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Aravinda de Silva was born in Sri Lanka and attended high school at Royal College in Colombo. In 1982, he left Sri Lanka to attend Vassar College in New York. After graduating in 1986 with a major in Biology, he joined the PhD program in the Department of Cell Biology at the Yale University School of Medicine in Connecticut. At Yale, he did his doctoral work with Ari Helenius on the folding, assembly, and sorting of viral membrane proteins. After doing postdoctoral work at the University of Rochester and Yale University, Aravinda joined the Department of Microbiology and Immunology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 1998.  He is interested in vector-borne infectious diseases and mainly studied how ticks transmit Lyme disease spirochetes for the first part of his career. Currently his group works on dengue virus. He is interested in many aspects of dengue that include population based epidemiological studies, viral pathogenesis, human immunology, and vaccine research. He enjoys working with scientists and students from developing countries to promote a culture of science and scientific independence in all countries. 

Aravinda is married to Amy Weil who is a Physician and an Assistant Professor at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine. They have two sons, Priyan and Sunimal. In his spare time, he plays tennis, watches birds, and travels with my family. 


Undergraduate Institution: University of Rochester
Master’s and MD/PhD Degrees: Albert Einstein College of Medicine

Internal Medicine Residency: The Mount Sinai Health System

Alena’s research background focused on protein biochemistry and crystallography. Her PhD work identified structural and chemical differences in the antigen-binding sites of antibodies that were driven by differences in their Fc regions. She has previously worked with HIV proteins as well as with antibodies against the fungal pathogen Cryptococcus neoformans.

Alena is currently a Research Track Infectious Diseases Fellow and post-doctoral fellow at UNC, working in the laboratory of Aravinda de Silva. Alena Markmann’s research interests are in defining the molecular properties of human antibodies and B cells that develop after RNA virus infections such as Zika, Dengue and SARS-CoV-2. The goal of her research is to understand the longevity of antibody and B cell responses, and to identify viral targets of the human adaptive immune response that can be used to improve vaccine and therapeutic antibody design.



Sandra Henein received her B.Sc in 2010 in Pharmacy and Biotechnology from the German University in Cairo, Egypt. After graduating she joined the Molecular Medicine master’s program at Ulm University, Germany. She did a rotation at Prof. Dr. Peter Gierschik’s lab working on Phospholipase C, which gave her the opportunity to collaborate with Dr. T. Kendall Harden’s lab at UNC. This is where she completed her master’s thesis on PLC. In 2012, Sandra received her M.Sc in Molecular Medicine. She joined Dr. Aravinda de Silva’s lab in 2013 as a research associate, working closely with vaccine companies to help characterize and understand the immune response to vaccines vs. natural infection. She is also currently working on getting her Pharmacy license here in the US. In her free time, Sandra likes to volunteer at church, hang out with friends, and do crafts. 


After finishing high school in Cambodia, Usaphea came to the United States in 2016 to attend Elon University, where she graduated with a degree in Chemistry in 2020. During her four years at Elon, she had been conducting research on the analysis of adonitol and xylitol (five-carbon sugar) as a sustainable replacement for crude oil. Her research focused on the structural change of sugar using tris(pentafluorophenyl)borane B(C6F5)3 and allyltrimethylsilane as co-catalysts. Usaphea joined the de Silva lab in 2020 as a research technician, assisting Dr. Alena Markmann in studying the seroprevalence of SARS-Cov-2 in remnant blood samples from individual visiting UNC clinical facilities. Her current project focuses on human immune responses to Sars-CoV-2, antibody profiling, and she is assisting Dr. Aravinda de Silva in examining the effect of dengue sub-vaccine in mice. As a study coordinator, she also helps with managing the laboratory. Outside of lab, she likes baking, cooking, reading, and spending time with friends.



Ruby Shah graduated from North Carolina State University in 2022 with her BS in Microbiology. She did her undergraduate research in the Sombers Lab working on various projects such as understanding release kinetics of opioid peptides using single cell amperometry from bovine chromaffin cells and improving neurochemical detection using a double barrel microelectrode array. In the de Silva Lab, Ruby works on various studies such as testing the immunogenicity of dengue virus antigens and the effectiveness of the standard focus reduction neutralization assay as a correlation of protection. She assisted Dr. Laura White on understanding the effects of dengue virus maturation states and strains on neutralizations in vitro and on vaccine efficacy. In her free time, Ruby practices taekwondo at Johnson’s Martial Arts Academy, spending time with friends and family, hiking, and playing video games.


Lucas is from Raleigh, NC, and graduated with a BS in Microbiology from NC State. He worked on a research project studying the inhibitory effect of plant-derived Chalcone molecules on HCoV-229E. In the De Silva lab, his research focuses the effect of the Dengue Virus maturation state on type-specific and cross-reactive antibody neutralization. His hobbies include jiu-jitsu and healthful/mindful living.