Our students, graduates and faculty

sbp students and faculty

Our community

Our highly individualized education is designed to focus on your scientific interests and career goals.

At the heart of the program is mentorship by outstanding faculty. Unique aspects of the Sanford Burnham Prebys Ph.D. program include:

  • Highly personalized curriculum with 1:1 tutorials
  • Career advising and support in research training
  • Immigration support
  • Training also offered in:
    • Writing and presentation skills
    • Leadership development
    • Career and professional development
Educating Ph.D. students to become the innovative biomedical scientists of the future.

Current graduate students - selected profiles

Michael Alcaraz

Adams Lab

Michael’s work will focus in understanding the epigenetic changes that occur in humans as we age and how these changes lead to a higher cancer incidence.

Ceda Stamenkovic

Sacco Lab

Ceda is interested in studying muscle stem cells and is utilizing mouse genetic models to understand how loss of heterogeneity of muscle stem cells is linked to the depletion of muscle mass that occurs in aging.

  • Michael Alcaraz
    Michael’s work will focus in understanding the epigenetic changes that occur in humans as we age and how these changes lead to a higher cancer incidence.
  • Nahal Azimi
    Nahal is interested in refractory subtypes of acute myeloid leukemia, and will focus on the mechanisms that drive these tumors and mediate resistance to therapy.
  • Maria Cavarlez
    Maria studies extracellular vesicles in the brain to understand their role in cellular communication and impact on neurological diseases.
  • Yu-Ling (Linda) Chang
    Linda’s research focuses on identifying novel barriers to cell reprograming to regenerate cardiomyocytes and investigating the mechanism of barriers in cell fate determination and reprogramming.
  • Savio Chow
    Savio's work focuses on understanding gene regulatory mechanisms and their perturbations in human diseases by computational modeling and machine learning approaches to study drug responses.
  • Zong Ming Chua
    Zong Ming's work focuses on understanding the aging process through altering the stability of the epigenome.
  • Ximena Diaz Olea
    Ximena aims to understand how RNF5 microbiome can control antitumor immunity.
  • Jordan Friedlein, M.S.
    Jordan's work will focus on using mouse models and genetic engineering techniques to identify mutations in cancer cells that act as a lifeline to many cancer types.
  • Marcos Garcia Teneche
    Marcos aims to unveil the mechanisms of leukemia initiation and progression with age.
  • Shea Grenier, M.S.
    Shea's work will contribute to investigating metabolic adaptations that promote the development and progression of Ras-mutant cancers.
  • Gabriele Guarnaccia
    Gabriele is interested in muscle regeneration and 3D bio-printing. His research focuses on finding new therapies to recover great muscle damages and to slow the progression of degenerative diseases like the dystrophy. 
  • Patrick Hagan
    Patrick is joining the Cosford Lab where he will study how autophagy and ULK1/2 contribute to cancer therapy resistance and develop and test inhibitors to these targets to improve treatment outcomes.
  • Sophie Hao
    Sophie is focusing on understanding Notch signaling and its role in liver regeneration with applications to diseases such as Alagille Syndrome.
  • Rema Iyer
    Rema is interested in understanding the role of genetic and epigenetic factors in the progression of cancers and finding meaningful therapies for patients.
  • Evodie Koutouan
  • Aashna Lamba
    Aashna's research focsues on characterizing cell fate stabilization using cell painting and HTS to profile cell morphology during cancer cell transformation.
  • Tianhui Liu
    Tianhui is interested in contribution of autophagy in stress-induced cellular senescence.
  • Texia Loh
    Texia is interested in using small module degrades to understand the role of epigenetic regulators in DNA damage repair.
  • Ryan Loughran
    Ryan is working to uncover new and important roles of phosphoinositide lipid kinase signaling in the context of tumor cell metabolism.
  • Katya Marchetti
    Katya explores the underlying genetic mechanisms involved in heart development and congenital heart disease using the fruit fly and zebrafish as a model organism.
  • Tatiana Moreno
    Tatiana will explore how autophagy is regulated upon hormetic stress and aging in the nematode C. elegans and mammalian/human systems.
  • Ruslan Nuryyev, M.S.
    Ruslan’s research will be focused on examining progenitor cells in a hypothermic environment in an effort to develop a neuroprotective treatment for hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy.
  • Utkarsha Paithane
    Utkarsha’s research will be focused on studying genetic mutations that contribute to cancer initiation.
  • Aditi Pedgaonkar
    Aditi's research focuses on elucidating epigenetic mechanisms underlying the progression of acute myeloid leukemia.
  • Adarsh Rajesh
    Adarsh is interested in using cell biology and bioinformatic techniques to unlock the cellular mechanisms behind aging and age-associated diseases.
  • Daniel Rebibo
    Daniel's research focuses on identifying novel aberrations in leukemia by integrating omics information through a computational approach.
  • Michaela Romero
    Michaela’s research focuses on identifying novel cardiac disease-associated pathways and innovative cardiac regenerative strategies using in vitro models and an automated screening platform.
  • Stephen Sakuma
    Stephen's work focuses on elucidating the role of modulating nuclear pore complex composition and assembly at the cellular and organismal level.
  • Anis Shahnaee,  Pharm.D., M.P.H.
    Anis has a keen interest in exploring single-cell isoform sequencing and investigating reverse transcriptase activity within the context of Alzheimer's disease.
  • Cedomir Stamenkovic
    Ceda is interested in studying muscle stem cells and is utilizing mouse genetic models to understand how loss of heterogeneity of muscle stem cells is linked to the depletion of muscle mass that occurs in aging.
  • Jiaqian (Emily) Wu, M.S.
    Emily’s research focuses on developing small drug inhibitor for cancer therapeutics and neuropsychiatric disorders.
  • Skye Xu
    Skye is studying the role of ATF6 in maintaining synaptic integrity through an EGR1 dependent pathway in Alzheimer's disease.
  • Sviatlana Zaretski
    Sviatlana is interested in studying the role of autophagy in such age-associated phenomena as cellular senescence, to understand the interplay of the key components of autophagy involved in cellular senescence and describe how autophagy is being re-modelled upon entering senescence to find possible interventions and promote healthy aging.
  • Hanxiao Zhang
    Hanxiao's research focuses on proteasome assembly by tagging and purifying endogenous proteasome chaperons in the human cell and studying the structure by Cryo-EM.
  • Chenyu Zhou
    Chenyu's work focuses on determining the structure of various proteins under different physiological status using Cryo-EM and other techniques.
  • Zhouting Zhu, M.S.
    Zhouting will investigate the RNA methylation pathways and their impact on cancer development as well as identification of small molecule inhibitors of targets involved in cancer.

Alumni  - selected profiles

"Sanford Burnham Prebys graduate students are bright and highly driven with a clear focus on their next career step. Upon graduation, most of our students have moved on to become successful biomedical researchers in both fields of industry and academia."

– Alessandra Sacco, Ph.D.
Professor and Dean, Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences
Mallika Iyer, Ph.D.

"I think our program is really unique. Its small size means that each student gets a lot of attention, and we have an Office of Education, Training and International Services (OETIS) that really offers us a lot of great resources to help us shape our careers."

Marisa Sanchez, Ph.D.

"I chose to study at Sanford Burnham Prebys Medical Discovery Institute because it is leading the frontiers of translational biomedical research. I have always had a fascination for research and discovering new ways to improve the lives of people suffering from disease."

Miguel Reina Campos, Ph.D.

"I was drawn to Sanford Burnham Prebys for its clinically oriented goals, state of the art facilities and the great talent that inhabits the institution. It appeared to me as the perfect blend of the will to cure and the genuine curiosity that drives the finest basic research."

  • Rachael McVicar, Ph.D.
    Thesis Title: Studying Airway Surfactant BPIFA1 in the Developing Human Lung: Novel Role in Regulating Neonatal Lung Homeostasis
  • Aleksandr Arzamasov, Ph.D.
    Thesis Title: Genomics-Driven Reconstruction of Carbohydrate Utilization Networks in Human-Residential Bifidobacteria
  • Meher Beigi Masihi, Ph.D.
    Thesis Title: RREB1 is Required for Growth of Group 3 Medulloblastoma
  • Paloma Sanchez Pavon, Ph.D.
    Thesis Title: LPA-dependent propagation of neuroinflammatory mechanisms in an optimized model of post-hemorrhagic hydrocephalus
  • Benjamin Van Espen, Ph.D.
    Thesis Title: RNF185 control of COL3A1 expression limits prostate cancer migration and metastatic potential
  • Karina Barbosa Guerra, Ph.D.
    Thesis Title: Chromatin Control of Cancer Stem Cells in Acute Myeloid Leukemia
  • Betsaida Bibo Verdugo, Ph.D.
    Thesis Title: Caspase mechanisms in inflammatory cell death
  • Joe Fromm, Ph.D.
    Thesis Title: Probing the Substrate Pocket of the Thioesterase Domain of Fatty Acid Synthase
  • James Kent, Ph.D.
    Thesis Title: Pathogen Virulence Factors: Structural Biology at the Interface Between Host and Pathogen
  • Mallika Iyer, Ph.D.
    Thesis Title: Studying protein conformational diversity and flexibility through the lens of experimentally solves structures
  • Nicole Bata, Ph.D.
    Thesis Title: The Discovery and Characterization of Small Molecule Modulators of Apoptosis and Autophagy for the Treatment of Cancer
  • Katja Birker, Ph.D.
    Thesis Title: A novel role for mitoschondrial MICOS gene CHCHD6 in cardiac function and structure
  • J. Scotty Cadet, Ph.D.
    Thesis Title: Mannose Supplement and SGK1 Attenuation Enhance EGFR-Targeted Therapy
  • Ayako Murao, Ph.D.
    Thesis Title: Role of the Novel Cell Surface Hyaluronidase TMEM2 in Early Embryogenesis
  • Huiyu Ren, Ph.D.
    Thesis Title: Discovery of Novel Cancer Therapeutics by Targeting the ULK1/2 Autophagy Initiation Complex
  • Numana Bhat, Ph.D.
    Thesis Title: Regnase-1 is essential for B cell homeostasis to prevent autoimmunity
  • Daniel Ojeda Juarez, Ph.D.
    Thesis Title: Lipocalin-2 mediates neuronal damage and behavioral deficits in HIV-induced brain injury
  • Pavel Ryzhov, Ph.D.
    Thesis Title: Structural Studies of Bcl-2 Family Proteins in Lipid Bilayers
  • Jessica Stupack, Ph.D.
    Thesis Title: Novel roles for the AD risk factor SORLA in neurite outgrowth and synaptic protection
  • Clyde Campbell, Ph.D.
    Thesis Title: In vivo Lineage Conversion of Vertebrate Muscle into Early Endoderm-Like Cells
  • Alex Campos, Ph.D.
    Thesis Title: TXNRD1 Mediated Regulation of the Wnt/β-catenin Pathway in Colorectal Cancer
  • Lisa Elmen, Ph.D.
    Thesis Title: From Disease Promotion to Therapeutics - the Multifaceted Roles of Gut Bacteria
  • Anjali Gupta, Ph.D.
    Thesis Title: CRTC Signaling in the Heart of the fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster
  • Cameron Pernia, Ph.D.
    Thesis Title: Hyper-Excitable Neurons Produce Hypo-Functional Neuronal Networks: Evidence from Modeling CRMP2 in Bipolar Disorder
  • Miguel Reina Campos, Ph.D.
    Thesis Title: Increase Serine and One-Carbon Pathway Metabolism by PKC Lambda/Iota Deficiency Promotes Neuroendocrine Prostate Cancer
  • Marisa Sanchez, Ph.D.
    Thesis Title: Coordination of Adaptive and Pro-apoptotic Responses to Oxidative Stress at the mRNA Translation Level
  • Francesca Boscolo Sesillo, Ph.D.
    Thesis Title: Role of p53 in balancing self-renewal, myogenic commitment, and cellular transformation of muscle stem cells
  • Monica Gonzalez, Ph.D.
    Thesis Title: The role of caspases in inflammation
  • Marco Maruggi, Ph.D.
    Thesis Title: Elucidating the Mechanisms Underlying Resistance to Targeted Therapy in Pancreatic Cancer
  • Wesley McKeithan, Ph.D.
    Thesis Title: Reengineering an Antiarrhythmic with Human Pluripotent Stem Cells
  • Róisín Puentes, Ph.D.
    Thesis Title: Targeting the CNK1 PH domain to inhibit mutant KRAS cancer growth
  • Amir Razai, Ph.D.
    Thesis Title: Biochemical Toolbox: New Strategies for the Characterization and Inhibition of Proteases
  • Tiara Wong, Ph.D.
    Thesis Title: Using iPSC-derived mesenchymal stromal cells to study fibrosis in Arrhythmogenic Right Ventricular Dysplasia/Cardiomyopathy
  • Jinsha Liu, Ph.D.
    Thesis Title: T-cadherin and Adiponectin in hippocampal synaptic functions and behaviors
  • Gianluigi Lichinchi, Ph.D.
    Thesis Title: Dynamics of RNA methylation during HIV and ZIKV infections
  • Khooshbu Shah, Ph.D.
    Thesis Title: Pathological Interactions of Arrhythmogenic Right Ventricular Dysplasia/Cardiomyopathy (ARVD/C) Cardiomyocytes with ARVD/C Mesenchymal Stromal Cells
  • Victoria Thaney, Ph.D.
    Thesis Title: Neuroprotection by IFN-beta in HIV/gp120 Brain Injury
  • Paula Coutinho Toto, Ph.D.
    Thesis Title: Regulation of Skeletal Muscle Cell Quiescence, Proliferation and Differentiation by Brahma-based SWI/SNF Chromatin-Remodeling Complex
  • Alessandra Dall'Agnese, Ph.D.
    Thesis Title: MYOD-directed changes in the nuclear architecture during myogenic conversion of somatic cells
  • Mirco Guigli, Ph.D.
    Thesis Title: Investigation of Structured Illumination Confocal Microscopy for High Content Screening
  • Stephen Soonthornvacharin, Ph.D.
    Thesis Title: Systems-Level Analysis to Elucidate the Regulation of the RIG-I-Mediated Antiviral Innate Immune Response
  • Matthew Tierney, Ph.D.
    Thesis Title: Regulatory mechanisms controlling muscle stem cell behavior during skeletal muscle repair
  • Giuseppina Claps, Ph.D.
    Thesis Title: Redefining AFT2 in Braf-driven melanoma
  • Yi Ding, Ph.D.
    Thesis Title: Structural and Functional Studies of the Outer Membrane Protein Ail from Yersenia Pestis
  • Sara Gelino, Ph.D.
    Thesis Title: Investigating the Mechanisms of Autophagy-Mediated Longevity During Dietary Restriction
  • Saumya Nagar, Ph.D.
    Thesis Title: Role of MEF2 in photoreceptor degeneration
  • Angel Bottini, Ph.D.
    Thesis Title: Drug Discovery Studies on Influenza A Virus and Yersinia Outer Protein H (YopH)
  • Ryan Esquejo, Ph.D.
    Thesis Title: Integration of Lipid Synthesis and Other Biological Processes via Sterol Regulatory Element Binding Proteins
  • Domenico Fasci, Ph.D.
    Thesis Title: New Insights into the Regulation of SUMO Dynamics by the Human SUMO-specific Proteases (SENPs)
  • Lorenzo Giordani, Ph.D.
    Thesis Title: Cell Fate Modulation in Skeletal Muscle Interstitial Cells: A Possible Approach in Muscular Dystrophy
  • Ryon Graf, Ph.D.
    Thesis Title: The Regulation of Breast Cancer Metastasis by Caspase-8
  • Janna Hachmann, Ph.D.
    Thesis Title: Activity and Specificity of the Human Paracaspase MALT1
  • Philip McQuary, Ph.D.
    Thesis Title: Understanding the longevity of rsks-1/S6K C. elegant mutants
  • Goonho Park, Ph.D.
    Thesis Title: Investigation of Aberrant Epigenetic Mechanisms in Parkinson's Disease Pathogenesis
  • Judith Scheliga, Ph.D.
    Thesis Title: Role of elf3e in mRNA Translation
  • Danhua Zhang, Ph.D.
    Thesis Title: The Specification of Ductal Lineages in Liver and Pancreas
  • Wenqing Cai, Ph.D.
    Thesis Title: Stage-Specific Cell Fate Commitment During Cardiac Differentiation in mESCs
  • Xin Wang, Ph.D.
    Thesis Title: Loss of Sorting nexin 27 Continues to Excitatory Synaptic Dysfunction Via Modulation of Glutamate Receptor Recycling in Down Syndrome
  • Corrine Lee, Ph.D.
    Thesis Title: Spinal Disinhibition in a Rodent Model of Painful Diabetic Neuropathy
  • Runquan Zhang, Ph.D.
    Thesis Title: Novel Synthetic Ligands of CCR5 and CXCR4: Biochemical Characterization and Preclinical Studies
  • Cheng-Ho Chung, Ph.D.
    Thesis Title: Adult Beta Cell Regeneration
  • Johanna Samuelsson, Ph.D.
    Thesis Title: DNA Demethylation of SST1 Pericentromeric Repetitive Elements in Human Cancer
  • Ying Zhang, Ph.D.
    Thesis Title: Integrating Computational Structure-Function Analyses for the Genome-Scale Modeling of Metabolic Networks
  • Lorena Puto, Ph.D.
    Thesis Title: Epigenetic Control of Apoptosis and Autophagy Gene Expression and Promotion of Tumorigenicity by Nuclear Body Protein, Daxx
  • Annelies Zinkernagel, Ph.D.
    Thesis Title: Exploring Bacterial Pathogen Interactions with Host Phagocytes to Identify Novel Approaches to Infectious Disease Therapy

Graduate school faculty