Current Fellows                                    San Diego IRACDA Speaker Profiles 2018.pdf


Isaac Alexander Chaim, Ph.D.

Department of Cellular and Molecular Medicine, laboratory of Gene Yeo

Ph.D. Massachusetts Institute of Technology

B.S. Universidad Simon Bolivar, Caracas, Venezuela

My research is focused on understanding the effects of nucleic acid damage on RNA Binding Protein biology during the development of neurodegenerative diseases. I am also interested in establishing single cell tecnnologies, specifically on utilizing single cell transcriptomics in neurodegeneration models with the goal of identifying cell-specific molecular signatures that could allow for early intervention strategies.

Jessica Sowa, Ph.D.

Division of Biological Sciences, laboratory of Emily Troemel

Ph.D. Baylor College of Medicine

B.S. University of Rochester

My research focuses on characterizing infection sensing mechanisms and neuro-immune signaling networks using the nematode C. elegans as a model system.

Anel Lizcano, Ph.D.

Department of Cell and Molecular Medicine, laboratory of Ajit Varki

Ph.D. University of Texas, San Antonio

B.S. University of Texas, El Paso

My current research interests include investigating the mechanisms of how oral streptococci and Group A streptococci use molecular mimicry to evade the immune system in whole blood and skin, respectively, and how self-associated molecular patterns are essential to avoid unwanted inflammation in healthy humans.

Angelica Riestra, Ph.D. (UC President’s Postdoctoral Fellow)

Department of Pediatrics, Skaggs School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences, laboratory of Victor Nizet

Ph.D. University of California, Los Angeles

B.S. University of California, Los Angeles

Trichomonas vaginalis is a protozoan parasite that causes Trichomoniasis, the most common non-viral sexually transmitted infection in the world. I investigate the innate immune response against the parasite and its possible modulation by T. vaginalis.

Jeremiah Keyes, Ph.D.

Department of Pharmacology, laboratory of Jin Zhang

Ph.D. Wake Forest School of Medicine

B.S. Brigham Young University

My research project is to determine the spatial and temporal dynamics of the molecular machines, particularly protein kinases, that are involved in this cellular communication. By increasing our understanding of the regulation of protein kinases in their cellular environment, we will be better equipped to treat diseases, such as cancer, that arise from aberrant signaling processes.

Eillen Tecle, Ph.D.

Division of Biological Sciences, laboratory of Emily Troemel

Ph.D. Albert Einstein College of Medicine

B.S. Eastern Michigan University

Although epithelial cells have established roles as passive participants in immune reactions, little is known active roles of the epithelium in which pathogens are targeted and destroyed by epithelial cells. Our lab has identified an active role of the C. elegans intestine is response to infection by a number of its natural intracellular pathogens. I am currently investigating the mechanisms by which this active role is regulated.

Morgan Mouchka, Ph.D.

Division of Biological Sciences, laboratory of Justin Meyer

Ph.D. Cornell University

B.S. Oregon State University

Viruses expand their host range by accumulating mutations that enable them to infect new hosts. I investigate the ecological and evolutionary dynamics that drive the evolvability of this process using the Bacteriophage lambda-Escherichia coli model system. 

Olivia Molinar, Ph.D.

Department of Pharmacology and Pediatrics, laboratory of JoAnn Trejo and Victor Nizet

Ph.D. Carnegie Mellon University

B.S. University of Texas El Paso

I investigate protease-activated GPCR signals and cytoskeletal factors that are involved in endothelial barrier stabilization. Our research goal is to identify GPCR mediated novel proteins that can alleviate sepsis, a systematic and life-threatening condition resulting from aberrant vascular leakage due to infection.

Sergio Ita, Ph.D. (Chancellor’s Postdoctoral Fellow)

Department of Medicine, Division of Infectious Diseases, laboratory of Davey Smith

Ph.D. Harvard University

B.S. California State University San Marcos

My research is focused on understanding the transmission networks of viral pathogens, most notably HIV-1. I am investigating HIV-1 transmission among at-risk groups in the San Diego region using next-generation sequencing (NGS) technologies to inform molecular epidemiological efforts towards HIV prevention.

Rachael Barry, Ph.D.

Department Cellular and Molecular Medicine, laboratory of Andres Leschziner

Ph.D. Princeton University

B.S. New York University

Many cellular processes work together to organize DNA into chromatin and ensure that the proper genes are expressed at the right time. I study the mechanism by which chromatin remodeling complexes alter chormatin structure in healthy cells and what changes to their function occur in cancer.

Keolu P. Fox, Ph.D.

Department of Medicine, Division Endocrinology and Metabolism, laboratory of Alan Saltiel

Ph.D. University of Washington, School of Medicine

B.S. University of Maryland

My work focuses on using genome technologies to investigate the molecular events involved in chronic inflammatory states resulting in obesity and catecholamine resistance.

James Hall, Ph.D.

Department of Pharmacology, laboratory of Susan Taylor

Ph.D. University of California, Riverside

B.S. University of California, Riverside

My current studies focus on how protein structure leads to enzymatic function. Utilizing a wide array for structural techniques including X-ray crystallography, small angle X-ray and neutron scattering, and electron microscopy, I work to characterize the dynamic structure of cAMP-dependent protein kinase (PKA) and elucidate how interaction with associated proteins contribute to regulation and targeted function.

Tony Davis, Ph.D.

Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, laboratory of Michael D. Burkart

Ph.D. Cornell University

B.S. Xavier University of Louisiana

Natural products have diverse structural and functional complexity, important for pharmaceutical agents. I develop novel small-molecule probes to interrogate the biosynthesis of non-ribosomal peptide and polyketide-derived natural products for bioactivity and structural studies.

Jessica Cassin, Ph.D.

Department of Reproductive Medicine, laboratory of Pam Mellon

Ph.D. John Hopkins University

B.S. University of Louisville

My project involves the in vitro validation of candidate genes identified from whole exome sequencing of isolated GnRH deficiency (IGD) patients. IGD is a disorder hallmarked by low levels of the gonadotropin hormones, LH and FSH, which prevents puberty and leads to infertility and bone loss. This validation approach allows us to uncover new genes and pathways which not only affects IGD disease development and progression but also offers new insights into the larger reproductive axis.

Natalie Goldberg, Ph.D.

Department of Cellular and Molecular Medicine, laboratory of Susan Ackerman

Ph.D. University of California Irvine

B.S. Williamette University

Translation of genetic code into functional proteins requires careful monitoring and editing by a suite of molecular machinery including transfer RNA, complementary synthetases and the ribosome. I study the mechanisms by which cells achieve meticulous translation, where and how toxic errors occur, and how to correct those errors. I am paritcularly interested in how mistranslation of genetic code affects neurodevelopment and neurodegeneration.

Peter Ramirez, Ph.D. (Chancellor’s Postdoctoral Fellow)

Department of Medicine, Division of Infectious Diseases, laboratory of John Guatelli

Ph.D. University of Utah

B.S. University of California, Santa Barbara

HIV-1, the causative agent of AIDS, encodes non-enzymatic “accessory” proteins that promote viral persistence and pathogenesis via evasion of the host immune response. I investigate the mechanism by novel cellular proteins impair HIV-1 infectivity, and how the pathogenic factor HIV-1 Nef-counteracts this function.

Dequina Nicholas, Ph.D. (UC President’s Postdoctoral Fellow)

Department of Reporductive Medicine, laboratory of Pam Mellon and Mark Lawson

Ph.D. Loma Linda University

B.S. Southern Adventist University

Diets high in fats and lipids have many adverse affects on the human body. I research how these fats and lipids impact hormones and disrupt female reproduction.