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Meet the people behind our research

Diana Laird, PhD

Diana Laird, PhD

Principal Investigator


I grew up in Portland, Oregon and completed undergraduate studies in physics at Harvard before discovering biology. After several field seasons doing research on biological antifreeze in Antarctic fish, I began graduate work at Stanford. There, in Irv Weissman’s lab, I isolated stem cells responsible for germ cell parasitism in a marine ascidian. For my postdoctoral work, I focused on germ cell development in mice, conducting a genetic screen in Kathryn Anderson’s lab. I still enjoy fishing, as well as outdoor adventures, wine, and playing piano. I am living my dream to fix up a San Francisco Victorian and do research at UCSF.

G. Bikem Soygur, PhD

G. Bikem Soygur, PhD

Postdoctoral Fellow


GCRLE/Buck Institute Fellowship

I received my BSc in Biology from Eskisehir Osmangazi University and MSc in Reproductive Biology from Akdeniz University, Turkey. I started my PhD in Histology and Embryology at Akdeniz University School of Medicine, then joined the Laird lab to conduct my PhD project and received my PhD in 2018. My research focuses on the role of intercellular bridges in developing female germ cells. In particular, I’m investigating the possible roles of these unique bridge structures during major developmental events in fetal ovary such as meiosis and apoptosis. I am also interested in understanding how meiosis is initiated and the long-term effects of timing of meiosis in female germ cells. When I’m not in lab, I enjoy hiking, cooking and travelling.

Nainoa Richardson, PhD

Nainoa Richardson, PhD

Postdoctoral Fellow


NIH Endocrinology T32 Fellowship

After leaving Hawaii (my birthplace), I earned my undergraduate and master’s degrees in Cell and Molecular Biology at San Francisco State University. There, with Dr. Sally Pasion as my mentor, I studied the genetics of DNA replication in fission yeast models. Next, I joined Dr. Marie-Christine Chaboissier’s lab at the Institut de Biologie Valrose in Nice, France for my PhD. While there, I investigated how testicular differentiation occurs in mice lacking genes essential for testicular (Sry and Sox9) and ovarian (Rspo1) differentiation. I then returned to San Francisco to join the Laird Lab as a post-doctoral researcher. My goal here is to understand how gestational environmental perturbations lead to trans-generational reproductive defects. I am also interested in the role of nuclear receptors during germ cell differentiation. When not in the lab, I enjoy traveling, spending time with my partner, and entertaining our two four-legged children, the half-pits — Luca and Zeus.

Mariko Foecke

Mariko Foecke

BMS graduate student


BARI-Hillblom Fellowship

NIH F31 Fellowship

Having grown up in the San Francisco Bay Area, I moved out to Colorado where I completed my BA at Colorado College in both Molecular Biology and French. As an undergraduate, I got my first taste of research  in Dr. Phoebe Lostroh’s lab at Colorado College working with Acinetobacter baylyi and then in Dr. Pascale Cossart’s lab at the Pasteur Institute working with Listeria monocytogenes. After graduating from Colorado College, I returned to the Bay Area to work in Dr. Paul J. Utz’s lab at Stanford University where I broadly interrogated the epigenetic landscape of the immune cells of patients with immunodeficiency disorders and autoimmune diseases using epigenetic landscape profiling using cytometry by time-of-flight (EpiTOF). As a current Biomedical Sciences graduate student in the Laird lab, I’m interested in the impact of physiological stress on the ovary and in ovary aging. When not in lab, I enjoy making, but mostly eating, baked goods and going on hikes with my dog, Dee.

Eliza Gaylord

Eliza Gaylord

DSCB graduate student


UCSF Discovery Fellowship

BARI-Hillblom Fellowship

NIH F31 Fellowship

I earned my BS in Biotechnology at James Madison University in Harrisonburg VA. There, I had my first taste of research while in Dr. Robert McKown’s lab studying the protein Lacritin as a biomarker for dry eye syndrome. After pursuing a biotechnology internship in Dr. Leah Johnson's lab at RTI International, I moved cross-country to work as a Lab Manager in the labs of Drs. Sarah Knox and Nancy McNamara at University of California, San Francisco (UCSF). There, I fell in love with developmental biology while studying the molecular mechanisms underlying the morphogenesis and regeneration of epithelial organs. Now as a Developmental and Stem Cell Biology graduate candidate in the Laird lab, I am eager to uncover the role of sympathetic nerves in ovarian folliculogenesis. Outside of school, I love to hang out in the park, attempt to bake things, and binge my favorite tv shows with my husband and our kitty, Rosebud.

Ernesto Rojas

Ernesto Rojas

MD-PhD student (co-supervised by Tippi MacKenzie)


Ernesto is an MD/PhD student, co-mentored by Diana Laird and Tippi Mackenzie! He was born in Honduras and grew up in Los Angeles. He attended UCLA and worked in the lab of Amander Clark, studying primate PGC-like cell derivations. After taking a gap year to continue his work in primate PGCs, Ernesto started medical school at UCSF in 2019. Here, Ernesto was involved actively in the Latinx Medical Student Association (LMSA), where he continues to serve as a Senior Advisor. Additionally, Ernesto is the VP of Medical Education for the Western Region of LMSA. For his thesis Ernesto is studying the origins of Sacrococcygeal Teratomas, a germ cell tumor, and understanding the link between PGCs, pluripotency, and the disease states of germ cell tumors. Ernesto hopes to continue to work in early development as a surgeon-scientist after graduation.

Jocelyn Crawford

Jocelyn Crawford

Lab manager


Originally from Seattle, I received my bachelors degree in Biochemistry from Claremont McKenna College in Southern California. While completing my degree at CMC I was introduced to bioinformatics and genomics in Dr. Findley Finseth’s lab, studying the role of centromeric repeats in female meiotic drive. In the Laird Lab I am focusing on the fragile X mental retardation protein (FMRP, Fmr1 gene product), specifically the significance of the CGG repeat variation in germ cells. Outside of the lab I am an enthusiastic rock climber and amateur photographer!

Jonathan Bayerl ("JB"), PhD

Jonathan Bayerl ("JB"), PhD

Postdoctoral Fellow


EMBO Fellowship

Originally from a small town close to Vienna in Austria, I earned a BSc. in Biomedical Engineering and a MSc. degree in Biomedicine and Biotechnology in Vienna. Afterwards, I pursued my PhD degree at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel in the lab of Jacob Hanna working on human naive pluripotency and interspecies chimaerism. Currently as a postdoc fellow in the laird lab, I am focusing on studying the link between fertility and reproductive aging using the naked-mole rat model organism and I am trying to find avenues to reset the aging clock by applying stem cell-based methodologies to answer  questions related to reproductive biology and aging at hand. Outside the lab, I love to take my mountain bike across the lands surrounding SF. Moreover, I am a water rat as I am a passionate surfer, sailor and diver and generally sports-addict. That's why I am passionate baker for protein-rich cakes, cookies and energy bars!

Caroline Doherty, PhD

Caroline Doherty, PhD

Postdoctoral Fellow


Jane Coffin Childs Fellowship

I grew up in Minnesota pronouncing bag like bayg (sometimes I still do) before moving to the east coast for college where I got my bachelors degree in Applied Math-Biology at Brown University. By my senior year I realized I liked doing research way more than taking classes and took it as a sign that I should go to grad school. I got my PhD at Princeton in Molecular Biology and am now in the Laird lab studying how intrinsic and extrinsic factors influence oocyte competency. When I'm not in lab you can find me either doing yoga or at Costco.

Jay Zussmann

Jay Zussmann

MD-PhD student (co-supervised by Dan Wagner)


I grew up splitting my time between Manhattan and Long Island, New York and went to Duke University for undergrad, where I studied Biophysics and Gender, Sexuality, and Feminist Studies. At Duke, I worked in Dr. Dave Sherwood’s lab identifying mechanisms of germline stem cell niche exit and investigating how gonadal basement membrane components contribute to mechanical properties during ovulation in C. elegans. I began my MD-PhD at UCSF in 2020 and developed evidence-based guidelines for gender- and sex-inclusivity in clinical documentation and medical education during my preclinical years. For my PhD in Developmental and Stem Cell Biology, I will be co-advised by Diana Laird and Dan Wagner to leverage single cell transcriptomics and developmental lineage tracing to understand clonal dynamics in the developing germline in vitro and in vivo. Outside the lab, I love cooking diverse cuisines and birding and hiking around the Bay Area with my partner. As a physician-scientist, I aspire to provide affirming fertility care to LGBTQIA+ communities.

Julia Bernard

Julia Bernard

Naked mole-rat colony manager


After growing up in the beach town of Encinitas, California, I made my way to University of California, Davis where I received my bachelor's degree in Animal Science with an emphasis in animal behavior. While at UC Davis, I had the opportunity to intern at the UC Davis Horse Barn, where I did estrous cycle manipulation, ultrasounds, and artificial insemination in horses. I also have additional experience in equines and other exotic anomals, primarily focusing on hoofstock. Here, in conjunction with the Laird Lab and the Bakar Aging Research Institute, I am focusing on the husbandry and management of the UCSF Naked Mole Rat Colony, for research in longevity and reproduction. In my free time you can find me exploring the city or spending time outdoors, often visiting national parks and camping with my dog, Katy.

Lab alumni

Jing Li MD, PhD


Postdoc at Northwestern University

Visiting Student

Suping Peng PhD


Shoreline Biosciences

Former Postdoc

Steven Cincotta PhD


Scientist at Sonoma Biotherapeutics

Former DSCB Graduate Student

Eman Thabet


Lecturer of Medical Physiology at Faculty of Medicine, Alexandria University, Egypt

Fulbright Scholar

Rebecca Jaszczak, PhD


Senior Biological Data Scientist, UCSF CoLabs

Former BMS Graduate Student

Boris Reznik, PhD


Principal Scientist, Moderna

Former postdoctoral fellow

Daniel Nguyen, PhD

Consultant at Booz Allen

Former BMS Graduate Student

Sameera Qureshi


Former undergraduate researcher

Lauren Diez, BS


Former lab assistant

Lina Alfonso

DSCB graduate student @ UCSF

Former lab manager

Brandon Sigamony


Former Undergraduate Research Intern

Himakar Nagam

Medical Student at UCI

Former Undergraduate Research Intern

Leslie (Mateo) Valencia, MS, PhD


Drug Development Training Fellow at Genentech

Former CIRM Bridges M.S. Student

Michael Kissner


Director of Operations of Columbia Stem Cell Initiative Flow Cytometry Core Facility

Lab Manager

Svetlana Keylin, PhD


Postdoc at Genentech

Former Lab Manager

Mehlika Faire, MS , DO

Currently Resident in Family Medicine @ UC Davis

Former M.S. student and Lab Manager

Jennifer Daza MD

Resident in Family Medicine @ UC Davis

Former Lab Assistant

Brandon Chacon

Current DSCB PhD Student in UCSF

Former Master's Student, SFSU/CIRM Bridges Program

Andrea Cantú, PhD

Advisory Scientist to DARPA

Former PhD Student

Ripla Arora, PhD


Assistant Professor@Michigan State University

Former Postdoctoral fellow

Staircase on the side of Laird Lab building