Our Team

Our Current Team

Dr Pam LeinPam Lein

Professor of Neurotoxicology, Lab Principal Investigator

Home town: Buffalo, NY
Education: B.S., Biology, Cornell University
M.S., Environmental Health, East Tennessee State University
Ph.D., Pharmacology and Toxicology, University of Buffalo
Postdoctoral Fellowship, Molecular Immunology, Roswell Park Cancer Institute

My research goal is to determine how environmental stressors interact with genetic susceptibilities to influence the risk and severity of neurodevelopmental disorders and neurodegeneration. Altered patterns of connectivity are associated with neurological deficits: therefore, my research program focuses on investigating how environmental contaminants, chemical convulsants and inflammation perturb neuronal connectivity as determined using biochemical, morphogenic and electrophysiological endpoints. We are also developing biomarkers of OP neurotoxicity and testing novel therapeutic approaches for protecting against the neurodegenerative effects associated with neurotoxic pro-convulsants.

Email: pjlein@ucdavis.edu

 

Dr Ana Cristina Goncalves GrodzkiAna Cristina Goncalves Grodzki

Project Scientist

Home town: Curitiba, Brazil
Education: B.S., Biology, Federal University of Parana
Ph.D., Ribeirão Preto Medical School, University of São Paulo
Postdoctoral Fellowship, Immunology, NIH, Bethesda, MD

While at the Federal University of Parana, I met an amazing professor, Dr. Maria Celia Jamur who helped me to see science as a fun and fulfilling profession. During my PhD at Ribeirão Preto Medical School, University of São Paulo, I studied the progression of maturation and differentiation of mast cells in rodents and the process of migration of immature mast cells from bone marrow to the peripheral tissues. During my post-doctoral training at NIH, I was mentored by another outstanding scientist, Dr. Reuben Siraganian, and studied intracellular signal transduction pathways in mast cells that lead to the release of inflammatory molecules. Here at UC Davis, I am again under an amazing mentor, Dr. Pam Lein. In Dr. Lein’s lab I am a Project Scientist investigating the effects of organophosphorus pesticides (OPs) on nerve-immune cell interactions, specially implicated in airway hyperreactivity. This research will help us to understand how environmental factors influence susceptibility to airway disease. I am also the primary technical contact for the high content imaging equipment in Dr. Lein’s lab., which is part of the Biological Analysis Core of the MIND Institute Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities Research Center (IDDRC). My time outside the lab is as fun and productive as the time inside lab. I enjoy traveling, being outdoors, and spending time with my family. My husband John and I have 2 bright and fun kids: Gabriela and Leo. And we all love to take care and have fun with our dog Zoey.

Email: cgrodzki@ucdavis.edu

 

Donald BruunDonald Bruun

Academic Program Management Officer-Lab Manager

Home town: Shullsburg WI
Education: B.S., Creighton University

In our ever changing world there is a critical need to be able to respond quickly and effectively to exposures to neurotoxic chemicals. These chemicals may be released either accidentally or intentionally and have the potential for impacting large numbers of the population. Treatments must be developed to protect first responders and also minimize the neurological damage in individuals that survive the initial exposure. My research as part of the CounterACT project involves investigating novel neuroprotectants following acute exposures to organophosphates which are powerful acetylcholinesterase inhibitors or the rodenticide TETS which blocks GABAA receptors in the central nervous system. Our research indicates that anti-inflammatories and neural steroids may prove to be effective either alone or in combination to minimize the neural damage following acute intoxicant exposures.
In my role as lab manager I work with lab members to ensure that every one is working safely and efficiently.
When I am not in the lab I like spending time with my wife and dogs, creating stained glass and other objects of art, being outdoors, camping and going on the occasional bigfoot search.

Email: dabruun@ucdavis.edu

 

Dr Annalise vonderEmbseAnnalise vonderEmbse

Post Doctoral Scholar

Home town: Ottawa, Ohio
Education:  B.S., Biology with honors, Wittenberg University
M.S., Biomedical Sciences, Brody School of Medicine at East Carolina University
Ph.D., Pharmacology and Toxicology, Brody School of Medicine at East Carolina University

In 2012 I received my B.S. in Biology from Wittenberg University in Springfield, Ohio, where I gained research experience in Physics and Neuropsychology. Following graduation, I worked toward my M.S. in Biomedical Sciences and Ph.D. in Pharmacology and Toxicology in the lab of Dr. Jamie DeWitt at the Brody School of Medicine at East Carolina University in Greenville, North Carolina. My graduate research was centered in developmental neuroimmunotoxicology and the developmental origin of adult disease. Specifically, I investigated the effect of postnatal lead exposure on microglial dysfunction and its role in the exacerbation of Alzheimer's disease.

I joined the labs of Dr. Pamela Lein and Dr. Michele La Merrill in the Fall of 2017 as a postdoctoral scholar. My current research directive is to explore sympathetic nervous system dysfunction in a rodent model of type II diabetes following exposure to the ubiquitous pesticide DDT.

When not in the lab, I enjoy astronomy, dance in all forms, art, awesome music, going to concerts, and hanging out with my two dogs.

 

Lauren MatelskiLauren Matelski

Post Doctoral Scholar

Home town: La Crosse, WI
Education: B.S., Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology, University of Colorado Boulder
Ph.D., Immunology, UC Davis

While at the University of Colorado Boulder, I received a summer undergraduate Cancer Research Fellowship from the University of Colorado Cancer Center where I got my first real taste of research. I next took a break from school to work in industry for a couple of years, which gave me valuable training and experience in the areas of food safety and aquatic toxicology. I joined the Graduate Group in Immunology at the University of California, Davis, in the fall of 2012 where I am working on projects related to the NIEHS Center for Childrens Environmental Health in the laboratories of Dr. Pam Lein and Dr. Judy Van de Water. My current research interests and projects lie in understanding interactions between the immune system and the nervous system and how these contribute to neurodevelopmental disorders such as autism. I am also interested in the areas of immunotoxicology and cancer immunotherapy. I have joined the Designated Emphasis in Biotechnology program to help fulfill my career goals. Outside of the lab, I enjoy the great outdoors (hiking, skiing, camping), cooking, concerts/music, and comedy.

https://www.linkedin.com/pub/lauren-matelski/35/433/31/

Email: lematelski@ucdavis.edu

 

Eduardo GonzalezEduardo Gonzalez

Graduate Student

Home town: San Lorenzo, CA
Education: B.S., Environmental Science & Toxicology, UC Davis

My interest in biomedical research began with my undergraduate training in environmental and molecular toxicology. During this time, I completed an honors thesis elucidating mechanisms of DDT-induced mammary carcinogenesis. Upon graduation I decided to join the Lein lab as a laboratory technician to explore my interest in neurotoxicology; I am now continuing in the lab as a PhD student in the Pharmacology and Toxicology Graduate Group. My dissertation research focuses on evaluating the developmental neurotoxicity of pesticide and chemical threat agent DFP. By using MRI, PET, and histological imaging techniques I hope to characterize the spatiotemporal pattern of neurological damage resulting from acute DFP exposure during critical windows of neurodevelopment.

My hobbies outside of the lab include hip-hop and Latin dancing, Super Smash Bros., backpacking, and anything outdoors.

Email: azgonzalez@ucdavis.edu

 

Casey BoosalisCasey Boosalis

Graduate Student

 

 

Anthony ValenzuelaAnthony Valenzuela

Staff Research Associate

Home town: Antioch, CA
Education:
B.S., Neurobiology, Physiology and Behavior, UC Davis
M.S., Animal Behavior: Physiological Bases of Animal Behavior, UC Davis

I’m a lifetime Aggie. I earned both my B.S. and M.S. at UC Davis, and I’ve been a member of the research staff since 2008. My research background is in neurobiology, animal behavior, pharmacology and toxicology. I work on a variety of projects in the Lein Lab, performing laboratory rodent research, histological analysis and analytical chemistry.   

In my free time, I enjoy science fiction and fantasy stories, video games and home improvement projects.

Email: aevalenzuela@ucdavis.edu

 

Yi-Hua TsaiYi-hua Tsai

Graduate Student

Home town: Taipei, Taiwan
Education: B.S., Medical Laboratory Science & Biotechnology, Taipei Medical University

I am a graduate student in the Molecular, Cellular, and Integrative Physiology Graduate group. I grew up in Taipei, Taiwan and I graduated from Taipei Medical University in 2014 with a B.S. in Medical Laboratory Science & Biotechnology. I gained profound interest in biomedical research when I got an internship opportunity to experience as a clinical intern at Cathay General Hospital, Taipei. With the clinical experience shared with clinical colleagues and interactions with patients acquired, I can bridge the connection between knowledge I learned from textbooks with the actual clinical data and phenomena that appear on patients. It was a truly precious experience for that I understand the importance of the advancement of medical science profoundly. Therefore, before starting graduate school, I worked as a lab technician in Dr. Lin’s lab from the School of Medical Laboratory Science and Biotechnology. There, my research interest focused on understanding important factors that affect neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease and Huntington’s disease.

Under the CounterACT project, my research focuses on investigating the relationship between signs of cellular senescence and OPs following exposure to OPs.

In my free time, I enjoy hanging out with my friends, reading, and cooking.

Email: yihtsai@ucdavis.edu

 

Jonas CalsbeekJonas Calsbeek

Graduate Student

Home town: Missoula, MT
Education: B.S., Neuroscience; B.S., Psychology // Washington State University Vancouver

I am a graduate student in the Pharmacology and Toxicology Graduate Group here at UC Davis. Prior to attending graduate school, I spent 8 years in the US Navy where I realized that more research was needed on how prescription drugs or chemical exposure can alter the behavior of humans. I returned to university in 2013 to study the biology and psychology of the brain at Washington State University, where I performed research developing rodent behavioral models for preclinical pain studies. I came to UC Davis and joined the Lein Lab in 2016 to continue learning about how drug or chemical exposure can affect the brain to alter behavior or produce neuropathology.

When I’m not in the lab I am usually spending time with my wife, Caitlin, and our kids, Jacob and Liliana. We enjoy climbing, hiking, biking, camping, and fishing.

Email jcalsbeek@ucdavis.edu

 

Kelley PattenKelley Patten

Post Doctoral Scholar

Home town: Sonoma, CA

Education: M.S., Molecular Biology, Washington University School of Medicine in Saint Louis
M.P.H., Biostatistics and Epidemiology, University of California, Berkeley

I recently obtained my PhD in Pharmacology and Toxicology. One of my long-term scientific interests is to understand how environmental exposures influence health, and my research in the Lein lab has been focused on how chronic exposure to air pollution modifies neuroinflammation and neurodegeneration.

Outside of lab, I enjoy being outdoors - especially in the Sierras.

email: ktpatten@ucdavis.edu

 

Bianca YaghoobiBianca Yaghoobi

Graduate Student

Home town: Soest, Germany / Los Angeles, CA
Education: B.S., Biochemistry, Minor Mathematics, California State University, Los Angeles

I am a PhD student in the Pharmacology and Toxicology graduate group. My thesis project in the Lein lab focuses on understanding the developmental neurotoxic potential of halogenated pyrroles. Halopyrroles have been recently isolated in wastewater treatment sites as disinfection byproducts, but are not well-characterized in terms of their toxicity profile and potential risk to human populations. I am using the zebrafish model to determine whether halopyrroles are developmental neurotoxicants in vivo, and if so, whether this developmental toxicity is mediated by RyR-dependent mechanism(s). Fundamentally as a scientist, I am interested in understanding the influence of environmental insults during development on human health and cognition.

Outside of lab, I enjoy ballroom dancing, cooking traditional Armenian as well as German food, trying every escape room in town, and spending time with friends and family.

Email: byaghoobi@ucdavis.edu

 

Peter Andrew Image

Peter Andrew

Graduate Student

Home town: Arlington, VA
Education: B.S., Biology and Psychology, Tufts University
 
I am a student in the Pharmacology and Toxicology graduate group. I grew up in Virginia, and completed my undergraduate education at Tufts University in Massachusetts. As an undergraduate I was introduced to the field of pharmacology through my thesis project exploring the interaction between stress and ethanol abuse. After graduating, I worked for two years as a technician in the Tufts-AstraZeneca Laboratory for Basic and Translational Neuroscience. My research in the Lein Lab involves the assessment of neuroprotective strategies against intoxication with organophosphates. 
Outside of the lab, I enjoy biking and all things food. 
 
 

Picture of FelipeFelipe da Costa Souza

Post Doctoral Scholar

Home town: São Paulo, SP – Brazil
Education:
B.S., Biological science, Paulista University – UNIP (SP, Brazil); M.S., Cell and Tissue Biology, University of São Paulo – USP (SP, Brazil)

Ph.D., Cell and Tissue Biology, University of São Paulo – USP (SP, Brazil)

I was born and raised in São Paulo, Brazil, where I also completed my degrees. During my Ph.D., and under the mentoring of Dr. Alison Colquhoun (USP – Brazil), my research focused on understanding how polyunsaturated fatty acid metabolism through the lipoxygenase pathway promotes cell proliferation, migration, and survival in central nervous tumors. We found interesting data regarding omega-6 linoleic acid (LA) metabolism on glioblastomas. A large part of my postgraduate training also focused on teaching. After my Ph.D, my scope moved from brain tumors toward neurobiology as I worked as a project scientist/lab manager performing neuroanatomical analysis while working with respiratory neural control in an animal model of Parkinson's disease. During this great time period, I learned a lot under the supervision of Dr. Ana Carolina Takakura and Dr. Thiago Moreira (USP – Brazil). In 2019, I had the incredible opportunity to join the labs of Dr. Ameer Taha and Dr. Pamela Lein as a postdoctoral scholar, combining the study of fatty acids and neurobiology. My current research is to understand how bioactive oxidized LA metabolites (OXLAMs) from dietary LA can influence and shape proper neurodevelopment.

Outside the lab, my hobbies include cooking, photography, oil painting, working out outdoors, science fiction and fantasy books/movies, and all sorts of nerdy things. I also study the philosophy of Zen Buddhism and Zen meditation, which I try to apply on my everyday life.

Email: fesouza@ucdavis.edu

 

Thomas Blackmon Image

Thomas Blackmon

Graduate Student

Home town: Elk Grove, CA
Education: B.S., Pharmaceutical Chemistry, UC Davis

Research interests: I’m a current Master’s student in the Pharmacology and Toxicology program. My research interests include the use of psychotropic drugs as a way to treat PTSD and other mental illnesses as well as pesticides and their effects on the neurobiology. My background in pharmaceutical chemistry led me to the Lein lab as a way to further develop my knowledge in neuropharmacology. My current project is within the CounterACT group looking at temporal profiles of inflammatory biomarkers to determine the optimal time to administer neuroprotectives to ward off long term cognitive decline.

My hobbies outside of the lab include vintage auto racing, bonsai, and traveling with my girlfriend Sydney.

Email: tjblackmon@ucdavis.edu

 

Jason Loxterkamp image

Jason Loxterkamp

Graduate Student

Education: B.S., Chemistry, Northern Kentucky University

At Northern Kentucky University, I earned a B.S. in chemistry and a minor in criminalistics. As an undergraduate, I began to develop my skills as a chemist, while taking courses to join the field of forensic science. I worked in an organic chemistry lab focusing on synthesis of macrocyclic compounds. After graduation, I worked in an analytical chemistry lab determining the concentrations of active ingredients in skin and hair care products.

I moved to California from Cincinnati, Ohio in the fall of 2018, where I started on a M.S. in forensic science at UC Davis. I am studying both forensic biology and forensic chemistry. However, my primary interest is in forensic toxicology.

I am broadening my knowledge of toxicology by working in Dr. Lein’s Lab and studying neurotoxicology. I hope to use the knowledge and skills from neurotoxicology research to aid a career in forensic toxicology.

email: jwloxterkamp@ucdavis.edu

Headshot of Jeremy MacMahonJeremy MacMahon

Graduate Student

Home town: Walnut Creek, CA
Education: B.S., Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, UC Davis

I am currently a graduate student in the Pharmacology and Toxicology graduate program, but I have been involved in the field of neuroscience since my undergraduate education, which culminated in an honors thesis about the effect of maternal immune activation on cognitive development. In the Lein lab I hope to characterize the role of neuroinflammation in chemical exposures and to help identify neuroprotective compounds to prevent the long term cognitive decline associated with these exposures.

Outside of the lab I enjoy cooking fancy meals, driving my cat insane, camping in my hammock, and embarrassing myself attempting to play every sport with my wife, Angela.

email: jamacmahon@ucdavis.edu

 

image: Paige Mundy

Paige Mundy

Postdoctoral Researcher

Home town: Mars, PA
Education:
B.S., Marine and Molecular Biology, Saint Francis University
Ph.D., Molecular Cellular, and Integrative Physiology, UC Davis

I am interested in environmental health problems, and how fish can help us solve them. The focus of my Ph.D. was to investigate physiological and transcriptomic effects of various stressors on numerous fish species. I worked on several diverse projects including osmoregulatory differences between two populations of a threatened species, the Sacramento splittail, and the neurotoxic effects of pesticides on the critically endangered species, Delta smelt.

As a postdoc in the Lein lab, I am working with the CounterACT group to investigate GABA-A receptor subunit selectivity in TETs-induced seizures using zebrafish.

Outside of the lab I enjoy running, playing soccer, hiking and camping, and baking.

email: pacmundy@ucdavis.edu

 

Headshot of Lan LiuLan Liu

Postdoctoral Researcher

Home town: Harbin, China
Education:
B.S., Animal Science, Northeast Agricultural University
Ph.D., Animal Science, Zhejiang University

In 2016, I worked for one year as a visiting PhD student in Dr. Lönnerdal’s lab in the UC Davis Department of Nutrition studying bioactive milk components.  This was followed by another year working as a Junior Specialist on the same project, during which time I gained more experience studying protein bioactivity. My graduate research focused on the milk proteins lactoferrin and osteopontin, their interaction and how they improve infant growth and development. In 2019, after obtaining my PhD, I returned to work as a postdoctoral scholar in the Lönnerdal Lab exploring the bioactivity of milk protein on bone development and obesity prevention.

I joined Dr. Lein’s Lab in 2020 as a postdoctoral scholar. My current research investigates factors that increase susceptibility to Alzheimer's disease (AD), including proteins associated with AD that have been demonstrated to trigger neuroinflammatory responses that contributes to AD symptoms and disease progression.

In my free time, I enjoy playing basketball, traveling, skiing and drawing.

email: lanliu@ucdavis.edu

 

Headshot of Mei-Yun Tang

Mei-Yun Tang

Junior Specialist

Home town: Palo Alto, CA
Education:
B.S., Animal Science, UC Davis

I began to explore my interest in biomedical research in Dr. Lein’s lab as an undergraduate intern helping out with the CounterACT project and completed an honors thesis evaluating neurogenesis in a juvenile rat model of acute OP intoxication. After graduating, I joined the lab as a junior specialist and am now working on research projects for Alzheimer’s disease. In the near future, I hope to attend graduate school in the health sciences field.

Outside the lab, I love serving at my church, cooking with my housemates, playing volleyball, hiking, all things music, and brewing coffee.

email: mytang@ucdavis.edu

 

Headshot of Rebecca WilsonRebecca Wilson

Graduate Student

Home town: Livonia, MI
Education:
B.S., Biology with Honors, Roosevelt University, Chicago
M.S. Biological Sciences, Neuroscience, DePaul University

In 2015, I received my B.S. majoring in biology and minoring in chemistry and calculus from Roosevelt University, where I first fell in love with doing research. Initially, I worked in glaucoma research with Dr. Kelly Wentz-Hunter assessing possible RNA responsible for alterations in the trabecular meshwork of the eye. I also conducted ecological restoration research in Tanzania, Africa, on the Amani Nature Reserve with Dr. Norbert Cordeiro measuring seed rain. Following graduation, I worked towards my M.S. in biological sciences with a focus in neuroscience under the watchful eye of Dr. Dorothy Kozlowski in Chicago. In this lab, I completed my thesis assessing sex differences in behavioral responses to repeat subconcussive injuries. Afterward, I had the opportunity to work for a pharmaceutical research company, Aptinyx, introducing and optimizing animal models of neurodegeneration for use with their compounds. I joined the lab of Pam Lein during the Summer of 2020. My current research directive is focused on the effect of PCBs on neurodevelopment and how modulation of the metabolism of PCBs may alter neurotoxic outcomes. I will be looking in vitro and in vivo to better elucidate the mechanism of PCBs involvement in cellular and behavioral outcomes following exposure. 

When not in the lab I enjoy reading, spending time with my dog, going on trips, and cooking! 

Email: rjwilso@ucdavis.edu