Aleksandra (Aleks, Ola) Karolak

Assistant Professor and Member

Education and Positions

2021 – present   Assistant Member, Moffitt Cancer Center, Department of Machine Learning, Division of Quantitative Science, Tampa, FL

2021 – present   Assistant Professor, University of South Florida, Department of Oncologic Sciences, Tampa, FL

2019 – 2021   Assistant Research Professor at City of Hope, Division of Mathematical Oncology, Departments of Computational and Quantitative Medicine and Population Sciences, Duarte, CA

2018 – 2019   H2020 Marie Sklodowska-Curie Actions and Barcelona Institute of Science and Technology Postdoctoral Fellowship, Genome Data Science, IRB Barcelona, Spain

2015 – 2018   Postdoctoral Researcher at Moffitt Cancer Center, Department of Integrated Mathematical Oncology, Tampa, FL     

2010 – 2015   PhD in Biophysical and Computational Chemistry, University of South Florida (USF), Tampa, FL

1995 – 2000   MSc in Metal-Organic Chemistry, Maxima Cum Laude, Individual Curriculum, Adam Mickiewicz University, Posen, Poland


 OUR TEAM:


Mourad Stitou, PhD

Postdoctoral Researcher

Mourad's research projects revolve around harnessing the power of machine learning tools and computational methods in cancer drug discovery. His focus lies in utilizing AI to identify and evaluate small molecules with the potential to act as potent inhibitors of cancer. By employing advanced computational approaches, he aims to expedite the process of identifying novel therapeutic candidates, ultimately contributing to the development of more effective treatments for cancer patients.

Education

2023 - PhD in Chemistry, Physical chemistry and modeling, Sidi Mohamed Ben Abdellah University of Fez, Morocco

2015 - MSc in Chemistry, Mohamed V Agdal University, Rabat, Morocco

2013 - BSc in ChemistrySidi Mohamed Ben Abdellah University of Fez, Morocco

 

 

 

Trieu Nguyen

Research Trainee

Trieu is an undergraduate sophomore pursuing a Computer Science degree at the University of South Florida. He always aspires to invent and work on unexplored technologies and innovations. Engaged as a research trainee in Dr. Karolak's lab, he is committed to contributing his utmost in the battle against cancer. This research opportunity has discovered the missing part of him that really strengthened his passion for all branches of science and motivated him to widen his knowledge of all scientific disciplines. He is on a mission of doing important things for science.

Education

2022 - 2026 (expected) BSc in Computer Science at USF

 

 

Rohit Veligeti

Research Trainee

Rohit is a sophomore majoring in Biomedical Sciences at the University of South Florida. He is passionate about the interdisciplinary fields of bioinformatics and computational biology and their impacts towards cancer research. As a research trainee in the Karolak Lab, he is excited to bring his prior experience of building ML models to work on creative solutions to complex problems. Through this opportunity, he hopes to gain insight into the research process and contribute to the ongoing battle of understanding cancer.

At the University of South Florida, Rohit is the president of the Bioinformatics Club, aiming to spark more interest into this field among his fellow undergraduates. Outside of the lab and classroom, Rohit enjoys long runs, solving puzzles, and exploring the world of music. 

Education

2022 - 2026 (expected)  BS in Biomedical Sciences, USF, Tampa, FL

 

 

 

Adam Wojtulewski

Research Trainee

Adam is an undergraduate junior majoring in Computer Science and minoring in Artificial Intelligence at the University of Florida. As a research trainee in the Machine Learning Department, Adam hopes to bring his knowledge of database systems, artificial intelligence, and software engineering and to meaningfully contribute to the efforts of Dr. Karolak’s team. Through this opportunity, he wants to expand his understanding of Artificial Intelligence and Deep Learning approaches while helping to contribute to scientific understanding of cancer. At Moffitt, he currently studies heterogeneity in response to treatment among patients with similar characteristics.

Outside of coursework, Adam is heavily involved in the Polish Student Association (POLSA) at the University of Florida, having recently been elected as President of the club for the upcoming schoolyear and participates as a member in the Ukrainian Student Association and Society of Software Engineers to become more worldly minded and better equipped in his major respectively. In his spare time, Adam likes to watch and play sports, listen to music, travel, and code, primarily in Go, C++, and Python.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  

 Education

2021 - 2024 (expected) BSc, Computer Science, Minor in Artificial Intelligence at the University of Florida

2018 - 2021 International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme, Palm Harbor University High School

Education

2024 (expected) Wiregrass Ranch High School

Meghna Manjith

Research Trainee

Meghna is a senior at Wiregrass Ranch High School and has joined as a research trainee in the Machine Learning Department at the Moffitt Cancer Center. She’s passionate about the intersection between biochemistry and technology and hopes to gain more experience using machine learning and drug repurposing techniques. One of her earlier research projects was about creating an inexpensive, yet effective treatment that can be used for the prevention of surgical site infections in surgery patients. She’s heavily involved in science fair competitions and was a Regeneron International Science and Engineering Fair Finalist last year. 

Outside of research, Meghna is a strong activist against human trafficking, invoking change at both local and state levels. She has also created a fiscally sponsored organization that helps raise awareness about human trafficking in her community and generates resources for shelters that rehabilitate survivors. She is a professionally trained Indian Classical Kuchipudi dancer and is currently the concertmaster in her school’s chamber orchestra. 


 

AFFILIATE MEMBERS:

 

Matthew Froid

PhD Candidate

Matthew is a Ph.D. student in the Cancer Biology Program at Moffitt in Integrated Mathematical Oncology Department in the group of Dr. David Basanta. He is science-minded, bright, young professional, dedicated to excellence in all pursuits, with a passion for evolutionary biology, mathematics, and machine learning. Matthew utilizes a multi-disciplinary approach to scientific problem solving. He is a pro-active self-starter with eight years of clinical laboratory experience and seven years of research experience, comfortable and adept in both settings. He utilizes his strong background in machine learning and agent-based modeling to study cancer evolution and treatment optimization. He joins our team for 10 weeks long rotations.

Education and Positions

2022 - present  PhD in Cancer Biology, USF/Moffitt

2020 - 2023  MA in Mathematics, University of Nebraska, Omaha, NE

2019 - 2020  NASA Research Fellow, NASA, Omaha, NE

2014 - 2019  BS in Biology, University of Nebraska, Omaha, NE

 

 

 

 

Aleksandra Sikora

MD Candidate

Aleksandra is a fifth-year student of medicine at the Medical University of Warsaw. Her recent research in the Students’ Scientific Association focused on the risk factors for recurrence of pulmonary embolism. She currently expands her horizons and gains experience in the field of oncology, especially in the new opportunities for treatment of metastatic cancers of gastrointestinal origin. In her free time, Aleksandra enjoys kitesurfing, cycling, and traveling.

Education

2018 - 2024 (expected) Medicine, Medical University of Warsaw, Poland

Ezhilpavai Mohanan, PhD

PK/PD Modeler

Pavai works in the field of Pharmacometrics specifically of the hematological disorders. She is interested in Pharmacokinetic-Dynamic (PK/PD) modeling of the drugs used as conditioning regimen and post transplantation immunosuppressants in hematopoietic cell transplantation. Recently extending the interest to integrated computational biology / mathematical modeling in addition to in-vitro & in-vivo experiments. 

Education and Positions:

2020 - 2022  Postdoctoral Fellow, Population Sciences, City of Hope, CA

2012 - 2019  PhD in PK/PD and PGen, Thiruvalluvar University, Vellore, Tamil  Nadu, India

2005 - 2007  MSc in Biotechnology, Maruthupandiyar College, Thanjavur, Tamil Nadu, India 

2002 - 2005  Bachelor of Biotechnology, Seethalakshmi Ramaswami College, Trichy, Tamil Nadu, India

 

 

Education

2024 - C&MB Undergrad at USF

2021 - 2023 Hillsborough Community College, Certificate in Biotechnology

2018 - 2023 (expected) High School

 

Sara M. del Valle

Research Trainee / Spring - Fall 2023

Sara starts the undergraduate program at USF in January 2024. Currently she is doing full-time college classes at Hillsborough Community College. Through her appointment in our group at Moffitt ML, she is interested in collaborating, learning about AI, and continuing scientific growth. She currently studies applications of AI to Molecular Glue Degraders.

Being influenced by her younger sister’s and father’s medical journeys, she wants to learn more about oncology and do research on it. She recently became a part of the Tuberous Sclerosis Complex (TSC) Future Leaders Program - a program for people who are linked to TSC and are between 17-27 years old. The program focuses on advocating, researching, and helping to obtain support from the US Congress. In her spare time, she likes to read, draw, listen to music, and code. She has a very enthusiastic personality, loves horses, and loves to make people smile.

October 2022 - First place for the “Machine Learning in Oncology" poster at the HCC Research Poster Symposium

 

 


 

SUMMER INTERNS:

 

 

 

Archi Marrapu

Research Trainee / Summer 2023

Archi is a sophomore at Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology, passionate about the interdisciplinary fields of biomedical engineering, health sciences, and advanced technology. At Dr. Karolak's Lab at Moffitt, she uses AI for fragment based drug discovery.

She has done several projects in AI before (including an AI phone app for melanoma diagnosis and design of an affordable yet fully functional prosthetic arm from cheap electronics), a few of which have been specifically focused on various types of cancers. In addition to her projects, Archi is the Founder and President of STEMifyGirls, a nonprofit organization aimed to provide STEM opportunities and resources for young girls and minority cultures to bridge the gender gap in STEM fields. She loves competing and engaging in stressful public speaking competitions, specifically Model United Nation, where she’s bagged many awards. Archi also engages in Indian classical dance and enjoys performing it, as she has been doing for over 12 years.

 

 

Education

2021 - 2025 (expected)  Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology


 

Our executive assistant:

 

Kara Zupancic, BS

Executive Assistant

Kara originally started with Moffitt's Diversity team back in 2018. She holds a bachelor’s degree in Teaching and Training Technical Professionals from the University of Akron in Akron, Ohio and has working previously at Louis Stokes Cleveland VA Medical Center as a Pharmacy Administrative Support Clerk, as well as, SummaCare, Inc. as a Project Specialist in Medical Records and Data Management. She is responsible for all administrative tasks within our department and team.


 

Former members:

 

Nam Nguyen

PhD Candidate (Summer 2022 - Spring 2023)

Nam is a Ph.D. student in Electrical Engineering at the University of South Florida in the group of Dr. K.C. Chen, funded by Dr. Karolak during the semesters of Fall 2022 and Spring 2023. His experience is in algorithmic designs for classical and quantum AI for applications in cancer research. He is interested in translational AI to understand molecular dynamics, genetic biomarkers, and cancer evolution. As a research trainee at Moffitt, Nam aims to develop a set of neural intelligence pipelines which integrate information from mutational profiles and multiple modes of the human genome. With this information, he aims to understand oncogenesis and novel genetic drivers. His goal is also to design a collection of quantum neural networks which enables modeling of cancer evolution and molecular interactions toward precision medicine and drug design

Education and Positions

2020 - 2024 (expected)  PhD in Electrical Engineering, USF

2019 - 2020  MA in Statistics, USF

2017 - 2019  BS in Mathematics, Hanoi University of Education, Vietnam

Bi Zhao, PhD

Applied Research Scientist (Summer 2022)

Bi has experience in data science, machine learning, and database development for protein structural and functional research. Her research interests have focused on characterizing the intermolecular interactions and regulation under tissue and condition specificity, and discovering novel mechanisms of various diseases. Bi's goal is to establish these novel strategies and utilize them in biomedical research, especially targeting the heterogeneity of the microbiome and its relationship to cancer development and individual differences.

Education and Positions

2022 Applied Research Scientist, Moffitt Cancer Center, Department of Machine Learning, Division of Quantitative Science, Tampa, FL

2019 - 2022 Postdoctoral Fellowship, Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond, VA

2016 - 2019 PhD in Cell and Molecular BiologyUSF

2013 - 2015 MSc in Medical Science in BiotechnologyUSF

2007 - 2011 Bachelor of Bioscience, Henan University, Kaifeng, Henan, China

 

Anna Greene 

Graduate Student (Spring 2022)

Anna is a graduate student at the University of South Florida, majoring in bioinformatics and computational biology. She is currently involved in research at the University of South Florida on intrinsic disorder in circadian clock proteins. As a research volunteer, she is eager to hone her programming skills and learn various research and machine learning techniques from dr. Karolak's team. In her free time, Anna loves to play the drums and ukulele, watch sports, and travel.  

Education

2021-2022 MSc in Bioinformatics and Computational Biology, USF

2016-2020 BS in Biology, University of West Florida, Pensacola, FL


 

Katherine Rodriguez 

Undergraduate Student (Spring 2022)

Katherine is an undergraduate senior at the University of South Florida, majoring in biomedical sciences and minoring in aging sciences. As a research trainee in the Machine Learning Department, Katherine is eager to learn by working with the team of dr. Karolak, and many other renowned researchers. She anticipates that the experience will contribute to her success in investigating the intersections of human biology, microgravity, and machine learning at the graduate level. Katherine also volunteers as a research assistant for the Evans-Nguyen Mass Spectrometry Lab in the Chemistry Department at USF. Outside of her academic and professional pursuits, Katherine is a Tampa native that enjoys reading, exploring downtown, and engaging in on-campus activities.

Education

2018 - 2022   BS in Biomedical Sciences, University of South Florida, Tampa, FL (USF)

2014 – 2018   High School Diploma, Walter L. Sickles High School