Meet the Team


Principal Investigator


Vice Chair for Research in Head & Neck Oncology
Associate Member, Department of Tumor Biology

Dr. Amelio is a first generation American-Italian scientist that was born and raised in the ‘backyard’ of NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida. Inspired by NASA scientists and engineers, and other immigrant scientists to the U.S. that established successful scientific careers, Dr. Amelio developed a deep passion for scientific inquiry and the pursuit of new knowledge for the benefit of humanity from an early age. He was recruited to the Moffitt Cancer Center & Research Institute in 2022 as the inaugural Vice Chair for Research in Head & Neck Oncology. Prior to this, he was at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill from 2014-2022 where he rose through the ranks to Tenured Associate Professor and Director of Graduate Studies. In 2019 received the Joseph Lister Young Investigator Award and received two consecutive awards in 2020 and 2021 for Excellence in Basic Science Mentoring from the UNC School of Medicine. He graduated summa cum laude with a Bachelor’s degree in Microbiology and Cell Science and then received a concurrent Masters of Business and PhD in Molecular Genetics from the University of Florida in 2004 and 2005, respectively. From 2006-2014 he was a Postdoctoral Fellow and Staff Scientist at The Scripps Research Institute where he received a NIH/NCI Ruth L. Kirschstein National Research Service Award Post-Doctoral Fellowship (F32) followed by a NIH/NCI Howard Temin Pathway to Independence Award in Cancer Research (K99/R00). His cross-disciplinary approach to science draws from nearly thirty years of experience, with roots in developmental and marine biology and expertise in virology, molecular and cell biology, tumor biology, and more recently chemical and synthetic biology. He enjoys sharing his passion for science with others and loves fly fishing and spending time outdoors with his wife, three boys, and boxer.

Lab Coordinator


Research Lab Coordinator, Department of Tumor Biology

I have 15 years of experience in molecular biology, cell biology, immunology and 13 years of experience in Flow Cytometry. I obtained my Bachelor’s Degree in Biological Sciences from Eckerd College in Saint Petersburg, Florida in 2001. My prior work experience was with Dr. Nascone-Yoder in the creation of an RNA probe library of the embryonic heart in Xenopus Laevis, Dr. Bradley in the purification of a pinecone extract and the identification of it’s immunological effects in dendritic cells, Dr. Pinilla-Ibarz in Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia Biology and immunologic micro-environment and most recently with Dr. Conejo-Garcia developing immunotherapies in Ovarian Carcinomas, Cutaneous T cell Lymphoma and Colorectal metastases. In my time off I enjoy a good IPA, working on our small “farm” of 14 chickens, 2 beehives and a Certified Florida Wildlife Habitat yard and working on creating a small ceramic studio.

Bioinformatics Scientist

Jay Mehta, MS

Bioinformatics Scientist

Jay Mehta is a recent graduate with a Master's in Pharmaceutical Sciences from the University of Southern California. Originally from India, he earned his Bachelor's in Pharmacy before moving to the US in 2021. In addition to his master's thesis, which focused on developing a centralized repository for high-throughput TCR-Seq data analysis with a population-based genomics emphasis, Jay has hands-on experience in RNA-seq analysis. His work in this area involved discerning differences between resolving and persistent cases of sepsis by building a pipeline using various bioinformatic tools. Beyond academia, Jay enjoys outdoor activities, particularly soccer, travelling and going on road trips.

Postdoctoral Fellows




Postdoctoral Fellow, Department of Tumor Biology

Sonal moved to the United States in 2022 to pursue her scientific interests and joined Dr. Amelio’s lab at Moffitt Cancer Center. Prior to this, she worked as a Project Scientist at the National Institute of Cancer Prevention and Research (Noida, India) in a National Taskforce project funded by the Indian Council of Medical Research which focused on the identification and characterization of the microbiota associated with smokeless tobacco products and the buccal mucosa of the users. Sonal received her Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in Zoology from the University of Delhi, India after which she embarked on her doctoral research at CSIR- Central Drug Research Institute in the city of Lucknow which is also her hometown. Her research focused on the role of natural bioactive compounds in ameliorating the toxic effects of chemopreventive agents and enhancing their therapeutic efficacy in inhibiting cancer proliferation. Gardening was her stressbuster back home but here in the ‘Sunshine State of Florida’, a visit to the beach is something she looks forward to on a day off from the lab, seeking solace away from home.



Postdoctoral Fellow, Department of Tumor Biology

Harish was born in a Marathi Indian family and was raised in the state of Maharashtra who always aspired to become a scientist since his childhood. In this pursuit, he obtained a Bachelor’s degree in Pharmacy from the Government College of Pharmacy, Amravati and later went to the National Institute of Pharmaceutical Education and Research, Hajipur to obtain Master’s degree in Pharmaceutical Biotechnology. For his master’s dissertation project, he worked at the UM-DAE Center for Excellence in Basic Sciences, Mumbai with Dr. Jacinta D’Souza and Prof. Deepak Mathur from the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research, Mumbai. There, he studied the effect of intense ultrashort laser pulses on DNA and identified the unique mechanism of DNA damage induced by this non-ionizing laser through the involvement of low energy electrons and free radicals. It was his dissertation project which gave an impetus to his childhood wish of pursuing science as his career. Harish further joined the Advanced Center for Treatment Research and Education in Cancer-Tata Memorial Center, Mumbai for PhD in the Neuro-Oncology Lab with Prof. Neelam V. Shirsat. In his PhD work, he studied the functional role of two microRNAs miR-193a and miR-204 in the pathogenesis of medulloblastoma, a pediatric brain tumor. He also contributed to the projects studying the functional role of genes like DDX3X, ARID1B and CRX in medulloblastoma pathogenesis, which are known to be mutated or deregulated in medulloblastoma subgroups. Apart from his research work, Harish enjoys cooking Indian food, is a sports enthusiast and seeks his deep roots to the Indian culture by reading and learning ancient Indian history.

Graduate Students



PhD Candidate, Cancer Biology Major

Julia earned her Bachelor's degree in Biomedical Science from Eckerd College, where she began her introduction to cancer research as a student volunteer in the ICU at Moffitt Cancer Center. She received a Master's degree in Molecular Medicine from the University of South Florida for her work focused on understanding the metabolic suppression of T cell activation in tumor microenvironments. This was followed by research conducted on MPLW515L myeloproliferative neoplasms and CD8 T cell bioenergetics, which culminated in two publications. She is currently a doctoral candidate in the Moffitt/USF Cancer Biology PhD program and served as the President of the Cancer Biology Student Organization. Her graduate research in the Amelio Lab aims to investigate mechanisms of salivary mucoepidermoid carcinoma tumorigenesis using GEMM models and integrated bioinformatics approaches. Julia is a native Floridian and outside of the lab enjoys cooking, cinema, and 19th-century English literature.


Visiting Research Scholars



PhD Candidate, Pathology

Jason grew up in Athens, Greece and began traveling to the United States in 2013-2016 for several clinical externships. Jason is currently an MD-PhD student at the University of Athens and a Visiting Research Scholar in the Amelio Lab interested in molecular carcinogenesis and biomarkers. He previously received a Doctor of Medicine in Dentistry (DMD) degree from the University of Athens, Greece, graduating as his class valedictorian. His clinical interests are focused on Otolaryngology/ Head and Neck Surgery. Outside of his clinical and research studies, he enjoys European and American cinema, classic and modern literature, and outdoor activities (running, water polo, and swimming).

Technicians and Undergraduates



I am a Senior at the University of South Florida majoring in biology. My academic journey started in 2019 when I moved to America from Italy. I was born and raised in a small town in Northern Italy called Arona and I moved to the United States at the age of 17 looking for more opportunities in the research field. I attended Saddlebrook Preparatory School for one year and graduated high school in 2020. Throughout my time at USF my passion for research has flourished even further. The university’s environment and diverse opportunities have deepened my curiosity and dedication to the field. In my free time I enjoy playing tennis and I’m part of USF’s club tennis team. I also love reading history books as well as watching historical movies. 


We're always looking for motivated students so please contact us if you're interested!

Amelio Lab Alumni

Dr. Kshitij Parag-Sharma, PhD

Scientist I, Discovery Research, SOTIO Biotech Inc.

Bryan Labra

BS, UNC-NCSU Biomedical Engineering; Manufacturing Associate at Cell Microsystems

Dr. Weida Gong, PhD


Dr. Surya Kant Tripathi, PhD

Postdoctoral Fellow;UNC-CH Eschelman School of Pharmacy

Christine Thai

UNC-CH Medical Student

Jacob Locklear

BS, UNC-CH Biology Major; UNC-CH Chancellor’s Science Scholar

Claire Moxham

UNC-CH Undergraduate in Chemistry, Carolina Research Scholar

Dr. Ryan Murphy, PhD

Clinical Research Manager, Kite Pharma

Dr. Yi-Hsuan Tsai, PhD

Director, Bioinformatics at CytomX Therapeutics

Dr. Adele Musicant, PhD

Medical Writer, PRECISIONscientia

Dr. Kotaro Sato, DDS, PhD

Assistant Professor, Nagoya University Hospital Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery

Chloe Twomey

BS, UNC-CH Biology Major; Clinical Research Assistant Moderna and Novavax vaccine trials

Julie Nguyen

UNC-CH Undergraduate in Biology, minors in Chemistry and Neuroscience

Dr. Miranda Carper, PhD

Virology Quality Assurance Program Manager; Duke Human Vaccine Institute

Dr. Siddharth Sheth, DO, MPH

Assistant Professor; UNC-CH Department of Medicine

Erich Mildner

Emory University Undergraduate Program in Biology

Dr. Colin O'Bannion, PhD

Postdoctoral Fellow; Max Plank Institute for Neuroscience

Dr. George "Chip" Getz, DDS, MS

Private Practice, General Dentist

Anna Zhang

DDS1 First-Year; UNC-CH Adams School of Dentistry

Sophia Raterman

UNC-CH Chancellor's Science Scholar

Erin Henry

QC Analyst II; Lonza Bioscience, Research Triangle Park

Dr. Sasha Betz, DDS, MS

US Naval Officer, Oral Pathologist

Saumya Goel

UNC-CH Carolina Research Scholar; UNC-CH Adams School of Dentistry

Shaily Aghera

UNC-CH Chancellor’s Science Scholar; ECU School of Dental Medicine

Sonam Saxena

UNC-CH Undergraduate Program in Biology

Anna Adjei

UNC-CH Chancellor’s Science Scholar

Paul Brocklebank

UNC-CH Undergraduate Program in Biology

Naseeruddin ("Naseer") Ahmed

ECU Brody School of Medicine

Jordi Gaton

UNC-CH Carolina Millennial Scholar; Medical College of Georgia