Luis Carvajal-Carmona, Ph.D.

Prinipal Investigator

Luis joined UC Davis as an Assistant Professor in 2012 and was promoted to Professor in 2019. In addition to leading his research laboratory, Luis is the holder of the Auburn Community Cancer Endowed Chair in Basic Science and the Associate Director for Basic Science at the UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center. He also is the leader of the Cancer Center’s Latinos United for Cancer Health Advancement (LUCHA) initiative and the co-director Community Engagement Program at the Clinical and Translational Science Center.

Luis has interest and expertise in cancer genetics, population genetics, genetic demography of minority groups and functional genomics. Before joining UC Davis, Luis was a Senior Research Fellow at the Wellcome Trust Centre for Human Genetics in the University of Oxford. He did his postdoctoral fellowship at the London Research Institute and his PhD at University College London. Luis enjoys cycling, hiking and other outdoor activities. He also enjoys traveling and spending time with his young family.

Luis Carvajal-Carmona

Quincey Rush

Executive Assistant

Quincey provides high level executive administrative support to Professor Carvajal. She spends her days managing his calendar, coordinating logistically complex meetings, processing domestic and foreign travel schedule and arrangement, answering emails and the multitude of questions that come her way. When she is not helping manage office and work files, preparing and submitting travel and expense reports at the Genome Center, Quincey enjoys spending time with her husband and two sons, working out and camping.

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.

Ted Toal, Ph.D.

Postdoctoral Scholar

Ted’s area of interest is in analysis of genomic data to understand the genetic causes of tumorigenesis and to predict tumor vulnerabilities. He completed his Ph.D. in Integrative Genetics and Genomics at the University of California, Davis. His graduate research topic was inference of gene regulatory networks controlling aspects of root architecture in tomato, with a focus on root growth angle.

In the Carvajal lab, Ted is using genome data from gastric cancer tumor and normal tissue from Hispanic patients to search for tumor driver genes, mutational signatures, and clonal structure. He also assists with system administration and bioinformatics training. You can find Ted’s CV here.

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.

Guadalupe Carvajal, M.Sc.

Associate Research Specialist

Guadalupe is an experienced wet lab scientist 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.

Elizabeth Quino, MPH

Assistant Research Specialist

Elizabeth Quino, MPH is an Assistant Specialist with the Carvajal-Carmona Lab. She holds a Master of Public Health degree from UC Davis. Her work centers on program management of the international studies taking place in the lab. She aids in the creation of new research projects and data analysis to identify new opportunities to create sustainable, ethical, and meaningful action that gives communities the capacity to make informed health decisions.  She hopes that her work helps facilitate changes in health care systems to improve the prevention and management of cancer and its risk factors, starting with creating equal access to screening. Elizabeth is also passionate about mentorship and encouraging students to pursue higher education. 

On the weekends you can find her hiking with her two fur kiddos, thrift shopping, or reading romance novels. 

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.

Alexa Morales Arana

Junior Specialist Researcher

Alexa is a fourth year Biochemistry and Molecular Biology major at UC Davis. Alexa is currently working on the functional modeling and characterization of novel variants of uncertain significance in the PALB2 gene associated with gastric cancer in Latin Americans. In the future, Alexa hopes to one day apply her clinical and research knowledge to help underserved communities that are affected by this condition. In her spare time, she enjoys hiking, painting, and spending time with friends and family.

April Vang

Junior Specialist Researcher

April received her Bachelor of Science in Statistics with an emphasis in Data Science and a minor in Computer Science from the University of California, Davis. In her undergraduate senior year, she was a student statistician in the Carvajal-Carmona lab looking into cancer registry data, community-based cancer health survey, and aided in statistical research analysis. April will be focusing on genetic epidemiological analysis, analyses of cancer registry data, and the application of disease gene mapping techniques and modeling. In her free time, she enjoys spending time with her family, video making, biking, and playing chess.

Priya Choudhary

Junior Specialist – Bioinformatics

Priya is a first-generation college student pursuing a degree in Neurobiology, Physiology, and Behavior with an emphasis on Physiology at UC Davis. She is working with the bioinformatics team to run multiple cancer genomic projects, including running, monitoring and troubleshooting genomic pipelines. In her spare time, Priya enjoys volunteering at a local shelter, painting, kickboxing, and exploring local food spots.

Rasika Venkatesh

Junior Specialist – Bioinformatics

Rasika graduated with a Bachelors in Biotechnology with a specialization in Bioinformatics. She assists the bioinformatics team with the data analysis of cancer genomics projects – whole exome sequencing and genome-wide association studies. She will also assist in running, monitoring, and troubleshooting genomics pipelines to analyze data and test hypotheses.

Rasika volunteers as a case manager in a clinic for women with mental health disorders and spends her summers working in the biotechnology industry. She enjoys reading mysteries and exploring different cuisines with her friends and family.

Justin Ibarra

Undergraduate Researcher

Justin is an Undergraduate student pursuing a degree in Human Biology with a minor in English, and he is also an NSF/LSAMP CAMP Scholar. He has done work on identifying the presence of Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) in gastric cancer and observing its frequency in comparison to patient-derived xenografts and organoids. Currently, he is learning how to generate and maintain organoid cultures of minority patients with gastric adenocarcinomas and will work towards testing different therapeutics to determine the most effective drug combinations.

Justin also volunteers at a UC Davis student-run clinic, Clínica Tepati, where he helps provide medical care to underserved Latino communities in the greater Sacramento area. In his free time, Justin enjoys reading, cooking, and practicing Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.

Caitlin Leong

Undergraduate Researcher

Caitlin is a third-year undergrad pursuing a degree in psychology. She volunteers at Health Education & Promotion and serves as an editor at Open Ceilings magazine. In the future, she hopes to pursue physician assistant school and write a novel. She is excited to join the bioinformatics team at the LCC lab this year!




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