Current Laboratory Staff and Personnel

Principal Investigator (PI)


Aijun Wang, Ph.D.

Chancellor's Fellow Professor of Surgery and Biomedical Engineering

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Laboratory Manager


C.PivettiChris Pivetti, M.S. (

Christopher Pivetti is a scientist for the Department of Surgery, University of California, Davis Health in Sacramento, CA. He received both his bachelor’s degree (2001) and his master’s degree (2004) in general biology from the University of California, San Diego. He serves as the laboratory supervisor and he oversees the daily operations of five principal investigators. His research interests include using stem cell therapy to treat congenital anomalies such as spina bifida, and diaphragmatic hernia.  He also specializes in small animal microsurgery and serves as a microsurgery instructor for the department. 


Project Scientist


priyadarsini kumarPriyadarsini Kumar, Ph.D. (

Priya Kumar is a senior scientist with over 25 years of research experience.  She obtained her PhD from University of California, Davis, and Master’s/Bachelor’s degrees from University of Madras, India. Her research focus is stem cell and stem cell derived extracellular vesicles for treatment of neurodegenerative diseases. She led the GMP production of PMSCs for our team to successfully obtain the IND from FDA for a Phase1/2a spina bifida clinical trial starting in 2021. Her other research focus is in utilizing placenta-derived extracellular vesicles and developing a serum-free cell-free product for clinical applications like adult acquired spinal cord injury. Teaching has always been her passion and loves to mentor aspiring scientists. During her free time, she loves cooking Indian food, watching soap operas in her native language (Tamil), reading books about inspiring personalities, and loves taking care of neighborhood cats.


Postdoctoral Fellows


K.GaoKewa Gao, M.D., Ph.D. (

Kewa is a Shriners Hospitals for Children Postdoctoral Fellow. She was trained as a general and plastic surgeon (MD). Her research is focused on genetic disease treatment such as hemophilia A and sickle cell disease by stem cell transplantation and gene editing. She is also interested in developing biomaterial and stem cell-based treatment for wound healing. In her spare time, Kewa enjoys skiing, scuba diving, and photography.


D.HaoDake Hao, Ph.D. (

Dake is a Shriners Hospitals for Children Postdoctoral Fellow. His research is focused on developing innovative technologies, integrin-based functional and therapeutic molecules and stem cells, biomaterial, and extracellular vesicle engineering for tissue regeneration, such as vascular regeneration, bone regeneration, and fetal regeneration. Besides research, Dake likes sports, especially soccer.


Chaoxing_ZhangChaoxing Zhang, Ph.D. (

Chaoxing is a postdoc fellow at UC Davis. His research is focused on 3D bioprinting of biodegradable biomaterials, stem cells, extracellular vesicles and functional molecules for tissue engineering application, especially fetal tissue engineering, bone regeneration and wound healing. In his free time, Chaoxing likes photographing, playing mobile games and watching NBA.


Research Residents


Abdul Hassan

Abd-Elrahman Said Hassan, M.D. (

Abdul is a General Surgery Resident at UC Davis who is interested in pursuing a career in Pediatric Surgery. He is currently working on developing targeted cellular therapy against neuroblastoma. He is also enrolled in the Mentored Clinical Research Training Program and hopes to obtain a Masters of Advanced Study in Clinical Research to help further his research goals.


natalie bahatyrevich

Nataliya Bahatyrevich, M.D. (

Nataliya is an Integrated Cardiothoracic Surgery resident at UC Davis with an interest in heart failure and transplantation. She is working on developing a blood vessel denudation animal model as well as vascular grafts for treatment of coronary artery disease and peripheral vascular disease. She is also interested in studying targeted cellular therapy to treat chronic heart failure. 


Mary Lee

Mary Lee, M.D. (

Mary is a General Surgery Resident at Montefiore Medical Center in New York City interested in Pediatric Surgery. She is spending two years in the Surgical Bioengineering Lab looking at the application of stem cells and engineered materials for repair of diseases such as myelomeningocele and congenital diaphragmatic hernia. In her free time, Mary enjoys trying new restaurants, hiking and skiing. 


Zoe Saenz

Zoe Saenz, M.D. (

Zoe is a General Surgery resident at the University of Iowa Hospitals & Clinics who is interested in pursuing Pediatric Surgery. She previously worked in the UC Davis Surgical Bioengineering lab, first as a volunteer, followed by two years as a Junior Specialist on the application of placental derived mesenchymal stem cells (pMSCs) for the treatment of myelomeningocele. She is excited to return and spend two additional years in between her surgical training to assist on studies that contribute to the CuRe Trial for myelomeningocele. She plans to focus her time in the lab on re-establishing the rodent model for spina bifida and to further investigate the characterization of the pMSCs cell lines. In her free time, she enjoys reading/book clubs, cross-stitching, musical theatre, and is thrilled to reconnect with her family in California.       


Elise Hill

Elise Hill, M.D., MPP, Capt, U.S.A.F. (

Elise is a General Surgery Resident at UC Davis who is interested in pursuing a career in Plastic Surgery with a concurrent focus on healthcare policy and equity. She received her Master of Public Policy from Princeton University’s School of Public and International Affairs with an emphasis on the Political Determinants of Health. As head of the Socially Responsible Surgery (SRS) Research Institute, she is passionate about social justice research. Along with her mentor, Dr. Clifford Pereira, she is the recipient of the Plastic Surgery Foundation Diversity and Inclusion: Recruitment and Retention Grant for her novel AppTITUD-PS project aimed at connecting URM trainees with faculty mentorship. In addition, as an active duty Air Force officer, she is particularly interested in soldiers’ recovery after injury, and her current research centers on peripheral nerve regeneration strategies. Dr. Hill enjoys traveling, singing, and reading.


Edwin Kulubya

Edwin Kulubya, M.D. (

Edwin is a Neurosurgery Resident at UC Davis also working in the Surgical Bioengineering Laboratory. He is interested in the application of mesenchymal stem cells and exosomes in the treatment of neurological diseases. He is working on myelomeningocele and spinal cord injury models while in the lab. In his free time, he enjoys working on his golf swing and jump shot.


Emily Byrd

Emily Byrd, M.D., Ph.D. (

Emily is a General Surgery Resident at Oregon Health & Science University in Portland, OR interested in Pediatric Surgery. Her research includes fetal repair of gastroschisis in an ovine model as well as the use of extracellular vesicles for treatment of pediatric diseases. In her free time she enjoys hiking, trail running, mountaineering, rock climbing, horseback riding, and skiing.  


Monalisa Hassan

Monalisa Hassan, M.D. (

Monalisa is a General Surgery Resident from Howard University Hospital who is interested in pursuing a career in pediatric surgery in the global surgery arena. She will focus her time in the lab on the application of placental derived mesenchymal stem cells in the spina bifida rat model and examine different bioactive materials in a congenital diaphragmatic hernia rat model. In her free time, she enjoys weight lifting, cooking, and traveling.


PhD Students


K.ClarkKaitlin Clark, M.A. (

Kasey is a Ph.D. candidate in the Biochemistry, Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology (BMCDB) Program, at UC Davis, and is emphasizing in translational research. She received her bachelor’s degree from UC Davis and her master’s degree in Stem Cell biology from CSU Sacramento. Kasey started her research career at the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine in 2009 focusing on mesenchymal stem cell (MSC) treatments for animals. She is currently investigating the use of placenta derived MSCs (PMSCs) for the treatment of spina bifida in English Bulldogs. Kasey’s main research focus is the immunoregulatory properties of PMSCs and is also investigating the use of PMSC derived extracellular vesicles for the treatment of multiple sclerosis. In her free time, Kasey enjoys playing sports, riding her horses and spending time with her rescue dogs.


Lalitha R. pictureLalithasri Ramasubramanian, B.S. (

Lalitha is a Ph.D. candidate in Biomedical Engineering (BMEGG). She is developing Extracellular Vesicle (EV) mimicking technologies for vascular repair and regeneration. Outside of lab, she enjoys watching TV, reading, trying new foods, and hiking.


L.Goldbloom-HelznerLeora Goldbloom-Helzner, M.S. (

Leora is a Biomedical Engineering (BMEGG) Ph.D. student. She is working on increasing the yield of extracellular vesicles (EVs) through the use of different culture systems, as well as on the immobilization of EVs on scaffolds using membrane protein-specific aptamers. In her free time, Leora loves to take voice lessons and play volleyball. 


Yongheng Wang

Yongheng Wang, M.S. (

Yongheng is a Ph.D. student in Biomedical Engineering. He is working on CRISPR in vivo editing, 3D bioprinting, tissue engineering and single cell omics. He likes playing basketball, skiing, hiking and writing.


Tanner Henson

Tanner Henson, B.S. (

Tanner Henson is a Ph.D student in the Biomedical Engineering program at University of California, Davis. His current research is focused on the use of artificial cells in gene therapy. (co-advised by Professor Cheemeng Tan). During his free time, he enjoys playing a multitude of video games and enjoys watching cooking shows on the side, even though cooking is not a skill of his. 


David Wang

David Wang, B.S. (

David is a Ph.D. student in the Biomedical Engineering Graduate Group (BMEGG). He is working on engineering extracellular vesicles (EVs) for central nervous system indications, namely Alzheimer's Disease. This includes engineering EV surfaces and cargo to modulate processes such as neuroinflammation, myelination and angiogenesis. In his free time, David enjoys playing piano, hiking and playing tennis.


H.SongHengyue Song, M.D. (

Hengyue is a visiting PhD student (Ph.D. candidate) and a trained plastic surgeon. She is now focusing on burn wound healing, tissue engineering, and gene editing research projects. Out of the lab, Hengyue is a photographer, a music aficionado, and a museum lover. 


Yofi Wyle

Yofi Wyle, M.A. (

Yofi is an MCIP PhD student with a passion for applied stem cell research and regenerative medicine. Yofi is hoping to spend his graduate studies developing organoid systems to generate stem cell-derived tissues for pediatric regeneration. Currently, he is working to implement organoid systems to model and treat myelomeningocele and congenital diaphragmatic hernia. 


Master’s Students 



Nghia (James) Bui, M.S. (

James is a second-year, M.S. student in the Graduate Group of Integrative Pathobiology (GGIP). His project is focusing on the development of a potency assay in 96-well format for neuroprotection of PMSC and extracellular vesicles (EVs). In his free time, James likes to play soccer, video game, and hang out with families and friends. James is also an avid bike commuter. 


CIRM Bridges Master’s Students 


Juan-Maria Lopez

Juan-Maria G. Lopez, B.S.

Juan is a Humboldt State University CIRM Bridges Scholar. He recently completed his Bachelor of Science in Biology with an emphasis in Cellular and Molecular Biology. His research will focus on the delivery system for sustained release of extracellular vesicles as well as increasing EV production. Outside the lab, Juan is a sculpture artist who creates handcrafted silver and stone jewelry. He enjoys playing soccer, swimming, and cooking.


Ashley Amador

Ashley Amador, B.S.

Ashley is a Humboldt State CIRM Bridges Scholar. She received her Bachelor of Science in Zoology and minored in Chemistry. Her current research will focus on engineering PMSC-derived extracellular vesicles to target T-cells for the treatment of inflammatory diseases. She is an aspiring veterinarian and hopes to work with large animals. In her spare time, Ashley enjoys reading, hiking, and taking care of plants. 


Medical Students



Anastasiya Stasyuk, B.S. (

Anastasiya is a medical student at UC Davis School of Medicine, Class of 2024. She has a Bachelor of Science in Microbiology from UC Santa Barbara and has previously studied cellular stress response and antibiotic resistance. Her current research is on improving treatment options for congenital diaphragmatic hernia, and she is interested in new applications of tissue engineering. Besides research, Anastasiya enjoys running, hiking, and painting.



Sirjan Mor, M.S. (

Sirjan is a second-year medical student at the UC Davis School of Medicine. She received her B.S. in Biological Sciences with a minor in Spanish at the University of Southern California (USC). At USC, she also got her master’s in Stem Cells and Regenerative Medicine. At the Wang lab, her interests include spinal cord injury repair using placental mesenchymal stem cells (PMSCs) and PMSC-EVs. She is specifically interested in the roles of astrocytes and microglia in spinal cord injury repair. In her free time, she loves to dance Salsa, try new foods, and watch reality TV shows.


Junior Specialists


A.IavorovschiAlexandra Maria Iavorovschi, B.S. (

Alex has a Bachelor of Science degree in Human Biology from University of California, San Diego. She also has a background in Marine Biology. Alex is involved in interdisciplinary studies focusing on basic science research and provides high-level technical writing support to the Principal Investigators in the Department of Surgery. Alex enjoys snowboarding, playing tennis, and exploring nature.



zach paxtonZachary James Paxton, B.S. (

Zach helps ensure that lab operations run smoothly and performs histology and other tissue analysis for projects concerning various congenital diseases. Outside of lab, Zach loves to ski, swim, play water polo, and be outdoors. He also loves to try new foods and new experiences!



samantha avalloneSamantha Avallone, B.S. (

Samantha has a Bachelor of Science in Biological Sciences and Anthropology from the University of California, Davis. She assists with general lab operations, as well as performs histology and cell culture work. In her spare time, she likes to play flute and alto saxophone, crochet, and bike.



Nora Lelivelt

Nora Lelivelt, B.S. (

Nora earned her Bachelor of Science degree in Cell Biology and double minor in Professional Writing and Ecology from the University of California, Davis. Nora provides high-level technical writing support to the Principal Investigators in the Department of Surgery. In her spare time, Nora enjoys hiking with her dog and biking. 


Meiby Ramos

Meiby Ramos, M.A. (

Meiby has a Bachelor of Science and a Master of Arts in Biological Science from California State University, Sacramento. Meiby is part of the cell culture team, where she helps in the production of clinical-grade stem cells for the in utero repair of myelomeningocele for a clinical trial. In her spare time, Meiby enjoys cooking, hiking, reading, and trying new things. 


Brandon Light headshot

Brandon Light, B.S. (

Brandon received his Bachelor of Science in Biology with a Cellular/Molecular emphasis and minored in Chemistry at Humboldt State University. Currently, he is part of the cell culture and release testing teams for the CuRE Trial (Spina Bifida Clinical Trial). Before the pandemic struck, Brandon's hobbies included playing soccer, rock climbing, and playing video games with friends.



Emma Loll, B.S. ( 

Emma earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Neurobiology, Physiology & Behavior, and a Bachelor of Arts degree in Spanish from UC Davis. She is responsible for managing general lab operations, analyzing behavioral data for the spinal cord injury project, and assisting with histology and cell culture work. In her free time, Emma enjoys skiing, hiking, listening to music, watching TV or movies, and spending time with family. 



Undergraduate Students


Kathy Gyehyun

Kathy Gyehyun ( 

Kathy is a fifth-year undergraduate student at UC Davis, majoring in global disease biology and minoring in human physiology. She is in Wang’s lab as a student researcher working on scoring different animals on their movement for spina bifida and seeing the effectiveness of the stem cell matrix. In her free time, she likes to play tennis and cook.


Jianing Chen

Jianing Chen (

Jianing is a fourth-year undergraduate BME student. She is actively following Dake to work on some of his projects. She currently focuses on designing a growth factor and EV control release system for a carotid artery denudation model and neural protection. In her free time, Jianing likes to grow a lot of plants.


Han Zhang

Han Zhang (

Han is a fourth-year undergraduate student majoring in Biomedical Engineering. He joined this lab as a student researcher. He is working on 3D bioprinting of multifunctional bioengineered scaffold to mimic extracellular matrix for spina bifida treatment. His mentor is Chaoxing. In his free time, Han enjoys playing golf and badminton.

Siraj Gidda

Siraj Gidda ( 

Siraj is currently a fourth-year undergraduate student majoring in global disease biology and minoring in public health sciences at the University of California, Davis. He is currently assisting in the development and optimization of extracellular vesicle (EV) mimicking technologies for vascular repair and regeneration. In his free time, he enjoys biking, gaming, traveling, and spending time with his loved ones.