Trainees - Comings and Goings

2017 Entering PGY-I Research Track Resident

Sara Timtim, M.D.


Sara joined us in 7/17 as a PGY-I. Sara received her BS at Stanford University where she conducted studies and co-authored a report on the use of adjunctive therapies in treatment-resistant Bipolar Disorder. She then completed her M.D. training at the University of Illinois College of Medicine – Rockford. Sara was a member of our inaugural class of the UCSD R25 Summer Research Fellowship, where she worked with Dr. T. Jernigan, Director of the UCSD Ctr for Human Development, studying longitudinal cognitive measures in children, as part of a multi-site NIH investigation of brain imaging and cognition across development (now the "ABCD" Program). 

Her peer-reviewed publication is:
  • Dell'osso B, Timtim S, Hooshmand, Miller S, Wang PW, Hill SJ, Portillo N, Ketter TA. Superior chronic tolerability of adjunctive modafinil compared to pramipexole in treatment-resistant bipolar disorder. Journal of Affective Disorders 150: 130-135, 2013.

    2017 Entering PGY-II Research Track Residents

    Juan Molina, M.D.

    Juan Molina, M.D.

    Juan joins us from the University of South Florida, where he received his M.D. degree. Prior to medical school, he trained in neuroimaging at the Clinical Brain Disorders Branch of the National Institute of Mental Health. His research has focused on neurocognition and genetics in schizophrenia. He is interested in cross-cultural psychiatry, biomarker development, and brain stimulation.  

    His peer-reviewed publications include:
    • Molina JL, González Alemán G, Florenzano N, Padilla E, Calvó M, Guerrero G, Kamis D, Stratton L, Toranzo J, Molina Rangeon B, Hernández Cuervo H, Bourdieu M, Sedó M, Strejilevich S, Cloninger CR, Escobar JI, & de Erausquin GA (2016). Prediction of Neurocognitive Deficits by Parkinsonian Motor Impairment in Schizophrenia: A Study in Neuroleptic-Naïve Subjects, Unaffected First-Degree Relatives and Healthy Controls From an Indigenous Population. Schizophrenia Bulletin (in press) 2016.
    • Kaplan CM, Saha D, Molina J, Hockheimer W, Postell E, Apud J, Weinberger DR, & Tan HY (2016). Estimating changing contexts in schizophrenia. Brain (in press) 2016.  
    • Balda M, Calvó M, Padilla E, Guerrero G, Molina J, Florenzano NV, Kamis D, Escobar JI, Cloninger CR, & de Erausquin G (2015). Detection, Assessment, and Management of Schizophrenia in an Andean Population of South America: Parkinsonism Testing and Transcranial Ultrasound as Preventive Tools. Focus (American Psychiatric Publishing) 13, 432–440.
    • Molina J, & de Erausquin GA (2015). Sex and laterality differences in parkinsonian impairment and transcranial ultrasound in never-treated schizophrenics and their first degree relatives in an Andean population. Schizophrenia Research 164, 250–255.
    • Padilla E, Molina J, Kamis D, Calvo M, Stratton L, Strejilevich S, Aleman GG, Guerrero G, Bourdieu M, Conesa HA, Escobar JI, & de Erausquin GA (2015). The efficacy of targeted health agents education to reduce the duration of untreated psychosis in a rural population. Schizophrenia Research 161, 184–187.

      Matthew Klein, M.D., Ph.D.

      Matthew Klein, M.D., Ph.D.

      Matthew comes to our research track after completing his MD/PhD at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine. His thesis focused on how neurons control local gene expression to maintain efficient synaptic transmission, and how these mechanisms go awry in Autism Spectrum Disorders. Recently, Matthew has become interested in schizophrenia as recent research suggests that both schizophrenia and ASD may share abnormal neuronal gene expression as a common pathogenic mechanism. His current plan for the Research Track is to study how to alleviate abnormal brain activity in mouse models of schizophrenia.

      Examples of his recent peer-reviewed publications include:
      • Klein ME, Monday H, Jordan BA. Proteostasis in synaptic plasticity and in the pathogenesis of neuropsychiatric disorders. Neural Plasticity. 2016 Jan 12; PMID: 26904297
      • Klein ME, Castillo PE, Jordan BA. Coordination between translation and degradation regulates inducibility of mGluR-LTD. Cell Reports. 2015 March 03; PMID: 25753412
      • Klein ME, Younts TJ, Castillo PE, Jordan BA. The RNA binding protein Sam68 regulates hippocampal synapse number through control of local beta actin mRNA metabolism. PNAS. 2013 Feb 19; PMID: 23382180
      • Kessels HW, Kopec CD, Klein ME, Malinow R. Roles of stargazin and phosphorylation in the control of AMPA receptor subcellular distribution. Nat Neurosci. 2009 Jul; PMID: 19543281
      • Klein ME, Lioy DT, Ma L, Impey S, Mandel G, Goodman RH. Homeostatic regulation of MeCP2 expression by a CREB-induced microRNA. Nat Neurosci. 2007 Dec; PMID: 17994015
      • Ehrlich I, Klein M, Rumpel S, Roberto Malinow. PSD-95 is required for activity-driven synapse stabilization. PNAS. 2007 Mar 06; PMID: 17360496
      • Vo N*, Klein ME*, Varlamova O, Keller DM, Yamamoto T, Goodman RH, Impey S. A cAMP-response element binding protein-induced microRNA regulates neuronal morphogenesis. PNAS. 2005 Nov 08;PMID: 16260724
      • Klein ME, Impey S, Goodman RH. Role reversal:the regulation of neuronal gene expression by microRNAs. Curr Opin Neurobiol. 2005 Oct;PMID: 16150590
      • Saito T, Guan F, Papolos DF, Lau S, Klein M, Fann CS, Lachman HM. Mutation analysis of SYNJ1: a possible candidate gene for chromosome 21q22-linked bipolar disorder. Mol Psychiatry. 2001 Jul;PMID:
      *Equal contributions

      2017 Entering PGY-III Research Track Residents

      Samantha Friend, M.D., Ph.D.

      Samantha Friend, M.D., Ph.D.

      Samantha comes to us from the University of Colorado School of Medicine, where she received her M.D, and her Ph.D in Immunology. Her Doctoral thesis focused on T cell regulation, and her current research interests include the role of immune function in the pathogenesis of neurodevelopmental disorders.

      Examples of his recent peer-reviewed publications include:
      • Friend SF, Deason-Towne F, Peterson LK, Berger AJ, Dragone LL. Regulation of T cell receptor complex-mediated signaling by ubiquitin and ubiquitin-like modifications. Am J Clin Exp Immunol. 2014 Dec 5;3(3):107-23
      • Friend SF, Peterson LK, Treacy EC, Stefanski AL, Sosinowski T, Pennock ND, Berger AJ, Winn VD, Dragone LL. The Discovery of a reciprocal relationship between tyrosine-kinase signaling and Cullin neddylation. PLoS One. 2013 Oct 4; 8(10): e75200.
      • Peterson LK, Pennington LF, Shaw LA, Brown M, Treacy E, Friend SF, Hatelvik O, Rubtsova K, Rubtsov AV, Dragone LL. SLAP deficiency decreases dsDNA autoantibody production. Clinical Immunology. 2014 Feb; 150(2), 201-209.
      • Friend SF, Peterson LK, Kedl RM, and Dragone LL. 2013. SLAP deficiency increases TCR avidity leading to altered cognate antigen-specific CD8+ T cells. Immunologic Research. 55(1-3), 116-124.

      Yash Joshi, M.D., Ph.D.

      Yash Joshi, M.D., Ph.D.

      Yash graduated the Temple University School of Medicine where he received both his M.D and Ph.D degrees, the latter in Pharmacology. His research focus has been the cellular basis for neurodegenerative disorders, using cross-species models.

      Examples of his recent peer-reviewed publications include:
      • Joshi YB, Giannopoulos PF, Praticò D. The 12/15-lipoxygenase as an emerging therapeutic target for Alzheimer's disease. Trends Pharmacol Sci. 2015 Mar;36(3):181-186.
      • Joshi YB, Chu J, Praticò D. Knockout of 5-lipoxygenase prevents dexamethasone-induced tau pathology in 3xTg mice. Aging Cell. 2013 Aug; 12(4): 706-11.
      • Joshi YB, Di Meco A, Praticò D. Overexpression of 12/15-lipoxygenase increases anxiety behavior in female mice. Neurobiology of Aging. 2014 May; 35(5): 1032-6.
      • Joshi YB, Di Meco A, Praticò D. Modulation of amyloid-beta production by leukotriene B4 via the gamma-secretase pathway. Journal of Alzheimer's Disease. 2014 Feb; 38(3): 503-6.
      • Joshi YB, Giannopoulos PF, Chu J, Praticò D. Modulation of lipopolysaccharide-induced memory insult, gammasecretase, and neuroinflammation in triple transgenic mice by 5-lipoxygenase. Neurobiology of Aging. 2014 May; 35(5): 1024-31.
      • Joshi YB, Giannopoulos PF, Chu J, Sperow M, Kirby LG, Abood ME, Praticò D. Absence of ALOX5 gene prevents stress-induced memory deficits, synaptic dysfunction and tauopathy in a mouse model of Alzheimer's disease. Human Molecular Genetics. 2014. 23(25):6894-902.

      Natassia Gaznick, M.D.,Ph.D.

      Natassia Gaznick, M.D.,Ph.D.

      Natassia completed her MD,PhD (Neuroscience) at the University of Iowa studying the role of the basal ganglia and insula in human drug craving. Her primary clinical target was post-stroke smokers, and her studies used functional neuroimaging and neuropsychological measures to parse the role of specific brain regions in regulating smoking behavior, impulsivity and self-awareness. Her current research focuses on addiction therapeutics.

      Her peer-reviewed publications include: 
      • Llano M, Gaznick N, Poeschla EM (2009) Rapid, controlled and intensive lentiviral vector-based RNAi. Methods Mol Biol 485: 257-70. 
      • Gaznick N, Tranel D, McNutt A, Bechara A (2014) Basal Ganglia Plus Insula Damage Yields Stronger Disruption of Smoking Addiction Than Basal Ganglia Damage Alone. Nicotine Tob Res 16: 445-53.
      • Naqvi NH, Gaznick N, Tranel D, Bechara A (2014) The insula: a critical neural substrate for craving and drug seeking under conflict and risk. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, 1316: 53-70.
      • Gaznick N, Bechara A, Tranel D (2014) Hemispheric side of damage influences sex-related differences in smoking cessation in neurological patients. Journal of Clinical and Experimental Neuropsychology 36: 551-558.
      • Gaznick NV, Anthenelli RM (2017) E-Cigarettes and Vapes: Do They Work for Smoking Cessation and Should We Be Recommending Their Use? Preliminary Studies on the Use of Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems for Smoking Cessation or Reduction Show Some Promise, but the Jury Is Still Out. Current Psychiatry 16: 30.

      2017 Entering PGY-IV Research Track Residents

      Mercedes Szpunar, M.D., Ph.D.

      Mercedes Szpunar, M.D., Ph.D. Mercedes joined our research track after completing the Medical Scientist Training Program at the University of Rochester School of Medicine. She completed her Ph.D. in the Department of Pathology, where she studied the biology of stress and sympathetic nervous system effects on breast tumor metastasis. In addition to psychoneuroimmunology, Mercedes’ research interests include maternal health and early brain development, and their relationship to developmental brain disorders. Parallel to her scientific training, Mercedes has heavily invested her energy in areas of Medical Training and Scientific Policy, holding national-level positions in organizations such as the American Medical Women's Association (AMWA) and American Physician Scientists Association (APSA).
      Her peer-reviewed publications include:
      • Szpunar MJ, Burke KA, Dawes RP, Brown EB, Madden KS. The antidepressant desipramine and α2-adrenergic receptor activation promote breast tumor progression in association with altered collagen structure. Cancer Prev Res (Phila). 2013 Dec;6(12):1262-72.
      • Madden KS, Szpunar MJ, Brown EB. Early impact of social isolation and breast tumor progression in mice. Brain Behav Immun. 2013 Mar;30 Suppl:S135-41.
      • Madden KS, Szpunar MJ, Brown EB. β-Adrenergic receptors (β-AR) regulate VEGF and IL-6 production by divergent pathways in high β-AR-expressing breast cancer cell lines. Breast Cancer Res Treat. 2011 Dec;130(3):747-58.
      • Wilton R, Yousef MA, Saxena P, Szpunar MJ, Stevens FJ. Expression and purification of recombinant human receptor for advanced glycation endproducts in Escherichia coli. Protein Expr Purif. 2006 May;47(1):25-35.

      Alejandro Meruelo, M.D., Ph.D.

      Alejandro Meruelo, M.D., Ph.D. Alejandro came to our research track after completing the Medical Scientist Training Program at UCLA. Prior to UCLA, Alejandro graduated from the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) with a B.S. in Physics. He received his Ph.D. in Computational Biology from the UCLA Institute for Genomics and Proteomics, where his research focused on prediction of protein structure and function. In the past year, Alejandro has become increasingly interested in applying computational biology to the brain, in particular to neuroimaging. He has studied the use of brain imaging to understand the neurobiology of addiction, and is pursuing this line of inquiry during his Research Residency at UCSD, under the mentorship of Dr. Susan Tapert.


      His peer-reviewed publications include:
      • Hwang BJ, Meruelo AD, Sternberg PW. C. elegans EVI1 proto-oncogene, EGL-43, is necessary for Notch-mediated cell fate specification and regulates cell invasion. Development. 2007 Feb; 134(4): 669-79.
      • Meruelo AD, Bowie JU. Identifying polymer-forming SAM domains. Proteins. 2009 Jan; 74(1): 1-5.
      • Meruelo AD, Samish I, Bowie JU. TMKink: a method to predict transmembrane helix kinks. Protein Science. 2011 Jul; 20(7): 1256-64.
      • Meruelo AD, Han SK, Kim S, Bowie JU. Structural differences between thermophilic and mesophilic membrane proteins. Protein Science. 2012 Nov; 21(11): 1746-53.


      Nate Miller, M.D., Ph.D.

      Nate Miller, M.D., Ph.D.

      Nate received his Ph.D. in Neuroscience from the Johns Hopkins University and his M.D. from Northwestern School of Medicine. His graduate studies were in the area of molecular genetics, and his hope is to apply genetic tools to understand the biology of brain disorders and therapeutics. His current plan for his Research Track is to pursue studies of genetic and epigenetic markers for lithium sensitivity in Bipolar Disorder.

      Nate’s peer-reviewed publications include:
      • Miller ND, Nance MA, Wohler ES, Hoover-Fong JE, Lisi E, Thomas GH, Pevsner J. Molecular (SNP) analyses of overlapping hemizygous deletions of 10q25.3 to 10qter in four patients: Evidence for Hmx2 and Hmx3 as candidate genes in hearing and vestibular function. American Journal of Medical Genetics: Part A. Feb 27 2009;149A(4):669-80.
      • Wang W, Carvalho B, Miller ND, Pevsner J, Chakravarti A, Irizarry, RA. Estimating Genome-Wide Copy Number Using Allele-Specific Mixture Models. J Comput Biol. Sept 2008;15(7):857-866.
      • Ting JC, Roberson ED, Miller ND, Lysholm-Bernacchi A, Stephan DA, Capone GT, Ruczinski I, Thomas GH, Pevsner J. Visualization of uniparental inheritance, Mendelian inconsistencies, deletions, and parent of origin effects in single nucleotide polymorphism trio data with SNPtrio. Hum Mutat. Dec 2007;28(12):1225-35.
      • Alagramam KN, Miller ND, Adappa ND, Pitts DR, Heaphy JC, Yuan H, Smith RJ. Promoter, alternative splice forms, and genomic structure of protocadherin 15. Genomics. Oct 2007;90(4):482-92.



      2017 Psychiatry Summer Research Fellows

      Brandi Quintanilla joined us after her first year at the West Virginia School of Osteopathic Medicine. She received her B.S. in Biology from The University of Texas Pan American, and a Masters in Biomedical Science from The University of North Texas Health Science Center. Brandi spent her UCSD Summer Research Fellowship in the clinical research program of Dr. Cristian Achim, studying alterations in the mitochondrial biogenesis in postmortem brains from patients with HIV-associated neurocognitive disorders. Brandi completed her project and will be presenting her findings at scientific meetings later this year.

      Cecilia Rangel-Garcia joined us after her first year at UCSD School of Medicine. She received her B.A. in Psychology from Loyola Marymount University. Cecilia spent her UCSD Summer Research Fellowship in the clinical research program of Dr. Victoria Risbrough, studying the role of early life stressors in later risk for, and manifestations of, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder in Veterans. Cecilia plans to complete an Independent Study Project with Dr. Risbrough as part of her curriculum for the UCSD School of Medicine.

      2016 Psychiatry Summer Research Fellows

      Jade Avery joined us after her first year at the Dartmouth University Geisel School of Medicine. She received her B.A. in Biological Sciences from The University of Chicago. Jade spent her UCSD Summer Research Fellowship in the clinical research program of Dr. Walter Kaye, studying the effects of Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT) on Bulimia Nervosa (BN). Her specific project assessed changes in alexithymia in BN patients, pre- vs. post-DBT.

      Maria Ceron y Ceron joined us after her first year at The Ohio State University College of Medicine. She received her B.A. from Johns Hopkins University in Psychological and Brain Sciences. She spent her UCSD Summer Research Fellowship in the clinical research program of Dr. Robert Anthenelli, studying the effects of a novel NMDA antagonist on craving and abstinence in chronic smokers. Maria's research report focused on the role of the prefrontal cortex in the genesis of impulsivity in addiction.

      2015 Psychiatry Summer Research Fellows

      Joshua Dyer is a first year student at Ohio University Heritage College of Osteopathic Medicine. He has four years of military experience as a Navy Corpsman, including two years serving with a marine infantry unit. He will be studying neurobehavioral predictors of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder with Drs. Dean Acheson and Victoria Risbrough.

      Robert Cox is a first year medical student at Drexel University College of Medicine. His undergraduate studies were in molecular cell biology, and his clinical interests include Addiction Psychiatry. Robert’s summer project will focus on the neural and molecular basis of addiction phenotypes in laboratory animals, working in the laboratory group of Dr. Athina Markou.

      2014 Psychiatry Summer Research Fellows

      Sara Timtim joined us after her first year at the University of Illinois College of Medicine. She received her B.S. from Stanford University in Environmental Engineering, and has conducted, and presented findings from, studies of adjunctive therapies in treatment-resistant Bipolar Disorder. Sara spent her summer fellowship in the laboratory of Dr. Terry Jernigan, Professor of Cognitive Science, Psychiatry, and Radiology and Director of the UCSD Center for Human Development.

      Brian Becerra joined us after his first year at at Stony Brook University. He received his B.S. in Human Biology from UCSD, and has conducted laboratory research in Biomedical Sciences at UCSD and as part of a PRIME summer internship at Monash University in Melbourne, Australia. Brian spent his summer fellowship in the laboratory of David Feifel, M.D., Ph.D., a former UCSD Research Track Resident and current Professor of Psychiatry and Director of the UCSD Neuropsychiatry & Behavioral Medicine Unit.