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People

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Megan Martik

Assistant Professor

Megan received her B.S. in Biological Sciences at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, PA. As an undergrad, Megan became interested in gene regulation and evolutionary developmental biology in the lab of Dr. Veronica Hinman. She then completed her PhD under the mentorship of Dr. Dave McClay at Duke University where she studied the transcriptional control of morphogenetic processes. After her PhD work, Megan began studying gene regulatory network control of neural crest development and evolution at Caltech in Dr. Marianne Bronner's lab. Megan is fascinated by the regulatory logic dictating complex processes such as cell differentiation, evolution, and regeneration. In her spare time, she likes to travel, SCUBA dive, spend time with family and friends, and hang with her dog, Little Edie.

Email: martik [at] berkeley [dot] edu

Twitter: @MeganMartikPhD

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Shashank Gandhi 

Miller Research Fellow

Shashank completed his undergraduate degree in India before moving to New York for a master’s degree at New York University. Working with Lionel Christiaen, he got his first taste for heart development in a chordate model system called Ciona intestinalis. He then moved to sunny California to get his Ph.D. in Developmental Biology from Dr. Marianne Bronner’s lab at the California Institute of Technology, where he worked on cardiac neural crest development. Shashank was selected as a Schmidt Science Fellow in 2021. At UC Berkeley, he is a Miller Research Fellow, jointly hosted by the Martik and Harland Labs. He is working on understanding how cardiac neural crest cells contribute to the outflow tract using different model systems. In his free time, Shashank enjoys baking, photography, and cricket. The force is strong with him!

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Lara Busby

Postdoctoral Researcher

Lara received her B.A. in Natural Sciences (2017), and PhD in Developmental Biology (2023) from the University of Cambridge (UK). Her PhD work focused on the regulation of developmental timing, using experimental embryology to test the contribution of intrinsic and extrinsic timers to Hox gene expression and cell migration in primary body axis development. In the Martik lab, she will be investigating the importance of intrinsic changes to the cranial NC and extrinsic changes to the embryonic environment in the evolution of the vertebrate jaw, using the lamprey and frog as models. Outside of the lab, Lara enjoys cooking, birdwatching and weightlifting. 

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Alex Haugan

Graduate Student

Alex received her B.S in cell and developmental biology from the University of Washington in Seattle, Washington. As an undergraduate Alex became passionate about the processes of development and regeneration through the studies of both glial reprogramming in the retina and human stem cell-derived organoids in Dr. Tom Reh's laboratory. Now as a graduate student in the Martik Lab, Alex studies cardiac regeneration and the unique contribution of neural crest cells to this process. Alex is passionate about scientific mentorship, equity and justice in science, and transgender rights. Outside of lab Alex loves to bake, travel, and talk all things television and books.

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Xylina Rusit

Graduate Student

Xylina graduated from UC Davis in 2019 with a B.S. in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology and a minor in Evolutionary Anthropology. Wanting to combine her scientific passions, she sought to ask evolutionary questions in the context of molecular biology. In the Martik Lab, she now studies the evolution and development of the cardiac neural crest with the assistance of the mighty sea lamprey (Petromyzon marinus), a basal vertebrate, and the elegant and divergently evolved Mexican cavefish (Astyanax mexicanus). You may encounter a wild Xylina getting boba/coffee or thrifting around downtown Berkeley.

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Simon Chau

Graduate Student

Simon graduated from California State University, Long Beach with a B.S. in Molecular Cell Biology and Physiology and a minor in Chemistry. At CSULB he investigated the role of hypoxia during photostimulated ovarian regression in Siberian hamsters with Dr. Kelly Young. The cycle of regression and regeneration in seasonally reproducing species served as his first step into the scientific realm of development and regeneration. In the Martik lab, Simon studies cardiac regeneration and the role that neural crest cells and intercellular signals play in this phenomenon. Simon enjoys embarking upon culinary adventures, science fiction and fantasy games/books, and the feeling after a run when it's all over.

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Vincent Pham

Graduate Student

Vincent holds a B.S. in Neuroscience from Brown and an M.S. in Biology from Tufts. He is
interested in the use of self-organizing organoids to recapitulate developmental events unique
to humans and to model complex tissue architecture. His early research experiences focused on
regulators of cell death and proliferation (Bowen lab, Brown) and on cytoskeletal proteins that
direct changes in cell structure and function (Sever lab, MGH). Following these experiences, he
shifted focus from general cell processes to neurodevelopment. In the lab of Mriganka Sur
(MIT), he used cerebral organoids and iPSCs/ESCs to look at deficits in the migration of
immature neurons and the abnormal expansion of neural progenitors in Rett Syndrome. He
then moved to Vienna, Austria to continue his cerebral organoid work as a Fulbright scholar in
the lab of Juergen Knoblich (IMBA). There, he studied the development of the corpus callosum
and as well as the polarization of the neuroepithelium in early brain development. Currently, as
a co-advised graduate student in the Martik lab and the Hockemeyer lab, he is modeling the
contribution of neural crest cells to heart development and their response to heart injury in
cardioids (heart organoids).

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Hannah Van Mullem

Lab Technician

Hannah received her B.A. in Molecular and Cell Biology from the University of California, Berkeley in 2023. She is continuing research started during her Honors Thesis project, working on understanding the evolution of axial regionalization and regulatory complexification of the neural crest across vertebrates, including the humble sea lamprey. She hopes to continue studying genetics and development in graduate school, after her time in the Martik Lab. In her free time, she enjoys reading fantasy and science fiction novels, cooking, and buying yet another houseplant.

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Luke Lyons

Lab Technician

Luke received his B.A in Molecular and Cell Biology and English from UC Berkeley in 2023. He became interested in heart regeneration and neural crest development as an undergraduate researcher in the Martik lab, completing an honors thesis on the contribution of neural crest-derived cardiomyocytes during cardiac regeneration. As a lab tech, Luke continues to investigate neural crest-derived cells during heart regeneration as well as the gene regulatory landscape dictating the differentiation of the sympathetic nervous system. Outside of lab, Luke enjoys spending time with friends, listening to music, and going to bookstores and cafes.

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Ftsum Tesfamichael 

CIRM Intern

Ftsum got his BSc in Applied Marine Science from the University of Asmara COMSAT branch.  Upon receiving his A.S. in biotechnology at BCC, he is now a CIRM intern in the Martik lab working on heart regeneration. Ftsum has a great passion for soccer and cycling and spends his free time playing them.

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Shruti Gattapally

Undergraduate Researcher

Shruti is an undergraduate majoring in Molecular and Cell Biology. Her passion for research began when she learned about lncRNA at the beginning of her undergraduate career. She’s always been fascinated by evolution which led her to the Martik lab. She is currently investigating how neural crest gene networks have evolved across vertebrates. She also enjoys books and TV with satisfying endings, watching close basketball games, and occasionally knitting.

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Emily Du

Undergraduate Researcher

Emily is an undergrad in her second year at UC Berkeley. She got her first taste of biomedical research in high school. An honorary member of the Martik lab, Emily is fascinated by vertebrate development and mechanisms behind congenital diseases. She is currently working on how the mammalian neural crest contributes to organogenesis, and hopes to enter an MD/PhD program after graduating. In her free time, she enjoys reading Murakami, playing piano, and occasionally going to pilates.

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Jillian Wilson

Undergraduate Researcher

Jillian is an undergraduate in her third year at UC Berkeley majoring in Molecular and Cell Biology. She first became interested in research during her time working for a pharmaceutical company. Intrigued by neural crest gene regulatory networks, she hopes to pursue research in this area. Jillian is excited to study the development of neural crest derivatives, working with chicken embryos. In her free time, she enjoys reading, running, and drinking coffee. 

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Yaní Treviño

Undergraduate Researcher

Yaní is a third-year transfer majoring in Molecular and Cellular Biology and minoring in Global Health. Yaní was first introduced to the world of genomics after taking a summer class where she explored Wnt7B's role in the Canonical Wnt Signaling Pathway in mice using a scRNA-seq dataset. She is currently working on understanding how cardiomyocytes arise from the cardiac neural crest and how they play a role in heart regeneration. She enjoys making different types of pasta, hiking, and spending time with her family.

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Jessica Patrick

Undergraduate Researcher

Jessica is a junior transfer double majoring in Molecular and Cell Biology and Cognitive Science. She was introduced to evolutionary developmental biology through the Research Preparation and Resilience Program hosted by the Harland Lab and is interested in how complex gene regulatory networks control the differentiation and migration of early cell populations, specifically within the neural crest. In lab, Jessica is exploring the gene regulatory networks responsible for the development of neural crest-derived chondrocytes in an effort to manipulate these cells into forming a jaw in the jawless vertebrate, the sea lamprey. In her free time, she enjoys playing with her cats, observing local fungi, and playing video games.

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You?!


The Martik lab is an inclusive, supportive group and is actively recruiting motivated, curious, and creative scientists at all levels. Please reach out if you're interested in joining the team!

Alumni

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Rekha Dhillon-Richardson

Lab Technician

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Charles Tralka

Lab Technician

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Reese Robinson

Summer Undergraduate Student

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Natalia Maiorana

Summer Undergraduate Student

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Natalie Williams

Undergraduate Researcher

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Maria Luisa Maas Gamboa

Undergraduate Researcher

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