Dr. Eric C. Liao is a surgeon-scientist with research and clinical focus on craniofacial biology. Dr. Liao leads as the Chief of Staff at Shriners Hospitals for Children – Boston, the Chief Research Officer at Mass General Department of Surgery, and Director of Pediatric Plastic Surgery and the Cleft and Craniofacial Program at the Massachusetts General Hospital for Children. His laboratory at the Center for Regenerative Medicine investigates fundamental questions in neural crest biology, gene regulatory networks, molecular basis of morphogenesis, and how craniofacial malformations occur when these basic processes go awry. The Liao laboratory utilizes iPSC, zebrafish, and mouse models to investigate human gene variants implicated in cleft and craniofacial malformations. They hope to translate fundamental advances to clinical impact, through prenatal genetic predictions and small molecule therapies.

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Jessica Bethoney received her Bachelors of Science in biology with a focus in marine science from the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth in 2015. In 2016, she worked in Boston University's Medical Science Center as an Aquatic Animal Caretaker. Jessica has been involved in multiple Southeast Coast and Cape Cod research and conservation programs run by nonprofit organizations such as the National Marine Life Center, Mystic Aquarium, and New England Aquarium. Jessica’s interest in marine biology began at a young age and has found its way into many aspects of her life. She enjoys scuba diving and photography, as well as traveling in order to explore every ocean. Today, Jessica is the Aquatic Facility Manager for Massachusetts General Hospital Simches Research Center zebrafish lab, which she joined in 2019. She loves being able to apply her knowledge of marine biology in a way that benefits scientific zebrafish research.

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Shannon earned her B.S. and M.S. from the University of Arizona where she studied frog ecology and skeletal muscle homeostasis, respectively. She earned her Ph.D. in Biochemistry from Boston University School of Medicine under the supervision of Dr. Katya Ravid. Her dissertation focused on bone fracture repair and osteoblast differentiation. After working with Dr. Rich Lee at Brigham and Women’s Hospital/Harvard University on thermogenesis and glucose homeostasis in several knockout mouse models she joined Dr. Eric Liao’s lab to study development and stem cell specification. Her current projects intersect mouse and zebrafish models to elucidate the mechanism of craniofacial morphogenesis and to investigate the role of known and newly identified facial cleft-associated gene variants.

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Marie grew up in Hamburg, Germany. Following high school, she volunteered on a health care program in India where she worked closely with children with cleft lips and palates who were left untreated due to a lack of financial resources. This experience encouraged her wish to become a surgeon-scientist in the field of plastic surgery and to improve treatment for patients affected by this group of malformations. She subsequently earned her medical degree at the Paracelsus Medical University in Salzburg, Austria followed by two years of medical training at Charité in Berlin, Germany. Since February 2020 she has been focusing her efforts on a Ph.D. at the Liao lab that investigates the underlying genetic pathways leading to cleft lip and/or palate development.

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Kenta earned his B.S. in Biology and M.S. in Molecular and Cellular Biology at UMass Amherst. While at UMass Amherst, he performed both undergraduate and graduate research in Dr. Craig Albertson’s lab, with his Master’s thesis focused on cichlid scale development and morphology. After graduating, Kenta went on to join Dr. Shannon Fisher’s lab at Boston University School of Medicine, where he studied cranioskeletal development in zebrafish. Transitioning to Dr. Eric Liao’s lab, he is now studying irf6 downstream targets and what role they play in craniofacial development in zebrafish. In his spare time, Kenta likes to cook, go to the gym, and hang out with his cat with the hopes of one day becoming a dentist.



Jason graduated from Harvard Medical School in 2018 and completed 3 years of General Surgery Residency at MGH. He joined the Liao lab in 2021 to study developmental biology and the mechanisms of craniofacial dysgenesis. He plans to return to General Surgery to complete residency and pursue a fellowship in Pediatric Surgery upon completion of his time in the lab. Prior to medical school he served for several years as a Marine Corps Captain, and was a CH-53E helicopter pilot, with 4 combat tours in the Middle East and Central Asia. His interests include developmental biology, exercise, diving, motorcycles, mountain climbing, cooking, and botany. 

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Claudio Macias Treviño is currently an M.D./Ph.D. student in the Health Sciences and Technology (HST) program at Harvard Medical School. He graduated with a dual major B.S. in Biology and Mathematics from the University of Texas at San Antonio. During medical school, Claudio worked with Dr. Richard Lee studying heart regeneration and metabolism in mouse models of aging and spent a year in Dr. Daniel Bauer's lab utilizing CRISPR/Cas9 genome editing to study the fetal-adult hemoglobin switch mechanisms and its potential for therapeutic applications in sickle cell anemia and β-thalassemia. Claudio's project involves studying the transcriptional factor irf6 and the epithelial splicing regulators esrp1 and esrp2 and how they contribute to craniofacial development and palate morphogenesis in mouse and zebrafish models.

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Casey grew up in Moscow, Russia, and moved to the US in 2010. As an undergraduate student, he worked under the supervision of Dr. Celeste Peterson, an Associate Professor of Biology at Suffolk University, to study ClpXP-mediated protein degradation in Escherichia coli. He received his B.S. in Biology/Biotechnology in 2019 and joined the lab later that year with Dr. Eric Liao as his mentor. His current research is aimed at discovering the mechanisms behind congenital craniofacial disorders through the zebrafish model.

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Pan received his Ph.D. in Tissue Engineering from The University of Hong Kong in 2018 under the supervision of Professor Barbara Chan. His graduate research focused on the production of engineered cartilage from human MSCs and its applications in osteoarthritis patients. Since joining Dr. Liao’s team in 2019, he has worked on the ‘Developmental Genome Anatomy Project’ which studies the genetic basis of human birth defects and the underlying molecular basis of development.

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Nora Alhazmi completed her dental education in 2012 at King Saud University College of Dentistry in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, followed by orthodontic training and Master’s certificate in 2017 at Tufts University School of Dental Medicine in Boston, MA. She is board certified in orthodontics. Currently, she is a doctorate student at Harvard School of Dental Medicine. Her research mentor is Dr. Eric Liao. Dr. Alhazmi’s thesis dissertation is “Requirement of Wnt Modulator R-spondin3 in Craniofacial Morphogenesis and Dental Development”. This study highlights the evolutionarily conserved functions of Rspo3 in osteogenesis and morphogenesis of dentocranial structures in zebrafish and mouse models. Dr. Alhazmi’s complementary research “Salivary Alkaline Phosphatase Activity and Chronological Age as Indicators for Skeletal Maturity” was published in The Angle’s Orthodontist journal in 2019. This work investigated the relationship between salivary alkaline phosphatase activity, protein concentration, and chronological age with cervical vertebral maturation stages as noninvasive biomarkers for skeletal maturity assessment. After graduation, she has an academic position at King Saud bin Abdulaziz University for health sciences in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.

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Janina is currently a M.D./Ph.D. student with a focus on molecular genetics and developmental biology. She is the recipient of a Shriners Hospital for Children Fellowship and leads the lab's work on patient-derived stem cell models of congenital craniofacial disorders. Her basic science aside, she has an interest in patient-reported outcomes research, physical identity, and medical anthropology. In her free time, Janina enjoys spending time underwater, and everything Jazz.

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Nikita received her B.S. in Biology from Salem State University in 2019. Throughout her undergraduate research, she focused on marine biology and zebrafish. Nikita’s experience was shown through her work at the New England Aquarium Aquatics Medical Center and at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital, where she helped maintain the zebrafish facility. Following her bachelors degree, Nikita had joined the Liao lab and currently works with Dr. Shannon Carroll to study zebrafish and mice as animal models for clef lip and palate. In the future, Nikita plans to pursue a job in nursing, more specifically in the maternity ward. In her spare time, Nikita loves baking, watching Disney movies, and spending time with her family.

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Nathan earned his Ph.D. in Cell Biology from the University of Kansas Medical Center, in 2017, under the supervision of Dr. Irfan Saadi. His thesis work was focused on determining the cellular and developmental functions of a microtubule organizing protein, SPECC1L, which implicated it in both syndromic and nonsyndromic orofacial clefting. In 2018, he joined the lab of Dr. Eric Liao as a postdoctoral fellow. His current research has two foci involving the roles of RNA-binding proteins in craniofacial development. His primary project focuses upon investigating the role played by an alternative splicing protein, Esrp1, in a mouse model of cleft palate. His secondary project is dedicated to determining the functions of microRNAs in secondary palate fusion.