Duke University Medical Center
Faculty and Research

Heitman Lab Distinguished Undergraduate Alumni

Felicia Walton Pagliuca, PhD
Postdoctoral Fellow

Melton Laboratory
Harvard University
Department of Stem Cell and Regenerative Biology (SCRB)
7 Divinity Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138

Tel: 617.678.1025

Felicia Walton

quotation mark The opportunity to participate in meaningful undergraduate research at Duke was a wonderful experience for me, and I hope many future students will be able to take advantage of this unique opportunity. quotation mark
spacer_lineI am currently a postdoctoral fellow in the lab of Dr. Douglas Melton at the Harvard Stem Cell Institute. The main focus of my current research has been in directing the differentiation of pluripotent stem cells into functional human beta cells for use in diabetes cell therapy. In collaboration with Derrick Rossi's laboratory, I have used chemically modified RNA encoding key transcription factors to promote specific cell fate changes. I am also investigating how alternative culture strategies like 3-D cell culture or co-culture affects cell differentiation and function.

In 2010, I received my PhD from the University of Cambridge where I worked on cell cycle regulation and proteomics in the lab of Dr. Jonathon Pines at the Wellcome Trust/Cancer Research UK Gurdon Institute. My work, in collaboration with Jyoti Choudhary’s lab at the Wellcome Truste Sanger Institute, identified new proteins required for cell division in human cells and the interaction between master cell cycle regulators and their targets. I was funded by a Marshall Scholarship and a National Science Foundation Fellowship, and was a member of Trinity College, Cambridge.  

cellsPrior to Cambridge, I studied biology and chemistry as an undergraduate at Duke University and graduated summa cum laude in 2007. I spent three and half years working on a series of research projects in the laboratory of Dr. Joseph Heitman in the Department of Molecular Genetics and Microbiology. Mentored by Dr. Alexander Idnurm, I studied the human fungal pathogen Cryptococcus neoformans. Using mutational screens, we identified new factors required for the virulence of this pathogen including components of the melanin biosynthesis pathway and cell division regulators and authored several publications together. This work was my first introduction to biomedical research and inspired me to continue in this career.


Pagliuca FW, Melton DA. How to make a functional β-cell.
Development. 2013 Jun;140(12):2472-83. Review.

Chetty S, Pagliuca FW, Honore C, Kweudjeu A, Rezania A, Melton DA. A simple tool to improve pluripotent stem cell differentiation.
Nat Methods. 2013 Jun;10(6):553-6. [Epub 2013 Apr 14].

Pagliuca FW, Collins MO, Choudhary JS. Coordinating cell cycle progression via cyclin specificity. Cell Cycle. 2011 Dec 15;10(24):4195-6. [Epub 2011 Dec 15].

Pagliuca FW, Collins MO, Lichawska A, Zegerman P, Choudhary JS, Pines J. Quantitative proteomics reveals the basis for the biochemical specificity of the cell-cycle machinery. Mol Cell. 2011 Aug 5;43(3):406-17.

Idnurm A, Walton FJ, Floyd A, Reedy JL, Heitman J. Identification of ENA1 as a virulence gene of the human pathogenic fungus Cryptococcus neoformans through signature-tagged insertional mutagenesis. Eukaryot Cell. 2009 Mar;8(3):315-26. [Epub 2009 Jan 16].

Idnurm A, Walton FJ, Floyd A, Heitman J. Identification of the sex genes in an early diverged fungus. Nature. 2008 Jan 10;451(7175):193-6.

Walton FJ, Heitman J, Idnurm A. Conserved elements of the RAM signaling pathway establish cell polarity in the basidiomycete Cryptococcus neoformans in a divergent fashion from other fungi. Mol Biol Cell. 2006 Sep;17(9):3768-80. [Epub 2006 Jun 14].

Walton FJ, Idnurm A, Heitman J. Novel gene functions required for melanization of the human pathogen Cryptococcus neoformans. Mol Microbiol. 2005 57:1381-1396.

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