Principal Investigator

Adetunji Toriola, Professor of Surgery. MD, MPH, PhD

As a molecular cancer epidemiologist, I address methods for the use of biomarkers of energetics, metabolic imbalance, and inflammation, and their application in cancer etiology and prognosis, with a focus on breast and gastrointestinal cancers. My hobbies include traveling, playing cricket and soccer.


Alena Ahrens, PhD, MFA

I joined the Toriola Lab in 2018 as a public health research coordinator. I have a diverse background that includes communications, management, and transdisciplinary research. I received my Ph.D. in Education with an emphasis in teaching and learning processes from The University of Missouri – St. Louis. My prior education includes an MFA from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago in which I explored connections between mindfulness and arts-based practices. I enjoy spending time with my family, painting, and running.

Dante Chao, MA

I graduated from Washington University in St. Louis in 2018 with a B.A. in Psychology. I then went on to the University of Chicago where I received my M.A. in Social Sciences in 2019, researching the concept of the perception of manipulation and what its effects were. I joined the Toriola Lab in 2019 because I wanted to gain more experience in clinical research and helping patients in a healthcare setting. In my free time, I enjoy cooking, watching shows and movies, and playing video games.

Sarah Ning, BA

I graduated from Washington University in St. Louis in 2022, majoring in Anthropology: Global Health & Environment and minoring in Dance. I joined the lab to gain insight into how clinical research is conducted and to gain some overall experience. In my free time, I enjoy trying new restaurants, watching movies, and spending time with my friends.

Hannah Brenton, BS

I graduated from the University of Missouri- Columbia in 2017 with a B.S. in Biology and am currently pursuing a M.A. in Biology at Washington University in St. Louis. I joined the Toriola Lab in 2020 to gain more clinical experience and to gain experience coordinating a clinical trial. My interests include understanding disease pathogenesis and development of new therapeutics. In my free time, I enjoy gardening, spending time with family and trying new foods.  

Graduate Students

Wenqing Zhang, BA

I graduated from Soochow University in 2020 with a degree in Philosophy and am now pursuing my MSW degree at Brown School, Washington University in St. Louis, where I am concentrating in International Social and Economic Development. I joined the Toriola lab because I wanted to experience the process of clinical research and pursue more development in the field of medical disparity. In my free time, I enjoy traveling, exploring stores with friends, watching movies, and playing with the Nintendo switch.

Undergraduate Students

Sally Gacheru

I am a senior at Saint Louis University, majoring in Health Sciences on the Pre-Med track. I joined the lab to gain clinical research experience by connecting and developing my understanding of clinical and academic components of research. I am interested in working with Colocare participants and participating in a study to assist in improving patient care or preventing cancer in patients. In my free time, I enjoy traveling, exploring places & foods, and spending time with family and friends.  

Recent Lab Alumni


Ava Weibman, BA (2019 – 2022)

Ava is now pursing a Nurse Practitioner degree in Rochester, New York, with a focus in Psychiatry.

Irene Wang, BA (2019 – 2022)

Irene is now applying to medical schools.

Trisha Grewal, MPH (2018 – 2021)

Graduate Students

Yingwen (Jane) Shi, MPH (2021-2022)

Polly Haun, MPH (2021-2022)

Shuai Xu, MPH (2020-2021)

Shuai is now pursuing a PhD degree at Vanderbilt University.

Clifford Atiuri (2021-2022)

Clifford is finishing up his MPH and applying to residency programs.

Undergraduate Students

Yousaf Malik, BA (2021-2022)

Yousaf is now applying to medical schools.

Vikram Murugan, BA (2022)

Vikram is working as a medical scribe and applying to medical school.

Hasan Salim, BA (2021)

Hasan is now working as an EMT and applying to medical schools.

Kerem Yucebas, BA (2018-2021)

Kerem is now applying to medical schools.