Marion Avril, PhD

Research scientist IV

Dr. Marion Avril is a senior scientist with a passion for understanding human pathobiology spanning over 13 years of cellular and molecular biology experience in malaria research. She received her PhD in infectious diseases from the University of Aix-Marseille II, Marseille, France, in 2005. During her PhD in the lab of Dr. Jurg Gysin, she learned cellular biology in malaria research and developed an adhesion model under flow condition closely mimicking placental sequestration of the malaria parasite. Avril joined the Smith Lab in 2005 to learn molecular mechanisms involved in parasite binding to host endothelial cells. She also developed Pichia pastoris recombinant proteins corresponding to the pregnancy-associated malaria vaccine candidate VAR2CSA in order to better understand their immunogenic properties for a vaccine development. She is now leading a study to better understand the pathogenic mechanisms of severe malaria cases to develop interventions to inhibit parasite adhesion to host endothelium.

Maria Bernabeu, PhD


Dr. Maria Bernabeu received her PhD in biology from the University of Barcelona in 2013. Her research focused on the functional analysis of VIR proteins of Plasmodium vivax and their role in host-pathogen interactions. In Barcelona, she generated transgenic lines of P. falciparum that expressed VIR proteins from different subfamilies and performed adhesion assays to the spleen. While working with both organisms, she became fascinated by the biology of Plasmodium parasites. Bernabeu joined the Smith Lab in 2014 as a postdoctoral scientist. She is trying to understand the mechanisms that cause severe malaria in adults and working on a 3D-microvascular platform for the study of P. falciparum-endothelial interactions. She loves to travel, and her research has taken her to work in Australia, India, the UK and Brazil. When not in the lab, she enjoys dancing and hiking and she is a devoted supporter of Football Club Barcelona.

Selasi Dankwa, PhD


Dr. Selasi Dankwa’s interest in infectious diseases and human health led her to the Harvard School of Public Health where she received her PhD in biological sciences in public health. For her doctoral research, she studied invasion of red blood cells by malaria parasites, a process which is essential to the survival of the parasite in the host. As a postdoctoral scientist in the Smith Lab, she seeks to better understand vascular dysfunction in severe malaria, as well as how parasite genotypes and binding phenotypes relate to the severity of malaria in children. She also enjoys the outdoors, reading and all things sweet.

Molly Dols, BS

Research technician I

Molly Dols joined the Smith Lab in June 2018 after completing a BS from Pacific Lutheran University in Tacoma, Washington. She has previously studied the protective function of polyclonal antibodies against HIV-1 infection at the HVTN at Fred Hutch. She is interested in researching infectious diseases and public health. In the Smith Lab, Dols assists in the study of the mechanisms underlying severe malaria. She loves the outdoors, horses and cooking delicious food.

Shawna Stonum

Senior administrative assistant

Maria Vishnyakova, BS

Research technician I

I joined the Smith Lab in August 2017 after getting my bachelor’s at Rutgers University in New Jersey, where I worked with CRISPR/Cas9 in fission yeast. However, I’ve always been highly interested in research that’s aimed at treating human disease, and in the Smith Lab I assist on projects which study the pathogenic pathways involved in severe malaria infections.