Ajit Divakaruni
Ajit Divakaruni
Principal Investigator

ADivakaruni@mednet.ucla.edu  

Ajit has been an Assistant Professor of Molecular and Medical Pharmacology at the UCLA David Geffen School of Medicine since 2017. He grew up in Phoenix, Arizona and attended the University of Arizona on a Flinn Scholarship, where he received his B.S. in Biochemistry and Applied Mathematics in 2006. He then earned his Ph.D. in Biochemistry from the University of Cambridge in 2011 as a Marshall Scholar and NSF Graduate Research Fellow, training in mitochondrial bioenergetics under Dr. Martin Brand. After graduating, he conducted post-doctoral research from 2011 to 2017 at the University of California, San Diego in a hybrid academic-industry postdoc, receiving academic training with Dr. Anne Murphy and working with Seahorse Biosciences to develop applications for the XF Analyzer. When he’s not working, he is probably eating, playing tennis, or stuck on the 405.


Aracely Acevedo
Aracely Acevedo
Graduate Student

AAcevedo@mednet.ucla.edu  

Aracely joined the lab in 2020 as a Ph.D. student in the Molecular, Cellular, and Integrative Physiology program after receiving her B.S. degree in Molecular, Cell, and Developmental Biology from UC Santa Cruz and her M.S. degree in Chemistry with an option in Biochemistry from California State University, Los Angeles. She studies potential mitochondrial therapeutics for heart failure and obesity. In her spare time, she enjoys music and dancing, traveling through nature, spending quality time with her family, and living a healthy lifestyle.


Nataly Arias
Nataly Arias
Graduate Student

NatalyArias@mednet.ucla.edu  

Nataly joined the lab in 2021 as a Ph.D. student in the Molecular and Medical Pharmacology department after receiving her B.S. in Cellular and Molecular Biology from California State University, Dominguez Hills. Before joining the lab, she studied the mechanisms of triple negative breast cancer at Charles R. Drew University and studied progenitor cells in the lung epithelium during regeneration at the University of Southern California. In her spare time, she likes to explore new eating hubs, grow succulents, and go on hiking trips to national parks.


Andréa Ball
Andréa Ball
Graduate Student

AndreaBall@mednet.ucla.edu  

Andréa joined the lab in 2021 as a Ph.D. student in the Molecular and Medical Pharmacology department. She received her B.S. from Duke University in 2020, majoring in Biology and Spanish. As an undergraduate she studied the role of the pro-inflammatory cytokine IL-6 in T cell metabolism. In the lab, she studies macrophage metabolism with a focus on the role of oxidative phosphorylation in pro-inflammatory macropahges. In her free time, Andréa likes to try new restaurants, go to the beach, and watch football!


Bezawit Danna
Bezawit Danna
Undergraduate Student

bezawitdana@gmail.com  

Bezawit is a third year undergraduate student at UCLA majoring in Biochemistry. Her research interests include mitochondrial metabolism, and she is exploring research in biochemistry. She aspires to become a research scientist in the future. In her free time, she enjoys binge watching shows, taking a long walk with her mom, and going to a beach to watch the sunset.


Neira Ibrahimovic
Neira Ibrahimovic
Undergraduate Student

neiraibrahimovic01@gmail.com  

Neira is a fourth year undergraduate student at UCLA majoring in Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology and minoring in Mathematical Biology. Being from San Diego, she really enjoys spending time at the beach during her free time. Her other hobbies include dancing, writing poetry, and hiking in nature. She is exploring both academia and industry as potential paths for her career. Her research interests include genetics and metabolism – she feels very inspired by science and the direction it continues to grow!


Anthony Jones
Anthony Jones
Graduate Student

AEJones@mednet.ucla.edu  

Anthony joined the lab in 2019 after graduating from Cal State University, Dominguez Hills with a degree in Biochemistry. His research career started with the investigation of antioxidant properties in succulent plants utilizing DPPH free radical scavenging assays. Here, he studies the role of mitochondrial metabolism during macrophage activation. His current project involves unraveling the mechanism by which Coenzyme A instructs anti-inflammatory macrophage activation. In his spare time Anthony enjoys listening to classic vinyl records from his favorite reggae artists and watching the Los Angeles Clippers.


Marisa Mekkittikul
Marisa Mekkittikul
Graduate Student

mmekkittikul@mednet.ucla.edu  

Marisa joined the lab in 2022 as a Ph.D. student in the Molecular and Medical Pharmacology program. She received her B.S. in Neuroscience from UCLA, where she also studied traumatic brain injury and mixed dementia at the UCLA-Veterans’ Affairs Easton Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center. She primarily investigates brain energy metabolism, particularly in the context of neurodegenerative diseases. In her spare time, she is likely spending time with her friends, pets, or plants.


Kaitlyn Nguyen
Kaitlyn Nguyen
Undergraduate Student

kaitlynnguyen@g.ucla.edu  

Kaitlyn is a third year undergraduate student at UCLA majoring in Biochemistry. She is currently interested in studying macrophage metabolism, and hopes to pursue a career in research in the future. In her free time, she enjoys eating good food, going to concerts, and picking up new hobbies!


Amy Rios
Amy Rios
Undergraduate Student

amyr08@g.ucla.edu  

Amy is a third-year Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology major. She currently studies alternative macrophage activation and hopes to continue researching immunology in graduate school. In her free time, Amy enjoys exploring new restaurants, reading a book at Janns steps, and going to the beach.


Julie Ahn
Julie Ahn
Undergraduate Student

julieahn08140@ucla.edu  

Julie graduated from UCLA in 2021 earning a B.S. in Biology. She joined the lab in 2019 and has been working under Graduate Student Anthony Jones to explore the implications of mitochondria on human disease. She is currently applying to dental school, and when she’s not in the lab she loves DJing, hiking, and going to the beach.


Amber Bianchi
Amber Bianchi
Undergraduate Student

amberrbianchi@yahoo.com  

Amber joined the lab in 2019 as an undergraduate research assistant and mainly is involved with gene expression studies. She continued as an assistant in the lab after graduating from UCLA with a B.S. in General Biology in 2021. In her free time, Amber likes to workout, spend time with friends and go hiking.


Angel Cortez
Angel Cortez
Undergraduate Student

angelcortez98@g.ucla.edu  

Angel joined the lab in 2019 as an undergraduate research assistant and was involved in various metabolomics and gene expression studies. He graduated from UCLA with a B.S. in Biology in 2021. In his free time, Angel likes to scroll through TikTok, eat out with friends, and go to the beach.


Brandon Desousa
Brandon Desousa
Technician

brandon.desousa@ucsf.edu  

Brandon was born in South Florida and received his B.S. in Biochemistry and Neuroscience from the University of Miami. In the Divakaruni Lab, Brandon worked on development of an ATP production rate assay and used this to understand glioblastoma tumor heterogeneity. Currently, Brandon is a graduate student at UCSF in Dr. Isha Jain’s lab. Outside of the lab, Brandon enjoys discovering new films at independent cinemas, coffee tasting, and chicken tenders.


Wayne Hsieh
Wayne Hsieh
Postdoctoral Fellow

wayne_hsieh@hotmail.com  

Wayne joined this lab as a joint postdoc in 2020 to study macrophage metabolism and activation. Prior to UCLA, he received his B.Sc. in Biology at the University of Toronto before completing his M.Sc. in Genomics and Pathway Biology and Ph.D. in Biomedical Sciences at the University of Edinburgh. He currently works at Emergent Biosolutions, and in his free time, he enoys eating, cycling, building computers from scrap parts, playing badminton, and going to musicals.


Kristen Kim
Kristen Kim
Technician


Krista Yang
Krista Yang
Technician

kristayang20@gmail.com  

Krista joined the lab in 2020 as a staff research associate after graduating from UCLA with a B.S. in Psychobiology. She is now a medical student at Virginia Commonwealth University. In her free time, she likes trying new restaurants with friends, exploring Richmond’s bookstores, and petting dogs.