Lab Members

Principal Investigator

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Jeremy Willsey | UCSF Profiles
Assistant Professor, UCSF School of Medicine

Dr. Jeremy Willsey completed his BSc in Molecular Biology & Biochemistry in 2010 at Simon Fraser University in British Columbia, Canada. In 2014, he completed a Ph.D. in Genetics at Yale University in Matt State’s lab. After a one year postdoc at UCSF, he became an Assistant Professor under Dr. Stanley Prusiner in the Institute for Neurodegenerative Diseases at UCSF, and under Dr. Matthew State in the Department of Psychiatry at UCSF.

Jeremy’s research focuses on two complementary areas. He has played a key role in discovering genes contributing to autism and Tourette disorder and will continue to lead a major effort in characterizing the genetic architecture of Tourette disorder. The second arm of his research aims to use the clues provided by these discoveries, along with emerging data on the molecular landscape of human brain development, to understand key aspects of the underlying biology of these disorders. Together with Dr. State, his group has already used these methods to determine that autism risk genes coalesce in a specific part of the brain-the prefrontal cortex-during fetal development in a particular type of cell, the so-called deep layer cortical projection neurons. These two avenues of research not only provide critical information regarding the etiology of these psychiatric disorders, but promise new insights into developing novel treatment approaches. Along with Dr. State and Dr. Nevan Krogan, he has recently founded the Psychiatric Cell Map Initiative at UCSF (pcmi.ucsf.edu), aimed at elucidating the protein-protein, protein-DNA, and genetic interaction networks underlying psychiatric disorders. Dr. Willsey is also part of the TIC Genetics Executive Steering Committee (tic-genetics.org) and leads the committee for Systems Biology & High Throughput Data Generation.

– View Dr. Willsey’s Curriculum Vitae –


Postdoctoral Fellows

Nawei Sun
nawei_croppedDr. Sun has a B.S. in Biotechnology from the Jilin University of China and has recently completed a Ph.D. in Genetics at Rutgers University. With a decade of research experience, ranging from investigations of cancer cell line stability to differentiation of iPSCs, Dr. Sun’s doctoral research has focused on uncovering the genetic etiology and neurobiology of Tourette’s Disorder. Utilizing her expertise in stem cell biology, molecular genetics, and neurobiology, she has performed whole-exome sequencing to identify Tourette Disorder associated sequence variants, generated iPSC lines and used transcriptome analysis to identify affected biological pathways, and leveraged this data to uncover possible molecular and cellular phenotypes. In her time at the Willsey Lab, Nawei will continue her cutting-edge research, leading our efforts to utilize iPSCs to better understand ASD and other neurodevelopment disorders.

Fima Zaltsman

Fima_circleDr. Zaltsman received his Ph.D. from the Department of Biochemistry at the University of Wisconsin–Madison. There, he conducted research in Dr. Laura Kiessling’s group with a focus on understanding the molecular mechanisms controlling hPSC fate decisions. In the Willsey Lab, Fima is interested in using hPSCs to help understand the pathobiology of neuropsychiatric disorders. He is investigating the protein-protein interaction networks of genes implicated in disorders such as ASD using hPSC-derived neural cells. (Yefim.Zaltsman@ucsf [dot] edu)

Sheng Wang
sheng_croppedDr. Wang received his Ph.D. from China Agricultural University & National Institute of Biological Sciences, Beijing. During his graduate period, he worked on postzygotic variant analysis from either healthy donors or rare disease patients using whole-genome sequencing, whole-exome sequencing, and other target sequencing methods. During the training in Willsey’s lab, Sheng will mainly focus on detecting genetic risks from Tourette Disorder (TD) patients/families and conduct combined analysis across different disorders, including TD, ADHD, OCD, and ASD, to investigate the shared mechanisms to explain the high comorbidity in these patients.

– View Dr. Wang’s Curriculum Vitae –

Ashanti Matlock

Ashanti Matlock

Dr. Ashanti Matlock earned her B.S. in Biology at Indiana University-Bloomington and completed doctoral studies in Biochemistry at The Ohio State University. While at Ohio State, Dr. Matlock investigated the molecular interaction involved between Thg1, a tRNA modification enzyme and its lone substrate tRNAHis, where she discovered previously unknown roles for evolutionarily conserved residues in catalysis. Now as a member of the Willsey Lab, she is applying her expertise in RNA and protein interactions to identify RNA targets of RNA-binding proteins strongly associated with autism spectrum disorders (ASD).

PhD Students

Nia Teerikorpi
Nia_croppedNia received her B.A. in Biochemical Molecular Biology from the University of California, Berkeley. She is currently pursuing her Ph.D. at UCSF as part of the multi-disciplinary TETRAD program. Nia joined the Willsey Lab in Spring 2017, where she is working to characterize the interaction network of NRXN1, a central protein in ASD pathology, at different stages of neuronal differentiation.

 

Kate McCluskey

Kate McCluskeyKate earned her B.A. in Neuroscience from Middlebury College. She has moved to San Francisco from Vermont to pursue her Ph.D. in the Neuroscience program here at UCSF. Kate is interested in the cellular and molecular mechanisms underlying neurodevelopmental disorders and joined the Willsey lab in the summer of 2019 with the goal of characterizing the genes implicated in epileptic encephalopathies.

Staff Members

Clif Duhn – Operations Manager
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 Clif works as the Operations Manager for the Willsey Lab, the State Lab, and the Sanders Lab at UCSF. Clif received his B.S. in Biology from UC Davis. In his role as manager and coordinator, Clif plays a key role in the collaboration between these three labs as they work jointly to better understand the genetic pathways and neurobiology contributing to neurodevelopmental disorders such as ASD, Tourette Syndrome, and ADHD.

Ashley Clement – Administrative Officer

Ashley_croppedAshley joined the Willsey Lab in May of 2018. She brings extensive experience in hospital administration from her most recent management positions at UCSF Medical Center and Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, MA. Originally from Massachusetts, Ashley graduated from Clark University with a double major in Sociology and Gender Studies. She enjoys helping others find solutions in order to become more successful and brings these skills to her position in the lab.

Juan Arbelaez  – Wet-Lab Manager
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Juan is a research associate and the wet-lab manager in the Willsey Lab. Juan received his B.S. in Biochemistry and Cell Biology from UC San Diego. With extensive experience working with stem cells, he lends his guidance, leadership, and wet-lab management skills to the Willsey Lab as well as the State Lab. Currently, Juan is working on several projects involving iPSCs and CRISPR-Cas9.

Amanda Everitt – Bioinformatics Programmer

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Amanda completed her B.S. in Biotechnology from UC Davis in 2017, having focused specifically on Bioinformatics. Her undergraduate research involved the genetics and gene expression underlying insecticide resistance in Anopheles mosquitoes. Amanda is interested in applying techniques from statistics and systems biology to construct predictive models for biological phenomena. In the Willsey Lab, she collaborates on projects involving RNA-Seq, scRNA-Seq, ChIP-Seq, Methyl-Seq, and ATAC-seq data.

Ethel Bader – Staff Research Associate

Ethel Bader

Ethel has a B.S. in Electronics and Communications Engineering from the Philippines. Through the Bridge to Biotech Program offered by City College of San Francisco, she earned a Laboratory Technician Certificate. Prior to working with the Willsey Lab, she was an SRA at Dr. Tecott’s Laboratory managing his animal colony and helped design and execute several mouse behavior experiments using standard behavioral assays and a novel quantitative approach to home cage behavioral monitoring. In addition, she performed the laboratory’s genotyping, developing expertise in genotyping assays using SYBR green detected PCR/qPCR in 384-well format. She also helped manage her previous lab.

Vanessa Drury – Staff Research Associate

Vanessa DruryVanessa received her B.A. in Molecular and Cell Biology with an emphasis in Neurobiology from UC Berkeley in 2017. While at Berkeley, she investigated genes involved in the dual anaerobic and aerobic isoprenoid production pathways of Listeria monocytogenes and their different effects on Listeria growth. In the Willsey lab, she is now assisting with the Psychiatric Cell Map Initiative by cloning genes associated with Autism Spectrum Disorder to demonstrate their protein-protein interactions.

Sam Drake – Staff Research Associate

Sam DrakeSam earned his B.A. in Molecular and Cell Biology with an emphasis in Neurobiology from UC Berkeley in 2017. Following graduation he worked at Dynavax Technologies, providing support for an immuno-oncology lab that focused on TLR 8/9 agonist research. In the Willsey lab, Sam is part of the team working to identify the protein-protein interactions involved in ASD and is currently helping clone all 102 top-associated ASD genes.

Silvano Gonzalez – Visiting Scholar

Silvano GonzalezSilvano received a B.S. in Psychology with a minor in Biology from Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo. He is currently enrolled in the M.S. Biomedical Science: Stem Cell Science concentration program at SF State and is performing research at the Willsey Lab as a CIRM scholar. He is working on a project involving fluorescence microscopy and the localization of ASD-risk genes.

 

Graduate Rotation Students

Caitriona Costello

caitriona_croppedCaitriona received her B.S. in Biological Engineering from Cornell University in 2019. She is currently a rotation student in the Neuroscience graduate program at UCSF. In her rotation in the Willsey Lab, Caitriona is learning to analyze RNA-Seq, scRNA-Seq, ChIP-Seq, and ATAC-Seq data.

 

Hasan Alkhairo

hasan_croppedHasan recently moved from Richmond, Virginia to pursue his PhD in Biomedical Informatics at UCSF. He completed his M.S. in Bioinformatics from Virginia Commonwealth University in 2018. During his gap year he worked with the Vaginal Microbiome Consortium as a Bioinformatics Engineer and served as an adjunct instructor at VCU, teaching basic scripting languages. As a rotation student, Hasan is working on incorporating exome data from various iPSC lines to facilitate downstream pooled scRNA sequencing.

Alumni

Irina Epstein – Postdoctoral Fellow (2017 – 2019). Irina studied the effects of de novo ASD-associated mutations on the structure and function of iPSC-derived neurons using high-throughput robotic microscopy.
Current: Graduate Education Coordinator, Max Planck Institute for Brain Research

Rebecca Krasnoff – Staff Research Associate II (2016 – 2019). Rebecca used bioinformatic techniques to analyze genetic data and worked with iPSCs to aid the lab in its search to better understand the underlying neurobiology of disorders such as ASD.
Current: Medical Student, New York University School of Medicine

Tierney Baum – Staff Research Associate II (2017 – 2019). Tierney worked on the proteomics of the top-associated ASD genes using iPSCs and CRISPRi technologies.
Current: Graduate Student, Vanderbilt Neuroscience

Xin Zhao – Visiting Scholar (2018-2019). Xin used next-generation sequencing data and systems biological analyses to analyze genetic data to better understand the underlying neurobiology of disorders such as Tourette Syndrome.
Current: Graduate Student, Shanghai Jiao Tong University

Qihao Qi – Bioinformatics Programmer III (2016 – 2018). Qihao worked on solving complex biomedical research questions with cutting-edge computational statistics and machine learning methods.
Current: Director of Informatics, Cytobank Inc.

Montana Morris – Staff Research Associate II (2016 – 2018). Montana worked extensively on the Willsey Lab’s iPSC and proteomics projects.
Current: Medical Student, Yale School of Medicine

Jeff Mandell – Bioinformatics Programmer III (2016 – 2018). Jeff developed and ran software pipelines incorporating a variety of bioinformatic software tools to process and analyze genetic data including whole-exome and whole-genome sequencing data, as well as RNA-Seq and ChIP-Seq data.
Current: Graduate Student, Yale Computational Biology and Bioinformatics