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Directors

Ronnie Zipkin
Student Director
Dartmouth MPUS Fellowship
MD-PhD Candidate, PY 1
Thayer School of Engineering
Department of Microbiology & Immunology
Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth

I graduated from Tufts University in 2010, where I majored in Biology and German. During my junior year abroad in Germany at the Eberhard Karls University of Tübingen, I first became involved in research in tropical medicine, working to improve methods to study the efficacy of a malaria vaccine then in clinical trials at the Albert Schweitzer Hospital in Gabon. After graduating, I worked at New York University School of Medicine and later City University of New York’ s Hunter College on primate innate immunity and population-scale strategies to fight African trypanosomiasis, the cause of sleeping sickness. At Dartmouth, I am a 3rd year MD-PhD student in the Molecular & Cellular Biology Immunology Program in the lab of Geisel & Thayer School of Engineering Professor Margie Ackerman. Our work focuses on antibody engineering - developing high throughput tools to study immune responses in infection and autoimmunity, combining these platforms with outcomes analysis to streamline vaccine and therapeutic antibody development.
Finding mentors in life is something I believe is essential to learning what it takes to build the relationships and sense of priorities needed to get things done in the world. The MPUS program is a great exposure to medicine and research through this lens. I have been fortunate to have been guided by many such people over the years, and we hope that anyone joining the MPUS family will leave with the same feeling.


Iara Backes
Student Director
Dartmouth MPUS Fellowship
MD-PhD Candidate, PY 1
Thayer School of Engineering
Department of Microbiology & Immunology
Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth

Hailing from the Andes but most recently from sunny Florida, where I got my Bachelor’s degree in Biochemistry at the University of Florida. My introduction to science began in an organic chemistry synthesis lab, then to physiology, and finally to the world of immunology and virology. I’ve always been a host-pathogen interactions fangirl and I’m excited to delve into HSV’s. My research interests include herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1) host-pathogen interactions. I am particularly interested in the humoral response and specific antibody characteristics against HSV-1. In addition, I am currently investigating maternal antibody protection during primary neonatal HSV-1 infection.
New Hampshire has, hands down, the best summers I have ever experienced. You’ll often find me in the river, paddling to my heart’s desire on a kayak.


Alex Thorngren, EdD, MS
Faculty Director
Dartmouth MPUS Fellowship

MD-PhD Operations Director
Instructor, Department of Medicine
Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth

For nearly 20 years, my professional work at Dartmouth has been a rewarding mixture of education and health care leadership. Advising, teaching, overseeing programs, and generally working with medical and graduate students at Dartmouth is built upon my educational background. I earned my undergraduate degree in 1997 from Norwich University in education and literature; my M.S. in Evaluative Clinical Sciences/Health Care Leadership from Dartmouth College in 2004; and completed my Ed.D. in Education Leadership and Policy at the University of Vermont in 2017.
The breadth of my professional practices at Dartmouth ranges from working with MD-PhD and other graduate students to directing The Health Careers Institute at Dartmouth, as well as, a small HHMI-funded public health fellowship program, and managing the New Hampshire Public Health Training Center. Presently, one of the great joys of administering the MD-PhD Program at the Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth is working alongside the MPUS student directors and helping new undergraduate students each summer take another career step towards academic and clinical excellence.