Training Fellows

Current 2017-2018

Cynthia KustersCynthia Kusters earned a medical degree with a focus on medical genetics from a Dutch University before she joined the graduate program in epidemiology at UCLA. Cynthia’s research focuses on genetic susceptibility for non- motor symptoms (NMS) and debilitating side-effect of treatment of Parkinson’s disease (PD), as well as gene-environment interactions in hormone-related genes and reproductive characteristics in women in PD. Furthermore, she is currently starting to analyze DNA methylation patterns to identify potential biological pathways for NMS and hormonal influences in PD. She has recently published a first-authored article that focused on genetic susceptibility to dyskinesia in PD, i.e. involuntary movements caused by the long-term exposure to Parkinson's disease medication. Cynthia is the recipient of a (co-)fellowship in genomics the Genomics Analysis and Interpretation Training Program - GATP) which will allow her to finish her studies and we expect her to graduate in Fall of 2018. She is being mentored jointly by Dr. Ritz and Dr. Sinsheimer (Biostatistics/Genetics). 

Jianxiao Yang is currently a PhD student in the Department of Biomathematics. She grew up in Beijing and received her Bachelor's degree in Basic Medical Sciences from Peking University. Her research interests include methodology in large-scale observational studies and furthering its applications towards informing clinical decisions. In particular, she is interested in extending the existing computation methods and optimization approaches to analyze large-scale health data on chronic diseases. She is looking forward to combining qualitative research methods with her medical background to improve medical practice. Jianxiao is mentored by Dr. Suchard of the Biomathematics and Biostatistics and Human Genetics department.   

Kosuke Inoue is currently a PhD student in the Department of Epidemiology mentored by Dr. Ritz. He received his MD from the University of Tokyo, Japan in 2013. Before he came to UCLA, he worked as an endocrinologist and conducted research on thyroid and hypertension (mainly related to steroid genesis). During his first year as an MS student at UCLA, he published a paper on thyroid suggesting the potential burden on human health due to excessive iodine intake. His research interests include investigating long-term outcomes of chronic diseases and how genetic information relate to these pathways using advanced methods in Epidemiology, including causal mediation analysis and simulation analysis. 

Qi Yan is currently a PhD student in Epidemiology, with a research interest in integrating measures of environmental exposure, health outcome assessments and high-resolution metabolomics using population-based study design. His graduate academic trainings have a strong focus on chronic disease, epidemiological methodologies, and bioinformatics, and his dissertation studies will investigate the effect of environmental exposures, particularly on air-pollution and pesticides, and the risk of childhood autism with metabolic phenotype profiling. Qi is co-mentored by Dr. Ritz and Dr. Horvath (UCLA Dept. of Human Genetics and Biostatistics).  




Affiliate Fellows

Roch A. NianogoRoch A. Nianogo has originally been mentored by Dr. Arah (Epidemiology) and co-mentored by Dr.
Ritz wrote a dissertation that used advanced statistical modeling including agent-based models, big data and simulation approaches in population-sciences. He graduated in June 2016 and was offered a postdoctoral position at UCLA Dept. of Community Health Sciences with Dr May Wang to model public health interventions targeting childhood obesity. Throughout the past years he has been an active affiliate of our program andparticipated in seminars and workshops with our students.

Current Position: Postdoctoral Fellow at UCLA

Kimberly PaulKimberly Paul has been co-mentored by Dr. Sinsheimer (Biostatistics/Medicine) and co-mentored by Dr. Ritz. She graduated in spring of 2016 with a PhD in Epidemiology and began to work as a postdoc in the department of Epidemiology. Dr. Paul has been extremely productive as a researcher and produced a large number of first and co-authored papers (17, with several currently in preparation) during her studies and in the past 2 years as a postdoc. She also was recently awarded a pilot grant by the American Parkinson’s Disease Association and received an independent F32 career award from NIEHS. In the current funding environment, this is an amazing accomplishment for a postdoc. Her work is broadening to include other neurodegenerative outcomes (Alzheimer disease) and she has been closely collaborating with a neurotoxicology lab (Dr. Greenamyre in Pittsburgh), metabolomics lab (Dr. Dean Jones, Emory), and also an immunology lab (Dr. Tansey at Emory) integrating her epidemiological data analytical work skillfully into the work produced by these labs based scientists. The papers that combined both scientific approaches are a treatment to the success of our BWF fellowship’s goal to foster cross-disciplinary work between the population and lab lab sciences. She is now working on a K-award application to NIH.

Current Position: Postdoctoral Fellow at UCLA 

Austin QuachAustin 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).

Yu-Hsuan ChuangYu-Hsuan Chuang completed her dissertation in June 2017 and is now a postdoctoral scholar at UCLA in Epidemiology and Human Genetics. Before she came to UCLA, she spent two years in Emory University for an MPH degree and worked on the association between DNA methylation and cardiovascular disease. Her research now focuses on investigating the interaction between genetic variants and lifestyle factors such as caffeine intake and cigarette smoking. She is also involved in Epigenome-Wide Association Study (EWAS) on Parkinson disease. She aims to identify PD- associated epigenetic markers using weighted gene co-expression network analysis and other novel bioinformatics tools. Her advisor was Dr. Ritz and her BWF mentor was Dr. Horvath (UCLA Dept. of Human Genetics and Biostatistics).


Former Fellows

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.

Kei-hang (Katie) ChanKei-hang (Katie) Chan completed her PhD 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.

Current Position: Adjunct Assitant Professor at Department of Epidemiology, Brown University

Brian ChenBrian Chen was a training fellow whose research focused 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.

Current Position: Vice President of Research and Analsysis, GWG Life

Sara ChackoSara Chacko was 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.

Current Position: Mindfullness Teach and Consultant

Matthew LevinsonMatthew Levinson completed his PhD 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 Position: Data Science Manager for Consumer Data at Nike in Oregon

Yan SongYan Song completed his PhD 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 Position: Manager at Analysis Group, Inc.

Maomeng TongMaomeng Tong was 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 Position: Engagement Manager at McKinsey & Company, Beijing

Yi (Jacky) YiYi (Jacky) Yi was 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 Position: Data Scientist, Amazon

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 Position: MD/PhD Student at UCLA 

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 were Dr. Beate Ritz (Epidemiology) and Dr. Onyebuchi Arah (Epidemiology).

Current Position: Predoctoral Fellow, expected to graduate Summer 2018

Dr. Katie BrennanDr. 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

Dr. Michele J. 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

Dr. 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 AlfonsoVivian 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).

email: vivianhelena@ucla.edu