2023-2024
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Lab Photo Scholar Info
Helen Benitez

2023-2024

Home University: UCLA

Class: Sophomore

Major: Physiological Sciences

Faculty Mentor: Dr. Tzung Hsiai

Bio:

Helen Benitez is an undergraduate student at UCLA majoring in Physiological Sciences and minoring in Global Health. She is a sophomore and a member of the PEERS program. She has been an undergraduate in Dr. Tzung Hsiai’s cardiovascular lab since the spring quarter of her first year. She is currently involved in a zebrafish project involving chemotherapy-induced cardiotoxicity associated with Doxorubicin (Dox). Anthracyclines, such as Dox, are effective chemotherapy drugs widely used to treat various cancers but induce dose-dependent cardiotoxicity, leading to reduced left ventricular ejection fraction and heart failure. The project serves to study the mechano-sensitive pathways involved with anthracycline-induced cardiotoxicity (AIC) to optimize chemotherapy medication usage by introducing a co-treatment with spironolactone (SP). To visualize the induced cardiotoxicity, light-sheet fluorescence microscopy was used to obtain 3D+ time images of the hearts in DMSO control, Dox-treated, SP-treated, and Dox-SP-co-treated embryos. Currently, we continue to analyze bulk-RNA sequencing data to explore underlying genes involved with Dox-induced cardiac dysfunction and SP-reduced cardiac mechanisms. Helen would like to express her immense gratitude for the mentorship and continued support provided by Dr. Hsiai and the rest of the Hsiai lab members. She is sincerely appreciative of the research and career guidance she has received from the Hsiai Lab. She would like to thank the CARE Fellows Program for its generosity in encouraging her research endeavors.

Natalia Castillo  

2023-2024 

Home University: UCLA  

Class: Sophomore 

Major: Cognitive Science 

Faculty Mentor: Dr. Jesse Rissman 

Bio: 

 

Natalia is a second year Cognitive Science Major at UCLA. She works in the Rissman Memory Lab which takes a unique approach to dissecting human cognition, specifically on how humans recall and apply memory. Natalia contributes to the Rissman Memory Lab’s investigation of how goal-directed and exploratory attentional processes modulate memory formation, maintenance, and retrieval.  

  

In the CARE Program, Natalia will continue conducting research at the Rissman Memory Lab. The lab seeks to find which features of wakeful rest best facilitate associative inference, as these periods can encompass heterogeneous internally directed states. In this study, Natalia will use a behavioral representational similarity analysis approach to see if active or exploratory mind-wandering during awake rest improves our ability to connect related memories. This research will help develop model systems to understand which type of wakeful rest is most effective for enhancing these connections with less strain on the hippocampus, a critical brain area for memory. Natalia will explore the trends between active/exploratory mind-wandering and memory consolidation to link its connection to improved associative inference. 

  

Natalia would like to thank the entire Rissman Memory Lab, especially Dr. Jesse Rissman and Samantha Walters, for their continued guidance and mentorship. She would also like to thank the CARE Fellows Program at UCLA for this invaluable opportunity to grow as a scientist and student

Maya Rhee-Pizano 

2023-2024 

Home University: UCLA  

Class: Sophomore 

Major: Physiological Sciences 

Faculty Mentor: Dr. Hilary Coller 

Bio: 

 

Maya Rhee-Pizano is an undergraduate sophomore at UCLA studying Physiological Sciences and minoring in Global Health. Maya is currently on the pre-medicine path and is interested in regenerative medicine and stem cells. She currently works in Dr. Coller’s lab at UCLA which focuses on understanding the molecular basis of quiescence and its role in the cell cycle and cancer. The current project Maya is working on examines the role of dysregulated autophagy in chronic wounds and chronic wound healing. Chronic wounds pose a formidable challenge in public health specifically among diabetic patients whose impaired wound healing constitutes substantial morbidity and mortality risks. In diabetic patients with chronic wounds, the sequential wound repair process is disrupted and characterized by a heightened inflammatory stage marked by an abundance of M1 macrophages, pro-inflammatory cytokines, and reduced M2 macrophages. Maya investigates the immune cell profile of various tissues important to the wound healing process using flow cytometry. She examines the difference in the number of macrophages, their activation status, and differences in the immune cell reactions of chronic wounds. The Coller lab hopes that understanding the molecular intricacies of impaired autophagy in chronic wounds will offer promising avenues for therapeutic interventions aimed at ameliorating wound healing outcomes in diabetic patients.  

 

Maya would like to thank the entire Coller Lab, especially Dr. Coller, Dr. Jelinek, and Dr. Ambrus for their continued guidance, mentorship, and support. She would also like to thank the CARE Fellows Program at UCLA for this invaluable opportunity and guidance.

Alexa Garcia 

2023-2024 

Home University: UCLA  

Class: Sophomore 

Major: Molecular Cellular and Developmental Biology 

Faculty Mentor: Dr. Gerald Lipshutz 

Bio: 

 

Alexa Garcia is a second year undergraduate student at UCLA majoring in Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology (MCDB). She is in Dr. Gerald Lipshutz’s Hepatic Regenerative Medicine Lab at UCLA. They primarily work with enzymatic deficiencies in the liver and brain, and subsequently develop gene therapies that are able to remedy these genetic diseases. Currently, she is working on an initial trial of Carbamoyl Phosphate Synthetase 1 (CPS1) deficiency.  

  

CPS1 deficiency is a rare genetic disorder that presents itself in humans through hyperammonemia, abnormal gait, vomiting and more. Previous research conducted on murine models of CPS1 deficiency is met with difficulty in expressing the large size of the CPS1 transgene compared to other hepatic enzymes. The Lipshutz Lab are utilizing a split adeno-associated virus gene therapy approach that can help mitigate the complications that arise from the large size of the CPS1 transgene. The initial trial has now reached a stage to expand to a larger, more permanent project that will allow us to observe the impact of the gene therapy on murine models with CPS1 deficiency. 

  

She would like to thank Dr. Lipshutz for the opportunity to grow and learn in research, as well as the rest of the Lipshutz Lab for all their guidance throughout this time. She would also like to thank the CARE Fellows program and Dr. Tama Hasson for providing me the opportunity to expand my skills in research.

Ziane Djenidi 

2023-2024 

Home University: UCLA  

Class: Sophomore 

Major: Neuroscience 

Faculty Mentor: Dr. Greg Field 

Bio: 

 

Ziane Djenidi is a second-year neuroscience major at the University of California, Los Angeles. As an undergraduate, Ziane conducts research in Dr. Greg Field’s Retinal Circuits lab. The Field lab is focused on understanding the neural circuitry of the retina and how these circuits process visual information.

Ziane contributes to the cricket hunting project, which aims to create an assay of mice behavior to compare wild-type mice with those experiencing retinal degeneration. This project seeks to establish a comprehensive behavioral database that can be referenced in future experiments or when testing treatments for retinal degeneration in mice.

In the Retinal Circuits lab, Ziane will continue to conduct research on the cricket hunting project. The lab’s goal is to gain insights into how retinal degeneration impacts behavior and to develop effective therapeutic strategies. This research involves observing and recording the hunting behaviors of mice, analyzing the data to identify significant differences between the two groups, and using these findings to inform further studies.

Ziane would like to thank Dr. Greg Field and the entire Retinal Circuits team for their continued guidance and mentorship. He would also like to express his gratitude to CARE Fellows, PEERS, and Dr. Tama Hasson for this invaluable opportunity to grow as a scientist.

Isabel Rosales 

2023-2024 

Home University: UCLA  

Class: Sophomore 

Major: Biochemistry 

Faculty Mentor: Dr. Paula Diaconescu 

Bio: 

 

Isabel Rosales is a sophomore majoring in Biochemistry and minoring in Chicana/o and Central American Studies. In the fall of 2023, she joined Dr. Paula Diaconescu’s Laboratory. The research centers on the investigation of redox-switchable catalysis to form polymers. Her project specifically investigates the use of a ferrocene-based aluminum metal catalyst to polymerize monomers such as epoxides into useful multi-block polymers. 

  

Redox-switchable catalysis is a reaction method that employs metal-centered catalysts that can switch between oxidized and reduced states to form multi-block polymers that exhibit orthogonal reactivity. This method improves the efficiency of the polymer formation process as it allows for one-pot synthesis and creates polymers with a high degree of control. By switching between the states of the metal catalyst with chemical triggers, redox-switchable catalysis can synthesize useful polymers from very different monomers. The resulting polymers then have the desirable qualities of all the monomers used. With the use of redox-switchable catalysis, a number of new materials can be made. 

  

Isabel would like to thank the Diaconescu Laboratory for their mentorship and support, especially her mentor Dr. Paula Diaconescu, and her graduate-student mentor Shiyun Lin. Also, she would like to thank the CARE Fellows Program for their support.

Kimberly Jorge 

2023-2024 

Home University: UCLA  

Class: Sophomore 

Major: Human Biology and Society 

Faculty Mentor: Dr. Tikvah Hayes 

Bio: 

 

Kimberly Jorge is a second-year undergraduate student at the University of California – Los Angeles studying Human Biology and Society. At UCLA, Kimberly conducts research in the Dr. Hayes Lab. The Hayes Lab is interested in lung cancer to see how unknown variants make cells oncogenic and how different targets affect sensitivity and resistance to current treatments. Dr. Hayes’ lab is fairly new and this year was primarily focused on acquiring background information on cancer and organizing/getting the lab space together. Kimberly is continuing in the summer with the Hayes lab and will be starting a project testing these unknown variants. She will identify observed variants from preliminary cancer genomics databases. Using the EGFR variants found, she will clone them in validation plasmids and then over-express them in non-small cell lung cancer cell lines. These cell lines will then be tested in growth assays to determine their sensitivity to targeted therapies. Lastly, she would like to thank the CARE Fellows program for the opportunity to gain support in her research experience. Also a grand thank you to Dr. Hayes for allowing her the opportunity to become part of her lab as well as being a great model and mentor.

Aitana Allen-Perez 

2023-2024 

Home University: UCLA  

Class: Sophomore 

Major: Physiological Science 

Faculty Mentor: Dr. Lindsay De Biase  

Bio: 

 

Aitana Allen-Perez is an undergraduate student studying Physiological Science at UCLA. She has always been fascinated with exploring the holistic effects of neurological aspects, including signal transmissions, cellular communication, and neurological disorders. She is currently working in the De Biase lab, where she assists postdoctoral fellow, Daniel Gray. Her lab focuses on microglia, which are brain immune cells that regulate neuron function through synapse engulfment and extracellular matrix remodeling, and how microglia in regions of the basal ganglia dopamine system express early inflammatory phenotypes. Through the De Biase lab, Aitana assists with cognitive training on mice that engages dopamine-dependent aspects of behavior to investigate beneficial effects on brain function. Her role is to also help collect and analyze data from these reward-based behavioral trainings to examine the impact on microglia, extracellular matrix, and synapse properties in the brain’s dopamine system. In addition to handling mice, she slices brain sections that are then immunohistochemically stained in order to visualize microglia, neuronal, synaptic, and ECM structures with confocal microscopy. 

Aitana would like to thank Dr. De Biase and her mentor, Daniel Gray, for giving her this opportunity to engage in undergraduate research. She would also like to thank the CARE Fellows Program for their continued support. 

Elizabeth Hernandez 

2023-2024 

Home University: UCLA  

Class: Sophomore 

Major: Biology 

Faculty Mentor: Dr. Karen Sears 

Bio: 

 

Elizabeth Hernandez is a second year Biology student at the University of California, Los Angeles. As an undergraduate student at UCLA, she is currently conducting research in the Sears Lab. The research the Sears Lab aims to understand is how bats live longer than humans but remain healthy and barely show any signs of aging for most of their life. She is currently assisting her mentor Kobie, in their project that investigates the connection between viral load, immunity, and reproduction in bats. In the lab they are focusing on how the bats evolutionary diversification and robust immune systems may be linked to their metabolic requirements, as their metabolic needs during flight, may be linked to their high levels of immunity. The method used here will be Phage ImmunoPrecipitation sequencing (PhIP-Seq) which allows analysis of multiple antibodies simultaneously. They will keep observing blood samples to compare pathogens in captive versus wild bats to see how this in turn affects their aging and reproduction.  

 

Elizabeth would like to thank Dr.Sears and Kobie Boslough for their mentorship and support in her research experience

Nada Osman 

2023-2024 

Home University: UCLA  

Class: Sophomore 

Major: Human Biology and Society 

Faculty Mentor: Dr. Barbara Knowlton 

Bio: 

 

Nada Osman is a second year Human Biology and Society major at UCLA. She has been conducting research with Dr. Knowlton’s lab under mentorship from Dr. Barbara Knowlton and Sonya Ashikyan. Their work has focused on the brain’s ventrolateral prefrontal cortex (VLPFC). How we selectively remember certain things better than others is determined by the mechanisms of the VLPFC. In this study the Knowlton Lab is trying to see if stimulating the left region of the VLFPC, using transcranial direct current stimulation (TDCS), increases the firing of neural signals and thus our ability to remember. Their findings will also help us better understand whether this region increases our memory of more significant things, overall memory, or increases our memory of just significant things at the expense of the other memories. This work is important, as it can lead to a greater understanding of the role VLPFC plays in memory, and could result in a breakthrough memory-improving mechanism, using the non-invasive tdcs stimulation.  

 

Nada would like to give a big thank you to the CARE fellows program and her amazing mentors Dr. Barbara Knowlton and Sonya Ashikyan for their overwhelming support and guidance on the start of her research journey. 

 

Amadu Tadesse  

2023-2024 

Home University: UCLA  

Class: Sophomore 

Major: Microbiology Immunology and Molecular Genetics  

Faculty Mentor: Dr. Steven Jonas  

Bio: 

 

Amadu Tadesse is a 2nd year Microbiology, Immunology, and Molecular Genetics Major. He is currently working in the Jonas Lab which focuses on development and application of new nanotechnologies and methods to support the childhood cancer and regenerative medicine research communities in accelerating the discovery and implementation of innovative gene therapy approaches and diagnostic strategies. His current projects focus on the development of nanotechnology and cancer therapeutics to treat prostate cancer, as well as the development of a gene therapy treatment for Cystic Fibrosis. These projects both involve the use of lipid nanoparticles to deliver this therapeutic cargo to specific regions of the body. 

 

He would like to thank Dr. Steven Jonas and the Jonas lab as a whole for the continued support through his journey in research.

 

Ella Cooper  

2023-2024 

Home University: UCLA  

Class: Sophomore 

Major: Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology 

Faculty Mentor: Dr. Ketema Paul 

Bio: 

 

Ella Cooper is a second-year Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology major at the University of California, Los Angeles. She is currently an undergraduate researcher for the Paul Lab which studies sleep homeostasis and circadian rhythms. Ella has been aiding in a project testing the role of the gene BMAL1 in recovery from sleep loss paired with muscle overexertion. The study examines the baseline and sleep deprivation EEG recordings of mice that overexpress BMAL1 and compares them to wild type mice. Ella has assisted by scoring the mice EEGs and setting up mice for the experiments. Ella would like to thank the Paul lab for their guidance and knowledge throughout her learning process. She has learned so much and thoroughly enjoyed her time in the lab.

 

Rochelle Mosley 

2023-2024 

Home University: UCLA  

Class: Sophomore 

Major: Neuroscience 

Faculty Mentor: Dr. William Zeiger 

Bio: 

 

Rochelle is a second year undergraduate majoring in neuroscience at UCLA. She is heavily interested in how the environment influences neuron degeneration. At UCLA, Rochelle conducts research in Dr. William Zeiger’s lab. She had been a member of the Zeiger lab since January 2023. Researchers at the Zeiger lab aim to understand how dysfunction of brain circuits in neurological diseases leads to specific symptoms and disability. Through using a combination of in vivo imaging techniques, circuit tracing, novel behavioral assays, and circuit manipulations to study circuit dysfunction in mouse models of diseases such as stroke and Parkinson’s disease 

(PD). The ultimate goal of the Zeiger lab is to define new therapeutic avenues to alleviate symptoms and modify the course of neurological disease for patients. Rochelle’s research project in the Zeiger lab focuses on the pathological spread of Alpha Synuclein protein that forms aggregates known as Lewy bodies in affected Parkinson’s patients. By injecting the Alpha Synuclein protein directly onto the primary visual cortex (V1), she was able to quantify the protein aggregates using computational methods in the V1 and adjacent areas affected by the pathological spread. Her project is a part of a larger project in the Zeiger lab to test if the presence of the aggregated Alpha Synuclein in the V1 correlates to cognitive symptoms such as visuospatial and visuoperceptual deficits that are commonly seen in Parkinson’s patients. Overall, the goal is to characterize a novel model of PD Dementia/Dementia with Lewy Bodies and increase our understanding of the mechanisms of cognitive impairment in patients with PD. She would like to thank Dr. William Zeiger, the entire Zeiger lab, and the CARE Fellows Program for so kindly supporting her and her undergraduate research experience. 

 

Lindsay Land 

2023-2024 

Home University: UCLA  

Class: Sophomore 

Major: Computational and Systems Biology 

Faculty Mentor: Dr. Elsa Ordway 

Bio: 

 

Lindsay Land is a second-year undergraduate student studying Computational & Systems Biology at UCLA. She is currently part of the Forest Ecosystems and Global Change lab led by Dr. Elsa Ordway of UCLA’s Ecology & Evolutionary Biology Department. While the lab supports various projects, the common thread of research is the use of remote-sensing data, field observations, and models to explain changes in forest ecosystems due to climate change to better inform sustainable land-use policies worldwide. 

Specifically, Lindsay works on the NASA-funded Land-Cover and Land-Use Change project 

(LCLUC) with her mentor, PhD student Hannah Stouter, to study forest gain patterns in the Congo Basin, in tandem with qualitative information about the livelihoods of people in the region. She uses airborne and spaceborne remote sensing data to analyse forest gain, and regional surveys with Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs), village chiefs, and village inhabitants to identify the socioeconomic drivers of forest gain patterns. Currently, she is conducting an accuracy assessment of the datasets used by validating points labelled as gain using Google Earth Pro. In the future, she hopes to create a random forest model in R that will predict future forest change over the entire region of interest. 

Lindsay would like to thank Dr. Ordway and Hannah for their continual guidance and support of her individual interests, and for making her feel completely included in the project. She would also like to thank the CARE Fellows Programme for supporting her in her first research experience. She is incredibly grateful to have joined a lab so well aligned with her research interests and personal beliefs. 

 

Ashley Ewalu 

2023-2024 

Home University: UCLA  

Class: Sophomore 

Major: Molecular Cellular and Developmental Biology 

Faculty Mentor: Dr. Paul Weiss 

Bio: 

 

Ashley Ewalu is an MCDB major from Florida, aspiring to be a researcher in biochemistry and skincare. Since Fall 2023, she has been part of Paul Weiss’ lab, mentored by AJ Addae and Jason Williams. Their research focuses on the green synthesis of nanoparticles and nanocomposites for antimicrobial wound care and sunscreen applications.

Driven by the growing need due to traumatic wounds, burns, and diabetes, the Weiss lab aim to enhance antimicrobial effects using plants like Eichhornia Crassipes. They optimize nanoparticle materials for antibacterial applications, address chronic skin conditions like eczema and psoriasis, and improve sunscreen efficacy. Their study investigates silver-doped ZnO/AgO nanocomposites for better wound healing and UV protection. Additionally, the Weiss lab plan to develop a microbiome library to understand nanoparticle interactions with skin bacteria and create microbiome-friendly therapeutics and skincare products.

Ashley would like to thank my mentors for believing in her and introducing her to a field she loves.
 

 

Zaia Hammond 

2023-2024 

Home University: UCLA  

Class: Sophomore 

Major: Human Biology and Society 

Faculty Mentor: Dr. Terence Keel 

Bio: 

 

Zaia is a second year Human Biology and Society major and African American studies minor at UCLA. She has been a research assistant in Dr. Terence Keel’s BioCritical Studies Lab in the Institute of Society and Genetics since the Winter of 2024. Within the lab, she works under the Coroner Reports Project: Death under the U.S. Medical Examiner/Coroner System. This project  studies interactions between the medical examiner/coroner system and law enforcement, how science and medicine are at play during instances of death in custody and how this in turn reduces accountability for law enforcement. Zaia contributes through data entry, as she reads autopsy reports of individuals who have died in custody of law enforcement and answers survey questions that are coded to a National Protocol.  

  

Zaia would like to thank Dr. Keel and Grace Sosa for providing her the opportunity to conduct such important research and work with such an amazing team. She is so grateful to have had their mentorship and this experience this school year. She is looking forward to continuing working with the lab in the future quarters. Lastly, she would like to thank the PEERS and CARE Fellows programs for inspiring her journey in research. 

 

Annette Figueroa Cisneros 

2023-2024 

Home University: UCLA  

Class: Sophomore 

Major: Human Biology and Society 

Faculty Mentor: Dr. Douglas Black  

Bio: 

 

Annette Figueroa is a second-year undergraduate student studying Human Biology and Society. She is currently involved in research at Dr. Black’s Lab at UCLA, which focuses on developing a mechanistic understanding of the regulation of pre-mRNA splicing and applying it to human health. Her project specifically aims to identify the specific locations where U1 snRNP (small nuclear ribonucleoprotein), which is essential in demarcating the 5’ splice site, binds, and the active binding sites for splicing. This way, we will begin to understand how U1 function and splicing fails. Approximately 10-15% of pathogenic variants associated with human diseases are reported to occur at splice sites, therefore it is vital to establish comprehensive binding maps of U1 snRNP. Long-term, this project is expected to map 5’ splice site across the transcriptome, making it useful in medical genetics by designing drugs that alter splicing patterns in pathogenic variants. 

 

She would like to thank Dr. Black, her mentor, Daniel Arce, and the care fellows program for allowing me to engage in research and grow as a scientist. 

 

2022-2023
Naomi Barber-Choi
2022-2023
Home University:
Class: sophomore
Major: Computational and Systems Biology
Faculty Mentor: Dr. Akihiro Nishi

Naomi Barber-Choi is an undergraduate student at UCLA studying Computational and
Systems Biology. She is primarily interested in using computational tools to model the dynamics
of real-world systems. She’s currently working in Dr. Akihiro Nishi’s lab at UCLA, which focuses
on using network science and agent simulations to examine key factors that could help prevent
disease outbreaks.
The current project Naomi is working on examines self-isolation behavior in the context
of a disease outbreak. While in theory the ideal response to a disease outbreak would be an
immediate, synchronized isolation, agents often isolate only when they perceive a threateningly
high disease prevalence. This risk tolerance may vary from agent to agent, and so even if
asynchronous isolation has a higher societal cost and lower societal benefit, it tends to be the
response that evolves— as seen with COVID-19. The research of the Nishi lab seeks to identify
factors that could encourage an immediate, synchronized isolation, deterring future pandemics.
Naomi would like to thank Dr. Nishi and her mentor Michael Mengual for giving her the
opportunity to engage in undergraduate research.

Isabella Cardenas
2022-2023
Home University:
Class: sophomore
Major: Microbiology, Immunology, and Molecular Genetics
Faculty Mentor: Dr. Valerie Arboleda

Isabella is a second-year Microbiology, Immunology, and Molecular Genetics student at the
University of California, Los Angeles. As an undergraduate, Isabella conducts research in Dr.
Valerie Arboleda’s lab. The Arboleda lab is interested in the discovery, functional analysis, and
therapeutic targeting of genes that are altered in human disease. Isabella contributes to the
molecular characterization of the genes KAT6A and KAT6B in human stem cells via knockdown
and overexpression of these genes.
In the CARE program, Isabella will continue conducting research in the Arboleda lab. The lab
seeks to understand how different genetic changes affect the overall function of human genes
and influence the molecular phenotype within a single cell. In the winter, Isabella will begin to
assist in these loss and gain of function studies by performing qPCR and western blot on
biospecimens where these genes of interest have been artificially altered to assess changes in
RNA and protein for genes of interest, respectively. This works to develop model systems to
better understand how mutations affect the differentiation of cells’ genetic regulation. Isabella
will leverage functional genomic approaches in order to simulate how rare genetic syndromes,
specifically KAT6A syndrome, are due to these pathogenic mutations that are important for
chromatin conformation.
Isabella would like to thank the entire Arboleda Lab, especially Dr. Valerie Arboleda and Aileen
Nava, for their continued guidance and mentorship. She would also like to thank the CARE
Fellows Program at UCLA for this invaluable opportunity to grow as a scientist.

Nicole Coronel
2022-2023
Home University:
Class: sophomore
Major: HBS
Faculty Mentor: Dr. Liisa Lutter

Nicole is a second-year undergraduate majoring in Neuroscience and English at UCLA. She
is heavily interested in ailments correlated to neurodegeneration and mental health. At
UCLA, Nicole conducts research in Dr. David Eisenberg’s lab under the mentorship of Dr.
Liisa Lutter. Researchers at the Eisenberg lab aim to comprehend the detrimental effects
of amyloid fibrils to uncover faster neurodegenerative diagnostics and therapeutics.
Neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, are distinguished by
cognitive and neuronal decline. These diseases are rapidly growing due to aging in the
elderly, and treatments are limited. Nicole’s research project in the Eisenberg lab focuses
on the α-synuclein protein that forms aggregates known as Lewy bodies in affected
Parkinson’s patients. This project concentrates on developing plant molecules that inhibit
α-synuclein protein aggregation. Her project is divided into three experimental stages.
She will track the effects of these plant molecules in vitro on recombinant α-synuclein,
then investigate the impact of efficient compounds in ex vivo patient-brain derived fibrils
and eventually conduct cell culture experiments. In conjunction with Dr. Lutter’s research
on the mechanisms of action of these plant molecules, Nicole’s project seeks to uncover
therapeutic options against Parkinson’s. If therapeutic effects are examined, the
compound should cross the blood-brain barrier of mice and reach affected brain regions.
Nicole would like to express her sincerest appreciation and gratitude to Dr. Eisenberg and
Dr. Lutter for their continued mentorship and support in conducting research. Nicole will
also like to thank the CARE Fellows program for their generosity and guidance.

Sophia Lopez
2022-2023
Home University:
Class: sophomore
Major: Neuroscience
Faculty Mentor: Dr. Kenneth Subotnik

Sophia Lopez is an undergraduate at UCLA majoring in Neuroscience and minoring in Art History. She is a
sophomore and a member of the PEERS program. She has been a research assistant for Dr. Kenneth Subotnik at
the UCLA Aftercare Program since the Fall of 2022. There she assists in the clinical research of patients who
have recently experienced psychotic symptoms and works towards the lab’s goal of providing treatment and
cognitive training to help these patients re-enter the workforce and/or academic settings. Sophia contributes on
the Data Entry and Tester team where she collects data by administering cognitive tests and physical fitness
assessments to patients. She also assists in data entry and updating the Aftercare Program’s large information
database. Sophia would like to thank Dr. Subotnik and Emily McGraw for this opportunity to explore clinical
research and for their continued guidance throughout her time at Aftercare. She would also like to thank the
CARE Fellows Program for so kindly supporting her and her undergraduate research experience.

Breanna Remigio
2022-2023
Home University:
Class: sophomore
Major: Computational and Systems Biology
Faculty Mentor: Dr. Aaron Meyer

I am a second-year student at UCLA majoring in Computational and Systems Biology. I have also joined the Meyer Lab in the Department of Bioengineering. The Meyer Lab focuses on using computational methods to explore cell communication. Specifically, they explore how the cells within the immune system communicate with each other to gain a better understanding of how to either solve a health problem or prevent it from happening overall by better predicting how the system will react if something breaks or if changes within these cells can potentially improve how they react to disease or cancers.
I work closely with my lab mentor, Andrew Ramirez, on his project where he is aiming to develop a computational technique that will allow researchers to accomplish single-cell analysis for multimodal studies. This will result in researchers having the ability to keep track of many cell populations and their varying properties without the constraints of current computational techniques.
I would like to thank Dr. Aaron Meyer, Andrew Ramirez, and the rest of the Meyer Lab for their mentorship and support as well as the CARE Fellows program for this opportunity.

Madison Rodriguez
2022-2023
Home University:
Class: sophomore
Major: Psychobiology
Faculty Mentor: Dr. Matthew Lieberman

With aspirations to be a holistic physician, I am passionate and curious about all things that have to do with mind and body interactions. Within our lab, we are studying neural synchrony and asynchrony across specific brain locations of multiple people working together performing certain tasks as a team. To measure this brain activity, our lab team uses functional near-infrared spectroscopy (fNIRS) which is a mobile and non-invasive brain monitoring technique that measures changes in hemoglobin inside the brain. This allows for real-time neuroimaging to observe the participants’ brain activity during the performance of given tasks. We hope to find how diverse perspectives and thinking styles may affect a team, which patterns of brain activity underpin positive team dynamics and how teammates’ brains and behaviors change over time.

Sophia Rueda
2022-2023
Home University:
Class: sophomore
Major: Neuroscience
Faculty Mentor: Dr. Laura DeNardo

Sophia Rueda is a sophomore majoring in Neuroscience. She conducts research in the DeNardo lab which focuses on how mPFC connections form, how they function from early development to adulthood, and how they can be perturbed by early life adversity. All this information is crucial to help us understand the mechanisms of psychiatric disorders and lay foundations for more targeted treatments. The project she is currently focusing on aims to understand how transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS), an FDA-approved, non-invasive treatment for major depression and obsessive-compulsive disorder, produces its therapeutic effects. While this treatment has proved effective for many individuals, there have also been variable outcomes. The lack of understanding of the neurobiological effects caused by this therapy hinders the possibility of creating more effective interventions for a larger range of psychiatric disorders. Her project will be focusing on rTMS induced plasticity changes in the brain. She will focus on the presence of perineuronal nets (PNNs) within the prefrontal cortex (PFC). PNNs are a part of a meshwork of extracellular proteins that regulate synaptic plasticity. It is hypothesized that rTMS may break down PNNs, allowing plastic changes to occur that can ultimately rescue behavioral symptoms of depression or OCD. Sophia would like to thank the DeNardo Lab, especially Dr. Laura DeNardo and Michael Gongwer for their continued mentorship. She would also like to thank the CARE Fellows Program for supporting her through this invaluable research experience.

Daniel Torres Pomares
2022-2023
Home University:
Class: sophomore
Major: Chemistry
Faculty Mentor: Dr. Alexander Spokoyny

Daniel is a second-year chemistry major at UCLA and a member of the PEERS program. He is a native of Los Angeles who hopes to be a researcher in the field of pharmaceuticals. He has been part of Dr. Alexander Spokoyny’s lab since Fall 2022, where he is involved in the use of organically coordinated gold compounds to facilitate selective bioconjugation of cysteine in peptide chains. These bioconjugates show promise that they may be able to protect chemicals or other biomolecules from harsh environments in the body, thus allowing for use in targeted therapies as well as opening previously impossible treatment avenues. To this end Daniel aids in the synthesis of compounds used to achieve these bioconjugates as well running simulations using density functional theory (DFT) to better understand the mechanisms of these reactions.

Alejandra Velazquez
2022-2023
Home University:
Class: sophomore
Major: Microbiology, Immunology, and Molecular Genetics
Faculty Mentor: Dr. Chantle Swichkow

Alejandra Velazquez-Villegas is an undergraduate in Microbiology, Immunology, and Molecular Genetics student at the University of California, Los Angeles. There Alejandra is an undergrad at the lab of Professor Leonid Kruglyak at the University of California (UCLA), where she assists postdoctoral fellow and faculty mentor, Chantle Swichkow in studying the genetic structure of yeast-bacteria interactions in fermented environments. This is done by exploring genetic variation in yeast and interspecies mutualism with lactic acid bacteria, in the hopes of better understanding the diverse communities of microorganisms that are established. This has allowed her to participate in the investigation of the evolution of yeast and bacteria communities in sourdough starters and understand how communities from the native yeast and bacteria have developed from different flours.

2021-2022
Andrea Garcia Angulo
2021-2022
Home University:
Class: sophomore
Major: Biology
Faculty Mentor: Dr. Kathrin Plath

Andrea is a third year undergraduate biology major at UCLA. She is a first generation college student, a member of PEERS, and aspires to become a physician scientist in the future. She recently joined Dr. Kathrin Plath’s lab which  studies the mechanisms by which epigenetic changes affect the pluripotency of stem cells. 

To this end, Andrea is working on better understanding how long-noncoding RNA’s Xist and Tsix as well as higher-order reconfiguration of chromatin structure mediate  X chromosome inactivation in mouse embryonic stem cells in order to present a clearer understanding of the dynamic mechanisms of reprogramming and differentiation. 

Ava Bignell
2021-2022
Home University:
Class: sophomore
Major: Biology
Faculty Mentor: Dr. Elissa Hallem

Ava Bignell is a second-year student from Ontario, California. She is involved in the campus
organization Donation of Tissues and Organs along with the sorority Alpha Delta Chi. She
has been conducting research in the Hallem Lab since September of 2021. Using
Caenorhabditis elegans and Strongyloides stercoralis, a parasitic nematode, the Hallem Lab
studies sensory behavior through neural systems. This behavior may be altered due to the
organisms’ experiences or environmental conditions. As a CARE Fellow, Ava is studying the
response of C. elegans to carbon dioxide, specifically how the metabolic activity of bacteria
affects the response of C. elegans. To study this, Ava will use paraformaldehyde to create
bacteria that are metabolically inactive and grow C. elegans on this bacteria. Next, a
chemotaxis assay will be used to calculate the attraction or repulsion, which will be
compared to that of the response of C. elegans grown on bacteria that is metabolically
active. This research will give insight into how behavior of C. elegans is shaped by bacterial
metabolism. In the future, Ava’s goals include obtaining a PhD and continuing to do
research along with being an educator.

Bezawit Danna
2021-2022
Home University:
Class: sophomore
Major: Biochemistry
Faculty Mentor: Dr. Ajit Divakaruni

My name is Bezawit Danna. I am a sophomore Biochemistry major. I joined the
Divakaruni Lab in Winter 2022. The Divakaruni Lab studies energy metabolism and cellular
substrate preference. The main focus of the Divakaruni Lab is mitochondrial metabolism in cells
and general mechanism of metabolic controls. The lab uses bioenergetics, analytical chemistry,
and live cell imaging to characterize mitochondrial metabolism and develop mitochondrial
pathways as therapeutic drug targets. I am working on brain energy metabolism. We focus on
Mitochondrial Metabolism in brain cells to find potential therapeutic drug targets for
neurodegenerative diseases like Alizihemer and parkinson disease. In Particular, we research on
Mitochondrial Pyruvate Carrier to inhibit pyruvate uptake in mitochondria. Currently, I am
helping with doing BCA assay with BSA standard solution to quantify synaptosomal protein.

Cindy Ly
2021-2022
Home University:
Class: sophomore
Major: Microbiology, Immunology, and Molecular Genetics
Faculty Mentor: Dr. Elissa Hallem

Cindy is a second year Microbiology, Immunology, and Molecular Genetics major who recently joined the Hallem lab where she studies the host-seeking behaviors of Strongyloides. In particular, she studies how mechanosensation, a host-emitted sensory cue, may affect how they find and locate hosts. Cindy uses the infective larvae of the rat-parasitic nematode Strongyloides ratti as a model system to measure and compare the nictation rate of S. ratti infective larvae in the presence and absence of 50 Hz vibrations. The lab hopes that these results could help develop novel preventative and therapeutic measures against infections by Strongyloides stercoralis, which poses a significant disease burden in underdeveloped countries.

Daniel Meza
2021-2022
Home University:
Class: sophomore
Major: Molecular, Cell, and Developmental Biology
Faculty Mentor: Dr. Pavak Shah

Daniel Meza is a second year Molecular, Cell, and Developmental Biology major at UCLA. The Shah lab uses C. elegans as a model organism to study the mechanisms that drive the neural circuits that form during development. Daniel is currently investigating the efficacy of various iterations of GCaMP, a genetically encoded calcium indicator, for use in embryonic C. elegans. With newer versions of GCaMP being recently developed, their time to protein maturation in C. elegans is unknown. Because the development of C. elegans is on the scale of hours, slight improvements in the time needed to have a functional GCaMP can be very significant. Through microinjections, Daniel produces transgenic C. elegans containing the desired GCaMP for testing.

Derick Diaz
2021-2022
Home University:
Class: sophomore
Major: Biology
Faculty Mentor: Dr. Daniel Cohn

I am a first generation rising second-year with a future career goal in research. Currently, I am enrolled in the Cohn lab studying skeletal disorders. My role will be to learn how to isolate DNA from mutant mouse tissues. Next, I will then determine their genotypes using PCR amplification, gel electrophoresis and DNA sequence analysis. These studies will then form the basis for evaluating the effects of a Trpv4 mutation on skeletal development, the main goal of the study.

Jasmine Gonzalez
2021-2022
Home University:
Class: sophomore
Major: Pre-Human Biology and Society
Faculty Mentor: Dr. Yalda Afshar

Jasmine is a sophomore working under the guidance of Dr. Yalda Afshar’s translational lab at the UCLA Health, Divison of Maternal and Fetal Medicine. Her research primarily focuses on high-risk pregnancies, such as fetal congenital heart disease and placenta accreta spectrum disorders.

As a CARE Fellow, Jasmine investigates the signaling alterations in endothelial mechano-transduction within placental vascular endothelial cells by studying abnormal flow patterns observed in fetal congenital heart disease (CHD). These vascular cells were found to respond to different types of environmental conditions such as the flow direction of blood. Individuals who have CHD exhibit a halt in cellular growth, and are unable to mature in comparison to those who do not carry CHD. Jasmine collects data to understand this abnormal vascular phenotype by isolating human umbilical endothelial cells, running flow experiments, and conducting immunofluorescence staining and imaging to understand downstream complications in vascular cellular growth.

Jasmine would like to thank the CARE Fellows program for this research opportunity, as well as Afshar lab group for their invaluable guidence and mentorship.

Jose Munoz
2021-2022
Home University:
Class: sophomore
Major: Biochemistry
Faculty Mentor: Dr. Ryan Howe

Jose is a second-year Biochemistry major at UCLA and has been working in Dr. Koehler’s lab for the past year. The Kohler lab studies the mechanism of protein import into mitochondria and how defects in mitochondrial protein translocation can lead to disease. Ultimately the lab wants to determine the molecular basis of the Mohr-Tranebjaerg syndrome.

As of August 2021, Jose has been working on the project of identifying if DNA samples from zebrafish carry the recessive mitochondrial mutation. Mohr-Tranebjaerg syndrome causes deafness, blindness, and dystonia, which are the result of DDP1, the homolog to Tim8 which is a Mitochondrial import inner membrane translocase subunit. He is currently running Polymerase-Chain Reactions(PCR) to investigate the DNA of the zebrafish. He creates specific master mixes using Taq-polymerase that help in obtaining optimal results in each PCR. He also performs gel electrophoresis in order to identify which specimens have the recessive mutation. His work, under the guidance of Ryan Howe, is then used to further analyze the mutation of the zebrafish in order to determine the molecular basis of the disease.

Jose would like to thank the Koehler Lab for providing him with this opportunity, as well as the CARE Fellows for funding his research this academic year.

Karen Navarro
2021-2022
Home University:
Class: sophomore
Major: Biology
Faculty Mentor: Dr. Karen Sears

I am a rising sophomore majoring in Biology and also part of the Solid Gold Sound,
PEERS, and a CARE Fellow member. I am involved in research within the Sears lab
under the mentorship of Dr. Karen Sears.
In the Sears Lab, I study the cellular basis of post-natal development in mammals.
Post-natal growth is essential to mammalian physiology and is highly variable
across species allowing them to grow in a range of body sizes. These growth rates
are high in early life, but then tend to decrease rapidly as the organism reaches full
adult size. This decline following early post-natal growth results from the decrease
in the rate of cellular proliferation caused by a downregulation of the
growth-regulating genetic program.
In the lab, I am collaborating on an extensive genome study in mice and opposum
to establish the roles of particular genes responsible for the epigenetic regulation
in cellular processes (proliferation, apoptosis, etc.).The hypothesis is that
proliferation rates will decrease in tissues from mice and opposum starting from
birth to sexual maturity, but that the specific pattern of decline varies among
tissues and species. The methods in the lab I am utilizing include collecting tissues
from mice and opossums. The tissues then are embedded, cryosection, stained for
cell processes, and finally, are photographed and analyzed using microscopes to
quantify the changes occurring during post-natal development among these species
and different tissues.

Kelechi Onwuzurike
2021-2022
Home University:
Class: sophomore
Major: Molecular, Cellular & Developmental Biology
Faculty Mentor: Dr. Douglas Black

Kelechi Onwuzurike is a second year Molecular, Cell & Developmental Biology major at UCLA that started working in Dr. Black’s RNA splicing lab in the fall quarter of the 2021-2022 academic school year. The Black Lab extensively studies the pre-mRNA splicing reaction mechanism. The errors in this mechanism can found to contribute to human diseases including cancer, neurodegeneration, and inherited genetic disorders.

Kelechi and his mentor Xinyuan Chen study the role of splicing regulators and their cis elements in the splicing of Myc-dependent cassette exons in prostate cancer. Through cloning techniques, DNA & RNA extractions, cell culture, and RT-PCR, Kelechi hopes to study splicing change of these exons when cis-elements that bind to splicing regulators are manipulated to understand how they can promote exon inclusion. With this mind, the long-term goal is to gain a mechanistic understanding of splicing regulation in Myc-driven cancers.

After his undergraduate degree, Kelechi would like to pursue an MD-Ph.D to become a Physician-Scientist. Kelechi would like to thank the Black Lab, specifically his mentor, Xinyuan Chen, and Principal Investigator, Dr. Black, for their pristine guidance, patience, and support in his research endeavors. He would also like to thank the Care Fellows Program and staff, and his donor, Dr. Koretz for funding his research experience.

Kimberly Vasquez
2021-2022
Home University:
Class: sophomore
Major: Chemistry
Faculty Mentor: Dr. Paula Diaconescu

Kimberly is a sophomore chemistry major at the University of California, Los Angeles. She
recently joined Dr. Paula Diaconescu’s lab where she is part of the NSR center efforts. She is
helping in researching the formation of polymers through redox-switchable catalysts.
Redox- switchable catalysts is a method that can generate and control numerous active species
with different reactivity. This method helps control the sequence and regularity that can affect
the material properties of copolymer building blocks. It is important to use switchable catalysts
since they have the ability to imitate the two biological processes called spatial and temporal
control. Redox- switchable polymerization catalysts give us the opportunity to synthesize
multiblock copolymers that are prepared from biodegradable materials which are inexpensive.
The goal of this lab is to switch a catalyst form between their oxidation state and their reduced
state to ultimately create a compound that demonstrates orthogonal reactivity for different
substrates and give catalysts the ability to reduce. Overall, with the development of redoxswitchable
catalysts we can look forward to new materials and reactions and can expect the
expanding of switchable polymerization .
Kimberly would like to thank the Diaconescu lab for their mentorship and support. She would
also like to thank the CARE Fellows Program for the opportunity.

Savannah Lopez
2021-2022
Home University:
Class: sophomore
Major: Neuroscience
Faculty Mentor: Dr. Adriana Galvan

Savannah is a current sophomore majoring in Neuroscience and minoring in Disability Studies at UCLA. She is currently working within Dr. Galván’s laboratory on the DAYS project (Development of Anxiety in Youth Study). The research focuses on studying how brain development is linked to anxiety in early adolescence.

The research aims to model neural activity during risky decision-making simulations in youth. Participants will perform decisive tasks while undergoing fMRI, and completing self-report, behavioral, and psychophysiological measures. In the lab setting, under the DAYS project, Savannah aids in running MRI scans, coding to create brain videos out of structural scans, and collecting data that assess behavioral patterns. As anxiety disorders are most common among adolescents, it is important to examine brain maturation and its connection with levels of anxiety. The study uses a dimensional approach in understanding the persistence of anxiety symptoms during the “key development window” where symptoms and functionality worsen.

Savannah would like to thank Care Fellows, Dr. Galván, and her fellow lab members for their guidance and support in aiding her growth as a scientist.

Sugey Garcia Galvan
2021-2022
Home University:
Class: sophomore
Major: Biology
Faculty Mentor: Dr. Paul Barber

Sugey is a rising third-year Biology major and has recently joined Dr. Paul Barber’s lab this
winter quarter.
As a CARE Fellows student, Sugey is participating under a graduate student’s project assessing
the role of seagrass Zostera marina (eelgrass) in the Port of Los Angeles, a highly disturbed
marine environment. Overall, seagrass are a foundation species, which means they provide
biological, chemical, and physical support to marine environments. Since the Port of Los
Angeles is a disturbed area, acknowledging whether the eelgrass is able to provide refuge for
other organisms is important. This is determined by characterizing biodiversity using
environmental DNA (eDNA) metabarcoding from samples collected at the site. Based on the
results, conservation efforts can be made for the eelgrass beds along the coast of these highly
distubed areas.

Tony Luu
2021-2022
Home University:
Class: sophomore
Major: Neuroscience
Faculty Mentor: Dr. Caius Radu

I am a first-generation student at UCLA. I am from San Bernardino and become interested in the medical field after exploring different career options at Pomona College. I wanted to explore the pharmaceutical aspect of medicine and applied to the Radu lab where I assist the lab with experiments, publications, and maintaining lab cleanliness. What I am currently working on is the manipulation of certain pathways in the body’s innate immune system to increase the immune response in a person’s body to target tumor cells.