I was born and raised near Bonn, the former capital of Germany. Ever since I can remember, I was interested in biology. During school, I also became interested in chemistry, and during my civil service as an EMT, I was fascinated by physiology and medicine. Luckily, I discovered I could combine these interests by studying molecular biomedicine at the University of Bonn. There, I became fascinated by the versatility of the immune system and decided to become an immunologist. During my diploma thesis under supervision of Dr. Sven Burgdorf in the group of Dr. Christian Kurts, I got the chance to study the mechanisms of cross presentation in professional antigen presenting cells.
For my PhD thesis, I joined the lab of Dr. Winfried Barchet at the Institute for Clinical Chemistry and Clinical Pharmacology in Bonn, headed by Dr. Gunther Hartmann. I studied the mechanism and the biological function of several nucleic acid-based synthetic and enzymatically generated innate immune stimuli. Furthermore, I established a cancer vaccine in a model of ovarian cancer and unraveled its mode of action.
Now, I am excited to focus on anti-tumor immunity and the use of innate immune signals to fight cancer. The example of immune modulatory drugs like checkpoint inhibitors changing the treatment of cancer in the clinics already today is a great motivation for me to find new approaches to broaden our toolset in the fight against cancer in the clinics.
Driven by unwavering curiosity and constant fascination with the workings of the universe, I've always taken refuge in science to attend to all the lingering questions I had about the gears of our world. Growing up in Saudi Arabia, my access to facilitated labs was essentially nonexistent, and I found myself at a crossroads between focusing on academics/school, and going the extra mile to create research opportunities myself-- for there were none I could seize. So throughout high school, I ventured into (largely) independent research, and found chemistry to be the jack and master of all trades; truly the central science. It's the gateway to understanding everything, but I am particularly interested in medicinal and biochemistry and their joint capacity for the betterment of humankind. Specifically, I am interested in studying the chemical processes of the immune system at a molecular level, and the analysis of such processes for cancer immunotherapy and enhancing allotransplantation.
Jenifer Brown PhD Student (Biophysics)
Originally from Hillsborough, North Carolina, Jenifer Brown found her love of science at a young age. After graduating from the North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics, she attended Harvard University. During her time there, she worked on her undergraduate thesis under Dr. Rachelle Gaudet. Her thesis project included engineering a chimeric transmembrane protein, natural resistance-associated protein (NRAMP), for antibody co-crystallization. Although her protein crystals did not lead to a structure, she became very interested in protein structure and X-ray crystallography. She graduated from Harvard in 2015 with a major in Chemistry, and subsequently spent one year teaching English in Murcia, Spain. After her year of fun, she came to Stanford and is now a Biophysics graduate student. With Dr. Lingyin Li, Jenifer hopes to continue her foray into protein biochemistry in a subject area that has the potential to help many people.
Jackie Carozza PhD student (Chemistry)
I grew up in southeastern Michigan near Detroit and did my bachelor's degree in chemistry at Cornell University. As an undergraduate, I did research on organic polymers and completed internships studying metabolomics and cancer cell biology. As my interest in biological systems and questions deepened, I went across the pond to the University of Cambridge, where I wrote my master's thesis on the quantification of protein-protein interactions measured by microfluidic techniques. I am interested in studying the molecular mechanisms of disease and particularly the role played by small molecule messengers.
Anthony Cordova MD/PhD Student
I grew up in California, and attended Stanford as an undergraduate. After completing a bachelor's degree in biology, I spent some time as a research assistant in oncology at Genentech. I am primarily interested in cancer biology generally, and specifically in the discovery of novel targets for cancer treatments.
Sabrina Ergun PhD Student (Biochemistry)
I grew up in Boulder, Colorado, where I learned to appreciate the outdoors and developed an interest in the physical world. I earned my bachelor’s degree in Biochemistry at Brown University where I researched the molecular patterns of emerging antibiotic resistance, particularly in bacterial ribosomes. After completing my degree, I took a year off to travel before beginning my PhD at Stanford. I am primarily interesting in studying the molecular mechanisms of cell signaling, particularly in the context of the immune system and disease.
Daniel Fernandez Staff Scientist
Born and raised in a suburban area near Buenos Aires, the capital of Argentina, my earliest memory of conducting a science experiment was trying to get water and fuel "married". Unbeknownst by my dad (oil is super expensive in my home country!), I poured a volume of gasoline into a half-filled bottle with tap water. I corked the bottle, cacheted it, and waited. I've reasoned that the stubbornly immiscible liquids will get together if I allow them time. How I had been proved wrong! Five years passed, my parent's home was sold, and a mysterious, clear-and-reddish striped, glass bottle was unearthed...
I then enrolled in college, studying Biotechnology. That was my intention! During my second year, I've was so drawn by a talk from a crystallographer, that I've asked my Physics professor to work in single-crystal X-ray diffraction. So, I've studied crystal polymorphism on marketed drugs, crystallized different metal complexes of a bone-resorption inhibitor, and modeled those inhibitors as metal chelators for a Chagas' disease (American trypanosomiasis) protein taret. After earning my Licenciado degree, I moved on to protein crystallography.
That meant an eastwards ocean crossing to the city of Barcelona. My work focused on structurally investigate organic compounds that act as irreversible inhibitors of a family of zinc-containing proteases, or metalloproteases. The goal was to get an organic compound and a macromolecule married. In solution first, then in a crystal. The former was relatively easy, the latter not so. But, on my fourth PhD year I was able to get a full structural determination showing how an inactive compound elsewhere became active in the active site pocket of the enzyme, killing it.
I stayed in Europe for a further five years as a post-doc conducting crystallographic studies, and after a westwards ocean crossing, you find me at the Macromolecular Structure Knowledge Center (MSKC), helping coworkers on the many corners the art is built upon, especially on the thing that crystals rely on: time.
Lauren Lahey Graduate Student
As an undergraduate, I was surprised to discover a passion for science in what I thought would be just a required course along the pre-medical track. I found simultaneous challenge, logic, and beauty in organic chemistry – that’s when I knew I was hooked. I began working in the laboratory of Dr. David Son on the synthesis of multi-functional organosulfur dendrimer cores and went on to earn a B.S. in Chemistry at Southern Methodist University.
I also watched a loved one fight the devastating effects of a rare, untreatable autoimmune disease during this time. This motivated my interest in immunology. After college graduation, I started working as a Research Assistant in the laboratory of William H. Robinson at Stanford. There I led identification of mechanistic biomarkers for autoimmune diseases using high-throughput autoantibody and cytokine detection. Additionally, I developed a multi-antigen diagnostic for Borrelia burgdorferi infection in early Lyme disease.
I now get to work at the exciting intersection of my two different research paths as a Biophysics graduate student in Lingyin Li’s lab. Coupling chemical precision with immunological interrogation, I’m researching the molecular mechanisms of innate immune activation and developing approaches for therapeutic regulation.
Rachel Mardjuki Graduate Student
I grew up in the Bay Area but went to the East Coast to Penn for undergrad, where I completed a coterminal Bachelor’s degree in biochemistry and Master’s in chemistry as part of the Vagelos MLS program. While an undergrad, curiosity about both biology and chemistry led me to work in an epigenetics lab, where I studied the regulation of the imprinted gene Grb10, and an organic synthesis lab, where I developed new methods for the stabilization of peptides through chemical staples. In grad school, I am determined to combine my love of the two fields and use chemistry to help answer questions in biology. Currently, I am primarily interested in using chemistry to develop new methods for the detection of cGAMP.
Chris Ritchie PhD Student (Biochemistry)
Gemini Skariah Lab Manager
I grew up in Kerala, a southern State of India, which is known for it's natural beauty.
I earned my BS from University of Kerala and continued higher studies at the Institute of Chemical Technology in Mumbai, India. I love spending time with my family.
I have been working at Stanford from 2004. I started working at Mourrain lab where I was the lab manager and studied characterization of neurons like Melanin-concentrating hormone, hypocretin and their interaction with other neuronal circuits. Later l joined Theriot lab where I was involved in developing tools to study cell motility in HL60 cells and zebrafish keratocytes.
Now at Li lab, I am really excited to study cancer biology, with emphasis on innate immune signals to fight cancer. With check point inhibitors I am looking forward for new strategies to cure cancer.