Meet the Principal Investigator

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Neal M. Alto, Ph.D.

Rita C. and William P. Clements, Jr. Scholar in Medical Research

Professor, Department of Microbiology

Dr. Alto received his B.S. in Cellular and Molecular Biology from Western Washington University in Bellingham, Washington. After working at the University of Utah for two years, he began graduate school at Oregon Health and Sciences University in Portland Oregon. As a student in the laboratory of John Scott, Ph.D., he studied how a class of cellular anchoring proteins called AKAPs organizes kinase-based signal transduction cascades in both space and time. This work has led to a greater understanding of cellular communication systems that control brain and body functions.

Following graduate school, Dr. Alto began a postdoctoral position in the laboratory of Jack E. Dixon Ph.D., at the University of California San Diego (UCSD). There, he became interested in how bacterial pathogens hijack eukaryotic cell signaling enzymes. His work in the Dixon lab focused on a family of Type 3 Secretion System (T3SS) effector proteins that regulated Rho-family GTPase and actin cytoskeleton architecture. 

As a faculty member at UT Southwestern Medical Center, Dr. Alto continues to expand his scientific program to study the intersection between microbial pathogenesis and human cell biology. His laboratory has adopted modern techniques in molecular biology, microscopy, systems biology, high-throughput screening, and biophysics to explore new and interesting scientific frontiers.

Current Lab Members

Laura Alto, Ph.D.

Research Scientist


Laura Alto, Ph.D.

Maarten De Jong, Ph.D.

Research Scientist

Maarten De Jong, Ph.D.

Lab Alumni

    • Michael Abrams, Ph.D. – Head of Genome Engineering at Mammoth/Colossal Biosciences, Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex, TX
    • Didi Chen, Ph.D. – Data Scientist at Moneygram International, Dallas-Fort Worth, TX
    • Gregory Cox, P.A. – Physician Assistant at University Health, San Antonio, TX
    • Benjamin Kocsis, B.S. – Graduate Student in the Department of Microbiology, University of Washington, Seattle, WA
    • Lishu Zhang, Ph.D. – Business Analyst at Southwestern Health Resources, Farmers Branch, TX
    • Justin Hansen, Ph.D. – Scientist, Pheast Therapeutics, San Francisco, CA
    • David Heisler, Ph.D. – Assistant Professor of Chemistry and Biochemistry at Duquesne University, Pittsburg, PA
    • Alyssa Jimenez, Ph.D. – Senior Marketing Programs Manager, Illumina, San Diego, CA
    • Zixu Liu, Ph.D. – Assistant Professor, Schools of Medicine and Life Sciences, Westlake University, Hangzhou, Zhejiang, China
    • Robert Orchard, Ph.D. – Assistant Professor of Immunology and Microbiology at UT Southwestern Medical Center, Dallas, TX
    • Sofya Perelman, Ph.D. – Associate Scientific Director at Chameleon Communications International, Brooklyn, NY
    • Andrey Selyunin, Ph.D. – Postdoctoral Fellow at University of Texas at Austin, Lab of Dr. Som Mukhopadhyay, Austin, TX
    • Thomas Fox, M.D. – Assistant Professor at Emory University School of Medicine, Atlanta, GA
    • Bethany Weigele, Ph.D. – Chief Innovation Officer at Ed Plus at Arizona State University, Tempe, AZ
    • Nikolay Burnaevskiy, Ph.D. – Scholar at Altius Institute for Biomedical Sciences, Seattle, WA
    • Lovett Evan Reddick, PhD. -  Senior Director at Takeda Oncology
    • Adam Wallenfang, M.S. – Partner/Consultant at Academic Technology Ventures and Freelance Tutor at Varsity Tutors
    • Jennifer Sanchez, B.S. – Graduate Student in the lab of Dr. Jennifer Kohler, UT Southwestern Medical Center, Dallas, TX
    • Sarah Sutton – Clinical Research Coordinator at Cedar Health Research, Dallas, TX
    • Patrick Woida, Ph.D. – Postdoctoral Fellow at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MA
    • Qi Wu