Roberto Alvarez

Yo yo yo, my name is Roberto Alvarez Jr. I’ve been working for Dr. Sussman since March of 2005. I chose to move to San Diego so that I may expand my knowledge as a scientist. I am currently working on my Master’s Degree and intend to pursue my Ph.D. in the field shortly thereafter. My current project involves the study of a newly created transgenic that expresses fluorescent tags specific to cardiomyocytes, vascular smooth muscle and vascular endothelial cells.

Prior to my move, I was working at Northwestern’s Medical School, in Chicago, assisting with the production of transgenic mice as a team member of the Transgenic and Targeted Mutagenesis Facility where I created many transgenics for scientific endeavors at Northwestern. I am now using the skills I acquired while working there to help pursue my own scientific goals. In my spare time, I take pleasure in goofing off, playing xbox with friends, and finding new and clever excuses of why experiments didn’t work. My best days at work are when the boss is away. I’m secretly planning to overtake the lab and Dr. Sussman’s throne in the very near future, doh…

Kathleen Broughton

Kathleen Broughton, Ph.D., J.D., is classically trained in engineering and law. Kathleen is currently studying the ploidy content of progenitor cells from numerous species and tissue types. She is using various techniques to assess the ploidy state of somatic cells in vivo as it is influenced by cell-autonomous signals and environmental cues. During her PhD, Kathleen manufactured Biological Microelectromechanical System (BioMEMS) devices to control the cellular microenvironment and analyze the structure-function relationship of cardiomyocytes in 4D. She has experience with primary cardiomyocyte culture, cardiomyocyte-derived stem cells, and various stem cells.

Dr. Broughton earned her Ph.D. from the University of Illinois at Chicago (2014) in Bioengineering with her research conducted in the Department of Physiology & Biophysics. She earned her J.D. from Case Western Reserve University with a Certificate in Law and Technology (2009) and her B.S. in Industrial Engineering with a minor in Mathematics from Northern Illinois University (2004). Dr. Broughton is a Department of State Fulbright Scholar Alumni (2005-2006) and has an active bar membership for the State of Illinois.

Carolina Esquer

My name is Carolina Esquer and I am an undergrad working as a research assistant. I am in charge of Dr. Sussman’s mouse colony, primary cell culture, and coordinating the volunteer program we have in the laboratory. I am interested in learning new techniques and helping the graduate students in the lab with their ongoing projects. It’s an exciting time to be in science and I look forward to being part of Dr. Sussman’s team.

Farid G. Khalafalla

As-Salamu Alaykum (Peace be upon you) – I received my Bachelor’s degree in Pharmaceutical Sciences from the School of Pharmacy, Cairo University, Egypt. I joined Dr. Sussman’s lab as a postdoctoral fellow in September 2014 after defending my Ph.D. in Biochemistry at the University of Missouri-Columbia. My Ph.D. project focused on investigating the role of the P2Y2 nucleotide receptor in salivary gland regeneration. My current research focuses on improving the regenerative potential of cardiac progenitor cells derived from heart failure patients for use in autologous stem cell therapy. I hope to contribute to the heart regeneration field with significant findings that help improve the quality-of-life and relieve the pain of millions of patients.

Fareheh Firouzi

I graduated with Masters in Cell and Developmental Biology in 2012. I joined Dr. Sussman’s Laboratory as a volunteer starting in May 2014. I am planning to start my PhD in the fall of 2015. I am so grateful to have the opportunity to work in this lab with amazing projects and wonderful people. The knowledge and experience I am gaining in the lab will help me better understand this exciting field of study and choose the best direction toward continuing my education.

Natalie Gude

Natalie’s research focuses on Notch signaling in the adult heart. She has finally completed her Ph.D. and will continue her work in the Sussman lab manipulating Notch activity in cardiomocytes and cardiac progenitor cells.

Kelli Ilves

I joined Sussmaniacs in the summer of 2014 as an undergraduate volunteer. I was overjoyed with the amount of intellectual freedom this laboratory offers thus I enrolled in the Master’s program. During my studies I have had the opportunity to co-author multiple manuscripts, present my work at the AHA scientific sessions and be the recipient of the Inamori Fellowship. More importantly, I have been able to develop my own project, which focuses on studying the effects of hypoxia on human heart failure patient’s cardiac progenitor cells in order to improve cardiac stem cell therapy. I am hoping to publish my project as a first author manuscript.

As a student I have experienced exponential growth in terms of understanding every aspect of research and I am excited to continue to grow as a scientists and also train the next generation of scientists.

Taeyong Kim

I received my Bachelor’s degree at Handong University, and M.S. and Ph.D. at the Gwangju Institute of Science and Technology (GIST), Korea. After I finished my Ph.D., I won a postdoctoral fellowship grant from the Korean government and joined Dr. Sussman’s lab in September 2015. My Ph.D. project focused on investigating the role of beta-adrenergic receptor signaling on the survival/death decision of cardiomyocytes using a systems biological approach. In my postdoctoral training, I hope to learn about regenerative medicine using stem cell engineering.

Dieter Kubli

As an undergraduate student in the lab of Dr. Roberta Gottlieb, I studied the pro-apoptotic Bcl-2 family protein Bnip3 and its contribution to cardiac ischemic injury. After finishing my B.S. from UCSD in 2006, I stayed in San Diego and joined Dr. Åsa Gustafsson’s lab in 2010 for my graduate studies. I completed my Ph.D. in Biomedical Science at the end of 2013. My project investigated mechanisms of mitochondrial damage control involving mitochondrial autophagy through Parkin and PINK1 in cardiomyocytes. I joined Dr. Mark Sussman’s lab in April 2015 because of his promise that if I cure heart disease, all of my wildest dreams will come true. I intend to apply my experience in mitochondrial function and cardiac research techniques to restoring cardiac function in the face of acute and chronic stress.

When I’m not in lab, I’m usually enjoying one of several typical San Diegan hobbies – rock climbing, beer brewing, and surfing would be the top three. I also like to restore vintage bicycles, and I even ride them once in a while. Whenever I can squeeze a day or two off, I’ll usually go backpacking in the nearby mountains. And this is why I hope to stay in San Diego a while longer.

That’s all for now. Ask me again when my project is up and running!

Nidiane C. Martinelli

I have a background in molecular biology, genetics, cardiology, microRNAs, physiology and blood donor bank from my previous labs in Brazil where I got my Bachelors, Masters and PhD degrees.

In 2014, I was selected for a 1-year internship as fellow researcher for the Heart Failure Department Unit of GlaxoSmithKlein located in Philadelphia. During this time, I had the opportunity to experience the industry side of the research and gather more knowledge and experience for my professional life. It was also in 2014 that I crossed paths with Dr. Sussman during the AHA Sessions and after some time he finally hired me, and I received the title of having the longest hiring process in his entire career. Took me 3 years to finally start in the lab after some long VISA process and a broken leg healing.

Since 2017 I am a post-doc in Dr. Sussman’s lab involved in unravel the potential of the interstitial cell population to repair the damaged myocardium. Keep tuned for the next chapter in this story.

Aside that I believe I am a funny person, prompt to help others and I know that I still have so much to learn. To help me with that, I am surrounded by wonderful colleagues who are helping me to thrive in science and guided (or not) by an outstanding supervisor.

Megan Monsanto

Hi y’all my name is Megan, and I am originally from South Carolina, if you could not tell from my southern accent! I went to Clemson University where I received my undergraduate degree in genetics. Since my interest is in regenerative medicine, I moved to San Diego having heard biotech is a hot field out here. I just recently joined Dr. Sussman’s lab and am very excited to be a part of this great group of scientists. I am pursuing a Master’s degree and cannot wait to learn everything I can about the heart and cardiac stem cells!

Natalia Navarro

Hello everyone, I graduated with a Bachelor of Liberal Arts and Sciences from SDSU in May 2005. Currently, I am Dr. Sussman’s Program Coordinator. I oversee all laboratory administrative functions, NIH grant related submissions, manage the lab budget including reconciling accounts, financial transactions and serve as one of two points of contact for postdoctoral fellows, graduate and undergraduate students. I am so thankful and excited to be part of this lab and most importantly, to share the passion for science with this fascinating team. Happy research!

Jessica Wang

I joined the Sussman lab at the end of 2014 as a doctoral student with the idea to extend my knowledge in cardiovascular research. My current research projects focus on cardiac progenitor cell function in a senescence-accelerated mouse model, and characterization of potential stem cell population at the atrial-ventricular valve regions. The goal of these studies is to enhance the current understanding of heart and/or valve repair during aging or upon injury.

I came to SDSU with a background of biochemical engineering and developmental biology. I received my MSc in biochemical engineering at TU Delft in the Netherlands, where I studied yeast genomics. Inspired by my growing interests in molecular and cell biology, I moved on to pursue an MS in Biological Sciences at Cal State L.A., where I worked in the Nissen lab to study the role of wdr68 in zebrafish craniofacial development and in mouse myoblast myogenesis.