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

Katja Birker, B.S.

Katja’s work focuses on elucidating the molecular, cellular, and morphological processes of candidate congenital heart disease genes in the Drosophila heart.

Ryan Loughran, B.S.

Ryan is working to uncover new and important roles of phosphoinositide lipid kinase signaling in the context of tumor cell metabolism.

Karina Barbosa Guerra, B.S.

Karina’s research focuses on understanding the dysregulation of epigenetic mechanisms in hematological malignancies to improve therapeutic interventions.

  • Aleksandr Arzamasov
    Alex will use comparative genomic and metagenomic approaches to predict metabolic interactions in the human gut microbiota under normal and pathological conditions.
  • Karina Barbosa Guerra, B.S.
    Karina’s research focuses on understanding the dysregulation of epigenetic mechanisms in hematological malignancies to improve therapeutic interventions
  • Nicole Bata, B.S.
    Nicole’s work focuses on exploring STK3/STK4 kinases as modulators of autophagy in cancer. 
  • Meher Beigi Masihi, M.S.
    Meher’s work is focused on understanding underlying molecular mechanisms of pediatric brain tumor development to identify potential therapeutic targets.
  • Numana Bhat, B.S.
    Numana is interested in studying B cell immunology and is utilizing mouse genetic models to understand how perturbations in the immuno-regulatory pathways in B cells lead to immunopathology and autoimmune disease.
  • Betsaida Bibo Verdugo, M.S.
    Betsaida investigates the molecular sorting mechanisms that dictate the distribution of neutrophil serine proteases in azurophil granules.
  • Katja Birker, B.S. 
    Katja’s work focuses on elucidating the molecular, cellular, and morphological processes of candidate congenital heart disease genes in the Drosophila heart.
  • Scotty Cadet, B.S.
    Scotty’s project will investigate the crosstalk between the Notch and Aryl Hydrocarbon receptors in pancreatic endocrine cell fate determination during cell reprogramming.
  • Alex Campos, B.S.
    Alex's work focuses on understanding how cancer utilizes adaptive responses to stress, such as oxidative and metabolic stress, to provide growth, proliferation, and survival advantages over normal non-transformed cells.
  • Linda Chang
    Linda’s work focuses on the neuroprotective mechanisms with Alzheimer’s disease, protein trafficking in neurons, and associated molecules, such as SORLA.
  • Zong Ming Chua, B.S.
    Zong Ming's work focuses on elucidating the links between aging and cancer, specifically with AML in mice. 
  • Lisa Elmen, M.S.
    Lisa's research is focused on establishing the etiological role of the gastrointestinal microbiome in colorectal cancer and inflammatory bowel disease.
  • 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.
  • Joe Fromm, B.S.
    Joe’s research looks into the role of Fatty Acid Synthase in cancer metabolism and the mechanism by which the protein recognizes and cleaves the proper substrate.
  • Mallika Iyer, M.S.
    Mallika will be using structural bioinformatics to study protein conformational flexibility and how mutations altering this flexibility can lead to disease.
  • James Kent, B.S.
    James’ work focuses on the structure of the outer membrane protein Ail from Yersinia pestis and how the native environment influences the biological activity of this protein.
  • Shaun Lim
    Shaun's work explores the molecular and cellular mechanisms that regulate autophagic flux and their implications on aging using C. elegans as a model.
  • Tianhui Liu, B.S.
    Tianhui is interested in contribution of autophagy in stress-induced cellular senescence.
  • Ryan Loughran, B.S.
    Ryan is working to uncover new and important roles of phosphoinositide lipid kinase signaling in the context of tumor cell metabolism. 
  • Michaela Lynott, B.S.
    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.
  • Rachael McVicar, B.S.
    Rachael’s research aims to characterize proximal lungs cells by unique cell surface markers in order to increase the efficiency of lung differentiation protocols and enrich the target cell populations.
  • Ayako Murao, B.S.
    Ayako will be studying the role of TMEM2 in brain development using TMEM2 conditional knockout mice. 
  • Stephanie Myers, B.S.
    Stephanie’s research is focused on exploring the molecular mechanisms underlying the pathogenesis and progression of Alzheimer’s Disease.
  • 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.
  • Daniel Ojeda Juarez, B.S.
    Daniel works in HIV-induced brain injury, a degenerative disease of the brain. His research is aimed to further increase our understanding of the pathological mechanism behind virally induced damage of the central nervous system.
  • Huiyu Ren, B.S.
    Huiyu’s research is focused on identifying and characterizing signaling molecules and intracellular pathways involved in cell death and survival.
  • Pavel Ryzhov, B.S.
    Pavel is using nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) methods to investigate conformational dynamics of the pro-apoptotic protein BAX as it translocates between cytosol and the outer mitochondrial membrane resulting in programmed cell death.
  • Steven Sakuma, B.S.
    Stephen's work focuses on elucidating the role of modulating nuclear pore complex composition and assembly at the cellular and organismal level.
  • Paloma Sanchez Pavon, B.S.
    I study the role that lysophosphatidic acid (LPA) plays in a neurological disease called hydrocephalus, trying to counteract its effects and improve the life of the patients. 
  • Jessica Stupack, B.S.
    Jessica is interested in elucidating underlying molecular mechanisms of various neurodegenerative diseases.
  • Benjamin Van Espen, M.S.
    Benjamin’s research focuses on signaling pathways that are deregulated in cancer, putting an emphasis on the importance of ubiquitin ligases, which control cellular response to diverse stress stimuli.
  • 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

"Sanford Burnham Prebys Medical Discovery Institute 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."

Malene Hansen, Ph.D.
Associate Dean for Student Affairs
Cameron Pernia, Ph.D.

"A great feature of Sanford Burnham Prebys graduate school is its size, we have more faculty members than students, so I have easy access to mentors. I could not be happier with my decision to pursue my Ph.D. here, and I am confident it will be one of the best choices I will ever make."

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."

2019
  • Anjali Gupta
    Ph.D. in Biomedical Sciences
    Thesis Title: CRTC Signaling in the Heart of the fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster
    Current Position: Postdoctoral Fellow, Ocorr lab at Sanford Burnham Prebys Medical Discovery Institute

  • Cameron Pernia
    Ph.D. in Biomedical Sciences
    Thesis Title: Hyper-Excitable Neurons Produce Hypo-Functional Neuronal Networks: Evidence from Modeling CRMP2 in Bipolar Disorder

  • Marisa Sanchez
    Ph.D. in Biomedical Sciences
    Thesis Title: Coordination of Adaptive and Pro-apoptotic Responses to Oxidative Stress at the mRNA Translation Level

  • Miguel Reina Campos
    Ph.D. in Biomedical Sciences
    Thesis Title: Increase Serine and One-Carbon Pathway Metabolism by PKC Lambda/Iota Deficiency Promotes Neuroendocrine Prostate Cancer

  • Clyde Campbell
    Ph.D. in Biomedical Sciences
    Thesis Title: In vivo Lineage Conversion of Vertebrate Muscle into Early Endoderm-Like Cells
    Current Position: Adjunct Assistant Professor at Iowa State University

2018
  • Róisín Puentes
    Ph.D. in Biomedical Sciences
    Thesis Title: Targeting the CNK1 PH domain to inhibit mutant KRAS cancer growth

  • Marco Maruggi
    Ph.D. in Biomedical Sciences
    Thesis Title: Elucidating the Mechanisms Underlying Resistance to Targeted Therapy in Pancreatic Cancer
    Current Position: Postdoctoral Associate, Powis lab at Sanford Burnham Prebys Medical Discovery Institute

  • Francesca Boscolo Sesillo
    Ph.D. in Biomedical Sciences
    Thesis Title: Role of p53 in balancing self-renewal, myogenic commitment, and cellular transformation of muscle stem cells
    Current position: Postdoctoral research fellow, Alperin lab at University of California San Diego

  • Wesley McKeithan
    Ph.D. in Biomedical Sciences
    Thesis Title: Reengineering an Antiarrhythmic with Human Pluripotent Stem Cells
    Current Position: Postdoctoral Scholar, Lim lab at University of California San Francisco

  • Monica Gonzalez
    Ph.D. in Biomedical Sciences
    Thesis Title: The role of caspases in inflammation
    Current Position: Postdoctoral Fellow, Newton lab in the Institutional Research and Academic Career Development Award (IRACDA) program at University of California San Diego

2017
  • Jinsha Liu
    Ph.D. in Biomedical Sciences
    Thesis Title: T-cadherin and Adiponectin in hippocampal synaptic functions and behaviors
    Current Position: Postdoctoral Scientist, Eli Lilly & Company

  • Victoria Thaney
    Ph.D. in Biomedical Sciences
    Thesis Title: Neuroprotection by IFN-beta in HIV/gp120 Brain Injury
    Current Position: HCA Technical Sales Specialist at Thermo Fisher Scientific

  • Khooshbu Shah
    Ph.D. in Biomedical Sciences
    Thesis Title: Pathological Interactions of Arrhythmogenic Right Ventricular Dysplasia/Cardiomyopathy (ARVD/C) Cardiomyocytes with ARVD/C Mesenchymal Stromal Cells
    Current Position: Applications Scientist at Bio-Techne

  • Gianluigi Lichinchi
    Ph.D. in Biomedical Sciences
    Thesis Title: Dynamics of RNA methylation during HIV and ZIKV infections
    Current Position: Postdoctoral Scientist at Roche

2016
  • Mirco Guigli
    Ph.D. in Biomedical Sciences
    Thesis Title: Investigation of Structured Illumination Confocal Microscopy for High Content Screening
    Current Position: Instrumentation Engineer at Vala Sciences

  • Stephen Soonthornvacharin
    Ph.D. in Biomedical Sciences
    Thesis Title: Systems-Level Analysis to Elucidate the Regulation of the RIG-I-Mediated Antiviral Innate Immune Response
    Current Position: Research Scientist I at Tocagen

  • Paula Coutinho Toto
    Ph.D. in Biomedical Sciences
    Thesis Title: Regulation of Skeletal Muscle Cell Quiescence, Proliferation and Differentiation by Brahma-based SWI/SNF Chromatin-Remodeling Complex
    Current Position: Associate Faculty at Mira Costa College

  • Matthew Tierney
    Ph.D. in Biomedical Sciences
    Thesis Title: Regulatory mechanisms controlling muscle stem cell behavior during skeletal muscle repair
    Current Position: Postdoctoral Fellow in Fuchs Lab at Rockefeller University

  • Alessandra Dall'Agnese
    Ph.D. in Biomedical Sciences
    Thesis Title: MYOD-directed changes in the nuclear architecture during myogenic conversion of somatic cells
    Current Position: Postdoctoral Associate at the Whitehead Institute

2015
  • Giuseppina Claps
    Ph.D. in Biomedical Sciences
    Thesis Title: Redefining AFT2 in Braf-driven melanoma
    Current Position: Postdoctoral Associate at Institut Gustave Roussy

  • Saumya Nagar
    Ph.D. in Biomedical Sciences
    Thesis Title: Role of MEF2 in photoreceptor degeneration

  • Yi Ding
    Ph.D. in Biomedical Sciences
    Thesis Title: Structural and Functional Studies of the Outer Membrane Protein Ail from Yersenia Pestis
    Current Position: Data Scientist at Sysco

  • Sara Gelino
    Ph.D. in Biomedical Sciences
    Thesis Title: Investigating the Mechanisms of Autophagy-Mediated Longevity During Dietary Restriction
    Current Position: Project Manager at Anza Innovations

2014
  • Angel Bottini
    Ph.D. in Biomedical Sciences
    Thesis Title: Drug Discovery Studies on Influenza A Virus and Yersinia Outer Protein H (YopH)
    Current Position: Assistant Project Scientist at University of California San Diego

  • Ryan Esquejo
    Ph.D. in Biomedical Sciences 
    Thesis Title: Integration of Lipid Synthesis and Other Biological Processes via Sterol Regulatory Element Binding Proteins
    Current Position: Senior Scientist, Biology at Pfizer

  • Domenico Fasci
    Ph.D. in Biomedical Sciences 
    Thesis Title: New Insights into the Regulation of SUMO Dynamics by the Human SUMO-specific Proteases (SENPs) 
    Current Position: Postdoctoral Fellow at Universiteit Utrecht, The Netherlands

  • Lorenzo Giordani
    Ph.D. in Biomedical Sciences 
    Current Position: Postdoctoral Fellow at the Institut de Myologie in Paris, France

  • Ryon Graf
    Ph.D. in Biomedical Sciences 
    Thesis Title: The Regulation of Breast Cancer Metastasis by Caspase-8 
    Current Position: Senior Biomarker Scientist at Epic Sciences

  • Janna Hachmann
    Ph.D. in Biomedical Sciences
    Thesis Title: Activity and Specificity of the Human Paracaspase MALT1
    Current Position: Manager Validation Fund, Berlin Institute of Health

  • Philip McQuary
    Ph.D. in Biomedical Sciences
    Thesis Title: Understanding the longevity of rsks-1/S6K C. elegant mutants
    Current Position: Director of Product Development, OncoCyte Corporation

  • Goonho Park
    Ph.D. in Biomedical Sciences
    Thesis Title: Investigation of Aberrant Epigenetic Mechanisms in Parkinson's Disease Pathogenesis
    Current Position: Postdoctoral Fellow in the lab of Dr. Edward Koo at UCSD

  • Judith Scheliga
    Ph.D. in Biomedical Sciences 
    Thesis Title: Role of elf3e in mRNA Translation 
    Current Position: Technical Applications Scientist at Illumina

  • Danhua Zhang
    Ph.D. in Biomedical Sciences
    Thesis Title: The Specification of Ductal Lineages in Liver and Pancreas
    Current Position: Postdoctoral Fellow in the lab of Dr. Farham Imam at UCSD

2013
  • Xin Wang
    Ph.D. in Biomedical Sciences 
    Thesis Title: Loss of Sorting nexin 27 Continues to Excitatory Synaptic Dysfunction Via Modulation of Glutamate Receptor Recycling in Down Syndrome 
    Current Position: Principal Investigator, School of Medicine at Xiamen University 

  • Wenqing Cai 
    Ph.D. in Biomedical Sciences 
    Thesis Title: Stage-Specific Cell Fate Commitment During Cardiac Differentiation in mESCs 
    Current Position: Research Fellow at Boston Children's Hospital

2012
  • Runquan Zhang
    Ph.D. in Biomedical Sciences 
    Thesis Title: Novel Synthetic Ligands of CCR5 and CXCR4: Biochemical Characterization and Preclinical Studies
    Current Position: Scientist at QoolAbs

  • Corrine Lee 
    Ph.D. in Biomedical Sciences 
    Thesis Title: Spinal Disinhibition in a Rodent Model of Painful Diabetic Neuropathy 
    Current Position: Postdoctoral Fellow in Dr. Mark Tuszynski's Lab at UCSD

2011
  • Cheng-Ho Chung
    Ph.D. in Biomedical Sciences
    Thesis Title: Adult Beta Cell Regeneration 
    Current Position: Physician, Mackay Memorial Hospital, Taipei, Taiwan

  • Johanna Samuelsson
    Ph.D. in Biomedical Sciences
 
    Thesis Title: DNA Demethylation of SST1 Pericentromeric Repetitive Elements in Human Cancer 
    Current Position: Gene Regulation and Product Services Manager at Active Motif

  • Ying Zhang
    Ph.D. in Biomedical Biosciences
 
    Thesis Title: Integrating Computational Structure-Function Analyses for the Genome-Scale Modeling of Metabolic Networks 
    Current Position: Assistant Professor at the University of Rhode Island

2009
  • Annelies Zinkernagel
    Ph.D. in Molecular Medicine

    Thesis Title: Exploring Bacterial Pathogen Interactions with Host Phagocytes to Identify Novel Approaches to Infectious Disease Therapy
    Current Position: Attending and Physician Scientist at University Hospital Zürich, Division of Infectious Diseases and Hospital Epidemiology

  • Lorena Puto
    Ph.D. in Molecular Medicine

    Thesis Title: Epigenetic Control of Apoptosis and Autophagy Gene Expression and Promotion of Tumorigenicity by Nuclear Body Protein, Daxx
    Current Position: Faculty Member, Department of Medicine, Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, Los Angeles

Graduate school faculty

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