Spring 2016 Recipients

Nathan Ahlgren, Ph.DDr. Nathan Ahlgren is a postdoctoral research fellow working with Dr. Jed Fuhrman in the Department of Biological Sciences. Dr. Ahlgren received his Ph.D. from the University of Washington in Biological Oceanography where he conducted research on the diversity and ecology of marine cyanobacteria. At USC, he has built on this research to study interactions of marine cyanobacteria with the viruses that infect them. At the International Symposium on Microbial Ecology 2016 (ISME16), Dr. Ahlgren will present his work investigating seasonal cycles of environmental conditions and marine cyanobacteria and their viruses at a study site (the San Pedro Time-series) located between Los Angeles and Catalina Island. This work finds that seasonal changes in environmental conditions like temperature and nutrients drive repeated season patterns of cyanobacterial species. In contrast, finely resolved genotypes within cyanobacterial species show a lack of regular seasonal patterns and instead appear to be controlled more so by interactions with viruses.

David NeedhamPh.D. Dr. David Needham studies Biological Oceanography in Jed Fuhrman’s lab at USC. Dr. Needham attended the International Society of Microbial Ecology in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. While there, Dr. Needham presented his research which examined interactions of microbial life in the oceans. Dr. Needham and his team were trying to determine what level of DNA sequence similarity they need to use to best track the abundances of viruses, bacteria, and eukaryotes, which is very difficult but important for understanding their influences on the ecosystem and vice versa. Dr. Needham showed that the more finely resolved you can define taxa, the better your results. They also showed that very closely related taxa (as determined by single gene assays) could actually be widely different in both their genomic content and their ecological dynamics.

Katia Gallegos, MSc, Ph.D. Dr. Katia Gallegos is a health researcher in the Department of Epidemiological Investigation and Health Services at the Mexican Social Security Institute. She received her doctoral degree in public health sciences specializing in health systems from the National Institute of Public Health of Mexico. Dr. Gallegos-Carillo tackles public health issues with the Keck School’s Jonathan Samet and Lourdes Baezconde-Garbanati. Recent work includes a study presenting the role of acculturation in the sedentary behavior of a Mexican migrant population to the US, compared to a population that has remained in Mexico and a more acculturated group of individuals of Mexican origin born in the United States.

Lina Bird, Pd.D. Dr. Lina Bird received a BA in Biology and MS in Environmental Science and Management from Duquesne University in Pittsburgh, PA. Dr. Bird attended graduate school at MIT and Caltech and received a Ph.D. in Biology from MIT in 2013. Bird began as a Postdoc with Ken Nealson in the fall of 2013. At ASM last year, Bird presented a poster describing her work on the Microbial Community Structure of Appalachian sediments in streams affected by neutral mine drainage, gas drilling and hydraulic fracturing (fracking), and uncontaminated waters. Dr. Bird was able to show that there are subtle but detectable differences in the microbial composition between waters affected by fracking, mining, or neither. These differences matched the water composition to some extent, with bromide (which is often found in fracking wastewater) being a partial predictor of the differences she detected in the fracking samples, and with iron metabolizing bacteria occurring more often in mining samples.

Laura Harrison, Ph.DDr. Laura Harrison is a postdoctoral scholar with Dr. Lisa Aziz-Zadeh in the Chan Division of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy as well as a member of USC’s Brain and Creativity Institute. Her work attempts to bridge the gap between social neuroscience research and the real world. By increasing the ecological validity of neuroscience research, research findings will yield information relevant to real-world tendencies rather than experimental capabilities. Such findings are necessary to guide real-world interventions in disorders of social cognition, including autism.


Mehdi Korjani, Ph.D. Dr. Mehdi Korjani is a postdoc researcher at the University of Southern California in the Petroleum Department. Dr. Korjani did his Ph.D. in Electrical Engineering at USC. During his Ph.D., he worked for CiSoft which is the Center for Interactive Smart Oilfield Technologies. He developed methods for forecasting oil production. In his postdoc appointment, he has developed new models for reservoir characterization of oil fields which ultimately leads to increase in oil production. The model uses data from oil wells to better capture the uncertainty of the field and outperform any exciting models for reservoir characterization.

Nazanin Entesari, Ph.DDr. Nazanin Entesari is a Postdoctoral Researcher in the laboratory of Dr. Tsotsis at the USC Mork Family Department of Chemical Engineering and Material Science. Dr. Entesari’s current research focuses on the development and design of multifunctional membrane reactors that enable the capture of Carbon Dioxide from waste gas streams and its transformation into valuable products such synthetic natural gas, alcohols, etc. Entesari received her Ph.D. from Ruhr University of Bochum, Germany, where she investigated the scalability of milli-structured reactors for continuous polymer production.

Robson Morgan, Ph.D. Dr. Robson Morgan is a Postdoctoral Research Scholar at the Center for Economic and Social Research. His research focuses on how policy relates to subjective well-being. Robson will be attending the annual International Society for Quality of Life Studies conference in Seoul and will present a paper on how a conditional cash transfer program in Colombia affected program participant life satisfaction.



Lan Yue, Ph.D. Dr. Lan Yue received her Ph.D. in Biomedical Engineering from University of Illinois, Chicago and is currently working with Dr. Mark S. Humayun at the Roski Eye Institute of USC. Her research focuses on developing advanced technologies to restore sights in patients blinded by retinal degeneration, with a particular interest in biophotonic and bioelectronic visual prostheses. Yue’s current study aimed to investigate how the increased number of stimulating electrodes affects the electrically evoked visual percepts in the blind patient. Her findings indicated that Argus II exhibited potential to restore the vision of improved acuity. Yue presented at the annual meeting of the Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology (ARVO) in Seattle, Washington.

Laetitia Delabaere, Ph.D. Dr. Laetitia Delabaere completed her Ph.D. in Genetics at the University of Lyon (France) in 2014 under the supervision of Dr. Benjamin Loppin where she studied the mechanisms of the incorporation of the paternal nucleus during zygote formation in the fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster. She is currently a postdoctoral research associate in Dr. Irene Chiolo’s lab at the University of Southern California. Her research project focuses on identifying histone modifications responsible for DNA double-strand break (DSB) repair in heterochromatin. Heterochromatin is a poorly characterized and highly unstable domain, in which the abundance of repeated DNA sequences can trigger aberrant recombination and genome instability, contributing to tumorigenesis. Repair pathways in this domain are just beginning to emerge, and understanding these responses is paramount for understanding cancer etiology and developing better strategies for epigenetic therapies.

Chih-Hsing Chou, Ph.D. Dr. Chih-Hsing Chou is a Postdoctoral Fellow in Pediatrics Pathology Division of Hematology-Oncology at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles under Dr. Heisterkamp’s lab. He received his Ph.D. in Graduate Institute of Anatomy and Cell Biology at National Taiwan University in 2015. Dr. Chou’s research interests are in glycobiology and cancer biology.



Samuel Friedman, Ph.D. Dr. Samuel H. Friedman attended the University of Chicago for undergrad and earned his Ph.D. in Astronomy from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. After working as a computer programmer, Dr. Friedman joined the group of Dr. Paul Macklin in the USC Center for Applied Molecular Medicine at the Lawrence J. Ellison Institute of Transformative Medicine of USC. He works on computational models of cancer and the MultiCellular Data Standard (MultiCellDS). At the COMBINE (‘COmputational Models in BIology’ NEtwork) 2016 conference in Newcastle upon Tyne, UK, Dr. Friedman will present about MultiCellDS. 

Alma Gharib, Ph.D. Dr. Alma Gharib is a Post-Doctoral Scholar in the Viterbi School of Engineering in the Computer Science department. She received her B.S. in Biology at the University of California, San Diego, her M.A. in Art History at Columbia University where she studied art and neuroscience, and her Ph.D. at Caltech. During her graduate studies, she conducted her dissertation work with Professors Shin Shimojo and Ralph Adolphs, studying visual behavior and decision-making in autism and amygdala lesion patients. She is currently a postdoctoral scholar in Professor Laurent Itti’s lab, where she studies stress and resiliency in infants using eye-tracking and EEG, as well as visual behavior in neurological disorders such as Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s disease. She is interested in using eye-tracking to screen for and diagnose neurological and psychological disorders. Dr. Gharib will present findings from a study examining how people with autism look at facial features at the annual meeting of Society for Neuroscience in San Diego, California.

Ryon Cobb, Ph.D. Dr. Ryon J. Cobb is a Postdoctoral Scholar at the USC/UCLA Center for Biodemography and Population Health. His program of research program contributes to ongoing efforts to create a more integrated science that better elucidates how one’s racial identification combines with individual risk and resilience factors to affect health throughout the life course. Specifically, his work draws on data from large population-based datasets to (a) examine how racial identification influences the social determinants of health, and (b) illuminate the psychological and biological pathways that link interpersonal forms of discrimination to cardiometabolic disease throughout the life course.

Marie-Victoire Guillot-Sestier, Ph.D. Dr. Guillot-Sestier is a postdoctoral research scholar at the Zilkha Neurogenetic Institute at the University of Southern California. Dr. Guillot-Sestier completed her doctoral studies in cellular and molecular aspects of neurobiology at the University of Nice-Sophia Antipolis (France). During this time she exposed a neuroprotective function associated with N1, the soluble N-terminal fragment of the PrPc, and its ability to protect against Aβ toxicity. Four years later she transitioned to Terrence Town’s laboratory at USC to focus her work on the contribution of immune cells and pathways in the pathoetiology of AD. Her recent work shows that blocking the production of the anti-inflammatory agent IL-10 boosts immune cells to clear β-amyloid from the brain of transgenic AD-like mice.

Yi Zhang, Ph.D. Dr. Yi Zhang received his B.S. in Mechanical Engineering from Fuzhou University in China, in 2000 and earned his graduate degree in Electrical and Mechanical Engineering from Xiamen University in China (M.S. 2004, Ph.D. 2009). He then completed two-year postdoctoral fellowship training in Biomedical Engineering at the University of Glasgow in the United Kingdom. Dr. Yi Zhang is currently a postdoctoral research associate in Prof. James Weiland’s group at the USC Roski Eye Institute-University of Southern California. He is developing component technologies for the next generation of the electronic retinal prosthesis and has published over 20 peer-reviewed journal articles.

Tara Weitz, Ph.D. Dr. Tara Weitz has a Ph.D. in Neuroscience from UCLA and is a postdoctoral scholar in Dr. Terrence Town’s laboratory in the Zilkha Neurogenetic Institute of the Keck School of Medicine. Her latest findings from her work explore whether pharmacological blockade of TGF-beta signaling in peripheral macrophages using next-generation nanoparticle technology can re-balance inflammation and mitigate AD-like pathology in the TgF344-AD rat model, which manifest the full spectrum of age-dependent AD pathologies and cognitive disturbance.


Daisy Kim, Ph.D. Dr. Daisy Kim is currently a postdoctoral fellow at the Korean Studies Institute at the University of Southern California. She received her Ph.D. in political science from Johns Hopkins University. Her research interests include citizenship, migration, and gender.




Gwyn Pauley, Ph.D. Dr. Gwyn Pauley received her Ph.D. in economics from Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland. Currently, she is a postdoctoral fellow at the Schaeffer Center for Health Policy and Economics. She is interested in how health and labor market outcomes interact, particularly for at-risk populations such as low-income individuals. She is currently working on projects examining how mental health affects health care spending and labor force participation. Dr. Pauley presented her work studying how access to health insurance during childhood affected outcomes such as teen pregnancy and completed education later in life, and how parents reacted to their child having access to health insurance at the Biennial Conference of the American Society of Health Economists in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. 

Sigita Cahoon, Ph.D. Dr. Sigita Cahoon is a current Fellow in Global Women’s Health in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology as well as a graduate student in the Master of Public Health Program at the University of Southern California, where she completed Residency training in Ob/Gyn. She completed her medical school training at the University of Miami and obtained her Bachelor’s degree in Biology at Boston University. Dr. Cahoon’s current research is focused on the application of cervical cancer screening and treatment modalities in low-resource settings, as well as in the utilization of telemedicine to improve obstetric care in remote settings, and in effective healthcare delivery to incarcerated women.

Qichao Ruan, Ph.D. Dr. Qichao Ruan received his Ph.D. degree in Materials Science from the Shanghai Institute of Ceramics, Chinese Academy of Sciences (SICCAS) in China. He is currently a postdoctoral scholar research associate working with Dr. Janet Moradian-Oldak at the Center for Craniofacial Molecular Biology at USC Herman Ostrow School of Dentistry. His research interests include developing biomimetic materials and nanostructures for biomedical application, particular synthesis of bio-inspired composites with enamel-mimic microstructures for rebuilding the tooth enamel. He presented his work at the 25th AACGE Western Section Conference on Crystal Growth & Epitaxy in Fallen Leaf Lake, California.

Annette Rowe, Ph.D. 






Joanna Jankowska, Ph.D. Dr. Joanna Jankowska received her Ph.D. in Physical Chemistry at the University of Warsaw (Warsaw, Poland). She is both, a quantum chemist and physicist, working in the field of photo-induced molecular transformations. Her background includes various topics, including studies on Excited State Proton Transfer Processes in molecular photoswitches, modeling inelastic scattering in optical traps or investigating intermolecular interactions in noble gas compounds. Currently, she is a postdoctoral research fellow at Oleg Prezhdo group, and her recent research focuses on non-radiative dynamics studies in perovskite materials for photovoltaics. Jankowska will participate in a ‘Charge and Energy Transfer in Photoreactions and Photodynamics’ workshop in Telluride.

Ashely Martin, Ph.D. Dr. Ashley Martin is an experimental psychologist who studies eating behavior and obesity. Her work focuses on conducting translational research from rodent models to identify novel interventions for treating obesity in humans. Her specific interests include a) the effects of sugars and sweeteners on eating behavior and body weight; b) the effects of obesity and obesogenic diets (fats, sugars) on cognitive function and; c) the relevance of these cognitive deficits to future obesity risk. The project she will be presenting at this year’s meeting of The Obesity Society is the first study, to our knowledge, to implicate fructose in breast milk as a mechanism of maternal obesity programming in humans. This topic builds upon Ashley’s previous research investigating the role of sugars and sweeteners in appetite and weight regulation and represents a novel translation of this work towards understanding early-life risk factors for obesity.

Kee Scholten, Ph.D. Dr. Kee Scholten is a Postdoctoral Scholar Research Associate at the USC Biomedical Microsystems Laboratory under Professor Ellis Meng. Dr. Scholten received his Ph.D. degree from the University of Michigan where he studied microfluidic sensors and optofluidic devices for microscale gas chromatography. His research interests include the integration of microstructures with nanomaterials and applications such as fluidic and chemical sensing. His current efforts focus on microdevices fabricated from flexible, biocompatible polymers for applications targeting biomedical implants. At the 2016 Solid-State Sensors, Actuators and Microsystems Workshop in Hilton Head, SC, Kee presented work on the development of polymer-based microdevices with flexible nanoscale electrical components.

Sahand Pirbadian, Ph.D. Dr. Sahand Pirbadian is a postdoctoral scholar in the Physics department, in Moh El-Naggar’s research group. Pirbadian received his Ph.D. in Physics from USC in 2015. He attended the 2016 Penn State Bioinorganic Workshop in June to further advance his knowledge of bioinorganic chemistry techniques that he will utilize in his research career.



Tanya Aldrete Ph.D. Dr. Tanya Alderete received her Ph.D. in Integrative Biology of Disease from USC in 2014. She completed her predoctoral training with Dr. Michael Goran in the Childhood Obesity and Research Center (CORC). Her doctoral research focused on ectopic fat, obesity-associated inflammation, and glucose and insulin metabolism in overweight and obese Hispanics and African Americans. Alderete’s dissertation demonstrated that liver fat, and not visceral fat, was associated with increased risk for type 2 diabetes in overweight minority youth. She also designed and implemented a clinical trial aimed at treating metabolic diseases related to obesity with the support of the USC Clinical Translational Science Institute (CTSI) predoctoral trainee award. Alderete is currently a postdoctoral research scholar in the USC Division of Environmental Health with Dr. Frank Gilliland. Her work is exploring the relationships between air ambient pollution exposure, obesity, and risk factors for type 2 diabetes in minority youth. 

Jessica Barrington-Trimis, Ph.D. Dr. Jessica Barrington-Trimis is a Postdoctoral Scholar-Research Associate at the University of Southern California in the Tobacco Center of Regulatory Science. After receiving her BA in Philosophy and English from Bucknell University (2007), Dr. Barrington-Trimis joined Teach for America, earning an MA in Education (2009), while teaching high school chemistry in Los Angeles. Dr. Barrington-Trimis left her teaching position to earn an MS in Global Medicine (2010), and her Ph.D. in Epidemiology (2014). As a doctoral student, Dr. Barrington-Trimis worked with large datasets with genetic data to examine gene-environment interactions and risk of childhood cancer. Her doctoral work showed that the risk of childhood leukemia and brain tumors associated with parental smoking during pregnancy was amplified among children with variants in genes in tobacco smoke metabolic pathways. In 2014, Dr. Barrington-Trimis began her postdoctoral fellowship in the FDA and NIH-supported USC Tobacco Center of Regulatory Science (TCORS). Dr. Barrington-Trimis has developed a research focus on identifying factors associated with patterns of tobacco product use in adolescence and evaluating the behavioral consequences and physical consequences of adolescent alternative tobacco and other substance use.

Myungji Yang, Ph.D. Dr. Myungji Yang is a postdoctoral fellow at the Korean Studies Institute. She received her Ph.D. in Sociology from Brown University in 2012. Her research interests include development and democracy, class formation and politics, and East Asia and her work appeared in Sociological Inquiry and Critical Asian Studies. During her stay at USC, she has completed her book manuscript on the rise and the decline of the Korean middle class for the last five decades, based on her dissertation. In July, she has attended the Third ISA (International Sociological Association) Forum of Sociology held in Vienna, Austria. At the meeting, she presented a paper titled “Displacement in the Name of Development: Urbanization, Speculation, and Stratified Spatial Order in South Korea.” The paper looked at the state-directed urbanization process in South Korea under the authoritarian regime, which promoted uneven development at the expense of most of the population for real estate developers, brokers, and entrepreneurs. 

Wendy Vu, Ph.D. Dr. Wendy Vu was trained in molecular and biochemistry during her undergraduate career but has transitioned into evolutionary genetics when she started her graduate program. These somewhat different paths have led her to pursue questions that incorporate evolutionary thinking to molecular biology. In particular, Dr. Vu is interested in the variation of molecular mechanisms that evolve to mediate adaption to local and changing environments. Her research program integrates field ecology and genetics to understand patterns of local adaptation of wild plant populations to extreme environmental conditions. Furthermore, she has developed statistical and bioinformatics skills to analyze large-scale genomic sequencing data to identify natural genetic variation associated with adaptive plant traits. In the future, Dr. Vu hopes to apply her knowledge of evolutionary genetics and analytical skills to develop more practical genetic applications for improving agriculture.

Nihong Chen, Ph.D. 






Noelle Stiles, Ph.D. Dr. Noelle Stiles is a postdoctoral scholar in Ophthalmology at the Keck School of Medicine at the University of Southern California. As a postdoctoral scholar, she is studying the restoration of visual perception to the blind with retinal prostheses. She graduated with a Doctor of Philosophy degree from California Institute of Technology in 2014. Her graduate research at Caltech in the Computation and Neural Systems Program focused on the design and evaluation of sensory substitution devices for the rehabilitation of the blind. She was awarded the Mary Louise Remy Endowed P.E.O. Scholar Award in 2013, and the National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship in 2011. She earned a Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Southern California in 2009, majoring in Biophysics with a minor in Neuroscience within the USC College of Letters, Arts, and Sciences. Upon graduation, at USC she received the Discovery Scholars Prize, a university-wide prize competition for creativity and innovation in interdisciplinary research.

Tsz Ho Kwok, Ph.D. Dr. Tsz Kwok is a Postdoctoral Research Associate at the Epstein Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering. Dr. Kwok received his Ph.D. degree from the Chinese University of Hong Kong. He works on the areas including 3D printing, design for additive manufacturing, CAD/CAM, geometric and solid modeling, robotics, and medical devices. After finishing his appointment at USC, he will join Departmentment of Mechanical and Industrial Engineering at Concordia University, Montreal, Canada as Assistant Professor. Dr. Kwok presented his paper at the ASME 2016 International Manufacturing Science and Engineering Conference in Blacksburg, Virginia.

Roxanne Samer, Ph.D. Dr. Rozanne Samer is USC’s 2016-2017 Postdoctoral Scholar–Teaching Fellow in Cinema & Media Studies. She is a feminist and queer media studies scholar, researching lesbian feminist media cultures of the 1970s as well as theories of temporality, historiography, and queer futurity. In November she will be presenting new work at the National Women’s Studies Association. Her paper will focus on how two science fiction television series, Sense8 and Orphan Black, help us craft survival strategies for transgender people in the present, while also working to make trans futures more possible. It will be presented alongside work on trans*ing the decolonial imaginary.

Brianna Lienemann, Ph.D. Dr. Brianna Lienemann is a postdoctoral scholar at the Keck School of Medicine. She primarily focuses her research on two areas: 1) using persuasion theory to influence people with depression to seek help; and 2) cancer prevention among vulnerable populations. Dr. Lienemann presented her work at the International Communications Association Conference in Fukuoka, Japan. This work focused on two experiments on influencing help-seeking for depression with depression public service announcements (D-PSAs).


Hillary Plummer, Ph.D. Dr. Hillary Plummer received her Ph.D. in Kinesiology from Auburn University, and her educational background is in athletic training and biomechanics. She is currently a Postdoctoral Research Associate in the Clinical Biomechanics, Orthopaedic and Sports Outcomes Research Laboratory under the direction of Dr. Lori Michener. Dr. Plummer’s research interests include investigating upper extremity injury mechanisms as well as developing and implementing training protocols for injury prevention and performance optimization in athletes. Her current work investigates the effects of lumbopelvic stability on pitching mechanics in youth. She will be presenting her research at the 11th Conference of the International Shoulder Group in Winterthur, Switzerland.

Marta Kubala, Ph.D. Dr. Marta Kubala received her Ph.D. from the University of Queensland, Australia, where she was investigating structures of proteins by x-ray crystallography. She was also involved in developing an in vitro method enabling rapid validation of potential protein-protein interactions identified in proteomic screens using techniques like Leishmaniae tarentolae cell-free system and two color coincidence spectroscopy. Currently, she is a postdoctoral research fellow at the Children’s Hospital Los Angeles. She studies tumor microenvironment, specifically tumor-associated macrophages and the role of plasminogen activation system in their migration and polarization. Kubala will be participating and present a poster at the Gordon Research Conference in Plasminogen Activation and Extracellular Proteolysis and will give oral and poster presentations at the Gordon Research Seminar leading up to the conference. 

Theresa Stuve, Ph.D. Dr. Theresa Stuve received her Ph.D. in Molecular Toxicology at the University of California, Berkeley, and is currently a postdoctoral research scholar at the Norris Cancer Center at the USC Keck School of Medicine. Her primary research interests include connecting epigenetic biomarkers of air pollution exposure to prevention and therapeutic strategies for lung disorders. As part of a collaboration between her faculty mentor, Dr. Ite Laird-Offringa, and Dr. Maria Teresa Landi at NIH, Stueve will attend the SRNT 2016 conference to present their work on identifying novel tobacco smoke-regulated regions of the epigenome that increase the risk of lung cancer.

Ann Kim, Ph.D. Dr. Ann Kim is currently a postdoctoral scholar at Rossier School of Education at the University of Southern California. She received her Ph.D. In Education from UC Santa Barbara, with emphases in Child and Adolescent Development and Quantitative Methods in Social Sciences. Dr. Kim is interested in applying both quantitative (e.g., latent variable modeling) and qualitative methods (e.g., discourse analysis and ethnography) to conduct research on identity development and negative behaviors of adolescents.

Dominique Duncan, Ph.D. Dr. Dominique Duncan received her Ph.D. in Electrical Engineering from Yale University, and her graduate work was on developing mathematical algorithms for seizure prediction in epilepsy patients as well as studying resting state networks using intracranial EEG data. She is currently a postdoctoral scholar working with Dr. Arthur Toga at the USC Stevens Neuroimaging and Informatics Institute. One of Dr. Duncan’s current projects is the study of epileptogenesis after traumatic brain injury. Because much is known about the physical history of post-traumatic epilepsy, it represents a near-ideal human model in which to study the process of developing seizures. Using novel mathematical methods, Dr. Duncan is working on finding a way to quantitatively detect seizure onset post trauma. 

Hamed Mirzaei, Ph.D. Dr. Hamed Mirzaei received his Ph.D. at the University of South Florida studying the role of RecQ DNA helicases in genomic stability and cancer. While in graduate school, Hamed taught a number of Biology and Genetics labs, in addition to designing his course for the Honors College titled, “The Public Understanding of Science.” He is currently a postdoctoral scholar in the laboratory of Dr. Valter Longo at USC, Leonard Davis School of Gerontology where he studies the use of dietary intervention as a treatment for cardiovascular dysfunction and diabetes in a metabolic syndrome mouse model. In addition to his mouse studies, Hamed is also characterizing the regulatory role of the Tor-Sch9 pathways and downstream effectors in Saccharomyces cerevisiae long-lived mutants.

Patrick Brewick, Ph.D. Dr. Patrick Brewick earned his B.S. (2009) in Civil Engineering from the University of Notre Dame and M.S. (2010) and Ph.D. (2014) in Civil Engineering and Engineering Mechanics from Columbia University. Dr. Brewick is currently a Viterbi Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Southern California in the Sonny Astani Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering. Dr. Brewick’s research focuses on exploring the connections between data analytics, modeling, and infrastructure, and tackling the challenge of turning measurements into useful models that accurately reflect the behavior and characteristics of the physical system.

Amanda Ochsner, Ph.D. Dr. Amanda Ochsner is a postdoctoral research associate at the University of Southern California’s Pullias Center for Higher Education in the Rossier School of Education. She recently earned her Ph.D. from the Digital Media program in the Department of Curriculum & Instruction at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Broadly, her work explores how playing games, participating in game communities, and designing games are good for learning. Her recent research examines the learning pathways and professional trajectories of women in the game industry. After working in games journalism and becoming frustrated by the quality of the games marketed to girls, Amanda is motivated to find ways to promote diversity and inclusivity in games.

Ivan Farias Pelcastre, Ph.D.






Jaclyn Maher, Ph.D. Dr. Jaclyn Maher is a postdoctoral scholar in the Department of Preventive Medicine at the University of Southern California. She received her Ph.D. in Kinesiology with a concentration in the psychology of physical activity at The Pennsylvania State University in 2015. Dr. Maher’s research aims to understand (1) how motivational processes within and outside of our awareness regulate our physical activity and sedentary behavior, (2) how these health behaviors impact psychological health and well-being, and (3) how best to use technology to capture the dynamics of motivation, behavior, and evaluations as well as to intervene on behavior.

Sadaf Soleymani, Ph.D. Dr. Sadaf Soleymani is a Postdoctoral Fellow at Center for Fetal and Neonatal Medicine at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles under Dr. Philippe Friedlich. Dr. Soleymani received her bachelor’s degree in bioengineering from University of California San Diego and her Master’s and doctoral degree in biomedical engineering from The University of Southern California. Her research interests are to improve our understanding of preterm infant’s cardiovascular and respiratory physiology by developing novel approaches to comprehensive bedside hemodynamic monitoring in the neonatal intensive care unit through the collection, analysis, and modeling of continuous bedside information. She will be presenting her research at the Pediatric Academic Societies meeting.

Douglas Barthold, Ph.D. Dr. Douglas Barthold is a postdoctoral scholar at the Leonard D. Schaeffer Center for Health Policy and Economics at the University of Southern California. He received his Ph.D. in Economics from McGill University in 2015, with health economics as his primary field of specialization. He completed his undergraduate studies in Economics at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst in 2007. Doug’s research focuses on health insurance design, and on the role of health policy in influencing health care utilization, health outcomes, and inequality.


Vicent Bonet-Costa, Ph.D. Dr. Vincent Bonet-Costa got his MSC and Ph.D. in the in the Department of Physiology of the University of Valencia, Spain. His previous research was in Alzheimer’s disease, in which he obtained a successful treatment for a murine model of this disease. Bonet-Costa joined USC Gerontology as a postdoctoral researcher, where he works on protein degradation mechanisms.



Veronica Yan, Ph.D. Dr. Veronica Yan received her Ph.D. in 2014 from the University of California, Los Angeles in cognitive psychology. Her research focuses on what it takes to be an effective, self-regulated learner, bringing together research investigating the strategies that enhance learning and the motivational mindsets required to appreciate them.



Jennifer Labrecque, Ph.D. Dr. Jen Labrecque is a first-year Postdoctoral Research Associate at USC with dual appointments in the departments of Preventive Medicine and Psychology. In collaboration with Kayla de la Haye (Preventive Medicine), she investigates problem-solving in groups using social network analysis, and with Wendy Wood (Social Psychology), she studies behavior change challenges with a focus on habits. In January she will be traveling to the annual conference of the Society for Personality and Social Psychology to present her research on how deliberative planning can interfere with habit formation.

Casey Guillot, Ph.D. Dr. Casey Guillot is a postdoctoral researcher in the Department of Preventive Medicine at the University of Southern California. He received his B.S. in Psychology and M.S. in General/Experimental Psychology at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette and his Ph.D. in Experimental Psychology at The University of Southern Mississippi. During his early graduate studies, Casey examined the relationship between Ecstasy/MDMA use and psychopathological symptoms (e.g., depression, anxiety, and impulsivity). As a doctoral student, he worked in a lab dedicated to investigating the effects of alcohol on human self-aggressive behavior, and he examined the effects of alcohol on executive functioning (EF) and contributed to research reports related to individual differences (i.e., psychopathy traits and social anhedonia) and aggression. After completing a dissertation on genetic associations with borderline personality disorder and related traits and behaviors (e.g., impulsivity and self-harm), he examined the molecular genetics of impulse control and disordered gambling and drinking.

Andrew Petkus, Ph.D. Dr. Andrew Petkus received his Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology from the San Diego State University/ the University of California, San Diego Joint Doctoral Program in Clinical Psychology. Petkus is currently conducting clinical geropsychology research with Dr. Margaret Gatz in the Psychology Department. His specific research interests include examining the interplay between emotional well-being, particular symptoms of anxiety and depression. Dr. Petkus is interested in how anxiety and depression in later life are associated with cognitive decline and the role genetic factors and environment play in explaining this association.

Jean Alupay, Ph.D. Dr. Jean Alupay received her Ph.D. in Integrative Biology from the University of California, Berkeley. She is a marine biologist and animal behaviorist with a unique opportunity to work in the Linguistics department at USC with Dr. Iskarous and in the Marine and Environmental Biology department with Dr. Gracey. She also collaborates extensively with Dr. Mather at the University of Lethbridge. Their NSF-funded project is interested in understanding the dynamical principles that underlie movement in a structure called the muscular hydrostat. The muscular hydrostat is the structural basis of many animals including the nematode C. elegans, the human tongue, and the octopus arm. Jean is interested in understanding octopus arm movement and locomotion, working both in the lab and in the field to study the natural behaviors of these animals. She will be presenting her recent findings at the Cephalopod International Advisory Council (CIAC) Conference in November in Hakodate, Japan.

Kristin Rand, Ph.D. Dr. Kristin Rand received her Ph.D. in Epidemiology from the University of Southern California and is currently a postdoctoral research scholar in the Keck School of Medicine. Her research focuses on the genetic basis of prostate cancer and multiple myelomas in African American populations. She is leading large‐scale genome‐wide efforts to explore further both common and rare genetic variants associated with cancer risk, as well as to provide insight into the genetic basis for the observed racial/ethnic disparity in disease incidence. Dr. Rand presented at the International Multiple Myeloma Consortium (IMMC) in Groningen, The Netherlands.

Melissa Miller, J.D. Melissa Joy Miller, is a Postdoctoral Scholar with the Saks Institute for Mental Health Law, Policy, and Ethics at the USC Gould School of Law. Her faculty mentor is Dr. Elyn Saks, Orrin B. Evans Professor of Law, Psychology, and Psychiatry and the Behavioral Sciences and recipient of the MacArthur Genius Grant. Miller’s current research addresses the problems associated with untreated mental illnesses and criminal justice system involvement, including the disproportionate incarceration of people with serious mental illness, fragmented service delivery systems, outdated civil commitment laws, limitations on federal financing of mental health services, and constitutional violations.

Kevin Doty, Ph.D. Dr. Kevin Doty is interested in the role of specific cytokines in influencing microglia phenotype and neuronal survival in AD animal models. Several transcription factor families that are central to transcription of inflammatory genes, such as NF-κB, AP-1, C/EBP, IRF, and STAT, have been identified as mediators of inflammation in microglia. However, it is not clear how these factors, singly and in combination, regulate specific inflammatory mediators and microglial phenotype. Dr. Doty uses next-generation global approaches (i.e. RNAseq and ChIPseq) and animal models to establish a mechanistic and logical model of microglial phenotype and response to amyloid. This foundation could lead to the identification of immune modulatory targets and pathways that could be utilized in the treatment of AD in patients.

Iacopo Masi, Ph.D. Dr. Iacopo Masi received his Ph.D. in Computer Science from the University of Florence, Italy. He is currently a Postdoctoral research associate at the Viterbi School of Engineering, University of Southern California (USC), working on the next-generation face recognition algorithms with Prof. Gérard Medioni and Prof. Ram Nevatia. His research interests include computer vision, pattern recognition, and machine learning: his background covers specifically the subjects of multi-target tracking with moving cameras, person re-identification, 2D/3D face recognition and modeling. Dr. Masi will present a tutorial about his research and state-of-the-art methods on person re-identification at the “7th IEEE International Conference on Biometrics: Theory, Applications and System” in Arlington, Virginia.

Dajiang Zhu, Ph.D. Dr. Dajiang Zhu is a postdoctoral Research Associate at the USC Keck School of Medicine. Dr. Zhu received his Ph.D. degree from the University of Georgia. He works with Dr. Paul Thompson to study brain structural/functional connectivity and its applications on different brain diseases. Dr. Zhu presented his study “Genetic Analysis of Brain Structural Connectivity via DICCCOL Models in 522 Twins” at the Organization for Human Brain Mapping (OHBM) conference in Hawaii.


Zhenhua Chen, Ph.D. Dr. Zhenhua Chen is a postdoctoral research associate at the Center for Risk and Economic Analysis of Terrorism Events (CREATE) at Price School of Public Policy at University of Southern California. His research interest includes economic geography, regional science, transportation planning and policy, and public finance.