Trainee Awards


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ASM/CDC Resident Postdoctoral Research Fellowship from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Trainee: Tamika Payne, graduate student, Duke University Department of Molecular Genetics and Microbiology
MentorGeorgia Tomaras, PhD

Tamika Payne, a graduate student in the Tomaras Laboratory, Duke Human Vaccine Institute and the Department of Molecular Genetics and Microbiology, was recently awarded the prestigious ASM/CDC Resident Postdoctoral Research Fellowship from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). This fellowship provides opportunities for interdisciplinary training on global issues and the opportunity to pursue Tamika’s approved research plan at the National Center for Preparedness, Detection, and Control of Infectious Diseases (NCPDCID) at the CDC in Atlanta, Georgia.  Tamika’s Ph.D. thesis work focuses on the regulation of antiviral CD8+ T-cell responses in HIV-1 virus controllers that was recently published  (J Virology, 88 (17):9514-9528. Sept 2014).

After completing her Ph.D. this fall, Payne will join the laboratory of Dr. Ellen Kersh where she will study the effects of contraception use on HIV acquisition. Ultimately, Payne hopes to apply knowledge gained during her graduate training in the Tomaras lab to improve understanding of the link between hormonal contraceptives and HIV risk, contributing to the field of HIV prevention and to the betterment of global health.  She is optimistic that completing her postdoctoral training alongside leading scientists in the highly collaborative research environment of the CDC will provide ample opportunities for the continuation of her intellectual growth and mastery of research skills. Although research will be her first priority, she plans to supplement her research activities with professional development opportunities offered in the resource-rich environment of the CDC and neighboring Emory University.

Payne’s graduate work is currently supported by NIH Ruth L. Kirschstein National Research Service Awards for Individual Predoctoral Fellowship (F31). She is currently serving as co-President of the Duke University Bouchet Society which works to strengthen the efforts of underrepresented minority graduate students in achieving their career goals in science research and education while encouraging values that will promote diversity and inclusion in the sciences. In 2013, Payne was selected as the Graduate Life of the Mind Award recipient which is given to a student that demonstrates personal and academic excellence in both the Duke and Durham communities. Payne previously served as an Executive Board member of Black Graduate and Professional Student Association (BGPSA), as a mentor and assistant coordinator for the B.O.O.S.T. (a mentoring program which served to expose underprivileged middle-school children to science), and  in multiple volunteer roles in the greater Durham community. 

2013 Milton Huppert Graduate Student Award from the Medical Mycological Society of the Americas

Trainee: Stephanie Holmer, PhD candidate, graduate student, Department of Cell Biology, Duke University
Project title: "The Impact of Surfactant Protein-D, IL-5, and Eosinophilia on Cryptococcosis" -abstract submitted to the 2013 General Meeting of the American Society for Microbiology (ASM) 
Mentor: Greg Sempowski, PhD

National Science Foundation

Trainee: Casey Perley, graduate student, Department of Molecular Genetics and Microbiology, Duke University
Project title: "Identifying the substrates and signal peptide for the ESX-5 secretion system in M. tuberculosis"
Mentor: Richard Frothingham, MD

Center for HIV/AIDS Vaccine Immunology (CHAVI) Young Investigator-of-the-Month Recipients

The CHAVI Young-Investigator-of-the-Month award recognizes outstanding young investigators who have made significant contributions to the CHAVI mission and who have been nominated by their mentors for their exceptional leadership and valuable research.  The CHAVI SLG began presenting this award each month in January 2009 to recognize the accomplishments of dedicated and talented young investigators whose contributions have been outstanding and essential to the success of CHAVI programs and initiatives.  CHAVI respects the unique efforts from our young investigators and values their continued dedication to CHAVI.
Trainee: Pinghuang Liu, DVM, PhD
Mentor: Georgia Tomaras, PhD
Pinghuang Liu received his B.S. (D.V.M. equivalent) in Veterinary Medicine from China Agricultural University and his Ph.D. in Veterinary Immunology at North Carolina State University, where he studied the pathogenesis of HIV-1-associated neurological diseases in the FIV animal model.  He has since worked as a postdoctoral fellow in Dr. Georgia Tomaras' laboratory at Duke University.
Pinghuang has worked on characterizing the kinetics and antibody specificity of plasma HIV-1 Ig-virion immune complexes after natural HIV-1 infection, and on characterizing the function of antibodies induced in the RV144 Vaccine trial.  He found that the first detectable antibody response is in the form of HIV-1virion-Ab complexes (Journal of Virology, Dec. 2008, p. 12449–12463).  A manuscript detailing the HIV-1 immune complexes during acute HIV infection and chronic infection in the CHAVI 001 study is currently in preparation.
Trainee: Shaunna (Xiaoying) Shen, DVM, PhD
Mentor: Georgia Tomaras, PhD
Shaunna Shen received her B.S. (D.V.M. equivalent) in Veterinary Medicine from China Agricultural University and her Ph.D. in Comparative Pathology from the University of California, Davis, with her dissertation research on the evaluation of an attenuated feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV) as a vaccine candidate against FIV. She has since worked as a postdoctoral fellow in Dr. Georgia Tomaras' laboratory at Duke University.
Shaunna identified broadly neutralizing 2F5 mAb like antibodies in the plasma of an HIV-1 infected subject and found that it took 12-15 months after transmission for the development of these antibodies (Shen et al., 2009, J Virol 83(8): 3617-3625, Selected for JVI Spotlights). Identification of broadly neutralizing antibody specificities in HIV-1 infection allows a better understanding of what antibody specificities the human immune system is capable of making that can neutralize or eliminate diverse strains of HIV-1. This finding initiated further work to investigate the nature of the HIV-1 viruses that were most sensitive to HIV-1 gp41 MPER mediated neutralization. Shaunna was a key member of the team that reported that a single amino acid substitution in gp41Env leads to prolonged MPER exposure and thus can increase the time available during the HIV entry step for antibodies to neutralize (Shen et al., 2010, PNAS 107(13):5972-7). She is currently exploring the use of the peptide microarray technology in mapping binding epitopes of mucosal and systemic anti-ENV HIV-1 antibodies and studying the functional properties of natural infection and vaccine-elicited IgAs.
Trainee: Nicole Yates, PhD
Nicole Yates received her B.S. in Biology from the University of Georgia and her Ph.D. in Microbiology and Immunology (2006) at Wake Forest University where she studied the T cell and dendritic cell response to respiratory infection in a smallpox vaccine model.  Since then, she has done her post-doctoral research in the laboratory of Georgia Tomaras at Duke University working with the CHAVI B Cell Immunology and Mucosal Immunity Discovery Teams. 
Nicole has worked on characterizing the specificity and isotype of binding antibodies elicited after vaccination with candidate HIV vaccines and after HIV infection, with a focus on acute/very early infection in the CHAVI 001 study.  She has also studied antibodies elicited at mucosal sites after HIV infection with the CHAVI 001 and CHAVI 009 studies using a custom HIV-1 multiplex antibody assay that she helped develop.  A manuscript detailing the mucosal antibody response after acute HIV infection with the CHAVI 001 study is currently in preparation, along with another comparing the IgG subclass antibody responses elicited from acute HIV infection compared to vaccination.  She was also a fellow in the NIH-funded Duke Interdisciplinary Training Program in AIDS from 2006 to 2009. 

Past Awards

  • Howard Hughes Fellowship
  • AIDS Training Grant for Postdoctoral Fellows
  • Center for AIDS Research (CFAR) Small Grant Award
  • F31 NIH Pre-doctoral Fellowship