Alex Acosta
acosta My name is Alex Acosta and I am a fourth-year student studying Microbiology. I have always had an interest in biology over other subjects and my undergrad studies have definitely strengthened that interest. I only recently joined Dr. Sussman’s Lab, but I am eager to learn what research is all about. Joining the Sussman Lab has provided me the opportunity to grow as a young scientist and learn the work that goes into scientific discovery. I hope to earn my PhD one day and leave my mark on the scientific community. When I’m not in school, I enjoy snowboarding in the winter up in Tahoe and surfing down here in SD in the summer. During school, you’ll find me at Theta Chi, at the beach, or on the course working on my golf game.
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…

Lilian Ameh
I am a third year student studying biology at SDSU. I joined Dr. Sussman’s lab starting in January 2014, because I wanted research experience. I am a pre-med student, so volunteering here would be a great opportunity for me to learn how science works outside of the classroom and how it explains the workings of our body; in this case, specifically, the heart. I have always been curious about how the heart functions, that is why I jumped at the opportunity to work in Dr. Sussman’s lab. I will be applying to medical schools during the Summer of 2014, and I believe the knowledge and experience I will gain from this lab will be useful in my chosen career.
Gwynn Andaya
Gwynn joined the Sussman lab in August 2007 and is currently working towards her masters degree in Biology at SDSU. She received her BS in Biochemistry & Cell Biology at UCSD, and previously worked for 3 years in the Wallace lab at UCI investigating mitochondrial molecular diseases and helped set up the MitoMed clinical lab. Her thesis focuses on the cardioprotective PIM-1 kinase and its role in supporting the protection of mitochondrial integrity by assessing mitochondrial swelling, membrane depolarization, and cytochrome c release.
Daniele Avitabile
I was born in Italy in the city of Rome, where I lived until last year, when I moved to San Diego to join Dr. Sussman’s lab for my post-doctoral fellowship. I’m working on two different projects: the first is about the role of two nucleolar proteins (Nucleostemin and Nucleophosmin) and more in general of the nucleolus, in cardioprotection and heart regeneration.The second, is about the generation of a new reporter mouse expressing two different fluorescent fusion proteins (one is red the other green fluorescent), specifically activated at different stages of the cell cycle in the mouse heart. The mouse model will be very useful by making it easy to detect activated cells in the heart following myocardial infarction or other pathological challenges and to study the paracrine effect of exogenus injected stem cells on the resident cardiac populations.
Patrick Aziz
I am currently an undergraduate student majoring in Biology. I started working in Dr. Sussman’s lab in Fall 2012. I am thrilled to learn and gain valuable research experience in a real laboratory setting. My goal after graduation is to continue my education in medical school. I joined this particular lab because I have always been curious about how working and doing research in a lab would be. The heart has always been an organ that amazes me because it is so critical to survival and has so many functions. My lab tasks include cleaning equipment, autoclaving, aliquoting proteins, making dilution solutions and performing DNA extractions. As each day proceeds, I learn new things and my tasks increase as well. I am also there to assist the graduate students and post-docs with any projects they assign me.
Ryan Badertscher
ryan-badertscher My name is Ryan Badertscher and I am a 4th year student majoring in Mechanical Engineering with an emphasis in Bioengineering. I joined Dr. Sussman’s Lab in Spring 2016 in order to research the fascinating healing potential of stem cells. I most look forward to being a part of a team researching a concept that could change the way we fight disease. I am extremely eager and grateful for this opportunity and I am excited to apply this experience toward any future education or career.
Brandi Bailey
I’ve been a PhD student in Dr. Sussman’s lab since 2006. I work on several different projects involving Cardiac Stem Cells (CSCs). I have found that CSCs isolated from mouse hearts thrive in culture and are very fascinating to manipulate. My first project involves the observation that CSCs isolated from cardiomyocyte-specific transgenic mice will express the transgene that was only supposed to be expressed in functional cardiomyocytes. My second project involves a mouse that has had the Stem Cell Antigen – 1 gene (Sca-1) replaced with GFP. These mice have impaired hearts and impaired stem cells which I believe to be a related phenomenon. The goal of all this stem cell research is to eventually make treatments out of them so you can use your own stem cells as therapy for your heart. Since you would usually not need this treatment until fairly late in life, I am investigating, as my third project, if CSCs isolated from older mice are just as good as those isolated from young adult mice. I enjoy cellular biology and looking at all aspects of cell behavior, and I think that MY cells are the coolest (of course)!
Kristin Bala
I am a 3rd year Cellular and Molecular Biology major at SDSU. I joined Dr. Sussman’s lab in the spring of 2014. I have been exposed to several laboratory techniques since then, and I am eager to further my experience as a volunteer. I am confident that experiences such as these will better prepare me for my ultimate goal of attending Medical School and becoming a physician. I am especially fascinated with oncology and the study of cancerous cells. I believe that the possibilities that stem cell research hold are vast and have the potential to change several aspects of modern medicine. When I am not in school or volunteering, I enjoy staying active and spending time with my friends and family.
Andrew Barbosa
barbosa Hello everyone, my name is Andrew Barbosa and I have been volunteering in Dr. Sussman’s lab since the fall semester of 2016. I am currently a senior here at San Diego State University and am pursuing a B.S. in Molecular and Cellular Biology. I am also involved in other organizations here at SDSU, such as PASA and Flying Samaritans. Once I graduate, I plan on applying to PA school while continuing to develop my skills as a scientific researcher.
Camille Joy Bermudez
img_20160914_172823 Hi. My name is Camille Joy Bermudez, a third-year Microbiology student here at SDSU. After hearing about Dr. Sussman’s lab from a colleague, I immediately knew I had to become a part of this team. I am a pre-med student who’s greatly interested in the inner workings of the human cardiovascular system. I’m familiar with diseases concerning the heart as evident from my family history. My grandfather died from a myocardial infarction caused by a congestive heart failure, while a cousin of mine had to endure multiple surgeries to fix her CCTGA. I’ve seen and felt the effects brought upon by common and rare heart problems, which is why I want to gain a deeper understanding of the cardiovascular system. This lab has provided me with an opportunity to further my knowledge in this specialty and I hope to learn more from the mentors in the near future.
Tao Bo
Tao Bo, received her Masters degree from Nankai University, China. She is working in the Sussman Lab as a research assistant. She focuses on performing surgeries for the whole lab.
Peggy Bonine
I joined the lab as Administrative Director for Professor Sussman in August of 2006. My responsibilities vary widely and include coordination and acquisition of research grants, budgetary management of over $2.5 million annually in research funding, purchasing of equipment and supplies, design and execution of multi-day scientific conferences, administrative management and executive level assistance. I am the proud single mom of three daughters who are all in college. In my spare time, I love gourmet cooking and great red wine.
Sebastian Braga
I am currently a senior undergraduate pursuing my goals toward becoming a physician. I graduate this May (2013), and I am looking forward to using my degree in Biology in the near future to help humanity. I have joined Dr. Sussman’s lab to broaden my knowledge and background in Biology. I am enjoying learning the many different aspects of the heart. I am obtaining many new research techniques to utilize, and I am gaining multitudes of experience. I am very excited for what Dr. Sussman’s lab has to offer, and even more excited about some of the new research techniques that I have added to my arsenal. When I’m not in Sussman’s lab, I enjoy going to the beach, sunset dinners, and eating food. But there is not a moment in time where I don’t think about my future career in Biology.
I'Alla Brodie
I started volunteering in Dr. Sussman’s lab in Fall 2010. I am pursuing a Bachelor’s Degree in Biology with a minor in Chemistry. I hope to continue on to Physician’s Assistant school after graduating. My duties in the lab include working in the Vivarium, weaning the mice, and heart freezing. I also assist graduate students with any their research projects.
Kathleen Broughton
Kathleen BROUGHTON | PhD, JD | San Diego State University, California |  SDSU | Department of Biology

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.

Alexandria Casillas
Hello everyone! My research started in fibroblasts at Dominican University of California where I received my Bachelor’s of Science. After graduating I moved to remote Michigan to perform melanoma research on zebrafish with an NIH Diversity grant. After hightailing it back to Cali, I joined Dr. Sussman’s Lab in 2014 as a PhD candidate. I have been assigned to a collaborative effort with the Foundation Leducq. Our goal is to determine the ability of stem cell contribution in cardiac regeneration and remodeling. Come check us out if your interested in stem cell biology!
Monica Chavarria
My name is Monica Chavarria. I am currently a senior majoring in Biology. I started volunteering at Dr. Sussman’s lab in September 2010, hoping to gain research experience for medical school. During my years in the lab, I worked with Silvia Truffa from whom I learned tissue culture techniques. Then, Roberto Alvarez became my mentor. With him I primarily learned cloning techniques, but I also learned immunohistochemistry, confocal microscopy, western blots, and genomics. Currently, I am a technician at lab genotyping and managing the mouse colony. My future goals are to obtain a masters degree and continue working on cardiovascular research.
Zhaokang Cheng
Zhaokang Cheng, received his Ph.D. from Nankai University, China. He is now a postdoctoral researcher in the Sussman Lab. Zhaokang is interested in the nuclear Akt signaling pathway. The Sussman Lab has proven that the nuclear targeting of Akt can protect the heart from pathological remodeling after a heart attack. Thus, Zhaokang’s current task is to dissect the downstream signal transduction system and contribute some clinical implications. His final goal is to promote healthyhearts in humans.
Brett Collins
Near the end of 2007, I joined Dr. Mark Sussman’s laboratory as an undergraduate volunteer. I graduated from SDSU with a B.S. in Biology in May 2009, and I am currently applying for the Master’s program at SDSU for the Fall 2010 semester. In the meantime, I am working as a laboratory technician in Dr. Sussman’s lab. Many of my duties include genotyping, assisting in mouse colony management, getting new undergraduates acquainted with the lab, and helping graduate students with their individual projects.


In my spare time, I enjoy blaming failed experimental results on Roberto Alvarez or Matt Mason, hanging out with my buddies, and maybe a little PS3 when I get the chance.

Claudia Comacchio
Version 2 Hi! My name is Claudia, I’m currently a second-year student majoring in Cellular and Molecular
Biology and I’m from Italy. Projects that improve human health interests me a lot. I joined Dr.
Sussman’s Lab in Fall 2017 and I’m grateful for the opportunity given which will enrich my
knowledge and experience as a scientific researcher and benefit my future career. My first goal is to obtain a master degree. Also, I will probably continue to do research in the biomedical field
and earn a PhD.
Camille Contreras
I am a fourth year undergraduate student at the University of San Diego majoring in Behavioral Neuroscience and minoring in Anthropology. I began volunteering with Dr. Sussman in 2015, seeking to expand upon my laboratory experience, in order to acquire the background necessary for a future career in scientific research. I am excited to build upon my current experience and develop a stronger understanding of lab techniques, procedures and protocols. I hope to use this amazing opportunity as a way to add to the standard of excellence that already exists in Dr. Sussman’s lab and prepare for my future endeavors.
Annina Cooper