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.


Jason Sterrenberg, Ph.D.

Jason received his Ph.D. in Biochemistry from Rhodes University in Grahamstown, South Africa in the lab of Dr. Adrienne Edkins studying the molecular chaperone Hsp90. After a brief postdoc at UCLA, he realized his life-long dream of becoming an Anteater at UCI, joining the Pannunzio Lab in 2020. Jason’s project involves developing a genetic assay in human B cells using droplet digital PCR (ddPCR) technology that quantifies DNA DSBs. The project also includes further exploration of the role the Artemis nuclease plays in pathogenic DNA rearrangements in B cell malignancies.

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 plans to continue her education with a Ph.D. in Microbiology in the near future. 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.


Sarah Lee

Sarah is a third year Bio Sci major at UC Irvine. Through research, Sarah wishes to learn more on how advancing scientific knowledge can help others. She hopes to see herself serving her community as a practicing physician in the future. Outside of school, Sarah loves to draw comics, play tennis, and play video games with friends. She also has a cool cat named Nabi that likes science too!   

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