Dr. Valerie Harvey, Adjunct and Asst. Professor of Dermatology at Eastern Virginia Medical School and a board-certified dermatologist
Dr. Harvey’s areas of interest include melanoma, ethnic skin and health disparities. Harvey attended University of Virginia School of Medicine where she was inducted into the Alpha Omega Alpha (AOA) medical honor society. She completed her dermatology residency at University of Maryland in Baltimore where she also served as chief resident. Harvey was awarded a grant from the Dermatology Foundation to study the clinical and molecular aspects of post inflammatory hyperpigmentation in different racial and ethnic groups.

Dr. Christopher Sinesi, Medical Director, Oncologist
Dr. Christopher Sinesi has demonstrated excellence in the field of oncology, serving thousands of patients in the Hampton Roads region for more than 20 years. He has developed radiation centers at numerous hospitals in Hampton Roads and North Carolina, bringing state-of-the-art cancer care close to home for his patients. His partners at Oncology Associates of Virginia have been named best in Virginia by Hampton Roads Magazine. Sinesi has also been involved with protons and heavy particle radiation since the 1980′s.

Dr. Isi Ero-Tolliver, Assistant Professor, Biological Sciences
Dr. Ero-Tolliver’s research interests are in Science Education and Urban Education. She is constructing ways to make these ideas more salient to students and teachers.  Her focus is to use her skills to create learning opportunities that target and entice minorities into the pipeline of science as a means of progressing towards diversity and equity in education.  Her research focuses on the role of peroxidasin within the basement membrane during collagen IV sulfimine bond formation.

Dr. Chengan Du, Assistant Professor, Pharmaceutical Sciences
Dr. Du's research interests are in the area of pharmaceutical proteomics and drug metabolism. He has several funded research projects. One of his research projects was funded by NIH/NIDA to study human metabolism of illicit club drug MDMA (Ecstasy) using HPLC coupled with tandem mass spectrometer. Dr. Du has published a number of peer-reviewed research papers in renown scientific journals and has presented his research findings at several international conferences.

Dr. Shevellanie Lott, PhD, RN, CNE , Dean, School of Nursing
Dr. Lott is dean of the Hampton University School of Nursing. She has spent the majority of her nursing career as an intensive care nurse in the areas of trauma, medical and cardiovascular, and post-anesthesia care nursing. Her goal has always been to align nursing education with the teaching-learning process in the healthcare environment to promote excellent health care outcomes. She is a consummate educator who dedicates her time and attention to mentoring students to become competent and committed nurses.

None of  our efforts at the Hampton University Cancer Research Center  would be possible without the passion and hard work of our research assistants, students, fellows, and volunteers.

Dr. Jermel Watkins, Chair, Biological Sciences
Dr. Watkins received his PhD in Molecular and Cellular Pharmacology at Stony Brook University.  His expertise include the genetics of the mitochondria and the impact of genetic variation on diseases of the central nervous system and cancer.  He has expertise in genomics, epigenomics, next generation sequencing, big data analysis, and teaching the next generation of researchers. As an assistant instructor at the Minority Science Education Center at Central Islip High School, he taught minority students a level of science that is fairly uncommon in the normal classroom setting. 

Dr. Joanne Chan, Associate Professor, Biological Sciences
Dr. Chan is interested in dissecting the molecular mechanisms governing blood vessel formation as it relates to tumor angiogenesis during cancer progression. Their lab uses the zebrafish as a model system to examine blood vessel formation. They are currently using a chemical genetic approach in combination with a mutagenesis screen to identify angiogenic mutants. Positional cloning of these mutants might reveal critical genes as novel targets for anti-angiogenic therapy. 

About Us


To foster collaborative, transdisciplinary research and apply novel strategies to cancer research to contribute to cancer prevention, treatment, improving cancer outcomes and eliminating cancer disparities while educating and training future physicians and scientists in the science of cancer biology.

To become internationally recognized for cutting edge basic and clinical-translational research of cancers including those that disproportionately affect ethnically diverse and underserved populations.

Our Core Values I.N.S.P.I.R.E. us everyday!

  • Innovationis essential because good health is an endless quest that constantly requires a higher level of discerning thought and ingenuity.
  • We are devoted to scholarship and the attainment of knowledge which are essential to our mission of understanding and eliminating cancer.
  • We are passionate about easing human misery and saving lives. 
  • The HUCRC not only knows the right thing to do, but does the right thing because acting with integrity is vital to building and maintaining trust and good relationships. 
  • As an emerging leader in translational research we have the responsibility to contribute to the overall well-being of our scientists and to the communities we serve.
  • Collaboration and maintaining good relationships implies a willingness on the part of organization to jointly develop and agree to a set of common goals and directions; sharing responsibility for obtaining those goals; and working together to achieve those goals. 
  • The motto at Hampton University is “The Standard of Excellence, An Education for Life”.  Hampton University is a progressive institution of higher education offering didactic opportunities in cancer biology fulfilling the nations need for a diversified workforce.

Dr. Neelam Azad, Associate Professor and Chair, Pharmaceutical Sciences
Dr.  Azad’s area of research is cellular and molecular mechanisms of carcinogenesis related to dysregulation of apoptosis, autophagy, angiogenesis, oxidative/nitrosative stress and tumor metastasis. Their research focuses on lung cancer cell death mechanisms, which are important in understanding cancer etiology and chemoresistance. They are also applying their expertise in cancer cell biology to explore novel avenues in breast cancer research.

Dr. Jerald Dumas, Assistant Professor, Chemical Engineering
s a postdoctoral fellow at Georgia Institute of Technology/Emory University, Dr. Dumas studied the roles of proteases, specifically cysteine cathepsins and matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs), in healthy and cancerous tissue. At HU, he is investigating the critical interactions between pathological cells and the surrounding extracellular matrix (ECM) to address challenges in treatment efficacy, detection, and prediction of disease progression across patient groups to reduce health disparities , particularly in African American men.

Dr. Diana Castillo-Carranza, Research Assistant, Minority Men's Health Initiative
Dr.  Castillo studies Neurological disorders such as Parkinson's and Alzheimer's disease. 

Dr. Kesete Ghebreyessus, Assistant Professor, Chemistry
The main focus of Dr. Ghebreyessus’s research interests are in ligand design, synthetic organometallic chemistry, and materials chemistry with an emphasis on the synthesis of metal complexes with potential applications in catalysis, and as therapeutic agents.  Ruthenium(II)-Arene Complexes with Naphthalimide-Tagged Ligands as Potential Anticancer Agents. The overall goal of the research activities is to design and synthesize new ligands that possess specific features to enhance target specificity and improve the overall efficacy of ruthenium based therapeutic agents. 

​Our Team

Beverly Duane, Dance Director, Hampton University
Ms. Duane  is passionate about health promotion and cancer prevention.  Her area of focus includes nutrition and lifestyle interventions for the improvement of health.

Dr. Addrienne Nugent
Research Associate, Cancer Research Center

​Our Research Assistants, Students and Volunteers

Dr. Sainath Babu, Assistant Professor, Biological Sciences
Dr. Babu is a chemist and his areas of interest include Oxidative Stress, Toxicology, Nanotechnology and their impact on human health.  He is currently an Assistant Professor in the Department of Biological Sciences.

Dr. Marilyn Saulsbury, Associate Professor, Pharmaceutical Sciences
Dr. Saulsbury received a BS in Pharmacy from Xavier University of Louisiana College of Pharmacy and is a registered pharmacist who has licensure to practice pharmacy in Virginia. She also graduated from Meharry Medical College - School of Graduate Studies and Research where she acquired a PhD degree from the Department of Pharmacology. Dr. Saulsbury's research interests include the determination of plausible mechanisms by which broad spectrum organophosphate insecticides (organochlorines) alter the expression of gonadotropic releasing hormone (GnRH) and interfere with the normal functions of the hypothalamic-pituitary-gonadal axis.

Dr. Indu Sharma, Assistant Professor, Biological Sciences
Dr. Sharma’s research interest and expertise are in Malaria, Plasmodium falciparum, Epigenetics', Post translational modification, protein arginine methylation, Non coding RNA, gene regulation, growth & development, Microbiome, Metagenomics, Ribotyping, and Big Data.  She works closely with the cancer research investigators utilizing her skills in microbiology to determine the impact of the microbiome on cancer.

Dr. Michelle Penn-Marshall, PhD, Vice President, Research;  Dean, Graduate School; Associate Provost
Dr. Penn-Marshall received her Ph.D. in Community Nutrition from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (Virginia Tech) in Blacksburg, Virginia.  As the VP for Research, she works closely with the Chancellor and Provost to fully align research with the overall academic mission of the University. Important goals of the research agenda include promotion of interdisciplinary and cross-disciplinary research; integration of research and education at both the graduate and undergraduate levels; affirmation of the integrity of research processes and policies; and oversight of research faculty policy and implementation.

Dr. Sherri Saunders-Golds, DNP, MS, WHNP-BC, FAANP, Associate Professor, School of Nursing
Dr. Saunders-Goldson is the Project Director, of $1.4 million dollars funded HRSA Veteran Bachelor of Science in Nursing program grant entitled Hampton University Veterans Education Transition for Success (HUVETS),   Additionally, she maintains an active clinical practice at the HU Student Health Center.  She is a board certified Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner.   Her research goal is to improve health outcomes and preventative practices of women in underserved populations.

Dr. Luisel Ricks-Santi
Director, Cancer Research Center

It takes a team of dedicated research investigators, students, and staff to make sure our center is addressing cancer from every possible angle. We're fortunate to have some of the best dedicating their time, energy, and expertise to our cause.

Dr. Paul Gueye, Chair, Department of Physics
Dr. Gueye is interested in the development of positron beams and their applications in nuclear/high-energy physics.  He is involved in medical physics research in primarily three areas: absolute dose measurements, in-vivo dose distribution measurements and cancer cells study (looking at the energy dependence of cancer cells as well as on the physics responsible for cancer cell death and the use of polarized beams in cancer treatments).

Dr. Herman Fennell, II, Assistant Professor, Biological Sciences
Dr. Fennell received his PhD from Howard University.  Dr. Fennell was a T32 Postdoctoral Scholar at the University of California-Davis investigating Leucine Rich-Repeats as a Putative Negative Regulator of the ErbB Family of Receptor for Tyrosine Kinases. His research interest includes the investigation of Leucine Rich-Repeat Proteins which negatively regulate the ErbB family of receptor for tyrosine kinases in breast cancer. 

Dr. Qiang Le, Assistant Professor, Electrical Engineering
Dr. Qiang Le received her Ph.D. in Electrical and Computer Engineering from Georgia Institute of Technology in May, 2006, S.M. in ECE from GA Tech in 2004, and B.S. in EE from Beijing University of Aeronautics and Astronautics in 1995. She also obtained S.M. in Computer Information Science from Clark Atlanta University in 2002. She is a SUN certified TM2 Java 2 Platform Programmer since 2001. She also has expertise in data analysis and geographic information systems mapping.

​Research Center Members

Dr. Ira Walker, Assistant Professor, Mathematics
Dr. Ira Walker serves as the Director of Undergraduate Studies for the department. He earned a doctorate from Old Dominion University in aerospace engineering and has conducted research in the active control of aircraft performance as well as made contributions in the area of meteorology with applications to aviation safety. Prior to his work at HU, he worked for over 20 years as an aerospace engineer in support of various research projects at the NASA where he evaluated the aerodynamic characteristics of various fixed-wing concepts and has done work in the empirical modeling of shortwave and longwave radiation to assess the heat budget of the earth-atmospheric system.

Vahagn Nazaryan, Ph.D., Director of Technology and Operations
Dr. Nazaryan has been a key physicist in the successful opening and operation of the proton therapy center.  Vahagn, originally from Yerevan, Armenia, received a “Diploma of a Physicist” from Yerevan State University in Armenia in 1999. He received a Ph.D. degree in theoretical Nuclear and High Energy Physics from The College of William and Mary in Virginia (2004). He brings a wealth of knowledge and experience working with proton therapy treatment centers.

Dr. John McDonald
Assistant Professor, Physics Department,   Cancer Research Center

Dr. Allan Thornton, Radiation Oncologist
Dr. Allan Thornton is a nationally recognized physician with more than 20 years experience in proton therapy and an expert in head, neck and brain tumors. He has served thousands of patients across the country at renowned facilities such as Harvard University (Massachusetts General Hospital) and the Midwest Proton Radiotherapy Institute (MPRI), where he served as founding medical director. Thornton brings his passion for cancer care and his world-class experience to the Hampton Roads region.

Dr. Anand Iyer, Asst. Dean of Academic and Student Affairs, School of Pharmacy
Dr. Iyer’s research focuses on understanding the pathogenesis of lung diseases, with specific focus on lung cancer. He has been actively involved in investigating the underlying mechanisms of the progression of lung cancer, and developing targeted therapies that can help stem the spread of this disease. Of particular interest is the area of tumor resistance as it pertains to cell death, tumorigenesis and metastasis in lung cancer.

Dr. Tyvin A. Rich, Radiation Oncologist
Dr. Tyvin A. Rich specializes in gastrointestinal and lung cancers. With over 30 years of experience, countless awards and over 200 published papers and book chapters, he is recognized nationally as one of the top doctors in his field by Castle Connelly and Good Housekeeping magazine. Rich received his medical degree from the University of Virginia, were he also served as professor of radiation oncology for 20 years. He is also engaged in research that will improve the quality of life of cancer patients.

Top left to bottom right: Allyn Bryan, MS (MARC Lab Manager); Kenneisha Edmonds, MPH (Research Coordinator); Paige Green, BS (Graduate Clinical Assistant);  Raven Pillow, BS (Graduate Research Assistant).

Dr. John David Mably, Associate Professor, Biological Sciences
John Mably received his Ph.D. from the University of Toronto . For his postdoctoral training, he joined the laboratory of Mark Fishman at the Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH), Cardiovascular Research Center (CVRC) in 1996 where zebrafish was employed as an animal model to study the genetics of cardiac development. Dr. Mably continues to employ zebrafish as an animal model to study cardiovascular development and cardiac disease.