Principal Investigator

Jitendra Thakur

Assistant Professor
Before starting a mammalian chromatin, epigenetics, and evolution lab at Emory in 2021, Dr. Thakur worked on centromeres in several eukaryotic model organisms at research institutions across three continents. After receiving initial education in the foothills of the Himalayas in Northern India, Dr. Thakur completed her Ph.D. in Kaustuv Sanyal’s lab at JNCASR, Bangalore in Southern India, a short-term EMBO fellowship in Robin Allshire’s lab at the University of Edinburgh, UK and a postdoc in Steven Henikoff‘s lab at the Fred Hutch, Seattle.
Apart from research, Dr. Thakur has been pursuing training in two distinct forms of Indian classical dancing for almost a decade.

Graduate Students

Olivia Morrison

Genetics and Molecular Biology Graduate Student
GMB T32 training grant support

Olivia, a graduate student from the Genetics and Molecular Biology (GMB) program of the Graduate Division of Biological and Biomedical Sciences (GDBBS) at Emory, is conducting her Ph.D thesis research on centromere evolution, chromatin and epigenetics in the Thakur lab.
Olivia grew up in Nashville, TN, where she pursued her passions of both dancing and genetics. She received her B.S in biology at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga with an honors thesis on developing an auto-bioluminescent lung cell line to evaluate the in vitro effects of e-cigarette compounds on normal cell proliferation. When not working, Olivia likes to read fantasy novels, play Dungeons & Dragons, and eat new foods. Olivia has published a review article on different types of chromatin complexes in the Int. J. Mol. Sci. Article Link.

Lydia Gutema

Biochemistry Cell and Developmental Biology Student
BCDB T32 training grant support
Emory Centennial scholar
Emory Woodruff fellow

Lydia Gutema, a graduate student in the Biochemistry, Cell, and Developmental Biology (BCDB) program under GDBBS at Emory, is conducting her PhD thesis research in the Thakur lab on how the memory (genetic and epigenetic) for human centromere specification is established. Lydia was born and raised in Georgia, and went to Baltimore, Maryland to complete her bachelor’s degree in Biology at Johns Hopkins University. In the Thakur lab, she is studying the mechanism of centromere chromatin assembly using genomics, genetics, and cell biology.

Research Associate

Jenika Packiaraj

Jenika is interested in genetics and genomics research and plans to pursue a career as a medical scientist. She is investigating how DNA sequences contribute to centromere identity and function by studying centromeric satellite evolution using various computational and genomics technologies. Before graduating from Emory in January 2022, Jenika was an undergraduate researcher and SURE fellow (2021) in the Thakur lab and has co-authored a review article on Sequence, Chromatin, and Evolution of Satellite DNA (Article Link). Jenika likes to read, take and edit photos, and play board games with her family and friends in her free time.

Biology Major Undergraduate Researchers

Kaitlyn Heyt

Kaitlyn (also studying Psychology major) is interested in exploring how non-coding RNA modifies chromatin structure and its subsequent effects on gene expression. She hopes to study how epigenetic processes involving the restructuring of chromatin can lead to differential gene regulation and potentially contribute to disease. She is excited to gain research experience using state-of-the-art computational and genomics technologies the Thakur lab has to offer to prepare her for her future career in the sciences. Kaitlyn is also a volunteer at a health clinic and is involved in the Vegan Emory Group, Relay for Life, and the club field hockey team. In her free time, she enjoys reading, going to parks, and listening to music. Kaitlyn has published a review article on the role of ncRNAs in regulating epigenetic process in the Nucleus. Article Link.

Joy Zhou

Joy (also studying Quantitative Sciences minor) is interested in exploring computational and experimental approaches to improve the chromatin profiling techniques, including Cut & Run. Joy is applying her knowledge in statistics to improve genomics data analysis under the supervision of Drs Patil and Thakur. She hopes to understand more of how biology and statistics are connected and uses her knowledge in both fields to apply to real-world problems, which provides her with a new potential career path. Joy is excited to learn new skills, hoping that she could benefit from training in the Thakur Lab. Joy is also a pre-dental student and volunteers at a dental office when she’s free. In her free time, Joy likes to hang out with family and friends, go to the beach, paint, and try out new things in life.

Gelsey Jaymes

Gelsey hopes to pursue a career in the medical sciences. She is excited to understand the genetic and epigenetic components of mammalian centromeres in the Thakur lab. She is exploring the mechanisms of formation of mammalian centromeres by investigating their conservation and genetic variation using evolutionary genetics. She will also establish efficient methods to visualize centromeric components in cell lines and tissues and enhance her skills in cell biology. On-campus, Gelsey volunteers with Emory myLIFE and Project Sunshine and tutors with the Re’Generation Movement. In her free time, she enjoys reading, swimming, and playing board games with friends.

Andrew Li

Andrew (also studying Computer Informatics minor) is interested in exploring the evolution of centromeric components in mammals. He applies genetics and genomics techniques to identify and characterize sequence variation in centromeric components. Andrew is excited to gain experience and learn new skills in the Thakur lab that can be applied to resolve real-world problems. Outside the lab, Andrew participates in the local community by volunteering through Mind Bubble and taking the leadership role of a Learning Assistant in BIOL141L. He is currently on the pre-health track and wishes to pursue a career in medicine and Anesthesiology. In his free time, he enjoys cooking, playing card games, listening to music, and playing bass guitar in a student rock band.

Applied Math & Statistics Major Undergraduate Researchers

Leo Lin

Leo is one of the Quantitative Theory and Methods undergraduate research fellows in 2022. He is majoring in applied mathematics and statistics and is working on computational genomics in the Thakur lab. Leo is applying his knowledge in statistics to develop efficient and user-friendly algorithms for analyzing complex genomics datasets under the supervision of Drs Patil and Thakur. By applying statistics to biological questions, he hopes to draw a connection between knowledge and real-world problem. On campus, Leo is also working on global optimization problems. In his free time, Leo enjoys listening to music, reading, and playing video games.


Nachiket Patil

Computational Advisor
Dr. Patil, a recent alum of Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, is an expert on computational engineering and scientific computing. After his Ph.D. on laser-based 3D metal printing simulations, Dr. Patil co-founded a 3D printing simulation company called 3DSIM LLC, which became a part of ANSYS, the world’s leading fortune 500 simulation software solution provider.
One of Dr. Patil’s latest interests is making sense of genomics data. For the past few years, he has worked with Dr. Thakur on developing a state-of-the-art computational infrastructure to analyze genomics data. Currently, Dr. Patil is developing a cloud-based automated data analysis pipeline to improve productivity and innovation.
Dr. Patil is serving as a computational advisor to the Thakur lab and a co-mentor to members working on computation- & statistics-oriented projects.