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Principal Investigator

Chrystal Starbird

Chrystal Starbird completed her undergraduate work at UNC Chapel Hill and spent a few years afterwards working in academic and industry labs before returning to UNC to complete a year-long PREP program. Following this, Dr. Starbird completed her graduate work in chemical and physical biology at Vanderbilt University. She completed her postdoctoral work as a MOSAIC K99/R00 postdoctoral fellow in the Cancer Biology Center at Yale before moving into her current position as faculty in the Department of Biochemistry and Biophysics at UNC Chapel Hill. As a non-traditional student in many ways, Dr. Starbird is a strong advocate for diversity, equity and inclusion, and publishes regularly on strategies to maximize the impact of mentoring and to build an inclusive lab. When not in the lab, Chrystal can usually be found searching for the next waterfall to visit with her family (partner and three children).
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Postdoctoral Researchers

Keisha N. Hardeman, PhD, MLS(ASCP)CM, MBCM

Keisha received her B.S. in Molecular and Cell Biology from Texas A&M University and her Ph.D. in Cancer Biology from Vanderbilt University. Her graduate work focused on the metabolism of BRAF-mutated melanomas under the mentorships of Drs. Vito Quaranta and Joshua Fessel. Her dissertation research investigated the heterogeneity of tumor responses to targeted inhibitors, and how glycolysis and redox balance is affected. Keisha joined the Starbird lab in June 2023 and is studying the structures TAM receptor kinase domains to aid in developing targeted therapies in breast and melanoma cancers. Keisha is a former high school teacher, teaching 9th and 10th graders chemistry and physics. Keisha also completed a post-baccalaureate in Clinical Laboratory Sciences, and is board certified as a Medical Laboratory Scientist and Molecular Biologist by the American Society of Clinical Pathology (ASCP). Keisha loves playing golf (varsity in high school), archery (classic bow, NOT compound), board and card games.

Graduate Students

Skylar Grimsley

Skylar received her B.S. in Biology from Norfolk State University (BEHOLD) through the Dozoretz National Institute for Mathematics and Applied Sciences Program. Before beginning graduate school, she was a participant in the Postbaccalaureate Research Education Program (PREP) at the University of Illinois Chicago. Here, Skylar joined the Minshall lab in studying how elevated concentrations of glycosphingolipids in breast cancer patients, when incorporated onto the surface of endothelial cells, affect junctional stability and thus, the metastasis of breast cancer cells. Skylar excitedly joined the Starbird lab in September of 2023. She is currently working on a precision medicine research project to evaluate the function of the ABCA7 gene in lipid regulation and trafficking in the context of Alzheimer’s disease. Skylar is an avid traveler, having lived in Ohio, Virginia, Illinois, and now North Carolina in just 3 years. Skylar is also a passionate movie watcher and Atlantic Ocean enthusiast.


Nicole Fournier

Nicole received her B.S. in Neuroscience from the University of California, Riverside in June of 2021. During her undergraduate studies, she had the opportunity to participate in the UCR FIELDS program doing a summer research internship at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Her project focused on finding a way to integrate space technology with biomedical applications. She studied the fluorescent response of naturally occuring amino acids and how this fluorescent response could be used to help guide surgeons during tumor removals in the brain. After graduation, Nicole shifted focus and volunteered in an Entomology lab working with Bombus impatiens. Now she looks forward to continuing the work being done in the Starbird lab. Nicole has a huge passion for knowledge and is always looking to learn something new. Nicole loves to read; she owns over 500 books! She also enjoys traveling and wildlife conservation. You can almost always find Nicole reading a book or near a body of water.

Rotation Students

Johnna Bingham

Johnna received her B.A in Biology from Mary Baldwin College (now University).  There she studied avian malarial parasite burden on nest defensive behaviors in Red-eyed Vireos. She then enrolled into the Interdisciplinary Master’s Program at NC State a program funded by NSF.  There she studied acetylene hydratase, a tungsten containing metalloenzyme important for environmental degradation of chlorinated solvents.  Johnna joined the Starbird lab in August as a rotation student studying TAM receptor ligand binding complexes with human gas6 a ligand for AXL.  Johnna enjoys playing soccer (played in college for Mary Baldwin College), bike riding and karaoke.

Undergraduate Students

Lesley Alessandra Canseco

Lesley is a 3rd year undergraduate student at UNC majoring in Exercise Sport Science & Biology with a minor in Chemistry! Along with being an enthusiastic member of the Starbird Lab, she is a part of the CUAB committee promoting student life events on campus. Outside of lab, Lesley enjoys hanging out with friends and watching musicals/plays (her favorite jumps between In the Heights and Chicago depending on the day) all around the Triangle. At home, she enjoys frequenting the beach and Line Dancing at her favorite spot in Carolina Beach. Lesley recently joined the Starbird lab in October of 2023, but she is very eager to learn the ropes and eventually contribute to the exciting research!

Owen Escobar

Owen Escobar is an undergraduate student pursuing a Bachelor of Science degree in Psychology. He is currently on the premed route studying to become a Child Psychiatrist. Owen is also strongly interested in various research fields. These interests include how TAM and TIM of Phosphatidylserine Receptors interact and affect each other, the emotion of awe, and child behavior. Owen is a Texas native and enjoys reading, writing movie reviews, and exploring new areas in his free time. At Starbird Lab, Owen works as a Lab Assistant and is learning the basics, hoping to get involved in the research process eventually.