Lab Members

Dr. Russell (Chip) Norris, PhD

Dr. Norris is a professor in the department of Regenerative Medicine and Cell Biology at MUSC. Originally from Cincinnati, Ohio, he graduated from MUSC in 2000 with a PhD in biomedical sciences with a focus on genetics and molecular biology. Following two postdoctoral fellowship at MUSC he was recruited in 2007 to stay at MUSC and open his research lab. In past 15 years, Dr. Norris rose precipitously through the ranks and has now become full professor with tenure in the department of regenerative medicine and cell biology. His large and integrated lab has orchestrated significant breakthroughs in the fields of genetics and connective tissue disease with papers in Science, Circulation, Nature Genetics and Nature. Through trans-Atlantic collaborations, Dr. Norris has become recognized globally for his work and vision and is frequently a sought after speaker. He has published over 100 scientific articles and has given >200 talks globally. He has a strong dedication to student training and has mentored >100 students either directly or in his capacity as former graduate coordinator. He has a 100% success rate for independent student funding and nearly all graduates have gone on to obtain impressive leadership positions in both academia and industry.

Current Norris Lab Members

Lilong (Leon) Guo, MD, PhD

Post Doctoral Scholar

Leon is a postdoctoral scholar in the Norris Lab and previously got his MD in China. He achieved his Ph.D. at Chip's lab in 2021. Leon’s research interests are in hEDS and cardiac valve development.


Tyler Beck, PhD

MD student, Post Doctoral Scholar
Tyler Beck is a 7th year MD/PhD student from Cleveland, Ohio. Tyler’s research utilizes machine learning tools to design safer drugs. He is specifically interested in developing novel drug candidates to be applied to cutaneous, cardiovascular, and connective tissue diseases. His clinical interests include connective tissue disease, inflammatory skin conditions, and complex medical dermatology.

Cortney Gensemer, PhD

Post Doctoral Scholar

Cortney is a postdoctoral scholar from Lancaster, Pennsylvania. Cortney graduated from West Chester University of Pennsylvania in 2018 with a bachelor's in Pharmaceutical Product Development. She acheived her PhD in the Norris lab in 2022. Her current research is focused on the genetic and molecular mechanisms of hypermobile Ehlers Danlos Syndrome (hEDS). She hopes to advance diagnostic tools to accurately diagnose hEDS and develop therapies to treat the disease. Beyond basic science, Cortney aims to transform clinical care for hEDS patients through the development of a multidisciplinary EDS clinic made up of clinical experts on the disease. Cortney is also a member of the alliance for disability advocacy at MUSC and is an outspoken advocate for disabilities in STEM.

Jordan Morningstar

MD Student, PhD Candidate

Jordan Morningstar is a fourth year MD-PhD student in the Norris lab from Ann Arbor, Michigan. His research investigates how biomechanical forces stimulate connective tissue synthesis and scar formation in the heart. This irreversible condition, known as cardiac fibrosis, is poorly understood, has no therapy, and is a significant contributor to morbidity and mortality. As a future preventative cardiologist, Jordan hopes to take discoveries made in the Norris lab and bring them to the clinic to help prevent or reverse heart disease, improve quality of life, and save lives.


Taylor Petrucci

MS Student
Taylor is a first year M.S. student from Walpole, Massachusetts. She graduated from Clemson University in May of 2021 with a Bachelor’s in Psychology. Taylor’s current research utilizes proteomics approaches to define molecular mechanisms of hEDS. She is interested in genetics and the various comorbidities associated with EDS.

Julianna Weninger

Research Specialist

Julianna is from Charleston, SC. She earned a Bachelors of Arts in Human Services with a concentration in Child and Family Services from Southern New Hampshire University in 2021. She also previously attended Lander University for nursing. She is passionate about hEDS research and patient advocacy. In addition to working in the lab, Julianna serves on multiple committees at MUSC through the Patient and Family Advisory Council. She also chairs the Bobby Jones Chiari and Syringomyelia Foundation Unite@Night Walk each year.

Erika Bistran

Research Specialist

Erika Bistran is from Dunmore Pennsylvania. She earned her bachelor's degree in Biology from Marywood University in Scranton, PA. She is currently taking a gap year and has decided to move to SC to peruse working in a research lab. She decided to join the Norris lab because of her interest in cardiovascular studies and learning more about EDS. She is currently working as a Research Specialists in hopes of returning for her PhD in the future.

Jennie Kwon, MD

CT Resident

Jennie Kwon is a cardiothoracic surgery resident from Clemson, SC. She is interested in developing growing valve replacement strategies for babies and children with valve diseases that currently have few surgical options for treatment. As a postdoctoral research fellow, she has developed animal surgical models for valve transplantation and is studying the developmental biology and immunology of transplanted heart valves.


Rebecca Byrd

Medical Student

Rebecca Byrd is a native of the Charleston area. She graduated from Wofford College in 2020 with a Bachelor of Science in Biology. After spending a gap year involved with orthopedic research, Rebecca is now a second-year medical student interested in the complications of joint hypermobility in hEDS. She is passionate about patient advocacy, increasing physician awareness, and identifying potential treatments for those with hEDS.

Kendra Springs

Undergraduate Student

Kendra Springs is a Junior at the College of Charleston studying chemistry. She is testing novel drug candidates for the treatment of skin diseases.


Le Mai

Medical Student

Le Mai is a second year medical student in the College of Medicine from Rock Hill, SC. Aside from completing her preclerkship curriculum, she joined the Norris lab with interests in cardiovascular research, specifically in the development of mitral valve prolapse.


Joshua Kerns, MD

Volunteer Research Assistant

Joshua is an Associate Professor in the Physician Assistant Program at Charleston Southern University. He teaches Human Anatomy and Basic Sciences courses to first year PA students. Two of his children have hEDS. He is privileged to be able to volunteer his time in the Norris Lab to assist with any research activities that will help with the diagnosis and treatment of hEDS.


Current SCTR Clinical Coordinators


Emily RichardsonMonica ReyesStefani PiacentineWill KirklandRion Campbell

Previous Norris Lab Members

Kelsey Moore, PhD

Kelsey Moore received her PhD in 2021 from the Norris Lab. Her dissertation work was focused on the genetic and molecular mechanisms underlying mitral valve development and disease. Following completion of her degree, Kelsey joined HistoWiz in Brooklyn, NY as a Business Development Executive to advance their immunofluorescence and digital histopathology platforms.

Diana Fulmer, PhD

Diana Fulmer is passionate about investigating the molecular mechanisms leading to the development of congenital heart diseases. Diana’s PhD dissertation work in the Norris Lab examined ciliogenesis and cilia signaling in the context of mitral valve prolapse and bicuspid aortic valve disease. After graduation, she joined the lab of Dr. Jonathan Epstein to continue her postdoctoral training at the University of Pennsylvania. Her current projects focus on understanding how epigenetic regulation of the 4D nucleome influences cardiac tissue specificity and the development of congenital heart defects.

Rachel Biggs

PhD Student

Rachel Biggs is a 2nd year PhD student in the Norris Lab from Charleston, SC. She completed her bachelor's degree in Biology in 2020 from the College of Charleston. Rachel is interested in comorbidites of hypermobile Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome (hEDS), including gastrointestinal complications and mast cell activation syndrome (MCAS). She hopes to uncover relationships between altered connective tissue biology and mast cell disease in patients with hEDS.

Elena Wilson

Elena is a senior at UNC getting her bachelors degree in nutrition with a chemistry minor. Elena was a 2021 SURP student in the Norris Lab and plans to attend medical school in the future.


Natalie Koren

Research Specialist

Natalie Koren is from Cincinnati, Ohio and graduated from College of Charleston in 2017. She joined the lab in 2020 as the lab technician and has since transitioned into one of the clinical coordinators in the Norris Lab's hEDS research study.


Ayesha Vohra

Medical Student

Ayesha Vohra is a second-year medical student from Richmond, Virginia. Ayesha is studying the pathogenesis of myocardial fibrosis secondary to mechanical tension and the role it plays in the development of cardiovascular disease. She is interested in combining her research interests with her passion for global health by examining the social factors that contribute to cardiovascular disease in underprivileged populations around the world.

Kristina Stayer

Research Specialist

Kristina has a B.S. in genetics from North Carolina State University in 2021 and was a previous SURP student in the Norris Lab. She is currenly working as a research specialist before beginning her PhD at MUSC in the fall of 2022.

Sofia Luzbetak

Sofia is a biochemistry student at University of California San Diego and joined the Norris Lab as a 2021 HIP intern. Upon completion of her degree, Sofia hopes to go into a career in EDS research and pursue a PhD. Sofia is interested in drug metabolism, POTS, proprioception and their relationship to hEDS.

Katherine Singleton

Katherine is a junior at Clemson University majoring in biochemistry and was a 2021 HIP intern. After graduation, she hopes to go on to obtain a PhD and practice clinical genetics. Katherine’s main research interests are in the molecular pathways of genetic connective tissue disorders, as well as comorbidities of EDS such as POTS/dysautonomia.


Deatra Bear

Deatra Bear is a senior at the University of Colorado Denver working on her Bachelor of Arts in Psychology. She hopes to apply and gain admission to a Doctorate of Occupational Therapy (O.T.D) program and become a Certified Hand Therapist. She is currently a member of YARR, Global Genes, Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society, and NORDs Colorado Rare Action Network. She is passionate about helping patients with rare and chronic diseases get the help they need. Deatra was a 2021 HIP Intern in the Norris Lab.

Roman Fenner

Roman is a senior at Davidson College and is a double major in biology and music. Roman hopes to attend medical school after his undergraduate degree and become a physician and advocate for EDS patients. His research interests are in mechanisms underlying ligament and joint laxity in hEDS. Roman was a 2021 HIP intern in the Norris Lab.

Rebecca Stairley

Rebecca graduated with a B.S. in Biology from Agnes Scott College in 2017, where her interest in biomedical research first began. After college, she had the opportunity to work with Dr. Norris at MUSC and pursue research in Cardiovascular Biology and Valve Diseases as a lab technician. Working closely with the graduate students fostered her passion for research, and she joined the PhD program at MUSC in 2019. Her interest in cardiovascular biology led her to join the Tao lab, where she began work with induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) to study cardiomyocyte regeneration. Her project will use genetic (CRISPR) screens to identify genes that aid in cell survival in order to develop novel therapies for myocardial infarction.


Sydney Levy

Sydney Levy is a senior at Byram Hills High School in Armonk, New York. She is working through her school’s science research program to explore mitral valve prolapse. During the summer of 2021, Sydney was a member of the Norris Lab. She performed experiments focusing on fibrosis resulting from mitral valve prolapse. She hopes to become a doctor and continue to conduct scientific research.

Janiece Glover, MS

Janiece Glover is a native of Charleston, SC and received her B.S. in Biology from Spelman College in Atlanta, GA. She joined the Norris Lab in the Fall of 2017 when she enrolled in MUSC’s Master of Science in Biomedical Science. Her thesis project was The Interaction of Prpf8 and Dzip1 and its Role in Mitral Valve Prolapse, which focused on uncovering a potential mechanism behind MVP. After she graduated in May of 2019, she took on a different role in the lab as a Research Specialist I, continuing the work of her thesis project as well as assisting other lab mates with their research. Her time in the Norris Lab cultivated her love for the sciences and provided a solid foundation in research that she continues to carry with her. Currently, Janiece she is a PhD student at MUSC under the mentorship of Dr. Melinda Engevik, where she studies microbial-host crosstalk specifically how pathogens colonize and subvert the mucus layer to cause infection.

Mary Kate Rumph, MS

Mary Kate Rumph received her Master’s in 2020 from the Norris lab. Her thesis focused on the underlying mechanisms of the development mitral valve prolapse. She is currently a high school science teacher at the Charleston County School of the Arts.


Christina Hastings

HIP Intern 2022

Christina is a sophomore at Emory University majoring in chemistry and psychology. After graduation, she hopes to continue researching hEDS and possibly go to medical school to treat patients with hEDS and other rare diseases. She is interested in the effects of hormones in hEDS and the underlying biological mechanisms.

Emily Oberlies

HIP Intern 2022

Emily Oberlies is a first-year osteopathic medical student at Touro University-Nevada. She is excited to participate in EDS research to learn about its molecular effects in order to be a primary care provider practicing evidence-based medicine grounded in research.

Victoria Daylor

HIP Intern 2022

Victoria Daylor is currently a first-year student in the Postbac Premedical Program at Columbia University after receiving a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in Contemporary Dance Performance from The Boston Conservatory. As her interest in biomedical research has expanded, this led her to co-found the Postbac Premed Journal Club with hopes of creating a community of future physicians who have the skills to engage with current research in their field. Next, she plans to attend medical school and one day blend her background in artistic movement with her drive to treat patients with connective tissue disorders, such as hEDS.

Elsie Devey

HIP Intern 2022

Elsie is a rising junior at Columbia University studying Biomedical Engineering. She is from Traverse City, Michigan, where she attended Interlochen Arts Academy for classical ballet. Her primary interests include invisible illnesses, patient advocacy, disability justice, and public health. Elsie is a member of the Society of Women Engineers and the sexual assault awareness chair for the Gamma Tau Chapter. Last summer, Elsie received the Ng Teng Fong Internship Fund to assist in the Nanotherapeutics and Stem Cell Engineering Lab at Columbia University.


Ella Zientara

HIP Intern 2022

Ella is a junior Biochemistry major at Occidental College. She hopes to pursue an MD/PhD after undergrad to become a cardiothoracic surgeon and treat EDS patients with cardiovascular comorbidities. She is most interested in abnormal wound healing, autonomic dysfunction, and cardiovascular issues associated with hEDS.

Melfry Gonzalez

2022 SURP Student

Melfry is a biology major from the University of South Carolina-Beaufort. This summer she worked in the Norris Lab alongside Jordan Morningstar on a research project on Dynamic Control of Mechanosensitive Proteins on Human Cardiac Fibroblasts associated with Mitral Valve Prolapse and regionalized left ventricular fibrosis. She is passionate about both science and medicine but, one of Melfry’s many goals are attending medical school, becoming a physician, and advocating for quality care in the Latin community.


Other previous members of the Norris Lab:

Christina Wang

Reece Moore

Katelyn Toomer, PhD

Kim Sauls, PhD

Annemarieke deVlaming

Tahirali Moltiwala

Lauren Fanning

Alex Drohan

Josh Nguyen

Neal Peterson

Ka’la Drayton

Breiona Catchings

Sandra Ramos-Ortiz

Sameer Abrol

Justin Bian

Madison Webb

Audrey Wimberly

Faith Emetu

Akasha Stevenson

Annette Krzyzanski