2019-2020 cohort

PREP@UCD affiliate Maribel Anguiano graduated from the University of California, Davis with a B.S. in Neurobiology, Physiology and Behavior. She is currently working in the Fioravante lab, which studies the synaptic and cellular neurophysiology of small neural networks in the context of learning and memory. Maribel will be running munc13-3 knockout mice through a fear conditioning paradigm to study the role of the cerebellum in emotional learning.

next year: Maribel will join the PREP@UCD  2020 cohort.

Colton Baumler graduated magna cum laude with a BS in Biology, BA in Chemistry, minor in Mathematics, and honors in research from Concordia University, St. Paul, in December 2018. In the Arsuaga-Vazquez lab at UC Davis, he studied the roles of symmetry and topology on DNA and examined the knotting of dsDNA as it is packaged in a P4 bacteriophage’s capsid to answer questions of how DNA organization, placement, and interactions take place within confined spaces. Colton also is working in Rachael Bay’s evolutionary genomics lab to study genomic differences in thermal tolerance in corals.

next year: PhD program in BMCDB, UC Davis, with funding from an NSF Graduate Research Fellowship, the UC Davis NIH Undergraduate Preparation Fellowship, and IMSD.

Carlos Estrada graduated from California State University, Chico, in May 2018, with a degree in Biological Sciences with the option in Cellular and Molecular Biology. He is currently working in Bruce Draper’s lab studying the sex determination and maintenance of the adult sexual phenotype in zebrafish. Members of the Draper lab have identified two zebrafish genes that are likely linked to estrogen biosynthesis, normal female sexual development, and maintenance of the female differentiated state. Carlos will use CRISPR/Cas9 genome editing to create new transgenic zebrafish lines and produce gene knock-out/knock-in lines to determine the role of a gap-junction protein in the exchanging of these signals and, ultimately, in the sex determination of zebrafish.

next year: Tetrad PhD program, UCSF, with Honorable Mention in the NSF Graduate Research Fellowship competition.

Nashley Fuentes-Sanabria earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Microbiology, Cum Laude, from the University of Puerto Rico, Arecibo, in 2019. She worked in the laboratory of Sergi Simó to study wound healing, and in the lab of Joy Geng from the Center for Mind and Brain on studies of attention control in humans.

next year: Nashley will continue research in the  Geng lab from her home in Puerto Rico.

Amy Leslie graduated from UC Santa Cruz with a BS in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology in June 2019. At UCSC, she was an IMSD scholar and conducted research in Alan Zahler’s lab, where she studied alternative pre-mRNA splicing in C. elegans. Amy’s research interests include genetics, molecular biology, and immunology. At UC Davis, she works in Lesilee Rose’s lab, which studies asymmetric cell division in C. elegans. The Rose lab has examined LET-99’s role in regulating spindle positioning and cytokinesis during asymmetric division. Amy will use structure function analysis to determine which domains of LET-99 are required for its localization to the membrane and its roles in cell division.

next year: Integrative Pathobiology PhD program, UC Davis, with Honorable Mention in the NSF Graduate Research Fellowship competition.

Celena Lozano graduated from UC Davis with a BS in Neurobiology, Physiology and Behavior in June 2019. She is currently working in the Cheng Lab studying adult neurogenesis in the hippocampus. The integration of newborn granule cells in the hippocampal circuitry of the adult brain is involved in learning and memory, and disruption of these new connections is associated with neurological disorders. Celena uses immunofluorescent array tomography to investigate the molecular differences between the adult and aged brain at the newborn granule cell-CA3 pyramidal cell synapse.

next year: Neuroscience PhD program, UC Davis, with funding from an NSF Graduate Research Fellowship.

Alyssa Paparella graduated in May 2019 from Sarah Lawrence College in New York with degrees in Biology and Chemistry. While part of PREP, Alyssa joined Daniel Starr’s lab to study C. elegans to better understand nuclear migration. Specifically, she is focusing on UNC-83, a protein on the outer nuclear membrane surface that helps to recruit microtubule motor proteins for nuclear migration. Alyssa hopes to better understand UNC-83’s different isoforms and their specific role in nuclear migration.

  • E. Gregory, S. Niwa, K. Chiba, A. Paparella, R. McKenney, D. Starr. 2019. The KASH Protein UNC-83 Serves as a Cargo Adapter at the Nuclear Envelope for Microtubule Motors and Activates Kinesin-1. Poster presentation at the ASCB/EMBO Annual Meeting, Washington, DC.

next year: PhD program in Cancer and Cell Biology, Baylor College of Medicine, with funding from an NSF Graduate Research Fellowship.

2018-2019 cohort

Jonathan Amezquita graduated in May 2018 from Macalester College with a Biology major and English minor. He currently works with JoAnne Engebrecht to study sex-dependent security checkpoints in meiosis via investigating the spindle-assembly checkpoint in C. elegans. Inhibition of this checkpoint may lead to mutagenesis, cell death, or defects in gametogenesis. Jonathan will characterize the spindle-assembly checkpoint response to erroneous kinetochore attachment in C. elegans male meiosis. He will use CRISPR/Cas9 to generate gene knockouts involved with the spindle assembly checkpoint and will analyze their effects to meiosis through live-cell imaging.

current position:  Molecular and Cell Biology PhD program, the University of Washington (Brock Grill lab). And he published three poems this fall! (scroll down on the page….)

Elijah Blank earned a BS in Biology with great distinction from the University of Maryland Baltimore County in May 2018. He is currently working in molecular neurobiology with the Trimmer lab to study ion channel complexes, which are known to organize junctions between the plasma membrane and endoplasmic reticulum in the brain. Mutations in these channels are also associated with devastating neurological disorders. Elijah will use proteomic analysis of these ion channel complexes to identify novel ion channel associated proteins in both mouse tissue and established cell lines.

current position:  PhD program, Johns Hopkins (Mark Wu lab)

Anna (Georgieva) Andronicos graduated from UC Riverside with a BS in Biology. As a PREP@UCD scholar, Anna works in Aldrin Gomes’ lab to investigate the effects of NSAIDs on the cardiovascular system. Specifically, she will examine changes in the proteasome activity caused by calcium and the mechanism behind those changes. Anna is primarily interested in molecular biology and biochemistry.

current position:  PhD program, UC Irvine (Peter Kaiser lab), with Honorable Mention in the 2019 NSF Graduate Research Fellowship competition. Anna worked with another student to create and implement a PhD mentorship system for incoming grad students in her PhD program!

Yesica Mercado-Ayon completed a BS in Cell Molecular and Developmental Biology at the University of California, Riverside, in March 2018. Prior to joining PREP@UCD, she worked as a lab technician at UCR and studied the biogenesis of small RNAs in C. elegans.  At UC Davis, she works in Anna La Torre’s lab, where she studies the retinal ganglion cells (RGCs) that connect the retina to the brain. In diseases like glaucoma, these cells die and partial loss of vision or blindness can occur. The La Torre lab seeks better ways to culture RGCs with a higher yield and longevity for use as replacement in therapy. Yesica’s research interests include cellular and  molecular mechanisms of neurodegeneration and genetic basis of disease.

current position:  Molecular Biology Interdepartmental Doctoral Program, UCLA, with funding from the NSF Graduate Research Fellowship. Yesica has joined the Samantha Butler laboratory.

  • Miltner AM, Mercado-Ayon Y, Cheema SK, Zhang P, Zawadzki RJ, La Torre A. 2019. A Novel Reporter Mouse Uncovers Endogenous Brn3b Expression. Int J Mol Sci. 2019 Jun 14;20(12). pii: E2903. doi: 10.3390/ijms20122903.
Joseph Rosas graduated with a BS in Molecular Biology with a minor in Human Development from UC San Diego in March 2018. He now works in Megan Dennis’ lab, which studies the effects of human-specific duplicated genes and how they play a role in development of neurocognitive disorders. Joseph examines how chromatin structure is differentially organized across fetal development for neural tissue of Rhesus macaques. Prior to PREP, he conducted research as an IMSD Scholar at UC San Diego, investigating conditional cytokine expression using a mouse model of sepsis.

current position: Integrative Genetics and Genomics PhD program, UC Davis (Thomas Glaser lab), with support from IMSD and an NIH Diversity Supplement.

2017-2018 cohort


Lynda Flores-Graham received a BS in Biochemistry from California State University, Sacramento, in May 2017. As a PREP@UCD scholar, she has worked in Dr. Elva Diaz’s lab at the Department of Pharmacology and in Dr. Philipp Zerbe’s lab in Plant Biology. Lynda is interested in both molecular and cell biology, and organic chemistry, and has gained a position as an analytical chemist with AMPAC Fine Chemicals.

current position: PhD program, Computational Biology and Bioinformatics, UCSF, in the Jimmie Ye lab. Tianna has received support from the IMSD training program and Honorable Mention in the 2020 NSF Graduate Research Fellowship competition.

Tianna Grant obtained a BS in Biology with Honors from St. Francis College in May 2017. She is currently with the LaSalle Lab studying the role of gut microbiota in brain development using mouse models of Rett Syndrome. Tianna also has previous experience in cancer and biological defense research. With PREP@UCD she plans to integrate technology and science using animated models of her research, and will use these methods to communicate science throughout her career.

current position: doctoral candidate in the Integrative Genetics and Genomics PhD program, UC Davis, with support from the IMSD training program and an NIH Diversity Supplement. Ivan is in the Burgess lab, where he did his PREP research.

Ivan Olaya graduated with a BS in Genetics and Genomics from UC Davis on June 2017. He currently works in the Burgess lab, which studies homologous chromosome pairing and segregation during meiosis using yeast and zebrafish. Ivan is investigating whether homologous chromosomes in zebrafish can still pair without formation of the synaptonemal complex.

  • Blokhina, Y.P., Olaya, I., and Burgess, S.M. Preparation of meiotic chromosome spreads from zebrafish spermatocytes. JoVE (in press)