Current Students



IMSD Mentor: Paul Paolini, Ph.D.


IMSD Mentors: Diane Smith, Ph.D. & Sanford Bernstein, Ph.D.


IMSD Mentor: Kelly Doran, Ph.D.


Cable, Katrina

KATRINA CABLE, Cell and Molecular Biology
IMSD Mentor: Ricardo Zayas, Ph.D.

In July 2013, Katrina joined the IMSD program as a Cell and Molecular Biology major. She is working in the lab of Ricardo Zayas, Ph.D., where they study the cellular and molecular mechanisms of nervous system regeneration in fresh water planarians Schmidtea mediterranea. Due to the abundance of pluripotent stem cells throughout the body, this model is able to regrow all of its body tissue after injury or amputation. Katrina is currently working on characterizing the patterns of expression and function of the SOX C, SOX H and several WNT genes in this model. Katrina would like to obtain her Ph.D. in Cell and Molecular Biology, specifically in the area of developmental epigenetics. She is interested in understanding the important link of developmental epigenetic markers and disease. She aspires to help develop gene therapies that will ease symptoms of incurable diseases.


Portrait of Marely Hilleger MARLEY HILLEGER, Microbiology
IMSD Mentor: Stanley Maloy, Ph.D.

Marley Hilleger joined IMSD in January 2014. She is a Microbiology major and conducts research in Dr. Stanley Maloy’s lab. The lab investigates the impact of phage-encoded genes on the formation of environmental reservoirs to facilitate the evolution of novel pathogens. Specifically, Marley’s project focuses on phage-encoded antibiotic resistant genes in the environment and in wastewater treatment plants. Marley will graduate in spring 2015 and will be applying to Ph.D. programs this fall. Her goal is to earn a Ph.D. in Biomedical Science.


CARLO QUINTANILLA, Biology & Psychology
IMSD Mentor: Ricardo Zayas, Ph.D.


BEN TURNER, Cellular & Molecular Biology
IMSD Mentor: Elizabeth Dinsdale, Ph.D.


Villanueva, Marlo PhotoMARLO VILLANUEVA, Biology
IMSD Mentors: Mark Sussman, Ph.D. & Natalie Gude, Ph.D.

Marlo joined the IMSD program in December 2013. He is majoring in Biology and conducts research in Dr. Mark Sussman’s laboratory. Marlo entered the Stem Cell and Myocardial Research Laboratory in January 2012, working under the mentorship of Dr. Natalie Gude. Marlo’s main project deals with Notch signaling, which enhances cardiac repair in cardiac progenitor cells. His goal is to earn a Ph.D. in stem cell biology. Marlo will graduate in Spring 2015, and plans on entering a Ph.D. program after earning his B.S.


ALICIA ZAMUDIO, Biology & Psychology
IMSD Mentor: Ralph Feuer, Ph.D.



IMSD Mentors: Paul Paolini, Ph.D. & Tom Huxford, Ph.D.

Posed portrait of Eric Lopez


ERIC LOPEZ, Chemistry
IMSD Mentor: Diane Smith, Ph.D.

Eric has been working in the Quinone electrochemistry group in Dr. Diane Smith’s research lab since spring 2013, and joined the IMSD program as a chemistry major in August 2013. Eric primarily conducts cyclic voltammetry experiments to investigate the effects of Hydrogen bonding on the electron transfer mechanism of Vitamin K in organic solvents, particularly dichloromethane and acetonitrile. Eric is scheduled to graduate with a B.S. in Chemistry and ACS certification in May 2015, and plans to pursue a Ph.D. in either chemistry or chemical engineering.


SASHARY RAMOS, Chemistry Sashary Ramos2
IMSD Mentor: William Tong, Ph.D.

Sashary joined the IMSD program as a Chemistry major in January 2014. Her research experience began in fall 2011, when she began volunteering in Dr.William Tong’s laser spectroscopy laboratory. The Tong lab uses nonlinear laser wave-mixing spectroscopy, paired with capillary electrophoresis, for separation and determination of proteins, amino acids, and small molecules. Her current project in the Tong lab focuses on the detection of the p24 antigen, a HIV marker; and CA 15-3, a breast cancer marker. During the summer of 2013, she had the opportunity to conduct research at the University of Michigan under the mentorship of Dr. Gus Rosania; there she used polarization microscopy to characterize fluticasone propionate, an active ingredient in a popular asthma medication. Her goal is to earn a Ph.D. in Chemistry and continue to do research incorporating her two main interests: Chemistry and Physics. Sashary plans on graduating in May 2015 with a B.S. in Chemistry.


ROBERT VASQUEZ, BiochemistryPortrait of Robert Vasquez
IMSD Mentor: Douglas Grotjahn, Ph.D.

Robert joined the IMSD program in February 2014 as a Chemistry major with an emphasis in Biochemistry.  He entered Dr. Grotjahns lab in October 2013, when his proposal for Pfizer La Jolla’s Industrial Relations Diversity Research Fellowship in Chemistry was awarded.  He is currently conducting research in Dr. Grotjahn’s lab synthesizing n-heterocyclic carbene/pyridyl ligands that chelate with ruthenium to test their ability to oxidize water and organic substrates using electrochemistry. Robert’s goal is to earn a Ph.D. in Biochemisty; he will graduate in the spring of 2016.




Headshot of Carlos BrambilaCARLOS BRAMBILA, Bioengineering
IMSD Mentor: Paul Paolini, Ph.D.

Carlos joined the IMSD program in July of 2013 as an undergraduate in Biology with an emphasis in Bioengineering. Carlos joined Dr. Paul Paolini’s laboratory in the fall of 2012 through the NSF S-STEM program, and is currently conducting his research project in the Paolini laboratory. This laboratory focuses on the mechanics and dynamics of the neonatal rat cardiocyte to further understand the human heart. In the Spring of 2013, Carlos presented his first poster on his research done in the laboratory at the Student Research Symposium, titled “Rosiglitazone Causes Gene Expression Changes in the Neonatal Rat Cardiocyte”. His current project focuses on the comparison of cardiocyte cultures between paced and unpaced cells in order to create a model to observe changes in gene (e.g. neonatal vs. adult isoform) expression during development. Carlos is very interested in the application of Bioengineering aspects in this project and plans to focus his research in the field of prosthetics. His primary academic goal is to obtain his doctoral degree in Bioengineering and have a laboratory of his own at a university where students will have the same opportunities he has had: to unfold their passion and potential in the sciences.


EVAN TULLY, Bioengineering
IMSD Mentor: Sanford Bernstein, Ph.D.




McKinnon, SymoneSYMONE MCKINNON, Psychology
IMSD Mentor: Terry Cronan, Ph.D.

Symone McKinnon joined the IMSD program in June 2013. Symone is a psychology major and has been working in Dr. Terry Cronan’s Health Outcomes Studies Lab since spring 2013. Dr. Cronan’s lab focuses on developing, implementing, and evaluating intervention programs to encourage healthy behaviors among people suffering from chronic diseases. The lab’s current study, entitled “Fight FMS”, is an intervention-based study which tests the effectiveness of two interventions (either education or physical activity) on improving functioning in Fibromyalgia (FMS) patients. As a result of her early research experience in Dr. Cronan’s lab, Symone is now inspired to continue research in graduate school to pursue a Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology. With this career she hopes to research ethnic health disparities, work with people suffering from mental health disorders, and develop treatment plans to help people overcome some of these issues. Symone is an EOP student and will graduate in May 2015 with a B.A. in Psychology.


JUAN PENA, Psychology & Spanish
IMSD Mentor: Elizabeth Klonoff, Ph.D.


SAVANNA TIERNEY, Psychology, minor in BiologyTierney, Savanna
IMSD Mentor: Paul Gilbert, Ph.D.

Savanna joined the IMSD program in January 2013. She is a Psychology major with a minor in Biology and currently conducts research at the Center for Healthy Aging and Neurodegenerative Disease Research under the direction of Dr. Paul Gilbert. This lab investigates the effects of neurodegenerative disease on cognition, with a specific focus on memory function. The principal method of her research is neuropsychological assessment of specific clinical populations, including individuals diagnosed with Parkinson’s and Huntington’s disease, as well as cognitively healthy older and young adults. Her projects investigate the impacts these diseases have on daily activities and how to detect age-related changes and deficits earlier in individuals with these conditions. She transferred from San Diego Mesa College in the fall of 2012. As a Bridges to Baccalaureate Scholar, Savanna presented her summer project exploring source memory function in individuals diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease at the Annual Biomedical Research Conference for Minority Students. In the future, she would like to apply her background in Biology and Physiology to concentrate not only on diagnosis, but also uncovering more information about the etiology of neurodegenerative diseases as well as effective methods of both treatment and prevention. Savanna will graduate in May of 2015 and plans to pursue a Ph.D. in clinical neuropsychology.


DUYEN TRANG, Psychology, minor in Statistics
IMSD Mentor: May Yeh, Ph.D.

Duyen joined the IMSD Program in June 2013 as a Psychology major with a minor in Statistics. She is currently conducting research at the Child and Adolescent Services Research Center (CASRC) under the mentorship of Dr. May Yeh. The laboratory focuses on examining cognitive match, or agreement, between therapists and clients in psychotherapy. Duyen’s project investigates the relationship between cognitive match and contributing factors (e.g. parent-therapist ethnic match, parent-therapist acculturation match, and acculturation level of parent) that may increase therapeutic alliance between therapists and parents of youths receiving outpatient mental health services. The purpose of this study is to identify and understand factors of cognitive match that may help to increase youths’ therapy attendance, progress, and possibly even outcomes. As a former Biomedical Exploratory Program (BEP) Scholar and a current IMSD Scholar, Duyen aspires to pursue a Ph.D. degree in Clinical Psychology to learn more about children’s mental health with an emphasis on cultural issues. Her eventual goal is to join academia as a university professor. Duyen will apply to graduate programs in Fall 2014 and earn her B.A. in Psychology in Spring 2015.


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