Class of 2014: Diverse Backgrounds and Interests

The Class of 2014 of the Cedars-Sinai Graduate Program in Biomedical Science and Translational Medicine represents a diversity of backgrounds and research interests. Below are brief profiles of each graduate, excerpted from this year's commencement program.

Jun Ma, Class Speaker

Ma graduated from The University of California, Los Angeles, with a bachelor's of science in Biochemistry. After working under the guidance of Lali Medina-Kauwe, PhD, at Cedars-Sinai, he started his graduate research training under the mentorship of David Underhill, PhD, in the field of innate immunity. He identified novel components of the pathway for fungal immunity and demonstrated novel cellular mechanisms relevant to inflammatory bowel disease. After graduation, Ma plans to continue his training as a postdoctoral fellow in the field of autoimmunity and innate immunity with a focus on discovering novel approaches to the treatment of immunologically mediated human diseases.


Melanie Das

Das completed her bachelor's of science degree at the University of California, San Diego. She conducted her research under the mentorship of Clive Svendsen, PhD, in the Cedars-Sinai Regenerative Medicine Institute, where she studied how aging influences neurodegenerative disease, and specifically amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. Her research showed that altering the neuronal microenvironment can preserve the loss of neurons that degenerate in old age. After graduation, Das plans to pursue postdoctoral research in an academic environment. She also hopes to be able to work to inspire younger generations to be enthused by science.


Ahmed Ibrahim

Ibrahim received his bachelor's of science from the University of California, Irvine. He joined the laboratory of Eduardo Marbán, MD, PhD, in the Cedars-Sinai Heart Institute, where he investigated the major paracrine mechanism of cardiosphere-derived cell therapy, the first cell therapy shown to regenerate the human heart muscle after a heart attack. Ibrahim will be a member of a Cedars-Sinai delegation to Eastern Europe to build organizational ties with research institutes in that region. After graduation, he plans to continue his research in a biotechnology company.


Mitra Mastali

Mastali earned her bachelor's of science degree in Microbiology, Immunology and Molecular Genetics from The University of California, Los Angeles. In the lab of her research mentor, Lali Medine-Kauwe, PhD, Mastali developed a novel nanobiologic designed to target therapeutic molecules to cells so as to modify survival, proliferation and drug resistance of a variety of cancers. She demonstrated that a designed molecule can bind to, penetrate and target cytotoxic agents to c-MET positive tumor cells. After graduation, she plans to continue her research on targeted drug therapy. 


Marisel Sanchez

Sanchez obtained her bachelor's of science degree in Industrial Microbiology from the University of Puerto Rico. Following this, she participated in an National Institutes of Health-funded Postbaccalaureate Research Education Program at Duke University, where she studied post-translational aging of proteins in osteoarthritic cartilage. Her graduate research, under the mentorship of George Liu, MD, PhD, and Gislaine Martins, PhD, focused on mechanisms of protective immunity against bacterial infection. As a biomedical researcher, she plans to pursue a postdoctoral fellowship to study host-pathogen interactions.


Shabnam Ziaee

Ziaee obtained her bachelor's of science degree in Microbiology, Immunology and Molecular Genetics from The University of California, Los Angeles. Under the mentorship of Leland W.K. Chung, PhD, director of the Cedars-Sinai Uro-Oncology Research Program, she focused on the role of the RANK/RANKL axis in prostate cancer bone metastasis and discovered the role of integrin α2in this setting. She also studied the functional regulation of the androgen receptor, which may play a role in drug resistance of prostatic cancer. Ziaee plans to pursue studies on the tumor microenvironment as a postdoctoral scientist.