From left to right: Melissa Folkerts, Jason Sterrenberg, Nick Pannunzio, Victoria Shen, Valeria Rangel, and Aya Garawi

Principal Investigator

Nick Pannunzio, Ph.D., Assistant Professor

Nick received his Ph.D. from the City of Hope in Genetics and Molecular Biology studying mechanisms of homologous recombination. His post-doctoral training was performed at the University of Southern California where he contributed to the understanding of several biochemical aspects of the non-homologous end-joining DNA repair pathway and how DNA breaks in human B cells can result in chromosomal translocations common in many B cell malignancies. The current focus of the Pannunzio Lab is to understand how DNA sequence and torsional stress combine with endogenous sources of DNA damage to lead to these translocations. This research has direct implications for preventing and treating several human cancers.

Graduate Students

Valeria Rangel

Valeria received her B.Sc. in Biological Sciences from Arizona State University and started as the lab manager for the Pannunzio Lab. She discovered her passion for science at a very young age and has since decided to dedicate herself to the world of scientific research and innovation. Her plans for the future include furthering her education by earning a Ph.D. in Biological Chemistry. During her free time, Valeria enjoys spending time with family and friends, as well as taking long walks and watching the sunset.

Melissa Folkerts

Melissa received her B.Sc. in Microbiology, Immunology, and Molecular Genetics from UCLA and began as a Jr. Specialist in the Pannunzio Lab. She has always known that she would pursue a career in research and is currently working towards her Ph.D. in the Pannunzio Lab. Though science is her main focus, Melissa also likes to enjoy her time watching comedy video podcasts and baking shows with her friends or pup, Rocky.

Alisa Mahieu

Alisa received her B.Sc. in Molecular Biology from Brigham Young University and then worked in a laboratory performing gene expression screenings for cancer patients. Now, she is happy to be a PhD student at UCI studying Biological Chemistry. Her current research focuses on how circadian clock disruption and genomic instability can drive cancer progression. Outside of the lab, she likes yoga, playing the harp, and bringing her dog to the park. 

Technician/Lab Manager

Victoria Shen

Victoria received her B.S. in Global Disease Biology from UC Davis. While there, she performed undergraduate research in the lab of Geoff Attardo where she collected DNA and RNA from field samples of the mosquito Aedes aegypti. She began working as a Jr. Specialist in the Pannunzio Lab in March 2022.


Aya Garawi

Aya is a fourth-year Genetics major at UC Irvine. She has always had a deep interest for biology and aims to pursue a career within medicine. In the Pannunzio lab, she hopes to learn more about the mechanisms behind chromosomal translocations found in blood-related cancers. In her spare time, Aya enjoys painting, baking, and spending time with family on the beach.

Taylor Wright

Taylor is a second-year Biological Science major at UC Irvine. He has always had an interest in genetics and plans to pursue a medical career in the genetics field. Through the Pannunzio Lab, he hopes to gain more knowledge on the genetic components contributing to certain blood-cancers. In his spare time, Taylor enjoys painting, listening to music, and collecting records.

Huiyi Bao

Huiyi is a third year undergraduate double majoring in Biological Sciences and Dance at UC Irvine. She has always taken an interest in medicine from a young age and continues to develop those curiosities through her education. And she is thrilled to be working in the Pannunzio Lab and diving into the world of cancer genetics research. When Huiyi is not working on research or school, she enjoys creating choreography in the dance studio and spending time at the beach with friends. 


Jason Sterrenberg, PhD, postdoc, 2020-2022

Current position: Kite Pharma

Samuel Kim, undergraduate, 2020-2022

Sarah Eugenie Lee, undergraduate, 2019-2021

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