Steven Mittelman, MD, PhD – Principal Investigator

Steven D. Mittelman, MD, PhD

Dr. Steven Mittelman first became a Bruin in 1989, when he began his undergraduate work as a Biochemistry major. He was proud to be a member of the Solid Gold Sound of the UCLA Marching Band! After earning his BS in Biochemistry from UCLA, Dr. Mittelman went on to earn his PhD in Physiology and a MD at Keck School of Medicine at the University of Southern California. He completed both his pediatric residency and pediatric endocrinology fellowship at the Children’s Hospital Los Angeles. At CHLA, Dr. Mittelman became the Founding Director of the Diabetes & Obesity Program, as well as the Donnell Society for Pediatric Scientists. He also served as Director of the USC/Caltech Combined MD/PhD Program.

Dr. Mittelman was pursuing research in the physiology of obesity, when he learned about the strong associations between obesity and cancer. Namely, obese people have an increased risk of dying from cancer. Dr. Mittelman learned that children who are obese when they are diagnosed with leukemia have a worse prognosis. Based on this clinical observation, Dr. Mittelman developed preclinical models to investigate how obesity influences leukemia outcome. This has resulted in several interesting discoveries which he continues to pursue. Dr. Mittelman is also involved in a number of other obesity-related research projects, primarily working on understanding the causes and treatments of childhood obesity and how adiposity alters physiology and leads to long-term consequences. His research program is funded by the NIH and private foundations, and has resulted in over 50 peer-reviewed publications. Dr. Mittelman also has extensive clinical experience and enjoys working with patients to improve their quality of life.

Vladislava Paharkova, MS – Lab Manager/Staff Research Associate III

Vladislava did her undergraduate work at Sofia University St. Kliment Ohridsky, Sofia, Bulgaria, and then received her master's degree in Cell Biology and Developmental Biology joint at Sofia University St. Kliment Ohridsky in Bulgaria and the Institute of Molecular Biology, Bulgarian Academy of Sciences. She is interested in studying the mechanisms of cancer and other diseases, and in particular how they originate from metabolic and developmental origins. She is experienced in molecular, biological, biochemical, physiological, immunological and functional biology methods. She is excited that her work in Dr. Mittelman’s lab provides a new direction to do this by studying how the fields of cancer and immunology converge in the dysregulation in metabolism and obesity.

Apisadaporn Thambundit, M.D. – Pediatric Endocrinology Fellow

“A” received her B.S. in Biology and Biotechnology at Tufts University. She then took on a clinical research assistant role at the Harvard Reproductive Endocrine Sciences Center & Reproductive Endocrine Unit at the Massachusetts General Hospital where she was first exposed to the field of Endocrinology. She gained understanding of translational research and utilized the model of bedside to bench research as she studied and helped treat patients with hypogonadism. She then returned to her home state of Florida where she earned her medical degree at the University of Florida College of Medicine. She continued as a UF Gator and received pediatric residency training at UF Shands Children's Hospital before traveling to the west coast to start pediatric endocrine fellowship training at the University of California in Los Angeles. She is excited to join Dr. Mittelman's lab and strengthen her research skills as he continues his work on the relationship of adipocytes and leukemic cells.

"A" lived part of her early childhood in Thailand. Her family owns a Thai restaurant in Florida. She enjoys cooking, sports, traveling, and exploring new activities. She is ecstatic to be part of this Bruin family!

Ting Chen, Ph.D. – Postdoctoral Fellow

Ting got her Bachelor’s degree in Exercise Rehabilitation and Health in Beijing Sport University in China, and also her Master’s degree in Exercise Biochemistry in the same school. She wanted to continue pursuing science, so she came to U.S. and got her Ph.D. degree in Physiology and Developmental Biology at Brigham Young University. There she found her favorite class: Developmental Biology. She still feels the knowledge that she gained in that class is amazing! Her Ph.D. work focused on the physiology of skeletal muscle, and the role of LKB1 in high-fat diet-induced changes in skeletal muscle. As a postdoc in Dr. Mittelman’s lab, her research focuses on the cross-talk between adipocytes and leukemia cells, and particularly how lipids transfer between these two cell types. Ting is very excited to be working in the lab, and looking forward to discovering interesting things.

Ting met her husband in Brigham Young University and got married after dating for two years. They just had their first baby: Hiro! Happy family, happy life!

Rebecca Paszkiewicz, Ph.D. – Postdoctoral Fellow

Becca received her BA in Chemistry and Theatre Arts from the University of Iowa where she completed an honors thesis studying the impact of skin color on non-invasive measurements using near-infrared spectroscopy. After moving to LA, she joined the lab of Dr. Mittelman at CHLA as a volunteer research associate, assisting on a project looking at how adipose tissue was able to protect leukemia cells from the chemotherapy L-Asparaginase. Becca then went to Cedars-Sinai where she earned her PhD in Biomedical and Translational Sciences. Her dissertation project focused on the mechanism of improvements in type 2 diabetes following bariatric surgery. She is excited to be back in the Mittelman lab at UCLA where she will be studying the mechanisms of improved survival in leukemia following calorie restriction. In her free time, Becca loves reading, hiking, baking, and spending time with her husband and tiny zoo.

Jessica Sea, PhD – Postdoctoral Fellow

Jessica completed her undergraduate studies at California State University Channel Islands where she graduated with a BS in biology with an emphasis in cell and molecular biology. Following graduation, she joined UCLA as a graduate student in the Department of Molecular, Cell, and Developmental Biology to explore the interactions between innate immune and vascular endothelial cells in patients with chronic kidney disease.

After graduating, Jessica worked with Dr. Sanjay Mallya in the Department of Dentistry at UCLA. There, she studied aberrant bone mineralization in a rare genetic disorder, gnathodiaphyseal dysplasia. Currently, Jessica is a postdoctoral fellow in the Mittleman lab where she is investigating the interactions between leukemia cells and adipocytes that contribute to chemoresistance in obese cancer patients, and the effects of fatty acid metabolism on the cytotoxic capacity of various chemotherapeutic agents.