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Staff

Our staff performs day-to-day operations for the IGI, including administrative support, communications, and bench research.

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Melanie Leavitt Cantarutti

Chief of Staff

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Melanie Leavitt Cantarutti

Chief of Staff

Melanie holds a B.A. in Anthropology from Grinnell College and received her MS in Information Science from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.  Prior to joining the IGI, Melanie was the Administrative Director for the Business Development department at the Exploratorium. Melanie spent two and a half years as Dr. Doudna’s Senior Project Manager before starting with the IGI in 2018. She has lived and worked in Africa, Latin America, Europe, Australia, and New Zealand and is conversant in both Spanish and Italian.

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Myeong-Je Cho, Ph.D.

Director and PI of Plant Genomics and Transformation Facility

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Myeong-Je Cho, Ph.D.

Director and PI of Plant Genomics and Transformation Facility

Myeong-Je obtained his B.S. and M.S. in Agronomy at Seoul National University and his Ph.D. from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. He was a postdoc/specialist in PMB at UC Berkeley and became VP of Byotix, Inc. He later worked at DuPont Pioneer for 11 years prior to joining the IGI in 2016 to run the Plant Genomics and Transformation facility.

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Kevin Doxzen, Ph.D.

Science Communications Specialist

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Kevin Doxzen, Ph.D.

Science Communications Specialist

Kevin holds a B.A. in Biophysics from Johns Hopkins University and received his Ph.D. from Jennifer Doudna’s lab at UC Berkeley in 2017. Kevin’s doctoral research focused on understanding the structure of RNA-binding proteins. He joined the IGI in June 2017 to assist in science communication and create educational tools for fellow scientists and the public.

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Baljeet Gill, Ph.D.

Research Associate

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Baljeet Gill, Ph.D.

Research Associate

Baljeet received her doctorate in Genomics and Bioinformatics from North Dakota State University, where she employed molecular biology, plant pathology, plant breeding, and chromosome engineering techniques to identify candidate genes responsible for stem rust resistance in wheat. She joined the Plant Genomics and Transformation Facility at IGI in May 2018 to work on CRISPR-Cas9 genome editing in the staple crop cassava.

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Yulia Golubovskaya, M.S.

Financial Officer

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Yulia Golubovskaya, M.S.

Financial Officer

Yulia began her career at UC Berkeley as a research administrator in 2001. She has extensive experience in managing awards from NSF, NIH, DARPA, and DOE, as well as state, industry, and non-profit organizations. She oversaw research portfolios for large centers at the College of Engineering and School of Information. She also worked at the UC Berkeley Controller’s office and is well versed in all aspects of federal reporting and compliance. She joined IGI in December 2018 to provide help with financial management, forecasting, and planning.

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Hope Henderson

Science Writer

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Hope Henderson

Science Writer

Hope has a B.A. in Biology from Brown University and will receive her Ph.D. from Andy Dillin’s lab at UC Berkeley in 2019. Hope’s doctoral work focuses on mitochondrial dysfunction and stress signaling. She joined the IGI in January 2019 to assist in scientific communications, translating advances in CRISPR-Cas technologies into lay language.

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Luzminda Hilario, Ph.D.

Research Associate

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Luzminda Hilario, Ph.D.

Research Associate

Luzminda obtained her B.S. in Agriculture (Horticulture-Plant Breeding) and M.S. in Genetics at the University of the Philippines at Los Baños. In 2015, she completed her Ph.D. in Molecular Biosciences and Bioengineering at the University of Hawaii at Manoa where her research focused on metabolic engineering of papaya (Carica papaya, L.). She has worked at DuPont Pioneer in Kunia Hawaii for more than two years as a senior research associate in the corn double haploid discovery group before joining the IGI PGTF to work on gene editing in sunflower.

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Ariana Hirsh

Lab Operations Manager

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Ariana Hirsh

Lab Operations Manager

Ariana holds a B.A. in Biology from Barnard College. She worked as a lab manager for Florian Krammer’s group at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in NYC until moving back to the best coast to join the IGI in September 2016. After a stint as lab manager for two research groups, she now manages building-wide lab operations.

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Megan Hochstrasser, Ph.D.

Science Communications Manager

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Megan Hochstrasser, Ph.D.

Science Communications Manager

Megan has a B.A. in Biology from Brown University and received her Ph.D. from Jennifer Doudna’s lab at UC Berkeley in 2016, where she studied mechanisms of CRISPR immunity in bacteria. She joined the IGI in September 2016 to handle scientific communications, hoping to bridge the gap between researchers and the public.

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Jesse Jones

Research Associate

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Jesse Jones

Research Associate

Jesse received his B.S. in Horticulture with a specialization in Plant Science and Biotechnology from Delaware Valley University. Jesse joined the IGI in May 2017 as part of the Plant Genomics and Transformation facility. He is currently working on CRISPR-based genome editing in Theobroma cacao and other major crops. Before joining the IGI, Jesse worked at Dupont Pioneer in the Arabidopsis Genetic Discovery group and then in the Glycine max Transformation department.

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Maya Kostman

Science Illustrator

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Maya Kostman

Science Illustrator

Maya graduated from UC Berkeley in 2018, where she majored in Integrative Biology and Molecular and Cell Biology and worked in the Isacoff Lab. She first came to the IGI as a summer science communication intern in 2018 and now works part-time to create illustrations for the institute with the goal of making science more approachable and accessible for all audiences.

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Mara McClellan

Senior Director of Development

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Mara McClellan

Senior Director of Development

Mara has a B.S. in Psychology/Pre-Medicine from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Most recently, she led development efforts for the $230M Biomedical Innovation Initiative at Stanford Medicine. She previously raised research and clinical funds for Cincinnati Children’s Hospital. Mara has been dedicated to IGI fundraising since March 2017.

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Kristy Nordahl

Administrative Operations Manager

Kristy Nordahl

Administrative Operations Manager

Prior to joining the IGI in 2017, Kristy was the administrator to the biosciences deputy director at Lawrence Berkeley National Lab, and before that served as an administrator at the Joint Bioenergy Institute. She has over 14 years of service with the University of California, including roles at UC Berkeley’s College of Engineering and University Relations. Kristy also has extensive private sector experience, including a key administrative role at Chevron and more than a decade as a senior research technician doing crude oil analysis and evaluation at the Chevron Research and Technology Center.

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Marta Ortega

Lab Operations Research Associate

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Marta Ortega

Lab Operations Research Associate

Marta is a Lab Operations Research Associate. She previously worked for the Energy Biosciences Institute for six years, making sure it was well-stocked with clean glassware, and making agar plates for four floors full of research labs. Before working for the EBI, she worked as a Laboratory Assistant at Peninsula Pathology Medical Group.

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Julie Pham

Research Associate

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Julie Pham

Research Associate

Julie received her B.S. in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology from UC Davis. She has previously worked at the Sundaresan Lab at UC Davis, blackberry breeding at Driscoll’s, and on corn transformation at Corteva. She joined the IGI PGTF in January 2017 as a staff research associate, and is currently collaborating with multiple researchers using CRISPR-Cas9 to genome edit S. lycopersicum, N. benthamiana, N. tabacum, B. oleracea, and C. annuum.

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Clarice de Azevedo Souza, Ph.D.

Project Manager

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Clarice de Azevedo Souza, Ph.D.

Project Manager

Clarice obtained a B.S. in Biology from the University of Sao Paulo and a Ph.D. from the University of British Columbia, where she studied functional and comparative genomics in plants. She received postdoctoral training in molecular microbiology at the University of Miami Medical School and in plant immunity at UC Berkeley’s Energy Biosciences Institute. She joined the IGI in 2017 to work on the operations and programmatic activities of the institute.

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Jaclyn Tanaka

Lab Manager

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Jaclyn Tanaka

Lab Manager

Jackie received her B.S. in Plant Biology from UC Davis. She joined the Plant Genomics and Transformation Lab at IGI in January 2017. Previously, Jackie worked on Agrobacterium-mediated transformation of various cereal crops to improve drought tolerance, insect resistance, and yield at both Arcadia Biosciences and Pioneer Hi-Bred.

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Michelle Tjahjadi, M.S.

Associate Specialist

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Michelle Tjahjadi, M.S.

Associate Specialist

Michelle obtained her M.S. at UC Davis, focusing on Molecular Genetics. She joined the IGI in March 2019, where her work spans both the Plant Genomics and Transformation Facility and the Staskawicz lab. Currently, she is using CRISPR-based genome editing to investigate and improve immunity in rice. Previously, she was part of the Transformation Facility at the Boyce Thompson Institute in Ithaca, NY, where she gained experience with tomato, potato, Brachypodium, and other non-model organisms.

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Lea Witkowsky, Ph.D.

Project/Policy Analyst

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Lea Witkowsky, Ph.D.

Project/Policy Analyst

Lea has a B.A. in Chemistry from Willamette University and received her Ph.D. from UC Berkeley working in Robert Tjian’s lab. Her doctoral work focused on mechanisms of human transcription and the influence of chromatin on CRISPR-Cas9 gene editing. Lea joined the IGI in September 2017 as a science policy analyst, looking at the regulatory landscape as it relates to new genetic engineering technologies and the role of public perception in biotechnology development and adoption.

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Stacia Wyman, Ph.D.

Bioinformatics Scientist

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Stacia Wyman, Ph.D.

Bioinformatics Scientist

Stacia holds a B.A. from Smith College, received her M.S. from the University of Wisconsin at Madison, and a Ph.D. in Computer Science from the University of Texas, Austin. Her postdoctoral work involved developing algorithms for identifying miRNAs as cancer biomarkers and analyzing whole genome sequences of tumors at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center. Stacia came to IGI in June of 2017 from Gladstone Institutes, where she worked on identifying modifiers of Parkinson’s Disease through whole genome sequencing of families. At IGI, she works on all things computational related to CRISPR: editing outcomes, off-target effects, and CRISPR screens.

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Elaine Zhang, M.S.

Research Associate

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Elaine Zhang, M.S.

Research Associate

Elaine holds a B.S. in Biochemistry & Molecular Biology from UC Santa Cruz and received her M.S. in Biology from the University of San Francisco. Elaine’s graduate research focused on using evolutionary history and integrating molecular phylogenetics to understand the variation in climate and species distribution of Hawaiian Psychotria in an endemic island diversification. She joined the Plant Genomics and Transformation Facility at IGI in June 2018 and is currently working on CRISPR-based genome editing in Theobroma cacao to cultivate more sustainable cacao. Previously, Elaine worked on the development of genetically engineered fragrant moss at TAXA Biotechnologies.