UMGC Staff

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


Kenneth Beckman, Ph.D.
Executive Director

Kenny Beckman UMGC Director

As the Director of the University of Minnesota Genomics Center, 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.

Email: kbeckman@umn.edu
Joined UMGC: 2009
Education: Postdoctoral Scientist – University of California, Berkeley, Ph.D. in Plant Physiology – University of Cambridge, B.A. Biological Sciences – Cornell University


Dinesha Walek, M.Sc.
Managing Director

Dinesha Walek Operations Manager

Dinesha has been with UMGC since the beginning.  She has over 25 years of scientific experience with the last 10 years  as an operations manager. Dinesha oversees services provided in Nils Hasselmo Hall including Extraction, Expression, Genotyping experience across all major platforms and 16S next-generation sequencing.

Email: walek001@umn.edu
Joined UMGC: 1990
Education: M.Sc. coursework in Biological Chemistry – University of Minnesota

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Administration

Corbin Dirkx
Operations Manager

Corbin Dirkx Ops Manager v2

In his role as Operations Manager, Corbin oversees massively high-throughput, PCR-based genomics services including Microbiome Sequencing and GBS. At the UMGC’s Oakdale site, Corbin has experience leveraging cutting-edge liquid handling instrumentation to automate workflows and improve efficiency. These enhancements aim at maximizing the UMGC’s capacity to provide clients with high-quality, affordable, and reliable services. Corbin has a passion for working directly with clients to understand their goals and help shepherd projects through the exciting world of genomics.

Email: dirkx005@umn.edu
Joined UMGC: 2016
Education: B.S. in Genetics, Cell Biology, and Development – University of Minnesota


Denise Thorne
Finance Lead

Denise Thorne Finance Manager

Email: d-wils1@umn.edu 
Joined UMGC: 2019

Education: B.S. Accounting  – University of Minnesota

 

 

 


Elyse Froehling
Operations Manager

Elyse Froehling 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.

Email: next-gen@umn.edu
Joined UMGC: 2013
Education: M.Sc. in Forensic Science - Boston University School of Medicine, B.A. in Biology – College of Saint Benedict                                    


Jerry Daniel
Operations Manager 

Jerry Daniel Operations Manager

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.

Email: danie786@umn.edu  
Joined UMGC: 2011
Education: B.S. in Microbiology – The Iowa State University of Science and Technology


Karina Sartorio
General Operations Manager

Kari Sartorio Ops 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.

Email: bunje001@umn.edu 
Joined UMGC: 2001
Education: B.A. in Biology - University of Minnesota 
 


Ray Watson
Research & Development Lead 

Ray Watson R&D Lead

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 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 focused on genomic evolution during domestication, and he still maintains a passion for plant biology.

Email: watso812@umn.edu
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 

Shea Anderson Communications Manager

Shea has a diverse professional background at the UMN, including genomics research at the UMGC and Vet Med, chemistry teaching labs, COVID lab support, and she 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 and vendors, 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.

Email: ande3650@umn.edu
Joined UMGC: 2015
Education: B.S. in Biochemistry – University of Minnesota

Informatics

John Garbe, Ph.D.
Informatics Lead

John Garbe Bioinformatics

John completed a Ph.D. in Animal Science at the University of Minnesota with thesis work focused on annotation of the cow and pig genomes. After graduation he joined the newly established informatics group (RIS) at MSI, providing bioinformatics analysis services for UMN research groups and providing bioinformatics support for the Genomics Center. As the informatics needs of the Genomics Center continued to grow, he moved over to the Center in 2016 taking on the role of Informatics Lead. 

Email: jgarbe@umn.edu
Joined UMGC: 2016
Education: Ph.D. in Animal Science – University of Minnesota, B.A. in Computer Science – Macalester College


Juan Abrahante, Ph.D.
MSI Analyst & Consultant

Juan Abrahante MSI Bioinformatics

Juan is an MSI Research Informatics Consultant focused on genomic analysis.  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 somatic mutation analyses of match normal/tumor colorectal samples. He facilitates the analysis of NGS data to UMGC clients by developing and implementing streamlined pipelines for RNA and DNAseq data.

Email: abrah023@umn.edu
Joined UMGC: 2014
Education: Ph.D. in Molecular, Cellular, Developmental Biology and Genetics – University of Minnesota


Trina Kuriger-Laber, M.Sc.
Bioinformatic Analyst

Trina Kuriger-Laber Bioinformatics

Prior to joining UMGC, Trina 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.

Joined UMGC: 2017
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

Innovation Lab

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

Daryl Gohl Innovation Lab PI

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.

Email: dmgohl@umn.eduLinkedIn Profile
Joined UMGC: 2014
Education: Postdoctoral Scientist – Stanford University, Ph.D. in Molecular Biology - Princeton University, B.S. in Environmental Sciences - Northwestern University


Jorge Blanco Mendana, Ph.D.
Researcher, UMGC Innovation Lab

Jorge Blanco Mendana Scientist IL

Jorge joined the Innovation Lab to work on implementing protocols for the transplantation of cells and nuclei into Drosophila embryos. The ultimate goal is to develop a method for the cryopreservation and reconstitution of Drosophila stocks. He is also involved in developing new genomic tools for the study of genetic diversity in Drosophila at different levels, from cells and tissues to individuals within populations. Previously, Jorge held lab positions where he participated in research projects dealing with different aspects of Drosophila genetics, cell biology, and developmental biology.

Joined UMGC: 2021
Education: Postdoctoral Scientist – University of Basel, Ph.D. in Microbiology - University of Leon, B.S. in Biological Sciences - University of Leon


Lindsey Gengelbach
Researcher, UMGC Innovation Lab

Lindsey Gengelbach IL Scientist

As a member of the Innovation Lab, Lindsey works on a variety of projects to help develop novel tools and technologies for genomics research. Her current area of research includes genetic biocontrol, single-nuclei preparation and sequencing, and microbiome measurements. Prior to joining the Innovation Lab, Lindsey worked on the UMGC’s Custom NGS team where she enjoyed optimizing protocols to client’s research needs. 

Joined UMGC: 2019
Education: B.S. in Biomedical Engineering - Purdue University, M.P.H in Population Health Management - University of Louisville


Margaret Donovan
Researcher, UMGC Innovation Lab

Margaret Donovan IL Scientist

Margaret began working at the UMGC as a student in 2019. She joined the Innovation Lab full-time in the spring of 2021 and primarily worked on RNAi in zebra mussels. Currently, she works on host-microbe interactions, gut motility, and helps with miscellaneous tasks and experiments around Innovation Lab. Margaret enjoys working in the Innovation Lab because it allows her to collaborate closely with other researchers, explore numerous scientific topics, and employ her creativity in unique ways.                                                            

Joined UMGC: 2021
Education: B.S. Genetics, Cell Biology, and Development – University of Minnesota


Victor Hugo Hernandez Elizarraga
Post-Doctoral Associate

UMGC Staff Photo Outline

Victor is interested in applying omics-based techniques for new research tools development. He is particularly interested in aquatic organisms and their intricate biological processes. In his previous research, Victor studied the survival mechanisms of fire corals (Millepora sp.) using proteomic and transcriptomic approaches. Currently, Victor is working as a researcher in the Innovation Lab, where he is exploring genetic biocontrol strategies for zebra mussels (Dreissena polymorpha). Victor enjoys teamwork and collaboration, and one of his commitments is to pursue answers to scientific hypotheses.                                                         

Joined UMGC: 2023
Education: Ph.D. in Chemical Biological Sciences - Autonomous University of Queretaro; B.S. in Chemistry, Pharmacy, and Biology - Autonomous University of Queretaro

Service Managers

Aaron Becker
Next-generation Sequencing Service Manager

Aaron Becker NGS Lead Scientist

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. 

Email: next-gen@umn.edu
Joined UMGC: 1997
Education: B.S. in Microbiology – University of Minnesota


Corbin Dirkx
Genotyping-by-sequencing Service Manager

Corbin Dirkx Ops Manager v2

In his role as Operations Manager, Corbin oversees massively high-throughput, PCR-based genomics services including Microbiome Sequencing and GBS. At the UMGC’s Oakdale site, Corbin has experience leveraging cutting-edge liquid handling instrumentation to automate workflows and improve efficiency. These enhancements aim at maximizing the UMGC’s capacity to provide clients with high-quality, affordable, and reliable services. Corbin has a passion for working directly with clients to understand their goals and help shepherd projects through the exciting world of genomics.

Email: gbs@umn.edu
Joined UMGC: 2016
Education: B.S. in Genetics, Cell Biology, and Development – University of Minnesota


Darrell Johnson
Gene Expression Service Manager

Darrell Johnson 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.

Email: exprn@umn.edu
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


Elyse Froehling
NGS Library Prep and Custom Service Manager

Elyse Froehling 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.

Email: next-gen@umn.edu
Joined UMGC: 2013
Education: M.Sc. in Forensic Science - Boston University School of Medicine, B.A. in Biology – College of Saint Benedict                                    


Fernanda Rodriguez, Ph.D.
Spatialomics Service Manager

Fernanda Rodriguez Operations Manager

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.

Email: spatialomics@umn.edu
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


Mary Nieuwenhuis
Quality Control Service Manager

Mary Nieuwenhuis Operations Specialist

Mary joined the UMGC in 2018 following four years of CLIA lab experience in the clinical DNA testing area. With her hands-on experience performing lab tests and procedures with expedience, Mary has developed versatility at the UMGC working on many processes, including Microbiome, GBS, and SARS-CoV-2 extractions, along with her primary role as Quality Control Service Manager at UMGC’S 4Front location. Mary enjoys fostering teamwork and camaraderie, whilst training staff members in SARS-CoV-2 and Picogreen protocols.

Joined UMGC: 2018
Education: B.S. in Applied Science – University of Wisconsin-Stout
LinkedIn


Nick Jones
Microarray Service Manager

Nick Jones Microarray Service Manager

Nick enjoys the limitless opportunities for learning while working at the UMGC, collaborating with clients across academia and industry to make sure that they obtain the best data possible for their microarray experiments, and helping newer scientists become proficient with benchwork.  He has a passion for developing and implementing new pipelines for processing and analyzing data, as well as optimizing existing pipelines for maximum efficiency and throughput.   

Email: genotype@umn.edu
Joined UMGC: 2016
Education: B.S. in Biological Science with a concentration in cellular biology and molecular genetics from Colorado State University


Tim Heisel
Microbiome Service Manager

Photo of Tim Heisel

With an extensive background in academic research that focused on the human gut mycobiome, Tim provides clients with unique and innovative microbiome solutions that can help them to better understand the complex interactions between microbes and their hosts. His robust technical foundation produces high-quality sequencing libraries for the diverse projects received at the UMGC. In addition to his technical expertise, Tim is also passionate about enhancing the quality of science and research at the University of Minnesota.

Email: micbiom@umn.edu 
Joined UMGC: 2023
Education: M.S. in Plant Biology – University of Minnesota; B.S. in Biology – University of Minnesota


Veronica Tonnell
Extraction Service Manager

Veronica Tonnell Extraction Service Manager

With her background in extractions for challenging tissue types, Veronica manages the isolation of 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.

Email: extract@umn.edu
Joined UMGC: 2018
Education: B.S. in Animal Science – University of Minnesota

Technical Staff

Carter Murry 
Researcher 2

Carter Murray UMGC staff

Carter joined the UMGC in 2023 assisting the Microbiome Team with next-generation sequencing and library preparation. Before joining the UMGC, he received a B.S. in Microbiology, then gained two and a half years of experience working in a clinical lab at Mayo Clinic performing Sanger and next-generation sequencing focused primarily on mycology and mycobacteriology. He is excited to increase his knowledge of next-generation sequencing by working on a wide variety of projects with UMGC. 

Joined UMGC: 2023 
Education: B.S. in Microbiology - University of Nebraska-Lincoln 


Dylan Dittrich 
Researcher 1

Dittrich Dylan UMGC Staff Photo

Dylan joined the UMGC in 2020 as part of the newly formed COVID team and has expanded his role to work on the microarray team as well. With a BA in Chemistry and Biochemistry and a MS in Biomedical Sciences he has worked as both a molecular biologist and an analytical chemist.

Joined UMGC: 2020 
Education: B.A. in Biochemistry and Chemistry – Coe College, M.S. in Biomedical Sciences – Quinnipiac University


Eve Henry
Researcher 1

Staff Bio Photo Eve Henry

Eve received a B.A. in Biology from the University of Iowa and started at UMGC as part of the microarray team. Prior to UMGC, she was involved in genetics research in her undergraduate career relating to a novel isoform found to cause myoclonic epilepsy. Through her research and studies, she developed a passion for genomics and biotechnology and the advancements they can provide. She joined UMGC to further her knowledge and techniques in the field and looks forward to taking on new challenges. 

Joined UMGC: 2023 
Education: B.A. in Biology – University of Iowa


Hannah Craven 
Researcher 1

Staff Bio Photo M

Hannah joined the UMGC in 2022 as a member of the extraction team, where she works with a wide variety of tissue types and DNA/RNA isolation techniques. Before her role at the UMGC, she worked in plant pathology research at Iowa State, and is excited to broaden her lab experience with the variation of projects at the UMGC. She enjoys learning new skills and protocols with every new project she is a part of.

Joined UMGC: 2022 
Education: B.S. in Biology and Environmental Science - Iowa State University


Jiangming Deng, Ph.D 
Operations Specialist

Jiangming Deng Operations Specialist

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 
 


Joseph Kinney 
Operations Lead

Joseph Kinney UMGC Staff Photo

Joseph joined the UMGC to work on its SARS-CoV-2 related services focusing on RT-qPCR testing, variant surveillance via amplicon sequencing, as well as wastewater detection via ddPCR. Joseph’s research interests include bioinformatics and virology.

Joined UMGC: 2020 
Education: M.Sc. in Infection Biology — University of Glasgow; B.S. in Biology – University of Minnesota Duluth 
 


Michael Laidlaw 
Researcher 1

Photo of Michael Laidlaw

As an Operations Specialist at the genomics center, Michael is responsible for preparing extracted DNA samples for sequencing. This includes breaking down genomic DNA via enzymatic digestion, ligating primers and barcodes to libraries of DNA, as well as performing assays for Quality Control. Michael began his career assisting in undergraduate biological laboratories at the U of M’s Duluth Campus where he developed a lifelong passion for acquiring new knowledge and skills. He carries this passion with him he grows to master all things gene sequencing here at the UMGC.

Joined UMGC: 2022 
Education: B.S. in Biology with emphasis in Genetics, Cells, and Development – University of Minnesota Duluth


Nasia Mead 
Researcher 2

UMGC Staff Image Bio

Nasia has a B.S. in Molecular, Cellular, & Developmental Biology and a B.A in French from the University of Washington -Seattle. She is currently finishing up her Master of Biological Sciences at the University of Minnesota. Nasia works on the NGS Library Preparation team.

Joined UMGC: 2020 
Education: B.S. in Molecular, Cellular, & Developmental Biology and French from the University of Washington – Seattle

 


Xia Li, M.Sc. 
Operations Specialist

Xia Li Operations Specialist

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