Engman-Epting Lab Members

David M. Engman, MD, PhD (Professor of Pathology)


I am Professor of Pathology and Microbiology-Immunology and have been at Northwestern since 1990. I am interested in all aspects of microbial biology and pathogenesis and also in mechanisms of myocardial infection and inflammation. I take greatest pleasure though from mentoring students, from undergraduates through junior faculty, and believe that lifelong learning and teaching science is a great privilege. I was also Director of the Northwestern MD-PhD Program for 17 years during which I trained well over 200 MD-PhD physician-scientists.

Conrad L. Epting, MD (Associate Professor of Pediatrics)

Children's Memorial Hospital

My laboratory explores the cell surface as a dynamic platform regulating cell behavior.  Specifically, we seek to understand how surface glycoproteins regulate cell-cell fusion in muscle cells, and to determine how pathogens target cardiac muscle.  Using surface modification, we then hope to re-engineer stem cells to improve tissue targeting and tissue integration.  To accomplish these broad aims, our current research projects are exploring the following research issues:  (1) Tissue tropism of Trypanosoma cruzi.  T. cruzi demonstrates tissue tropism during both the acute and chronic phases of infection, targeting cardiac, skeletal, and smooth muscle.  Patients with chronic T. cruzi infection may develop clinical symptoms related to target tissue infection, notably myositis, dilated cardiomyopathy, and megasyndromes.  The molecular basis for these clinical observations is incompletely understood.  My research hopes to define and characterize the cell surface proteins important during the initial host-parasite interaction enabling myogenic specificity.  (2) Cell-cell fusion and GPI-anchored proteins during skeletal myogenesisSecondary skeletal myogenesis, the process of differentiation of dividing, mononuclear myoblast into quiescent, multinucleate myotubes is critical for maintenance of skeletal muscle during aging and after injury.  GPI-anchored cell surface proteins appear to be critical for these regulated membrane-membrane fusion events.  Our research hopes to dissect the molecular choreography occurring at the site of opposing membranes which enables cell fusion. 

Heather Carr, PhD (Research Associate)


Robert Brown, PhD (Postdoctoral Fellow)


I am postdoctoral fellow with several years experience working with Trypanosoma brucei studying metabolism and the flagellum. I am currently characterizing palmitoylation in Trypanosoma cruzi, a post-translational modification of proteins which anchors them to intracellular membranes, and I am studying a subset of the palmitoyl acyltransferase (PAT) protein family in this parasite. I am also interested in calcium signaling in the flagellum, and I am evaluating gene function of numerous proteins which could be important for sensing and motility.


Nga Du (Research Technologist)




Chris Runkle (Research Technologist)


I am a research technologist interested in a number of aspects of trypansome biology and pathogenesis. My projects range from creating a variety of luminescent parasites that permit in vivo imaging in models of disease pathogenesis to the mechanism and role of autoimmunity in Chagas disease pathogenesis.

Cheryl L. Olson (Lab Manager)


I am the lab manager and have worked as a team with Dr. Engman since he was a first-year assistant professor, 23 years ago. Although I have been involved in virtually all of the cell biology, biochemistry and molecular genetics projects over the years, my true passion is in the mechanism of cell invasion of Trypanosoma cruzi, the agent of Chagas disease.

Aabha Sharma (Graduate Student)


I am a graduate student interested in ciliary membrane composition as it relates to cell signalling. My major project focuses on the lipid composition of the ciliary membrane with the overarching hypothesis that the lipid environment permits cell signalling complexes to assemble in this special membrane compartment of the cell.

Xiaomo Li (Graduate Student)