Shernita Lee, Ph.D.

    Cystic Fibrosis/Pulmonary Research


  • Virginia Tech- Genetics, Bioinformatics, and Computational Biology


    Robert Tarran, Ph.D.


Growing up in Birmingham, Alabama, my parents always took advantage of academic programs and camps to enhance my curiosity in the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields. I discovered at an early age I had an interest in mathematics and initially aspired to become a high school math teacher. After completion of my bachelors of science in mathematics from Alabama State University, I discovered I also had an interest in biology. I became exposed to the vast applications of mathematics to biology and that the growing field of computational biology was where I wanted and needed to be. Being at the interface of mathematics, biology, and computer science, not only played an influential role in my research interests but also in my passion for outreach, especially to underrepresented minorities and women in the STEM fields.

My graduate work was completed at Virginia Tech in the genetics, bioinformatics, and computational biology program under the guidance of Dr (s). Reinhard Laubenbacher and Christopher Lawrence. My research focused on using computational approaches to analyze the effects of Aspergillus fumigatus on airway epithelial cells, particularly honing in on the immune response and intracellular iron regulation. While at Virginia Tech, I organized outreach programs to recruit and retain underrepresented graduate students, summer workshops for middle school students, and advised undergraduate students during summer research projects. I am passionate about the power of mentors and what it can do to encourage future generations to pursue STEM fields. I hope through my SPIRE experience to continue these efforts!

While at UNC, I will work under the mentorship of Dr. Robert Tarran to study cystic fibrosis using computational methods and also incorporation of experimental biology techniques. I am excited to work with Dr. Tarran since his work also focuses on the lung epithelium, but investigates more refined intracellular mechanisms in diseased and normal states. Participation in the SPIRE program will help me continue to mature as a young computational biologist as well as develop professionally by teaching innovative courses at the partner institutions. My goal is to use this experience to impact and diversify the computational biology and STEM fields. 


  • Spring 2016
    • Introduction to Bioinformatics, Johnson C. Smith University


  • Ghosh A, Abdelwahab SH, Reeber SL, Reidel B, Marklew AJ,Garrison AJ, Lee S, Dang H, Herring AH, Glish GL, Kesimer, M, Tarran R. 2017. Little Cigars are More Toxic than Cigarettes and Uniquely Change the Airway Gene and Protein Expression. Sci Rep. 2017 Apr 27;7:46239. doi: 10.1038/srep46239. PMCID: PMC5406835

  • Temperance R Rowell, Steven L Reeber, Shernita L Lee, Rachel A Harris, Rachel C Nethery, Amy H Herring, Gary L Glish, Robert Tarran. Flavored E-cigarette Liquids Reduce Proliferation and Viability in the CALU3 Airway Epithelial Cell Line. 2017. American Journal of Physiology - Lung Cellular and Molecular Physiology.

  • Michael J. Watson, Shernita L. Lee, Abigail J. Marklew, Rodney C. Gilmore, Martina Gentzsch, Maria F. Sassano, Michael A. Gray, Robert Tarran. 2016. The Cystic Fibrosis Transmembrane Conductance Regulator (CFTR) Uses its C-Terminus to Regulate the A2B Adenosine Receptor. Scientific Reports 6.PMCID: PMC4899698.