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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.

Steven Cincotta, MS

Steven Cincotta, MS

DSCB Graduate Student


F31 Fellowship

I am originally from Long Island, New York, and I went to school at Boston University where I earned my bachelors degree in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, and my masters degree in Biotechnology. While at BU, I worked in the lab of Laertis Ikonomou studying the role of the transcription factor Nkx2-1 in the specification of lung and thyroid progenitors during the directed differentiation of mouse embryonic stem cells. As part of the Laird lab, I have worked with others to identify piRNAs in the human fetal testis, as well as characterize their dynamic expression over the course of human development. My current thesis project aims to understand the link between stress and the developing mammalian germline. When I’m not in lab, I enjoy playing guitar and ukulele, exploring all the wine bars and tiki bars in SF, and most of all learning other languages!

Suping Peng, PhD

Suping Peng, PhD

Postdoctoral Fellow

I finished my BSc study in Biology from Wuhan University in China and my PhD study on stem cell therapy for Parkinson’s disease from University Medical Center Groningen in the Netherlands. My first two years of postdoc training was at Yale Stem Cell Center in Haifan Lin’s Lab, with a project focused on the function of mouse PIWI protein – MILI in protein translation in germline stem cells. My current projects in the Laird Lab involve understanding the function of fragile X mental retardation protein (FMRP, product of Fmr1 gene) in primordial germ cell development and the mechanism underlying Fmr1 CGG repeat instability differences in male and female germ cells. I also enjoy bench work in my kitchen, traveling to ‘study’ various local cuisines; and as a compensation, I work hard doing Yoga and badminton in the gym.

Nainoa Richardson, PhD

Nainoa Richardson, PhD

Postdoctoral Fellow


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

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

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.

Jing Li

Jing Li

Visiting PhD student, China Scholarship Council (CSC) program


I was born and raised in Henan province, China. I received my Bachelor degree of clinical medicine (M.D. equivalent) from the Medical School of Zhengzhou University in China. Then I joined the Center for Reproductive Medicine, The First Affiliated Hospital of Zhengzhou University, and got a master’s degree in reproduction medicine and continue to pursue PhD degree under the supervision of Prof. Yihong Guo. My previous researches mainly focused on the pathogenesis of Polycystic OvarySyndrome(PCOS), miscarriage, and age-related fertility decline and explored their treatment outcomes after assisted reproductive technology(ART). In the Laird lab, I am interested in exploring the spatial distribution of follicles in ovarian aging by using tissue clearing and 3D imaging and passionate about basic and translational medicine research in individualizing fertility preservation and treatment. I enjoy watching movies, traveling, and exploring various cuisines in my spare time.

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.

Aris Tay

Aris Tay

DSCB graduate student (co-supervised by Bruce Wang)

I grew up in North Texas and moved to Southern California for my bachelors in biology. I then moved up north to UCSF for grad school. I’m interested in the mechanisms behind sexual dimorphism and reproductive aging in mammals and how this effects tissue injury and regeneration. By using bioinformatic tools to study and compare this in mouse and naked mole rat, I hope to shed some light on a relatively old question. Outside of lab, you could find me walking my little dog, playing video games, or grabbing boba during a long incubation.

Meher Jain

Meher Jain

High school research intern


Student at Mission San Jose High School

Originally from Virginia, I grew up traveling the world, living in places such as South Africa and the UK. These experiences allowed me to gain a passion for medicine that I hope to foster by working in the Laird Lab. I started my research career by studying the comparative singlet oxygen photosensitized efficiency of berberine through time course nuclear magnetic resonance, which has implications in cell death and cancer. Currently, I am assisting Dr. Richardson to study the role of nuclear receptors in developing germ cells. With my time here, I hope to learn more about the environment researchers work in and gain a greater understanding of germ cells and their impact on medicine. In my free time, I enjoy practicing Shaolin Kung Fu, painting and reading!

Lab alumni

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


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