Laboratory Members

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Radha Ayyagari, Ph.D.

Laboratory Chief | Shiley Eye Institute

Dr. Ayyagari and her research group are performing studies on molecular genetics and therapeutics of retinal degenerations. This includes retinitis pigmentosa, macular degeneration, diabetic retinopathy and other retinal diseases with genetic basis. These studies involve cloning disease genes, understanding the molecular mechanism underlying the disease process, identification of potential therapeutic targets and developing therapies. She also heads molecular diagnostic testing at the Shiley eye center. She is funded by the National Eye Institute, the Foundation for Fighting Blindness and Research to Prevent Blindness. Dr. Ayyagari is participating in laboratory and clinical studies of these diseases with the Jacobs Retina Center group. She has published extensively in this area, and is an international recognized expert in this field.

Dr. Ayyagari has a joint appointment in the Department of Pathology, UCSD. She is a member of the Scientific Advisory Board of the foundation fighting blindness, National diagnostic genotyping network (NEI), Indo-US joint working committee (NIH).

Angel Soto Hermida

Postdoctoral Researcher, Ph.D.

Angel Soto, Ph.D. is a postdoctoral researcher with research and clinical interests that focus on molecular genetics of retinal diseases and genotyping studies of inherited retinal diseases. Angel graduated from the University of Vigo, Spain with a Bachelor’s degree in Chemistry and a Master’s degree in Biomedical Sciences from University of A Coruña, Spain. He received his Ph.D. from the University of A Coruña, Spain, in 2015, for his work on the role of the mitochondria in the Osteoarthritis disease. He joined the Ayyagari Lab as a Postdoctoral Scholar in 2015. Outside of the lab, he likes to play soccer and take a walk on the beach. Also, he likes photography, hiking, going on road trips, traveling to new places, and spending time with family and friends.


Marina Voronchikhina

Postdoctoral Researcher, Ph.D.

Marina Voronchikhina completed her MD degree at Russian State Medical University in Moscow (Russia), then she did angiogenesis-related research at Columbia University in New York (US). Marina Voronchikhina did her PhD degree at University of California in Riverside (Cell, Molecular and Developmental Biology program). Next she completed one year of postdoctoral research associated with breast cancer and breast density at UCSF. Currently Marina works in Dr. Ayyagari’s laboratory at UCSD studying inherited retinal genetic diseases in mouse models.


Pooja Biswas

Visiting Graduate Student, UCSD

Graduate Student, REVA University

Pooja graduated with her B.Sc. in Genetics from the University of Kalyani, India in 2008. Then she attended VIT University in India for her M.Sc. in Biomedical Genetics in 2010.  She also worked as a project trainee at the National Institute of Immunohematology studying Cytogenetics in aplastic anemia patients. She joined Biophysics and Biochemistry department at University of Kalyani as a project fellow to study homology modeling of cancer protein p53 (2011-2012). Pooja joined the Ayyagari lab in May of 2012 as a visiting graduate student. Currently, she is working on exome sequencing of retinal degeneration from different populations of the world. Besides her work she loves traveling and finding new and good restaurants and her basic principle is to keep smiling.


Rachel Poleman

Laboratory Manager

Rachel is working on her bachelor’s degree in Human Biology, and minoring in Psychology and Studio Art. At the Shiley Eye Center, she is researching genes linked to retinal degeneration. Her goal is to identify the mutations that cause eye disease and blindness. Outside of the lab, she enjoys painting, swimming, and rock climbing.