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Montminy Lab - Personnel

Montminy Lab

Principal Investigator

Marc Montminy Marc Montminy, professor in the Clayton Foundation Laboratories for Peptide Biology, joined The Salk Institute in 1999. He received a combined M.D./Ph.D. in physiology from the Tufts University School of Medicine and a B.S. in biochemistry from Harvard College. Prior to joining Salk, Montminy was a professor of cell biology at Harvard Medical School and director of the Laboratory of Advanced Genetic Technologies and section head of Molecular Biology at Joslin Diabetes Center in Boston.

Research Associates

Laura Rodon Ahnert Laura Rodón Ahnert studied Biology at the Pompeu Fabra University in Spain and earned her Ph.D degree in Biomedicine at the University of Barcelona, Spain. During her graduate training, in Dr.Seoane’s laboratory, at the Vall d'Hebron Institute of Oncology, she worked on the role of the TGF-B signaling pathway in brain tumors. In july 2013, she joined Dr. Montminy lab to perform postdoctal training. Currently, she is studying the role of CREB and CRTCs in tumorigenesis and cancer metabolism.

Emilie Blanchet Emilie Blanchet earned her Ph.D. at the University of Montpellier, France with work on the implication of E2F1 and CDK4 cell cycle regulators in insulin secretion and oxidative metabolism in brown adipose tissue and muscles. In march 2012, she joined the Montminy lab. Currently, her focus is to investigate the function of TORC and CREB in insulin secretion and their implication in alpha cells metabolism.

Dandan Chen Dandan Chen earned her Ph.D. at Xiamen University in China 2008. After that, she took her first postdoc training at UC Berkeley under the guidance of Dr. Qing Zhong who is working on Autophagy. Dandan joined the Montminy lab in February 2012. Currently, she is trying to dig out new coactivator(s) or repressor(s) in the CREB-CTRCs pathway.

Jeniffer Hernandez Jeniffer B. Hernandez is a postdoctoral research associate who joined the lab in July 2011. She obtained her Ph.D. in immunology from the University of California, Irvine. In the laboratory of Dr. Craig M. Walsh, Jeniffer studied the mechanisms that control the balance of regulatory and effector T cells, the latter of which may lead to autoimmunity. Currently, she is investigating CREB/CRTCs function in different T cell subsets, transformed T cell lines, and different models of autoimmunity.

Mark Huising Mark Huising received his undergraduate training in Biology at the university of Wageningen before commencing his Ph.D. studies at the Radboud University Nijmegen in The Netherlands. For his graduate work, he studied the evolution of endocrine and immune systems in several vertebrate and invertebrate model species. Following the completion of his PhD, Mark joined the Salk Institute where worked with the late Dr. Wylie Vale to develop and spearhead several research lines that focus on the salutary contributions of corticotropin-releasing factor and urocortins to the regulation of beta cell function and glucose homeostasis. Click here to see more about Mark's research>>

Jeong-Ho Kim Jeong-Ho Kim earned his Ph.D. from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 2008. At UIUC, he worked with Dr. Jie Chen whose major interest was the mTOR signaling network. He previously studied the signaling mechanism of mTOR action in insulin resistance. He joined the Montminy lab in July 2008. Currently, he is focusing on negative regulators in CREB-TORC2 pathway.

Weiyi Liu Weiyi Liu finished his Ph.D. in Dr. Paul Collodi’s lab and first postdoc training in Dr. Shihuan Kuang’s lab, both at Purdue University. He worked on primordial germ cells, muscle stem cells and adipose stem cells, using both zebrafish and mouse as models. In the area of adipose biology, he found that 1) intramuscular adipose is required for muscle regeneration; 2) miR-133a regulates Prdm16 and affects adipose browning, glucose metabolism and insulin sensitivity. In December of 2012, he joined the Montminy lab. He is interested in cAMP-regulated non-coding RNAs and their roles in obesity and diabetes.

Bing Luan Bing Luan earned his Ph.D. at Institute of Biochemistry and Cell Biology (SIBCB), Chinese Academy of Sciences. There, he worked under Dr. Gang Pei whose major interest was signal transduction of GPCRs. Using genetic and biochemical methods, Bing discovered the links between GPCR signaling and inflammation as well as type 2 diabetes. b arrestins, negative regulators of GPCR signaling, interact with IkBa and AKT respectively and modulate their activities in response to GPCR stimulation. Bing joined the Montminy lab in september of 2009 to further develop his career in metabolic research. Currently, he is studying the molecular and physiological crosstalk between inflammation and glucose metabolism.

Bing Luan Shigenobu Matsumura earned his Ph.D. at Kyoto University in Japan 2007. In the laboratory of Dr Tohru Fushiki, he studied brain immune communication pathways. Following the completion of his PhD, he shifted his study toward the recognition mechanism of fat molecule in taste cells, related to dietary fat preference. He joined the Montminy lab in October 2012. Currently, he is focusing on the function of brain TORCs in appetite regulation and energy metabolism.

Luiz Navegantes Luiz Navegantes earned his M.D. (1998) and Ph.D. (2002) in Physiology at University of São Paulo (USP), Brazil. In the laboratory of Dr. Migliorini and Dr. Kethellut, he worked on the role of the sympathetic nervous system in protein metabolism and, identified an anti-catabolic pathway regulated by catecholamines and cAMP in skeletal muscle. In 2006, he became assistant professor at Department of Physiology, School of Medicine of Ribeirão Preto, USP. He joined the Montminy lab in August 2013 to understand how CREB and CRTCs control skeletal muscle protein breakdown under atrophic conditions.

Norman-Ong Norman Ong was awarded a PhD in Nutritional Biochemistry with a minor in Toxicology from University of Minnesota – Twin Cities in 2013. Under the tutelage of Dr. Douglas Mashek, he studied the role of adipose triglyceride lipase in the pathogenesis of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease and insulin resistance. He joined the Montminy lab to further understand the molecular mechanisms and gene dysregulation contributing to the etiology of diabetes. His current research focuses on the molecular roles of CART and CREB in the peripheral tissues. During his free time, he enjoys playing badminton and admiring the nature.

Jelena Ostojic Jelena Ostojić studied biology at Universities of Trieste in Italy and Paris 7 in France, where she obtained her Bachelor and Master degrees, respectively. She obtained her PhD in September 2013 from the University of Evry Val d'Essonne in France. She worked on the assembly and interactions of OXPHOS complexes in the yeast Saccaharomyces cerevisiae, in the group of Dr. Geneviève Dujardin (Center for Molecular Genetics, Gif sur Yvette, France). Jelena joined the Montminy lab in May 2014 where she is working on the post-translational regulation of CREB activity and its downstream effects, in particular on mitochondrial biogenesis.

Jose Paz Jose C Paz studied biology at the University of Malaga, Spain and earned his Ph.D. degree at the University of Barcelona, Spain. During his graduate training, he worked on mitochondrial metabolism and dynamics and its involvement in insulin resistance in skeletal muscle and liver. His interest in the regulation of glucose production in liver drove him to join the Montminy lab in October 2008. His main interest is the role of CREB and TORC regulatory axis in mitochondrial metabolism in the insulin responsive tissues. In his spare time he likes to listen to music, play guitar and enjoy the beautiful San Diego sunsets.

Pagkapol Yhew Pongsawakul Pagkapol (Yhew) Pongsawakul is a postdoctoral research associate who joined the lab in September of 2013. He obtained his Ph.D. in Biology from the Division of Biological Sciences at the University of California, San Diego under supervision of Drs. Steve Kay and Marc Montminy. He earned his B.S. in Biology and B.A. in Chemistry from the University of Virginia. At Montminy lab in collaboration with the Kay lab at USC, Yhew is studying the molecular mechanism of Cryptochromes and their mechanism in repressing cAMP signaling.

Kim Ravnskjaer Kim Ravnskjaer earned his biomedical Ph.D. at University of Southern Denmark in the beginning of 2006 when he also joined the Montminy Lab. During his Ph.D. work he studied nuclear receptors and their role in transcriptional regulation of pancreatic beta-cell function. In particular, cellular processes linking nutrient availability to gene activation became a source of endless fascination to him. In the Montminy lab, his current focus is transcriptional regulation by CREB and TORC proteins in mammalian organs including the liver and pancreas. Intracellular signaling events tying together hormonally generated cyclic-AMP and chromatin dynamics are being investigated and their significance in overall physiology is explored. When not at work, Kim enjoys exploring scenic southern California through a camera lens, on his bicycle or under water. Exploring the rich cultural life of San Diego together with his wife is another favorite diversion.

Run Shen Run Shen obtained his Ph. D. from University of Rochester in 2008. There, he worked on the regulation of transcription factor RUNX2 in bone development and metabolism, and identified cyclin-CDKs modulate RUNX2 protein stability in response to hormones or cytokines. Then, he moved to Stowers Insititue at Kansas City to study stem cell development using Drosophila as a model, and discovered how stem cells sense niche signaling and harness protein translation machinery via differentiation factor BAM to control stem cell fates. He joined Montminy lab in early 2011 to understand brain control of metabolism, particularly how CRTCs integrate stress signals and control energy balance in various animal models.

Tim Sontag Tim Sonntag studied biology at the Philipps-University Marburg, Germany. After earning his Diploma in Biology, he moved to the TU Dortmund University and started to work on his thesis in the group of Dr. Henning Mootz. In 2010 he received his Dr. rer. nat. after working in the field of chemical biology with a focus on the application of split inteins, protein domains that self-catalyze their excision from a precursor protein, for protein functional control and segmental isotopic labeling based NMR approaches. In June 2011 he joined the lab of Dr. Steve Kay at UCSD and studied molecular interactions of circadian proteins, in particular mammalian cryptochromes. After joining the Montminy lab in December 2012 he shifted his research focus towards mechanistic studies involving CREB and specific interaction partners.

Wen-Wei Tsai received his Ph.D. in the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at the University of Texas, M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston in 2009. In his Ph.D. training, he worked with Dr. Michelle (Shelley) Barton to study the role of chromatin modifiers in mediating transcription regulation in normal and cancer cells. He joined the Montminy lab in May 2010. He continues his interest in transcription regulation and chromatin structure to investigate the molecular mechanisms by which cAMP signaling regulates glucose homeostatsis.

Talitha Van Der Meulen Talitha Van Der Meulen obtained her PhD from Wageningen University in the Netherlands, studying the effects of mechanic stimulation on muscle development in the zebrafish. For this project she developed a unique experimental setup that enabled her to conduct endurance training in young zebrafish. She found that axial muscle acquires a more slow muscle phenotype, while the heart acquires more fast muscle characteristics after ten weeks of endurance training. She moved to San Diego to study biochemistry of protein tyrosine kinase signaling with Dr. Peter van der Geer at San Diego State University, where she studied the adapter protein Shc. Shc recruits the signaling protein Grb2 to activated receptors as an integral part of many signaling cascades. Talitha discovered that Shc does more than merely serve as a scaffold for Grb2, and serves to enhance cell signaling and proliferation downstream of the receptor. She joined the Salk Institute of Biological Studies in 2008 where she now applies her expertise in cell signaling cascades to diabetes. She currently studies the role of corticotropin-releasing factor and urocortin 3 on proliferation and maturation of the insulin-producing beta cells of the pancreatic islets.

Sam Van de Velde Sam Van de Velde is a postdoctoral research associate who joined the lab in June 2007. He obtained his Ph.D. in biochemistry from the KU Leuven in Belgium. He previously studied glucose and sucrose induced signaling mechanisms in yeast in the laboratory of Dr. Johan Thevelein. Currently, he is investigating TORC2 function in pancreatic beta cells. He aims to understand the mechanism by which TORC2 regulates glucose homeostasis and beta cell function by using animal models, cultured insulinoma cell lines and his first love, yeast.

Ezra Wiater Ezra Wiater studied Biochemistry as an undergraduate at the University of Washington and went on to earn his Ph. D. from the University of California San Diego in 2003, performing his thesis research in the lab of Wylie Vale. He joined the Montminy lab in 2012 and is currently working of the mechanisms of activin signaling in pancreatic islets and beta-cells with a focus on the effects of activin on glucose metabolism; the regulation of pancreatic endocrine cell populations; and activin regulation of multiple pancreatic endocrine cell functions in the adult.

Young-Sil Yoon Young-Sil Yoon studied mitochondrial function and dynamics in aging and hetatocarcinogenesis during her Ph.D training in Korea. She previously studied the role of kinase and phosphatase in controlling hepatic energy metabolism in laboratory of Dr. Seung-Hoi Koo. She moved to the Montminy lab in Feb 2012 to further develop her career in metabolic research. Currently, she is studying the molecular and physiological function of CRTC3 in brown fat.

Research Technicians

Susie Hedrick (Lab Manager)

David Owens is an undergraduate at the University of California, San Diego majoring in human biology. As a Laboratory assistant, David helps researchers with a variety of tasks, including molecular biology techniques and buffer preparation. He also orders supplies and organizes the lab. In the future, he hopes to become a physician and use his research knowledge to improve patient care. In his free time, David enjoys surfing the numerous beaches of San Diego.

Naomi Goebel Naomi Goebel Phillips is currently a Research Associate II. She received her Bachelor of Science in Biology at University of Oregon in 2002. Prior to the Salk Institute, she worked at the Zebrafish International Resource Center in Eugene, Oregon under the direction of Zoltan Varga. Naomi began working in the Montminy Lab in September of 2004. She is the mouse colony manager but specializes in primary cell lines, protein biochemistry and histology.

Rebecca Walker Rebecca Walker received her Bachelor of Science in Genetics with a minor in Mathematics at the University of California, Davis in 2012. She did undergraduate research at the UC Davis Genome Center working on lettuce genomics. She then worked at the University of California, San Diego in the division of Biomedical Informatics. Rebecca joined the Montminy lab in June of 2013 and is working on bioinformatics research focusing on regulation of gene expression.