Professor and Principal Investigator

Matt Welch

Professor of Cell Biology, Development & Physiology

B.S., University of Michigan, Ann Arbor

Ph.D., University of California, Berkeley

Postdoc, University of California, San Francisco


Taro Ohkawa


I study the baculovirus Autographa californica M nucleopolyhedrovirus (AcMNPV) manipulation of the host cell actin cytoskeleton throughout the viral replication cycle. This work is carried out using viral genetics and advanced imaging methods to examine how the virus affects cellular actin. My ongoing research includes studying how AcMNPV uses nuclear-localized actin during replication. Our synthesis of molecular virology and cell biology has led to advances in understanding viral mechanisms of transport and viral usage of the actin cytoskeleton.

B.S., Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Ph.D., University of California, Davis

Postdoc, University of California, Berkeley

Current Postdocs

Bisco Hill

Postdoctoral Fellow

My project focuses on Mycobacterium marinum, a model organism to study the significant human pathogen Mycobacterium tuberculosis. M. marinum stimulates actin-based motility to drive movement within and between host cells. I am working to identify the bacterial and host factors necessary for actin-based motility and cell-to-cell spread. Elucidating how M. marinum mobilizes the actin cytoskeleton will ultimately illuminate novel aspects of mycobacterial pathogenesis as well as actin regulation and host cell biology.

B.A., Colorado College

Ph.D., Washington University in Saint Louis

Jane Coffin Childs Fund Fellow

Kanika Khanna

Postdoctoral Fellow

I am interested in understanding the mechanism employed by bacterial secretion systems to spread from cell-to-cell during pathogenesis. I work on Burkholderia thailandensis which is unique in its ability to induce cell-cell fusion using a type VI secretion system (T6SS-5). T6SS-5 is a molecular syringe that injects toxic effectors into host cells to hijack their cellular machinery. By combining different imaging modalities including live-cell imaging and in situ cryo-electron tomography, I hope to understand the structural and cellular mechanism of cell-cell fusion induced by B. thailandensis.

B.S., M.S., Indian Institute of Technology, Delhi

Ph.D., University of California, San Diego

Fellowship, Life Sciences Research Foundation

Current Graduate Students

Meghan Bacher

Graduate Student Researcher

I am interested in studying the cell biology of host-microbe interactions. My project focuses on comparing the activity of the two actin-based motility effectors RickA and Sca2 that many Rickettsia species use to hijack host cell actin cytoskeleton and move about the host cell in the ancestral species R. bellii and a pathogenic species R. parkeri. By investigating actin based motility in divergent Rickettsia species I aim to better understand how the mechanism of these two effectors have evolved in terms of actin nucleation mechanism and function.

B.S., University of Puget Sound

Cuong (Joseph) Tran

Graduate Student Researcher

The cytosolic niche in endothelial cells (ECs) that Rickettsia establishes during infection suggests intimate molecular interactions occurring between the pathogen and the host, providing a unique opportunity to study both pathogenesis and EC biology. I am interested in characterizing the role of differential actin-based motility mediated by RickA and Sca2 during infection of ECs, as well as the molecular mechanisms of junctional protein dysregulation. I hope to improve our understanding of Rickettsia pathogenesis and to provide insights on EC biology.

B.S., University of California, Irvine

Zahra Zubair-Nizami

Graduate Student Researcher

Rickettsia parkeri occupies a long-term intracellular niche inside host endothelial cells. It also hijacks the host actin cytoskeleton to move freely inside the cytosol. I am interested in studying mediators of actin-based motility -- RickA and Sca2 -- and their regulation in relation to different cellular environments. I hope to improve our understanding of the R. parkeri infectious life cycle, as well as elucidate cellular pathways contributing to RickA and Sca2 expression in early and late phase infection.

B.S., University of Maryland, College Park

Current Visiting Scholars

Lee Douglas

Visiting Scholar

Lab Photos

Vida's going away Tiki party 2018


Halloween 2017



Vida Ahyong

Former: Postdoctoral Fellow

Current: Scientist II, CZ Biohub, SF Bay Area

Anna Albisetti

Former: Postdoctoral Fellow

Current: Scientific Collaborator, Swiss Tropical and Public Health Institute (Swiss TPH), Basel

Erin Benanti

Former: Postdoctoral Fellow

Current: Senior Scientist, Caribou Biosciences, Berkeley

Stéphane Bodin

Former: Postdoctoral Fellow

Current: Associate Professor, NioMV, Maire de Conferences, University of Montpellier 2, France

Gina Borgo

Former: Graduate Student Researcher

Current: Postdoctoral Fellow, UCSF

Elizabeth Borths

Former: Graduate Student Researcher

Thomas Burke

Former: Postdoctoral Fellow

Current: Assistant Professor, Department of Microbiology and Molecular Genetics, UC Irvine School of Medicine

Ken Campellone

Former: Postdoctoral Fellow

Current: Associate Professor, Department of Molecular and Cell Biology, University of Connecticut

Julie Choe

Former: Graduate Student Researcher

Current: Project Manager, Mammoth Biosciences, SF Bay Area

Joseph D'Alessio

Former: Technician

Current: Research Investigator, Novartis Institutes for BioMedical Research, Boston

Jamie Depelteau

Former: Volunteer

Current: Graduate Student, Leiden University

Steve Duleh

Former: Graduate Student Researcher

Current: Emergency Physician, Envision Physician Services, San Diego

Patrik Engström

Former: Postdoctoral Fellow

Elif Nur Firat

Former: Graduate Student Researcher

Current: Associate Professor, Department of Molecular Biology and Genetics, Koç University, Istanbul, Turkey

Magi Gabra

Former: Undergraduate Researcher

Current: Pediatric Resident, Stanford Children's Health, Lucile Packard Children's Hospital, Palo Alto, CA

Erin Goley

Current: Former Graduate Student Researcher

Current: Associate Professor, Department of Biological Chemistry, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine

Aubree Gordon

Former: Graduate Student Researcher

Current: Associate Professor of Epidemiology, University of Michigan School of Public Health, Ann Arbor

Hélène Gournier

Former: Postdoctoral Fellow

Current: Partnerships and Business Development Director, Microbiology Institute of Technology, ESCP Europe

Joseph Graham

Former: Postdoctoral Fellow

Current: Executive Director, Berthoud Care and Rehab, Denver

Cat Haglund

Former: Graduate Student Researcher

Current: Scientist II, Nektar Therapeutics, Oakland, CA

Brett Haltiwanger

Former: Postdoctoral Fellow

Current: Biosafety Officer, University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus, Aurora, Aurora

Susan Hepp

Former: Graduate Student Researcher

Current: Executive Editor, Public Library of Science (PLOS) Water, San Francisco

Peter Hsiue

Former: Undergraduate Researcher/Technician

Current: Resident, Orthopedic Surgery, UCLA

Robert Jeng

Former: Postdoctoral Fellow

Current: Medical Communications Manager, Greenwich Biosciences, Carlsbad, CA

Natasha Kafai

Former: Undergraduate Researcher/Technician

Current: MD/PhD Student, Washington University

Nora Kostow


Siri Kunchakarra

Former: Undergraduate Researcher

Current: Physician, Central California Faculty Medical Group, Fresno, CA

Rebecca Lamason

Former: Postdoctoral Fellow

Current: Assistant Professor, Department of Biology, MIT; Associate Member, Broad Institute, Cambridge, MA

Domokos Lauko

Former: Graduate Student Researcher

Current: Postdoctoral Fellow, UCSF

Catherine Nguyen

Former: Undergraduate Researcher

Current: Resident Physician, Stanford Pediatrics, Palo Alto, CA

Kavita Rangan

Former: Undergraduate Researcher

Current: Postdoctoral Researcher, UC San Diego

Shawna Reed

Former: Graduate Student Researcher

Current: Assistant Professor, Biomedical Sciences, Quinnipiac University

Curtis Sera

Medical Student, UCSF

Alisa Serio

Former: Postdoctoral Fellow

Current: Director, Clinical Microbiology, Paratek Pharmaceuticals, Berkeley

Anosha Siripala

Former: Graduate Student Researcher

Current: Technical Associate Director, Scientific Products at Novartis Institutes for BioMedical Research (NIBR), Boston

Justin Skoble

Former: Graduate Student Researcher

Current: Vice President of Technical Operations, Caribou Biosciences, Inc., Berkeley

Tania Sodhi

Former: Undergraduate Lab Assistant

Simina Ticau

Former: Undergraduate Researcher

Current: Senior Scientist, Alnylam Pharmaceuticals, Cambridge, MA

Neil Webb

Former: Graduate Student Researcher

Current: Biological Sciences Specialist, CHU Sainte-Justine, Montreal

Haiming Wu

Former: Postdoctoral Fellow

Defne Yarar

Former: Graduate Student Researcher

Current: Director, Cancer Biology, Omega Therapeutics, Cambridge, MA

Elizabeth Znameroski

Former: Technician

Current: Scientist, Amyris, SF Bay Area