Research Training

The UNC Kidney Center training program promotes epidemiological, clinical, basic and translational research in kidney disease through predoctoral and postdoctoral research programs.

This program has grown with the development of collaborations between faculty and trainees. The UNC Kidney Center partners with the UNC Departments of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, the Department of Epidemiology in the School of Public Health, Genetics, Cell and Molecular Physiology, Nutrition, and the UNC Hemophilia and Thrombosis Center. Both pre- and post-doctoral trainees are mentored by faculty in these departments. 

Post-Doctoral Research

  • Basic/Translational Research -  Candidates with an MD who have completed their nephrology training conduct laboratory research under the mentorship of experienced faculty members.
  • Clinical Research - Candidates with an MD gain research experience through doing clinical research studies. Many also pursue a Master's degree in Department of Epidemiology or another department in the School of Public Health.


The Renal Epidemiology Training Grant, provided by the Ruth L. Kirschstein National Research Service Award (NRSA), currently supports 3 post-doctoral trainees in either basic/translational or clinical research. Additional funding may be available for post-doctoral research through a variety of sources such as the Glomerulonephritis (GN) Fellowship, the UNC Physician-Scientist Program, faculty research grants, and individual training fellowships offered by foundations and research grants.

Pre-Doctoral Research

Research trainees working on their PhD in a specialty area such as Pathology or Epidemiology partner with the UNC Kidney Center; their work supports and enhances nephrology research. Pre-doctoral candidates follow one of two paths:

  • Basic/Translational Research
  • Public Health Research, typically in Epidemiology or Health Behavior


The Renal Epidemiology Training Grant currently supports 3 pre-doctoral trainees in either basic/translational or public health research. Pre-doctoral research may also be funded through support from research or other grants.   

Current Trainees

View profiles of current trainees here.


M. Alan Brookhart, PhD, Department of Epidemiology 
Epidemiologic studies in end-stage renal disease

Donna Bunch, PhD, Division of Nephrology & Hypertension
Autoantibodies, regulatory B cells, B cell development, immunology, cell biology 

Emily Chang, MD, Division of Nephrology & Hypertension
Research in renal imaging and radiology 

Dominic Ciavatta, PhD, Department of Genetics
Molecular studies to decipher the genetic variants in ANCA glomerulonephritis 

Vimal Derebail, MD, MPH, Division of Nephrology & Hypertension
Epidemiology of chronic kidney disease, sickle cell trait, benign hematology, thrombophilia

Randy Detwiler, MD
Kidney transplantation 

Ronald J. Falk, MD, Division of Nephrology & Hypertension
Pathological and translational studies in glomerular disease

Jenny Flythe, MD, MPH, Division of Nephrology & Hypertension
Hemodialysis, fluid management and cardiovascular outcomes; patient-reported and patient-centered outcomes, epidemiology and biostatistics, survey methodology

Meghan Free, PhD, Division of Nephrology & Hypertension 
Autoimmunity, T cells, myeloid-derived suppressor cells

Keisha Gibson, MD, MPH, Division of Nephrology & Hypertension
Translational and clinical studies in glomerular disease

Gerardo Heiss, MD, Department of Epidemiology
Epidemiologic studies in cardiovascular disease and chronic kidney disease

Susan L. Hogan, PhD, MPH, Division of Nephrology & Hypertension
Epidemiology of kidney and glomerular disease 

J. Charles Jennette, MD, Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine
Pathological and translational studies in glomerular disease 

Nigel Key, MD, Division of Hematology-Oncology
Thrombotic complications of glomerular disease

Abhi Kshirsagar, MD, MPH Division of Nephrology & Hypertension
Epidemiologic studies in chronic kidney disease and end-stage renal disease

Nobuyo Maeda, PhD, Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine
Vascular biology and pathogenesis of atherosclerosis

Nigel Mackman, PhD, Division of Hematology-Oncology
Mouse models of glomerular disease

Terry Magnuson, PhD, Department of Genetics
Thrombosis, microparticles, genetics and molecular immunology in kidney disease 

Elizabeth Mayer-Davis, PhD, Department of Nutrition
Epidemiology of diabetes mellitus 

Amy Mottl, MD, MPH, Division of Nephrology & Hypertension
Genetics, pathogenesis, and epidemiology of diabetic kidney disease 

Patrick H. Nachman, MD, Division of Nephrology & Hypertension
Translational and clinical studies in glomerular disease

Carol A. Otey, PhD, Department of Cell and Molecular Physiology
Fibrosis in chronic kidney disease

William F. Pendergraft III, MD, PhD, Division of Nephrology & Hypertension
Translational and clinical research in glomerular disease, lupus nephritis, and ANCA-associated vasculitis

Til Stürmer, MD, MPH, Department of Epidemiology
Epidemiology of kidney disease

Maureen Su, PhD, Department of Pediatrics
Genetics of autoimmune disease


Each trainee is asked to select a mentor within the first 6 months of their fellowship. The mentor’s role is to provide you with support and vision as you face the challenges of nephrology training. The mentor can be a faculty member either within or outside the Nephrology Division.

Each fellow will be assigned a Research Oversight Committee, which consists of the primary research supervisor, as well as one or two additional faculty members who may be from within or outside the Division of Nephrology. Fellows will meet with committee members at least 3-4 times per year.

Research Projects

Examples of Post-Doctoral Research

  • Pharmaco-Epidemiology research
    Comparative effectiveness research strategies for the study of anti-hypertensive therapy intensification among hemodialysis patients
    Magdalene Assimon, PharmD, MS, PhD Candidate
  • Clinical Epidemiology research
    Diabetes and its renal complications in adolescents and young adults
    Katherine Westreich, MD
  • Translational research
    Venous Thromboembolism in ANCA Vasculitis: Role of Tissue Factor-Bearing Microparticles
    Elizabeth Brant, MD; Funded by a Vasculitis Foundation Fellowship 
  • Clinical research
    Characterization of clinical outcomes in patients with lupus membranous nephropathy
    Fernanda Payan-Schober, MD

Examples of Pre-Doctoral Research 

  • Lab-based research work
    DNA Methylation in Patients with ANCA-associated vasculitis
    Britta Jones, PhD Candidate 
  • Pharmaco-Epidemiology research work
    Comparative Effectiveness of Intravenous Iron Treatment Regimens in Hemodialysis Patients
    Xiaojuan Li, PhD Candidate 
  • Epidemiology research work 
    Contemporary Issues in Hypertension Research
    Shakia Hardy, PhD Candidate