Dena Dubal, M.D.,
Associate Professor, Principal Investigator
David A. Coulter Endowed Chair in Aging and Neurodegenerative Disease

Dr. Dena Dubal is a neurologist and neuroscientist passionate about biomedical discoveries to improve human health. Dr. Dubal received her MD and PhD degrees from the University of Kentucky College of Medicine. Her graduate research with Dr. Phyllis Wise focused on effects of hormones on stroke injury. Dr. Dubal completed a medical internship and neurology residency at UCSF, where she also served as chief resident. She then completed a basic research and clinical fellowship in aging and dementias with Drs. Lennart Mucke and Bruce Miller.

Dr. Dubal directs a team unraveling how pathways of longevity lead to brain resilience. Using synergistic approaches including the study of humans, mouse models of brain disease, and single cells – from the molecular to behavioral levels – her lab is investigating how mechanisms of resilience are paving paths to treatments for aging and neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s. Her discoveries have been profiled in high-impact media such as NPR and the Economist – and are recognized as potential therapies for living longer and better. Awards and honors for her work include the Paul Beeson Career Development Award through the NIA and American Federation for Aging Research, the UCSF David A. Coulter Endowed Chair in Aging and Neurodegenerative Disease, and the Grass Neuroscience Award.

picture JL Julio Leon, M.S.,
Postdoctoral Fellow
Julio obtained his Masters and PhD degrees from the University of Kyushu in Japan where he trained in functional genomics, molecular biology, and biochemistry. His studies focused on elucidating the molecular mechanisms underlying neurodegenerative disorders associated with aging such as Alzheimer’s disease (AD). Julio invesitgated postmortern brains donated from patients with AD in “The Hisayama study” cohort. Moreover, he discovered that accumulation of 8-oxogunine, a common oxidative lesion in neurodegenerative disorders, induces mitochondrial dysfunction and impairs neuritogenesis in adult cortical neurons. Julio is unraveling the molecular basis by which klotho enhances cognition and induces neural resilience in aging and neurodegenerative diseases.

Outside the lab, Julio enjoys playing soccer (he loves soccer!), swimming, and hanging out with friends.

Samira Abdulai-Saiku, Ph.D
Postdoctoral Fellow
Samira obtained her Ph.D degree from the Nanyang Technological University, Singapore where she studied neuroendocrinology and molecular biology. Her studies focused on understanding the mechanism of innate fear and anxiety in rats using Toxoplasma infection as a perturbation system. Samira discovered that the underlying regulatory mechanism of innate fear was different between males and females despite a similar phenotypic expression of fear response. Samira is currently interested in understanding the effect of the parent-of-origin of the active X chromosome on various measures of aging and cognition.

Aside research, Samira enjoys reading, movies and sports.

Melinda Barkhuizen, Ph.D
Postdoctoral Fellow
Melinda obtained her PhD in Neuroscience in 2017 through a joint-degree program between Maastricht University in the Netherlands and North-West University in South Africa. She trained as a pharmacist and medicinal chemist in South Africa. Her PhD research focused on genetic and perinatal risk factors for movement disorders, such as Parkinson’s and Huntington’s diseases. Melinda is focused on turning epidemiological observations into new therapies. Currently, she is looking for specific genes which underlie female resilience to ageing and neurodegeneration. 

Outside of the lab, she enjoys traveling, exploring foreign cultures and walking on the beaches of San Francisco.

Cana Park, Ph.D
Postdoctoral Fellow
Cana received her PhD from the Pohang University of Science and Technology in South Korea where she focused on elucidating the molecular mechanisms underlying psychiatric diseases such as schizophrenia. She is exploring how Klotho enhances cognition and neural resilience.

Outside of the lab, she enjoys driving and swimming.

profile pic_emily davis Emily Davis, B.A. –
Graduate Student
Emily received her BA in the Biological Basis of Behavior from the University of Pennsylvania where she spent time in the learning and memory lab of Dr. Ted Abel. Her honors thesis focused on the behavioral phenotypes of Fmr1 KO mice, a mouse model of Fragile X syndrome. In addition, she’s assisted in research determining the effects of sleep deprivation on the mTOR protein translation signaling pathway within the hippocampus. She looks forward to exploring the intersection of neurodegeneration, aging, and sexual dimorphism within the Dubal lab.

When not in the lab she enjoys spending time with family and friends as well as browsing Reddit, cuddling with dogs, and playing video games.

Dan Wang, M.D., M.S. –
Research Associate
Dan received her MD in Pediatrics from China Medical University and MS in Clinical Laboratory Science from San Francisco State University. She worked at Ernest Gallo Clinic & Research Center at UCSF before joining the Dubal Lab. She is interested in the aging process and neurodegenerative diseases.

Outside of the lab, Dan enjoys sewing, hiking, and camping.

Arturo Image Arturo Moreno,
Research Associate
Arturo received his B.A. in Psychology from UC Berkeley in May 2013. He is interested in the behavioral and biochemical aspects of aging and various neurological disorders, such as Alzheimer’s Disease and Huntington’s disease. Inspired by his internship in the Dubal lab, Arturo attended the post-baccalaureate Health Careers Program at Harvard from 2014 to 2016 and studied in the lab of Dominic Walsh at Brigham and Women’s Hospital looking at toxic Amyloid-Beta species using electrophysiological techniques. After the completion of his study, Arturo returned to the Dubal lab as a Staff Research Associate. He hopes to go to medical school to be a physician-scientist working in Neurology.

During his free time he loves to play music, watch soccer, listen to podcasts, and bike around his native Bay Area.  

Jennifer Yokoyama,
Assistant Professor, Collaborator
Jennifer Yokoyama obtained her PhD in pharmaceutical sciences and pharmacogenomics from UCSF in December 2010. Jennifer is a postdoctoral scholar at the Memory and Aging Center, where she is investigating genetic risk for neurodegenerative disease. In July 2012, she received a Larry L Hillblom Fellowship. Jennifer is interested in the effect genotype can have on brain physiology, behavior and cognition in healthy adults, and how this may relate to increased vulnerability to disease processes in later stages of life. She is also particularly interested in understanding how these effects may differ across diverse ethnic populations.

IMG_1138 Kevin
Web Manager, Vanderbilt University
Kevin graduated from Vanderbilt University in 2018 where he obtained a bachelor’s degree in Neuroscience. His research interests include the pathology of aging, sex differences in the brain, and neurodegenerative diseases, specifically Alzheimer’s disease. In the future, Kevin hopes to attend medical school and ultimately pursue a career in neurology.

Outside of the lab, Kevin enjoys volunteering around the community, exploring San Francisco’s eateries, playing basketball, running, and video games.

Lab Alumni

Uma Uma
Undergraduate Researcher, Santa Clara University
Uma is a third-year undergraduate student at Santa Clara University double majoring in Psychology and Public Health. She is interested in neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s, at a cellular and global scale. During her free time, Uma loves baking, reading, and traveling. Her favorite location so far has been Istanbul, Turkey, and she looks forward to her upcoming travels to Yangon, Myanmar.

Elena_MM_profile pic_high Elena Minones-Moyano,
Postdoctoral Fellow
Elena is a Biochemist and Chemist by training with a PhD in Genetics & Biotechnology -internationally trained- with over 10 years of pre- and post-doctoral experience on gene expression regulation, sncRNAs, functional genetics, neurodegeneration and stress responses. Elena got her PhD from the Centre of Genomic Regulation in Barcelona (Spain), where she studied the contribution of sncRNAs to Parkinson’s disease pathogenesis. She then moved to the IGMM-MRC in Edinburgh (UK) where she was investigating the cell-type specificity of miRNA mediated stress responses. Elena has a broad interest in aging and neurodegenerative diseases, and at Dena Dubal’s lab she will now try to understand the impact of sex chromosomes in longevity and disease susceptibility.

Elena likes tweeting every now and then about science, open access, and women in science (@ElenaMinones). Science aside, she loves coffee and enjoys scouting the city for good coffee spots. She also enjoys hiking, swimming and taking pictures, especially while travelling; she loves travelling!

Tomi Tomi Lewis
Undergraduate Researcher, Brown University
Tomi Lewis is beginning her third year at Brown University where she is pursuing a B.S. in Neuroscience. The human brain and its plastic ability to naturally adapt to changing stimuli have fascinated Tomi for years now. She is interested in the development and adaptation of the human brain and hopes to continue to do translational research to contribute to the improvement of human health. Outside the lab, Tomi enjoys traveling, working with young children, and volunteering in the community.

Mireya picture Mireya Napoles –
Undergraduate Researcher, Williams College
Mireya will be starting her sophomore year at Williams College next fall and is double majoring in German and Biology with a concentration in Neuroscience. She plans on pursuing a career in neuroscience research in the future. She is intrigued by the intricacy of the human brain, and she hopes to explore the many areas of research in neuroscience to discover her specific area of interest. Outside of the lab, Mireya enjoys playing both the electric guitar and the drums, drawing, reading, and playing soccer with friends.

Nilson_1 Nilson Wu –
Undergraduate Researcher, UC Berkeley
Nilson is a fourth-year undergraduate student at UC Berkeley with an intended double major in Molecular and Cell Biology and Public Health. He has recently gained interest in studying aging and it’s associated neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia. Outside of lab, Nilson volunteers at the Suitcase Clinic and the Berkeley Free Clinic, and also participates in the Field Study Internship, a doctor shadowing program at UC Berkeley. During his free time Nilson enjoys singing and playing guitar, working out at the Cal Recreational Sports Facility, hiking, running, biking, playing basketball, reading, listening to music, hanging out with friends, and of course eating.

Yi Yi Li, B.S. –
Research Volunteer
Yi received her B.S. in Animal Science at UC Davis. She discovered her interest in animal science when she was in high school, which prompted her to pursue a major in animal science with a specialization in companion animals during her time at UC Davis. After she graduated, she held a lab animal technician position at UCSF. During that time, she found that she particularly liked to work with lab animals, thus bringing her to the Dubal Lab! In the future, Yi aims to focus her career on animal lab assistance.

IMG_1139 Jonathan Lin, B.A.
Medical Student Researcher, University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry
Jonathan received his B.A. in Biology-neuroscience and minored in Public Health, graduating with College Honors from Washington University in St. Louis in 2013. He is currently a rising second year medical student at the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry. His research interests include studying aging, disease processes, and neurodegenerative diseases; Jonathan ultimately hopes to pursue a career in neurology. When Jonathan isn’t studying for his med school exams, he enjoys reaching out to the homeless community, volunteering at student-run health clinics, jogging while watching Netflix, and playing board games!

IMG_1143 Melba Njenga
Undergraduate Researcher, Fort Lewis College
Melba will be starting her senior year at Fort Lewis College in Durango, CO. She is a double major in Cellular and Molecular Biology and Political Science. She has recently gained interest in the field of neuroscience with particular interest in neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease. Outside of research and school, she enjoys anything outdoors related, reading, spending time with her family/friends/pets, watching movies, and listening to music.

Luke Bonham,
Intern, UC Berkeley
Luke is a graduate of UC Berkeley’s Haas School of Business with Highest Honors. He was a finalist for the UC Berkeley University Medal — ranking in the top 5 students in the undergraduate Class of 2013. He is interested in the aging process and genetic aspects of late-onset diseases. He hopes to pursue a career in the healthcare field after graduating and is excited to work at UCSF. Outside of school and research, Luke enjoys backpacking, hiking, and traveling with friends.

Lauren Broestl,
Research Associate
Lauren received her B.A. with Majors in Molecular and Cell Biology and English from UC Berkeley in May 2011, graduating with Highest Distinction in General Scholarship. Though she has always found the brain and neurological disorders fascinating, her decision to pursue research in neuroscience was driven by a class on the neurological basis of behavior that she took her final semester. She is extremely passionate about medical science, and plans to pursue a career in this field, with an emphasis on identifying new therapies to treat neurological disorders. Lauren was recently accepted into the medical program at Washington University in St. Louis, and is excited to be joining the class of 2014.

website Tanya Singh B.S.
Intern, UC Davis
Tanya graduated from UC Davis in 2013, majoring in Cognitive Neuroscience through the independent major program, and minoring in Statistics. Her research interests include understanding disease processes which severely affect cognitive function and she hopes to join the effort in advancing therapeutic options for patients afflicted with these diseases. Tanya plans to pursue a career in medicine and enjoys running.

Arturo Image Bayardo Garay
Intern, UC Berkeley ’15
Bayardo will be starting his senior year at UC Berkeley next fall and is majoring in Molecular and Cell Biology with an emphasis in Neurobiology. He is interested in neural stem cells and neurodegenerative diseases. He plans to pursue an M.D./Ph.D. in the future. Outside of school and research, Bayardo enjoys lap swimming, exploring museums, reading, watching movies and playing video games.

Arturo Image Rebecca Pearson
Intern, UC Santa Cruz ’15
Rebecca will be graduating from UC Santa Cruz in 2015, earning a B.S. in Neuroscience. Her interests lay at the interface between biomolecules and behavior, particularly with respect to aging, cognition and Alzheimer’s disease. Addressing the effects of Alzheimer’s through research, teaching, clinical therapy, and prevention is her ultimate goal. She is also very involved in promoting higher education for disadvantaged students, creating and participating in outreach programs in the Bay Area and Sacramento. For recreation Rebecca enjoys dancing, yoga, running, biking, swimming, climbing, reading, traveling and adventuring.

Arturo Image Samantha Wong
Intern, UC San Diego ’17
As a sophomore undergraduate at UCSD, Samantha is fascinated by the complexity of the brain and hopes to enter the field of neuroscience someday. Inspired by the mechanisms in the human brain and how they allow human beings to function and behave in unique and different ways, she very much enjoys writing creative stories in her spare time. She hopes to delve deeper into these brain mechanisms to decide upon a career path. Other hobbies of hers include playing tennis, singing, and reading young adult novels.

Alina Boltunova, B.A.
Intern, UC Berkeley
Alina is a graduate of UC Berkeley, majoring in Public Health and Molecular & Cell Biology. She is interested in studying neuroprotective pathways in aging. Alina hopes to go to medical school and ultimately pursue clinical or translational research. Her hobbies include ballet, running, and trying new foods.
labphoto (2) David Myers
Intern, Colgate University
David will be starting his senior year at Colgate University next fall and is majoring in Cellular Neuroscience. The brain and its obscurities have always sparked Dave’s curiosity. He is primarily interested in neurodegenerative diseases such as MS and Alzheimer’s and their connection to sex chromosomes. Additionally, he hopes to continue to pursue research and later attend medical school.
Kurtresha Worden
Research Associate
Kurtresha first began conducting neuroscience research in the Dubal Lab as an undergraduate, during the summer before her sophomore year at NYU. Her interest in the diseased brain began at an early age, and has since developed into a passion to which she plans to dedicate her career. In the future, Kurtresha hopes to receive her MD and PhD degrees to better enable her to continue exploring potential therapies for devastating diseases of the brain.


Stephanie Cheung
Intern, Columbia University

Daniel Kim, B.A.
Research Associate

Frank Lee
Intern, Duke University