Helen Lazear

Assistant Professor of Microbiology & Immunology

9021 Burnett-Womack Building
helen.lazear [at] med.unc.edu

Helen grew up in Calgary, Alberta, Canada and majored in Biochemistry at the University of Alberta. She received a Ph.D. from the University of Pennsylvania, where she studied herpes simplex virus neuronal transport in Harvey Friedman's lab. Her postdoctoral research, with Mike Diamond at Washington University in St. Louis, focused on innate immune control of West Nile virus pathogenesis. She joined the Microbiology and Immunology Department at UNC in Fall 2015. Work in the Lazear Lab focuses on pathogenic mechanisms of flaviviruses and the innate immune mechanisms that determine tissue and species tropism



Melissa Mattocks

Lab Manager

melissa_mattocks [at] med.unc.edu

Melissa grew up in North Carolina and received her Bachelor’s degree in Biology from UNC-Chapel Hill. She worked on the development and production of a tetravalent dengue vaccine at the Carolina Vaccine Institute at UNC and later at Global Vaccines, Inc., a not-for-profit vaccine company. Melissa returned to UNC in 2016, joining the Lazear lab as Lab Manager.



Derek Carbaugh

PhD Candidate

dcar5 [at] email.unc.edu

Derek grew up in Lancaster, PA and majored in Biology at Millersville University of Pennsylvania. He did a summer undergraduate research experience (SURE) internship at UNC-CH in the genetics department prior to his last semester of undergraduate studies. He is now a 4th-year PhD student in the Microbiology & Immunology program. His work currently focuses on understanding viral and host determinants of Zika virus pathogenesis.


Widman D, Young E, Yount BL, Plante KS, Gallichotte EN, Carbaugh DL, Peck KM, Plante J, Swanstrom J, Heise MT, Lazear HM, Baric RS (2017) A reverse genetics platform that spans the Zika virus family tree. mBio. 8(2). pii: e02014-16. PMID 28270583


Cesar Lopez

PhD Candidate

cesar_lopez [at] med.unc.edu

Cesar grew up in Modesto, CA, and received his BA from Rice University in Philosophy as well as Biochemistry & Cell Biology. He worked in Jason Kimata's lab at Baylor College of Medicine as an undergraduate, studying innate immune restriction of SIV by SAMHD1, as well as a summer internship with Peter Hotez studying a Trypanosoma cruzi vaccine. He is currently a 4th-year MD/PhD student in the Microbiology & Immunology program, investigating how prior dengue immunity affects congenital and sexual transmission of Zika virus.


Collins M, McGowan E, Jadi R, Young E, Lopez CA, Baric RS, Lazear HM, de Silva AM (2017) Dengue infection does not elicit durable cross-neutralizing antibodies against Zika virus. Emerging Infectious Diseases. 23(5):773-781. PMID 28418292

Lakshmanane P, Collins M, Graham S, Liou GJA, Lopez CA, Jadi R,  Balmaseda A, Brackbill JA, Dietze R, Camacho E,  de Silva DA, Giuberti C, Lucia dos Reis H, Singh T, Heimsath H, Weiskopf D, Sette A, Osorio JE, Permar SR, Miley MJ, Lazear HM, Harris E, de Silva AM (2018) Development of envelope protein antigens to serologically differentiate Zika from dengue virus infection. Journal of Clinical Microbiology. 2018;56(3). PMID: 29263206.


Becca Casazza

PhD Student

rcasazza [at] email.unc.edu

Becca is originally from New England; she grew up in Bedford, NH and received her BA in Biology from College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, MA. There she began her research training in the lab of Dr. Ann Sheehy studying the anti-HIV mechanisms of the Apobec3G protein. Becca is a 3rd-year PhD student in the Microbiology & Immunology program; her research in the Lazear Laboratory focuses on understanding the role of interferon lambda in restricting congenital infections such as Zika and rubella viruses.


Casazza RL, Lazear HM (2018) Antiviral immunity backfires: Pathogenic effects of type I interferon signaling in fetal development. Science Immunology. 5;3(19). pii: eaar3446.. PMID 29305463


Leah Gilmore

UNC Undergraduate Student

gilmorel [at] live.unc.edu

Leah is a junior at UNC from Greensboro, NC, majoring in Biology. She is developing molecular tools to study vertebrate-specific flaviviruses.


Claire Thefaine

UNC Undergraduate Student

cthe123 [at] live.unc.edu

Claire is from Charlotte, NC and is currently a senior Biology major at UNC. She is interested in the role of sequence variations in Zika virus pathogenesis and the immune mechanisms that affect congenital transmission.


Marta Cruz-Cisneros

Rotation Student

mcruzcis [at] email.unc.edu

Marta is originally from Mexico City, but grew up in Hesperia, California. She attended the University of California, San Diego where she received a BS in microbiology. At UCSD, she studied the role of the alpha toxin protein in MRSA infections and bacillus anthracis pathogenesis in the lab of Dr. Victor Nizet. After graduation, she was accepted into the Postbaccalaureate Research Education Program (PREP) at UNC where she studied the role of RNA secondary structure in alphavirus replication in the lab of Dr. Mark Heise. Marta is a first-year student in the BBSP program, interested in viral pathogenesis and immune response to viral infections. 



Clayton Morrison
(visiting scientist)
Assistant Professor, University of Mount Olive


Tesia Bobrowski
(UNC Undergraduate student, SMART program)