Lab Members

Sana Lab photo

Sana Karam, MD, Ph.D.- Principal Investigator

Welcome to the Karam Lab. I am a physician-scientist and radiation oncologist specializing in treating patients with head and neck, pancreatic, and CNS malignancies. Our laboratory research encompasses both basic and translational components. Our focus is largely to understand how components of the tumor microenvironment contribute to tumor growth, progression, metastasis, and resistance to therapy. We study cellular dialogues between cancer cell and immune cells and other stromal components like vasculature and fibroblasts. We examine signaling mechanisms within the context of tumor immunology or cancer cell survival to explore treatment resistance with the end goal of tumor eradication and clinical translation. But along the way, we let our curious minds wander in response to intriguing twists in the data as we pursue scientific knowledge.

Mike Knitz Lab Photo

Michael Knitz, MS - Research Associate

Mike received his Bachelor’s degree in Molecular and Cell Biology from UC Berkeley and his Master’s degree in Bioinformatics from Northeastern University. In Berkeley, he focused on immunology and biochemistry studies, and in his free time he raced triathlons and volunteered with kids of all ages as a camp counselor and science tutor. In Boston, he primarily focused his Master’s studies in genomics, statistics, and machine learning applications. After moving from California to Colorado, Mike joined the Karam lab and now works primarily on tumor immunology studies as well as RNA-Seq studies in human and mouse applications. In the future, he wishes to expand his knowledge in genetic and genomic applications in the context of oncology. Outside of research, Mike enjoys cycling, swimming, camping, chess, and the occasional relaxing afternoon in Cheesman Park in Denver.

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Jacob Gadwa, MS - Senior Professional Research Assistant/Lab Manager

Jake is a Colorado native and attended Colorado State University in his hometown of Fort Collins. During his time at CSU he received both a Bachelor’s degree in biological science and Master’s degree in microbiology, all the while competing and serving as head coach of the CSU climbing team. After graduation he stayed at Colorado State, researching antimicrobial compounds for use against drug resistant strains of Mycobacterium tuberculosis. Jake joined the Karam lab in the fall of 2019 and is currently focused on understanding how combination radio-immunotherapies modulate anti-tumor immune response in the tumor microenvironments at both local and distant sites. Outside of lab, Jake is an avid climber and enjoys traveling, hiking, cooking, golf, and board games.

Ben Van Court Lab Photo

Benjamin Van Court, BS – Professional Research Assistant


Ben received his B.S. in Electrical Engineering and Engineering Physics at University of Colorado, Boulder, where he worked as a tutor and on image and signal processing research. He manages the image-guided small animal radiotherapy core and is pursuing an M.S. in Bioengineering. He produces and composes music in his spare time.

Diemmy Nguyen Lab Photo

Diemmy Nguyen, BS - Professional Research Assistant

Diemmy is currently a senior at the University of Colorado at Boulder. She is majoring in Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology as well as Spanish for Health Professions. Diemmy is also in the process of completing a Public Health Certificate. In the future, she aspires to attend medical school. She hopes to practice medicine in vulnerable and medically under-served  communities. In her free time, Diemmy enjoys working out, hiking, drawing, and spending time with her friends and family. 


Brooke Neupert - Professional Research Assistant

Brooke is originally from Spokane, Washington, and earned her B.A. in Astronomy and Physics from Whitman College in 2021. Her undergraduate interests included supermassive black holes, cosmology, and dark matter particle physics. She joined the Karam lab in August 2021 as a PRA and is the manager of the Small-Animal Image Guided Irradiation Shared Resource. Her current research revolves around ways to improve the methodology of small-animal irradiation and CT scanning, and the analysis of CT scans. Outside of the lab, Brooke enjoys climbing, skiing, hiking, drawing, sewing, and playing Dungeons and Dragons. 


Laurel Darragh, BS - MD/PhD Student

Laurel earned her undergraduate degree from Cornell University. Her undergraduate work primarily focused on how TLR2 and TLR4 can block the replication of pancreatic beta cells. Currently, Laurel’s research is focused on how T cells traffic to the tumor microenvironment. Clinically, Laurel hopes to join a PSTP residency program in internal medicine and later specialize in medical oncology. When Laurel is not in the lab, she enjoys skiing, hiking, and spending time with family and friends.

Sophia Lab photo

Sophia Corbo, BS - PhD Student

Sophia grew up in Connecticut before earning her B.S. in Biology from Widener University in 2020. Her undergraduate work primarily focused on the molecular mechanisms that promote breast cancer aggression. Currently, Sophia’s research is focused on how Eph-Ephrin signaling promotes angiogenesis while suppressing immunosurveillance in the tumor microenvironment in head and neck squamous cell carcinoma. When Sophia is not in the lab, she enjoys hiking, going to concerts, sailing, paddle boarding, playing fetch with her dog, and getting together with friends.



Nick Lab Photo

Nick Olimpo, BS - PhD Student

Nick was born and raised in Philadelphia where he graduated from Temple University with a bachelor's degree in Neuroscience.  His undergraduate research work focused on how environmental stress impacts substance use disorder during adolescence.  Following graduation Nick's research interests shifted towards cancer therapy where he worked as a PRA for the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia focusing on improving CAR-T efficacy in solid tumor models.  Currently, Nick is a member of the Cancer Biology program interested in studying the immune context of Head and Neck Cancer.  In his off time he enjoys gardening, cycling, and watching Formula 1.

Maureen Karam Bio

Maureen Hoen, BS - PhD Student

Maureen grew up in Buffalo, NY (Go Bills). She graduated with Honors from Clarkson University with a B.S. in Chemical Engineering. Post-graduation, she worked as a research associate at Pfizer, where she supported mammalian cell culture process development for monoclonal antibody production and investigated the use of a microbioreactor system to mimic bench-scale perfusion processes. After 3 years, she transitioned to a scientist role at Novartis, where she optimized media and process parameters for autologous CAR-T cell products. Her scientific curiosity and desire to have a bigger impact on patients’ lives led her to pursue graduate studies. She is primarily interested in cancer-immune cell crosstalk in solid tumor microenvironments and utilization of epitope spreading to treat metastasis. In her free time, Maureen enjoys hiking, skiing, homebrewing, seeing live music, hot yoga, baking, and spending time with her fiancé and dog in their new home.  


Richard Blake Ross, MD - Radiation Oncology Resident

Blake grew up in Nashville, Tennessee and graduated from the University of Tennessee with a nuclear engineering degree followed by a degree in medicine from Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine in 2019. After studying HPV-related head and neck cancer in medical school, he joined the Karam lab to complete a research year during his 4th year of radiation oncology residency with a  focus on immunometabolomics and combining radiotherapy with immunomodulation. Outside of work, he is an avid college sports fan, plays golf, and enjoys listening to live music.


Justin Yu, MD - Otolaryngology Head and Neck Surgical Resident

Justin was raised in Bartlesville, Oklahoma and graduated from Duke University with a degree in biomedical engineering. He completed medical school at Baylor College of Medicine and is currently a resident physician in Otolaryngology – Head & Neck Surgery at the University of Colorado. He is interested in head and neck surgical oncology, and he has published in the fields of surgical outcomes research, quality improvement, and surgery in low resource communities. In the Karam Lab, he is currently studying the role of B-cells in head and neck cancer, with an emphasis on developing a model for better understanding HPV+ disease. Outside of work, he enjoys travelling, hiking in beautiful Colorado, skiing, fantasy football, and spending time with his wife in their new home

Lab Alumni


Thomas Bickett, PhD: Senior Scientist - ImmunityBio, Louisville, CO

Shilpa Bhatia, PhD: Senior Scientist - Repertoire Immune Medicines, Boston, MA

Miles Piper, BS: MSTP Student - University of Utah, Salt Lake City

Sanjana Bukkapatnam, BSMedical Student - University of Colorado, Denver

Tiffany Pham, MD: Otolaryngology Head and Neck Surgery - University of Colorado

Ayman Oweida, PhD: Assistant Professor - University of Sherbrook

Adam Mueller, MD, PhD: Assistant Professor - Thomas Jefferson University

Mohammad Hararah, MD, MPH: Head and Neck Surgery Fellow - Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center

Nimrah Baig, MD: Pediatrics Fellow - Cincinnati Children's Hospital 

Jaspreet Sharma, PhD: Research Instructor - University of North Carolina, Charlotte


Anastacia Griego, PhD: Microbiologist - New Mexico Department of Health

Andy Phan, MD: Pathology Resident - Cornell University

Kellen Hirsch, MD: Pulmonary Critical Care/Medicine Resident - University of Washington

Shelby Lennon, BS: PhD Student in Biochemistry - University of Colorado, Boulder

Shiv Bhuvane, BS: Medical Student - Nova Southeastern University

Dallin Millner, BS: Medical Student - University of Colorado, Denver



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