Varela-Stokes Lab People

andrea v-stokes-banner

 Basic Sciences


Andrea Varela-Stokes, DVM, PhD (CV)
Associate Professor, Principal Investigator


Andrea has been at Mississippi State University since 2007. Aside from her research interests, she is passionate about teaching and international service. She is course leader for Veterinary Parasitology (professional course) and Helminthology (graduate course), and guest lecturer for a variety of other courses, such as Wildlife Diseases, at MSU.

She shares her life with husband, John and their son, Marco. Current four-legged family members are Roscoe (woof), Leon (meow) and Marsellus (meow). Outside of MSU-CVM, her time is spent with family and preferably outdoors.

John Stokes, MS (CV)

Lab Manager

John previously managed the Flow Cytometry Core Facility where he gained a wealth of knowledge but missed his time at the bench. He returned to parasitology research from the dark side in 2014.

Past Lab Members:

Gail Moraru, PhD

Post-doctoral scientist

After a post-doctoral experience working with disease modeling and mosquitoes in Israel, we are fortunate that Gail returned to her doctoral alma mater and lab home to apply her newfound skills and knowledge toward furthering rickettsial research. Gail also spends part of her post-doc teaching.

Jung Keun (Kevin) Lee, DVM

Doctoral candidate; Anatomic Pathologist

Kevin is investigating rickettsial interactions in the Gulf Coast tick-rickettsial system, where his expertise in anatomy, veterinary medicine and parasitology have provided a strong foundation. Kevin became board certified in in Veterinary Anatomic Pathology in Fall 2014.

Kaitlin Graham 

Master’s student

Katie’s research centers on ticks and tick-borne agents in beef cattle breeds, and her experience as a veterinary technician has allowed her to easily broaden her skills to large animals and bench work. Katie received her BS in Wildlife Science at Mississippi State University in 2014.

Amanda Benton-Harper 

Undergraduate Student Worker

Amanda is a Biochemistry major in the Shackouls Honors College at MSU and has been with us since Fall 2013. She got a taste of a biochemistry lab this summer through a Research Internship in Science and Engineering in Germany, and we are happy she returned to the tick lab this senior year.

Haley Parker 

Undergraduate Student Worker

Haley is a Microbiology major in the Shackouls Honors College at MSU and has been with us since Fall 2014. With plans to pursue research post-graduation, Haley has been gaining experience with all aspects of our current projects.

Jacob Hughes 

Undergraduate Student Worker

Jacob joined our lab this past summer 2015. He is currently majoring in mechanical engineering through the Bagley College of Engineering and plans to pursue a Master’s degree post-graduation.

Keiko Rausch

Research Associate II

Keiko worked in our lab for about 6 months before being whisked away to the University of Pennsylvania in Fall of 2014, where she is currently a lab technician in a virology lab. She received her bachelor's degree from the University of North Dakota and worked in molecular science, genetics and psycho-physiology labs in Japan and the U.S.

Flavia G. Ferrari, MV, PhD

Dr. Ferrari received her veterinary degree from Brazil and finished her PhD in our laboratory in 2012 investigating the population genetics of R. parkeri and A. maculatum in Mississippi and studying the sympatric species, “Candidatus R. andeanae”. After graduating, she became a Project Leader for a Parasitology lab at Merck Animal Health in DeSoto, Kansas and is currently still in industry research. Flavia and her husband, Clau are proud parents of a baby girl born in 2014.

Whitney Smith, MS

Whitney (Research Associate II) received her MS in Biochemistry from MSU and was employed from 2011 to 2013. After her husband finished his PhD, they moved with his job offer. She is still working for MSU, though in Stoneville, MS. She and her husband, Chad, also became new parents of little girl in 2014.

Chelsea McIntosh, MS

Chelsea (Research Associate II) received her MS in Biological Engineering from MSU and was employed with us for just under a year before her passion and amazing talent for making unique jewelry led her to starting her own business, which is prospering well!  

Ashley Harris Castellaw, MS
Ashley completed her MS in our lab in 2009. Her research focused on the detection of tick-borne agents in wildlife and Amblyomma americanum ticks in Mississippi. She is currently employed at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, TN, is married to Matt Castellaw, a DVM graduate from 2012, and also had a baby girl in 2014 (as was the trend that year)!

Kristine Tischer Edwards DVM, PhD
Dr. Edwards completed her PhD in our lab in December 2009. Her research focused on the role of cattle in Rickettsia parkeri natural history. Part of her current role at MSU is as an instructor in the Veterinary Parasitology course.She also manages to practice veterinary medicine out of her home, which she shares with her husband Philip, several horses, goats, chickens and dogs.

Erle Chenney, MS
Erle (Research Associate III) worked in our laboratory on various projects from June 2007 to August 2010 and has been a dedicated part of the MSU CVM family.

Past Veterinary Summer Research Experience students:
2015: Elizabeth Mitchell (MSU-CVM)

2014: Erica Unz (MSU-CVM)

2013:  Brittany Moore-Henderson (MSU-CVM)

            Lauren Belser (co-advisor with Dr. Linda Pote; MSU-CVM)

2012: Sharon Yang (MSU-CVM)

2010: Diana Link (MSU-CVM)

2009: Alexandria Murphy (Tuskegee University School of Veterinary Medicine);

            Alex also returned to our lab during the summer of 2011 to continue her project.

2008: Jamesia Showers (Tuskegee University School of Veterinary Medicine)

Lab Photos through the years