Dinesh S. Rao received a B.S. summa cum laude in Biochemistry and an M.D. from Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland, USA. During this time he developed a deep interest in the pathogenesis of cancer, completing several projects in cancer research during medical school, and went on to a research fellowship at the University of Michigan. There, he made a seminal discovery implicating clathrin mediated trafficking of growth factor receptor tyrosine kinases in the pathogenesis of oncogenic transformation. He then combined clinical training in the pathology of hematologic diseases with further research training in the laboratory of Nobel laureate David Baltimore at Caltech. His research came to focus on the involvement of microRNAs in hematologic development, particularly B-cell development and immunity, and cancer, and resulted in several high-impact publications in well-regarded journals. His research interests include how microRNAs and other non-coding RNAs regulate hematopoietic development and cancer. He combines running a vibrant research laboratory with a busy diagnostic service in leukemia and lymphoma pathology.
Tiffany Tran is currently a graduate student researcher in the Molecular, Cellular & Integrative Physiology Interdepartmental Ph.D. Program at UCLA. She received a Bachelor of Science in Physiological Sciences from UCLA in 2011. Since graduation, she has investigated the role of non-coding RNAs in B cell oncogenesis as a Staff Research Associate in the lab. Currently, her research focuses on delineating the role of RNA binding proteins in hematopoiesis and leukemogenesis. As a graduate student researcher, Tiffany hopes to uncover novel post-transcriptional regulatory networks and give insight to potential targeted therapies in B cell malignancies. Outside of the lab, Tiffany enjoys camping, hiking, playing tennis, and volunteering in the community.
Namita Raghavan is a 3rd-year undergraduate at UCLA, majoring in Microbiology, Immunology, and Molecular Genetics. She was working with Jorge Contreras for a year and will be starting an independent research project. She grew up in Rancho Cucamonga, California and likes to play flute, travel, volunteer, and hang out with fri ends and family in her spare time.
Amit Kumar completed a Master’s degree in Biotechnology and obtained his Ph.D. in Stem cells and Neurodegenerative diseases from National Institute of Immunology, New Delhi, India. During his Ph.D. research, he worked extensively on differentiation of mesenchymal stem cells and neural stem cells into dopaminergic neuron-like cells, in an effort to develop novel therapeutic approaches to Parkinson’s disease. I also worked on hematopoietic stem cells into hepatocytes and interested to study the regulation of hematopoiesis and cancer by the niche cells. I also got an opportunity to study the regulation of myogenesis during embryonic development as a Postdoctoral scholar.
In the Rao lab, my focus is to understand the regulation of leukemogenesis and hematopoiesis by RNA binding proteins. The anticipated outcome of the study potentially help to develop drug targets of therapeutic relevance. At the same time, I am also involved in long non-coding RNAs (lncRNAs) to study their mechanism in developing drug resistance/sensitivity in B-ALL.
Jaspal Bassi is currently a Lab Assistant at UCLA’s department of Pathology and Lab Medicine. He received a Bachelor’s of Science in Biology from UCLA in June of 2017. He is currently working on delineating the structure and function of different domains of RNA binding proteins implicated in hematopoiesis and leukemogenesis. Jaspal is also in the process ofapplying to medical school and hopes to become a physician. Outside of academia, he enjoys automobile restoration, woodworking, and camping.
Justin is a senior Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology major who is also minoring in Biomedical Research at UCLA. He is particularly interested in post-transcriptional regulation and its applications to immunology and oncology. His is currently studying the effects of microRNAs in regulating cell to cell heterogeneity. His focus is on investigating the role of miR-146a in determining B cell immune responses at the single cell level.
Jennifer King graduated from Harvard Medical School, and completed her internal medicine residency at Harvard-affiliated Massachusetts General Hospital. After completing her rheumatology fellowship at UCLA, she has remained on faculty since 2008. Her clinical interests include general rheumatology, Sjogren’s syndrome, systemic lupus erythematosus, osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, systemic sclerosis, musculoskeletal complaints and gout. She has received multiple patient service awards for excellence in clinical care, diagnostic acumen, and bedside manner. She also embraces complementary and alternative medicine as adjuncts to gold standards of care for chronic conditions. Dr. King is a translational researcher with a special interest in B cell mediated autoimmune diseases, including but not limited to Sjogren’s syndrome, systemic lupus erythematosus, and rheumatoid arthritis. She is the Chief Fellow in her Specialty Training and Advanced Research (STAR) class and studies the role of non-coding RNAs in regulating autoimmune diseases. In the Rao lab, she is working on the role of microRNAs in B-cell development and function in a miRNA knockout showing features of autoimmunity.
May Paing joined Rao lab as an undergraduate volunteer in Spring 2013 and is currently working as a Staff Research Associate/Lab Manager. She received her Bachelor’s degree in Molecular, Cell, and Developmental Biology from UCLA in 2015.May’s research focuses on studying the role of microRNA in B-Lymphocytes. Her previous work involved phenotyping the developmental defect of B cells in miR146a knockout mouse model and characterizing the mechanism of miRNA regulation in B cell development. Currently, she is studying the role of miRNA in B cell activation.
Abinav Baweja recently graduated from UCLA with a B.S. in Molecular, Cell and Developmental Biology. As an undergraduate, Abinav studied regulation of ABL tyrosine kinases by the cellular regulator RIN1. He also applied drug screening and structural biology to help discover a new class of drugs to treat drug-resistant leukemias characterized by BCR-ABL oncogenic fusions. In the lab, he studied the functional roles of non-coding RNAs in oncogenesis. Abinav is now busy as a medical student at the UCLA David Geffen School of Medicine.
Kevin has a Bachelor's degree in Physiological Science at UCLA nd worked in the Rao lab between November 2010-July 2012. His research in the lab dealt with the role played by protein coding and non-coding RNAs in the differentiation of B-cells to plasma cells. He transitioned out of the lab and began medical school in New York in the Fall of 2013.
Neha helped start the Rao lab in 2010. Having handled similar responsibilities during her previous assignments at North Shore LIJ Health System, New York and at New York Medical College, she manages everything from pin to PCR at the lab. In addition to running independent projects, Neha was involved in training new lab members for roles in the overall research direction of the lab. Her previous research projects were in the areas of Rheumatoid Arthritis & Prostate Cancer. She became an expert in animal experiments and efficiently managed arepository of more than 1500 animals in the past. In the lab, she worked on microRNAs, hematopoietic development and cancer. Some notable projects included trying to understand the roles of microRNAs in Myelodysplastic Syndrome (MDS), and gene expression changes as a function of microRNA expression. Neha loves painting and cooking. She was also a national level hockey player from India - quite an achievement! In November 2012, Neha moved back to India to spend more time with family, but continues to follow research in the field of microRNAs and hematopoiesis.
Dr. Kim is board certified in Anatomic Pathology in Korea and has been practicing surgical pathology since 2002 at a university-affiliated hospital in Seoul, Korea. She has been interested in hematopathology since being a resident and has several publications in the area. Dr. Kim was a visiting scholar for one year at UCLA (2011-12). Her research focused on understanding the role of non-coding RNA in diffuse large B cell lymphoma. She is now back working in Korea as a pathologist.
Ella got her undergraduate degree in Neuroscience from USC. Since joining the Rao Lab she has studied microRNAs, their interactions with oncogenes, and their implications in hematopoietic disorders. Ella has gone on to a Ph.D. program at the University of California, Berkeley, where she plans to continue her study of hematopoiesis and immunology.
Jasmine graduated in June 2014 with a major in Microbiology, Immunology and Molecular Genetics (MIMG). Jasmine worked on several projects including studying the expression of microRNA-34a in three cell lines, which were derived from acute and chronic myeloid leukemias, in order to determine its potential role as a tumor suppressor. Her research for the CARE SEM summer program dealt with characterizing a long non-coding RNA in mouse pre-B cell lines. During her junior and senior year, she earned recognition by having her research funded by the URFP scholarship. In her free time, Jasmine likes to play piano and go to theme parks. She is now a Ph.D. student at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio
Jayanth Kumar did his MBBS from Stanley Medical College, Chennai and then went on to complete his MD in Biochemistry from the All India Institute of Medical Sciences, New Delhi. It was there in the lab of Dr Chattopadhyay that he learnt the basics of research and later developed an interest in small RNA research. He worked on using transcriptional gene silencing using small RNAs to silence the expression of oncogenes like HPV-16 E6, E7 as well as c-myc. He is currently working as a postdoctoral research fellow in the Rao Lab on deciphering the role of p53 in hematopoiesis. Apart from research, he has a keen interest in tennis and soccer.
Jayanth finished up his post-doctoral fellowhship in November 2014 and is now a tenure track Assistant Professor at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences. Congratulations!
Parth is a third year undergraduate studying Molecular Genetics, Immunology, and Microbiology, currently in his second year at the Rao Lab. Parth's research concentrates on elucidating the role of long non-coding RNA in human pre-B cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia and lymphoma. He is working with Norma Rodriguez on certain projects but is also developing an independent area of research. Parth hopes to one day enter the medical field. In his spare time, he enjoys volunteering at his temple or watching basketball.
Jaime obtained his Ph.D. from the Albert Einstein College of Medicine with a focus on the biomedical sciences. At Einstein his researched focused in the field of autophagy, specifically centered around one of the three main forms of autophagy, Chaperone-mediated Autophagy (CMA). His research efforts established the first signaliing mechanism discovered to regulate CMA via the retinoic acid-signaling pathway.
In the Rao Lab, Jaime's efforts will focus on studying the overall role of miRNA in B-lymphocyte activation. Specifically, Jaime plans to (1) identify and characterize microRNA-dependent regulation of B-cell activation and terminal differentiation.; (2) characterize B-lymphomagenesis as a function of tumor suppressor microRNA's; and (3) characterize the molecular mechanisms of miRNA-mediated regulation in B-cell development and B-cell lymphoma.
Jaime transitioned out of the Rao lab, and is now in the San Francisco Bay area.
Jorge is currently a graduate student in UCLA's Cellular and Molecular Pathology department while making time for his great wife Teri and beautiful daughter Valeria. Recently, he graduated from California State University Dominguez Hills (CSUDH) with a B.S. in biology. While at CSUDH he worked in Dr. Helen Chun's lab attempting to find the mechanism by which Ataxia Telangectasia Mutated is inactivated. He is a past MBRS-RISE, and MARC-USTAR scholar which allowed me the opportunity to attend national minority research conferences such as ABRCMS and SACNAS. Currently Jorge is researching how microRNAs functionally interact with oncogenes and tumor suppressors to play roles in cancer.
Jorge completed his one year post-doctoral period in the Rao lab following completion of his Ph.D. and is now a post-doctoral fellow at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles.
Thilini received her Bachelor's degree in Plant Biotechnology from the University of Colombo, Sri Lanka. She received her Ph.D. from the City University of New York where she worked on adt-2 regulating body size in by modulating TGFβ signaling and cuticle collagen organization. Since joining the lab, Thilini is interested in modeling the regulatory gene expression networks modulated by microRNA in cancers associated with haematopoietic system. A second project has involved characterizing the role of long non coding RNA in B cell malignancy and development.
Thilini Fernando successfully completed her post-doctoral fellowship and is currently a project scientist at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles.
Norma is a PhD candidate in the Cellular and Molecular Pathology Program at the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA). She has a B.S. in Industrial Biotechnology from the University of Puerto Rico-Mayaguez (UPRM) where she was a MARC scholar, and had the opportunity to attend ABRCMS, a national minority research conference. Additionally, she carried out graduate studies in Molecular Population Genetics in the Oleksyk-Cruzado Lab at UPRM.
Her current research at the Rao Lab focuseson understanding the role of non-coding RNAs in humanpre-B cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia. For this, she is using a combination of cell line models, lentiviral expression systems, mouse models, andanalysis of primary human tumor samples. She hopes towork asan independent investigator in cancer research, and tobecome an educator in the future.
Norma completed her Ph.D. and is now pursuing post-doctoral studies in computational biology at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles.
Nolan is currently a postdoctoral fellow in UCLA's department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine. He received both a B.S. and a Ph.D. in Botany and Plant Science with a concentration in Cell and Molecular Biology from the University of California, Riverside. During his Graduate studies, Nolan focused on the quantification of cellular dynamics using chemical genomics and video bioinformatics in the model organism Arabidoposis thaliana and was both an IGERT and NSF GRFP fellow. As a member of the Rao lab and in collaboration with Dr. Alex Hoffmann, Nolan is applying his experience in quantitative Cell biology to investigate the single cell basis of microRNA function in immune responses.
Nolan Ung is now a Data Analyst / Data Manager at Lawrence J. Ellison Institute for Transformative Medicine at USC in Los Angeles.
Tasha Lin is a hematology/oncology fellow who is pursuing a PhD through the UCLA Specialty Training and Advanced Research (STAR) Program and the Molecular Biology Interdepartmental Program (MBIDP). She graduated from University of Michigan Medical School and completed her Internal Medicine Residency at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester. Her clinical and translational research interests are in hematologic malignancies, bone marrow transplantation, and immune-based therapies. In the Rao Lab, she is studying mechanisms of developmental and malignant hematopoiesis. Outside of the lab, she enjoys cooking, trying new restaurants, and exploring libraries and stationery stores.