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Esther Liu


Northwestern University | 2018-Present
Doctoral candidate, Driskill Graduate Program, Chicago, IL
GPA: 3.74/4.0

Vanderbilt University | 2014-2018
Bachelor of Arts – Molecular & Cellular Biology, with honors Minor in Chinese Language and Culture, Nashville, TN
GPA: 3.64/4.0

Research Experience

Graduate Student | Northwestern University, Chicago, IL
July 2018-Present
Jennie Lin Lab, Dept. of Nephrology and Hypertension

  • Thesis project: Determining the role of APOL1 risk variants in kidney macrophages and their contribution to kidney injury and disease.

  • Presented research at American Heart Association meeting (May 2019) and departmental seminars (Dec 2018, Dec 2019)

Undergraduate Research Assistant | Vanderbilt University, Nashville, TN
Jan 2015-May 2018
Fiona Yull Lab, Dept. of Pharmacology

  • Project: NF-kappaB signaling in macrophages for the development of tumors in ovarian cancer in mouse models, using a transgenic model as well as a liposomal and nanoparticle-based NF-kappaB activator

  • Presented posters at American Association for Cancer Research Annual Meeting (Apr. 2018) and Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center/Department of Cancer Biology Retreat (Nov. 2016, 2017)

Summer Undergraduate Research Fellow | Mayo Clinic, Rochester, MN
May 2017-Aug 2017
Andre van Wijnen Lab, Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology

  • Project: Role of epigenetic regulators on Brd2 and Brd4 proteins in the role of osteoblast development in mouse mesenchymal stem cells with pharmacological inhibitors.

  • Presented poster at Summer Student Symposium to Mayo Clinic faculty and physicians (Aug. 2017)

Research Assistant | University of Missouri, Columbia, MO
July 2013-Aug 2016
Donald Burke Lab, Dept. of Molecular Microbiology & Immunology

  • Project: Testing and designing RNA aptamers which bind to and inhibit HIV-1 Reverse Transcriptase and tested constructs in vivo.

  • Designed and created DNA constructs, assisted in research experiments and completed general lab chores

  • Trained new undergraduate and high school students

  • Presented poster at Summer Undergraduate Research Fair (2015, 2016)

Laboratory and Research Skills

  • Microbiology and Biochemistry Skills: qRT-PCR, immunohistochemistry, western blot, flow cytometry, chromatin immunoprecipitation, ELISA, transmission electron microscopy, bacterial culture and cloning, CRISPR-aided gene editing, plasmid design, plasmid DNA prep, DNA extraction, stem cell culture, in vitro infectivity assays

  • Animal Skills: rodent handling, mouse breeding and colony management, administering injections, oral gavage, in vivo imaging, survival surgery, tumor implantation, rodent autopsy and sample collection

  • Skilled in working in Linux environments

  • Skilled in R, Python, and MATLAB programming

  • Experienced in quantitative data analysis and presentation with various programs: R, MATLAB, GraphPad, SigmaPlot, Microsoft Office

Leadership Roles

Vice President of External Affairs | 2022-Present
Biotech Group
Northwestern University, Chicago, IL

Committee Member | 2020-Present
Northwestern University COVID Committee Northwestern University, Chicago, IL

Advocacy Committee Chair | 2019-2021
Chicago Graduate Student Association (CGSA) Northwestern University, Chicago, IL

Student Representative | 2019-Present
Chicago Student Health Advisory Committee Northwestern University, Chicago IL 

Awards and Honors

Nov. 2021 - May 2023
Trainee Award
Chicago KUH FORWARD Training Grant (NIDDK: TL1DK132769)

  • Awarded to PhD students conducting kidney, urology, and hematology research in the greater Chicago area.

May 2018
Award for Outstanding Research in Biological Sciences
Vanderbilt University, Nashville, TN

Jun. 2017
Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship
Mayo Clinic, Rochester, MN
$6,000 awarded for undergraduate research during summer

Dean’s List
Vanderbilt University, Nashville, TN


Hoover AA, Hufnagel DH, Harris W, Bullock K, Glass EB, Liu E, Barham W, Crispens MA, Khabele D, Giorgio TD, Wilson AJ, Yull FE. Increased canonical NF-kappaB signaling specifically in macrophages is sufficient to limit tumor progression in syngeneic murine models of ovarian cancer. BMC Cancer. 2020;20: 970.

Lantz C, Radmanesh B, Liu E, Thorp EB, Lin J. Single-Cell RNA Sequencing Uncovers Hetergenous Transcriptional Signatures in Macrophages during Efferocytosis. Sci Rep. 2020;10: 14333.

Liu E, Radmanesh B, Chung B, Donnan M, Yi D, Dadi A, Smith K, Himmelfarb J, Li M, Freedman BS, Lin J. Profiling APOL1 Nephropathy Risk Variants in Genome-Edited Kidney Organoids with Single-Cell Transcriptomics. Kidney360. 2020;1: 203–215.

Paradise CR, Galvan ML, Kubrova E, Bowden S, Liu E, Carstens MF, Thaler R, Stein, GS, van Wijnen AJ, Dudakovic A. The epigenetic reader Brd4 is required for osteoblast differentiation. Journal of Cellular Physiology. 2020;235: 5293–5304.

Zhang S, Bories G, Lantz C, Emmons R, Becker A, Liu E, Abecassis MM., Yvan-Charvet L, Thorp EB. Immunometabolism of Phagocytes and Relationships to Cardiac Repair. Frontiers in Cardiovascular Medicine. 2019;6: 42.


Liu E. Using iPSC-derived models to characterize APOL1 renal risk variants. Invited Seminar. Driskill Graduate Program Research Club, Northwestern University, Chicago, IL, Dec 2021.

Liu E, Lin J. Uncovering Mechanisms of Risk-Variant APOL1-Modulated Inflammatory Signaling in Macrophages. Poster. Kidney Week, American Society of Nephrology, virtual. Nov 2021

Liu E. Investigation of APOL1 biology through a macrophage lens. Invited Seminar. Feinberg Cardiovascular and Renal Research Institute, Northwestern University, Chicago, IL. Dec 2019.

Liu E. A single-cell approach to study APOL1 risk variants in kidney organoids. Invited Seminar. Feinberg Cardiovascular and Renal Research Institute, Northwestern University, Chicago, IL. Dec 2018.

Liu E, Barham W, Wilson AJ, Masjedi S, Hoover AA, Harris WR, Yull FE. Modulating nuclear factor-kappaB in macrophages in syngeneic mouse models of ovarian cancer with targeted liposomal delivery of drug. Poster. American Association for Cancer Research Annual Meeting. Chicago, IL. April 2018.

Liu E, Wilson AJ, Janikiraman S, Hoover AA, Harris WR, Khabele D, Yull FE. Bromodomain inhibition in ovarian cancer and the tumor microenvironment to improve PARP inhibitor response. Poster. American Association for Cancer Research Annual Meeting. Chicago, IL. April 2018.

Liu E, Barham W, Wilson AJ, Khabele D, Yull FE. Mouse models of ovarian carcinoma for future studies of modulation of NF-kappaB in macrophages. Poster. Vanderbilt Ingram Cancer Center Retreat. Nashville, TN. Nov 2017

Liu E, Paradise CR, Dudacovic A, van Wijnen AJ. Investigation of bromodomain-containing proteins BRD2 and BRD4 during osteoblast-lineage commitment. Poster. Summer Student Symposium, Rochester, MN. Aug 2017.