Laboratory Members

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).

Pooja Biswas

Masters of Science, VIT University, India

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.

John J. Suk

Bachelors of Science, UC San Diego

John attended University of California, San Diego and received his B.S. in Biochemistry and Cell Biology in 2007. After undergrad, he worked as a research technician at the VA Medical Center studying the alpha-synuclein protein expression in mice treated with toxins in relations to the Parkinson’s disease. John joined the Ayyagari lab in January of 2009 as a laboratory assistant. Currently, he is working on genetics and cell biology of retinal dystrophies.  Taking a break from work, John likes to play basketball and Playstation 3. He also enjoys a good beer once in a while.

Mili Navani

Undergrad researcher

Mili is a senior, undergraduate student at UCSD majoring in Microbiology. She joined the lab in early 2011, and works on the identification of disease-causing mutations in families with hereditary retinal degeneration.

Justin Chu

Undergrad researcher

Justin grew up in Southern California, Huntington Beach. He currently attends UC San Diego as a second year working towards a B.S. in Bio-engineering Biotechnology. His past research projects include studying the effects of smoking toxins on retinal epitheleal cells in the Kenney Lab at the Gavin Herbert Eye Institute in UCI. Currently, he is assisting in a project involving gene knock-out and the effects on retinal degeneration in the Ayyagari lab. In his free time, Justin enjoys playing tennis, watching movies with friends, drawing, and traveling. One of his favorite vacation spots is Lake Louise in Canada.

Akhila Alapati

Undergrad researcher

Akhila is currently double majoring in molecular biology and psychology with an interest of attending medical school in the future. Her hobbies include reading and spending time with family and friends.

Rachel Poleman

Undergrad researcher

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.