Marzieh Akhlaghpour graduated with honors from the University of California, Irvine with a degree in biological sciences. Prior to joining the graduate program for Translational Medicine and Biomedical Science at Cedars-Sinai, she studied the molecular mechanisms of how coronaviruses, such as severe acute respiratory syndrome, rearrange host cell membranes to aid the viral life cycle. Akhlaghpour volunteered in a research laboratory in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Cedars-Sinai where she worked to identify the role of different members of the TGF-β family in trophoblast function and placentation as they relate to adverse pregnancy outcomes. Her thesis project aims to identify genetic association in patients with perianal Crohn's disease, a severe form of Crohn's disease with a poor quality of life that often requires surgeries.
Anna Blackwood is a proud graduate of UCLA with a bachelor's degree in ecology and evolutionary biology. She has a personal interest in chronic gastrointestinal diseases because of her extensive family history of gastrointestinal ailments. Throughout college, she was fascinated by the effect of bacterial colonies in the gut on the human body, specifically on mental health. Blackwood is excited to join the Inflammatory Bowel and Immunobiology Research Institute team, specifically the Michelsen Laboratory and looks forward to contributing in the search for effective treatments against inflammatory bowel diseases.
Sofi Castanon graduated from UCLA with a bachelor's degree in biology. Prior to joining the Michelsen Laboratory, she was a student researcher in the Department of Physiology at UCLA, where she gained experience performing several molecular biology techniques that aimed to better understand the structure and function of the LacY transporter protein. Castanon has a strong interest in learning more about how the immune system plays a role in the development of inflammatory bowel diseases. She is excited to be part of the Michelsen Lab.
Hussein Hamade, PhD, earned his doctorate from the Institute of Genetics and Molecular and Cellular Biology, University of Strasbourg, France, in 2014. Prior to his current position, he investigated the cellular and molecular mechanisms involved in a spontaneous, inflammation-driven tumor mouse model of the intestine. He is currently focusing on mechanisms by which TL1A, a member of the tumor-necrosis factor superfamily, induces inflammatory immune responses in inflammatory bowel diseases using cellular and molecular immunological approaches.
Noam Jacob, MD, earned his bachelor's degree in philosophy and molecular biology from University of California, Berkeley. He then investigated genetic deletion or overexpression of cytokines central to T cell, B cell and innate immune cell function in autoimmunity at University of Southern California (USC), prior to obtaining his medical degree from the Keck School of Medicine at USC. He completed specialty training in internal medicine at Mount Sinai Medical Center, New York. He is now pursuing subspecialty training in gastroenterology with a research focus on intestinal fibrosis in inflammatory bowel disease.
Lisa Thomas earned a bachelor of science in biology from the University of Illinois–Chicago. She has more than 25 years of experience in academic research laboratories. Her research experiences have involved cellular and molecular immunological approaches for studying the pathophysiology associated with inflammatory bowel disease and multiple sclerosis, and in diabetes research. Thomas is a former professional basketball player and a nationally ranked amateur tennis player.