Biological & Life Sciences

Department of

Faculty & Staff

Cancer Biology & Oncology

Investigators: Tallapaka, Njoo (CHEM), Renganathan (CHEM)
Cancer is a disease that affects people from all populations and from many different backgrounds. The current pipeline of cancer research at ASDRP seeks to:
  • develop new therapeutic options for leukemia, colorectal cancer, and breast cancer
  • identify mechanisms of activation, proliferation, metastasis, and immortalization of cancer cells
  • engineer new antibody therapeutics to selectively target cancer tissues 
Embryonic Stem Cells

Research Areas

Research in the Biology department spans a variety of disciplines in the life sciences as we seek to discover more about the living world around us. Researchers in the Biosciences are currently working on a range of research campaigns from developing therapies for neurodegenerative disease to identifying factors for optimizing crop yields in urban agriculture, and from isolating and sequencing environmental DNA from soil samples to probing mechanisms of cell signaling in cancer cell proliferation.


Investigators: Kaur, Mikhail
Studying the universe's smallest organisms can provide clues about the roles that microbes play in local ecology as well as in human disease. Our microbiologists are working on:
  • developing antifungal compounds to combat mycotoxin-producing fungi and foodborne illness
  • using environmental DNA (eDNA) sequencing techniques to determine species dispersion
  • identifying molecular mechanisms of microbe-host communications
  • developing next-generation antibiotics to treat bacterial and parasite infections 

Environmental Science & Ecology

Investigators: Suresh, Kruger, Kaur, Shurtz, Benson
Environmental and ecological research at ASDRP seeks to bring to light the complexity of the planet we live in. Our researchers in environmental science are working on:
  • determining impacts of human activity on local ecology and on climate change
  • combating destructive forest fires through mitigation strategies
  • using environmental DNA (eDNA) to search for species dispersion
  • identifying gene flow in wildlife populations and gauge susceptibility to climate change
  • optimizing crop yields in urban agriculture to feed underprivileged communities in collaboration with local community gardens
Planting Trees

Molecular Neuroscience

Investigators: Truong
Developing new knowledge on how molecular mechanisms affect organism behavior is critical to identifying ways of treating numerous human diseases. 
  • using genetically engineered model organisms to investigate the progression and prevention of neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease
  • investigating drug dependence and treatments for Schizophrenia and other psychiatric disorders 

Molecular Biology, Environmental Studies

Chariperson, Biological, Human, and Life Sciences

Soumya Suresh

Soumya Suresh is the chairperson for the biology department at ASDRP. The Suresh group is interested in applying tools of molecular biology, modern biotehcnology, and molecular genetics in understanding the world we live in. Soumya studied at UCSB and has several years of research experience in a variety of fields in the biosciences.

Molecular & Cell Biology

Ankur Gupta

​Ankur Gupta serves as the Director of the Biomedical Science Research Cluster, and uses his expertise in molecular and cell biology to better understand the signal transduction pathways that are critical in development of and progression of cancer, including oncogene expression patterns.

Ecology, Evolution, Biodiversity

Avery Kruger

Avery M. Kruger’s lab performs research in the area of environmental biology, ecology, biodiversity, and evolution - using the tools of molecular biology and biotechnology to better understand the ecology of the Bay Area. Further, his research works on issues of environmental remediation and pollution, including attenuating chemical waste and the human environmental footprint.

Molecular & Cell Biology

Carly Truong

Carly Truong, an experienced molecular neurobiologist, leads student research in the area of molecular and cell biology, understanding the role of specific signaling pathways in cell pathology. Her group will be working with sophisticated techniques in cell culture and cell signaling with a focus on present clinical issues. Carly is affiliated with the Biomedical cluster.


Nancy Hutner

Dr. Hutner received a B.A. from Dartmouth College (I majored in English), and received an M.A. and Ph.D. in Psychology from Boston University. Ph.D. in Psychology from Boston University. Several decades of teaching experience as a psychology professor at Holyoke Community College. Extensive experience in psychology research, including postdoctoral work at the Laboratory of Neuropsychology at the Boston University School of Medicine. She has a number of publications in professional psychology journals based on research studies that she conducted in several areas: (1) identifying moderator variables for the relationship between stress and illness; (2) examining the right hemisphere’s role in reading and dyslexia; and (3) examining effects of long-term alcohol use on the brain (e.g., memory and cognitive abilities).

Medicinal Biochemistry

Gayathri Renganathan

Gayathri is an experienced medicinal biochemist interested in pushing forwards the frontiers of molecular medicine. She received her M.Pharm in Pharmaceutical Analysis from Anna University and has several years of experience as a lecturer, and in quality control and in inorganic/analytical biochemistry. The Renganathan research group applies small molecule phytochemistry in a robust drug discovery platform towards understanding the molecular mechanisms of human disease. Additionally, the group uses a variety of biophysical computational tools to understand the interaction of small molecules with their protein targets.The Renganathan research group works on the interface of chemistry and biology, using both experimental and computational techniques to find phytochemicals with clinical potential.

Genetics, Microbiology

Prabhjeet Kaur

Professor Kaur's research interests involve using the tools of modern genetics and molecular biology, including PCR/qPCR, Sanger sequencing, and gel electrophoresis, to investigate dispersion of fungal species in the East Bay Area. Her research interests combine sophisticated genetics with ecology and environmental science.

Neuroimaging, Bioinformatics

Sahar Jahanikia

Experienced neuroimaging researcher and research data analyst with knowledge in Cognitive Neuroscience, Neuroimaging, Behavioral Sciences, Design Thinking, and Bioinformatics. Extensive experience in designing, collecting, and analyzing state of art neuroimaging studies using all forms of modality (fMRI, NIRS, EEG, Simultaneous EEG-fMRI). Co-author of multiple neuroimaging research papers.

Marine Biology

Andrew Benson

Andrew is a marine biologist and graduate of San Diego State University and an avid diver and tide pooler. While there, he studied the effects of ocean acidification and warming on Zostera marina and on the seagrass epifauna. Researchers in the Benson group work on a variety of marine biology research areas.


Nardeen Mikhail

Nardeen received her M.S. in microbiology and has several years of teaching and research experience. Her research interests involve understanding the biology, physiology, and life cycle of  diverse mycotoxin-producing fungi strains, which are associated with food spoilage. The Mikhail research group is affiliated with the Biomedical Research cluster and performs research in fungal microbiology.

Molecular & Cell Biology

Peter Le

Peter Le is an alumnus of UCLA and is currently a biologist at Stanford Medicine. His group at ASDRP investigates cellular phenomena at the molecular level in issues of clinical and biomedical significance, including cell aging and senesence, and gut microbiome diversity. Currently, his group is also working on virtual screening of drug repurposing against COVID-19.

Molecular & Cell Biology

Carly Truong

Carly Truong, an experienced molecular neurobiologist, leads student research in the area of molecular and cell biology, understanding the role of specific signaling pathways in cell pathology. Her group will be working with sophisticated techniques in cell culture and cell signaling with a focus on present clinical issues. Carly is affiliated with the Biomedical cluster.

Biochemistry & Molecular Biology

Kavya Tallapaka

Kavya is an experienced biochemist and COMET research fellow at Stanford. The Tallapaka research group aims to understand molecular mechanisms of medicine using biochemistry, enzymology, and molecular biology tools. This is pursued via spectroscopic monitoring of enzyme kinetics and mechanistic hypotheses about enzyme activity and inhibitors.


Clinton Cunha

Clinton has a Masters in Bioinformatics (University of Guelph) and a Masters of Science in Cellular and Molecular Medicine (University of Ottawa). He also has an Honors Bachelor's degree in Biological Sciences (Carnegie Mellon University). His main areas of focus include Bioinformatics, Data Analysis, Python programming, Biology, Science, Cancer Research and ESL. Professionally, Clinton is a qualified Bioinformatician/Biologist/Instructor and knows how to deal with different types of biological data to derive meaningful relationships using Python, SAS, R and Unix.

Facilities & Instrumentation

Biological Laminar Flow Hoods/Cell Culture Hoods

Our biology research laboratory has four laminar flow hoods, which keep a sterile environment for work with sensitive cell culture or with genetic manipulation. 

Pelton & Crane Sterilizing Autoclave

ASDRP has an industrial-grade autoclave used for sterilizing solutions and biological media using ultrahigh pressure (upwards of 300 degrees!) and pressure (over 3,000 torr!)

Jouan IG650 CO2 Incubator

Whether our biologists are growing cells in petri dishes, or keeping a uniform termperature and humidity, this industrial-grade incubator can accomodate it all.


ASDRP has a wide array of professional grade microscopes and microscopy supplies, from cell fixation to a confocal microscope for fluorescent imaging.

Centrifuges & Microcentrifuges

Our biology research laboratory is equipped with eight centrifuges of varying size, power, and speed; centrifuges separate mixtures such as cell lysate on the basis of density.

Hoefer Scientific DNA Fluorometer

Our DNA fluorometer captures fluorescence of nucleic acids and can be used to quantify nucleic acid concentrations in the micromolar range.

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LabLine 5 x Liter Incubated Shaker

One of two incubated shakers in operation in our laboratory, this is used to grow cell culture and to express proteins in up to 5 liters at a time. Shake away!

LC Packings High Performance Liquid Chromatography (HPLC)

Our HPLC is capable of even the most challenging molecular separations, and is fully equipped with a reverse phase C18 column and a built-in UV detector.

BioRad SmartSpec 3000 UV-visible spectrophotometer

One of our six research-grade  UV-vis spectrophotometers, this instrument is capable of absorbance spectra readings, time-resolved absorbance kinetics, and quantification of nucleic acids.

BioRad Criterion/Protean SDS-PAGE Station

Our biochemists are often interested in purifying and separating proteins based on molecular weight. SDS-PAGE is a technique for characterizing proteins.

DNA Gel Electrophoresis Station

Gel electrophoresis is used to characterize and separate nucleic acids (and other materials) on the basis of charge, molecular weight, or both.

MilliPore MilliQ Water Purification System

Sometimes, even de-ionized water isn't good enough! Our MilliPore tower generates nuclease-free "Milli-Q" ultrapure water for the most sensitive biological assays.

Bio-Tek MicroQuant 96-Well Plate Reade

One of three microplate readers, our BioTek instrument is capable of high-throughput fluoresence/absorbance screening in biochemical assays of up to 96 samples at once.

MJ Scientific Programmable PCR Thermal Cycler

Polymerase chain reaction (PCR) is a commonly used technique to amplify particular sequences of DNA. This is one of two thermal cyclers that ASDRP owns.

Bioreagent Stockroom

Our biology laboratory is fully equipped with almost any molecular biology kit imaginable from Qiagen, Zymo, Thermo, Millipore, and Sigma Aldrich.