Statement from Student Rep: Julie Castaneda

The Molecular Toxicology IDP at UCLA provides an incredible environment in which students can pursue their interests across many different fields of toxicology and acquire the skills needed to become a professional scientist. The mission of the Molecular Toxicology IDP is to train doctoral students to perform cutting edge research on the mechanisms whereby exogenous chemical and physical agents cause disease. The courses cover vast areas of research including fundamentals of toxicology, toxicodynamics, molecular mechanisms of human diseases, cellular and molecular pharmacology, and ethics and accountability in biomedical research. UCLA offers access to a variety of top tier research scientists, sophisticated core facilities, and exposure to great educational opportunities including graduate seminars, guest speakers, and ongoing lecture series in toxicology, carcinogenesis, cardiology, neuroscience, immunology, and more. Students working within this environment have a definite advantage with respect to their graduate training. The program is committed to having graduate students present their work at both local and national scientific meetings such as Society of Toxicology (SOT), American College of Toxicology (ACT), various non-profit organizations, and in the Molecular Toxicology internal seminar series. There is no doubt that the resources available through this graduate program will foster every student's research and successful maturation into premiere scientists.

Current Molecular Toxicology Graduate Students

Aaron Lulla

Aaron Lulla is a native of East Windsor, New Jersey. Aaron graduated from Rutgers the State University of New Jersey (Cook College) with a Bachelor of Science degree in Biochemistry. He joined the UCLA Molecular Toxicology Program in 2010, and works in Dr. Jeff Bronstein's lab. Aaron is studying how the environment effects the pathogenesis of Parkinson's disease, specifically the effect of fungicide ziram utilizing zebrafish as a model.

Bill Mahon

William Mahon received his B.S. from the University of Oklahoma at Norman in Microbiology with a minor in Chemistry. He moved to California to attend graduate school after completing his Honors Thesis. He entered UCLA through the ACCESS program in 2009, and joined the Molecular Toxicology Ph.D. program in 2010 in Dr. Robert Schiestl's lab. His research involves analyzing new forms of TiO2 nanoparticle technology for utility and safety, as well as nanotechnology-based delivery options for anti-radiation drugs.

Chitrada Kaweeteerawat

Chitrada Kaweeteerawat graduated from Chiang Mai University in Thailand with a major in Biology. She then received the full scholarship from the Japanese Government for graduate study where she earned her Master degree in Molecular Genetics from Osaka University. In 2010, she was awarded with a fellowship from the Thai Government for Ph.D. study in the field of Molecular Toxicology at UCLA. Chitrada works in Dr. Hilary Godwin's lab and her research is focused on the toxicity of nanomaterials. She was the recipient of the second prize for her poster presentation at SCSOT (2012), and a Travel grant by ACT (2012 and 2013) to present her research work.

Ciara Martin

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Ciara Martin is a 2006 graduate of the University of California, Davis, where she received her B.S. in Environmental Toxicology. After graduating, Ciara worked for two years at UC Davis as an Air Quality technician, helping to monitor visibility in national parks and protected areas. Ciara joined the Molecular Toxicology program in the 2009 and after her first year of rotations joined the lab of Dr. David Krantz. She is currently investigating neurotoxic mechanisms of actions for pesticides linked to higher incidence Parkinson's disease. She has been a recipient of the NIEHS training grant in Molecular Toxicology, the Chancellor's Prize, and the Eugene-Cota Robles Fellowship at UCLA. Ciara was the recipient of the second prize for her poster presentation at SCSOT (2013).

Daniel Malkin

In 2009, Daniel graduated from McGill University with a major in Physiology and a minor in neuroscience. For the following two years, Daniel worked in Fredrick Alt's laboratory at Harvard Medical School as a research technician investigating how the configuration of chromosomes within the nucleus impacts gene rearrangement. Daniel initially rotated as an UCLA ACCESS graduate student, and then joined the Molecular Toxicology PhD program in 2012, and works in Dr. Robert Schiestl's lab. He is currently examining correlates of lung inflammation and systemic DNA toxicity.

Jessica Camacho

Jessica Camacho received her B.S. in Molecular Toxicology from the University of California, Berkeley in 2010. She worked as a research assistant at the Children's Hospital Oakland Research Institute studying the anthrax toxin, and as an ORISE fellow at the FDA's Office of Food Additive Safety in Maryland conducting in silico toxicology research. She was a participant in the 2012 NSF AGEP Competitive Edge graduate summer research program, and is a recipient of the Eugene-Cota Robles Fellowship at UCLA. She joined the Molecular Toxicology PhD program in 2012, and is now a part of Dr. Patrick Allard's research lab. Jessica's work focuses on the use of the genetic model organism Caenorhabditis elegans as a relevant system for studying environmental epigenetic toxicity effects.

Julie Castaneda

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Julie Castaneda received her B.S. from Eastern Kentucky University in Forensic Science with a concentration in Forensic Biology and a minor in Chemistry. She joined the Molecular Toxicology PhD program at UCLA in 2010, and after her first year of rotations, she joined the laboratory of Dr. Michael Roth. She is the recipient of the Eugene-Cota Robles Fellowship and Graduate Student Research Mentorship Fellowship at UCLA. Julie currently investigates the toxic effects of marijuana on immune function; specifically how exposure to ligands, such as THC, affects cannabinoid receptor biology, her research work was published. She was the recipient of Young Investigator Travel Award by the Society on NeuroImmune Pharmacology (2012), and a Travel grant by ACT (2012 and 2013) to present her research work. Julie received the Furst Award for Best Student Poster of the year at ACT 2013.

Kristin Yamada

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Kristin Yamada earned her B.S. in Chemistry from UC Berkeley in 2006 and her MPH in Environmental Health Sciences from UCLA in 2008. She subsequently joined the Molecular Toxicology PhD program, and Dr. Curtis Eckhert's lab in 2008 where she works on the mechanism of boron's anti-proliferative effects in prostate cancer cells. She also has the UC Toxic Substances Research and Training Program pre-doctoral fellowship in nanotoxicology. Kristin is the author and webmaster of the UC TSRTP Nanomaterials Risk Assessment website. In 2012, she was the recipient of the Charles F. Scott Fellowship and the Raymond Goodman Scholarship. She received the UCLA dissertation year fellowship for 2013-14.

Lisa Barnhill

In 2007, Lisa completed undergraduate work at Point Loma Nazarene University in San Diego, CA with degrees in biology and international studies, and conducted research under the guidance of Dr. Michael McConnell studying viruses that infect Salmonella. From 2007-2011, she worked as an SRA in the lab of Dr. Mitchell Diccianni at the University of California, San Diego conducting research in the field of pediatric hematology/oncology and specifically studying the role of non-coding RNA in cancer. During this time, Lisa completed her masters in peace and justice at the Joan B. Kroc School of Peace Studies at the University of San Diego. She joined the Molecular Toxicology PhD program in 2011, and is working in the lab of Dr. Jeff Bronstein. Lisa is currently studying alpha synuclein regulation and the environment.

May Bhetraratana

May Bhetraratana graduated form UC Berkeley in 2009 with a BA in molecular and cell biology, a BS in microbial biology, and a minor in toxicology. She also earned an MHS degree in reproductive and cancer biology from the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health in 2010. She joined the Molecular Toxicology PhD program in 2011, and works in Dr. Jesus Araujo's lab, where her research focus is on trying to elucidate the relationship between air pollution and atherosclerosis. May is a public health coordinator, and a regular volunteer with the UCLA Mobile Clinic Project.

Michael Davoren

Michael Davoren graduated from UCSB with a degree in Microbiology in 2010. He initially rotated as an UCLA ACCESS graduate student, and then joined the Molecular Toxicology PhD program in 2011, and works in Dr. Robert Schiestl's lab. His work focuses on treating DNA damage caused by various sources including radiation, chemicals, and the inherited disease Ataxia Telangiectasia. Michael is the recipient of the NIEHS training grant in Molecular Toxicology, at UCLA.

Priti Prasad

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Priti Prasad earned her B.S. in Zoology and M.S. in Toxicology from New Delhi, India. She has worked as a Scientist at various US pharmaceutical companies (Pfizer Inc, Wrigley, GlaxoSmithKline). She joined the Molecular Toxicology PhD program in 2010, and works in Dr. Ram Raj Singh's lab. Her projects involve utilizing in vitro and in vivo approaches to test the role of gene-environment interactions in modulating autoimmune responses, specifically investigating immune responses elicited by a hydrocarbon oil in lupus. Priti is a coauthor on a book chapter in "Dubois' Lupus Erythematosus and Related Syndromes" (2013). She is the recipient of the NIEHS training grant in Molecular Toxicology (2011), Rheumatology Research Foundation Health Professional Research Preceptorship Award (2012-14) and a Travel grant by ACT (2012) to present her research work. In 2013, Priti received a travel award, and was ranked in top 10 abstracts selected for oral and poster presentations by Federation of Clinical Immunological Societies (FOCIS).

Tina Phan

Tina Phan graduated from UCLA with a B.S. in Neuroscience and M.P.H. in epidemiology. As an undergraduate student, she investigated learning and memory in Dr. David Glanzman's laboratory. While pursuing her M.P.H., she joined a virology laboratory and contributed to developing a triple mutant assay for hepatitis B. As part of her Master's, she conducted an epidemiological study on bronchiectasis in patients with connective tissue disease at the NIH. Tina joined the Molecular Toxicology PhD program in 2013, and is currently rotating in different laboratories.

Yichang Chen

Yichang Chen graduated from Peking University Health Science Center in China where he received his B.M. (Bachelor in Medicine) degree and M.S. degree in Molecular Toxicology by studying the developmental toxicity of Bisphenol A and its impact on estrogen receptor expression in 2010. He joined the Molecular Toxicology PhD Program at UCLA in 2012, and works with Dr. Patrick Allard. Yichang's research focus is on comparing the effects of Bisphenol A and it's substitute BPS on reproduction in Caenorhabditis elegans.

School of Public Health Student Awards 2012-13:

Students in the MolTox Program present at the following conferences:

American College of Toxicology (ACT)
Society of Toxicology (SOT)
Southern California SOT (SCSOT)
American Association for Cancer Research (AACR)
Experimental Biology
American Association of Pharmaceutical
Scientists (AAPS)

Besides having opportunities to collaborate with many UCLA institutes and faculty, MolTox students have collaborated with the following institutions:

Brookhaven National Laboratory Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI)
California EPA Department of Toxic Substances Control
Fibrogen Inc.
Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory
Southern California Particle Center
UCLA Veteran's Hospital

Erin Hsu

Erin Hsu received her undergraduate degree from Vanderbilt University and subsequently joined the Molecular Toxicology Program at UCLA under the tutelage of Oliver Hankinson. Here, her work involved the characterization of novel TCDD-inducible genes, focusing on mechanisms of both carcinogenesis and chemoprevention. Her research resulted in the identification of a novel mechanism of phytochemical-based chemoprevention that was highlighted in the national and international media. Erin completed her postdoctoral work in the laboratory of Chris Bradfield at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and is currently a Research Assistant Professor at Northwestern University.

Grace Lee

"Mol Tox program provided me the foundation for my job skills and knowledge as a toxicologist. It's a great program!"

Ilona Bebenek

Ilona Bebenek received both her Bachelor's degree and her Master's from UCLA. Her B.S. was in Organismic Biology, Ecology and Evolution, and her Master's thesis focused on the study of the genetics and evolution of jellyfish sensory organs. She joined the Molecular Toxicology PhD Program and the laboratory of Dr.Oliver Hankinson in 2004. She has been involved in research on the mechanisms of carcinogenesis mediated by the aryl hydrocarbon receptor nuclear translocator (ARNT). She utilizes a transgenic knockout mouse for these studies and several carcinogenesis models. She is also in the process of helping to characterize an orphan cyotchrome p450, CYP2S1. Here, a transgenic knockout mouse, as well as cell culture, are used to study the role of CYP2S1 in the pathology of several diseases.

Kim Henderson

"I began the Molecular Toxicology program in 2003 and after my three rotations I joined Dr. Curt Eckhert's laboratory to study the mechanisms of action of boric acid on prostate cancer cells. Over the next five years, through hard work and excellent mentoring by my advisor, I learned how to do many different molecular biology techniques and assays, how to plan experiments, interpret data, and most importantly how to think independently and critically about science. I had many opportunities to present my work at national conferences and to make career contacts. I also made life long friends. Completing my PhD was an arduous process, but I am very happy that I did it and that it was through Molecular Toxicology. I am currently conducting post doctoral research in a cardiology lab at UCLA."

Lynn Yamamoto

Lynn Yamamoto works in the laboratory of Dr. Robert Schiestl and studies gene-environment interactions such as the responses in DNA repair-deficient mice to secondhand smoke or radiation. She also studies the effects of intestinal microflora on carcinogenesis.

Peter Bui

Peter Bui graduated summa cum laude from UCLA with a bachelor's degree in Microbiology and Molecular Genetics. Before he went to graduate school he worked for a biotech company for several years where he was a co-inventor for 3 patents. He then received his Ph.D. in Molecular Toxicology from UCLA. Currently, he is a postdoctoral fellow in both Molecular Toxicology and Clinical Molecular Genetics. His research interests include the possible role of a novel cytochrome P450 2S1 in colorectal cancer and asthma, and molecular diagnosis of genetic disorders and cancers.

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Sudheer Beedanagari

Sudheer Beedanagari graduated with a M.S from the University of Georgia, and went on to receive his Ph.D. in Molecular Toxicology from UCLA. Currently he is working as a postdoctoral researcher at UCLA in Dr. Oliver Hankinson's laboratory. He worked as a student representative for the Southern California regional chapter for SOT (SCCSOT) and currently works as a postdoctoral representative for American Scientists of Indian Origin (ASIO), a special interest group of SOT. His research interests include examining the role of epigenetic mechanisms in dioxin-induced transcriptional regulation of the human and mouse Cytochrome P450s.

Quote: "My excellent training in the UCLA Molecular Toxicology program has provided me with a solid foundation to establish my career as a Toxicologist. I am so grateful to all my colleagues (Moltoxer's) and especially Dr. Oliver Hankinson for his great mentoring."

Wade Barranco

Following the completion of his Ph.D. graduate studies in the UCLA Molecular Toxicology program, Wade Barranco participated in a two year post-doc focusing on the contribution of proteases and cigarette smoke contaminants to the development of asthma and COPD, respectively, in mice. He has since been employed at a small pharmaceutical company as a toxicologist fulfilling the roles of designing and monitoring toxicology studies contributing to the regulatory advancement of small molecule drugs.

Quote: "I continue to utilize my training at UCLA as a valuable resource, with respect to my duties as an industry toxicologist."

Zhanna Sobol

"The MolTox program at UCLA provides an excellent foundation for a career in toxicology. I really appreciated the many opportunities to attend professional meeting and smaller symposiums and training courses. The faculty is outstanding and besides being highly regarded experts in their fields, are very approachable and supportive."