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TEAM
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Pia Pannaraj, MD, MPH
~ Director & Principal Investigator

Pia S. Pannaraj, MD, MPH, is a Professor of Pediatrics at the University of California, San Diego and Infectious Disease Specialist at Rady Children’s Hospital. She serves as the Director of the Pediatric Immunization Advancement Laboratory.

 

Dr. Pannaraj’s global research focuses on maternal and infant vaccinations. She seeks to better understand infant immune development, responses to mucosal vaccination, and the role of human milk and gut microbes on immune responses.

 

Dr. Pannaraj serves as the current President of the California Immunization Coalition and has been appointed to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) expert panel for a Global Immunizations Initiative. She also serves on the AAP Red Book Committee. She is invited to lecture nationally and internationally on vaccines and vaccine-preventable diseases, maternal vaccinations, neonatal health and the microbiome.

 

Dr. Pannaraj completed her Infectious Diseases fellowship at Baylor College of Medicine and Master of Public Health at the University of Texas Health Science Center. She finished medical school and residency training in pediatrics at University of California, San Diego. She received her undergraduate degree in Economics and Biology from the University of Chicago.

 

Outside of work, she and her husband raise 3 very active children. They enjoy soccer, outdoor nature activities, and traveling adventures.

Meet Our Team

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Yesun Lee, Ph.D.
~ Lab Project Manager

Yesun obtained her Ph.D from Oregon State University with a focus on clinical studies, nutritional science, and biochemistry.  She began working with PiaLab in 2019.  Yesun designs and optimizes wet bench research protocols, trains laboratory staff, and manages the laboratory.  Yesun fights against viruses in the lab, but  also fights tennis balls on the court in her free time. 

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Jaycee Jumarang, MD
~ Research Specialist

 Jaycee recently joined the PiaLab as a Research Specialist.  He received his Bachelors of Science in Biochemistry from the University of Santo Tomas. Jaycee also received his Doctor or Medicine degree from De La Salle University- Health Sciences Institute in the Philippines. He is a skilled professional with scientific, research, clinical, and medical experience dedicated in the pursuit of research development. In his free time, Jaycee loves hiking and being with nature once in a while. His friends would describe him as funny and easy going.

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Jocelyn Navarro, MBA
~ Research Coordinator

Jocelyn has an MBA from the Universidad Politecnica de Catalunya, Barcelona and a Masters in Project Management from George Washington University. She has collaborated with the PiaLab as a research coordinator in Panama since 2017. Jocelyn is in charge of the execution, recruitment, monitoring, and data management of the Rotavirus Vaccine and Microbiome Study in Panama. She has more than 5 years of experience in project management, previously managing telemedicine projects, for CHLA as well. In her free time she enjoys fitness, including Pilates. 

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Shirley Mendieta, M.S.
~Research Coordinator

Shirley obtained her Bachelor of Science in Biology and minor in Leadership studies at Azusa Pacific University. She later went on to complete her Master of Science in Global Medicine at the Keck School of Medicine of USC. She has a passion for research, medicine, and serving communities as a global health leader. Her previous roles include Research Coordinator at the University of Southern California and Hometown Medical Mission Intern at Mending Kids. She joins Pia lab as a Clinical Research Coordinator, playing a key role in coordination of studies. Shirley loves spending time outdoors, traveling and going on hikes.

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Wesley Cheng, B.S.
~ Research Specialist

Wesley is a Southern California native and obtained his B.S. from the University of California, Berkeley in Chemical Biology. After several years in cancer immunotherapeutics translational research, Wesley joined the PiaLab in 2020 as a Research Specialist to support ongoing clinical research at CHLA. When he is not in a lab coat, you can usually find Wesley looking for something to climb.

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Zion Congrave-Wilson, M.S.
~ Research Specialist

Zion grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area and received his B.S. in Microbiology from the University of California, Davis. He then traveled to Imperial College London where he completed his Master's degree in Immunology. Zion is joining the Pannaraj Lab as a Research Assistant to explore pediatric vaccination research and pursue his goal of being a physician-scientist. In his free time, Zion enjoys playing bass guitar, reading and writing, and being surrounded by trees. 

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Meredith Lu, DNP, MPH, CPNP-AC

~Pediatric Nurse Practitioner

Meredith received her Doctor of Nursing Practice in pediatric acute care from the University of Maryland, where she also worked on clinical trials for the pediatric COVID-19 vaccines. After driving across country from Baltimore with her husband and two very young children, she is excited to be back on her home coast and part of the PiaLab team! Born and raised in the Pacific Northwest, she served as a Peace Corps health volunteer in Rwanda, earned her nursing degree and master of public health from Johns Hopkins University, worked five years in Johns Hopkins’s pediatric emergency department, and was a pediatric infectious disease fellow at the University of Maryland Medical Center. Meredith loves hiking, baking, and traveling with her family.

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Keri Garcia, MPH

~Research Coordinator

Keri grew up in San Diego where she received her Bachelor’s in Biology and Master’s in Public Health from San Diego State University. Her passion for research began as an undergrad when she received a grant to conduct stem cell research at the Salk Institute for Biological Sciences. After years in both academic and industry laboratory settings, she decided to pursue her interest in the clinical side of research. She has coordinated studies related to combat trauma for the US Navy and has now joined the PiaLab to work as a Clinical Research Coordinator. Outside of research, she raises two children with her husband. She enjoys running in races (from marathons to spartan) and staying active with her kids

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Maya Selvaraj, B.S.
~Clinical Research Coordinator

Maya grew up in San Diego and obtained her B.S. in Cognitive Behavioral Neuroscience at University of California, San Diego. After college, she decided to combine her experience in research with her interest in medicine, specifically women’s health, and joined Dr. Louise Laurent’s Lab at UCSD Health with the OB/GYN Department as a clinical research coordinator. Maya is assisting the Pialab team with mother-baby studies. When she’s out of scrubs she is exploring new hobbies, working out, or watching movies.

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Alex Nicols, Ph.D.

~Postdoctoral Fellow

Originally from South Yorkshire in the UK, Alex obtained his BSc in Medical Microbiology and MSc in Molecular Medicine from the University of Sheffield Medical School before completing a PhD in Translational Immunology at the Newcastle University Translational and Clinical Research Institute in the Northeast of England. Alex’s doctoral research focused on using high dimensional cytometry approaches and sequencing to uncover patterns of disease development in children following stem cell transplantation. Alex enjoys spending time with friends, eating great food and exploring. Outside of the lab you will usually find him on the golf course in various stages of enjoyment depending on how well he is playing.

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Cale Seymour, M.S.

~Bioinformatics Analyst

Cale recently moved to California from his home state of Nevada. He received both his BS in Microbiology and MS in Quantitative Biology and Bioinformatics from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. His thesis used techniques in computational biology and bioinformatics to describe the enigmatic bacterial phylum Omnitrophota. After graduating, he changed course to advance the cause of immunization as an informatician for the Nevada State Immunization Program. Now, he pursues his dual passions for scientific research and advancing public health as a Research Data Analyst with the PiaLab. During the rare moments when Cale is not in front of a computer, you can find him at an Escape Room with his team, "Where's Josh?".

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Minjun Kim, B.A.
~Research Assistant

Minjun received his B.A. in Biology from Williams College. After finishing his undergraduate studies, Minjun joined the Pannaraj Lab as a Research Assistant to contribute to pediatric immunization research and follow his aspirations of becoming a doctor. Outside of work, Minjun likes to travel, spend time with family, read, and listen to music.

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Nina Cuccinello, B.S.
~Research Assistant

 Nina recently joined the PiaLab as a research assistant. Originally from Southern California, Nina spent four years in the Midwest where she obtained her Bachelor of Science in Biology from the University of Wisconsin-Madison with a  minor in Digital studies. In the future, Nina plans to go to medical school. In addition to her interest in medicine, She enjoys playing soccer, cooking and spending time with her family and friends.

Trainees
 

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Brady Burman 
~ Sarah Lawrence College B.S. Biology 

Career Goals: Medicine 

Hobbies:D3 basketball, surfing, golfing,

and spending time with friends and family.

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Andy Li
~ USC Keck MPH Global Health

Career Goals: Pediatric Medicine

Hobbies: crossfit, hiking, scuba diving, auto detailing, cooking steaks, and hanging out with friends.

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Diego Luna Centeno
~ USC Keck School of Medicine

Career Goals: Emergency Medicine or Surgery. Masters in Public Health.

Hobbies: snowboarding, soccer, surfing, drawing/sketching, and cooking.

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Daniel Hakimi
~ USC B.S. Human Biology

Career Goals: Pediatric Dentistry.

Hobbies: Playing violin in university's orchestra.

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Kennis-Grace Mrotek
~ USC B.S. Global Health

Career Goals: Medical School

Hobbies: US National Team in Aesthetic Group Gymnastics, travel, and spending time with friends.

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Jason Chwa
~ USC Keck School of Medicine

Career Goals: Anesthesia

Hobbies: video games, anime, weight-lifting, and cooking.

Former Team Members
Where are they now?

Athena Thomassian, B.A
Master's Student MSc in Child Development 
University College London

A

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Laura Hernandez, B.S.
Lab Assistant II
University of California, Los Angeles

A

Lauren Tubbs, M.S.
Coach at Stingrays Club Swim 

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Carolyn Jennifer Marentes Ruiz,MD
Clinical Research Coordinator
ASCADA Research

A

Adam Skura,BS
Medical Student
UMass


Gen

Jennifer DelValle
Biomanufacturing Scientist I
GenVivo, Inc

Gen

Stephanie Perez,BS
Quality Control Analyst
GenVivo, Inc

Gen

Harvey Peralta,BS
Endocrine Department
CHLA

Ge

Yea Ji Sea
Clinic Manager
KCS Inc. 

Melissa L Tanaka,MD
Pediatric Resident
New York-Presbyterian Brooklyn Methodist Hospital 

Chiara Cerini,MD
Pediatric Resident
Children's Hospital Los Angeles

Thomas Tarro,MD
Assistant Professor of Clinical Pediatrics
University of California, San Francisco

Adrianna Sainz,BS
Medical Student
American University of Antigua

Ariana Peralta,BS
IVF Coordinator
HRC Fertility

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