Principal Investigator

Anna CliffeAnna Cliffe, PhD

Principal Investigator
Phone: (434) 924-7780

Anna is an Associate Professor in the Department of Microbiology, Immunology and Cancer at the University of Virginia and a member of the Neuroscience Graduate Program. Anna obtained her PhD from the University of Edinburgh in the UK, where she investigated the function of herpesvirus viral non-coding RNAs. She then undertook postdoctoral research at to Harvard Medical School where she worked with Dr. David Knipe on the chromatin chromatin regulation of herpes simplex virus infection. She then moved to Dr. Mohanish Deshmukh’s lab at the University of North Carolina, where she set up a primary neuronal system to investigate the mechanisms of herpes simplex virus latency and reactivation. She joined the faculty at UVa in August 2016 and was promoted to Associate Professor in 2022.

Lab Members

Sean CuddySean Cuddy

Graduate Student

Sean is a Neuroscience Graduate Program student in the Department of Microbiology, Immunology, and Cancer Biology at UVa. After earning a B.S. in Neurobiology from Georgetown University in 2015, Sean studied organelle transport and function in axons at the National Institutes of Health as a Postbac IRTA in the laboratory of Dr. Zu-Hang Sheng. He joined the Cliffe lab in February 2019 and is now investigating the interactions between HSV-1 and neuronal innate immune signaling pathways.

Sara DochnalSara Dochnal

Graduate Student

Sara is a graduate student in the Department of Microbiology, Immunology, and Cancer Biology at UVa. She received a B.S. in Animal Sciences from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 2018. During her undergraduate studies, she spent two years in the laboratory of Dr. David Miller, studying the interaction of oviduct glycoproteins on spermatozoan capacitation and fertility. She also worked in the integrated nutrition/cognitive neuroscience lab of Dr. Ryan Dilger, investigating the effects of different feed additives on piglet and chicken growth and behavior. Her four years under a Pre-Veterinary concentration sparked her interest in disease pathologies and the microbes that cause them. She joined the Cliffe Lab in February 2019 and now explores the chromatin based regulation of HSV  reactivation

Alison FrancoisAlison Francois

Graduate Student

Alison earned an integrated BSc/MSc in biochemistry at the University of St Andrews, Scotland, during which she spent her fourth year at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. Her research in London involved biochemical characterisation of African Horse Sickness Virus proteins in comparison with the Orbivirus prototype species Bluetongue Virus. Alison’s MSc project in St Andrews investigated the interaction between MxA and Influenza A and B viruses, She joined the Cliffe lab in January 2018, where her research focuses on the role of facultative heterochromatin in HSV latency.

Patryk KrakowiakPatryk Krakowiak

Graduate Student

Patryk was a former visiting student and joined the Cliffe lab in 2022 after being accepted into the UVA BIMS program. Patryk is investigating cell-type specific responses to HSV infection

Abigail WhitfordAbigail (Abby) Whitford

Graduate Student

Abby is a graduate student in the Microbiology, Immunology, and Cancer Biology Department at the University of Virginia.  She earned her B.S. in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at Centre College in Danville, KY.  During her undergraduate career she spent time in the labs of Dr. Michelle Ozbun at the University of New Mexico and Dr. Scott Vande Pol at the University of Virginia.  In both labs she investigated Human Papillomavirus and became interested in viral research.  Abby joined the Cliffe lab in February 2021 and her research focuses on the epigenetics of HSV latency.

Research specialists

Matt Loftus

Research specialist

Matt Loftus joined the Cliffe lab in 2022 having previously worked in a herpesvirus lab. In the Cliffe lab, Matt is investigating the mechanisms of Polycomb silencing in HSV latency and role of a viral non-coding RNA.


Matthew Flores

Lab Technician

Matthew Flores is a former undergraduate in the lab and was hired as a technician in June 2022. Matthew is investigating the contribution of immune signaling pathways to HSV latency and reactivation.

Previous lab members

Aleksandra Babnis

Visiting Graduate Student 2018-2019

Aleksandra is now a PhD student at the International Max Planck Research School for Molecular Life Sciences in Munich.

Austin Schinlever

Laboratory Technician 2017-2019

Austin received his B.S. in Chemistry from the University of Virginia in 2017. He joined the Cliffe Lab in May 2017 and worked on HSV reactivation in response to neuronal hyperexcitability. Austin is now a graduate student at NYU.

Jon Suzich

Graduate Student 2018-2021

Jon was the Cliffe labs first graduate student. He joined the Cliffe lab in January 2018 and successfully defended his thesis in May 2021. Jon was awarded an F30 from NEI and received the UVA Wagner Fellowship, the Whitfield Randolph Scholarship and the UVA Double Hoo. Jon is currently finishing Medical School as part of the UVA MSTP program.