The Boss

Christal Sohl

Hometown: Norman, Oklahoma

Degree/training: B.S., Biochemistry, University of Oklahoma; Ph.D., Biochemistry, Vanderbilt University; Postdoctoral training, Pharmacology, Yale University

Favorite non-science activity: Distance running, and really anything taking advantage of San Diego’s beautiful outdoors.

 Favorite book/author: Impossible question! But if I go by re-read frequency, it’s Richard Bradford’s Red Sky at Morning, Charles Dickens’s Pickwick Papers, and David Sedaris’s Me Talk Pretty One Day.

 Scientist hero: Prof. Joan Steitz

 Fun fact about me: For two years during my postdoc, I played the triple cello pans in a steel pan band.


Lab Manager

An Hoang

Research focus: I play a number of important roles in the Sohl Lab, from training students in a variety of biochemical and cell culture techniques, maintaining and repairing instruments, and making sure the lab runs smoothly. I am currently generating stable cell lines for modeling IDH-driven cancers in order to better understand mechanisms of tumorigenesis.

Hometown: Binh Dinh, Vietman

 Degree/training: B.S., Microbiology, San Diego State University

Favorite non-science activity: Gardner, sugarcane

 Scientist hero: My parents


Graduate Students

Adam Grunseth

MS student

 Research focus: I’m currently working on understanding the mechanisms of isocitrate dehydrogenase 1 and 2, which are common mutations in certain cancers of the brain (gliomas) and the blood (leukemia). After purifying IDH2 in SF9 insect cells, I intend to crystallize and solve the structure of IDH2. My research also involves performing enzyme kinetics on mutant and wild-type IDH1 and IDH2. My hopes are that my research will contribute to creating cancer therapies.

Hometown: San Diego, CA

Degree/training: B.S., Biochemistry, San Diego State University

Favorite non-science activity: Exercising, and spending time with my husky and my girlfriend.

Favorite book/author: S. E. Hinton’s The Outsiders

 Scientist hero: Sir Isaac Newton

Fun fact about me: I put the pro in protein purification. #Cheesehead4life.

Diego Avellaneda Matteo

PhD student

Research focus: My project is about understanding the tumorigenic behavior of IDH1 mutations identified in brain cancer. As an enzymologist, I use instruments such as a UV-Vis spectrophotometer, fluorimeter, and stopped-flow spectrophotometer in order to study steady-state and pre-steady-state kinetics of these mutants.

 Hometown: Caracas, Venezuela

Degree/training: B.S., Biochemistry and Chemistry, San Jose State University

 Favorite non-science activity: Playing soccer

 Favorite book/author: The Godfather by Mario Puzzo

 Scientist hero: William Lawrence Bragg

 Fun fact about me: I have dual citizenship (Italian and Venezuelan).

Lucas Luna

PhD student

Research focus: My current research project focuses on studying hypermutated phenotypes of human DNA polymerase epsilon, frequently present in colorectal cancer. Little is known about its catalytic mechanism due to barriers in heterologous protein expression. I am working on the expression, purification, and kinetic characterization of full length human exonuclease competent DNA polymerase epsilon. I will study how exonuclease domain mutations affect fidelity and processivity to further understand how DNA replication errors are created and propagated, with the goal of developing novel methods of combatting cancer growth and metastasis.  

Hometown: San Jose, California

Degree/training: B.S., Biochemistry, University of California Santa Barbara

Favorite non-science activity: All you can eat KBBQ

Favorite book/author: Dante’s Inferno

Scientist hero: Archimedes

Fun fact about me: Made the Kessel run in less than 12 parsecs.

Grace Wells

MS student

Research focus: My primary research is on exploring the cellular consequences of isocitrate dehydrogenase (IDH) mutations in the context of cancer. In particular, I am studying the relationship between single point mutations and phenotype severity, as well as exploring new downstream cellular consequences of altered IDH catalysis. I am also exploring the mechanism and kinetics of viral polymerase activity. I am specifically studying the molecular mechanism of polymerization and fidelity of the RNA-dependent RNA polymerase (RdRP) of the Zika virus with the goal of finding and testing therapeutic agents that can inhibit this enzyme.

Hometown: San Diego, CA

Degree/training: B.A. Biology, University of California Berkeley, 2009

Single-Subject Teaching Credential, SDSU, 2010

Favorite non-science activity: Cycling, hiking, and anything involving the ocean

Favorite book/author: Where the Red Fern Grows, Wilson Rawls

 Scientist hero: Thomas Jefferson

Fun fact about me: From age 4 to 10, I lived in a house that did not have electricity (yes, in the U.S.).

ZeQing “Ruth” Xu

MS student

Research focus: My research focus is on the relationship between enzyme mutation and function. I am investigating how polymerase and kinase mutations impact human diseases using kinetic studies. I hope my research can make a contribute to our understanding the mechanisms of disease to improve human health.

Hometown: ShanXi, China

Degree/training: M.E., Applied Chemistry, North University of China; B.E., Biology Engineering, North University of China

Favorite non-science activity: Hanging out with friends and trying out new restaurants

Favorite book/author: Yu Qiuyu

 Scientist hero: Prof. Baojiao Gao

Fun fact about me: I had my head shaved in second grade to regrow my hair.



Jeon Erik FonBon

Biology major

Research focus: My research project focuses on studying mutations in the replicative polymerase, Polε, that have been implicated in uterine and colorectal cancers. We have identified several tumor-relevant mutations in both the polymerase and exonuclease domains. I will express and purify these mutants, and establish their catalytic properties such as DNA binding affinity.

Hometown: San Diego, CA

Degree/training: Undergraduate at SDSU, biology

Favorite non-science activity: Teaching my son about science and Jiu Jitsu

Favorite book/author: Hideyuki Kikuchi

 Scientist hero: Sir Isaac Newton

Fun fact about me: I am a brown belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu

Madison Kennedy

Chemistry major

Research focus:  I am studying Tie2 which is an endothelium-specific receptor tyrosine kinase (RTK) responsible for angiogenesis and vasculature maintenance. Mutations in this enzyme can cause venous malformations for which no current therapies are available. In this work, I am developing a purification strategy using expression in insect cells.  Future work will explore the catalytic rates of the kinase activity in order to improve the understanding of the catalytic features of Tie2.

Hometown: Oceanside, CA

Degree/training: SDSU Undergraduate

Favorite non-science activity: Baking and ballroom dancing

Favorite book/author: War & Peace by Leo Tolstoy

Scientist hero: Marie Curie

Fun fact about me: My semi-secret talent is that I can play the harp.

Zach Lesecq

Biology major (pre-med)

Research focus: My research focus is centered on characterizing the molecular mechanisms of IDH1 mutations found in human glioblastomas. My goal is to collect new data on this enzyme so that we can better understand how different mutations work and hopefully contribute to developing new therapies against brain cancer.

Hometown: Rouen, France

Degree/training: SDSU Undergraduate

Favorite non-science activity: I love running and hiking out in nature. It’s so nice to reconnect with the natural world and see the diversity of life outside!

 Favorite book/author: The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Steven R. Covey

Scientist hero: Charles Darwin

Fun fact about me: I like to make latte art when I’m near an espresso machine, but I don’t drink lattes because I’m lactose intolerant. Brewed coffee with almond milk all the way!

Giovanni Quichocho

Biology major

Viraj Upadhye

Biology major

Research focus: In my project, I am designing new mutations predicted to alter the catalytic partitioning of the normal reaction catalyzed by IDH (isocitrate and α-ketoglutarate interconversion). These mutants will then be expressed, purified, and assayed kinetically.

Hometown: Moorpark, CA

Degree/training: SDSU Undergraduate

Favorite non-science activity: Playing golf

 Favorite book/author: Lord of the Flies by William Golding

Scientist hero: Gregor Mendel

Fun fact about me: For my 8th birthday, I got to pick up and play with an alligator named Happy.



Anna Uvarova (MS Chemistry 2017, currently a research scientist at Novartis, Boston, MA)

Eric Gonzalez (BS Chemistry 2017, currently a graduate student at UCSF)

Stacy Anselmo (BS Chemistry 2016, currently a research scientist at Eton Biosciences in San Diego)

Precious Moman (undergraduate, currently an SDSU undergraduate, pre-med)

Yunjin “Sheri” Wu (Post-bac volunteer, currently a MS student at SDSU)

Carlos Bobadilla (undergraduate, currently a pre-Med biology student at SDSU)

Jorge Sandoval (undergraduate, currently a pre-Med biology student at SDSU)

Andrea Ruiz (undergraduate, currently a biology student at SDSU)