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Dr. Mahajan’s lab provides an immersive,  intensive training environment for students and fellows to discover the molecular mechanisms that cause blindness and develop therapies to prevent vision loss. Highly collaborative research teams are made up of scientists, surgeons, and engineers from around the world, interacting on a daily basis and using advanced scientific methods.

Graduate Students

Gabriel Velez B.S.

Gabe is an M.S.T.P. student who joined the lab in 2016. Gabe received his bachelor’s degree in molecular biology from Winona State University in 2014. Gabe is studying the structure of the calpain-5 (CAPN5) protein and its role in the development of Autosomal Dominant Neovascular Inflammatory Vitreoretinopathy (ADNIV), a rare blinding eye disease. His research interests include translational proteomics, structural biology, biophysical chemistry, enzymology, drug design, molecular modeling, and bioinformatics. He was awarded a NIH F30 grant in 2017.

Lucy Evans B.S.

Lucy is an M.S.T.P. student who joined the lab in 2016 and is continuing in the Bassuk lab. Lucy received her bachelor's degree in Biology from Bowdoin College in 2012. She is currently exploring ocular trauma and inflammation after traumatic brain injury in mice (TBI). Utilizing the retina as an extension of the central nervous system, she hopes to establish ocular damage as a less-invasive approach to gauge TBI severity and response to treatment. By teasing out mechanisms of damage and repair caused by inflammation secondary to TBI, she aims to identify therapeutic targets to improve outcomes post-injury as well as enhancing the quality of life of those injured.  

Marcus Toral B.A.

Marc is an M.S.T.P. student who joined the lab in 2015. Marc received his bachelor's degree in Zoology and Neuroscience from Miami University in 2013. Marc’s research uses biochemistry, genomics, and proteomics to investigate blinding eye diseases. His work is specifically focused on elucidating gene transcriptional networks involved in Autosomal Dominant Neovascular Inflammatory Vitreoretinopathy (ADNIV) with the aim of identifying pathways that could be targeted for the development of new treatments and therapeutics. Marc is also involved in microsurgery projects and the characterization of genetic mutations that lead to eye disease. 

Kellie Schaefer B.S.

Kellie joined the lab in 2014 to complete her Ph.D. in genetics. She earned her bachelor’s degree in biology with a focus on genetics at the University of Iowa. Kellie’s research projects include dissecting the mechanisms underlying regulation of angiogenic factors in eye pathology as well as protease interactions and regulation. She was awarded an NIH F31 grant in 2015. 

Postdoctoral Fellows

Young Joo Sun Ph.D.

Young Joo joined the Mahajan Lab in 2019. He received his bachelor’s degree in systems biology from the Yonsei University, Republic of Korea, in 2013 and completed his Ph.D. in biochemistry at the University of Iowa in 2019. Young Joo’s research interests are proteomics, structural biology, high-throughput screening, and protein-protein interaction engineering. He is currently working on structural biology of eye disease proteins.

Dylan Parsons Ph.D.

Dylan joined the Mahajan Lab in 2019. He received his bachelor’s degree in chemistry from SUNY Geneseo in 2014 and completed his Ph.D. in chemistry at the University of Rochester. Dylan’s research interests include complex molecular synthesis and structure guided design of biologically relevant targets. He is currently working on the development and optimization of inhibitors for targets associated with eye disease.

Medical Students

Angela Li B.S.

Angela Li is a first year medical student at Stanford University. She joined the Mahajan lab in 2018 and will be using bioinformatics to characterize genetic eye diseases. She is interested in functional genomics and proteomics, translational bioinformatics, precision medicine, and diseases of the eye.

Benjamin Ng B.A.

Benjamin received his B.A. from the University of Cambridge in 2016. He is in medical school at Christ Church, University of Oxford and plans to graduate in 2019. He received a competitive grant from the Oxford University Clinical Academic Graduate School to help fund a medical elective in Dr. Mahajan's lab where he researches the proteomics of wet age-related macular degeneration.

Undergraduate Students

Daniel Machlab

Daniel is a masters student studying Computer Engineering. He uses big data analytics to understand patterns in retina tissues and diseases. Additionally, he is involved in making tools for researchers to manage and share experimental data. His research goal is to find biomarkers for tissue diseases using his bioinformatics skills.

Jennifer Vu

Jennifer is currently a third-year undergraduate studying human biology and education. She is interested in proteomics, personalized medicine, and the structural biology of blinding eye disease proteins. On campus, she is involved with the Global Health Student Council.


Scientists and Technicians

Aarushi Kumar B.S.

Aarushi joined the Mahajan Lab in 2020 as a Clinical Research Coordinator. She earned her Bachelor of Science in Biology from the University of Houston in 2019. She worked as a nursing assistant and medical scribe and has research experience in NMR, gene screening, and cardiovascular diseases. Her research interests include gene therapy, proteomics, and the genetics of eye disease.

Teja Chemudupati B.S.

Teja joined Dr. Mahajan’s lab as a Clinical Research Coordinator in 2018. He has been at Stanford University since 2016 in the Stanford Center on Longevity. Teja earned his B.Sc. in Human Biology at UC San Diego and has clinical experience from his time as a critical care EMT. His research interests include CRISPR gene editing, neuroscience of aging, and exploring an interdisciplinary approach to research-based medicine.

Jing Yang M.S.

Jing joined Dr. Mahajan’s Stanford University lab in 2017 as a Life Science Research Professional. She earned her MS in Bioinformatics at Northeastern University and her BS in Biochemistry at the University of Iowa. Jing’s research focuses on structural biology and bioinformatics. 

Diana Colgan Ph.D.

Diana has been a scientist and editor in the Mahajan lab since 2014 with expertise in molecular biology and gene transcription. She earned a Ph.D. in Biology from Columbia University and completed post-doctoral work at Rockefeller University. 

MaryAnn Mahajan B.A.

MaryAnn joined the lab in 2008. She earned her B.A. in English at the University of California, Berkeley and attended graduate school at the University of California, Los Angeles where she earned a secondary teaching credential. She is a writer and editor and also performs histological phenotyping of mouse eyes.

Affiliated Faculty

Stephen Tsang M.D., Ph.D.

Steve has been collaborating with the Mahajan Lab since 2008. He is a Professor of Ophthalmology and Pathology and Cell Biology at Columbia University. Steve is a pioneer in genome surgery in stem cells. His research focuses on reprogramming the metabolome as a therapy for patients with retinal degeneration. His expertise includes Genetic Disorders, Genetic Testing, Pediatric Genetics, Retinal Disorders, Eye Genetics, Clinical Genetics, Adult Genetics, Retinopathy, Marfan's Syndrome, and Macular Degeneration.

Mayank Bansal

Mayank is a vitreoretinal surgeon. He completed his residency in ophthalmology at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences and then spent a year at the University of Iowa in 2014 with Dr. Mahajan. Upon certification by the International Council of Ophthalmology, he was awarded a scholarship for fellowship in vitreoretinal surgery by the ICO at the University of California, Los Angeles. His research focuses on diabetic retinopathy, macular degeneration, complex vitreoretinal surgeries, and innovations in ophthalmology. 

Alexander G. Bassuk M.D., Ph.D.

Alex has been a key collaborator with the Mahajan Lab since 2012. He is  a pediatric neurologist at the University of Iowa whose laboratory focuses on the molecular biology, protein biochemistry, and genetic mechanisms in human diseases and in animal models.  Along with a diverse cross-disciplinary team of researchers, he is pursuing a collaborative and innovative approach to use proteomics, fruit flies, zebrafish, and mice to rapidly translate basic science findings into clinical treatments. His investigational group is well poised to leverage novel in vivo techniques into new treatments for epilepsy and other human diseases. 

Yang Sun M.D., Ph.D.

Dr. Yang Sun is a clinician-scientist in glaucoma and an Associate Professor of Ophthalmology at Stanford University and Byers Eye Institute. Dr. Sun received his B.A. in Biophysics from Johns Hopkins University, followed by an M.D., Ph.D. from Washington University School of Medicine.  He completed Ophthalmology residency at Stanford University and a prestigious Heed fellowship at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. He has been funded by the National Eye Institute, Veterans Administration, American Glaucoma Society, Lowe Syndrome Association, Knights Templar Eye Foundation, and Matilda Ziegler Foundation.  Dr. Sun holds several U.S. patents on novel regulators of eye pressure and is the primary investigator on a number of glaucoma clinical trials.


Katherine Wert Ph.D.

Katie became an Assistant Professor of Ophthalmology and Molecular Biology at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical School after her postdoctoral fellowship in the Mahajan lab.  Her overall research goal was to discover and understand the mechanisms underlying neuroretinal disease and to develop novel therapeutics for these complex degenerative disorders using gene therapy, cell transplantations, and genome engineering technologies. She utilized gene editing strategies to create mouse models for human disease and studied specific mutations within human embryonic and induced pluripotent stem cells. Katie earned her  Master of Science in Human Clinical Nutrition from Columbia University in 2009 and a Ph.D. in Nutrition and Metabolic Biology from Columbia University in 2013. She completed her first post-doctoral fellowship in genome engineering, stem cell, and developmental biology at the Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research. 

Paul Finn Ph.D.

Paul was a member of the  Mahajan Lab as a postdoctoral research fellow and member of the ChEM-H Medicinal Chemistry Knowledge Center in 2018. He completed his Ph.D. in Organic Chemistry from Temple University in 2015 and in 2016 continued his studies at the California Institute of Technology. Paul was awarded an NIH Postdoctoral Fellowship in 2017 to pursue small molecule inhibitors of DNA-protein binding. Paul was developing small molecule protease inhibitors for the treatment of Autosomal Dominant Neovascular Inflammatory Vitreoretinal (ADNIV).  His research interests include the development of chemical tools and therapeutics for the study of aberrant cellular signaling in muscular and neurological disease.

Ted Paulson

Ted is a computer engineer at Amazon. He was in the Mahajan lab as an undergraduate. He used computing and data tools to provide researchers with data analysis of proteins. Ted worked with database systems, programming tools and experimental proteomic data to allow researchers to better understand and access data. His research goal was to help scientists more effectively analyze data and provide more efficient methods to find markers for disease.

Nathaniel Roybal M.D., Ph.D.

Nate was a  lab member from 2014 to 2016 and he continues to collaborate to this day. Nate is a Vitreoretinal Surgeon and Scientific Director of the Vision Research Center at Eye Associates of New Mexico and is an Assistant Professor of Surgery at the University of New Mexico. Nate received his undergraduate degree in Animal Science from New Mexico State University, followed by an M.D., Ph.D. at the University of New Mexico. His doctoral studies focused on gene regulation of vascular endothelial growth factor. He completed a residency in ophthalmology and postdoctoral fellowship at the Jules Stein Eye Institute, UCLA. His postdoctoral studies focused on gene therapies and visual cycle biochemistry.  Nate  completed a Vitreoretinal Fellowship at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics. He remains interested in translational proteomics. 

Anuradha Gore B.S.

Anu was a member of the Mahajan Lab from 2014-2017. She completed an undergraduate honor's thesis in the lab researching targets of CAPN5. She earned her B.S. in Human Physiology and Biology from the University of Iowa in May 2018 and has been accepted to the University of Iowa Medical School for the Fall of 2020.

David Almeida M.D., Ph.D., M.B.A.

David was a lab member from 2014 to 2016 and continues to be a collaborator. He is a vitreoretinal surgeon.  He completed his B.S. at the University of Toronto, his Ph.D. in Pharmaceutical Drug Research at the University of Szeged , his M.B.A. in healthcare management at George Washington University, his M.D. at Queen’s University, and his vitreoretinal diseases and surgery fellowship at the University of Iowa. His research interests include proliferative vitreoretinopathy, infectious endophthalmitis and complex surgical techniques. He is cofounder of Citrus Therapeutics, a pharmaceutical design firm specializing in multi-pharmacophore research and development. 

Eric Chin, M.D.


Eric was a lab member from 2014 to 2016 and continues to be a collaborator. He graduated from the University of California Berkeley with a Bachelor’s Degree in Bioengineering. He then received his Medical Degree from Chicago Medical School and went on to complete his ophthalmology residency at the University of California Davis and his surgical vitreoretinal fellowship at the University of Iowa. As a fellow his research focused on imaging and novel treatments for various retinal diseases. Eric is trained in all aspects of vitreoretinal medicine and surgery, as well as uveitis and ocular tumors. He serves as Clinical Faculty at Loma Linda University and the Loma Linda Veterans Affairs Hospital where he lectures and teaches residents.

Nicole Hehr B.A.

Nicole was a member of the Mahajan Lab in 2017. In 2018 while working with Dr. Alexander Bassuk, she received a grant from the Iowa Neuroscience Institute to explore inflammation in the retina post traumatic brain injury.  She graduated in May 2019 from the University of Iowa with honors and highest distinction in ancient civilizations. She received a Fulbright grant to teach English in Italy during the 2019-2020 school year and plans to attend medical school in the  fall of 2020.

Peter Tang M.D., Ph.D.

Peter joined Dr. Mahajan’s lab as a clinical fellow in 2017. He earned a B.A. in Neuroscience at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, PA and completed both his M.D. and Ph.D. as part of the Medical Scientist Training Program at the Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston, SC. His graduate thesis explored the role of vitamin A metabolism in various inherited retinal dystrophies. Peter completed a transitional year internship at the Hennepin County Medical Center followed by ophthalmology residency training at the University of Minnesota, MN. He was at Stanford University 2017-2019 as a clinical fellow in Vitreoretinal Surgery in the Department of Ophthalmology. His research interests include inherited retinal dystrophies and molecular biology of vitreoretinal disease. He now practices in Minnesota.

Ryan Vande Zande D.O.


Ryan was a member of the Mahajan lab from 2011-2013  while he earned  his B.A. in Biology from the University of Iowa. He went on to Des Moines University where he is set to earn his Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine degree in May 2018. Upon graduation, Ryan will continue his education as a Pediatric resident at the University of Oklahoma.