Our Fellows


Cindy Barba, PhD 
Laboratory of Dr. Elina Zuniga
Department of Molecular Biology

My research seeks to understand the role of pDCs in head and neck cancers. pDCs are known to become exhausted and loose their function within tumors. Additionally, high pDC tumor infiltration can be harmful for patients. Understanding the mechanisms that drive pDC exhaustion can lead to therapies that work by reversing or preventing pDC exhaustion in head and neck cancers.

Jacqueline Bonds, PhD
Laboratories of Dr. Hemal Patel and Dr. Brian Head
Department of Anesthesiology

Increasing our understanding of how cellular energetics are altered in aging and disease will provide valuable insights into potential interventions, with the goal of increasing the quantity and quality of life of those affected by these diseases. My research focuses on mitochondrial dynamics in hippocampal neural stem cells, which are critical for learning and memory functions, and will extend to include induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) from human patients who have been diagnosed with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis or Alzheimer’s disease.

Amanda Brambila, PhD
Laboratory of Dr. Karen Oegema
Department of Cell and Molecular Medicine

My work aims to elucidate the molecular mechanisms that regulate cell division, more specifically mitosis. My project focuses on understanding how a ubiquitin ligase assures fidelity during this process.

Gabriel Castro-Falcón, PhD
Laboratory of Dr. Paul Jensen
Scripps Institution of Oceanography

My research focus is on the discovery and characterization of medicinal compounds made by marine organisms, such as bacteria and marine invertebrates. In the interphase between chemistry, molecular biology, ecology and pharmacology, my goal is to improve our ability to treat human ailments such as cancer and infectious diseases.

Christian Cazares, PhD
Laboratory of Dr. Bradley Voytek
Department of Cognitive Sciences

Throughout the animal kingdom, social species establish social hierarchies and use social rank to guide the appropriate expression of dominance behaviors that are critical for survival. My research uses mouse models to characterize how orbitofrontal cortex neurons process social ranking information and evaluate how their interactions with serotonergic systems influence the expression of social dominance behaviors. Developing a better understanding of the neuronal mechanisms governing the appropriate expression of social behaviors will provide great value to clinicians and translational researchers wanting to treat impairments in control of social behaviors that are found in psychiatric disease.

Sedelia Dominguez, PhD
Laboratory of Dr. Fabian Rivera-Chavez
Department of Pediatrics

My research focuses on understanding the interactions that contribute to the survival of Vibrio cholerae, which is a bacteria that causes the severe diarrheal disease known as cholera. I am specifically investigating how the bacteria evades intestinal immunity to promote its survival. By investigating these mechanisms, we will gain insight into how to develop cost-effective therapeutics to treat intestinal bacterial infections.

Hailey Edwards, PhD
Laboratory of Dr. Deborah Yelon
Division of Biological Sciences

My research focuses on understanding the molecular mechanisms that specify the identity of different cardiac populations during embryonic development. My project specifically focuses on the molecular pathways involved in the specification of cardiac pacemaker cells, a small population of specialized cardiomyocytes that are essential for maintaining a normal cardiac rhythm.​​​​

Matthew Ellis, PhD
Laboratories of Dr. Farah Sheikh and Dr. Andrew McCulloch
Department of Medicine

My research focuses on cardiac conduction and physiology, with an emphasis on understanding the basis for arrhythmogenic disease. By increasing our knowledge of irregular heart patterns, we can better devise treatments and interventions for patients.


Arnold Gutierrez, PhD
UC San Diego Chancellor's Postdoctoral Fellow
Laboratory of Dr. Michael Taffe
Department of Psychiatry

My research examines the behavioral effects of drug inhalation in pre-clinical models. A major focus of this work is on the long-term effects of repeated opioid vapor inhalation during adolescence. The aim of this work is to better understand how route of administration and age of drug exposure contribute to changes that influence drug-taking behavior later in life.

Alexandria Hoffman, PhD
Laboratory of Dr. Victor Nizet
Department of Pediatrics

Sepsis is responsible for one third of hospital deaths in the United States. My research applies novel bio-mimicking nanotechnology to the treatment of immune dysfunction during sepsis with the goal of improving survival and quality of life after sepsis diagnosis.


Francisco Méndez Díaz, PhD
Laboratory of Dr. Kevin Corbett
Department of Cellular and Molecular Medicine

My research determines how sister homologs are stabilized and maintained, particularly by chromosomal axis core proteins, to promote genome stability throughout the meiotic process. Specifically, I am utilizing yeast genetics, biochemistry, and structural biology to determine how the axis core protein Red1 and the meiotic cohesin complex interact together to take part of chromosome axis assembly. My research will contribute to the field of meiosis by providing new insights into chromosome axis assembly, a requirement for driving meiosis.


Alexia Perryman, PhD
Laboratory of Dr. Laura Crotty Alexander
Department of Medicine

There are several new and emerging public health issues impacting respiratory health such as vaping. My research examines the mechanisms underlying respiratory and systemic effects of e-cigarette use.

Julio Pimente​l, PhD
Laboratory of Dr. JoAnn Trejo
Department of Pharmacology​
Breast cancer is the most common and second-leading cause of cancer deaths among women in the United States. My research focuses on the role of deubiquitinases in regulating G protein-coupled receptor-mediated invasion and metastasis in triple-negative breast cancer, which is an aggressive form of breast cancer. ​

Alexis Reyes, PhD
Laboratory of Dr. Randy Hampton
Division of Biological Sciences

I investigate membrane protein structure and function. My project aims to determine the structural changes that regulate 3-hydroxy-3-methylglutarylcoenzyme A reductase, which is the rate limiting enzyme in the mevalonate biosynthetic pathway.


Pamela Riviére, PhD
UC San Diego Chancellor's Postdoctoral Fellow
Laboratory of Dr. Bradley Voytek
Department of Cognitive Science 

My work explores neuronal mechanisms (action potential rate, spike timing, and waveform shape) through which distinct cell types contribute to neural circuit function. I additionally investigate how neuromodulators influence neuronal activity, in order to understand how various age-related and pathological conditions affect neural circuitry and behavior.​


Alyssa Rodriguez, PhD
Laboratory of Dr. Kevin Corbett
Department of Cellular and Molecular Medicine

Issues in meiosis can lead to miscarriages, cancer, and chromosomal abnormalities in humans. To ensure the successful transfer of genetic information from one generation to the next, DNA recombination must coordinate programmed double stranded DNA breaks via chromatin interacting proteins. I investigate the chromatin binding region of metazoan HORMA domain (HORMAD) containing protein Hop1 and how it interacts with chromatin structurally and functionally, utilizing structural biology and biochemical techniques.​

Lamar Thomas, PhD
Laboratory of Dr. Victor Nizet
Department of Pediatrics

My research focuses heavily on microbiology and immunology. My current project aims to develop and assess vaccine candidates for group A and group B streptococcal infections in women and young children.


Danae Woodard, PhD
Laboratory of Dr. Radha Ayyagari
Department of Ophthalmology

My research focuses on understanding the molecular and genetic causes of vision threatening diseases. Using a combination of molecular genetics and cell biology approaches, we aim to identify the genetic basis of disease in human and animal models with retinal dystrophies and understand the pathways that lead to degeneration, with the ultimate goal of developing therapies that prevent blindness.​