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Pia Pannaraj, MD, MPH
~ Director & Principal Investigator

Dr. Pannaraj is a Professor of Pediatrics and Molecular Microbiology and Immunology at Keck School of Medicine, University of Southern California and Infectious Disease Specialist at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles (CHLA). She also serves as the Vice Chair for Research of the Department of Pediatrics, and the Director of the CHLA Pediatric Global Health Residency Track.


Dr. Pannaraj is the current Vice President of the California Immunization Coalition and has been appointed to an American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) expert panel for a Global Immunizations Initiative. She also serves on the AAP RedBook 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.


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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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Lauren Tubbs, M.S.
~ Research Specialist

Lauren was born and raised in So Cal. She obtained her B.S. in Applied Health from Azusa Pacific University and a Masters in Global Medicine from the University of Southern California. She joined the PiaLab as a Research Assistant and is now a Research Specialist. Lauren plays different roles including coordinating studies as well as helping with the collecting and processing of samples. Aside from her love of science and medicine, Lauren’s passion also lies within coaching swimming and continuing her competitive swimming career.  

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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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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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Athena Thomassian, B.A.
~Research Assistant

Athena obtained her B.A. in Health and Human Sciences and minor in Healthcare from the University of Southern California. She is passionate about global health and pediatrics, and hopes to become a physician to work toward improving pediatric health outcomes globally. Athena joined the PiaLab as a Research Assistant to learn more about pediatric immunization research and the medical field before applying to medical school. Outside of medicine, Athena enjoys traveling, being active, and knitting.

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Laura Hernandez, B.S.
~Research Assistant

Laura joins the PiaLab at CHLA as a Research Assistant. She grew up in East LA and obtained her Bachelor of Science in Biology from the University of California Los Angeles. Some of her hobbies include reading books, going to the movie theater, and taking her dog Beau on long walks. Laura’s goal is to obtain her Bachelor of Science in Nursing.

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Nina Cuccinello, B.S.
~Research Assistant

Nina recently joined the Pialab as a research assistant. She grew up in Southern California and obtained her B.S. from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in Biology and minor in Digital studies. In the future, Nina plans to go to medical school. In addition to her interest in medicine, She enjoys being active and spending time with her family and friends.


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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?

Carolyn Jennifer Marentes Ruiz,MD
Clinical Research Coordinator
ASCADA Research


Adam Skura,BS
Medical Student


Jennifer DelValle
Biomanufacturing Scientist I
GenVivo, Inc


Stephanie Perez,BS
Quality Control Analyst
GenVivo, Inc


Harvey Peralta,BS
Endocrine Department


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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