SPUUR Directors and Faculty


Chad Vezina, PhD

Professor of Comparative Biosciences, University of  Wisconsin School of Veterinary Medicine

Email: chad.vezina@wisc.edu



Kristina Penniston, PhD, RDN

Distinguished Senior Scientist, Department of Urology, University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health

Email: penn@urology.wisc.edu


Below is a list of potential faculty mentors; note that not all mentors are available each summer

Baker, Lauren (MS, DVM, PhD; Department of Animal and Dairy Sciences, College of Letters & Science, University of Wisconsin-Madison, and current UW-Madison K12 scholar). Dr. Baker has advanced training in bioinformatics from the University of Wisconsin Computation and Informatics in Biology and Medicine postdoctoral training program (NLM T15 LM007539). Her research utilizes companion dogs as a naturally occurring model of calcium oxalate kidney stones and other complex heritable disorders. She uses a variety of bioinformatic approaches to integrate clinical data with genomics with other ‘omics data types to define clinical and molecular subtypes of disease that drive risk factors for stone development (e.g. hypercalciuria).

Bhatia, Vinaya (MD, Assistant Professor and Director of Medical Education, Department of Urology, Division of Pediatric Urology, School of Medicine and Public Health, and current UW-Madison K12 scholar). Dr. Bhatia’s research focuses on quality of life and improving standards of care in hypospadias, pediatric congenital conditions, and neonatal circumcision.  She is currently working on developing a measure of quality of life for patients with hypospadias, to improve psychosocial and psychosexual outcomes in youth and adults who have been treated for hypospadias.

Crawford, LaTasha K. (VMD, PhD, Department of Pathobiological Sciences, School of Veterinary Medicine, prior UW-Madison K12 scholar). Dr. Crawford is an early-stage investigator and clinician scientist using a combination of genetic, molecular, behavioral, and neurophysiological techniques to explore cell-specific neural mechanisms of bladder pain caused by cystitis. Dr. Crawford’s funding includes a Career Development Award K12DK1000022, a Companion Animal Fund Grant and startup funds. Dr. Crawford was a first-generation college student and member of an URM ethnic group.

Farhat, Walid (MD, FRSC, FAAP, FACS; Chief, Pediatric Urology, Department of Urology, School of Medicine and Public Health). Dr. Farhat is a Professor in his third year at UW-Madison, He and his postdoctoral scholar Kelsey Lewis, PhD (a developmental biologist whose PhD work focused on the effects of anti-androgenic chemicals on the hormonal and cellular mechanisms underlying genital variation) are currently collaborating with faculty in the School of Veterinary Medicine to elucidate the roles of Gli2 and Gli3 in mouse urogenital development. Dr. Farhat’s overarching research aim is to integrate clinical questions with basic science urology research.

Grimes, Matt (MD, Department of Urology, School of Medicine and Public Health and current UW-Madison K12 scholar). Dr. Grimes is a fellowship-trained reconstructive urologist whose clinical practice and research interest focuses on urethral stricture disease and benign prostatic hyperplasia. His translational research goal is to develop effective minimally invasive and non-surgical treatments for urethral stricture disease through improved understanding of its underlying pathogenesis. His current research is focused on defining cellular and molecular pathways of inflammation and fibrosis in a particularly severe form of urethral stricture, those related to lichen sclerosus, a poorly understood inflammatory disease of the genital skin.

Hernando, Diego (PhD, Departments of Radiology and Medical Physics, School of Medicine and Public Health and former K12 scholar). Dr. Hernando is focused on the development and translational validation of novel imaging techniques, with a particular emphasis on transforming Magnetic Resonance Imaging into a quantitative imaging modality. His current research interests include the quantification of fat and iron deposition, as well as fibrosis. His active research funding includes: R44EB025729 and R01DK117354.

Jhagroo, R. Allan (MD, Department of Medicine, Division of Nephrology; also Department of Urology, School of Medicine and Public Health). Dr. Jhagroo is an Associate Professor and nephrologist. He is Medical Director of Wisconsin Dialysis and Director of the UW Health Chronic Kidney Disease Clinic and Director of the multidisciplinary UW Health Metabolic Stone Clinic. His clinical practice includes chronic kidney disease, dialysis, and medical management of kidney stones and his primary research focus is on improving diagnostic criteria for metabolic kidney stones, assessing effectiveness of medical management, and improving patients’ clinical experiences.

Keil Stietz, Kimberly (PhD, Department of Comparative Biosciences, School of Veterinary Medicine and current K99/R00 scholar). Dr. Keil is an Assistant Professor just beginning her second year as a faculty member. She is focused on the impact and mechanisms of developmental exposures to environmental chemicals on lower urinary tract development and function. Her current research includes investigating effects of polychlorinated biphenyls on voiding function. Her research involves in vitro and in vivo mouse models to investigate bladder morphology and function. Her active research funding includes R00ES029537 and a urology/ bladder focused R03 (NIEHS).

Liu, Teresa T. (PhD, Department of Urology, School of Medicine and Public Health, K01 scholar and former UW-Madison K12 scholar). Dr. Liu is an Assistant Scientist with a K01 funding to examine the role of aging in benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH). BPH is a disease of aging men that severely diminishes quality of life, increases risks of frailty and falls, and affects a significant portion of the aging male population. Dr. Liu is interested in the molecular changes that occur due to aging to better stratify disease and develop personalized interventions. She is funded by K01AG059899.

Marker, Paul (PhD, Pharmaceutical Sciences Division, School of Pharmacy). Dr. Marker is focused on molecular mechanisms that drive benign prostatic diseases, prostate cancer, and prostate development. His current research interests include investigating the roles of paracrine signaling pathways, endocrine signaling pathways, and developmental signaling pathways in prostate morphogenesis, prostate homeostasis, and prostate disease progression using molecular, genetic, and pharmacological approaches. His active research funding includes: U54DK104310 and R21CA238105.

Penniston, Kristina L. (PhD, RDN, Department of Urology, School of Medicine and Public Health; Department of Nutritional Sciences, College of Agricultural and Life Sciences). Dr. Penniston is a senior scientist in the Department of Urology and a preceptor for undergraduate and graduate students in the Department of Nutritional Sciences. Additionally, she holds a position as a registered dietitian nutritionist at UW Health where she provides medical nutrition therapy to patients with urologic disorders. Her research has focused primarily on kidney stone pathophysiology, for which she developed a porcine model of calcium oxalate stone disease, and on prevention of stone recurrence with nutrition. In 2018, she was appointed by NIDDK Program Officers to the position of Director of Interactions for a multi-center academic research community known as CAIRIBU (Collaborating for the Advancement of Interdisciplinary Research in Benign Urology). In 2020, Dr. Penniston received NIDDK funding to continue this work in the form of the U24 Urology Interactions Core (DK127726), for which she is the PI.

Richards, Kyle A. (MD FACS, Department of Urology, School of Medicine and Public Health). Dr. Richards is focused on development of patient centered research priorities via engagement with urology patients. His current research interests include identifying strategies to improve efficiency and patient safety by eliminating waste in medicine and minimizing diagnostic errors. His active research funding includes Wisconsin Urological Society Pilot Grant; Wisconsin Urologic Research Institute Pilot Grant.

Ricke, William A. (PhD, Department of Urology, School of Medicine and Public Health). Dr. Ricke’s research is in cellular and molecular mechanisms of lower urinary tract dysfunction. Current projects examine the role of estrogen regulation in inflammation and fibrosis, address mechanisms of castration resistance, and seek molecular mechanisms of mitochondrial dysfunction in aging. He Directs the Urologic Research, Director of the UW-Madison O’Brien center of research excellence in benign urology. His active research funding includes U54DK104310 and R01ES001332, R01DK127081, R01DK131175.

Roldán-Alzate, Alejandro (PhD, Departments of Mechanical Engineering and Radiology, former UW-Madison K12 scholar). Dr. Roldán-Alzate is focused on fluid mechanics analysis of the lower urinary tract using MRI and computational modeling. His current research interests include the non-invasive analysis of bladder and prostate in patients with BPH/LUTS using MRI. Active research funding includes R01DK126850.

Vezina, Chad (PhD, Department of Comparative Biosciences, School of Veterinary Medicine). Dr. Vezina is focused on mechanisms of lower urinary development, function, and dysfunction. His current research interests include the roles of developmental signaling pathways, epigenetics, and early life chemical exposures on prostate health and benign urinary function. He has directed prior summer research programs for undergraduates. His active research funding includes: U54DK104310, R01ES001332, U01DK110807, R01DK118145, R01CA204320, R01 HD094759-01, T32 ES007015.

Zhao, Fei (PhD, Department of Comparative Biosciences, School of Veterinary Medicine). Dr. Zhao studies cellular and molecular mechanisms underlying sexual differentiation of reproductive tracts using transgenic and conditional knockout mouse models, ex vivo organ culture, gene/protein expression analyses, genomic, and single-cell technologies.