Graduate Program Welcomes Eight New Students

This year's new class in the Cedars-Sinai Graduate Program in Biomedical Science and Translational Medicine represents an array of backgrounds and research interests. Hailing from cities as far away as Tehran, Iran, and as close as Los Angeles, the eight students are studying immunology, regenerative medicine, cancer, heart disease and other fields. The goal of the doctorate program is to produce well-rounded scientists with a strong foundation of knowledge in research and the skills needed to compete for research funding. Below are brief profiles of each student.


Marcy Akhlaghpour

Born: Tehran, Iran

Education: Bachelor of science in Molecular Biology and Biochemistry, University of California, Irvine.

Experience: Student researcher in Department of Molecular Biology and Biochemistry at University of California, Irvine, for a project to determine how certain proteins of the SARS-Coronaviruses rearrange host cell membranes to aid in the viral life cycle. Independent student researcher for Margareta Pisarska, MD, Cedars-Sinai associate professor of obstetrics and gynecology, studying members of the TGF-β family that are differentially expressed, which may affect trophoblast function and placentation, thus contributing to adverse pregnancy outcomes.

Research interests: Immunology as it relates to many emerging diseases.

Victoria Dardov

Born: Los Angeles

Education: Bachelor of science in Physiology and Neuroscience, University of California, San Diego.

Experience: Volunteer student researcher at UCSD Moores Cancer Center, working on prostate cancer and hematopoietic stem cell mobilization. Intern and then research associate at Vertex Pharmaceuticals, developing medicinal chemistry assays for the Huntington's team and overseeing automated production of human bronchial epithelial cultures for the cystic fibrosis program. Scientific associate at the Genomics Institute of the Novartis Research Foundation (GNF), operating an ultra-high-throughput automated assay platform.

Research interests: Regenerative medicine and its application for developing therapies and serving as a tool for building disease-relevant models for drug discovery.

Anisha Madhav

Born: Los Angeles

Education: Bachelor of science in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, University of California, Davis. Master's degree in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, University of Southern California.

Experience: Research assistant, studying prostate cancer, in the laboratory of Paramita Ghosh, PhD, at the VA Northern California Health Care System. Laboratory manager for the hepatitis C virology laboratory of Glenn Randall, PhD, at University of Chicago Department of Microbiology.

Research Interests: Role of tumor microenvironment in disease progression.

Ryan Middleton

Born: Modesto, California

Education: Bachelor of science in Biological Sciences, Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo, California. Master's in Genetics and Cell Biology, Washington State University, Pullman, Washington.

Experience: Research associate in laboratory of Eduardo Marbán, MD, PhD, director of the Cedars-Sinai Heart Institute, assisting scientists in basic molecular biology techniques, training researchers in imaging and working on the advanced pre-clinical team.

Research Interests: Cell signaling and extracellular vesicles, the stress response and cell and tissue imaging and microscopy.

Kellee Murayama

Born: Wahiawa, Hawaii

Education: Bachelor of science in Biochemistry, Occidental College, Los Angeles.

Experience: Studied the peptide biochemistry of venomous marine cone snails that inhabit Hawaii and use their venom to hunt fast-moving prey. Heart and lung procurement technician and independent student in clinical and basic research, Cedars-Sinai.

Research Interests: The cellular and molecular mechanisms of cardiac immunology and the roles they play in producing better outcomes for people suffering from heart disease.

Aaron Robinson

Born: Palo Alto, California

Education: University of California, Davis. Bachelor of science in Biotechnology.

Experience: Lab manager and research specialist in Department of Neurosurgery at University of California, San Francisco. Worked at Tricida Inc., a biotech start-up company, focusing on a novel polymer therapy for blood acidosis due to renal disease.

Research Interests: Cancer biomarkers and proteomic profiling of tumors.

Maria Rodriguez

Born: Los Angeles

Education: Bachelor of science in Molecular Biology, University of California, San Diego.

Experience: Dana Farber Cancer Institute in Boston, Massachusetts, working to verify pancreatic cancer biomarkers and develop immunological assays. Technician for Martha Lewis Blum, MD, PhD, and Debika Bhattacharya, MD, at University of California, Los Angeles, studying hepatitis B virus (HBV) drug resistance in HBV-HIV co-infection.

Research interests: Immunology and cancer.

Alyson Yeckes

Born: Atlanta

Education: Bachelor of science in Biology, Colorado College, Colorado Springs.

Experience: Clinical research coordinator and laboratory manager in the laboratory of Edwin de Zoeten, MD, PhD, at the Pediatric Inflammatory Bowel Disease Center at the University of Colorado, Denver. Focused on characterization and manipulation of the endogenous regulatory pathways controlling the suppressive response of the regulatory T-cell.

Research interests: Genetic regulation and immunology.