Dr. Vawter is a faculty member in the Department of Psychiatry and Human Behavior performing preclinical and translational research. He has published over 100 peer-reviewed articles in psychiatry.
The goals of the laboratory are to understand the pathogenesis of psychiatric disorders (schizophrenia and mood disorders) and to enable better prevention and treatments of these psychiatric disorders. Dr. Vawter was trained in both clinical and physiological psychology tracks and obtained additional neuroscience and neuropsychological assessment training at NIMH and NIDA. Dr.
Vawter started the Functional Genomics Laboratory in 2001 and has been involved in different projects through collaborations with Dr. William E. Bunney and the Pritzker Neuropsychiatric Disorders Research Consortium. He is the Senior Associate Director of the UCI Brain Bank and has collaborated with the Allen Institute for Brain Science since 2006.
These projects are involved with postmortem brain gene expression in healthy controls, and subjects with mood and psychotic disorders.
Phenotypes such as suicide are being investigated in the laboratory led by Dr. Sequeira. Mitochondria projects involving gene expression and resequencing of the mitochondria genome in psychiatric disorders are currently underway.
Assistant Research Professor
Dr. P. Adolfo Sequeira
Adolfo’s main interest is to explore the genetic and molecular basis of neuropsychiatric disorders in order to find markers for prevention or for the development of therapeutic interventions. With a background in molecular biology and genetics, he completed a master in neurosciences from the University of Montreal and a PhD in human genetics at McGill University. He arrived as the Della Martin Fellow at the Department of Psychiatry and Human Behaviour, University of California, Irvine and is currently an Assistant Research Professor in the same department. In his projects he uses a candidate gene approach and a case-control design, to carry out genetic variation studies. He is also involved in gene expression studies of cortical and sub cortical (hippocampus, limbic system) regions from psychiatric subjects (suicides or not) and normal controls. The main purpose of his studies is to explore the relationship between changes in gene expression and genetics in relation to neuropsychiatric disorders.
Brandi Rollins graduated from the University of California, Davis with a degree in genetics and is currently the lab manager for the Functional Genomics Laboratory. Her current projects include performing microarray analysis using Affymetrix U133P, Human Exon 1.0 ST, and Human Mitochondrial Resequencing Arrays. She is involved in researching the genetics of neuropsychiatric illness in Costa Rica as well as performing RT PCR analysis on candidate genes for schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and major depression
Staff Research Associate
With an MS degree in Biochemistry and a BS degree in Biomedical Engineering, Ling Morgan has worked in the Functional Genomics Laboratory since 2006. Her work includes the validation of differential expression of candidate genes by QPCR, performing real time PCR assays, designing specific primers and determining the significance of target gene expression. She is also involved in a sleep deprivation project, where she processes RNA extraction from multiple blood draws at different sleep deprivation time points, generates cDNA and analyzes gene expression data to compare subjects with psychiatric disorder and healthy control subjects.
Asisstant Project Scientist
Dr. Firoza Mamdani
Dr. Mamdani received her Ph.D. in Human Genetics from McGill University where her graduate work focused on the pharmacogenomics of treatment response in mood disorders, specifically the identification of genetic and peripheral gene expression biomarkers for response. She has been in Dr. Vawter’s laboratory since 2011, initially as a postdoctoral fellow, where she has worked on projects involved in mitochondrial DNA sequencing and mtDNA variant investigation in postmortem brain tissue, gene expression and biomarkers in mood disorders and suicide, and performing laser capture microdissection of postmortem brain samples. She is also collaborating with Drs. Fabio Macciardi, Federica Torri and Ilaria Guella carrying out a RNA-seq study in neuropsychiatric disorders.
Asisstant Project Scientist
Dr. Agenor Limon
Dr. Limon is interested in understanding the electrophysiological and pharmacological properties of neurotransmitter receptors and ion channels of the human brain, and particularly, the pathogenic changes observed during neurological diseases that affect brain’s electrical activity and behavior.
All these, under the idea that understanding the disease-relevant modulation of neurotransmitter receptors is a step further toward better treatments of Neurological and Mental disorders and, hopefully, to their prevention. After a postdoctoral training and strong collaboration with Dr. Ricardo Miledi at Neurobiology and Behavior at UCI, he joined the Functional Genomics lab in the department of Psychiatry and Human behavior in July 2014 where he integrates gene expression and electrophysiological measurements of human native receptors reactivated from postmortem brains diagnosed with brain disorders.
Della Martin Fellow
Dr. Brooke Hjelm
Brooke is focused on utilizing next-generation sequencing (NGS) methods and bioinformatics to study the genetic etiology of complex psychiatric disorders. In addition, she is interested in developing patient-specific induced pluripotent stem cell (iPSC) models for functional assays and drug discovery screening.
Brooke performed her doctoral research at the Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen) while receiving a PhD in Molecular and Cellular Biology from Arizona State University. She obtained additional training in stem cell biology as a postdoctoral researcher at the Regenerative Medicine Institute of Cedars-Sinai.
Brooke joined the lab in 2015 as the Della Martin Fellow in the Department of Psychiatry and Human Behavior at the University of California, Irvine, under the guidance and support of Dr. Marquis Vawter and Dr. William E. Bunney.
She is inspired by the recent development of new methods in “omics”, stem cell biology, and neuroimaging, and hopes to use these tools to provide insight into the molecular changes that occur in Schizophrenia and Major Depressive Disorder prior to disease onset, during disease progression, and following pharmacological intervention.
Student Lab Members
- Vanessa Glotzbach
- Roxy Massoodnia
Former Lab Members
Former laboratory members that have moved to other positions are:
- Ilaria Guella, Ph.D
- Maureen Martin, Ph.D
- Emily Moon
- Hiroaki Tomita, M.D., Ph.D (Della Martin fellow)
- Ling Shao, Ph.D
- Mary Atz
- Erick Ferran
- Kevin Overman