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Lab Members  |  2016

Lab Manager

Yangling Wang

Yanling Wang has been a Staff Research Associate in the Mikkola lab since September 2005. Before joining the Mikkola lab, she worked as a postdoctoral fellow in the Pharmacology Department at UCLA, focusing on molecular imaging in small animals. Yanling earned her Master’s degree in Microbiology and Genetics at Guangxi University in China, and further obtained a PhD in Molecular Biology at Sichuan University. She also worked as a professor at Sichuan University for ten years. Outside of lab, Yanling enjoys spending time with her family. She also enjoys traveling and participating in outdoors activities, like hiking, camping, and swimming.

Julia Aguade

Julia studied Pharmacy at the University of Barcelona. She obtained her PhD from the University Children’s Hospital Zurich, Switzerland, where she studied cell death mechanisms with the goal to overcome drug resistance and relapse in human leukemia. Julia joined the Mikkola lab in October 2018 to address clinically relevant problems from a molecular biology perspective, and she is investigating the mechanisms involved in the functional decline of HSCs during in vitro expansion and manipulation. Julia loves hiking and enjoys exploring the amazing National Parks of California.

Iman Fares

Iman Fares, Ph.D.

Iman completed her M.Sc. and Ph.D. degrees at University of Montreal (Canada), where she used a high-throughput chemical screening and identified a small molecule, UM171 as an agonist for human HSC self-renewal (currently in clinical trial) and identified EPCR (CD201) as a first reliable marker to enrich for human HSC in culture. In 2019, Iman joined Dr. Mikkola’s lab as a postdoctoral fellow where she is exploiting epigenetics and mass spectrometry approaches to further characterize the role of MLLT3 (AF9) in human normal and leukemia stem cells.

Sandra Capellera-garcia

Sandra earned her B.S. degree in Biotechnology at the Autonomous University of Barcelona, Spain, in 2011. That same year she moved to Lund, Sweden, to learn about stem cells, a subject she fell in love with while in high school. She stayed at Lund University to pursue her PhD, which she completed in 2018. Under the supervision of Dr. Johan Flygare, she studied the master regulators of erythroid and megakaryocytic lineages and uncovered the minimal set of transcription factors capable of reprogramming mammalian fibroblasts into erythroid progenitors. She joined the Mikkola lab in August 2018 as a Swedish Research Council postdoctoral fellow and is currently working towards understanding the mechanisms that regulate the specification and self-renewal of human hematopoietic stem cells. She is also very interested in communicating science effectively to both specialized and layman audiences. In her free time, she enjoys yoga, art and photography, and trying foods from around the globe.

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Post-Doctoral Fellows

Vincenzo Calvanese

Vincenzo Calvanese got a BSc in Pharmaceutical Biotechnology at the University of Bologna, Italy and a PhD Molecular Biology at the University Autonoma de Madrid, Spain, working on embryonic stem cells epigenetics. He spent one and a half year as a postdoctoral researcher at the Gladstone institutes in San Francisco, focusing on the biology of HIV latency, and joined the Mikkola lab in September 2012. His aim in the lab is to dissect the transcriptional network that sustains hematopoietic stem cell stemness and self-renewal. He hopes to identify key targets for genetic or pharmacological manipulation, in order to restore or control self-renewal in pathological conditions, as well as to enhance in vitro HSC expansion and manipulation. Outside the lab, he enjoys the benefits of living in such a varied and colorful city as Los Angeles: he tries to keep up with outdoors and coastal activities in SoCal as well as with the Hollywood cultural opportunities and nightlife.


Edo Israely

Edo joined the Mikkola lab as a postdoc in June, 2013.  Before moving to California, he completed his PhD at Weill Cornell Medical College in New York, where he studied vascular development from embryonic stem cells, as well as mechanisms of endothelial cell maintenance.  His goals in the Mikkola lab are to understand the specification of hemogenic endothelial cells, and to clarify their potential roles in heart development. Outside of lab, Edo enjoys concerts, good food, and of course, his beloved Lakers! 




Fides Lay

Fides earned her B.S. in Biochemistry at UCLA in 2008, and her Ph.D. in Genetic, Molecular and Cell Biology at USC in 2014. Under the mentorship of Dr. Peter Jones, her graduate work focused on understanding the functions of DNA methylation in normal and cancer cells. Early 2016, Fides returned to UCLA and joined the Mikkola lab. She is now working to elucidate the transcriptional machineries regulating blood and heart development, focusing on identifying factors that control fate commitment and understanding how their misregulation leads to human diseases. When not in lab, Fides enjoys reading, eating a lot of chocolate, kickboxing, and cheering for the Bruins at the Rose Bowl and Pauley Pavilion. 



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Graduate Students
Undergraduate Students

Wenyuan Wang

Wenyuan did her undergraduate study at Peking University in China. Prior to joining graduate school, she did a summer research internship with Dr. Peggy Goodell at Baylor College of Medicine, where Wenyuan developed her interest in stem cell research. She joined Dr. Mikkola lab in 2011 to explore the function of a transcription factor in maintaining hematopoietic homeostasis. Through her research, Wenyuan identified MEF2C as a novel regulator that protects B lymphoid progenitor compartment during stress hematopoiesis. She is now further investigating the molecular mechanism underlying MEF2C's function and the relevance of MEF2C dependent pathways to physiological ageing. As the official Mikkola lab baker, Wenyuan has a great passion for food. She enjoys cooking for others and learning about new cuisines.



Dan Duan

Dan is an international graduate student from China. She received her B.S. in Biology at Sichuan University, China in 2011. Since her second year in college, she had experience working with transgenic plants, Drosophila and mammalian cells. These led her to the world of research and developed her enthusiasm to pursue further study to understand the magic process of development. She joined the Mikkola lab in the spring of 2012 and is currently focusing on genetic and epigenetic regulation of the fate choice between hematopoiesis and cardiogenesis in multipotent mesodermal cells using mouse ES cell derived embryoid bodies. Dan loves spending time in lab working with all her amazing labmates!  In her spare time, she enjoys yoga, classic music, group dancing and of course the beautiful sunshine of L.A.


Diana Dou

Diana received her B.S. degree from the California Institute of Technology in 2010, graduating with honors as a double-major in Biology and Business, Economics, and Management with a minor in English. She started research as a freshman in the lab of Prof. Mark E. Davis at Caltech and remained in the chemical engineering lab until graduation. Following Caltech, Diana accepted a one year intramural research training award at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases to study HCV. She joined the lab of Dr. Hanna Mikkola in 2012 and is currently studying the molecular blocks limiting the generation of functional hematopoietic stem cells from pluripotent cells. When she is not in lab, Diana enjoys running, fencing, playing basketball, and watching games with her friends. If she could answer any non-biological sciences question, she would want to know what dark matter is.



Christiana Yuan

Christiana joined the Mikkola lab in the spring of 2015. Previous to that, she graduated with Honors in Integrative Biology from UC Berkeley, and subsequently worked in the labs of Dr. Rahul Deo and Dr. Daniel Hart as a Staff Research Associate at UC San Francisco studying cardiomyopathies.  She is currently a second year graduate student at UCLA in the Gene Regulation Home Area. Her research interests focus on how a single transcription factor, Scl is able to govern the lineage divergence of hematopoietic and cardiac cell fates. Outside of lab, Chris likes spending time with her friends and church family, reading, and listening to music and secretly hopes that the Lakers will do better next season :).




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Andrew Nguyen

Andrew is a fourth year undergraduate pursuing Honors in Molecular, Cell, and Developmental Biology (BS) with a minor in Biomedical Research. He joined the Mikkola lab in his freshman year and is a Beckman Scholar and Honorable Goldwater Scholar. Andrew’s research aims to understand the molecular pathways that regulate hematopoietic stem cell self-renewal in order to derive functional HSCs from pluripotent stem cells for therapeutic application. Andrew's research interest first peaked in high school, where he received the American Cancer Society Youth Science Fellowship to investigate virulence factors required for Yersinia pestis survival in interferon γ–activated macrophages. Currently, Andrew is the Managing Editor of Research for the UCLA Undergraduate Science Journal. He is also a clinical research associate of the UCLA Brain Attack Team where he works to identify acute stroke patients in order to facilitate timely treatment. He is also a Director of the Vietnamese Community Health Project – a student-led initiative that brings healthcare directly to underserved immigrant communities. Andrew aspires to become a physician scientist in academic medicine to not only treat patients, but also conduct research to advance the way medicine is practiced. In his free time, Andrew enjoys playing all sports, supporting the Los Angeles Clippers, exploring LA with friends, and learning how to cook.



Timothy Bolan

Tim Bolan joined the Mikkola lab in the summer before his third year, and he is majoring in Microbiology, Immunology, and Molecular Genetics and minoring in Biomedical Research. Research is one of his passions. He started conducting research in the UCLA AIDS Institute the summer after his freshman year; however, he transitioned into the Mikkola lab to pursue his interest in human hematopoietic stem cells. His project explores the role of a gene in hematopoietic stem cell metabolism and homeostasis. Tim hopes to improve our understanding of these stem cells for the advancement of treatment for hematological diseases and immune therapies. After his UCLA undergraduate career, he hopes to enter a PhD or MD/PhD program to pursue translational research. Along with his fascination in research, Tim is motivated to conduct translational research from his volunteer work at hospitals. Apart from lab, Tim works as a resident assistant on UCLA’s campus to welcome students to UCLA and facilitate community development. In his free time, he also works for UCLA’s Pediatric AIDS Coalition, volunteers for high school youth programs, enjoys running, and enjoys singing (or attempting to sing).


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