2021 Cohort

Benjamin Reyes Topacio

Research mentor: Ali Shariati

Ben grew up in the SF Bay Area and completed his undergraduate degree at UC Berkeley. He is interested in protein kinases and cell-fate decisions in stem cells and reproduction. During his PhD at Stanford University, Ben studied cell cycle control by cyclin-dependent kinases in Jan Skotheim’s laboratory and characterized a novel kinase-substrate interaction between the cyclin D-Cdk4/6 kinase complex and the Rb tumor suppressor. As an IBSC/CSUMB IRACDA fellow, Ben is working with Ali Shariati and Seth Rubin to study the dynamics and regulation of MAP kinases during differentiation.


Bryce Manso

Research mentor: Camilla Forsberg

Bryce is a new IRACDA postdoctoral fellow in the Forsberg lab at UCSC. He received his B.Sc. degree in Biology from Pacific Lutheran University and subsequently worked for several years in HIV vaccine research at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, Washington. After obtaining his Ph.D. in Immunology from the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, he joined the Forsberg lab to study the effects of aging and inflammation on hematopoiesis.

Kelsie Rodriguez

Research mentor: Seth Rubin

I received my B.S. in Biology from California State University, Monterey Bay (CSUMB) in 2015. During my undergraduate career, I participated in research programs at UC Berkeley, University of Oregon, and UC Santa Cruz. During these experiences, I developed a passion for chemical biology and biochemistry. I began graduate school at Oregon Health and Science University in Portland, OR in 2015. I joined the lab of Professor Michael Cohen to study the post-translational modification, ADP-ribosylation. While in the Cohen Lab, my main thesis project was focused on using a chemical genetics proteomics strategy to identify protein targets of Poly-ADP-ribose polymerase 7 (PARP-7). I also developed a PARP- 7 specific small-molecule inhibitor. As I transition into my post-doctoral research in the lab of Professor Seth Rubin, I intend to apply the proteomics skills I learned during my graduate career towards a new project. I will use a chemical genetics strategy to identify changes in phosphorylation events mediated by Cyclin-Dependent Kinase 2 in the context of stem cell differentiation.

Since my first year of college at CSUMB, I have been interested in pursuing a career as a professor at a primarily undergraduate institution. I am very excited to begin the IRACDA post-doctoral fellowship program; to perform rigorous research at UCSC, while also learning how to teach a diverse student population from the professors that taught me at CSUMB.

Gina Mawla

Research mentor: Olena Vaske

Gina completed her undergraduate degree in Molecular, Cell and Developmental Biology at UC Santa Cruz and subsequently went on to complete her PhD at the Department of Biology at MIT. Her PhD training focused on the biochemical underpinnings of bacterial AAA+ proteases and their roles in bacterial virulence. As a postdoc in Olena Vaske’s lab and a member of the Treehouse Childhood Cancer Initiative at UC Santa Cruz, Gina uses both genome-wide and single-gene studies to understand the molecular etiologies of rare pediatric cancers.


Jessica Sevetson

Research mentor: Sofie Salama

Jess Sevetson received her B.S. from Lehigh University, and her PhD from Brown University, both in Neuroscience. She is currently a postdoctoral scholar with Dr. Haussler and Dr. Salama, where she works with researchers at UCSC and UCSF to study the development of activity in human brain organoids. She uses activity-based metrics in a cortical organoid model to uncover genetic and cellular factors guiding functional human cortical development, and to investigate the ability of brain organoids to model emergent circuit-level phenomena.