Luis Carvajal-Carmona, Ph.D.

Principal Investigator

Dr. Luis Carvajal-Carmona is the Associate Vice Chancellor for Academic Diversity and a Professor of Biochemistry and Molecular Medicine at the University of California at Davis (UCD). He holds the Auburn Community Cancer Endowed Chair in Basic Science. He serves as the Center for Advancing Cancer Health Director and co-director of the Community Engagement Program at the Clinical and Translational Science Center. Nationally, Dr. Carvajal-Carmona has served as a member of the NIH CHSA Study Section, the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) Minorities in Cancer Research Council, the AACR Minority Scholars Awards Committee (as co-Chair), the AACR Molecular Epidemiology Working Group Steering Committee, the AACR Racial Inequities Task Force and National Cancer Advisory Board Ad hoc Working Group on Strategic Approaches and Opportunities for Research on Cancer Among Racial and Ethnic Minorities and Underserved Populations.

Dr. Carvajal-Carmona obtained his Ph.D. from University College London, completed postdoctoral training at the London Research Institute (now part of The Francis Crick Institute), and was a Senior Research Fellow at the University of Oxford. He has received funding from multiple European agencies (Cancer Research UK, European Union, GSK Oncology) and the U.S. (V Foundation, California Initiative to Advance Precision Medicine, NIH). He is currently PI/MPI of grants totaling >$25M in research funding. Dr. Carvajal-Carmona specializes in cancer genetics, epidemiology, health disparities, and global health. He has discovered multiple cancer genes and has published over 100 manuscripts in influential journals such as Nature GeneticsGastroenterologyAmerican Journal of Human Genetics, Lancet Gastroenterology and Hepatology, and PNAS. His main contributions to science include the elucidation of the genetic origins of Latino populations, discovering the first common variants increasing the risk of colorectal cancer, and identifying a novel familial form of gastric cancer. He has received awards and fellowships from the European Association for Cancer Research, The University of Oxford, and the V Foundation.

In addition to his passionate pursuit of scientific research, Dr. Carvajal-Carmona is a keen supporter of a diverse and inclusive biomedical research force. He was the first person from his family to attend college. Dr. Carvajal-Carmona has mentored dozens of undergraduate and graduate students, 95 % of whom have been first-generation college graduates and members of underrepresented groups. His mentees have been awarded 50+ fellowships and research awards and are all currently pursuing higher education or are employed at leading institutions and companies. In addition to the satisfaction of helping people with his research, Dr. Carvajal-Carmona’s most rewarding accomplishment is to see his mentees shine and achieve their dreams. He has been awarded the UCD Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Mentoring Undergraduate Research and the UCD ADVANCE Scholar Award for outstanding scholarship and mentorship. 

Dr. Carvajal-Carmona enjoys gardening, hiking, and other outdoor activities. He also enjoys traveling and spending time with his family.

Luis Carvajal-Carmona

Anybel Banuelos

Executive Assistant

Anybel joined the Lab January 2024. She works closely with Dr. Carvajal-Carmona and Senior Laboratory Members. She spends most of her time camping, cooking, biking with her husband and two young children.

Hongyong Zhang, Ph.D.

Associate Project Scientist

Education: Ph.D. (Preventive Veterinary Medicine) from Jilin University in China (2003).

Research Interests:

  • Characterizing Treatment Responses with patient-derived xenograft models for Gastric and Liver cancers
  • Targeting nanotherapeutics against bladder cancer
  • Targeting nanoparticles to eradicate leukemia stem cells


Paul Lott, Ph.D.

Assistant Project Scientist

Paul joined the lab in 2013 as a Postdoctoral Scholar. He is interested in developing and applying bioinformatics tools to aid genetic analysis of cancer. Paul is currently involved in researching Gastric, Breast,and Colorectal cancer in Hispanic populations using GWAS’ and NGS datasets. He oversees the lab database and web development teams, as well as providing bioinformatics training for lab.

Paul enjoys development of bioinformatics applications that help wet-lab biologist to be able to more easily do bioinformatics. In his free time, he’s generally fiddling around with computer systems (PC, Raspberry Pi), electronics (CNC, 3D Printers, Arduino), overseeing a small Maker Club (LagunaCreekMakers) or chasing his three kids.

Dennis Montoya, Ph.D.

Assistant Project Scientist

Dennis is a wet-lab immunologist turned computational biologist.  He joined UC Davis Health as an Assistant Researcher in 2020 and the Carvajal-Carmona lab in 2022.  His current projects are in the genetic analysis of gastric cancer in Latino populations and the transcriptional analysis of the gastric tissue microenvironment.  Dennis also works with the Chien Laboratory where he is investigating the effects of germline SNPs on ovarian cancer progression.  He also is standardizing the often-overlooked patient treatment data from The Cancer Genome Atlas (TGCA) where he is developing a web app to allow treatment-genomic and treatment-outcome associations.

Dennis has happily spent his whole career in the UC-system, receiving his BA at UC Berkeley, and Ph.D. at UCLA.  He is passionate that diversity promotes scientific excellence and has extensive experience in diversity outreach.  Dennis serves as a committee member of the Inclusion, Diversity, Anti-Racism, and Equity (I-DARE) Taskforce for the Biochemistry & Molecular Medicine department. On his downtime, Dennis enjoys gravel cycling, volunteering in the community activities, and spending time with his son.

Nicole Halmai, Ph.D.

Postdoctoral Scholar

Nicole is a native of Phoenix, Arizona. She graduated from Denison University with a B.S. in Molecular and Cellular Biology, where she was also a student athlete on the Denison women’s basketball team. At UC Davis, she earned her Ph.D. in Molecular, Cellular and Integrative Physiology with a Designated Emphasis in Biotechnology and was an NIH MCB T32 Training Fellow. As a postdoctoral researcher in the Carvajal-Carmona lab, Nicole leads the functional genomics team, which focuses on the characterization of therapeutically-relevant cancer driver variants in patient-derived models, with a specific focus on racial and ethnic minority cancer patients, to address cancer health disparities. Her work includes the use of CRISPR/Cas9 genome editing technology and patient-derived 2D and 3D cell culture models. Access her LinkedIn for more info about Nicole:

When she is not in the lab, Nicole enjoys her role as a kickboxing instructor at Performance 22 in Davis. She can usually be found exploring new hiking trails or food spots around the Davis/Sacramento area with her husband and puppy.

Ana Estrada-Florez, Ph.D.

Postdoctoral Scholar

Ana is from Colombia, she graduated from the University of Nariño with a BS in Biology. She became a member of the “Cytogenetics Research Group” at the University of Tolima in 2012 during her M.Sc. in biology and her research was to study the association between papillary thyroid cancer (PTC) and SNPs, previously reported in European and Asian populations.

During her Ph.D. in Biomedical Sciences at the University of Caldas, she joined Dr. Carvajal’s lab as a visiting scholar to conduct research aimed to analyzing the epidemiology of thyroid cancer in Latinos and to discover new variants associated with the risk of the disease by using GWAS and WES.

She loves to bike, hike and dive.

Katherine Chiu

Junior Specialist – Bioinformatics

Katherine received her Bachelor of Science in Genetics and Genomics and Bachelor of Arts in Music from UC Davis in 2022. She is interested in the intersection of data science and healthcare– specifically, using genomics to address racial and ethnic cancer health disparities. As a researcher in the lab, she has been conducting local ancestry analyses to characterize ancestral differences in cancer development. In her spare time, Katherine enjoys playing trombone, hiking, and surfing.

Maddie Callan

Junior Specialist – Researcher

 Maddie is a junior specialist at the Carvajal-Carmona wet lab. She is currently working in the wet lab primarily on the WYETH breast cancer genomics project and helping the lab run smoothly. She graduated with a BA in Neuroscience from Scripps college and her thesis there was focused on neuromelanin in Parkinson’s Disease. She spends her free time playing board games, video games, creating art and engaging in a variety of solo sports.

Adrian Quiroz

Junior Specialist – Researcher

Adrian recently graduated from UC Davis in 2022 with a degree in Biological Sciences. He started off as a volunteer on the bioinformatics team and transitioned to the wet lab where he eventually got hired as a junior specialist. As a full-time researcher in the lab, Adrian primarily works on cancer studies centered around minority populations by testing drug efficacy with in vivo (mice) and in vitro (organoid) models. In his free time, Adrian enjoys reading, playing video games and cooking.

Íñigo Verduzco Gallo

Project Coordinator

Íñigo joined the lab in 2022, where he is working on several lab initiatives that aim to better understand genetics, disparities, and precision medicine in minority populations. Prior to joining the lab, he ran and managed the UCDH’s ÓRALE COVID-19! project, which offered free COVID-19 testing to underserved Latinx communities in California’s Central Valley.

Íñigo has over 15 years of professional experience leading and managing complex multicomponent and multidisciplinary research projects with a focus on marginalized and underserved populations in the U.S. as well as in Latin America and Sub-Saharan Africa. He holds a Master in Public Administration in International Development (MPA/ID) from Harvard and a Master of Information and Data Science (MIDS) from UC Berkeley.

Angelica M Perez

Program Manager

Angelica is a program manager for multiple clinical and community projects in the lab, and has been on the team since 2019. In this role, she leads multiple grant funded community cancer projects, coordinates and conducts efforts to document and describe the cancer burden, studies aimed at increasing marginalized community participation in research studies, and programs to increase community participation in cancer control and prevention activities. Angelica is a public health professional with over 10 years of experience in community outreach, education, training, and research program management and carries extensive experience in working in the higher education industry, research, nonprofit organizations, and in building community relationships and partnerships. Her drive in her professional work is to motivationally educate and increase health knowledge in individuals to support in the fight against lifestyle-preventable chronic diseases. She holds a bachelor’s degree in dietetics and food administration from CSU Fresno and perusing her Masters in Public Health.

Sophie Barbu

CACHE Program Manager

As Program Manager for the Center for Advancing Center Health Equity (CACHE), Sophie supports the center’s grant applications, fund sourcing, and community partnerships. She also manages grant-related activities for financial sustainability, leads communication efforts for visibility and output dissemination, and assists CACHE’s research initiatives through research oversight and document creation, all in alignment with CACHE’s mission and objectives to identify and address cancer health disparities to, ultimately, achieve cancer healthy equity.

Sophie brings a broad range of experience gained over 10 years at UC Davis, including several years in the Vice Chancellor’s Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. As Assistant Director of the Center for the Advancement of Multicultural Perspectives on Science (CAMPOS), she led administration of the center and the ENHANCE grant to advance STEMM faculty diversity. In prior roles she served as Assistant Director for Strategic Initiatives in the DEI Office, and managed grant administration, operations, events, and data analytics for the NSF-funded UC Davis ADVANCE Institutional Transformation grant. Sophie was a co-editor and co-author of the book Uprooting Bias in the Academy. From 2021-2022, she served as co-Chair of the UCD Status of Women at Davis Administrative Advisory Committee (SWADAAC). In 2017, Sophie was selected for the competitive University of California Women’s Initiative for Professional Development award.

Prior to coming to UC Davis, Sophie was a Senior Program Coordinator at University Research Co., LLC in Bethesda, MD, and managed USAID grants that helped underserved, low-income communities access health services globally. She obtained her Executive MBA from California State University, Sacramento, and her B.A. in International Relations from American University. In her free time Sophie enjoys hiking in the mountains or on coastal trails, running, cooking international cuisine (usually Moroccan, Jamaican, or Chinese), and chasing her spirited 4-year-old around (likely while doing any of the previously mentioned activities).

Nanci Villa

Assistant Clinical Research Coordinator

Nanci is the assistant clinical research coordinator, supporting community-focused research and basic implementation of cancer research. She joined the lab in 2023 and is passionate about addressing health inequities and working with diverse communities. Prior to joining the lab, she worked as a graduate research assistant at the University of San Francisco and was involved with several community organizations including CommuniCare Health Centers and Clinica Tepati. 

Nanci received her B.S. in biochemistry and molecular biology and B.A. in Chicano Studies from UC Davis. She also received her Masters in Public Health from the University of San Francisco. In her free time, she enjoys hiking and arts and crafts projects such as painting and knitting.

Guadalupe Carvajal, M.Sc.

Genetic Counselor

Guadalupe is an experienced genetic counselor who worked in several UK research groups (University College London, London Research Institute, Queen Mary University of London and University of Oxford) before joining our group. She has extensive expertise in genomics and molecular biology and enjoys training both UC Davis students and international visitors. She enjoys reading and watching drama series.

Alma Poceros-Coba

Integrative Genetics and Genomics Graduate Student Researcher

I am a Ph.D. student in the Integrative Genetics and Genomics program at the University of California Davis. I got my Bachelor’s degree in Chemistry, Biology, and Pharmacology at Benemérita Universidad Autónoma de Puebla, Mexico. My interest is to understand the new approaches to elucidate the cancer etiology and the relevance of the environmental factors, with a focus on minority populations. Another goal is to develop my bioinformatics skills along with my career. I am a recipient of the UC Mexus-CONACYT fellowship.

Shriveda Reddy

Undergraduate Researcher – Statistics

Shriveda is a fourth-year undergraduate student studying Statistics and Cognitive Science. She hopes to go to graduate school to further study biostatistics and hopefully pursue a career in the field. And she’s excited to join the lab as a statistics researcher and experience working in health science.

Shriveda has recently worked as a math tutor, and sometimes teaches math/piano to her neighbors or cousins when she goes home. In her free time, she enjoys playing board games, reading, looking for new movies, and spending time with friends and family.


Swati Pothukuchi

Undergraduate Researcher

Swati is a second-year undergrad majoring in Biotechnology with an emphasis on Bioinformatics. In the future, she hopes to pursue a career in the biotechnology industry.

Swati also volunteers at the Pantry (a student-run organization to reduce food insecurity)  and works in a wet-lab on campus to identify mutants in zebrafish genes. In her free time, she enjoys painting, baking, and sleeping.

Adrian Duenas Ramirez

Undergraduate Researcher

I am a 3rd year undergraduate student pursuing a degree in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology. Aside from my lab position, I am a volunteer at a student-run clinic, Knight’s Landing One Health Center. Through my clinical and lab experience, I hope to be able to perform future research in a way that tailors to the community’s needs and accessibility to make research a more personalized process.

My personal mission in life is to help a cause that is much bigger than myself and reaches the communities that need the most help. I hope to go onto Graduate School after UC Davis to pursue a research-based career where I can accomplish all that I set my mind to. Throughout my journey I hope to never stop learning, growing, and questioning.

Tara Khandelwal

Bilingual Research Assistant Intern

I am a third-year undergraduate student studying genetics and genomics. Aside from my research assistant position, I am an intern at the MIND Institute under the Genomic Medicine Division, assisting in clinical care coordination and shadowing genetic counseling. Continuing my passion for genetics, I am also the President of the Genetic Counseling Club at UC Davis.

In the future, I hope to perform cutting-edge research for underrepresented populations to advance the research community. I hope to combine my passion for cancer genetics with my dedicated compassion for patient care. In my spare time, I love to spend time with my family and friends, paint, and exercise.

Karla Gonzalez

Undergraduate Researcher

Karla is a third-year undergraduate first-generation student studying Genetics and Genomics. Aside from lab research, she works with the Educational Opportunity Program (EOP) on campus and is involved with two other clubs: Teens for Screens at UC Davis and the American Cancer Society at UC Davis. She has already been conducting dry lab research with the Fejerman Lab and she is excited to begin wet lab research to gain experience for graduate school.

She is passionate about cancer genetics and hopes to obtain a Ph.D. in genetics to make revolutionary discoveries in this field for underrepresented populations. She is dedicated to helping low-income and minority populations and hopes to do so throughout her commitments. During her free time, she likes to read, cook, and visit new places with her friends.

Jessica Salazar

Bilingual Research Assistant Intern

Jessica is a fourth-year undergraduate student at UC Davis, majoring in Medical and Molecular Microbiology with a minor in Public Health. Jessica is thrilled to join the team this year, bringing her enthusiasm and dedication toward improving patient care for minorities to the forefront. Currently, she is focused on recruiting cancer patients, and collecting samples for gastric cancer and multiple myelomas. Her focus on the clinical aspects of the project highlights her commitment to advancing medical knowledge.

In addition to her academic pursuits, Jessica is a certified medical assistant with two years of clinical experience. Currently working as a Tutor at Davis Senior High School, she closely collaborates with Spanish-speaking students, ensuring their understanding of course materials and serving as a mentor. She volunteers at the Imani Clinic, a UC Davis student-run clinic, providing medical care to the underserved Black community. She aspires to continue serving communities in Sacramento, with the ultimate goal of attending medical school. In her free time, Jessica enjoys activities such as going to the gym, cooking, hiking, and swimming.

Jasmine Diaz

Undergraduate Researcher

Jasmine is a fifth-year undergraduate first-generation student studying Neurobiology, Physiology, and Behavior and pursuing a minor in Education. Aside from the lab position, she works as a Peer Ambassador for Undergraduate Admissions at UC Davis, serving high school students, incoming freshmen, and transfer students. She also works for the Early Academic Outreach Program (EAOP)at UC Davis as a Student Outreach Assistant, serving socioeconomically disadvantaged students at different high and middle school sites. At UC Davis she is under the NASPA Undergraduate Fellow Program where she is mentored and explores the field of Student Affairs. Currently, she is playing her cultural music with the Mariachi Ensemble at UC Davis.

She envisions herself obtaining her Master’s and Ph.D. in the future as she continues to explore and find her particular interest in science. Presumably, she would also like to have a role in Higher Education to advocate for students. Her goal in life is to help, cause positive impacts, and inspire others, while she continues to learn and grow. During her free time, she likes to play the violin, watch movies, cook, and spend time with her family.

Catalina Rubio

Visiting Graduate Researcher

Catalina is a Ph.D. student in Biomedical Sciences at the University of Tolima, she received her Bachelor’s Degree in Biology at the same institution. She has been working with the sister laboratory of Carvajal-Carmona in Colombia, “Cytogenetics, Phylogeny and Population Evolution Group” (GCFEP) since 2018 as a young researcher, in population genetics diseases analysis, which is her main area of interest, specifically the structure and genetic load in Colombian indigenous communities

Daniel F. Molina Campos

Visiting Graduate Researcher

Daniel is from Colombia, where he obtained his BS in Biology in 2018 and started his Ph.D. in Biomedical Sciences in 2020 at the University of Tolima. Since 2018 he became a member of the Cytogenetics, Phylogeny, and Populations Evolution Research Group (GCFEP-UT) of the same institution, where he’s developing his doctoral research focused on searching and discovering genetic risk factors related to cardiovascular diseases and type 2 diabetes in some Colombian indigenous communities, through NGS approaches; aiming to provide early prevention tools that could enhance and strengthen public health strategies in these vulnerable ethnic groups, which remain geographically isolated and experience notable health disparities.

Recently Daniel joined the Carvajal-Carmona group (2022) as a research scholar to receive bioinformatical training in WES data analysis and continue his research. He likes to spend his leisure time doing outdoor activities such as bike riding, hiking, camping, and rock climbing.




Javier Torres

Unidad de Investigación en Enfermedades Infecciosas y Parasitarias, IMSS


Alejandro Corvalán
Patricio González
Pilar Carvallo

Past Members

Paari Kandappan – Undergraduate Research Assistant
Dylan Hampton – Undergraduate Research Assistant
Natalia Belter – Associate Research Specialist
John Williamson – Graduate Researcher
Erika Estrada – Undergraduate Research Assistant
Tavneet Gill – Undergraduate Research Assistant
Cathy Wang – Undergraduate Research Assistant
Elisha Garcia – Associate Research Specialist
Anna Marie Tuazon – Graduate Researcher
Jacob Stultz – Associate Research Specialist
Ivan Olaya – Undergraduate Research Assistant
Chad Pickering – Undergraduate Research Assistant
Ruta Sahasrabudhe – Postdoctoral Scholar
Neha Mannikar – Undergraduate Research Assistant
Nicole Coggins – Graduate Researcher
Angel Criollo – Visiting Graduate Researcher
Crystel Ramirez – Visiting Graduate Researcher
Sabrina Baggett – Junior Specialist Researcher
Ran Lu – Junior Specialist Researcher
Michael Nyugen – Undergraduate Researcher – Web/Database Developement
Peter Kim – Undergraduate Researcher – Web/Database/Bioinformatics
Giselle Aguayo – Junior Specialist Researcher
Sienna Rocha – Undergraduate Researcher
Marisol Contreras – Undergraduate Researcher
John Jairo Suarez Olaya – Visiting Graduate Researcher
Jennyfer Dahianna Benavides – Visiting Graduate Researcher
Graciela Molina – Visiting Postdoctoral Researcher
Ted Toal – Assistant Project Scientist – Bioinformatics
Elizabeth Quino – Assistant Research Specialist
Priya Choudhary – Junior Specialist Researcher- Bioinformatics
Rasika Venkatesh – Junior Specialist Researcher- Bioinformatics
Alexa Morales Arana – Junior Specialist Researcher
Alix Andrea Guevara Tique – Visiting Doctoral Student (Biomedical Sciences of the University of Tolima)
Ruth Abebe – Undergraduate Researcher
Caitlin Leong – Undergraduate Researcher
Quincey Rush – Executive Assistant
Ashley Van Ostrand- Executive Assistant
Michelle Wong – Undergraduate Researcher
Yessi Vega – Undergraduate Researcher
Justin Ibarra – Undergraduate Researcher
Wendy Montero-Ovalle, M.Sc. – Visiting Doctoral Student (National University of Colombia)