Skip to main content


Joni Prasad

Joni Prasad, PhD
Assistant Dean for Research Affairs
Conflict of Interest Officer, UMSOM
Assistant Professor, Department of Microbiology & Immunology

Dr. Joni Prasad grew up in Cincinnati, OH, and attended college at The Ohio State University, where she received her B.S. in Biochemistry. After spending several summers conducting undergraduate research at the FDA, USDA, and the VA, she decided to pursue her PhD in Immunobiology from the University of Cincinnati. Her thesis research explored the crosstalk between the hemostatic and inflammatory systems, focusing on the role of fibrinogen and other hemostatic proteins in Staphylococcus aureus bacterial infection.

After graduation, she accepted a postdoctoral fellow position in the Center for Vascular and Inflammatory Disease at the University Of Maryland School Of Medicine in the laboratory of Dr. Dudley Strickland. There Dr. Prasad performed protein biochemistry to determine the precise binding mechanism of a lipoprotein receptor, LRP1, to its inhibitor, RAP, and used this information to develop a more potent inhibitor for LRP1 which has been licensed commercially.

Grace (Man) Zhang, PhD
Research Administrator, Office of Research Affairs

As a student of biology, Dr. Grace Zhang’s college years gave her a chance to pursue her curiosity about the origin of life and the diversity of nature. Towards the end of her college career, Grace’s interest and competence slowly gravitated towards human health and nutrition. She chose to pursue her Ph.D. at the University of California, Davis (UC Davis) and received her degree in 2016. Her Ph.D. dissertation is focused on the expression pattern of growth factor receptors during the perinatal period in mice and the mechanism of the interaction between TGF-β and the Wnt pathway on small intestinal cell homeostasis.

The study at UC Davis strengthened her determination to continue her research on maternal and neonatal nutrition in the area of obesity and chronic diseases. She decided to work as a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Maryland School of Nursing to study the association of dietary factors, gut, and vaginal microbiota with preterm birth of African American women in Baltimore. After that, she continued working as a postdoc with Dr. Braxton Mitchell in the School of Medicine. There she characterized Amish sleep traits, did a Genome-Wide Association analysis of metabolites, and studied the contribution of the polygenic risk score to LDL level variation.

Katherine Kight, PhD
Research Administrator, Office of Research Affairs

Dr. Kight is a native Marylander with a long association with the UMD research community. She obtained her PhD from the SOM Graduate Program in Life Sciences, where her thesis work under Dr. Margaret McCarthy focused on mechanisms promoting sexual differentiation of the developing hippocampus, using the rat model. Shortly before joining the Office of Research Affairs, Katherine initiated a line of research probing the consequences of developmental immune activation in the Neurexin haploinsufficient rat, as a model of combined environmental risk and genetic vulnerability in neurodevelopmental disorders. Prior to joining GPILS, Katherine was a Faculty Research Associate at IMET, where she worked on basic and applied aspects of finfish reproduction and neuroendocrinogy in the laboratory of Dr. Yonathan Zohar. Dr. Kight has a high regard for alternative models and a comparative approach to basic research, and a deep appreciation for the importance of including sex as a biological variable (SABV) in all aspects of preclinical and clinical research.

headshot of staff member Lora Stepan

Lora Stepan, BS
Research Administrator, Office of Research Affairs