Our Team

David Traver, PhD
David Traver, PhDPrincipal Investigator
David performed his graduate work in the laboratory of Irving Weissman at Stanford University where he developed mouse models of myeloid leukemia and identified myeloid-restricted progenitor subsets. He then joined the laboratory of Leonard Zon at Harvard University where he characterized the cellular biology of the zebrafish hematopoietic system.

Since starting his own laboratory in 2004, David has received a Career Development Award from the National Institutes of Health, a New Faculty Award from the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine, and Scholar Awards from the March of Dimes Foundation, the American Society of Hematology, the Sidney Kimmel Foundation for Cancer Research, and the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.

Karen Ong
Karen OngLaboratory Manager
After graduating from UCSD with degrees in Biology and Visual Arts, Karen joined the laboratory in the Fall of 2006. Karen both headed the Flow Cytometry Core Facility in the Division of Biological Sciences at UCSD and performed experiments as a Staff Research Associate to study the role of the Wnt signaling pathway in the development and function of hematopoietic stem cells. In 2011, Karen was promoted to Laboratory Manager.

Postdoctoral Fellows

Raquel Espin Palazon
Raquel Espin PalazonPostdoctoral Fellow
Raquel Espín Palazón graduated in Biology in 2008 from Murcia University, Spain. She then was supported by the Spanish National Centre for Cardiovascular Research (CNIC) to collaborate in the production of lentivirus vectors containing NFATc1 interference RNA for the treatment of collagen-induced arthritis in murine models at CNIC. She obtained her Master Degree in Molecular Biology and Biotechnology in 2009 at the University of Murcia, where she also completed her PhD in Víctor Mulero lab later in 2013. Raquel’s PhD project was focused on the functional characterization of the receptors of one of the most potent proinflammatory cytokines, TNFα (Tumor Necrosis Factor alpha) at two different levels, viral infections and endothelial development using zebrafish as in vivo animal model. During her PhD, she collaborated with Nadia Mercader and Juan Miguel Torres at CNIC and my group at UCSD.

Raquel joined the Traver lab in 2013 as a postdoctoral fellow. She is studying the role of proinflammatory cytokines, with main interest in TNFα, during Hematopoietic Stem Cells specification and emergence in the embryo.

Since Albert introduced Raquel to the tennis world, she loves playing tennis with Traver lab members, as well as playing the guitar and caving in Spain.

Stephanie Grainger
Stephanie GraingerPostdoctoral Fellow
Stephanie joined the lab in 2013, after completing her PhD at the University of Ottawa in Canada. Her thesis work focused on the role of the Cdx transcription factor family in mouse intestinal development, under supervision of Dr. David Lohnes. Stephanie is interested in the developmental processes that govern hematopoietic development in the zebrafish embryo.

Stephanie has been awarded postdoctoral fellowships from the American Heart Association and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, and is currently a Scholar of the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.

Kaori Kanemaru
Kaori KanemaruPostdoctoral Fellow
Kaori studied Life Science at the Tokyo University of Pharmacy and Life Sciences in Japan. Her thesis work focused on the role of the Phosphoinositide metabolizing enzyme, Phospholipase C delta 1(PLCd1) in the mouse immune system, under the guidance of Dr. Kiyoko Fukami.

Kaori joined the lab in April 2015 and is interested in the mechanisms that specify and maintain hematopoietic stem cells during development. She was initially supported by a grant from the Toyobo Biotechnology Foundation and is currently supported by a grant awarded from the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science.

Kana Lewis
Kana LewisPostdoctoral Fellow
Kanako joined the Traver lab in July 2012 after completing her Ph.D. with Dr. Boris Reizis at Columbia University. Her graduate research focused on determining the function of different dendritic cell subsets using mouse models. She is currently applying her expertise to the study of antigen presenting cells and immune responses in zebrafish.
Claire Pouget
Claire PougetPostdoctoral Fellow
Claire completed her Ph.D. at the Université Denis Diderot in Paris (France) in 2007 under the supervision of Dr. Thierry Jaffredo (http://bio-dev.snv.jussieu.fr/umr7622/labo/fichelabos.php?lang=an&idlabo=5&page=fichelabos&dossier=labo). Her thesis project focussed on how somites shape the dorsal aorta during definitive hematopoiesis in the chicken embryo. She then moved to Oxford (UK), where she joined Roger Patient’s laboratory, (http://www.imm.ox.ac.uk/wimm-research/molhaem/roger-patient) at the Wheatherall Institute of Molecular Medicine. Here she investigated the role of fgf signalling in HSC development. After this fulfilling experience with zebrafish, she joined the Traver laboratory in August 2011.
Pankaj Sahai-Hernandez
Pankaj Sahai-HernandezPostdoctoral Fellow
Pankaj Sahai-Hernandez completed his bachelor’s degree in Biology at the University of Puerto Rico at Mayaguez. He then went on to do his PhD in the University of California, San Francisco, where his thesis focused on characterizing the follicle stem cell niche in the Drosophila Ovary in the laboratory of Dr. Todd Nystul. During his graduate work he characterized the population of stromal cells adjacent to the follicle stem cells and the morphogens required for their maintenance and proliferation.

Pankaj joined the lab in May 2014 and is interested in understanding the signals necessary for HSC maintenance. Pankaj enjoys running and cycling.

Michiel Van der Vaart, PhD
Michiel Van der Vaart, PhDPostdoctoral Fellow
Michiel studied Molecular Cell Biology and Science Based Business at the Leiden University, The Netherlands. In 2009, he started his doctoral research at the Leiden University under the guidance of Prof. Dr. Herman Spaink and Dr. Annemarie Meijer. His thesis project focused on innate host defense against intracellular pathogens, studying the link between pathogen recognition and autophagic defense against mycobacteria. Michiel joined the Traver lab in April 2014 and is interested in the mechanisms that control the immune system and neuroinflammation.
Bart Weijts
Bart WeijtsPostdoctoral Fellow
Bart studied Biology at the Utrecht University, the Netherlands, and started his PhD training in the lab of Prof. Dr. Alain de Bruin at the Veterinary Medicine faculty. During his doctoral research, he investigated the role of the cell cycle regulators E2F7 and E2F8 during the formation of blood and lymphatic vessels in development and cancer. Initially starting in mammalian in vitro and in vivo models, he also started to use the zebrafish model to look at the process of angiogenesis, lymphangiogenesis and tumorangiogenesis. This work was done in close collaboration with Prof. Dr. Stefan Schulte-Merker at the Hubrecht Institute. Bart joined the lab in August 2013 and is interested in the molecular mechanisms that specify and maintain hematopoietic stem cells during development and in the onset of leukemia. He is currently supported by a grant awarded by the European Molecular Biology Organization (EMBO).

Graduate Students

Cara Bickers
Cara BickersPhD Student
Cara graduated summa cum laude with a BS in Biological Science with a minor in Classics from the University of Southern California in 2011. She began her research career in the lab of Dr. Susan Forsburg where she studied DNA replication and centromere function in fission yeast. Cara joined the Biomedical Sciences Ph.D. program at UCSD in 2011, and began work in the Traver laboratory in September 2012. She is currently interested in characterizing the functional heterogeneity between fetal and adult HSC populations. Her hobbies include yoga and aerial silks.
Sophia Espanola
Sophia EspanolaPhD Student
Sophia completed her bachelors degree at UCLA studying Microbiology, Immunology, and Molecular Genetics with a minor in Society and Genetics. After graduation, she worked for two years at a local agricultural biotech company as a Research Associate. She began the Biomedical Sciences Ph.D. program at UCSD in 2012 and joined the lab in August 2014 after briefly studying epidermal specification and differentiation in the Yu laboratory. She was awarded a Dermatology Training Grant and a National Science Foundation Graduate Fellowship. Her research in the lab focuses on the role of Notch signaling during HSC specification and differentiation. In her free time, she enjoys backpacking, rock climbing, hiking, and cooking.
Jenna Richter
Jenna RichterPhD Student
Jenna graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Genetics and Cell Development from the University of Minnesota in 2012. She joined the Biomedical Sciences Ph.D. program in 2012, and joined the Traver lab in May of 2013. Jenna is a joint graduate student between the Traver lab and Karl Willert’s lab, where she is working to understand how Wnt signaling instructs hematopoietic development through specific ligands both in the zebrafish and in the human embryonic stem cell system. She is currently funded by the CIRM UCSD Interdisciplinary Stem Cell Research & Training Grant.

Former Members

Julien Bertrand
Assistant Professor, University of Geneva
Julien.Bertrand@unige.ch

Emerald Butko
Scientist, Advanced Cell Diagnostics
emerald.butko@gmail.com

Clyde Campbell
Doctoral student, Scripps Research Institute
clydecallen@aol.com

Wilson Clements
Assistant Member, St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital
Wilson.Clements@STJUDE.ORG

Natasha Del Cid
Scientist, eBioscience
natasha.delcid@gmail.com

Martin Distel
Group Leader, St. Anna Kinderkrebsforschung, Vienna
martin.distel@ccri.at

Christine Hochmuth
Consultant, California Senate Committee on Transportation and Housing
christinehochmuth@yahoo.com

Albert Kim
Fellow, USC
al.d.kim@gmail.com

Isao Kobayashi
Assistant Professor, Kanazawa University
ikobayashi@se.kanazawa-u.ac.jp

Yoonsung Lee
Investigator and Section Head, IBS, Korea
yoonsunglee@ibs.re.kr

Gianncarlo Lugo
Scientist, CNRS, Toulouse
Geanncarlo.Lugo@ipbs.fr

Jennifer Manegold
Medical Student, UCLA
Jennifer.manegold@gmail.com

Buyung Santoso
Scientist, Ferring Research Institute
buyungsantoso@gmail.com

David Stachura
Assistant Professor, CSU Chico
dstachura@csuchico.edu

Valerie Wittamer
Assistant Professor, Free University of Brussels
vwittame@ulb.ac.be