Lab members

Current lab members

Xianzhi (Andrew) Lin, Ph.D

Project Scientist

Email: [email protected]

Xianzhi (Andrew) Lin, PhD, received his bachelor’s degree in bioengineering from the Kunming University of Science and Technology in 2004, and a doctorate in microbiology from the Institut Pasteur of Shanghai, Chinese Academy of Sciences in 2012. Before joining the Lawrenson Laboratory in the Women’s Cancer Program at Cedars-Sinai, he worked as a postdoctoral researcher at UCLA with Grace Xiao, PhD, studying the molecular mechanisms of RNA regulation, including alternative splicing, RNA editing and RNA degradation. Currently, his research focuses on elucidating the mechanism of long noncoding RNAs in the initiation and/or development of ovarian cancers.

KC Vavra, Ph.D 

Postdoctoral Research Associate

Email: [email protected]

KC received his bachelors degree in Biochemistry from the Georgia Institute of Technology and his Ph.D. in Biochemistry and Molecular Biophysics from the University of Chicago. His Ph.D. research studied how structural features of the unconventional myosin-10 motor controlled motor localization to specific regions in the cytoskeleton. KC joined the Lawrenson lab in 2016, and his research project focuses on the relationship between genetic variants and lncRNAs in the development and progression of ovarian cancer.

Ivetth Corona, Ph.D 

Postdoctoral Research Associate

Email[email protected]

Ivetth has a Bachelors degree in Electric and Computer Engineering from CETYS Universidad, Mexico and a M.Sc. in Computer Science from CICESE, Mexico. She was first introduced to Computational Biology during her master’s, where she studied protein structure prediction. Continuing in the Structural Bioinformatics field, she did her Ph.D. analyzing protein-DNA complexes and characterized structural features that account for DNA-binding specificity. She then completed an internship at Takeda Pharmaceuticals, Cambridge, MA, where she studied cancer genomics for the first time. Now, under the direction of Drs. Lawrenson and Gayther, she is a Computational Biologist studying the interplay between transcription factors and somatic and germline variants that contribute to the development of ovarian cancer.

Forough Abbasi

Research Associate

Email: [email protected]

Forough Abbasi graduated with her bachelors degree in Cell and Molecular Biology in 2006. After getting her degree, Forough spent several years working in a clinical lab before joining the laboratory of Dr. Johnathan Lancaster at Moffitt Cancer Center. Forough has extensive experience in preclinical modeling and translational research, and is commonly referred to by her co-workers as the cell culture whisperer! She joined the Lawrenson Laboratory in 2016, and participates in multiple laboratory projects using cellular and molecular biology approaches.

Felipe Segato Dezem

Research Associate I

Email: [email protected]

Felipe Segato Dezem graduated from the University of Sao Paulo, Brazil, with a bachelors of science in biomedical informatics. His interest in research began after attending a Cancer Epigenomics Workshop, where he was a volunteer. He joined Prof. Houtan Noushmehr’s lab later when he gathered most of his experience in bioinformatics methods and cancer epigenetics/epigenomics. He is a passionate Ph.D. aspirant, good learner and excited about learning key mechanisms of complex diseases such as cancer.

Marcos Abraao, Ph.D

Postdoctoral Research Associate

Email[email protected]

Marcos has a bachelors degree in Computer Science from Pontifical Catholic University of Minas Gerais, Brazil (2007), a Masters degree from Federal University of Sao Carlos, Brazil (2010) and a Ph.D from University of Sao Paulo, Brazil (2016). Dr. Abraao has research experience in Combinatorial Optimization problems on manufacturing systems, reactive production scheduling using Artificial Intelligence techniques including ant colony optimization, genetic algorithms, and fuzzy logic. He joined the Lawrenson Laboratory in 2016 applying Bioinformatics integrative approaches to define and understand the cell origin of ovarian cancer. Currently, he is working on master transcription factor identification and characterization of different cancer types and subtypes.

Jessica Reddy, Ph.D 

Postdoctoral Research Associate

Email: [email protected]

Jessica is a post-doctoral scientist with 8+ years of research experience studying transcriptional control in normal and disease states. She completed her PhD in Biology at Massachusetts Institute of Technology where she trained in the laboratory of Dr. Richard Young. There, she studied the effects of small molecule inhibition of general regulators in cancer cells. Jessica is currently in the Medical Scientist Training Program at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA.

Robbin Nameki

Graduate Student

Email[email protected]

Robbin received her B.S. From California State University, Long Beach, whereshe studied the neuroendocrine regulation of sexually dimorphic behavior in rodents in Houng-Wei Tsai, PhD’s laboratory. She was also part of Jorge Busciglio, PhD’s laboratory in the last year of her undergraduate degree. In Dr. Busciglio’s laboratory she studied the role of neuron-specific zinc as a co-transmitter in the process of learning and memory. In the summer of 2017, she joined Cedars-Sinai’s graduate program where she expanded my interests to the interaction between the none-coding genome and nuclear proteins involved in disease pathways. She is currently pursuing my PhD in the Lawrenson Laboratory studying the transcriptional regulatory profile of transcription factors in ovarian cancer.

Heidi Chang

Gynecologic Oncology Fellow

Email: [email protected]

Heidi Chang received her bachelor’s degree in biomedical engineering at Duke University and earned her medical degree from the University of Virginia. She then completed her internship and residency in obstetrics and gynecology at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center. She is currently completing her 3rd year of fellowship in gynecologic oncology at the University of California Los Angeles and Cedars-Sinai. Dr. Chang’s research focuses on the interconnected roles of transcription factors in high grade serous ovarian cancer.

Former lab members

Annie Liu, MD,  Gynecologic Oncology Fellow

Annie Liu graduated from Princeton University magna cum laude with a degree in molecular biology, where she studied the Wnt signaling pathway as it relates to developmental processes in Drosophila melanogaster. She went to medical school at Vanderbilt University where she again investigated components of Wnt signaling, this time in relation to colorectal carcinogenesis.  She completed her residency training in obstetrics and gynecology at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, MA, and she is now in her third year of gynecologic oncology fellowship at Cedars-Sinai/UCLA. Her research involves characterizing transcription factors that may contribute to ovarian carcinogenesis. Dr. Liu is now a gynecologic oncologist at Northwest Permanente in Oregon.

Emily Prendergast, MD,  Gynecologic Oncology Fellow

Emily Prendergast graduated from the University of Arizona with a bachelors of science in microbiology. She then completed medical school at the University of Arizona College of Medicine in Tucson.  Following this she has completed a 4 year residency in obstetrics and gynecology at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago. She is currently completing her 3rd year of fellowship at Cedars-Sinai/UCLA. Emily has pursued her passion for research via several different routes including parasitology bench work at UofA and in Peru with Johns Hopkins School of Public Health, the NIH NIAID lab evaluating mechanisms of fibrosis and now in the Lawrenson Laboratory in the Women’s Cancer Program at Cedars-Sinai. Emily’s research involves isolation and evaluation of exosomes and their biological contents as a method of biomarker detection for ovarian cancer. Dr. Prendergast is now a gynecologic oncologist at Minnesota Oncology in Minneapolis.

Tassja Spindler, Research Associate II

Email: [email protected]

Tassja Spindler graduated from the University of California, Santa Barbara, earning her bachelor’s degree in biological sciences with a minor in exercise and sport studies. She received postgraduate training in the Biotechnology Program at Pasadena City College and was selected as a California Institute for Regenerative Medicine intern for stem cell research at the University of Southern California (USC) where, under the mentorship of Gregor B. Adams, PhD, her research focused on understanding the role of the hematopoietic stem cell niche. Spindler continued her research studies at USC with Simon Gayther, PhD, elucidating the role of long noncoding RNA in ovarian cancer. She now works in the Lawrenson Laboratory in the Women’s Cancer Program at Cedars-Sinai, exploring how lncRNAs shape the development of ovarian cancers.

Roxanne Manek, Research Lab Assistant II

Email: [email protected] 

Roxanne Manek graduated from King’s College London University in 2011, earning her bachelor’s degree in biomedical sciences specializing in neuroscience. Since completing her undergraduate studies, Manek has pursued her passion for cancer research at the University of Southern California’s Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center and now in the Lawrenson Laboratory in the Women’s Cancer Program at Cedars-Sinai. Manek’s research involves using three-dimensional in vitro models of ovarian cancer to identify novel therapeutic targets.

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