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As it has become clear that gut bacteria play a pivotal role in human health, now is a critical time to focus on funding early-stage microbiome research projects. The Goodman-Luskin Microbiome Center’s (GLMC) Seed Funding Program aims to support trainees of and encourage engagement with the center's core facilities.

The funding opportunities provided by the center will help to jump-start ground-breaking microbiome research at UCLA by providing awards to graduate students, postdoctoral fellows, and early-career faculty with GLMC mentors.  Seed Fellowship Awards  |  Pilot Awards

Seed Fellowship Awards

Detecting bacterial adaptations that mediate spatial organization in the gut microbiome
Michael Wasney, PhD Student, Department of Human Genetics
Mentor: Nandita Garud, PhD, Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology
Funding: $30,000; January 1, 2024 - December 31, 2024
Core usage: Gnotobiotics; Microbiome

Michael Wasney

Michael researches the ecology and evolution of the gut microbiome in the Garud Lab at UCLA. His current work detects spatial variation of microbiome adaptations within the gut by leveraging shotgun and long read sequencing data. Prior to UCLA, Michael received his BA in biology at the University of Chicago in 2018 and performed research in the fields of microbiology ecology and single-cell genomics. In future work, he aims to extend his spatial analyses to other host cohorts and environments as well as characterize the mode and tempo of evolution in scenarios when host microbiomes are “challenged” by invading strains, such as during fecal microbiota transplant (FMT) procedures. Broadly, he hopes to contribute medically relevant research that improves understanding of how our “second genome” continues to evolve within us. 

Intestinal microbiome and bile acid dependency through the lens of metabolic dysfunction-associated steatotic liver disease
Rochelle Lai, MS, RD, PhD Student, Molecular, Cellular and Integrative Physiology
Mentor: Thomas A. Vallim, PhD, Department of Biological Chemistry; Department of Cardiology
Funding: $30,000; January 1, 2024 – December 31, 2024
Core usage: Microbiome

Rochelle Lai

Rochelle is a second year doctoral student in the molecular, cellular and integrative physiology program. She is a clinical registered dietitian (RD) by training, but remains fascinated by nutrition and metabolism basic science. Rochelle received her undergraduate degree at UC Berkeley and completed her master’s degree and dietetic internship at USC. Prior to UCLA, she worked at Stanford Medicine Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital as a clinical pediatric RD, specializing in liver and intestine transplant. Currently, her research in the Tarling-Vallim laboratory focuses on how changes in bile acid metabolism impacts the development of hepatobilliary disease.

Early adversity and internalizing in middle childhood to adolescence: Gut microbiome and inflammatory mechanisms
Naomi Gancz, MA, PhD student, Department of Psychology
Fran Querdasi, MA, PhD student, Department of Psychology
Mentor: Bridget L. Callaghan, PhD, Department of Psychology
Funding: $30,000; September 1, 2023 – August 31, 2024
Core usage: Integrative Biostatistics and Bioinformatics; Microbiome

Naomi Gancz

Naomi studies how early-life experiences affect the brain-gut-microbiome axis. Her work implements multiple methods, including MRI, electrogastrography, electrocardiography, and microbiome sequencing. She received her BA in psychology at the University of Chicago in 2019 before working as a study coordinator at the veterans affairs healthcare system in Pittsburgh, and is currently a doctoral student in developmental psychology at UCLA. She is especially interested in the interactions between microbes, hormones, and immunity and in the oral microbiome.


Fran Querdasi

Fran is a rising fourth-year doctoral student in developmental psychology with minors in quantitative and health psychology. Her program of research focuses on biopsychosocial mechanisms linking exposure to adversity in childhood with physical and mental health outcomes, particularly internalizing and chronic pain disorders. Her prior work has examined how adversity exposure in the preconception, prenatal, and postnatal periods influence development of the gut microbiome in early childhood as well as the microbiome-gut-brain axis. Fran plans to extend her research by characterizing gut microbiome-immune pathways that underlie connections between early life adversity and risk for poorer physical and mental health across the transition to adolescence.

Racial/ethnic disparities in cardiovascular risk amidst discrimination: A lipidomics, gut microbiome, and neuro-imaging analysis
Daniel R. Wang, MD, Department of Cardiology
Mentors: Arpana Church, PhD, Division of Digestive Diseases; Tien S. Dong, MD, PhD; Division of Digestive Diseases; Gilbert C. Gee, PhD, Department of Community Health Sciences at the Fielding School of Public Health
Funding: $30,000; September 1, 2023 – August 31, 2024
Core usage: Biorepsoitory; Clinical Studies and Database; Microbiome; Neuroimaging

Daniel R. Wang, MD

Dr. Wang is a clinical cardiology fellow at UCLA Health. He received his BS from Columbia University and his MD from Weill Cornell Medicine before leaving for beautiful Los Angeles, where he completed his internal medicine residency at UCLA. His research interests center on Asian-American/Pacific Islander and Hispanic health disparities within cardiovascular disease, with emphasis on the intersections between structural, social, and individual determinants of health. Outside of work, he and his partner enjoy wandering LA malls, marathoning horror movies, and chasing after their puppy (Moose) and their pet rats (Tomato and Potato).

Pilot Awards

Cultivation of brown algal microbiomes through antibacterial properties of the host cell wall
Jessica Carstens-Kass, PhD Student, Department of Molecular, Cell, and Developmental Biology
Mentor: Siobhan Braybrook, PhD, Department of Molecular, Cell, and Developmental Biology
Funding: $10,000; January 1, 2024 - December 31, 2024
Core usage: Microbiome

Jessica Carstens-Kass

Jess is a third-year doctoral candidate in the Department of Molecular, Cell, and Developmental Biology. She earned her BSc in microbiology and immunology at McGill University, where she focused her studies on parasitic neglected tropical diseases. Currently, her work in the lab of Siobhan Braybrook applies her background in microbiology to understudied seaweeds. Her thesis research aims to understand why select ocean bacteria colonize brown algae, focusing on Macrocystis (giant kelp), a commercially relevant species in the Southern California aquaculture sector.