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About Us

We are members of the Vanderbilt Biochemistry Department working to foster a rich, welcoming environment for all in the department.

Please check out our blog, “Conversations with Vandy Biochemistry: Celebrating our Differences and Shared Experiences” for interviews with our fellow colleagues on topics of diversity, equity, and inclusion.

For more resources, volunteer opportunities, and upcoming events, visit the main Biochemistry Department site here and check our events page.

Kathryn Brewer
brewer_photo Kathryn is a graduate student with interests in structural biology, membranes, and the impact of protein mutations on disease. She enjoys making sourdough bread, singing with her local church choir, and going on coffee dates with her girlfriends.
Tyler Hansen
Tyler_Hansen_HeadShot Tyler is a graduate student interested in gene regulation and its role in human evolution. He enjoys hiking with his family, reading science fiction novels, and trying out the local coffee shops in Nashville.
Manuel Ascano, Jr., Ph.D.
ascano_0006_Ascano-Manuel Manuel (Manny) is an Associate Professor of Biochemistry. His research interests include host-pathogen interactions, nucleic acid sensing, and post-transcriptional gene regulation in innate immunity. Similar to many people in science, he has faced imposter syndrome at all stages of his career regarding both scientific ability and a feeling of otherness. He continues to learn about his own sense of belonging with respect to DEI and is developing a broader appreciation of how different forms of inclusivity can have a profoundly chronic impact on one’s career.
Yi Ren, Ph.D.
Yi_Ren Yi is an Assistant Professor of Biochemistry. She uses structural biology to study how mRNAs are exported out of the nucleus to the cytoplasm for protein translation. She enjoys hiking and spotting wildlife with her family.
Verda Agan, M.S.
verda_agan Verda is a first-generation Turkish-American graduate student and the first person in her extended family to pursue a Ph.D. in basic sciences. She is passionate about increasing diversity and representation of minorities and marginalized individuals in STEM.
Emily Hodges, Ph.D.
Emily Hodges, Ph.D. Pioneers of Discovery feature Biochemistry Vanderbilt University Medical Center photo: Anne Rayner; VU Emily is an Assistant Professor of Biochemistry and member of the Vanderbilt Genetics Institute with interests in understanding the role of epigenetics and non-coding genetic variation in gene regulation, cellular development, and human disease. She loves traveling, live music and watching cooking shows.
Alexandra Blee, Ph.D.
blee_photo Alex is a postdoctoral research fellow with interests in precision medicine, tumor genomics, and the structure and function of DNA damage repair proteins. She is passionate about amplifying the many unique voices in our department. In her spare time, she loves to venture outside on long runs!


Carlos F. Lopez, Ph.D. (former founding member)
lopez_photo Carlos is a Principal Scientist and Lead at Altos Labs. Prior to this appointment, he was an Associate Professor of Biochemistry, Biomedical Informatics, and Mechanical Engineering at Vanderbilt University, and was the founding head of the Biochemistry Department’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee. He enjoys going on walks or drives with his family, always with great coffee in hand!