Scott Williams

Scott received his Bachelors degree in Biology from Brown University where he focused on Biotechnology and Bioengineering. After graduation, he spent several years as a technician at CytoTherapeutics (later known as StemCells, Inc), where he worked to develop polymer-based matrices for use in encapsulated cell therapies to treat chronic pain and neurodegenerative disorders. This is where he developed his passion for neuroscience and developmental and stem cell biology, and which led him to pursue a PhD in Neurobiology and Behavior at Columbia University. In the laboratory of Carol Mason, Scott identified several receptor-ligand systems that mediate retinal axon pathfinding and divergence at the optic chiasm. For his post-doc, Scott joined the laboratory of Elaine Fuchs at The Rockefeller University where he worked to characterize the molecular machinery that controls spindle orientation and cell fate choices in the developing epidermis.


Scott came to UNC in 2013 as an Assistant Professor in the Department of Pathology & Laboratory Medicine, with an adjunct appointment in Biology, and is a member of the Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center. Scot has broad research interests in the cell, developmental and cancer biology of stratified epithelia, with a particular emphasis on oral epithelia. Scott is extremely passionate and active in graduate and undergraduate student training and education, and is a recent recipient of the John Wheeler Grisham Award for Excellence in Teaching Graduate Students. Scott also serves on the Executive Committee for three graduate curricula (Genetics and Molecular BiologyCell Biology & Physiology, and Pathobiology & Translational Sciences), is the faculty advisor for the Marc J Mass Memorial lecture, and has leadership roles in BBSP admissions and recruiting. He is also an instructor for PATH713/715 (“Molecular and Cellular Pathophysiologic Basis of Disease: Mechanisms of Disease/Systemic Pathology”), PHCO744 (“Stem Cells”), CBP 851 (“Modern Concepts in Cell Biology II”), and is a first-year group co-mentor in BBSP902 (“Seminar in Biological and Biomdical Sciences”). In addition to serving as the thesis advisor (BIOL692H) for undergraduates in the lab, Scott also serves as the Biology Faculty Sponsor for many undergraduates performing research (BIOL395/495) in other labs at UNC.

Most current CV.

scott_williams [at]

Bethany Wagner

Bethany joined the Williams lab in May 2017 as a student in the Pathobiology and Translational Science curriculum. She is studying mechanisms of oral carcinogenesis in a variety of mouse models. Her excitement for understanding the genetics of cancer comes from her previous research experiences and a lifelong interest in medicine. As an undergraduate at Davidson College, Bethany worked with Professor Karen Hales to elucidate the genetic mechanisms governing mitochondrial shaping during Drosophila spermatogenesis. After college, Bethany moved to Cambridge, MA to work in Professor Tyler Jacks’ group as a research assistant. There, she used a murine model of small cell lung cancer to test novel targeted therapies and generated novel cancer models with Dr. Britt Rideout. When she’s not at the lab bench, Bethany enjoys playing trombone and baking cookies.

bethany.wagner [at]

Kevin Byrd

Kevin Byrd is a clinician-scientist studying epithelial growth, patterning, and regeneration at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Originally from Fort Wayne, Indiana, Kevin is a postdoctoral research associate in Scott Williams' lab and also a surgical resident in the Graduate Training Program in Periodontics at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Currently, he is interested in how the mucosal lining of the oral cavity regenerates and how these mucosal epithelia develop and retain their protective capabilities, despite constant challenges by microbes, toxins, and injury. The potential implications of this research extend from implementing autologous stem cell therapies, unraveling the contribution of the oral microbiome to chronic mucosal inflammatory diseases, and furthering our current understanding of oral tumorigenesis.

kevin_byrd [at]

Carlos Patiño Descovich

Carlos Patiño Descovich is interested in how the coordination of intercellular signaling and mechanical cues direct proper tissue growth and maintenance of the epidermis. Carlos was born in Bogotá, Colombia and grew up in Montréal, Québec. During his M.Sc with Dr. Amy Maddox at Université de Montréal he studied the roles of actin crosslinkers during the formation and ingression of the cytokinetic contractile ring. As a PhD candidate Carlos is interested in the mechanisms that establish and sustain epidermal stem cells polarity during embryonic development. Carlos loves eating corn from the cob and will judge you if you do otherwise.

cdesco [at]

Kendall Lough

Kendall Lough is a PhD candidate from Raleigh, North Carolina. He joined the Williams lab in the Spring of 2014 after graduating from NC State University. Kendall’s current work is focused on elucidating non-canonical roles of cell-cell adhesion and biomechanical tension in the developing epidermis and oral epithelia. Kendall’s work has shown that epidermal progenitors rely on adhesion molecules to orient their cell divisions. He is also funded by the NIH/NIDCR to improve our understanding of the role these molecules play in the fusion of the palatal shelves. In the future, Kendall hopes to continue utilizing his passion for animal models to better understand molecular mechanisms underlying development and disease. In his free time, Kendall enjoys playing basketball, feeding his dog (named Pasta), and is a novice beekeeper.

klough [at]

Jina Yom

Jina Yom is an undergraduate student at UNC-CH studying biology, chemistry, and women and genderstudies. Their current work is focused on examining the role of FERM domain proteins in mitotic spindle orientation. Outside the lab, Jina enjoys reading, traveling, and swing dancing.

Abby Bergman

Abby Bergman is an undergraduate student from Seattle, Washington pursuing a B.S. in Quantitative Biology and a B.A. in Music Performance. Her passion for science began with her early experiments mixing kitchen ingredients in Tupperware and leaving them to mold (circa age 8), but she first realized she wanted to pursue science after genetically modifying E. Coli to express fluorescent protein in her freshman Honors Biology course. Abby joined the Williams lab in 2016, and is currently investigating the role of adhesion molecules, primarily nectins, in palatal closure. When she’s not in lab, you can find Abby on the field with the Marching Tar Heels, or running around Chapel Hill, trying to make friends with every dog she passes.

Natalie Piehl

Natalie Piehl is an undergraduate student from Chicago, Illinois currently pursuing a B.S. in Biology and a B.S. in Mathematics. Her current research interests include oral epithelial stem cell behavior, specifically within the context of environmental stress, and quantitative modeling of cell proliferation patterns. Natalie joined the Williams Lab in 2017 after spending a year working as a zebrafish core technical assistant within the Division of Comparative Medicine. Her passion for scientific research stems from a life-long love for biology and a desire to explore her curiosities about the natural world in a purposeful, productive manner. Outside of the lab, Natalie enjoys reading, eating Thai food, and watching horror movies of all qualities.

Jason Guo

Jason Guo is an undergraduate student from Durham, North Carolina currently pursuing a B.S. in biology and a minor in either neuroscience, computer science, or statistics.  His primary research interest lies in fields related to cellular development, specifically with how the proliferation and differentiation of cells under abnormal circumstances can impact human bodily functions.  He is particularly interested in areas related to cancer biology and oncology. During his free time, he enjoys playing racquetball and attempting to learn new languages.

Please reload