Program Faculty


New participating faculty members have joined the training program to broaden the scope of the training program and to replace those who either left UCLA or retired. The current 36 participating faculties cover a wide range of biomedical research areas.


Molecular/Cellular Modeling/Biophysics


Tom Chou (Biomathematics, Mathematics, Physics) studies modeling techniques to explain various biophysical phenomena based on fundamental principles in physics and chemistry. Topics of recent interest include statistical mechanics of protein aggregation, proteinmembrane interactions, stochastic processes in reaction kinetics, branching processes in the cell cycle, cancer modeling, physicochemical hydrodynamics, image segmentation, and mathematical modeling in ophthalmology.


Alexander Levine (Physics, Chemistry) is trained in theoretical soft-condensed matter physics. He develops new models in microrheology, protein mechanics, cell cytoskeleton dynamics, polymer physics, and network dynamics in neuroscience.


Marcus Roper (Mathematics) studies fluid mechanics of biological organisms, particularly fungi. He teaches classical applied mathematical modeling in fluid and solid mechanics. His research and teaching areas are highly valuable to the mathematical modeling missions of the SIB training grant.


William Gelbart (Chemistry, Biochemistry) is an expert in the statistical mechanics of "complex" fluids. He is also interested in applying the knowledge associated with statistical mechanics to understand the molecular-level biochemical phenomena of reactions in biological systems.


Dan Kamei (Biochemistry) is an Associate Professor in Bioengineering. His research interest is in system-level/engineering analysis of cellular processes. He also performs quantitative cell biology experiments to test model predictions, design drug delivery vehicles, and develop novel diagnostics.


Julio Vergara (Physiology) works on using calcium ion spot detection and pulse laser imaging to study excitation-contraction (E-C) coupling in vertebrate skeletal muscle and its relevance to the regulation of neuronal synaptic transmission. In the Cell Physiology Imaging Group, with which he is associated, new imaging techniques with improved temporal and spatial resolution are being developed. Through optical imaging, new insights have been obtained on the role of the membrane potential of the T-tubule, and possible chemical transmitters, in transduction at the T-SR junction.


Ernest Wright (Physiology) studies structure and function of co-transporters. His research is focused on understanding how ion gradients drive the accumulation of various substrates, peptides and neurotransmitters in cells. Studies to link gene mutation to defects in SGLT transporters and then use PET imaging to examine functional changes are among his recent research interests.


Ren Sun (Molecular and Medical Pharmacology) is a member of the Molecular Biology Institute, the AIDS Institute, the Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center, the Dental Research Institute, and the California NanoSystems Institute. His research is on various tumor-associated herpesviruses. He also works on the modeling of the systems biology network relating drug levels to the switch-on/off of herpesvirus.


Physiology/Systems Modeling


Joe DiStefano (Computer Science, Biomedical Engineering, Medicine) is Director of the Biocybernetics Teaching and Experimental Laboratory. He has used mathematical modeling methods to study the regulation of thyroid hormone and has developed many important modeling techniques. His current research interests include pharmacokinetic and dynamic systems modeling and optimization, compartmental modeling, signaling and receptor models, endocrine system physiology and control, and optimal kinetic experimental design.


Alan Garfinkel (Physiological Sciences, Medicine) has been using mathematical modeling techniques to explain cardiac arrhythmias. He is a leader in this field. His general research interests include mathematical modeling of cellular and tissue electrophysiology, analysis of data from experimental and clinical arrhythmias using techniques of nonlinear dynamics (chaos theory), and development of pharmacologic and electrophysiologic interventions to prevent and control arrhythmias.


Thomas Graeber (Molecular and Medical Pharmacology, ACCESS) studies systems biology of cancer signaling and metabolism. He is an American Cancer Society Research Scholar. He is working on developing genome-, proteome-, and metabolome-wide detection assays to measure and model aberrant cancer signaling and metabolism. One of his research aims is to identify the minimal sets of informative components that best reflect the state of the cell.


Elliot Landaw (Biomathematics) is Vice-Chair of the Biomathematics Department. He is well known for his work in pharmacokinetic and compartmental modeling and optimal experimental design. His research interests include modeling approaches for optimization of chemotherapy and assessing in vivo combination therapy and applications in clinical pharmacokinetics.


Jamie Lloyd-Smith (Ecology and Evolutionary Biology) Is the De Logi Chair in Biological Sciences and received his Ph.D. in Biophysics from UC Berkeley. He studies the ecological and evolutionary dynamics of infectious disease in animal and human populations. By combining theoretical models with data, he aims to discover fundamental principles of disease transmission and adaptation, identify driving mechanisms, and design effective control policies. His work includes California sea lions, monkeypox in humans and wildlife in central Africa, and SARS and other emerging diseases in humans.


Amy Rowat (Integrative Biology and Physiology) has a Ph.D. in physics from the University of Southern Denmark. Her research links the mechanics of biological materials to their physiology, with a current emphasis on the cell nucleus, which is central to genome integrity, gene expression, and mechanobiology. She explores the structure and organization of the nucleus at multiple levels, from the origins of nuclear shape to subnuclear structure and dynamics, and the resulting consequences for cellular physiology. Her approach is multidisciplinary and includes the development and application of new technologies to connect molecular-scale composition and genotype with biophysical phenotype.


Van Savage (Biomathematics, Ecology & Evolutionary Biology) is developing new models for tumor growth that can connects properties of vascular architecture, the process of angiogenesis, host capillary density, blood supply, and cellular metabolic rate. Savage also works closely with Dan Ennis, a participating member from the Department of Radiology, to develop software for the automated extraction of 3D vessel geometry from MRI and CT scans across length scales in the vascular system. Moreover, Savage has helped develop models and novel tests using empirical data for the function and duration of sleep as well as cell size and the rate of evolution for species, including collaborations with multiple members of the Ecology and Evolutionary Biology Department.


Genetics/Molecular Phylogeny


James Lake (Molecular, Cellular & Developmental Biology, Human Genetics) directs a laboratory focusing on genomics and evolution of early life forms. The lab is analyzing sequence information with the goal of understanding the origins of eukaryotes from prokaryotes and the separation of the deurterostome (vertebrate and echinoderms, for example) from the protostome (fruit flies and clams, for example). His lab is also working on the comparative analysis of systemic blocks common to the genomes of closely related organisms, such as those found in humans and mice. This aids in the identification of gene boundaries, open reading frames, and the interpretation of gene organization.


Steve Horvath (Human Genetics, Biostatistics) works on the analysis of DNA and tissue microarray data. His research interests include family-based allelic association tests for finding complex disease genes, tissue microarray data, weighed gene co-expression networks, and systems biology.

Christina Ramirez Kitchen (Biostatistics) works on gene mutation and drug resistance. She uses molecular sequence data and phylogenetics to study pathogenesis in HIV/AIDS. She has developed semi-parametric techniques to infer relationships between genotype and phenotype.


Kenneth Lange (Biomathematics, Human Genetics, Statistics) is Chair of the Human Genetics Department. His research interests include human genetics, population biology, computational statistics, and applied stochastic processes. He has worked on problems of linkage and radiation hybrid mapping, risk prediction in genetic counseling, genetic epidemiology, and forensic uses of DNA profiling. These areas tie in well with his activities in computational statistics and highlight his contributions to the computation of complex probabilities on human pedigrees. Dr. Lange has also made important contributions to medical image reconstruction. He is a pioneer in the use of the EM algorithm for statistical reconstruction of tomographic images. His former students, Neil Risch, Michael Boehnke, Daniel Weeks, Laura Lazzeroni, and Eric Sobel are leading figures in statistical genetics.


Janet Sinsheimer (Human Genetics, Biomathematics, Biostatistics) is Chair of the Department of Biomathematics. She works on Bayesian techniques for reconstructing evolutionary trees from molecular data. She has applied these phylogenetic methods to determining the rate of evolution of HIV, to the clinical identification of microbial pathogens, and to understanding the genes determining sex in mammals. She is also deeply involved in statistical genetics, both at the theoretical and practical levels. She is a co-developer of the gamete competition model and a statistical collaborator on studies of osteoporosis, osteoarthritis, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, autism, and schizophrenia.


Marc Suchard (Human Genetics, Biomathematics, Biostatistics) uses biomathematical and computational approaches to analyze stochastic processes in molecular sequence data and develop longitudinal models of biomedical processes. He is helping develop the nascent field of evolutionary medicine which harnesses the power of methods and theory from evolutionary biology and phylogenetics to advance our understanding of human disease processes, particularly in the study of rapidly evolving pathogens. He received a 2008 Guggenheim Fellowship, the 2011 Raymond J. Carroll Young Investigator Award and became a Fellow of the American Statistical Association in 2012.


Eleazar Eskin (Computer Science, Bioinformatics) focuses on developing techniques for solving the challenging computational problems that arise in attempting to understand the genetic basis of human disease. Current projects include complex traits in inbred mouse strains, the genetics of gene expression and developing webservers for genetic research. Eskin received a 2009 Sloan Fellowship.


Population Modeling/Evolution


John Novembre (Ecology and Evolutionary Biology) is an Assistant Professor whose research interests are at the interface of population genetics and computational statistics. His focus is developing and evaluating statistical methods for genomic-scale population genetic data to investigate questions in evolutionary genetics. Applications in the study of relatedness among populations include detecting natural selection, genome-wide association mapping, understanding population history, personal ancestry inference in humans, and conservation genetics. He became an Alfred P. Sloan Research Fellow in 2012.


Priyanga Amarasekare (Ecology and Evolutionary Biology) is a Professor whose research focuses on mechanisms that maintain biological diversity in variable environments. She uses both ecology and evolution to effectively combine and interpret her field observations, experiments, and mathematical models. By focusing on prey-natural enemy interactions, her work spans both basic and applied issues.


Charles Taylor (Ecology and Evolutionary Biology) is Professor in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology. His research interests are in population genetics and artificial life. They involve two general themes: developing techniques that will extend the study of evolution beyond the traditional domain of biological evolution to complex adaptive systems (e.g., artificial life systems, including robots), and applying new methods of computer simulations to help manage problems in ecology and evolution.


Biomedical Imaging and Imaging Science


Mark Cohen (Neurology) is Director of Functional MR Imaging of Ahmanson-Lovelace Brain Mapping Center, and is a leading expert in magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). His current research interests include rapid MR imaging, real-time imaging of brain function, integration of EEG and functional MRI, and neural processes underlying mental imagery.


Paul Thompson (Neurology) is a member of the UCLA Brain Mapping Center. He has developed novel mathematical methods for analyzing brain images for detecting pathology and for creating disease-specific atlases of the human brain. His recent work has focused on mapping dynamic processes during brain development and degeneration, on brain mapping in Alzheimer's Disease, schizophrenia and neurooncology, and on creating population-based digital brain atlases.


Henry Huang (Molecular & Medical Pharmacology, Biomathematics) is Director of the Image Analysis Center in the School of Medicine. He has worked on tracer kinetic modeling of many PET tracers, and has combined modeling of biological process with physical/mathematical factors in imaging to provide quantitative biological information from PET imaging studies. He has ongoing collaborations with many faculty members in mathematical and biomedical specialties at UCLA. His research interest includes tomographic image reconstruction and tracer kinetic modeling for quantitative biomedical imaging.


Michael Phelps (Molecular & Medical Pharmacology, Biomathematics) is Chair of the Department of Molecular and Medical Pharmacology. He is the co-inventor of positron emission tomography (PET) and has made many important contributions to neurology, cardiology, and oncology with the use of PET. His work has led to the routine clinical use of PET for diagnosis of many diseases, including screening for tumor and its metastasis. His recent efforts in developing new imaging techniques for small animals to address biological problems and to develop/assess new drugs have created a completely new field of molecular imaging.


Arion Chatziioannou (Molecular & Medical Pharmacology) is Professor in the Department of Molecular and Medical Pharmacology and is the Associate Director of the Crump Institute for Biological Imaging in CNSI. He has developed many novel modalities for small animal imaging and for measuring the tracer kinetics in vitro cell lines, and has worked with various biologists and physicians to investigate various biological processes, especially as related to tumors.


Mike McNitt-Gray (Radiological Sciences, Biomedical Physics) s a Professor in the Radiological Science Department and is the Director of the Biomedical Physics (BMP) graduate program in the medical school. He has worked on the evaluation and characterization of x-ray CT imaging and their various medical/clinical applications. He also has established good relationships with CT companies and has trained numerous graduate students in BMP.


Dan Ennis (Radiological Sciences) is interested in extracting 3D vasculature signature to differentiate healthy from diseased tissue. He also collaborates with Professor Van Savage to develop software for the automated extraction of 3D vessel geometry from MRI and CT scans.


Modeling in Clinical/Translational Research


Robert Elashoff (Biomathematics, Biostatistics) is Vice Chair of Biomathematics and Director of six NIH funded Data and Statistical Coordinating Units. His research interests focus on 1) joint modeling of biomarkers, event times, nonignorable dropouts using both frequentist and Bayesian approaches; 2) composite indices for clinical trials; 3) model-based designs for adaptive clinical trials; and 4) jump regression.


Christian Schiepers (Nuclear Medicine) is a Professor of the Department of Molecular and Medical Pharmacology. He is an attending physician in Nuclear Medicine. He has been working on characterizing the kinetics of various radiotracers using compartmental models to differentiate tissues of different pathologies using PET. His research interest is in the application of quantitative imaging and tracer kinetic modeling in the clinical setting.


Zhilin Qu (Cardiology) is an Associate Professor of Medicine and co-director of the Cardiac Computation Laboratory. His research interests in computational biology center on using mathematical modeling and computer simulation to study the mechanisms of cardiac arrhythmias, cell cycle control, and the dynamics of biological signal transduction. He applies dynamical theory at the systems level to address clinical problems in the multi-scale modeling of excitation-contraction coupling and arrhythmias (such as ventricular fibrillation) and in understanding the complex network involved in cardiac metabolism.


James Weiss (Cardiology) is Professor of Medicine and Physiology, Chief of the Division of Cardiology, and Director of the Cardiovascular Research Laboratory. His research focuses on ion channel biophysics, cardiac electrophysiology, arrhythmias, and ischemia and mitochondrial biology. His research group spans the range from basic sciences to clinical applications and uses systems approaches integrating experimental biology at the molecular to organ level with mathematical modeling to investigate arrhythmias, ischemia biology and cardioprotection.