Training Fellows


Inducted 2013

Trevor ShaddoxTrevor Shaddox was born in Laguna Beach, California. In 2005, Trevor was admitted to Stanford University, where he pursued a major in Mathematical and Computational Science. Trevor graduated in 2009 with distinction, but he continued at Stanford for an additional year to complete a Master of Science degree in Biomedical Informatics. Trevor’s research focused on using computational tools to study disease processes, specifically examining diseases associated with accelerated aging. Trevor was admitted to the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA in 2010. As an MD/PhD student, he has finished the first two years of medical school and is now beginning his PhD training in the field of Biomathematics. His research interests include the use of Bayesian methods in the context of large clinical datasets and the integration of biological knowledge into clinical models. Dr. Marc Suchard (Human Genetics and Biomathematics) is his research advisor and mentor. After completing his PhD, Trevor will return to medical school to finish his MD, and he looks forward to a career where he can continue to synthesize mathematics and medicine.

Current UCLA student; email: TShaddox@mednet.ucla.edu

Inducted 2015

Yu-Hsuan ChuangYu-Hsuan Chuang is currently a PhD candidate in Epidemiology. Before I came to UCLA, I spent two years in Emory University for an MPH degree and worked on the association between DNA methylation and cardiovascular disease. My research now focuses on investigating the interaction between genetic variants and lifestyle factors such as caffeine intake and cigarette smoking. I am also involved in Epigenome-Wide Association Study (EWAS) on Parkinson disease. We aim to identify PD- associated epigenetic markers using weighted gene co-expression network analysis and other novel bioinformatics tools. My advisor is Dr.Ritz  and the BWF mentor is Dr.Horvath.

Current UCLA student; email: ychuan3@g.ucla.edu


Levon DemirdjianLevon Demirdjian received his Bachelor’s degree in Economics from California State University Northridge where he conducted research on the effects of economic sanctions on post-Apartheid South Africa. After graduating with highest honors, Levon pursued a Master’s degree in Applied Mathematics where his research focused on developing probabilistic classifiers in the presence of missing data. In 2013, Levon was admitted to UCLA where he is currently pursuing a PhD in statistics. He has worked on the development of statistical methods capable of detecting differences in differential alternative splicing events between matched pairs of cells. His current research interests also include the development and application of deep learning algorithms in computer vision and science. His advisor is Dr. Ying Nian Wu (Statistics), and his co-mentors are Dr. Beate Ritz (Epidemiology) and Dr. Onyebuchi Arah (Epidemiology).

Current UCLA student; email: levondem@ucla.edu


Roch NianogoRoch A. Nianogo is a PhD candidate in the Department of Epidemiology at the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health. Roch received his Medical Doctorate in 2010 at the University of Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso. Interested in preventive medicine and translational research, Roch undertook further training in public health and epidemiology. He later received his MPH in Public Health in 2013 at UCLA. As an aspiring physician-public health scientist, Roch’s research interests involve the use of cutting-edge epidemiologic methods to study preventable chronic diseases (e.g. obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular diseases) in order to contribute to relevant evidence-base for clinical practice and public health policy in the US and Africa. His current research uses causal inference methods as well as agent-based modeling to study obesity and its long-term effects on diabetes among children and adults.  Roch is advised by Dr. Onyebuchi A. Arah (Department of Epidemiology). Dr. Beate Ritz (Department of Epidemiology) serves as his co-mentor alongside Dr. Arah.  

Current UCLA student; email: niaroch@ucla.edu

Kimberly PaulKimberly Paul is currently a PhD candidate in Epidemiology, focusing on environmental exposures and genetic susceptibility and how they relate to chronic disease etiology.  Her current research focuses on investigating how ambient pesticide exposures influence both Parkinson’s disease risk and progression, and if this risk is modified by different genetic backgrounds.  Some of her research projects include analyzing how exposure to organophosphate pesticides influence cognitive decline in Parkinson’s disease patients, and examining the interplay between certain pesticides classified as oxidative stress inducing and variation in antioxidant related genes in Parkinson’s disease susceptibility.  Kimberly is advised by Dr. Beate Ritz and Dr. Janet Sinsheimer.

Current UCLA student; email: kimberlyc.paul@gmail.com

Austin Quach grew up in Orange County CA and moved to Los Angeles to obtain a BSc in Biochemistry from UCLA. He continued with post-baccalaureate research in biological aging in the Molecular and Medical Pharmacology department. He then joined the Department of Human Genetics and Genomics through the UCLA ACCESS PhD program where he expanded his training to encompass computational systems biology. In his current research, he focuses on investigating the biochemical and pharmacological determinants of epigenetic aging. His other research interests include modeling physiological signaling at the systems level and its dysregulation in aging and disease. Austin is primarily mentored by Dr. Steve Horvath (Human Genetics and Biostatistics), and is comentored by Dr. Beate Ritz (Epidemiology and Medicine) and Dr. Kym Faull (Psychiatry and Biobehavioral Sciences).

Current UCLA student; email: unitsaq@ucla.edu

Inducted 2016

Cynthia KustersCynthia Kusters is currently a Ph.D. student in the Department of Epidemiology at the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health. Cynthia received her MD in the Netherlands and after working in the clinical field for several years, decided to focus on etiology and progression of complex diseases. Specifically, she is interested in gene-environment interaction that influence progression and quality-of-life among Parkinson’s Disease patients. She currently focuses on genetic susceptibility of side effects of Parkinson’s disease treatment, and gene-environment interaction in hormone-related genes and reproductive characteristics in women’s PD etiology. Cynthia is advised by Dr. Beate Ritz and Dr. Janet Sinsheimer.

Le ShuLe Shu is a PhD candidate in the Department of Integrative Biology and Physiology. He received his bachelor degree in Preventive Medicine from Fudan University and joined the Yang lab in 2013. His research focuses on dissecting the mechanisms of complex cardiometabolic disorders through systems biology approaches. One of his primary projects is the development of multi-dimensional data integration tools that reveal key pathological perturbations by leveraging omic datasets and molecular networks. He is also adopting integrative genomics frameworks to identify novel regulatory pathways and genes that underlie the connection between complex diseases and their genetic and environmental risk factors. Le is advised by Dr. Xia Yang (Integrative Biology and Physiology). Dr. Thomas Drake (Medicine and Pathology) is Le's BWF co-mentor.

Affiliate Fellows

Dr. Katie Brennan received her Bachelor of Science in Mathematics and Statistics from University of Nebraska-Lincoln, and her Medical Degree from the University of Nebraska Medical Center. She then completed her residency training in Obstetrics and Gynecology at UCLA and is a Board Certified OBGYN. She will be completing her fellowship in Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility at UCLA in June 2011, and will be joining the faculty in the Division of Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at UCLA as an Assistant Clinical Professor in July. Dr. Brennan's research interests include Polycystic Ovary Syndrome, Metabolic Syndrome, Menopause, Hormones, and Fertility.

Assistant Clinical Professor, UCLA; email: kabrennan@mednet.ucla.edu

Michele ChoDr. Michele J. Cho completed her Bachelor of Science after studying Biological Sciences at Stanford University, and then received her Medical Degree from the Keck School of Medicine at the University of Southern California. She completed residency training at New York University in Obstetrics and Gynecology and is in the process of completing board certification. She is currently pursuing fellowship training in Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility at UCLA and completed her training in June of 2013. Dr. Cho’s research interests include endocrinology and hormones, as well as the pathways involved in the metabolic dysfunction of both diabetes and polycystic ovarian syndrome. Dr. Simin Liu (Obstetrics/Gynecology) was her research advisor.

Physician, Seattle Fertility Physicians 12333 NE 130th Lane, Suite 220; Kirkland, Washington 98034

Atsushi GotoDr. Atsushi Goto is a PhD candidate in Epidemiology. He received his medical degree from Yokohama City University in Japan and completed his residency training in endocrinology and diabetes in National Center for Global Health and Medicine in Japan. For the past 4 years, he has been comprehensively investigating the inter-relationship between dietary factors, sex hormones, and type 2 diabetes risk under the direction of Dr. Simin Liu (Epidemiology). In his recent paper, he reported that sex hormone binding globulin, a glycoprotein that binds to sex hormones, may be a key factor linking coffee consumption and type 2 diabetes risk. He is now comprehensively investigating relations between lifestyle factors and sex hormone biding globulin using over 13,000 samples from Women’s Health Initiative (WHI). He is also examining relations between sex-hormone pathway genes and diabetes risk using genetic data from WHI SNP Health Association Resource (SHARe). In addition to his work in United States, he has been actively working on several other research projects in Japan, including molecular and nutritional epidemiologic studies of diabetes in a prospective cohort study and a population based case-control study, and meta-analyses.

Senior Researcher at the Department of Diabetes Research, Diabetes Research Center, National Center for Global Health and Medicine, 1-21-1 Toyama, Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo 162-8655, Japan

Vivian Alfonso is a PhD student in Epidemiology. Prior to receiving her MPH in Epidemiology from UCLA in 2011, she spent time at Yale University studying Physiology and received her BS in Neurobiology from UC Irvine in 2008. Her current research focuses on characterizing the food environment of EastLos Angeles, focusing on presence of fruits and vegetables. Additionally, she is investigating the change in food consumption of middle school children taking part in free or reduced priced lunch after the changes in Los Angeles Unified School District menu. Her past research included validating Women, Infants and Children (WIC) anthropometric measures and investigating associations of early childhood obesity in WIC participants. Vivian is advised by Dr. Beate Ritz (Epidemiology and Medicine).

Current UCLA Student; email: vivianhelena@ucla.edu

Former Fellows


Kei-hang (Katie) Chan was a PhD candidate in Epidemiology. She has been involved in genomic projects which investigated the association between genetic variants that are along inflammatory pathways and risk of Type 2 Diabetes among postmenopausal women. Her research now focuses on investigating the complex network of vascular disease by integrating genetic variants, blood markers and environmental data collected in populations. She is conducting translational research in identifying genetic and phenotypic determinants of vascular disease. Katie is proficient in managing and analyzing large-scale genomic data in human populations.

Postdoc UCLA Physiological Science; email: katiekhchan@ucla.edu

Brian Chen is a training fellow whose research focuses on the identification and utilization of biological and genetic markers to enhance prediction and improved our understanding of the biologic pathways leading to type 2 diabetes. For the past 2 years, he was a trainee under the NIH-funded Genomic A­nalysis and Interpretation Training Program, during which time he investigated the role of the adipo-cytokine resistin in relation to inflammation and diabetes. Brian used conventional and high-throughput techniques in the quantification of telomere lengths and various serum proteins in over 2,000 samples from the Women’s Health Initiative (WHI). Additionally, Brian was involved in a genome-wide association study on diabetes risk among African-American and Hispanic post-menopausal women in the WHI. Brian Chen is now working as a research fellow at NHLBI/Framingham Heart Study. His current research is about transcriptomics and co-expression networks of diabetes and lipid traits, and identifying metabolomic and proteomic predictors for metabolic traits

Research fellow/NIH; email: brian.chen@nih.hhs.gov

Sara Chacko is a training fellow whose research focused on the nutritional and molecular epidemiology of complex metabolic diseases including type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease. While at UCLA, Sara has been involved with both large population-based observational studies including the Women’s Health Initiative as well as smaller-scale intervention studies examining the effects of nutritional interventions on metabolic outcomes among high-risk overweight populations. She investigated the complex interplay of nutritional and genetic factors and how they may influence early molecular markers of metabolic disease including inflammation and endothelial dysfunction. She worked on a randomized controlled trial testing the effects of dietary Mg supplementation on metabolic, inflammatory, and genomic outcomes in an overweight population using a systems biology approach to apply genomic and proteomic technologies in the context of a nutritional intervention and generate new biological insights into the effects of dietary micronutrients on metabolic outcomes. Sara now is a research fellow at Integrative Medicine, Harvard Medical School. Her current research in mindfulness meditation builds on her prior work to examine how modification of psychosocial factors may influence eating behaviors and aid in the prevention and treatment of obesity and related co-morbidities. She is developing a mindfulness-based intervention designed to target coping skills and improve weight loss and psychosocial outcomes among bariatric patients post-surgery when weight regain is likely (1-3 years post-surgery). The goal of this research is test the application of mindfulness as a complement to traditional behavioral strategies for the treatment and prevention of obesity in a clinical setting.

Research Fellow in Integrative Medicine, Harvard Medical School; email: sachacko@bidmc.harvard.edu

Matthew Levinson was a PhD candidate in statistics. His past projects have included genome wide association studies of psychiatric disorders in isolated populations and the alignment of the vervet genome. His work combined multiple sources of data, including full sequence data, probabilistic motif data, ChIP-chip and ChIP-seq data for DNA binding proteins, and sequence preferences of nucleosomes, to estimate the joint DNA binding landscape for large groups of DNA binding proteins, including nucleosomes, transcription factors, and other regulatory proteins. He employed these binding landscape estimates along with data on genetic variants to detect loci where regulatory failure, rather than harmful functional mutation, contributes to genetic or genetically influenced metabolic disorders such as type I and type II diabetes. His advisor was Qing Zhou (Statistics), and his co-mentor Xinmin Li (Pathology, genomics and nutrition).

Current UCLA student ; email: mlevinson@stat.ucla.edu


Yan Song was a PhD candidate in Epidemiology. Prior to coming to UCLA, Yan received his medical degree and Masters in public health science from Peking University. His research investigated the effects of systemic oxidative stress inducing pollutants on the risk of insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes. He also assessed the potential role of dietary and supplemental antioxidants in preventing metabolic diseases. His past research includes a prospective study of dietary risk factors for prostate cancer at the Harvard Medical School Channing Laboratory. Yan was advised by Dr. Detels (Epidemiology), Dr. Anthony Butch (Pathology) and Dr. Hevener (Endocrinology).

Current UCLA student; email: yansong@ucla.edu

Maomeng TongMaomeng Tong is a PhD candidate in the Department of Molecular and Medical Pharmacology. He grew up in Beijing and received his B.S. from Tsinghua University in 2009, majoring in Biological Science and minoring in Economics. In 2010, he joined the Braun & Gordon labs. His work mainly focuses on the investigation of host-microbial interaction in the pathogenesis of chronic disease such as inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) using high-throughput technologies including meta-genomic and meta-proteomic approaches. One of his major projects is to study how the IBD risk loci identified by genome-wide association study predispose the patients through changing the composition of intestinal microbiota. He is also interested in developing novel bioinformatic tools and algorithms for the data analysis of next generation sequencing. Maomeng is primarily advised by Dr. Jonathan Braun (Pathology and Laboratory Medicine). Dr. Steven Horvath (Human Genetics and Biostatistics) is Maomeng's co-mentor.

Current UCLA student; email: m.tong.1987@gmail.com

Yi YiYi (Jacky) Yi is a PhD student in Statistics. He's involved in applying statistical and machine learning techniques to other scientific fields. His research now focuses on investigating association between genetic variants and metabolic disorders such as Type II Diabetes. He will conduct the research through dimension reduction techniques and association rule learning on real genetic and phenotypic disease data as well as simulative experiments. His advisor is Dr. Yingnian Wu (Statistics), and his co-mentor is Dr. Ritz (Epidemiology and Medicine) and Eric Sobel (Human Genetics).

Current UCLA student;  email:  yi.yi@stat.ucla.edu

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