UCLA Life Sciences continues to grow its community of stellar scientists

who are leaders in their fields and committed to creating diverse and inclusive academic environments in which everyone can thrive.

Faculty hires include:

Stephanie Correa, Ph.D.

Dr. Stephanie Correa joined the faculty of Integrative Biology and Physiology in 2015.  Her research systematically explores sex differences in metabolism and neuroendocrine function. Dr. Correa received her B.A. from Pomona College, her Ph.D. from Cornell University, and did her post-doctoral training at UCSF where she co-founded UCSF’s chapter of SACNAS (Society for Advancement of Chicanos/Hispanics and Native Americans in Science).

D’Juan Farmer, Ph.D.

Dr. D’Juan Farmer joined the faculty of UCLA’s department of Molecular, Cell, and Developmental Biology in 2021.

Farmer’s research explores how genes and environmental cues regulate the shape and form of the craniofacial skeleton during embryonic development.

Farmer received his B.Sc. at UCLA in Molecular, Cell and Developmental Biology with a minor in Biomedical Research. As an undergraduate, he was a fellow of the Maximizing Access to Research Careers (MARC) Program

After completing his PhD at the University of California, San Francisco, he went on to complete his postdoctoral training at the University of Southern California.

Farmer received the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) Hanna H. Gray Fellowship in 2018. 

As of 2023 – in recognition of his outstanding record as an early career scientist and his commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion in mentoring the next generation of scientists– Farmer was selected as an HHMI Freeman Hrabowski Scholar.

Oliver Fregoso, Ph.D.

Dr. Oliver Fregoso joined UCLA’s department of Microbiology, Immunology and Molecular Genetics in 2016. His research on HIV, seeks to identify viral-host interactions necessary for pathogenesis and adaptation to new hosts. Before coming to UCLA, Dr. Fregoso was a Burroughs Welcome Foundation Postdoctoral Fellow at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center where he co-founded ‘Hutch United’, a community-building group that promotes diversity in the biomedical sciences through a broad mentoring network, leadership opportunities, and scholarships. 

Alicia Izquierdo, Ph.D.

Dr. Alicia Izquierdo is a behavioral neuroscientist who joined the Psychology faculty in 2013. Her research seeks to elucidate th­­e mechanisms of choices involving cost-benefit analyses, and to develop novel, pre-clinical models of addiction. Dr. Izquierdo completed her doctoral work at the National Institute of Mental Health, then did her postdoctoral training at the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.

Before coming to UCLA she was awarded the Faculty Mentor award by the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities for her work with diverse students. As a UCLA faculty member, Dr. Izquierdo is an Assistant Director of the Brain Research Institute as the Chapter President of the Society for Neuroscience. In 2016, she was selected as a Kavli Fellow of the National Academy of Sciences.

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Tracy Johnson, Ph.D.

Dr. Tracy Johnson joined the faculty of UCLA’s department of Molecular, Cell, and Developmental Biology in 2013. Her research focuses on how cells synthesize, splice, and process RNA to regulate gene expression. Dr. Johnson is the the holder of the Keith and Cecilia Terasaki Presidential Endowed Chair. She is currently the Dean of the Life Sciences division.

As a Howard Hughes Medical Institute professor, Dr. Johnson created a UCLA/ HHMI Pathways to Success program that actively recruits a diverse and select group of incoming freshmen; places them in learning communities and within a mentoring network; and immerses them in an authentic research experience. Since 2015, Johnson has worked with the director of UCLA’s Institute for Quantitative and Computational Biosciences, Dr. Alexander Hoffmann, to lead the Bruins In Genomics Summer Undergraduate Research Program, aimed at developing future leaders in biological/biomedical sciences and at improving diversity at the graduate level throughout the University of California system.

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Megan McEvoy, Ph.D.

Dr. Megan McEvoy is faculty in the Department of Microbiology, Immunology & Molecular Genetics and member of the Molecular Biology Institute. Dr. McEvoy’s research is elucidating how bacterial systems regulate metal ions, to provide strategies for broad-spectrum anti-microbial treatments.  From 2011 to 2016, she led efforts to fund and direct Maximizing Access to Research Careers (MARC) at the University of Arizona. In 2015, the University of Arizona awarded her Excellence in Mentoring (Honors College) and the 2015 Distinguished Advising Award (College of Science). Dr. McEvoy is co-director of both the UCLA Maximizing Access to Research Careers (MARC) U*STAR Program and UCLA Life Sciences’ COMPASS program.

Ketema Paul, Ph.D.

Dr. Ketema Paul joined UCLA’s faculty of Integrative Biology and Physiology in 2016.  Dr. Paul is a distinguished neuroscientist whose research on sleep disorders examines how specific genes, molecules, and hormones impact sleep and wakefulness. He received his B.Sc. from Howard University, his PhD from Georgia State University, and his postdoctoral training at Northwestern University.

Throughout his scientific career, Dr. Paul has been active in K-12 scientific outreach programs in underrepresented communities, and as an associate professor at Morehouse School of Medicine, he received the Faculty Mentor of the Year, Compact for Faculty Diversity Institute on Teaching and Mentoring and the Alpha Omega Alpha Medical Honor Society Outstanding Research Mentor Award.

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Lena Pernas Ph.D.

Dr. Lena Pernas joined UCLA an assistant professor in the Department of Microbiology, Immunology and Molecular Genetics (MIMG) in 2023.

Pernas studies how cells and their organelles respond to microbial invasion. In particular, Pernas has been studying how the powerhouses of our cells, known as mitochondria defend against microbes and restrict their growth. 

She received her B.Sc. at UCLA, in MIMG, and discovered research as a fellow of the Maximizing Access to Research Careers (MARC) Program.

Pernas received her Ph.D. in microbiology and immunology, from Stanford University; completed a post-doctoral fellowship in the Department of Biology at the University of Padua; and was a Lead Scientist at the Max Planck Institute, before starting as faculty at UCLA.

In 2023, Pernas was named a Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) Freeman Hrabowski Scholar, in recognition of her outstanding record as an early career scientist and her commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion in mentoring the next generation of scientists.

Gina Poe, Ph.D.

Dr. Gina Poe is a professor in the Department of Integrative Biology and Physiology. She has been researching the relationship between sleep and consciousness since 1987, and the role of sleep for learning since 1995. A native of Los Angeles, she earned her Ph.D. at UCLA as an ARCS scholar and an HHMI Fellow in the Neuroscience Interdepartmental program. Throughout her career, Dr. Poe has held leadership positions serving neuroscience and sleep education and promotion of students from diverse backgrounds.

She has on the Society for Neuroscience Professional Development Committee and is co-Director of the Neuroscience Scholars Program, a prestigious fellowship program for the top underrepresented neuroscience students and postdoctoral scholars in the Nation. Dr. Poe also directs a national summer course at the Marine Biological Institute (in Woods Hole, MA) called SPINES: Summer Program in Neuroscience, Ethics and Survival. SPINES is a course funded by the National Institute of Mental Health  which just celebrated its 30th year training students from underrepresented backgrounds to thrive in a basic science career. Her research on the function of sleep to repair and reorganize memories and change the mind has been continuously funded by the NIMH since 2000 and is now applying the mechanistic knowledge generated to tackle PTSD, schizophrenia and depression. Her lab has trained over 85 students over a third of whom are from underrepresented groups. Dr. Poe is also  co-director of both the UCLA Maximizing Access to Research Careers (MARC) U*STAR Program and UCLA Life Sciences’ COMPASS program.

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Claudio Villanueva, Ph.D.

Dr. Claudio Villanueva joined UCLA’s Department of Integrative Biology and Physiology in 2019. Dr. Villanueva studies transcriptional regulation and metabolism. His lab is working to understand the relationship between obesity and diabetes. Dr. Villanueva completed his undergraduate training at California State University, San Bernardino, and completed his Ph.D. at UCSF in the Gladstone Institutes. As a postdoc he trained at UCLA in an HHMI funded lab to study cellular programming and gene regulation. He was recruited from the University of Utah School of Medicine where he received the Inclusive Excellence Faculty Award for his work to increase diversity and enhance the training environment for graduate students and postdocs. He is currently a Diversity Equity and Inclusion faculty advisor for the Molecular Biology Institute and co-director of the IRACDA program at UCLA.

Patrick Wilson, Ph.D.

Dr. Patrick Wilson is a community and health psychologist who came to UCLA’s Department of Psychology in 2021. He directs the SPHERE (Society, Psychology, and Health Research) Lab at UCLA. His work broadly examines the psychological, social, and cultural factors that shape individual and community-level health outcomes.  Prior to coming to UCLA, Dr. Wilson was an Associate Professor in the Department of Sociomedical Sciences at the Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health, where he directed the SPHERE Lab and co-directed the Incarceration and Public Health Action Network at the Mailman School. Dr. Wilson earned his PhD in community psychology from New York University and completed a postdoctoral fellowship at the Yale University School of Medicine.

Jesse Zamudio, Ph.D.

Dr. Jesse Zamudio joined the department of Molecular, Cell, and Developmental Biology in 2016. Dr. Zamudio did his postdoctoral training at the MIT Center for Cancer Research, after receiving both his B.S. and Ph.D. at UCLA. As an undergraduate, Zamudio received a LEADS fellowship (link), one of the University of California’s most prestigious fellowships. Current research in Zamudio’s lab is focused on characterizing functional RNAs that control cell state transitions during development and cancer progression.