Lab Members

Current Lab Members

Josh Bonkowsky

Principal Investigator

Bio: Josh is a pediatric neurologist specializing in clinical care and research.  He is a professor of Pediatrics at the University of Utah School of Medicine, and Primary Children’s Hospital.

After graduating from Harvard College, he spent one year on a Fulbright Fellowship in Vienna, Austria.  He received his MD and PhD degrees from the University of California, San Diego, and completed residency training at the University of Utah (pediatrics), Children’s Hospital of Boston and University of Utah (pediatric neurology). 

In his “spare” time he enjoys camping with his daughter, building a quasi-functional radio telescope with his sons, and trail running.

Tammy Stevenson

Lab Manager

Research: In addition to being the lab “mom”, Tammy is currently testing potential gene therapies for Zellweger Spectrum Disorder and also functions as the lab’s “closer”, working to do final experiments needed to get publications out the door.

Bio: Tammy grew up in Wisconsin and Pennsylvania, graduated summa cum laude from UC San Diego with a major in molecular biology, and also did a piano performance major at California State University Stanislaus. When she’s not pipetting things, she enjoys racewalking, trail running, playing chamber music, and reading. 

Pi-Kai Chang


Research: Pi-Kai studies the cause of eIF2B5 R191H mutations in vanishing white matter disease, and is also testing a gene therapy in eIF2B5 R191H mutant mice.

Bio:  Pi-Kai is a super-tall cat-loving Taiwanese post-doc with a Ph.D. in Pharmacology and Physiology, specializing in rodent behaviors. He also has research experience in everything from deep brain stimulation to parasitology. His interests include cooking, music, and working out.

Diego Baronio


Research: Diego works on the characterization of disease-critical pathways and pharmacological targets of X-linked adrenoleukodystrophy using zebrafish as a model organism.

Bio: Diego received his PhD degree from the University of Helsinki, Finland. He enjoys spending time with his family and traveling with them. He is also interested in football (soccer), cooking and fishing.

Monika Baker

MD/PhD Student

Research: Monika studies how to use machine learning to better understand treatment resistance in pediatric epilepsy and to inform better treatment practices.

Bio: Monika is a Utah native from Provo. She went to Utah Valley University and obtained a bachelor’s degree in biology, after which she taught microbiology lab. Her scientific interests are blood, microbiology, genetics, oncology, probability, and machine learning. She has a borderline pathological love of cats, but also enjoys cycling with her husband, reading Science fiction, and playing metroidvania games.

Courtney Demmitt-Rice

PhD Student

Bio: Courtney graduated cum laude with a BS in Biotechnology from UVU in 2015. She then taught Biology labs and did environmental toxicology research in honeybees before joining the Molecular Biology PhD program here. Currently, she is using drug screens, transcriptomics, and lipidomics to understand the molecular pathology of Adrenoleukodystrophy. 

Research: Courtney enjoys being outdoors with her family, arranging flowers, gardening, and building things. Her youngest child has a rare genetic disorder — this has fueled Courtney’s interest in clinical translational research and she looks forward to contributing to the rare disease community as both a caregiver and researcher. 

Debbie Hsu


Research: Debbie is currently learning techniques to provide technical support on the gene therapy project for Vanishing White Matter disease and assisting in line maintenance of our zebrafish.

Bio: Debbie was born in Durham, North Carolina, but raised in Park City, Utah for the majority of her life. She is currently an undergraduate pre-med student pursuing a degree in Cello Performance with a minor in Chemistry at the University of Utah. Her love for music and science often shows in her practicing, rehearsal managing, volunteering, and keeping up with the latest medical school videos. When she’s not practicing 40 hours a day, you can find her enjoying K-pop and K-dramas, drinking boba with friends, cooking, and baking.

Pallavi Prasad


Research: Pallavi is a new undergraduate research assistant currently learning about all the different projects happening within the lab. She is in the process of learning about the different experiments and hoping to be contribute more to the lab once she has enough practice and experience

Bio: Pallavi was born in India and had moved to Farmington, New Mexico when she was eight years old. In 2021, she moved to Salt Lake City, Utah to pursue a bachelor’s degree in Biology with an emphasis in Biochemistry. Additionally, she is minoring in Sociology, Chemistry, and Pediatric Clinical Research with an interest in pursuing medical school once she graduates. Outside the lab, Pallavi loves to spend time with her family over facetime calls, running, hiking, and painting. 

Sophia Peralta


Research: Sophia is primarily providing histology technical support on the gene therapy project for Vanishing White Matter disease, but also assists in genotyping and line maintenance of our zebrafish.

Bio:  Sophia was born and raised in Boise, Idaho. She is currently an undergraduate pre-med student studying Health, Society, & Policy with minors in Chemistry and Pediatric Clinical Research at the University of Utah. In her free time, you’ll likely catch her rock climbing, camping, reading, or making jewelry for her small business she started in high school!

Austin Wood

Senior Laboratory Specialist

Austin is an enthusiast for all things technological in the lab, who specializes in genetics and molecular biology research. His primary focus is to make sure everything is operating optimally, and he enjoys his time working under the microscope.

Austin has lived in Utah for most of his life and feels most at home when he is with his family in the mountains. His previous work at Huntsman Cancer Institute involved programming liquid-handling robots for high-throughput NGS sample prep, as well as developing molecular assays, and RNA-sequencing. He received his degree from Westminster College and was a member of the Tri-Beta Biological Honor Society. He plays bass guitar in an experimental rock band, loves sushi, and can often be found perusing the local comic shop.

Julia Wentz

Lab Technician

Research: Julia is a lab technician who received her LAT (Laboratory Animal Technician) certification from the American Association for Laboratory Animal Science.  Her experience in research began at the University of Utah, working for the Office of Comparative Medicine 13 years ago.  

Bio: Julia loves all sorts of ethnic foods and enjoys watching a movie or two on the weekend, but her favorite love of all time is watching her children grow into kind and caring human beings — they are the future. 

Former Lab Members

  • Erika Scholl
  • Hung-Yu Shih
  • Miranda Bowles
  • Katy Glaittli
  • Abi Deschiffart
  • Sarv Raafati
  • Haille Soderholm
  • Esther Fujimoto
  • Lingyan Xing
  • Jong Hyun-Son
  • Cameron Brimley
  • Ksenia Nokhrina
  • Dana Schiwal
  • Tyler Quist
  • Kathryn Pavia
  • Michael Sam
  • Cory Kogelschatz
  • Tony Trinh
  • Quentin Raas
  • Danner Peter
  • Samira Rosenthal
  • Matt Keefe
  • Jingxia Gao
  • Lauren Strachan
  • Briana Fresher