coaching baseball, listening to music, and riding motorcycles.

Joined UMGC: 1997


Education: B.S. in Microbiology – University of Minnesota

Brandon Vanderbush
Quality Control Service Manager


Before devoting his work fulltime to the UMGC, Brandon first gained experience with us as a student who used his studies in genetics and cell biology to check the condition of DNA and RNA samples ahead of downstream processing. Today, he is the Quality Control Service Manager at our Snyder site and oversees the coordination of thousands of samples for QC analysis as well as supervising student QC processing. In addition, Brandon is a processor for our library prep team, and he consistently delivers high-quality whole genome and transcriptome libraries for Illumina sequencing. By working at the UMGC, Brandon likes that he is able to work with a variety of sample sources - from environmental DNA to human RNA - that are submitted from across the University.

Joined UMGC: 2019

Education: B.S. Genetics, Cell Biology, and Development – University of Minnesota

Cody Hoffmann
Oligo Service Manager & RNAi Service Manager


Cody worked for the UMGC as an undergraduate lab technician for 4 years, and following graduation joined the staff. As Service Manager for Oligonucleotide Synthesis and RNA Interference, Cody regularly assists clients and resolves any issues that may arise. Cody is also the iPLEX Genotyping processor.

Joined UMGC: 2013

Education: B.A. in History – University of Minnesota


Corbin Dirkx
Microbiome Service Manager


Corbin worked as a student at the UMGC for 4 years before joining the staff. As a staff member, Corbin is a processor for the Microbiome sequencing service.

Joined UMGC: 2016

Education: B.S. in Biology – University of North Dakota



Darrell Johnson, M.Sc.
Expression Service Manager


Prior to joining the UMGC, Darrell worked in the Department of Surgery, Basic and Translational Research, and pharmaceuticals. Darrell has progressed from processing samples to managing Expression Services, which comprise a multitude of platforms from Q-RT-PCR to the nanoString nCounter and expression arrays. His personal interests include bioinformatics, pharmacogenomics, and personalized medicine.

Joined UMGC: 2013

Education: M.Sc. in Biology – University of Minnesota, B.S. in Biochemistry and Genetics, Cell Biology, and Developmental Biology – University of Minnesota

Dylan Cole


Dylan worked for UMGC as a student for 2 years in NHH before joining the staff. As a staff member, Dylan’s focus is on Illumina microarrays, GBS, amplicon sequencing, qPCR, as well as some development work. Dylan’s future outlook is fixed on medical school, so he only hopes to be with us for a short while.

Joined UMGC: 2017

Education: B.S. in Biology from the University of Minnesota


Elyse Froehling, M.Sc.
Next-generation Sequencing Standard Library Creation Service Manager


Since joining UMGC, Elyse has been providing Next-generation Sequencing Service (NGS). As one of our NGS Service Managers, she guides clients through projects and our growing workflows.

Joined UMGC: 2013

Education: M.Sc. in Forensic Science - Boston University School of Medicine, B.A. in Biology – College of Saint Benedict


Emma Stanley
Single-cell Genomics Service Manager


Emma is focused on single-cell applications for the UMGC, including helping clients optimize their experiments and implementing new technologies. Prior to joining the UMGC, she worked in technical roles for biopharmaceutical and medical device industries, which provides her a solid background in quality control, assay optimization, and troubleshooting. Emma enjoys working at the UMGC because she is able to assist clients with their experimental goals while adhering to the strict quality standards grounded in her years working in regulated labs and because she is able to optimize and troubleshoot experiments to ensure single-cell clients receive the best quality data.

Joined UMGC: 2018

Education: B.S. in Biology from Calvin College


Fernanda Rodriguez, Ph.D.
Spatialomics Service Manager


Fernanda heads the team of scientists that provide solutions for UMN researchers through scientific consulting and execution of an array of complex genetics and genomics research projects. She also manages the UMGC laboratory located at the Cancer and Cardiovascular Research Building. Fernanda has years of corporate and academic experience in animal and plant genetics research. Her expertise includes standard laboratory molecular techniques, experimental design and analysis of trait mapping, development of marker platforms, and management of high throughput genotyping core facilities. Throughout her career, she enjoyed working with a diversity of researchers, and she expects the richness of the UMN environment will improve on that experience.

Joined UMGC: 2019

Education: Ph.D. in Genetics - University of California, Davis, M.Sc. in Animal Genetics and B.V.Sc. - Veterinary College of UFMG, Brazil

Jiangming Deng, Ph.D.


She worked with Sanger sequencing for many years and now performs nucleic acid extraction. After focusing in this area for more than 7 years, she obtains high quality of DNA/RNA from all kinds of human/animal/plant/fungi/bacteria materials.

Joined UMGC: 2001

Education: Ph.D. in Plant Physiology from South China Normal University



Jon Badalamenti, Ph.D.
PacBio Service Manager


Jon’s interest in genomics stems from his postdoctoral work in Daniel Bond’s lab in the UMN Department of Plant and Microbial Biology, where he leveraged PacBio sequencing to generate complete genomes of several Minnesota’s rock-dwelling subsurface microbes. A founding member of the Funded Services group, Jon is keenly interested in harnessing the power of orthogonal sequencing technologies in order to survey and interrogate microbes and communities that are difficult or impossible to culture in the laboratory. When not exploring the latest in single-molecule, long-read sequencing technology, Jon enjoys keeping officemates well-fed with a steady diet of donuts, homemade bread and pies, and internet memes.

Joined UMGC: 2017

Education: Ph.D. in Microbiology – Arizona State University; B.S. Biochemistry & Molecular Biology – Pennsylvania State University

Juan Abrahante, Ph.D.
UMII Genomics Analyst & Consultant


Juan is the University of Minnesota Informatics Institute Genomics Analyst and Consultant. Over the last 15 years, he has been involved in diverse Genomics projects starting with the assembly and annotation of the apicomplexan C. parvum, bacterial genomes (P. multocida) comparative analyses and more recently somatic mutation analyses of match normal/tumor colorectal samples. His research goals and duties include facilitating the analysis of Next-generation Sequencing (NGS) data to UMGC clients. He intends to achieve these goals via the development and implementation of streamlined pipelines for RNA and DNAseq data.

Joined UMGC: 2014

Education: Ph.D. in Molecular, Cellular, Developmental Biology and Genetics (MCDB&G) – University of Minnesota

Lindsey Gengelbach


Lindsey is an NGS specialist who works with clients needing a customized, flexible approach to their research project that are otherwise is not accomplishable through our standard services. Her prior research experience in a musculoskeletal lab exposed Lindsey to a variety of techniques, including genotyping, tissue harvesting, and cell imaging, that enable her today to tackle the challenges in tweaking library prep protocols for researchers. She enjoys troubleshooting standardized protocols and working with long-read technologies like SMRT and Nanopore sequencing.

Joined UMGC: 2019

Education: B.S. in Biomedical Engineering - Purdue University
M.P.H in Population Health Management - University of Louisville

Mary Nieuwenhuis
Operations Specialist


Mary joined the UMGC in 2019 following four years of CLIA lab experience in the clinical DNA testing area, including drug detection, DNA fingerprinting analysis, and Sanger sequencing. With her hands-on experience performing lab tests and procedures with expedience, attention to detail, and quality assurance, Mary applies these skills to successfully manage and process thousands of samples submitted monthly for PicoGreen quantification, a key step that flows into our GBS, Microbiome, and Genotyping services. She is excited to be working at the interface of technology and biology to help researchers receive the highest quality data.

Joined UMGC: 2019

Education: B.S. in Applied Science – University of Wisconsin-Stout

Nicholas Jones


Nick is working on Microbiome, Sequence-Based Genotyping, and Quality Control services provided in Nils Hassselmo Hall.

Joined UMGC: 2016

Education: B.S. in Biological Science with a concentration in cellular biology and molecular genetics from Colorado State University


Pat Grady, Ph.D


Pat’s background is in epigenetics and chromatin biology. Over the course of his career he has applied a combination of classical genetics and modern sequence-based strategies to identify novel facets of epigenetic genome regulation, including undergraduate work on intron splicing kinetics in L. lactis and doctoral research elucidating roles for chromatin modification in the 3D organization and movement of transposable elements in S. pombe. His research interests include NGS protocol development, transcriptional regulation, subnuclear imaging, and microbial genome evolution. He is currently a member of UMGC’s Collaborative Projects Group.

Joined UMGC: 2019

Education: B.S. in Biology - Northwestern College; Ph.D. in Molecular Genetics - Boston College

Trina Kuriger-Laber, M.Sc.


Prior to joining UMGC, she was a graduate student in Dr. Chad Myers’ computational biology lab at the University of Minnesota. Before graduate school, she worked as the Lab Manager of Dr. Heather H. Nelson’s lab at the University of Minnesota Cancer Center. Outside of work, Trina enjoys traveling, hiking, spending time with family, gaming, and crafts.

Education: M.Sc. in Bioinformatics and Computational Biology from the University of Minnesota, M.Sc. in Biochemistry from the University of Mississippi Medical Center, B. S. in Biochemistry from Mississippi State University


Veronica Tonnell
Operations Specialist


As an undergrad, Veronica was originally interested in pursuing a career in Veterinary Medicine, but she became interested in genomics while isolating DNA for veterinary entomology and plant biology research labs. With her background in extractions for challenging tissue types, Veronica now assists in isolating over 45,000 DNA and RNA samples a year in our Extraction Service, where she is particularly skilled with dealing with polyphenols and polysaccharides that can be problematic with plant tissues. Given that each tissue type has unique characteristics, Veronica enjoys the challenges of testing and identifying the best method for new and tricky tissue types, especially if it is a veterinary-related project.

Joined UMGC: 2018

Education: B.S. in Animal Science – University of Minnesota

Xia Li, M.Sc.


Xia has over 46 years of laboratory experience. Since 2007, she has been performing the QC for all of the samples using the PicoGreen/RiboGreen quality control method.

Joined UMGC: 1995

Education: M.Sc. in Natural Products of Organic Chemistry - Peking University