Mentored Scholars Program Available Mentors

Section 1

Andrade, Rosa – MD, Assistant Professor of Medicine, Infectious Diseases (PRIME-LC)

I have been at UCI since 2016 and recently found out about this program. I was recruited from UCSD, brought my NIHK08 and RWJF awards to UCI and am supported by the DOM and ID Division. I have plenty of sub-projects for interested medical students to participate. My research investigates the human pathogen Toxoplasma gondii that causes devastating neurological disease in immunocompromised patients. I am focused in two aspects of toxoplasmosis:

  1. Elucidating how T. gondii controls its redox homeostasis and how it can be targeted for therapeutic development. Most of the projects part of this main area of research requires involvement in wet lab experiments (molecular biology, microscopy, cell culture)
  2. Elucidating how T. gondii causes damage in the developing brain: we have optimized a chicken embryo model to investigate this area. Most of the work requires immunohistochemistry, molecular biology techniques.

I am also interested in investigating how T. gondii disease is diagnosed in clinical settings and the level of knowledge of providers to request screening. This project has not started yet, but will require computer skills and attention to detail when harvesting patients ‘data from their electronic records.

All of these projects are suitable for abstracts or publications over the course of a few years.

Billimek, John -  PhD, Associate Professor of Family Medicine, Co-Director of Program in Medical Education for the Latino Community (PRIME-LC)

The HELIOS lab is seeking motivated medical students to work on an NIH-funded study of disparities in hypertension management, the Mi Propio Camino study.

Latinx adults with hypertension in the U.S. are much more likely than others to have uncontrolled blood pressure, but are much less likely to be taking guideline medications.  Although cost and access remain important barriers, much of this underuse is driven by pervasive concerns about the safety and benefit of medications.

Our NIH/NHLBI funded study (R01 HL142964, Billimek PI) examines an intervention combining group visits, home monitoring and physician oversight to empower patients to explore different combinations of medication and lifestyle regimens to find “my own way” (Mi Propio Camino) to control blood pressure.  We hypothesize that patients empowered to reflect on their own concerns and preferences about blood pressure management, and to communicate about these concerns with the doctor, will be more willing and more committed to adhere to a clinically appropriate regimen.

Medical Students will have the opportunity to:

  • Work alongside experienced health educators and physicians facilitating group medical visits and group education classes for Spanish-speaking patient participants at FHC-Santa Ana
  • Support patients in their use of mobile devices to monitor their own experiences with blood pressure management strategies
  • Learn about how providers and patients can effectively communicate about concerns related to medications
  • Mentor URM undergraduate and postbaccalaureate student researchers on their path to careers in medicine and other health professions
  • Develop your own research question and use clinical, questionnaire, and home monitoring/mobile device data to publish or present findings in a peer reviewed journal or professional conference

Conversational or higher Spanish language proficiency is highly preferred.  Learn more about our lab at theHELIOSlab.org.


Bradley, Caryn - PT, PhD, Neonatal Physical Therapist, Department of Physical Therapy

Co-Investigators: Dr. Aslam, Neonatologist, Robin Koeppel, DNP Neonatal Clinical Nurse Specialist, William Tang PhD, School of Engineering

Project Title: Nonlinear Methods of Analyzing Respiratory Waveform Variability during Oral Feeding in Preterm Infants

Purpose of this research: The purpose of this research is to examine the clinical utility of individualized therapeutic interventions on oral feeding outcomes in preterm infants. This topic is of importance to caregivers working with high risk infants in the neonatal intensive care unit. To optimize oral feeding progression, what remains unknown is the relationship between breathing patterns and oral feeding success in preterm infants. This proposed project will significantly improve clinical practice by providing an objective, data-based assessment that analyzes and quantifies the complexity of breathing patterns (respiratory waveform variability).

The research study will analyze respiratory waveform variability as a measure of physiologic status and neuromaturation during bottle feeding in preterm infants. This research could enable clinicians to link oral feeding skills with non-invasive biomarkers that could potentially reduce complications, shorten hospitalizations, and improve growth in preterm infants. This information could result in novel treatment regimens that are beneficial to clinical practice as well as benefit the health and nutrition of infants.

Medical Student: Interested in collaboration with a multidisciplinary team on translational clinical research in the Newborn Intensive Care Unit.

Role of medical student: Assistance with data collection and data analysis of clinically relevant outcome measures in preterm infants. Medical Student will engage in a self-determined related project of interest.

Busciglio, Jorge - PhD, Associate Professor of Neurobiology and Behavior

We are interested in exploring the impact of DS on mitochondrial function as a mechanistic framework to understand the tremendous vulnerability of DS subjects to develop selective neuronal degeneration and AD as they become adults. Using a combination of novel molecular and imaging techniques and genomics to assess gene function and mitochondrial activity in DS fetal and adult cells we have found that chronic mitochondrial dysfunction, energy deficits and oxidative stress in DS cells contribute to several clinical phenotypes associated with DS including mental retardation, hypotonia, type 2 diabetes, and AD.


Calof, Anne - PhD, Professor of Anatomy & Neurobiology

The overall goal of my laboratory’s research is to understand how changes in cell lineage progression parameters and in the expression of diverse genes act in concert to direct normal development and, when development goes awry, to cause syndromic and non-syndromic birth defects. We are particularly interested in the nervous system, but we also study other systems such as heart, limb, visceral organs, and craniofacial structures. In many of our studies, we use mouse and zebrafish models of Nipbl-deficiency (the major cause of Cornelia de Lange Syndrome (CdLS)) as systems with which to understand this question – a question that is common to many ”transcriptomopathies” that are characterized by global dysregulation of gene expression arising as a consequence of an initial genetic lesion (e.g. Nipbl haploinsufficiency in CdLS, trisomy in Down Syndrome, MECP2 mutation in Rett Syndrome, etc.).

Our goals are (1) to gain insight into general principles of developmental regulation by studying animal models of Nipbl-deficiency, and (2) to use these model systems to test therapeutic interventions for CdLS. Our studies on CdLS involve, in addition to me and the members of my laboratory, other investigators at UCI and around the world. Our colleagues at UCI include Arthur Lander, Thomas Schilling (who oversees the work on zebrafish that we pursue as part of our studies of CdLS), and Kyoko Yokomori (whose primary interest in CdLS is in chromatin structure and regulation of gene expression). The papers resulting from such studies are published collaboratively, with between two and four PIs and different members of the various laboratories taking authorships, as appropriate for a given study. My lab’s studies of Nipbl-deficient mice have led to novel insights into the determinants of risk for the development of congenital heart disease (see Santos et al., 2016, PLoS Biology; and review by Gelb BD (The Hole and the Whole: Lessons from Manipulation of Nipbl Deficiency. PLoS Biol. 2016 Sep 8;14(9):e2000494. doi:0.1371/journal.pbio.2000494). Our current work in this area is focusing on using single-cell transcriptomics to understand how early embryonic cell lineages are altered by Nipbl haploinsufficiency; our recent studies suggest that early lineage misallocation may be the source of structural birth defects, not only of the heart, but of other tissues and organs as well. (e.g. Chea et al., Am. J. of Med. Gen. Part A. 2019 (DOI:  10.1002/ajmg.a61108) PMID:30874362).

In addition to molecular approaches to studying development and congenital disease, I have increasingly employed a systems biology approach in my laboratory’s studies. I serve as a Theme Leader in Control of Growth and Morphogenesis at UCI’s Center for Complex Biological Systems, a NIGMS-sponsored National Center for Systems Biology.  In this capacity, I work with many investigators on interdisciplinary research projects that integrate computational modeling, genomics, and high-throughput data gathering integrated with experimental developmental biology and genetics.  My lab’s research in this area has mainly been focused on understanding how signaling systems participate in feedback regulation of stem and progenitor cells and the effects of such feedback on morphogenesis, patterning, and regulated growth of different tissues. The systems for which our contributions have been most significant are the olfactory epithelium, neural retina, and gustatory epithelium of the tongue, although we currently have a project to study neocortex as well. During the review period, we have published a number of studies that combine wet-bench experimentation with extensive mathematical analysis and computational modeling, as well as some papers that are purely theoretical. These studies are published collaboratively, with multiple PIs and members of the participating research groups taking authorships as appropriate for a given study. Our most recent work, published in 2016 in PLoS Computational Biology, is a theoretical exploration of the ways in which feedback effects on stem cell self-renewal can serve as a driving force in morphogenesis (Kunche et al., 2016, PLoS Computational Biology).


Chang, Peter - MD, Assistant Professor-in-Residence of Radiological Sciences, Co-Directory of Center for Artificial Intelligence in Diagnostic Medicine (CAIDM)

The Center for Artificial Intelligence in Diagnostic Medicine (CAIDM) is a multi-specialty initiative, under the UCI School of Medicine, to develop and integrate artificial intelligence (AI) technology across the UC Irvine healthcare system. The Center accomplishes its goal by integrating the clinical expertise of our providers at UCI with multiple disciplines, including data scientists and software engineers. The Center recognizes that leveraging the knowledge of our clinical colleagues is critical for designing impactful applications that will have long-term value that will ultimately improve patient care. The Center focuses more specifically on developing deep learning, a subset of machine learning AI, approaches for the (1) detection, (2) characterization, and (3) prediction of a variety of conditions and disease states in an effort to improve healthcare. Our research projects encompass a wide variety of medical specialties, some of which include the automatic detection of intracerebral hemorrhage on head CT, automated identification of melanocytes and melanoma on dermopathologic slides, detection of prostate lesions on prostate MRI, and the segmentation of breast tissue with automated lesion detection on Breast MRI and mammography. In addition, Dr. Peter Chang, Technical Lead and Co-Director of the CAIDM, leads the healthcare AI curriculum which trains the next generation of physician-scientists in understanding and developing cutting-edge AI tools.


Choi, Bernard - PhD, Associate Professor of Biomedical Engineering and Surgery

The Microvascular Therapeutics and Imaging (MTI) Laboratory, located in Beckman Laser Institute and Medical Clinic, is interested in developing optical technologies and methodologies designed to study the microcirculation. MTI lab researchers routinely partner with biologists and clinicians to develop and deploy novel biophotonics approaches. Preclinical work focuses on the study of flow-metabolism coupling and pathological uncoupling in the brain for a diverse set of neurological problems, including cardiac arrest and resuscitation and Alzheimer's disease and related disorders. We also work on developing strategies to achieve three-dimensional thick-tissue microscopy of intact organs, using principles of molecular labeling and optical clearing. Clinical work focuses on the development of clinic-specific technologies, with recent work in exercise physiology and neonatal intensive care.


Demetriou, Michael - MD, PhD, Professor of Neurology, Director of National Multiple Sclerosis Society Designated Comprehensive Care Clinic

My laboratory focuses on the roles of complex Asn(N)-linked glycans in cell function and diseases such as multiple sclerosis and cancer. Our work has revealed how genetic and metabolic regulation of N-glycosylation controls the function and activity of cell surface glycoproteins to affect cell growth/differentiation and diseases such as cancer and autoimmunity. Virtually all cell surface and secreted proteins in metazoans are modified by the addition of complex carbohydrates in the ER/Golgi secretory pathway, imparting substantial molecular information not encoded by the genome. We find that genetic, metabolic and environmental regulation of Golgi N-glycosylation controls macromolecular complexes on the cell surface to influence cell growth, differentiation and disease states. We have shown how this impacts T cell function in autoimmune diseases such as Multiple Sclerosis and are now exploring how N-glycan branching also impacts oligodendrocyte differentiation and re-myelination in Multiple Sclerosis. We have translated this work into humans and an ongoing NIH funded Phase 1 trial of a small molecule to raise N-glycosylation in MS.  We were also recently funded by the Biden Cancer Moonshot program at NCI to develop a novel immunotherapy that triggers T cell dependent killing of cancer cells by targeting glycan antigens common to multiple solid and hematopoietic cancers.


Do, An - MD, Assistant Clinical Professor of Neurology

My research is centered around developing and testing brain-computer interface (BCI) technology for future application in clinical neurorehabilitation. For example, we are currently developing a fully implantable BCI system for restoration of motor and sensory functions after spinal cord injury (SCI). We are also conducting a clinical trial to determine if BCI-controlled electrical stimulation can be used as a novel form of post-stroke therapy by comparing its potential effectiveness against conventional physiotherapy. Finally, a new area of work for our lab will involve exploring the use of cultured neural networks as a novel type of computing resource for the next generation of BCI systems.

Eng, Oliver – MD, Associate Professor of Surgery, Associate Director of Peritoneal Surface Malignancy Program

I am a surgical oncologist who focuses on the management of both primary and secondary peritoneal surface malignancies and the utilization of cytoreductive surgery (CRS) and hyperthermic intraperitoneal chemotherapy (HIPEC). My research has primarily been driven towards improving outcomes in patients undergoing CRS/HIPEC for a variety of malignancies. The translational component of my research is focused on understanding molecular mechanisms of peritoneal metastasis, as well as genomic and immunologic changes in peritoneal metastases with systemic and regional therapies. My clinical research centers on optimization of perioperative care and quality of life metrics that impact outcomes, as well as identifying sociodemographic barriers to receipt of care for complex malignancies.


Fisher, Mark - MD, Professory of Neurology

Our Stroke Research Program is engaged in a wide variety of projects in vascular neurobiology. These range from clinical investigations such as the role of cardiac anatomic variants as a stroke risk factor, to basic science studies that address fundamental mechanisms of ischemic and hemorrhagic cerebrovascular disease. We have major ongoing investigations of mouse models of cerebral microvascular disease, especially involving cerebral microbleeds and the blood-brain barrier. Prior medical students have made significant contributions (see attached publications by Artak Labadzhyan).

  1. Labadzhyan A, Csiba L, Narula N, Zhou J, Narula J, Fisher M. 2011. Histopathologic Evaluation of Basilar Artery Atherosclerosis. J Neurol Sci. 2011 Aug 15;307(1-2):97-9.
  2. Fisher M, Csiba L, Labadzhyan A, Zhou J, Narula N, Narula J. 2012. Pathogenesis of Intracranial Atherosclerosis. Ann Neurol. 2012 Jul;71(1):149; athuor reply 149-50.

Fleischman, Angela - MD, PhD, Assistant Professor of Medicine

The Fleischman lab studies the pathogenesis of myeloproliferative neoplasm (MPN), a chronic hematologic malignancy characterized by excessive production of myeloid cells, high inflammatory cytokines, bone marrow fibrosis, and in some cases progression to acute leukemia. Specifically, we focus on chronic inflammation as a driver of MPN disease initiation and progression. We use mouse MPN models and primary MPN patient samples as our primary research tools. We are currently utilizing patient samples to identify the mechanism that drives excessive inflammatory cytokine production in MPN. We utilize mouse MPN models to identify how MPN mutant hematopoietic stem cells respond differently to inflammatory stimuli as compared to normal hematopoietic stem cells. We are also currently doing interventional trials in MPN patients utilizing diet to reduce inflammation.


Gehricke, Jean - PhD, Associate Professor, Center for Autism & Neurodevelopment Disorders

Jean Gehricke, Ph.D., is a clinical psychologist and Associate Research Director at The Center for Autism & Neurodevelopmental Disorders, which is a state-of-the-art diagnostic and treatment facility. Dr. Gehricke’s neurodevelopmental lab is central to the Center’s research infrastructure by connecting to the Autism Treatment Network, the Autism Intervention Research Network on Physical Health, the UC Irvine Chao Comprehensive Cancer Center, the UC Irvine Pediatric Exercise and Genomics Research Center, and Children’s Hospital of Orange County. The neurodevelopmental lab has 3 project coordinators and over 20 graduate and undergraduate students. Dr. Gehricke's research primarily focuses on the causes and treatment of neurodevelopmental disorders including Autism Spectrum Disorders, Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder, and associated comorbidities. Medical student scholars will be able to study how the brain, genes and environment interact and contribute to neurodevelopmental disorders. The lab provides a hands-on learning experience on how to conduct brain imaging studies and behavioral interventions research (e.g., physical exercise programs for ASD; LEGO and Minecraft Therapy research). Scholars will have the opportunity to develop and implement their own study protocols, collect data, analyze research findings, as well as write grant proposal and manuscripts for publications.


Gershon, Paul – PhD, Professor, Molecular Biology and Biochemistry

My research is in virology, virus structure, and virus proteins.

My lab currently has a major and a minor interest:

The major interest is, currently, the quantitative analysis of complex systems at the protein level via mass spectrometry. This includes virus molecular structure, the effects of infection processes on all proteins of the infected cell, and mechanisms of oncogenesis.

My minor interest (currently) is the molecular dynamics of nucleic acid polymerization using, as a model, the simplest known translocating nucleic acid polymerase and the only known polymerase that can translocate independently on single-stranded nucleic acid (a non-rigid polymer).


Greenberg, Milton – PhD, Physiology & Biophysics

Project Title: Improving Pre-clerkship Medical Education in the Post-Pandemic Era.

Purpose of this research: Dr. Greenberg is an Assistant Adjunct Professor in the Department of Physiology and Biophysics in the School of Medicine. His academic research is focused in medical education, with the goal of continuous improvement to deliver the best education for the future physicians trained at UCI. Previous ICTS MSRP students on Dr. Greenberg’s team have developed peer-led teaching modalities, active learning techniques, and assessment strategies for evaluating innovative teaching modalities. These efforts have resulted in successful IRB submissions, conference presentations, and manuscripts submitted to educational journals. Going forward, Dr. Greenberg’s team will be focused on taking a data-driven approach towards maintaining the quality of the pre-clerkship curriculum during the transition to distance learning in the post-pandemic era.

Role of medical student: Assistance with pre-clerkship instruction, protocol drafting, IRB submission, data collection and analysis, and manuscript writing.


Guo, Zhiling - MD, PhD, Department of Medicine, Cardiology

I have been conducting biomedical research in fields of Neuroscience and Cardiovascular system for more than 20 years in the United States, after practicing Internal Medicine and performing medical research in China for ten years. My research has been directly funded by grants from the National Institute of Health and the American Heart Association. Using anatomical, biochemical, physiological, electrophysiological, pharmacological, and molecular approaches, I have published many peer-reviewed papers in well-known biomedical journals. Currently, I serve as a principal investigator to study neural mechanisms underlying effects of peripheral nerve stimulation (including acupuncture) on cardiovascular responses. The study includes four projects: 1) electrical and mechanical neural mechanisms by which electroacupuncture and manual acupuncture inhibit cardiovascular responses; 2) the role of adenosine in the brainstem in opioid mediation of acupuncture inhibition of excitatory cardiovascular responses; 3) acupuncture’s action in lowering blood pressure in sustained hypertension through medullary opioids and adenosine; and 4) medullary mechanisms of auricular acupuncture in modulating elevated blood pressure through actions of opioids and GABA. The results from the study will provide novel insights into neural mechanisms underlying the effects of various forms of acupuncture to lower elevated blood pressure and ultimately guide clinical practice.


Hayes, Wayne – PhD, Associate Professor of Computer Science

The Hayes lab in the Department of Computer Science conducts basic research in the predicting the function of genes and gene products by analyzing biological networks, primarily protein-protein interaction networks. We aim to integrate sophisticated network analysis algorithms provided by the Computer Science researchers, with biological knowledge of biology and medical researchers. Biology and medical students are needed to help interpret and guide the computational analyses done by the computer science contingent.


Jaeggi, Susanne - PhD, Associate Professor, Working Memory and Plasticity Lab

In the Working Memory and Plasticity Lab (PI Jaeggi) we work on various projects that focus on cognitive development, evidence-based interventions and other related projects that have translational impact. The human subject populations we work with range from older adults to young adults, and in addition, we work with both, typically developing children, and children with ADHD. We use various measures to assess and train cognitive functions, e.g. behavioral (e.g. standardized neuropsychological, scholastic achievement), brain stimulation (e.g. transcranial direct current stimulation), and neuroimaging (e.g. magnetic resonance imaging, electroencephalography). Our analytical approaches are equally broad, but focus mostly on quantitative methods ranging from frequentist approaches, Bayesian analyses to machine learning. A description of some projects can be found on my lab website: https://wmp.education.uci.edu or https://wmp.education.uci.edu/prospective-students/


Kain, Zeev – MD, MBA, Chancellor’s Professor, Director of UCI Center on Stress and Health, Anesthesiology & Perioperative Care

The UCI Center on Stress and Health is multidisciplinary research center and is comprised of a multi-disciplinary collaboration between anesthesiologists, psychologists, surgeons, pediatricians, nurses, child life specialists, biomedical engineers, and computer scientists for the primary objective of assisting children and families manage pain, anxiety and stress surrounding the medical environment and disease burden. Dr. Kain’s research is largely focused on surgical disparities, perioperative stress and pain in children undergoing surgery as well as system re- design research. Dr. Kain is also co-directing research program in the Pediatric ED and the Pediatric Asthma clinic at the CHOC Children’s Hospital. Dr. Kain has been funded by the NIH since 1997 and published to date more than 300 peer reviewed papers. He has mentored over 100 students, residents, fellows and faculty. Below are a few of his active projects:

Study Title Synopsis
A Tailored Internet-Based Preparation Program for Pediatric Perioperative Anxiety and Pain (WebTIPS) The purpose of this NIH supported multisite randomized control trial is to test the efficacy of a Web-based Tailored Intervention Preparation for Surgery (WebTIPS) versus WebINFO, the attention control group program, targeted at children ages 1-12 undergoing outpatient elective surgery, and their parents.
Patient Experience & Value Based Care
Predictors of Patient Experience The overall purpose of the study is to prospectively identify clinical, demographic and behavioral predictors of patient satisfaction scores in a pediatric patient population in the outpatient procedure center, urology clinic, and the Emergency Department. The study will also be looking at the associations between physician personality and patient satisfaction scores. The overall hypothesis is that the key predictors and physician characteristics will have a significant impact on patient satisfaction scores.
Patient Experience: Predictors and Outcomes (UCI) The overall purpose of the study is to identify demographics and clinical predictors of patient satisfaction scores in an adult patient population. Specific aim 1: To examine if patient ethnicity, controlling for confounding variables such as socioeconomic status, is affecting patient satisfaction scores. Specific aim 2: To examine if demographic variables such as age, gender and insurance status are affecting patient satisfaction scores. Specific aim 3: To examine if clinical variables such as severity of disease, site of hospitalization, pain scores, use of opioids as well as other variables are affecting is affecting patient satisfaction scores.
Patient Experience & Value Based Care
Health Disparities and Pediatric Urology The primary research question is to evaluate whether health disparities, including socioeconomic status, race/ethnicity, health insurance status, and primary spoken language affect age at orchiopexy or lead to delayed orchiopexy (defined as orchiopexy after 18 months of age) among the patients in the Cerner Real- World Data database.
Health Disparities and Pediatric Surgery: A Mixed Methods study In this study we will evaluate the reasons behind the existence of surgical disparities in the pediatric population. The mixed methods design will use both qualitative and quantitative methods.


Kefalov, Vladimir – PhD, Professor and Vice Chair for Research, Department of Ophthalmology

I recently relocated my laboratory to UC Irvine after 16 years at the School of Medicine of Washington University in Saint Louis, where I was a member of the Ophthalmology and Neuroscience departments. We are a sensory neurobiology lab interested in the function of mammalian rod and cone photoreceptors. We use state-of-the-art tools, from single-cell and isolated retina recordings, to in vivo electroretinogram and behavior experiments with wild type and mutant mice. We study cone and rod phototransduction, dark and light adaptation, retinal degeneration, and are developing drug and gene-therapy tools for preventing photoreceptor death. We have several NIH-funded projects that offer opportunity for MSTP students to participate and contribute. These include behavioral testing and in vivo electroretinography (ERG) recordings from mice to determine the effect of several mutations in photoreceptors on their light responses and visual function. We are also beginning to develop methods for maintaining and recordings from freshly-obtained human retinal tissue that would be a great project for an MSTP student interested in ophthalmology. Successful participation in these projects will lead to abstracts and presentations at scientific conferences, and publications of the results. Rotation and dissertation slots are available as well.

Lab publications: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/myncbi/browse/collection/40342956/?sort=date&direction=descending


Kelly, Kristen – MD, Professor of Dermatology

My research team focuses on three main areas of research:

  1. Evaluation of light-based imaging techniques for the skin: In conjunction with a number of colleagues at the Beckman Laser Institute and companies developing new devices, we evaluate noninvasive light-based imaging technologies which can be used to safely and rapidly evaluate a number of skin conditions. We have utilized this to diagnose skin cancers including melanoma and basal cell carcinoma, pigmentary disorders such as vitiligo and alopecia.
  2. Development of therapeutic energy-based treatments for the skin: Working with companies and in investigator-initiated trials we test new treatments based on light and other energy for use in skin diseases including skin cancer, vascular lesions and photodamage.
  3. Pathogenesis and treatment of cutaneous vascular lesions including port wine birthmarks: My group works with Foundations and collaborators across the country and around the world on the pathogenesis of vascular lesions.

Kenney, Maria Cristina – MD, PhD, Professor of Ophthalmology, Director of Mitochondrial Research

I have worked as a clinician-scientist for over 20 years and have published over 150 peer-reviewed manuscripts. Most recently, I stopped seeing patients and have devoted 90% of my time to the laboratory with ~10% for departmental/university commitments. My overall research interests are to (a) identify the molecular and genetics changes in mitochondria associated with the dry form of age-related macular degeneration (AMD); (b) identify drugs that target and protect the AMD mitochondria so cellular longevity is prolonged; and (c) examine the influence of mtDNA variants from different racial/ethnic populations upon the behavior and gene expression of retinal cells. We have developed a transmitochondrial cybrid (cytoplasmic hybrid) model that has cells with identical nuclei but mtDNA from different individuals. Therefore, molecular, biochemical or functional differences of each cell line (representing an individual person) can be attributed to the influence of the mitochondria because all nuclei in the cell lines are the same genome. We are using this cybrid model to study mitochondria from patients with age-related macular degeneration, diabetic retinopathy and cancers.
My publications show that the cybrid model can be used successfully to characterize mitochondrial-nuclear interactions important for regulation of complement, inflammation, and angiogenesis, all of which are major pathways associated with human diseases. Most recently, we have demonstrated that when mitochondria isolated from AMD subjects are placed into the RPE cell cybrids, the AMD cybrids have higher levels of cell death, apoptosis, autophagy and ER-stress compared to age-matched normal cybrids. Our overall goal is to use this model to identify drugs/agents that can reverse and protect the damaged mitochondria in the AMD cybrids.

We are also be working with Dr. Magdalene Seiler, an expert in models of retinal degeneration, to determine how mitochondria-targeting drugs can (a) prevent damage or dysfunction in AMD RPE cybrids and primary RPE cells, and (b) protect and improve vision in a rat model of retinal degeneration. Successful completion of our studies will improve our understanding of the mitochondrial-nuclear interactions and may potentially lead to new drugs/agents that can benefit the patients with age-related diseases such as AMD, Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease.


Khine, Michelle – PhD, Professor of Biomedical Engineering

Our goal is to create wireless (potentially disposable) continuous blood pressure patches that allow for monitoring for up to 24 hours before replacement or recharging. To date, we have invented soft capacitive based pressure sensors that allows us to measure beat to beat BP continuously on ambulatory patients with a simple Band-Aid© like adhesive sensor. Importantly, we can record the entire hemodynamic pattern and track nominal changes in systolic, diastolic, and mean arterial blood pressures as the sensor deflects, registering changes in pressure, as the pulse wave traverses. The quick response times and wide dynamic range of the soft capacitive sensors allow detection of rapid and large changes in blood pressure that are essential for monitoring acute cardiovascular events.

The sensor has an extremely small form factor and can be adhered onto the skin like a disposable Band-Aid wherever a pulse can be palpated (we have recorded from both the radial and temporal arteries). Our proprietary nanostructured electrodes that comprise our sensors contribute to this wide dynamic sensing range critical for accurately tracking BP. We have a paper and several patents on this invention (with several more being drafted). The fabrication process is low-cost and scalable (compatible with roll to roll manufacturing).

There are many applications for this technology, including monitoring CHF patients, healthy populations under stress, looking at the output of blood pressure variability as a digital biomarker for dementia/Alzheimer's, amongst others. MSP students will explore/pilot different clinical applications as well as help improve the technology.


Kiser, Philip – PhD, PharmD, Assistant Professor, Physiology and Biophysics

My laboratory studies the enzymes, transporters, and binding proteins that constitute a metabolic pathway known as the visual cycle as well as a variety of other proteins important for the health of the retina. We use an array of experimental techniques and methodologies, including X-ray crystallography, spectroscopy, enzyme kinetics, evolutionary analysis, knockout mouse models, histological and in vivo structural characterization, and pharmacological approaches to answer important questions about the structure and function of these proteins. Major emphasis is placed on the use of such information to develop effective therapeutics for currently untreatable retinal diseases.


Kraus, Christina – MD, FAAD, Assistant Professor of Dermatology

My research interests are in vulvar dermatoses, with an emphasis on vulvar lichen sclerosus and erosive lichen planus. This is an underserved part of medical care. My research goals include the following: 1) To better define the etiology and risk factors for various vulvar dermatoses, 2) Develop metrics to quantify disease severity and identify biomarkers (imaging and molecular) to measure disease activity (in both inflammatory and malignant disease), 3) Develop modalities to quantify disease burden utilizing patient reported outcomes 4) Perform comparative studies to determine optimal treatment modalities.


Kruggel, Frithjof – MD, PhD, Professor of Biomedical Engineering

I have MD and PhD degrees, am a trained neurologist, and work in neuroimaging data analysis. I have been the BME liason to the MSTP for eight years. Research in the SIP Lab focuses on understanding the relation between structures and functions of the human brain. Recent neuroimaging methods (anatomical and functional MRI, emission tomography, electro- and magneto-encephalography) make an unprecedented view on brain functioning possible. Quantitative information hidden in neuroimaging data are revealed by new signal and image processing algorithms.

Cognitive processes in humans are usually studied by stimulation experiments. Responses are recorded by functional neuroimaging methods that measure different correlates of the underlying neuronal activity. Because different techniques reveal complementary information about the anatomical, metabolic and neurophysiological state of the brain, an integrated data evaluation is highly desirable and leads to results not achievable with a single modality.

Long-term work in the SIP Laboratory focuses on the following aims:

  • to quantify properties of anatomical brain structures as revealed by MRI,
  • to develop and install new algorithms for neurofunctional data analysis,
  • to combine results from different functional modalities,
  • to achieve a precise anatomical description and quantification of functional activity, and
  • to build structural and functional models of the brain.

Prior knowledge in a compiled programming language (C++) and statistics (R) is advantageous. Working from remote is possible.


Kwon, Young Jik – PhD, Professor of Pharmaceutical Sciences

We investigate the use of viruses, biomacromolecules (e.g., proteins and nucleic acids), natural polymers, and cell-derived materials for the development of efficient and safe therapies for cancers and other diseases. The currently active projects include multi-modal gene and chemotherapy for cancer, stimuli-responsive polymers as nanoantibiotics against drug-resistant infections, and extracellular vesicles for acellular cell therapies. Commonly used laboratory skills are gel electrophoresis (nucleic acids and western blot), PCR, cell culture, flow cytometry, ELISA, nanomaterials characterizations, TEM, and validation of therapeutic efficacy using animal models.


Lau, Wei Ling – MD, Assistant Clinical Professor, Division of Nephrology, Hypertension & Kidney Transplantation

Ongoing research projects:

  1. Hyperkalemia interventions in the Emergency Department: We are examining the efficacy of different potassium-binding resins for acute lowering of blood potassium in the ED. Students will be involved in patient recruitment, data collection and reporting, and statistical analysis.
  2. Brain microbleeds and cognitive decline in dialysis patients: in collaboration with Dr. Mark Fisher in neurology, we are examining brain microvascular disease in patients with advanced chronic kidney disease and its association with cognitive dysfunction. Students will become familiar with cognitive testing tools and reviewing brain MRI scans.

LeBron, Alana – PhD, Assistant Professor of Chicano/Latino Studies and Public Health

Evidence linking early life lead exposure with adverse health outcomes has yielded policies to prevent the sale of lead-based paint and leaded gasoline to the general public in the US. Despite strong scientific evidence that no level of lead is safe, individuals continue to be exposed through several pathways, including lead paint in older homes and lead in the soil, which may have deposited through mechanisms such as historical gasoline, paint, and/or industrial emissions. Our community-academic partnership is assessing soil lead levels throughout a predominantly Latina/o/x community in Orange County. We will be developing a public health action plan to: (1) deepen understanding of the health impacts of lead exposure in the community; (2) understand how public health institutions address lead exposures from multiple pathways (e.g., paint, soil, industrial emissions, historical gasoline), (3) translate scientific evidence to institutions that make & enforce public health policy; and (4) develop systems change recommendations to promote health equity. The student will support the development of health impact assessments and the public health action plan. We will disseminate findings to governmental & community actors as we work to reduce exposures to lead in the first place and mitigate the health impacts of lead exposures.


Lin, Ken - MD, PhD, Associate Clinical Professor of Ophthalmology

Modeling of human aqueous outflow pathway fluid mechanics using microfluidic devices. This is a collaboration between Dr. Lin and Dr. Abraham Lee’s bioengineering lab.


Mehta, Mitul – MD, MS, Clinical Associate Professor of Ophthalmology, Retina Division Fellowship Director, Vitreoretinal Surgery Gavin Herbert Eye Institute

As a clinical and surgical retina specialist my research interests are very practical. I want to solve the problems that we experience when we are seeing patients, to better understand the diseases we are treating and the effectiveness of those treatments. Most of my research is data analysis of the patients we have already seen in the clinic and the operating room. As such my projects tend to be shorter than most basic science research.


Moradi, Hamid – MD, Associate Clinical Professor of Nephrology, Associate Director of Nephrology Fellowship Program

Chronic kidney disease and acute kidney injury are associated with perturbations of the endocannabinoid system which have been shown to impact renal and survival outcomes. My research is focused on evaluating alterations of the endocannabinoid system in the setting of kidney disease and the potential utilization of the endocannabinoid system as a target for therapy in renal disease.


Nahmias, Jeffry – MD, MHPE, FACS, Associate Clinical Professor of Surgery

I am a trauma surgeon as well as the Director of the Surgical Intensive Care Unit, my research spans the fields of trauma, emergency general surgery and surgical critical care. I conduct large database outcomes research as well as single center and multicenter studies. I feel it is important for students to learn about the entire process of research from project inception to study design to execution. Furthermore, I am willing to help perform research in a broad array of topics as I understand research is so much more enjoyable when you have a true passion related to the topic. Since 2018 I have mentored over 25 UCI medical students to obtain presentations of abstracts at meetings and have had the following UCI medical student publications as 1st author where I was senior author, with many more manuscripts submitted and pending decision:

  1. Pham T, Lester E, Grigorian A, Roditi R, Nahmias J. National Analysis of Risk Factors for Nasal Fractures and Associated Injuries in Trauma. Craniomaxillofacial Trauma and Reconstruction. DOI: 10.1055/s-0039-1677724
  2. Spencer D, Grigorian A, Schubl S, Awad K, Elfenbein D, Dogar T, Nahmias J. Thyroid Trauma – A National Analysis of Incidence, Mortality, and Concomitant Injury. Journal of Surgical Research. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jss.2019.04.042
  3. Jasperse N, Grigorian A, Delaplain P, Jutric Z, Schubl SD, Kuza CM, Nahmias J. Predictors of discharge against medical advice in adult trauma patients. The Surgeon. 2019 May 2. pii: S1479-666X(19)30041-1. PMID: 31056431 DOI: 10.1016/j.surge.2019.04.001
  4. Livingston JK, Grigorian A, Kuza CM, Lekawa M, Bernal N, Allen A, Nahmias J. Non-Accidental Trauma Increases Length of Stay in Pediatric Trauma. Pediatric Surgery International. 2019 May 10. doi: 10.1007/s00383-019-04482-5
  5. Farhat A, Grigorian A, Nguyen N, Smith B, Williams B, Schubl S, Joe V, Elfenbein D, Nahmias J. Obese Trauma Patients Have Increased Need for Dialysis. European Journal of Trauma and Emergency Surgery. Eur J Trauma Emerg Surg. 2019 May 20. doi: 10.1007/s00068-019-01147-9. [Epub ahead of print]
  6. Hasjim B, Grigorian A, Kuza C, Schubl S, Barrios C, Chin T, Nahmias J. Falls at Skilled Nursing Facilities Lead to More Serious Lower Extremity Injuries Compared to Home. International journal of Lower Extremity Wounds. 2019 Sep 9:1534734619870393. doi: 10.1177/1534734619870393. [Epub ahead of print]
  7. Covarrubias J, Grigorian A, Schubl S, Gambhir S, Dolich M, Lekawa M, Nguyen N, Nahmias J. Obesity Associated with Increased Postoperative Pulmonary Complications and Mortality After Trauma Laparotomy. European Journal of Trauma and Emergency Surgery. Accepted February 2020
  8. Homo R, Grigorian A, Lekawa M, Dolich M, Kuza CM, Doben A, Gross R, Nahmias J. Outcomes After Pneumonectomy Versus Limited Lung Resection in Adults with Traumatic Lung Injury. Updates in Surgery. Accepted February 2020.
  9. Allen A, Grigorian A, Christian A, Schubl S, Barrios C, Lekawa M, Borazjani B, Joe V, Nahmias J. Intracranial Pressure Monitors Associated with Increased Venous Thromboembolism in Severe Traumatic Brain Injury. European Journal of Trauma and Emergency Surgery. Accepted February 2020.

Current trainees:


Joshua Livingston

Research Mentor

Dept. of Surgery


Chloe Krasnoff

Research Mentor

Dept. of Surgery


Angela Allen

Research Mentor

Dept. of Surgery


Rame Bashir

Research Mentor

Dept. of Surgery


Richelle Homo

Research Mentor

Dept. of Surgery


Barbara Williams

Research Mentor

Dept. of Surgery


Greg Kojayan

Research Mentor

Dept. of Surgery


Nima Khoshab

Research Mentor

Dept. of Surgery


Jamie Temko

Research Mentor

Dept. of Surgery


Katherine Moran

Research Mentor

Dept. of Surgery


Shannon Mei-Ling Fan

Research Mentor

Dept. of Surgery


Nicole Yergler

Research Mentor

Dept. of Surgery


Mark Rupasinghe

Research Mentor

Dept. of Surgery


Ali Duffens

Research Mentor

Dept. of Surgery


Annasha Vyas

Research Mentor

Dept. of Surgery


Nathan Jasperse

Research Mentor

Dept. of Surgery


Oscar Hernandez

Research Mentor

Dept. of Surgery


Aricia Shen

Research Mentor

Dept. of Surgery


Manmeet Sehdev

Research Mentor

Dept. of Surgery


Megan Donnelly

Research Mentor

Dept. of Surgery


Ariana Naaseh

Research Mentor

Dept. of Surgery


Megan Elizabeth Keys

Research Mentor

Dept. of Surgery


Vincent Delgado

Research Mentor

Dept. of Surgery


Noymer, Andrew – PhD, MSc, Associate Professor of Population Health and Disease Prevention and Public Health

I am a medical demographer, with strong interests in infectious diseases and historical epidemiology. No work I do (excepting collaborations) is wet lab-based, and likewise for clinical trials. Many projects I work on are based on mortality microdata for the United States — public-record electronic data files on every death from 1959 to present. These data contain most information from the death certificate, for approximately 125 million deaths. I also work on pre-1959 data, using vital statistics data from before the computer era. Students interested in working with me should further familiarize themselves with the type of work I do by looking at my publications; my current CV is at: https://webfiles.uci.edu/noymer/web/noymer_cv.pdf


Odegaard, Andrew – PhD, MPH, Associate Professor of Epidemiology

My research relates to the patterns, causes and consequences of obesity, type 2 diabetes, and cardiovascular disease. Within this context of cardiometabolic disease he largely focuses on the role that body composition, diet and lifestyle related factors play in the prevention and control of disease. Dr. Odegaard's research considers the life course, employs observational and randomized study designs, emphasizes discovery and translation, and his aim is to partner with experts across disciplinary boundaries in pursuit of answers to important questions. He is also involved with research on the relationship between diet, lifestyle and body composition/anthropometric factors with different cancers, Alzheimer’s disease and cognitive decline.


Ostlund, Sean – PhD, Associate Professor of Anesthesiology

The Ostlund lab conducts research on the neural systems underlying emotion, motivation and decision-making and how these systems become dysregulated to produce behavioral pathology. Such adaptations can be provoked by a variety of salient environmental stimuli, including opiates and other abused drugs, as well as by repeated exposure to chronic pain or stress. Dr. Ostlund and his team conduct basic science and translational research on these topics using a multi-disciplinary approach that includes the application of sophisticated behavioral tests capable of parsing fundamental aspects of behavior in rodents, which are combined with neuroscience techniques used to measure or manipulate the activity of specific neural systems. Research strategies include the use of in vivo neurochemical analysis (fast-scan cyclic voltammetry and microdialysis) to measure dopamine and other neurochemical species in awake behaving animals, and optogenetic tools to activate or silence specific cell populations, as well as more traditional approaches including neuropharmacology (systemic and intracranial drug administration), focal brain lesions and immunohistochemistry.


Palczewski, Krzysztof (Kris) – PhD, Distinguished Professor of Ophthalmology

Vision is one of the fundamental senses enabling the perception of the surrounding environment. In humans, this process is initiated in the retina, which is lined with millions of rod and cone photoreceptor cells expressing different types of proteins called opsins that bind the same visual chromophore, 11-cis-retinal (11-cis-RAL) to form visual pigment molecules responsive to different wavelengths of light.
Absorption of a photon by the opsin-bound visual chromophore causes its isomerization to an all-trans configuration. This initial photochemical reaction triggers the activation of a signal transduction cascade that eventually leads to the transmission of visual information to the brain, while the activated opsin is rendered insensitive to further light stimulation. Sustained vision therefore requires the continuous renewal of the visual chromophore following light exposure, and its binding to opsin, to form newly activatable visual pigment, a process thought to be accomplished through the enzyme-based retinoid (visual) cycle and a complementary pathway for the photic generation of 11-cis-RAL.

Photoreceptor cells are the specialized neurons that contain the visual pigments and play a fundamental role in the conversion of light into the biochemical cascade of events leading to electrical signaling from the retina to the brain. Mutations in key proteins mediating these signaling processes affect the function and/or the structure of photoreceptor cells, leading to blinding diseases. A combination of approaches in chemistry, cell biology, structural biology and genetics is needed to improve our understanding of the organization of photoreceptors as a prelude to the development of novel therapeutic strategies aimed at preserving visual function. Therefore, our scientific interests are focused in six areas:

  1. Continue making basic observations concerning the chemistry and biochemistry of visual phototransduction.
  2. Identify genetic mutations leading to blinding diseases in humans and the discovery of potential treatments for several of these diseases.
  3. Advance gene editing to correct genetic lesion casing blindness.
  4. Develop noninvasive imaging methods for the direct in vivo visualization of higher-order macromolecular and cellular structures involved in photoreceptor function.
  5. Determine of the three-dimensional structure of proteins involved in vision.
  6. Develop a novel class of small molecules that may prevent and arrest age-related macular degeneration, the major cause of blindness in the elderly.

Parajuli, Ritesh – MD, Assistant Clinical Professor in the Division of Hematology/Oncology

Breast cancer is the leading cause of cancer-related death among females worldwide. My research is focused on liquid biopsy biomarkers in Breast Cancer. The liquid biopsy biomarkers that I am currently investigating are circulating tumor cells (CTCs), circulating Cancer associated fibroblasts (cCAFs) and circulating exosomes. I am currently evaluating the role of these circulating cells as biomarkers that can have prognostic and predictive importance in patients with metastatic or non-metastatic breast cancer. I am collaborating with Hitachi Lab at the main campus to investigate a Platform called Exocomplete to isolate and understand the biology of circulating exosomes in breast cancer. I am also collaborating with Dr. Abraham Lee at UCI to study another platform called the lateral cavity acoustic transducer (LCAT) system to isolate CTCs and cCAFs from the blood of patients with breast cancer. We will then be working towards understanding how these circulating tumor cells interact with the host immune system that could possible lead onto evasion of the Immune system and contribute towards the metastatic process. Several studies have demonstrated the presence of circulating tumor cells (CTCs) in patients with early stage breast cancer. Cancer associated fibroblasts (CAFs) are activated fibroblasts that are part of the tumor microenvironment. In contrast to normal fibroblasts, CAFs are perpetually activated and are not able to revert into a normal phenotype or undergo apoptosis. CAFs secrete factors that promote tumor growth and metastasis. We have demonstrated that circulating cancer-associated fibroblasts (cCAFs) can be enumerated simultaneously with CTCs from the peripheral blood of patients with metastatic breast cancer (MBC) and in patients with early breast cancer. The role of cCAFs as markers for tumor response to therapy and their prognostic implications have not been studied. Our study will also investigate if Circulating Cancer Associated Fibroblasts can be found in locally advanced breast cancer and their number. I have recently been awarded the American Cancer Society Institutional Research Grant for the above research. Understanding the immunologic factors that increase survival of CTCs in the blood is my area of research too. Furthermore, I will soon be studying the effects on how sentences of Tumor Infiltrating Lymphocytes lead on the resistance to Neo-Adjuvant chemotherapy. In summary, biomarker based translational research in my area of focus.


Parsons, Michael – PhD, Associate Professor of Developmental and Cell Biology

The Parsons lab is interested in learning how to make to new insulin-producing β cells from pre-existing progenitors within the pancreas. To do this we take advantage of the zebrafish as this organism is very adept at producing β cells throughout its lifecycle in response to β-cell ablation. The cellular origins of regenerating β cells in the fish are a cell type that is found in the pancreas of all organisms and called the centroacinar cell (CAC). Besides acting as facultative progenitor, this cell type is highly specified for secretion of water and solutes necessary for exocrine function. We have found several important molecular pathways that are necessary for regulating CAC differentiation. Of note, many of these pathways are also involved in the progression of pancreatic cancer, adding to a pre-existing theory that CACs are the origin of this disease. Now we are interested in further elucidating a number of molecular pathways that are important to both β-cell regeneration in the fish and pancreatic cancer in humans.


Reich, Stephanie – PhD, Associate Professor of Education

I am an Associate Professor of Education at the University of California, Irvine, with appointments in Informatics and Psychological Science. My research focuses on direct and indirect influences on children’s development especially through the family, schools, and digital environments. Currently, I have projects in a variety of settings and with different ages. Here are a few to give students a sense: I have a bilingual (Spanish-English) parenting intervention that targets 2-parents families (mothers and fathers) with babies from 9-30 months. We have self-report questionnaires, direct infant assessments, and medical charts. I am involved in another study using sensors and mobile phones to support prenatal health. This will have interview, focus group data, self-report, and logged data. I am working with middle school students on the design of parenting guidelines on how to parent around media. This involves teaching youth about research and supporting them in the research design and dissemination. I have a bunch of other small projects on children and media and parent-child interactions.


Rinehart, Joseph – MD, Associate Clinical Professor, Department of Anesthesiology & Perioperative Care

As an anesthesiologist with a research background in clinical circulation, fluid management, resuscitation, and using computer algorithms to assist clinicians, Dr. Rinehart has spent the last ten years developing better medical devices to improve patient care, collaborating with critical care industry partners, and participating as an active member of UCI's entrepreneurial ecosystem. Active projects include machine-learning applications based on arterial blood pressure waveform analysis, automation of devices in critical care, and collaborations with other members of the department.


Schueller, Stephen – PhD, Associate Professor of Psychological Science

My research focuses on improving the accessibility and availability of mental health services through technology. This includes the development, evaluation, and deployment of digital mental health interventions (ie., Internet websites and mobile applications) for the treatment and prevention of mental health issues especially common mental health issues such as depression and anxiety. My training and background is as a clinical psychologist and I have specific expertise in cognitive-behavioral therapy as well as positive psychology.


Senthil, Maheswari – MD, FACS, Professor of Surgical Oncology, Director of Peritoneal Malignancy Program

Maheswari Senthil, MD, is a surgical oncologist with a special expertise in the management of patients with peritoneal carcinomatosis and advanced malignancies. Dr. Senthil has several important clinical, translational, and basic science research projects focused on changing the treatment and diagnostic paradigms of cancer, specifically peritoneal carcinomatosis. She and her team of collaborators at UCI and other reputed institutions are developing an exosomes-based liquid biopsy that could serve as a diagnostic, prognostic, and predictive tool. Exosomes are stable, nanovesicles released abundantly by cancer cells and play a crucial role in cancer inter-cellular communication. Transcriptomic signals and surface proteins carried by exosomes are currently being studied in her laboratory to develop a refined and clinically applicable liquid biopsy tool. Dr. Senthil also has several cancer-related clinical projects that are focused on important clinical questions that’ll lead to future translational studies. She also has epidemiological research projects to address gastric cancer disparities in Latinx population. She is involved in several investigator-initiated clinical trials to develop novel strategies to treat patients with peritoneal carcinomatosis. Medical students joining Dr. Senthil’s research team will be able to choose the research projects that meet their research interest and career objectives. Dr. Senthil is a highly-respected educator. She considers it a privilege to train the future generation of physicians. She has received numerous awards for her commitment and dedication to educational excellence including, Golden apple award and Arnold P. Gold award for humanism and leadership.


Su, Lydia Min-Ying – PhD, Professor of Radiological Sciences, Director of Tu & Yuen Center for Functional Onco-Imagining

My research interests are in the development of imaging technologies and quantitative computer-based analysis tools to extract imaging biomarkers for clinical applications, including risk assessment, diagnosis, treatment response evaluation and prognosis prediction. Recently, I have extended my previous research using computer-aided and radiomics analysis to deep learning, a more powerful tool for developing artificial intelligence (AI)-based quantitative imaging models for various applications in radiology and precision medicine. My recent publications include differential diagnosis of various cancers and molecular subtypes, prediction of neoadjuvant chemo/radiation therapy response in advanced breast and rectal cancer, prediction of prognosis in brain tumors, automatic segmentation of lesions and organs for radiotherapy planning, etc.


Tenner, Andrea – PhD, Professor of Molecular Biology and Biochemistry

My laboratory studies the roles of the complement system in health and disease with a current emphasis on disorders of the nervous system. One goal is to complete the preclinical studies necessary to establish rationale for a clinical trial testing an antagonist of the C5a receptor1 as a treatment for Alzheimer’s disease and/or other acquired cognitive disorders caused by aging, cancer, infection or other injury. In AD, the complement pathway (which is normally protective during infection) is activated and can cause detrimental inflammation and neurotoxicity. Administering a specific inhibitor of this inflammatory event improved cognitive performance in AD mouse models suggesting that this strategy may be a beneficial treatment to slow the progression of AD. We propose to define the molecular pathways involved using RNA-Seq, immunohistochemistry, and behavior, and aligning this to human disease stages. Since a small molecule C5aR1 antagonist is currently in Phase 3 clinical trials for a peripheral vascular inflammatory disease, we would like to identify biomarkers that could be used to test central nervous system target engagement in humans treated with such antagonists.


Thomas, Elizabeth – PhD, Department of Epidemiology

Under the Mentorship of Dr. Elizabeth Thomas, Ph.D., Department of Epidemiology, medical students would be part of a collaborative team, whose overall goal is to identify disease biomarkers that can be measured in saliva from patients with psychiatric conditions. The specific research project will investigate the utility of saliva as a biofluid to monitor lithium levels in individuals currently taking lithium medications to treat psychiatric disorders. Lithium levels will be measured in both blood and saliva from individuals with bipolar disorder and additional studies would identify factors that may affect lithium distribution throughout body. This project will involve recruiting patients with bipolar disorder, from both inpatient and outpatients units at the University of California, Irvine Medical Center, collecting saliva samples from patients and carrying out various immunoassays on saliva samples in the laboratory located on the UCI campus.

Tjoa, Tjoson – MD, Associate Professor and Residency Program Director, Department of Otolaryngology – Head & Neck Surgery

As a department, we have a busy head & neck oncologic and reconstructive surgical service, with multiple opportunities for clinical and translational research projects. Specific interests include the role and best practice for antibiotic prophylaxis in head & neck oncologic surgery, the use of ultrasonography to more precisely defines hemodynamics in microvascular reconstructive surgery, and perioperative prognostic factors associated with surgical success in head & neck oncologic surgery and microvascular reconstruction. We have a dedicated team of Otolaryngology residents, medical students, and undergraduate volunteers that collaborate on various projects and meet monthly.


Tseng, Peter – PhD, Assistant Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science

Our research group develops next-generation, electromagnetic tools to remotely monitor and manipulate living systems. At the bodily scale we are creating integrated, wearable analytical devices that can monitor unique parameters from the body, such as our nutritional intake. At the tissue and cellular scale we are developing high-throughput screening tools to better understand excitation-contraction coupling in living networks. Finally, we are investigating novel techniques to remotely actuate living systems via magnetism (i.e. with magnetogenetics).


Vawter, Marquis - PhD, Research Professor of Psychiatry & Human Behavior, Director of Functional Genomics Laboratory

Dr. Vawter is a faculty member in the Department of Psychiatry and Human Behavior performing preclinical and translational research. He has published over 165 peer-reviewed articles principally in neuroscience and psychiatry. The goals of the laboratory are to understand the pathogenesis of psychiatric disorders (schizophrenia and mood disorders) and to enable better prevention and treatments of these psychiatric disorders. Dr. Vawter was trained in both clinical and physiological psychology tracks and obtained additional neuroscience and neuropsychological assessment training at NIMH and NIDA. Dr. Vawter started the Functional Genomics Laboratory in 2001 and has been involved in different projects through collaborations with Dr. William E. Bunney and the Pritzker Neuropsychiatric Disorders Research Consortium. He is the Senior Associate Director of the UCI Brain Bank and has been in involved in large genetic studies of bipolar disorder and schizophrenia. He is a member of the Schizophrenia Working Mitochondria SubGroup of the Psychiatric Genomics Consortium and was part of a multi-center collaborative grant awarded through NIMH Molecular Genetics of Schizophrenia. Dr. Vawter performed the best estimate diagnostician work at UCI for hundreds of subjects, and those samples became part of the NIMH Schizophrenia Genetics Initiative and Molecular Genetics of Schizophrenia Part 1 and Part 2 and the National Institute of Mental HealthGenetics Initiative Bipolar Disorder Consortium.

In addition to those genetic projects, Dr. Vawter’s research team members are involved with postmortem brain gene expression in healthy controls, and subjects with mood and psychotic disorders, and suicide. A large effort spanning current NIMH funding involves mitochondria gene expression and resequencing of the mitochondria genome in psychiatric disorders. Somatic variation in mitochondria DNA has been discovered to play a role in psychiatric disorders such as depression, bipolar disorder, and schizophrenia. Functional studies of mitochondria involving cellular and animal models are currently underway.


Weiss, Gregory – PhD, Professor of Chemistry, Pharmaceutical Sciences, Molecular Biology and Biochemistry

The Weiss Laboratory invents methods to detect and quantify disease-associated molecules under the skin and in patient samples. For example, in collaboration with the laboratory of Prof. Elliot Botvinick (UCI, Bioengineering), we have developed real-time, implantable sensors for calcium and peptide hormones; such information could guide more precise and timely delivery of therapeutics. Through collaboration with Prof. Reg Penner (UCI, Chemistry), we have developed ultra-sensitive sensors for quantifying disease biomarkers in urine in 60 seconds or less. UCI Medical students can participate in the patient interface, sample and data analysis aspects of this research.


Weiss, John Weiss – MD, PhD, Professor of Neurology, Anatomy & Neurobiology

Dr. Weiss received his BS, MS, MD, and Ph.D. (in Neuroscience) degrees as well as residency training in Neurology at Stanford University, and came to UC Irvine in 1991. The research in Dr. Weiss' laboratory seeks to examine cellular mechanisms of neurodegeneration in models of diseases including stroke, seizures, and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. Fluorescence imaging, electrophysiological and neurotoxicity techniques are used to examine neurons in dissociated culture, brain slice and rodent models of disease. Areas of ongoing investigation include examination of roles of glutamate receptors, mitochondria, oxidative stress and divalent cations (calcium and zinc) in the triggering of neurodegeneration, and the elucidation of factors that underlie selective vulnerability of distinct populations of neurons in these diseases. The studies seek to highlight new approaches for beneficial therapeutic interventions in these conditions.


Wodarz, Dominik – PhD, Professor of Public Health

We work on mathematical and computational models of biological processes, with the following focus:

  • Dynamics of cancer and its treatment
  • Dynamics of virus infections and the immune system
  • General evolutionary dynamics and population dynamics

The common theme among these diverse topics is population dynamics as well as ecological and evolutionary theory. A lot of the work is biomedical in nature: we model the dynamics of cells, pathogens, and molecules. This has many practical applications such as the analysis and development of treatments against infectious diseases and cancer. We collaborate with several experimental laboratories in order to couple computational work with data. Knowledge of computer programing is required to do this research.


Wong, Brian – MD, Assistant Professor of Otolaryngology

My clinical practice is in facial plastic surgery, and the operation I perform most often is rhinoplasty. I'm a clinician scientist as well as being a surgeon. My background is in biomedical engineering with an emphasis on electrical engineering. Moving into optics and biophotonics was a natural focus for me. My laboratory is NIH funded, and we study a number of problems. For the most part the focus of my lab and my collaborators is on translational research. Topics have included optical imaging, and at present time are focuses on imaging the upper airway, in particular the function of cilia, as well as the anatomic dimensions of the nasal vault. I also look at functional imaging of the vocal folds and holding vibrate using optical imaging techniques. The major focus of my lab is in electrochemistry – as applied to in situ surgical modification of tissues. My lab focuses on corneal reshaping, contouring of body fat, and correction of scars using electro chemical methods. This is fairly novel, and the work is in the process of commercialization. Notably, unfortunate to have post-doctoral fellows, graduate students, medical students, and residents that work with me. I've mentored over 40 medical students now, and about 25 have gone on to otolaryngology, about three into plastic surgery, several into radiation oncology and radiology.

Unlike my clinical practice, my translational research does cross special boundaries.


Yokomori, Kyoko – PhD, Professor of Biological Chemistry

The Yokomori laboratory investigates the mechanisms of chromosome structural organization and how they affect DNA repair and gene regulation in human health and disease. Specifically, we use various DNA damaging methods, including laser microirradiation to study nucleus-wide epigenetic responses to complex DNA damage through PARP signaling and metabolic alteration. The mechanism and function of heterochromatin disruption in FSHD muscular dystrophy is another area of research, in which we perform single cell/nucleus analyses to isolate and characterize a small number of disease-driving cells and are developing 3D and tissue on a chip to measure intrinsic defects of FSHD and CRISPR-engineered mutant myocytes.


Zeng, Fan-Gang – PhD, Professor of Otolaryngology

My research interest lies in using neuromodulation or electric stimulation to treat sensory and neurological disorders from hearing loss and tinnitus to potentially Alzheimer's Disease.