Our Members

Current Members

Karl-WillertKarl Willert

Principal Investigator
kwillert@health.ucsd.edu

Karl received his Ph.D. from UCSF, did his post-doctoral research at Stanford, and joined UCSD as Assistant Professor in 2008. He is currently a Professor of Cellular and Molecular Medicine.

Pooja Sonavane

Post-Doctoral Fellow
psonavane@health.ucsd.edu

Pooja graduated with a master’s degree in Biotechnology from the Institute of Bioinformatics and Biotechnology at the Savitribai Phule Pune University, India. After graduation, she worked as a laboratory technician at the Agharkar Research Institute, Pune for a year. She started her doctoral thesis at the University of Virginia in August 2011 under the mentorship of Douglas W. DeSimone, Ph.D. There, she studied how cells generated and transmitted forces during migration using Xenopus as a model system.

Pooja joined the Willert lab as a Post-Doc in August 2018. The primary focus of her research is to understand the role of Wnt/Fzd signaling in the regulation of chromosome instability during oncogenesis. She is also interested in understanding Fzd dynamics and is trying to develop an assay to determine the cell surface expression of the Fzd protein.

Naycari De Luna

Lab manager
n1deluna@health.ucsd.edu

Neha Balaji

Master’s Student 

Rylee Start

Staff Research Associate

Rylee completed his Bachelor of Science in Molecular and Cell Biology at the University of California – San Diego. He joined the Willert lab in March 2021 as an undergraduate student and he has since joined the lab as a Staff Research Associate. He has been working on protein purification and studying chromosome mis-segregation. In his free time, Rylee enjoys biking, cooking, and exploring San Diego.

Nathaniel Kenner

CIRM Intern


Nathaniel is currently working on his Bachelor’s of Biological Sciences at California State University San Marcos. He is with the Willert Lab as a CIRM Intern through the CIRM Bridges to Stem Cell Research Program. His research is focused on generating a novel Wnt mimetic using C. diff Toxin B. Outside of the lab, Nathaniel enjoys disc golf and being a husband and father.

David Anjakos

CIRM Intern

David is an undergraduate getting a degree in Cell and Microbiology at San Diego State University (SDSU). He is interning in the Willert lab through the California Institute of Regenerative Medicine (CIRM) researching the production of a novel Wnt Mimetic. Outside of the lab, David is a dialysis patient working towards a Ph.D. to aid the regenerative medicine community in solving the transplantable kidney shortage and advocate for improvements to the current dialysis treatment.

Meghana Krishnan

Undergraduate Student

Hailey Rowe

Undergraduate Student

Past Members:

Holly Aur

Grober Baltazar

Rocio Barahona

Matthieu Bauer

David Brafman

Julia Busch

Emily Carnahan

Myan Do

Olivia Gaylord

Sarah George

Stephanie Grainger

Diana Gumber

Brett Henninger

Max Herrerias

Jiahao Huang

Ian Huggins

Christina Jessen

Natalie Kardos

Tamás Kovács

Nathan Kumar

Sneha Lakshmanan

Brianna Lonquich

Albert Lowe

Daniel McCoy

Riley Mills

Ellen Mintz

Hannah Morris-Little

Damian Ng

Nikki Nguyen

Jon Okubo

Krystal Oon

Luca Perna

Christine Phung

Amelia Prada

Angeline Puranen

Jenna Richter

Alessandra Rodriguez

Jason Ross

Charlotte Rossdam

Jordan Setayesh

Kevan Shah

Nikita Shah

Tyler Sloan

Stephanie Soltero

Alexandra Stanley

Aubrey Stiers

Neya Suresh-Kumar

Tanisha Takhar

Julia Thulin

Alyssa Vukcevich

Sameena Wani

Sara Wirth

Kelsey Yang