Resident Research Bios


Brian Ruhle, MD

I received my BS in Biochemistry and BA in Mathematics from the University of Rochester, and MD from SUNY Upstate Medical University in Syracuse, New York. In college, my interest in the basic sciences led me to discover a strong passion for research. Through my training, I acquired a repertoire of experimental procedures and techniques, and then used this skill set to investigate protein-RNA and protein-protein interactions critical to the development of several disease states, including HIV, atherosclerosis, and cancer. I then focused my research efforts on investigating the signaling pathways involved in cardiovascular disease as a research assistant at Albany Medical College. As a recipient of the American Heart Association Medical Student Research Fellowship, I was able to continue this work while in medical school.

Now, as a general surgery resident at the University of Chicago, I discovered a clinical interest in endocrine surgery, and am interested in applying my knowledge of basic science and skills in wet-bench research to make advancements in this field. I will be working with Dr. Grogan to investigate the methylation pattern of thyroid cancers in an effort to improve the diagnosis of malignancy of indeterminate nodules.

Bishop,Elliot.jpgEliot Bishop, MD

Basic Science Track
Russell Reid, MD, PhD
Tong-Chuan He, MD, PhD

As an undergraduate at Princeton University, I received an AB degree in history. I subsequently attended the University of Alabama School of Medicine. During my time in medical school, I developed an interest in basic science and translational research.  I worked in Dr. Eben Rosenthal’s lab and investigated a pre-clinical imaging model for detecting Head and Neck Cancer metastases utilizing a near-infrared labeled antibody targeting Epidermal Growth Factor Receptor. After completing my MD, I began my general surgery residency at The University of Chicago.

I completed three years of clinical training in surgery before starting my research fellowship. As a research resident, my interests will center on tissue engineering and potential surgical applications. My research mentors are Dr. Russell Reid and Dr. Tong-Chuan He. Dr. Reid is a pediatric plastic and reconstructive surgeon and the Bernard Sarnat Scholar of Craniofacial Research. He is the Director of the Molecular Cancer Laboratory in the Department of Surgery. Previous work in their lab has shown the importance of bone morphogenetic protein 9 (BMP9) in the osteogenic differentiation of mesenchymal stem cells. Utilizing the osteoinductive properties of BMP9, I will explore tissue engineering implications by investigating BMP9 with various scaffolding materials and progenitor cell lines and their impact on bone regeneration.

During my research years, I will also be working on projects relating to medical and surgical education and the surgical applications of 3-D printing.

Darren Bryan, MD

I completed my undergraduate education at the University of Iowa before moving to New York and attending medical school at the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry—the birthplace George Engel’s biopsychosocial model of medical practice and education. Interested in surgery and the cardiovascular system, I traveled to the University of Chicago between first and second year to work with Dr. Christopher Skelly, investigating the process of carotid artery occlusion.

Feeling at home at the University of Chicago, I returned for surgical residency, completing my first three years of clinical rotations prior to joining the lab of Dr. Ralph Weichselbaum in the Ludwig Center for Metastatic Research. Here, my work has revolved around better understanding the changes in cell motility associated with the metastatic process, focusing on the actomyosin cytoskeleton.

In addition to my time in the lab, I am a current fellow at the University of Chicago MacLean Center for Clinical Medical Ethics. I have greatly enjoyed having the opportunity to expand on my interest in medical and bioethics. Clinically, I am focusing on surgeon-patient interaction, particularly surrounding the process of informed consent and in relation to end-of-life care.

Gaines.jpgSara (Mimi) Gaines, MD

Basic Science Track
John Alverdy, MD

After graduating from Wake Forest University with a BS in Biology, I worked as a research assistant at St Jude Children’s Research Hospital with a focus on improvement of stem cell transplantations for hematologic malignancies through the use of umbilical cord blood and T cell development. I attended Tulane University for medical school and worked closely with breast oncology and plastic surgery departments on improvement in pain control following a mastectomy and immediate reconstruction. I started my surgical residency training at University of Chicago in 2014 and am currently taking a two-year sabbatical from clinical duties to pursue basic science research under the guidance of Dr. John Alverdy. My research will focus on the alterations in the gut microbiome in a tumor bearing mouse model and the influence these pathogens have on the healing of colonic anastomosis. I will also devote part of my research time to expanding the ExplORer workflow management software which was developed by current surgical resident, Marko Rojnica with collaboration from Drs. Alverdy, Langerman, and Babrowski. The software is currently undergoing testing in several general surgery operating rooms with the hope of including additional specialties and surgical departments by the end of the year. 

Poli,Elizabeth.jpgElizabeth Poli, MD

I completed my undergraduate education at University of Wisconsin-Madison, where I majored in Genetics. During my time there, I worked in the laboratory of Dr. Norman Drinkwater and completed a Hilldale Research Fellowship studying a liver cancer susceptibility locus in mice. I then attended the University of Chicago Pritzker School of Medicine. After my third year, I was awarded a Howard Hughes Medical Fellowship and studied the epigenetic regulation of a micro-RNA involved in triple negative breast cancer, under the mentorship of Dr. Funmi Olopade. It was during this time that I decided to pursue a career in academic surgery.

I have completed two clinical years as a general surgery resident at the University of Chicago, and am in the middle of my two research years in the laboratory of Dr. Ralph Weichselbaum. With help from a generous award from the Rolfe Pancreatic Research Foundation, my project aims to study the tumor immune response to ionizing radiation to help develop strategies to make pancreatic tumors more susceptible to immunotherapy. I am also pursuing a master's degree in the Department of Health Sciences at the University of Chicago and working on several clinical projects focusing on surgical oncology.

Sean Polster, MD

Dr. Polster received his Bachelor’s of Science in Genetics, Cell Biology and Development from the University of Minnesota- Twin Cities and his Medical Doctorate from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He is currently in his 5th year of Neurosurgery Residency at the University of Chicago working with Dr. Issam Awad on translational and clinical aspects of neurosurgical diseases.

Dr. Polster’s specific research interests lie within vascular biology and how blood vessels change and grow in different disease states. Utilizing Cerebral Cavernous Malformations as a model disease our group studies genomic pathways involved in disease genesis and progression. Furthermore, utilizing advance magnetic resonance imaging techniques, such as quantitative susceptibility mapping and correlations with selective biomarkers we have advanced our understanding of the complex interplay between vascular endothelial cells, inflammation, immunity and the microbiome. Dr. Polster was recently awarded the American Association of Neurological Surgeons (AANS) Robert J. Dempsey Cerebrovascular Research Award to study the complex molecular interplay between Cerebral Cavernous Malformation mutations (Krit 1/CCM1 and PCDC10/CCM3) on junctional proteins as they have been recently implicated by our group to be involved in lesion progression and genesis.

Suah,Ashley1.jpgAshley Suah, MD


As an undergraduate at Florida State University, I earned dual bachelor’s degrees in Sports Medicine and Exercise Science.  I served as an athletic trainer for four years and had the honor of caring for NCAA Division I athletes.  Upon graduating, I worked as a student investigator in Tallahassee, FL, where I began clinical research at the Center on Better Health and Life for Underserved Populations, and developed community-based programs that addressed health disparities in impoverished areas.  

As a medical student at Indiana University, I investigated health disparities among adolescent patients, specifically, the significance of HPV vaccination in teenage males.  I discovered my passion for General Surgery later in medical school and subsequently matched at the University of Chicago.  I have completed two clinical years of General Surgery residency training and my interests have led me toward Transplantation.  I have had the great privilege of spending the last year completing an Immunology Basic Science Research Fellowship under the mentorship of Dr. Anita Chong. 

Pregnancy is the second most common cause of immune sensitization and significantly contributes to gender disparities for women in access to transplantation.  This is especially significant for living-donor transplant candidates where there is real potential for specific sensitization to children and spouses.  I have been working in the Chong laboratory to define the immunologic consequences of allogeneic pregnancy with the intention of shedding insight into how we may overcome this biologic barrier in transplantation.

Xue.jpgLai Xue, MD

My interest in translational research stems from working with Dr. Jeffrey Gordon at Washington University in St. Louis. I studied the pathophysiology of obesity by exploring the genomic and metabolic foundations of symbiotic host- microbial relationships in the mammalian gut. After graduating with Bachelor’s degree in chemistry and anthropology, I attended Pritzker School of Medicine at University of Chicago where I decide to pursue a career in General Surgery. I am interested in the treatment of hepatobiliary malignancies, and the Department of Surgery supports me to investigate the biological basis of cancer metastasis in the laboratory of Dr. Ralph Weichselbaum. My research aims to understand the host- tumor interactions that define an oligometastatic phenotype and to identify novel therapeutic targets to halt progression of metastatic disease. I will also use my research time to pursue a Master of Science in Public Health Sciences (MSCP) from the University of Chicago.