Jessica Thaxton, Ph.D, MsCR

Principal Investigator

Dr. Thaxton is an Associate Professor in the Department of Cell Biology and Physiology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Dr. Thaxton received her BA from Amherst College in 2001 and her PhD from Brown University in 2009. From 2001-2004 Dr. Thaxton began her research career in transplantation immunology at Harvard Medical School and the Garvan Institute for Medical Research. In her graduate career Jessica focused on immune tolerance. In her postdoctoral work at Oregon Health & Sciences University and Medical University of South Carolina Jessica trained in the areas of virus specific T cell responses and T cell activation and metabolism in the context of cancer. Jessica was awarded the MUSC Hollings Cancer Center K12 clinical oncology investigator award where she gained further support from NCI/NIH and American Cancer Society. 

lab team

Katie hurst, mph

lab manager

Katie graduated from Clemson University in 2012 with a BA in Biological Sciences with a minor in Psychology.  Katie’s interest in cancer biology led her to the Medical University of South Carolina after graduation to pursue a career in molecular cancer research, whereafter she transitioned into cancer immunology research.  She holds a special interest in the patient psychological response to cancer and how the immune system can regulate this response and vice versa.  Katie serves as lab manager for the Thaxton Lab during which she pursued her Masters in Public Health with a concentration in Health Behavior at the Medical University of South Carolina, where she graduated in 2020.

graduate student

ellie hunt

Ellie graduated from Anderson University in 2019 with a BS in biochemistry. Through her coursework and experience in hospital internships, she gained an interest in immunology and, after a year as a lab technician studying bioenergetics of hepatocellular carcinoma, she enrolled in MUSC’s College of Graduate Studies with an interest in immunotherapy and T cell metabolism. She joined the Thaxton Lab whose interests align with her passion for discovering more efficacious, affordable immunotherapies through modulation of T cell stress responses and metabolism. She is now enrolled in UNC-Chapel Hill’s Biological and Biomedical Sciences PhD program where she continues to study the effects of endoplasmic reticulum stress on T cell metabolism and antitumor efficacy. 


Brian riesenberg, ph.d

postdoctoral scholar


Dr. Riesenberg is a postdoctoral scholar and PIRE Fellow in the Department of Microbiology and Immunology at the Medical University of South Carolina. He received his B.S. in Biology from Barton College as a 4-year member the men's varsity soccer program before obtaining his Ph.D. from the Medical University of South Carolina in 2019. Prior to joining the Thaxton Lab, Brian's research took him to the Pelotonia Institute for Immuno-Oncology at The Ohio State University where he focused on T cell exhaustion, development of high-dimensional spectral flow cytometry technology, preclinical in vivo modeling, and technology commercialization. His current work is focused on translating the discoveries made by the research group into novel therapeutics to improve patient outcomes.  

k9 unit

Julie                            Millie                                Cal