Molecular and Genomics Core Facility

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Faculty and Staff

The UMMC Molecular and Genomics Core Facility (MGCF) is under the direction of Michael R. Garrett, PhD, MBA (Director) and D. Ashley Robinson, PhD (Associate Director) and employs 3.5 FTE experienced staff in performing a variety of genomic methodologies. Consultation and genomic services are offered to all UMMC investigators as well as other institutions of higher learning across the state of Mississippi.


Michael Garrett

Michael R. Garrett, PhD, MBA
Director, Mammalian Genetics and Genomics

Dr. Garrett has extensive experience in molecular biology, animal models of disease, and genetic and genomics techniques. As core director, he is responsible for meeting with research investigators, aiding in the design of experiments, providing oversight of technical staff and training, evaluating equipment needs, and conducting seminars to educate and promote core capabilities. Aside from his role as core director, he has an active research program involving studying the genetics of complex disease including hypertension, kidney disease, and diabetes


D. Ashley Robinson, PhD
Associate Director, Microbial Genetics and Genomics

Dr. Robinson has extensive experience in molecular microbiology and bacterial population genetics. He leads an active research program that studies genetic and genomic variation in pathogenic staphylococci and streptococci. As core associate director, he consults with researchers on the design and analysis of projects that involve microbial sequencing, including whole genome sequencing, amplicon and transposon sequencing, and microbiome sequencing projects.


Isolation, Sample QC, and Genotyping Services


Raima Sen, MS
Researcher III

Ms. Sen aids researchers in the sample submission process, logging projects into the laboratory management system, isolation and quality control of nucleic acids (RNA and DNA), genotyping, performing quantitative real-time PCR, and assisting in NGS library preparation.

Next Generation Sequencing Services

JohnsonAshley-HeadshotAshley C. Johnson, MS
Scientist III 

Mrs. Johnson’s duties include overseeing several genomic technology platforms in the MGCF and is experienced in performing multiple next-generation sequencing  (NGS) methodologies, including RNA sequencing, whole genome sequencing, amplicon sequencing/panels, methylation sequencing, single cell transcriptome analysis, and whole viral sequencing of SARS-CoV-2.

Wenjie WuWenjie Wu
Scientist II

Mrs. Wu’s duties include performing quantitative real-time PCR and multiple next-generation sequencing  (NGS) methodologies, including RNA sequencing, small RNA sequencing, and whole viral sequencing of SARS-CoV-2.

Clinical and Translational Services


Jake R. Johnston, MS, MB(ASCP)
Molecular Pathology Specialist

Mr. Johnston’s short-term responsibilities will be to update, establish, and document NGS applications and laboratory protocols and procedures to establish the MGCF as a high complexity CLIA (Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendments) certified laboratory. Subsequently, the MGCF will implement select genetic tests that can aid in clinical patient care and translational research.  He is experienced with clinical lab start up and development, along with developing and validating high complexity clinical assays.


ChallagundlaLavanya Challagundla, PhD
Bioinformatician I

Dr. Challagundla is involved in performing standard and custom bioinformatics analysis of large genomic datasets generated in the MGCF. She is experienced in multiple programming languages (R, Bash, Perl and Python), along with multiple analysis pipelines, including metagenomics, RNA sequencing, and data visualization of complex biological data.