Photo credit: Patrick Wine, UMaine

Sue Ishaq, PhD

Principal Investigator


*Please note, this is not an exhaustive list as not all lab members chose to have their bio listed online.

Team Broccoli

Esther Alaba

Doctorate of Philosophy, Biomedical Sciences.

Esther has won several awards for combining mechanistic and functional tools to investigate dietary interventions in managing metabolic diseases. Her teaching experience includes Basic Physiology, Anatomy, and Experimental Physiology courses. She is passionate about Girls’ Education and Empowerment and currently mentors several young women towards successful career development. 

Her desire to utilize bioinformatics tools for nutritional therapy brought her to Ishaq’s lab. She currently works on human and mouse data to identify the microbiome and metabolomic pathways involved in the ameliorative effects of broccoli sprouts during IBD.

Esther is being co-advisor by Dr. Yanyan Li.

Google Scholar Page.

Portrait of Lola Holcomb, wearing a block sweater on a beach at sunset

Lola Holcomb, B.S.

Doctorate of Philosophy student, Biomedical Science

Lola entered as a rotating first-year GSBSE student in March 2022, and declared the Ishaq Lab her dissertation lab soon after.  Troubled with indecisiveness and the desire to research, well, everything, she quickly found that using bioinformatics and big data as a lens to study microbial ecology (and in time, its relation to social equity) allowed her to do the kind of meaningful interdisciplinary research she’s always wanted to do.  Lola is currently working on 16s data analysis for other ongoing lab projects, comparing gut microbiomes of mouse models of Inflammatory Bowel Disease with broccoli as a dietary treatment. 

Lola was awarded a One Health and the Environment NRT Fellowship 2022- 2024 here at UMaine, and will be using the fellowship to advance her doctoral studies of bioinformatics, microbes, and social equity.  

Google Scholar page.

Johanna Holman, B.S., M.S.

Doctor of Philosophy student, Human Nutrition and Food Sciences

Johanna joined the lab in fall 2020 to investigate the effects of diet on the gut microbiome, and on host-microbial interactions. For the past several years, she has been working with Drs. Tao Zhang and Yanyan Li, and her project combines nutritional biochemistry of broccoli sprouts with effects on gut microbes. She obtained her master’s in nutrition in summer 2022, and returned to the Ishaq and Li labs for her PhD!

2022 Norris Charles Clements Graduate Student Award

2020-2021 University of Maine Graduate Student Employee of the Year

Holman, Johanna M., “Prevention of Inflammatory Bowel Disease by Broccoli-sourced and Microbially-produced Bioactives” (2022). University of Maine. Master’s of Science Thesis. 3654.

Google Scholar page pending.

Marissa Kinney

Marissa Kinney, B.S.

Master of Science student, Microbiology

Marissa is a Masters student who loves learning and bench microbiology. She completed her undergraduate at the University of Maine in 2021, earning a BS in Microbiology and a BS in Cellular/Molecular Biology. She devoted a large portion of her time in undergrad to research in the laboratories of Dr. Julie Gosse and Dr. Edward Bernard. After graduating, she worked in the field of public health at UMaine’s Margaret Chase Smith Policy Center, collecting and processing data about violent and drug-related deaths in Maine. While her role at the Center was one she loved dearly, she feels a big pull towards laboratory work and academic research. She joined the Ishaq lab in early 2023 and is excited by the new opportunities this position brings. 

Marissa was awarded a One Health and the Environment NRT Fellowship 2023 – 2024 at UMaine.

Google Scholar Page.

Ashley Reynolds

Doctor of Philosophy student, Human Nutrition and Food Sciences.

Ashley is being co-advisor by Dr. Yanyan Li.

Timothy Hunt

Undergraduate researcher, Pre-Med Biology

Timothy looks to bring empathy, commitment, and solutions to patient care as a physician in Maine. His medical research interests include the microbiomes associated with the digestive system. The Ishaq Lab’s microbiome analysis capabilities and orientation towards treating diseases such as Inflammatory Bowel Disease inspire him. With his dog Trooper, Timothy traverses and kayaks Maine’s forests and lakes during summer and winter breaks.

Benjamin Hunt

Undergraduate researcher, Pre-Med Biology

Benjamin hopes to support patients as they seek to rebuild and strengthen their health. His research interests include the causes of chronic disease and strategies for limiting their occurrence and impact on patients. Diet is a primary factor driving the rise in chronic diseases, and he expects that the work of the Ishaq Lab will contribute to reducing chronic diseases such as Inflammatory Bowel Disease. The lab’s exploration of the gut microbiome has potential for new equitable dietary solutions. Benjamin lives on the Maine coast and enjoys exploring Maine’s seaside and wilderness. 

Alexis Kirkendall

Undergraduate Researcher, Biology, Heidelberg University

Alexis is from Ohio and is majoring in Biology at Heidelberg University. Her research interests are in genetics and she has a love for the fascinating world of microbes. She joined the lab through the Summer 2022 REU, and divided her time researching Cryptosporidium in cows, helping in the MSE Symposium, and aiding in the Camel Rumen Microbiome Project.

Alexis has continued her work remotely, and returned to Maine in summer 2023 as a research assistant for several projects related to gut microbes, diet, and Inflammatory Bowel Disease. She’ll be returning again in January 2024 as a graduate student in the Microbiology program!


Team Scallop

Ayodeji Olaniyi

Ayodeji Olaniyi, B.S.

Master of Science student, Animal Science

Ayodeji is a graduate student in the animal science department. An aspiring and self-motivated student, with practical experience in animal production and proper farm maintenance. Spurred by the needs to improve the production of meat/livestock in Africa and ensure good health and environmental conditions for animals. Also an Animal Science Enthusiast that seeks acquisition of knowledge and the practical use of such knowledge to bridge the gap between research findings and solving Animal production challenges. He joined the lab in 2022 and has been investigating the Vibrio bacteria associated with different scallop hatchery tank systems. Ayodeji is an international student from Nigeria and he is looking forward to all UMaine has to offer in this next phase of his life.

2023 Travel award from the University of Maine Aquaculture Research Institute Rapid Response Fund. 

Keagan Rice

Undergraduate Researcher, Animal and Veterinary Sciences

Keagan is a pre-vet concentration major and is looking forward to one day getting his doctorate. He’s worked extensively in a small practice vet clinic as a vet tech and has experience working with a variety of different animals. This experience has helped to strengthen his desire to come back to Maine to work as a vet one day! He enjoys working in lab settings because they help to work on aseptic techniques which will one day be very useful when performing surgeries.

Sydney Shair

Undergraduate Researcher, Animal and Veterinary Sciences

Sydney has gained experience with various animals starting at Norfolk County Agricultural High School, volunteering at Franklin Park Zoo, and interning at Massachusetts General Hospital while touring various Massachusetts-based biomedical labs. With an interest in animal reproductive physiology, she is hoping to make impactful discoveries in the world of human and animal medicine in reproductive health after pursuing her doctorate.

Lab Affiliates

Adwoa Dankwa

Adwoa Dankwa, M.S., Ph.D.

PostDoctoral Researcher, Human Nutrition and Food Sciences, Adviser: Dr. Jennifer Perry

Dr. Dankwa recently completed her PhD in Food Science and Human Nutrition. Adwoa’s work in the Perry lab is focused on understanding the microbial and chemical composition of fermented non-dairy low alcohol beverages and how these influence consumer acceptability over time. Dr. Ishaq served on Adwoa’s committee to provide expert advice on microbial ecology, DNA sequencing, and bioinformatic analysis. Aside from formal mentorship, Dr. Ishaq provides insight, support, and encouragement in all areas that are deemed helpful in making Adwoa succeed in her program. Adwoa originally hails from Ghana and is loving all the seasons Maine has to offer.

Gloria Adjapong

Gloria Adjapong, Ph.D.

PostDoctoral Fellow

My name is Gloria Adjapong, an Association of Public Health intern/fellow with the University of Maine Cooperative Extension Diagnostics Research Laboratories (UMCEDRL).  I joined UMCEDRL this summer in July, 2022.

I have my PhD in Medical/Clinical Microbiology from the University of Canterbury, New Zealand and my research interest is in infectious diseases and molecular diagnostics. My goals are to achieve a career in identification of emerging/existing microorganisms with the aim of achieving timely and effective therapeutic intervention and also to acquire some knowledge in Bioinformatics, which is applicable in my Public Health career.

Dr Sue Ishaq is one of my mentors and I am currently doing some genomic work in her Laboratory. I hope to acquire new skills in my molecular diagnostics at the end of my fellowship. 

Alice Hotopp

Alice Hotopp, M.S.

Doctorate of Philosophy candidate, Ecology and Environmental Sciences, Advisors: Drs. Kristina Cammen and Brian Olsen.

Alice is a PhD candidate in Ecology and Environmental Sciences, co-advised by Drs. Kristina Cammen and Brian Olsen. Alice is part of the Genomic Ecology of Coastal Organisms (GECO) research group, which studies the genomic basis of adaptation in sparrow species inhabiting tidal salt marshes along the Atlantic coast of North America. Alice’s research focuses on understanding potential evolutionary drivers of plumage coloration, such as plumage microbial communities, in tidal marsh sparrows. 

Research Students mentoredCurrentFormerTotal while at UMaine
Total all195574
PhD, primary mentor404
PhD, committee member224
MS, primary mentor325
MS, committee member145
MPS, primary mentor123
MPS, committee member000
Honors, primary mentor033
Honors, committee member134
Top Scholar022
BS, primary mentor2810
Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU)033

Join the lab

Interested in our work? Please read the information provided to determine if the Ishaq lab might be right for you before inquiring. Still interested? Send your CV and a brief explanation of what you want to study and why you want to join a research lab.

Former lab members