Riley Hellinger

Graduate School
College of Medicine – Tucson
Year Entered Program: 
2021
Degrees Received: 

B.S. Cellular and Molecular Biological Sciences, High Honors - Montana Technological University - 2019

Thesis Advisor: 
Julie Ledford, PhD
About Me: 

I grew up in Shelby, Montana on my family's wheat farm. I did my undergraduate degree at Montana Technological University (Montana Tech) in Cellular and Molecular Biological Sciences. At Tech, my research projects were broadly focused on infectious disease and microbiology. I worked with Dr. Amy Kuenzi studying the prevalence of Sin Nombre Virus, the causitive agent of Hantavirus Pulmonary Syndrome, in deer mouse populations in sylvan environments around Montana. I also worked with Dr. Joel Graff and Dr. Marisa Pedulla studying bacteriophages infecting Mycobacterium smegmatis. In this project, I was able to discover two mycobacteriophages and characterize them at the macroscopic, microscopic, and genetic levels. I also worked to characterize numerous lysogens, bacteria that have a prophage inserted in their genome, to determine if having the prophage provided any beneficial or detrimental effects to the host. While at Tech, I also spent some time outside of the lab and classroom by singing in the Copper Hill Choir and volunteering through the Big Brothers Big Sisters mentoring program. 

In 2018, I was accepted as an Amgen Scholar at MIT, where I spent 8 weeks over the summer working in Dr. Michael Hemann's lab in the Koch Institue for Integrative Cancer Research. This experience is what really drove me to pursue the dual MD/PhD, since this was the first time I was able to clearly see how research could be translatable between the bench and the bedside. After graduating from Tech in 2019, Dr. Hemann invited me to join his lab full-time as the laboratory manager and technician. I spent two years in this position, focusing my research on understanding the mechanisms of resistance in B-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia (B-ALL) and acute myleoid leukemia (AML) when treated with chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T-cells and frontline chemotherapy, respectively. In Boston, when I was occassionaly able to escape the grips of the lab, I volunteered at the Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) in the Pediatric Hematology/Oncology Infusion unit. 

Now in Arizona, I am excited to be back in the West for my medical/graduate training with easy access to some beautiful scenery and hiking. In my abundance of free time during medical school, I was the Alternate Delegate and Vice President to the Medical Student Section of the American Medical Association (AMA-MSS) for UACOM-T, an Institutional Representative, Local Chapter President and Vice President to the American Physician Scientist Association (APSA) for UACOM-T, a Co-President for the radiology and anesthesiology interest groups, and Co-Coordinator for the Health for the Homeless CUP Clinic. I am also a member of Docappella, the internal medicine interest group, emergency medicine interest group, and resusitation education and CPR training group (REACT). My current plans for my graduate studies are to focus on research in the fields of asthma, airway remodeling, lung proteins, pulmonary infections, and antimicrobials.

Honors & Awards: 

Outstanding Achievement in Biological Sciences Award - Montana Technological University - May 2019

Best Poster in Biological Sciences at Techxpo - Montana Technological University 2018

Selected Publications: 

Publications:

Ramos, A., Koch, C.E., Liu, Y., Hellinger, R.D., Kyung, T., Larson, R.C., Fröse, J., Goulet, D., Doench, J.G., Regev, A., Maus, M.V., Birnbaum, M.E., and Hemann, M.T. (2023). Leukemia-intrinsic determinants of CAR-T response revealed by in vivo genome-wide CRISPR screening. Accepted to Nature Communications.

Caryl, N.E., June, C., Culbert, M.H., Hellinger, R.D., Hoyer, A.W., Klewer, S.E., and Seckeler, M.D. (2024). Incidence of Radiation-Associated Cancer in Patients with Congenital Heart Disease. The American Journal of Cardiology. 210, 65-68. [doi: 10.1016/j.amjcard.2023.10.030]

Menghani, S.V., Sanchez-Rosario, Y., Pok, C., Liu, R., Gao, F., O’Brien, H., Neubert, M.J., Ochoa, K., Durckel, M., Hellinger, R.D., Hackett, N., Wang, W., and Johnson, M.D.L. (2023). Novel dithiocarbamate derivatives are effective copper-dependent antimicrobials against Streptococcal species. Front. Microbiol. 13:1099330. [doi: 10.3389/fmicb.2022.1099330]

Patel, S.B., Webber, Z., Strah, D.D., Hellinger, R.D., Yrun-Duffy, M., Kowalek, K.A., and Seckeler, M.D. (2023). Acute Hospital Outcomes for Renal Transplantation in Patients With Moderate or Severe Congenital Heart Disease. The American Journal of Cardiology 186, 87-90. [doi: 10.1016/j.amjcard.2022.10.034]

Connelly, G.G., Kirkland, O.O., Bohannon, S., Lim, D.C., Wilson, R.M., Richards, E.J., Tay, D.M., Jee, H., Hellinger, R.D., Hao, L., Chhabra, A., Martin-Alonso, C., Tan, E.K.W., Koehler, A.N., Yaffe, M.B., Lee, P.Y., Krammer, F., Bohannon, R.C., Bhatia, S.N., Sikes, H.D., and Li, H. (2022). Direct capture of neutralized RBD enables rapid point-of-care assessment of SARS CoV-2 neutralizing antibody titer. Cell Reports Methods 2, 100273. [doi: 10.1016/j.crmeth.2022.100273]

Posters/Presentations:

Riley D. Hellinger, Natalie Iannuzo, Xinxin Ding, Paul R. Langlais, and Julie G. Ledford. Impact of Acute Cigarette Smoke Exposure on Respiratory Epithelial CC16 Levels and Viral Susecptibility. AAP/ASCI/APSA Joint Meeting. 2024. 

Riley D. Hellinger, Natalie Iannuzo, Xinxin Ding, Paul R. Langlais, and Julie G. Ledford. Impact of Acute Cigarette Smoke Exposure on Respiratory Epithelial CC16 Levels and Viral Susecptibility. Biology of Acute Respiratory Infection - Gordon Research Conference. 2024. 

Riley D. Hellinger, Natalie Iannuzo, Xinxin Ding, Paul R. Langlais, and Julie G. Ledford. Impact of Acute Cigarette Smoke Exposure on Respiratory Epithelial CC16 Levels and Viral Susecptibility. Biology of Acute Respiratory Infection - Gordon Research Seminar. 2024. 

Riley D. Hellinger. Leukemia-intrinsic determinants of CAR-T response revealed by in vivo genome-wide CRISPR screening. University of Arizona College of Medicine - Tucson Research Day (oral presentation). 2022

Riley D. Hellinger, Azucena Ramos, Yunpeng Liu, Catherine Koch, Joel Graff (thesis advisor), and Michael T. Hemann. Using Integrative Functional Genomics to Understand Chemo-Resistant Phenotypes in Hematological Malignancies. Montana Tech Biiological Sciences Thesis Defense. 2019

Winter R. Kemppainen, Riley D. Hellinger, and Joel W. Graff. “Moron” Gene Investigation in Lysogenic Mycobacterium smegmatis. Montana Technological University Techxpo (poster). 2019

Riley D. Hellinger, Azucena Ramos, Yunpeng Liu, Catherine Koch, and Michael T. Hemann. Using Integrative Functional Genomics to Understand Chemo-Resistant Phenotypes in Hematological Malignancies. MIT Amgen Scholars Program Poster Session (poster). 2018

Riley D. Hellinger, Hannah E. Sparks, and Marisa L. Pedulla. Characterization and Genomic Analysis of Mycobacteriophage Wamburgrxpress, Including the Determination of the Essentiality of the Terminal 5 Kilobase Pairs for Plaque Formation. 10th Annual HHMI SEA Symposium. Presentation (poster and oral presentation) 2018

Riley D. Hellinger, Hannah E. Sparks, and Marisa L. Pedulla. Characterization and Genomic Analysis of Mycobacteriophage Wamburgrxpress, Including the Determination of the Essentiality of the Terminal 5 Kilobase Pairs for Plaque Formation. Montana Technological University Techxpo (poster). 2018

Quinn C. Cunneen, Zach J. Hart, Riley D. Hellinger, Kelsey L. Schmidt, Joel W. Graff, and Amy J. Kuenzi. Examining Archived Whole Blood Samples from Montana Deer Mice for the Presence of Colorado Tick Fever Virus: Preliminary Results. Montana Technological University Techxpo (poster). 2017

Policy Resolutions:

Tirambulo, C.V.G., Flowers, M., Webber, Z., Hellinger, R.D., Cosio, I., Shahid, M., and Meyer, B. Amending H-160.903, Eradicating Homelessness to Include Support for Street Medicine Programs and Reduce Evictions. (2022) Annual Meeting of the Medical Student Section of the American Medical Association.