Katrina Taylor Evans

Ph.D. student

Katrina Evans earned her Bachelors degree at California State University, Fullerton where she worked in Dr. Cuajungco’s lab studying transient receptor potential channels involved in lysosomal storage disease.  After graduating, she earned her high school teaching credential at University of California, Irvine, and taught high school biology in Orange County for four years. Currently, a PhD student in the Lawson Lab, her research is focused on breast cancer brain metastasis (BCBM). The brain poses a challenge for both metastastatic seeding and treatment because it is protected by the blood brain barrier.  Using experimental models of metastasis and the unique RNA expression signature of BCBM, she aims target specific pathways to prevent metastatic progression.  Katrina is also interested in interactions between the immune cells and breast cancer metastasis. As an immune privileged organ, the the brain presents a unique environment to study these interactions.

Ryan Davis

Ph.D. student

Ryan Davis received his Bachelor’s degree in Biology from the University of California, Irvine, where here worked in Dr. Yongsheng Shi’s lab studying mechanisms of RNA processing. Currently a PhD student in the Lawson lab, his research focuses on understanding tumor cell heterogeneity from the perspective of single cell transcriptomics. Using patient derived xenograft (PDX) models of breast cancer, he hopes to define the unique RNA expression patterns found in the metastatic niche of the primary tumor and use this knowledge to identify novel pathways driving metastatic progression. His project combines classical molecular biology techniques with cutting edge computational analysis to develop an understanding of the molecular and cellular mechanisms of metastatic initiation and progression.

Maren Pein, Ph.D

Postdoctoral scholar


Maren received her Ph.D. in Biology from the German Cancer Research Center (DKFZ) and University of Heidelberg, Germany, where she studied the role of metastasis-associated fibroblasts in metastatic breast cancer. Her postdoctoral research is focused on the molecular interactions between lung-resident bacteria and the pulmonary immune microenvironment, and how these interactions contribute to breast cancer metastasis to the lungs.

Jacob Insua Rodriguez, Ph.D.

Postdoctoral scholar


Jacob received his Ph.D. in Biology from the University of Heidelberg, Germany. He carried out his Ph.D. research in the Metastatic Niches lab, led by Dr. Thordur Oskarsson, at the Heidelberg Institute of Stem Cell Technology and Experimental Medicine (HI-STEM) and the German Cancer Research Center (DKFZ).  Jacob’s Ph.D. work was focused on the role of extracellular matrix components in breast cancer metastasis and chemoresistance. He joined our lab as a postdoctoral scholar to investigate molecular mechanisms of therapy resistance in breast cancer metastasis using single cell genomic approaches.

Kerrigan Blake

Ph.D. student

Kerrigan Blake received her Bachelor’s degree in Mathematics from the University of Kansas where she worked in Dr. Eric Deeds’ lab modeling tumor growth with ordinary differential equations. Currently, a PhD student in the Mathematical, Computational, and Systems Biology program in the Lawson lab, her research focuses on characterizing tumor heterogeneity and metastasis at the genetic level. By combining bulk and single cell DNA sequencing from patient derived xenograft models of breast cancer, she hopes to computationally reconstruct the mutational progression from initial tumor to metastasis and identify novel signatures of metastatic potential.

Tatyana Lev

Ph.D. student


Tatyana’s project focuses on tumor heterogeneity at the genetic level, and its contribution to metastasis. Tatyana combines genomics and transcriptomics, both bulk and single cell, in hopes of teasing apart the role of somatic mutations from non-genetic or epigenetic changes that drive the subclonal tumor evolution and metastatic initiation. For this goal, she uses patient derived xenograft models of breast cancer with bioinformatics and computational methods.

Anh Thien Phung

Research technician and Lab manager

Anh received his Bachelor’s degree in Chemistry from the University of California, Irvine. As an undergraduate he joined Dr. Devon Lawson’s lab to investigate breast cancer metastasis. After graduating, Anh has continued his work as the lab manager. He is primarily interested in identifying gene expression patterns that signify metastasis initiation. Through the application of modern single cell techniques on human patient-derived xenograft (PDX) models, he hopes to understand the basis of metastasis initiation on the molecular and cellular level to ultimately improve methods of early detection and breast cancer treatment.

Regis Lee

Undergraduate researcher

Regis Lee is studying towards his Bachelor’s degree in Biological Sciences at the University of California, Irvine. Currently a undergraduate researcher in the Lawson lab, his research focuses on investigating what type of tumor cells cause the initiation of metastasis in the luminal subtype of breast cancer. Using immunofluorescence (IF) staining, he has been investigating protein expression in luminal-like breast cancer PDX models and comparing early metastatic lesions to primary tumors to investigate the type of tumor cells that metastases arises from. Regis’ was inspired to join the lab and do undergraduate research because of innovative science is and how it is constantly advancing. Once discoveries in a laboratory are made, they can be applied on a much larger scale and can help millions of people. Regis’ future career goal is to attend medical school and become a pediatrician.

Grace Hernandez

Undergraduate researcher

Grace Hernandez is an undergraduate Bio 199 student, working with Ryan Davis using emerging single-cell technologies to investigate the cellular and molecular basis of breast cancer metastasis initiation. She is a third year Biological Sciences major at UC Irvine and hopes to go on to earn a PhD or MD in the future.

Sharis Ghazeri

Undergraduate researcher

Sharis Ghazeri is studying towards her bachelor’s degree in Biological Sciences. She is working as an undergraduate researcher alongside Ph.D. student, Katrina Taylor Evans. Their research focuses on the role of microglia in breast cancer brain metastasis.

Madona Yacoub

Undergraduate researcher

Madona is an undergraduate researcher studying towards her Bachelor degree in Biological Sciences at the University of California, Irvine. She is planning on obtaining a PhD in the future. She is also interested in studying cancer and stem cells. She is working with PhD student, Ryan Davis, in studying the mRNA expression in the early and late stages of metastasis.

Helen Song

High school student, UCI Cancer research institute youth fellows science program

Helen Song is a high school student at Northwood High School in Irvine. She is currently working under the mentorship of Katrina Taylor to explore the use of medication targeting specific anti-apoptotic factors in the prevention of metastasis stemming from breast cancer. Helen became interested in pursuing a career in the biomedical sciences through hospital volunteering and participation in Science Olympiad. She hopes to become a physician in the future.