Lab members

These are the people who make up our lab.

Sohail Tavazoie
Head of Lab / Leon Hess Professor / HHMI Faculty Scholar

Sohail Tavazoie, M.D., Ph.D.
Leon Hess Professor
Head, Elizabeth and Vincent Meyer Laboratory of Systems Cancer Biology

Sohail graduated from the University of California Berkeley, completed an MD-PhD program at Harvard-MIT followed by residency training in Internal Medicine at Brigham & Women's Hospital/HMS and medical oncology and postdoctoral fellowships at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. In 2009, he was recruited to Rockefeller University as Head of the Laboratory of Systems Cancer Biology where his group studies the molecular and cellular mechanisms underlying cancer metastasis as well as the mechanisms of gene expression regulation by non-coding RNAs. In his spare time, he attends to cancer patients at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, runs after his son, and tries to do yoga.

Nneoma Adaku
Biomedical Fellow

Nneoma spent her early childhood in Bronx, NY and received her B.S. in Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology from Yale University in 2015, where she remained for a year to continue her studies on DNA repair inhibitors produced by Ecuadorian fungal endophytes. She was happy to finally return to New York City in 2016 as a member of the Tri-Institutional MD-PhD program and joined the Tavazoie Lab in 2018 with the aim of identifying new mechanisms and therapeutic targets for cancer metastasis. When not in lab she enjoys traveling, biking, soccer, bingeing TV shows, and going to concerts.

Jana Bilanovic
Visiting Student

Jana is a 3rd year biochemistry student from the University of Heidelberg in Germany. She joined the Tavazoie lab in September 2018 and is excited to work with Ben on screening to identify mediators of cancer cell resistance to LXR agonist therapy. 

When outside the lab she loves cooking, dancing and exploring the city in constant search for good coffee.


Bariş Boyraz
Postdoctoral Associate

Barış received his medical and doctoral degrees from Hacettepe University, Ankara, Turkey in 2017. During his graduate studies, he worked on telomere biology diseases and 3’end maturation of human telomerase RNA in Dr. Suneet Agarwal’s lab at Boston Children’s Hospital. He joined Tavazoie lab as a post-doctoral associate to study the regulation of tRNAs in development and disease. 

Mark Derbyshire
Research Assistant

I am originally from Upstate New York and graduated from Cornell University with a B.S. in Biology. I previously worked in the Leifer Lab studying how HHV-6A is recognized by the innate immune system. I am now assisting studying mt-tRNA localization. I enjoy powerlifting, cooking, and sailing.

Shahnoza Dusmatova
Research Assistant

Shahnoza was born and raised in Dushanbe, Tajikistan. She went to college in Washington, DC where she received her Nursing and Biology degrees. During her undergraduate studies, she investigated the role of microRNAs in human cancer metastasis in Dr. Kumar’s lab. In Tavazoie lab, she is super excited to study the potential importance of tRNAs as biomarkers of metastasis in cancer and wants to be as cool as Dr. Sohail in the future.

Jenny Gao
Research Assistant

Jenny graduated from New York University in 2018 with a bachelor’s in Biology. She started research studying the role of microRNAs in stem cell reprogramming, and in college, helped develop lineage tracing tools in C. elegans. In her free time, she enjoys traveling, hot yoga, and trying new restaurants.

Dennis Hsu
Clinical Fellow

Dennis is from the Bay Area and obtained his B.S. in Engineering Physics from the University of California, Berkeley. He traveled to the midwest for medical school at the Cleveland Clinic, completed his medicine residency at the University of Michigan, and is currently a medical oncology fellow at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. His prior research experiences have involved topics ranging from biomedical optics to studying KRAS biology in colon cancer. He joined the Tavazoie lab in 2017 to study tRNA modulations in cancer while completing his oncology fellowship. In his spare time, Dennis enjoys traveling, trying new foods, and keeping up with new technologies.

Doowon Huh
MD-PhD student

Doowon grew up in Buffalo, NY and graduated from Cornell University in 2010 with a bachelors in Chemistry and Chemical Biology. He is a Tri-Institutional MD-PhD student investigating the mechanisms of gene expression regulation by an unusual class of small-RNAs.

Ji-Young Kim
Visiting Medical Student

Born in Seoul, South Korea and raised in Germany, Ji-Young is enthusiastic to join the Tavazoie lab where he will be working on the mediators of resistance to LXR agonist therapy. He is a 6th year medical student at the University of Heidelberg, Germany. In his spare time he enjoys films, running for leisure & health and instant curry. 

Maria Liberti
Postdoctoral Fellow

Maria was born and raised in northern New Jersey. After graduating from Lafayette College in 2013 and receiving a Bachelor of Science with honors in Biology, she went on to complete her Ph.D. in Biochemistry from Cornell University and studied therapeutic targeting of the Warburg Effect in cancer in Dr. Jason Locasale’s laboratory. Maria joined the Tavazoie laboratory in 2018 for her postdoctoral training as an NCI K00 fellow and is excited to study metabolic regulation in cancer metastasis. On her free time, she enjoys traveling and trying new cuisines.

Xuhang Liu
Postdoctoral Associate

Xuhang is from Guangzhou (China), a city best known for its Cantonese cuisine and culture. After obtaining his B.S. in Biology from Peking University, Beijing, he did his Ph.D. thesis on elucidating mammalian microRNA biogenesis pathways at the University of Pennsylvania. He joined the Tavazoie laboratory in 2013 to study the roles that microRNAs and other non-coding RNAs play in cancer metastasis. 

Ryan Moy
Clinical Fellow

Ryan grew up in Southern California and received a B.S. in Molecular Biophysics and Biochemistry from Yale University. He then pursued an MD-PhD at the University of Pennsylvania, where he worked in the lab of Dr. Sara Cherry to identify novel innate immune pathways that control insect-borne viral infections. He completed an internal medicine residency at New York-Presbyterian Hospital-Cornell and is currently a medical oncology fellow at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. Ryan joined the Tavazoie lab in 2018 to elucidate mechanisms that drive colorectal and gastric cancer metastasis. In his spare time, Ryan enjoys travel, exercise and running marathons. 

Eiko Nishiuchi

Eiko was born and raised in Yokohama, Japan.  She obtained a bachelor’s degree in Chemistry from University of Washington and received her M.S. in Molecular Biology from University of California, Santa Barbara. After ~10 yrs of bench work, she joined the Tavazoie lab as a lab administrator in 2015.  She loves to explore the intricacy of human body movements and shares her own experience and practice in her yoga class.

Lisa Noble
MD-PhD Student

Lisa was born in London but raised in California. She studied Immunology and Microbial Pathogenesis at the University of California, Berkeley, and then worked at Sangamo Biosciences, helping to design therapeutics for HIV and hemophilia. She is a Helmsley Graduate Fellow.  She is excited to elucidate mechanisms of disease in breast cancer metastasis to drive therapeutic options for patients. She loves a clean bench and eats lots of kale.

Benjamin Ostendorf
Graduate Student

Benjamin received his medical degree from the University of Freiburg in Germany before becoming a resident in Internal Medicine at the Charité in Berlin. In 2015 he joined the Tavazoie lab to study the mechanisms of breast cancer metastasis and potential therapies. While not at the bench he enjoys playing the guitar and cycling New York.

Maria Passarelli
MD-PhD Student

Maria grew up on Long Island, and completed her undergraduate training in Molecular Biophysics and Biochemistry at Yale University in 2015. Maria joined the Tavazoie laboratory in 2017 as part of the Tri-I MD-PhD program, to study the role of tRNAs in cancer metastasis. In her spare time, Maria enjoys singing, baking, and skiing.

Ethan Ravetch
Clinical Scholar/Instructor in Clinical Investigation

Ethan was born and raised in New York City.  He received his B.A. in American History from the University of Pennsylvania in 2007 and discovered his interest in medicine after college while working in the Burn Unit of New York Presbyterian.  Ethan received his M.D. from SUNY Downstate in 2015 and is a General Surgery resident at Montefiore, with a special interest in surgical oncology.  In the Tavazoie lab, Ethan is studying pentraxin proteins and their role in pancreatic cancer metastasis.  In his free time, Ethan enjoys going to museums with his wife and 2-year-old son, who is very fond of Impressionism and dinosaurs.

Bernardo Tavora
Postdoctoral Fellow

Bernardo received his MSc degree from the University of Lisbon, Portugal and his Ph.D. from the University of London, UK. Joined Tavazoie lab as a postdoc and currently is the Hope Funds for Cancer Research Lucylee Chiles Research Fellow.

Kai Wessel
Visiting Medical Student

Kai is a 3rd year medical student from Münster, Germany, where he also studies Experimental Medicine. He is a fellow of Boehringer Ingelheim Fonds and the German National Academic Foundation and very excited to investigate the role of endothelial derived factors in metastatic formation and tumor immune cell recruitment. In his spare time, he likes to go for a run in Central Park and enjoys cycling in New York.

Norihiro Yamaguchi
Clinical Scholar/Instructor in Clinical Investigation

Norihiro was born, raised, and educated in Osaka, Japan.  It was the first time for him to go outside of 3 miles radius from his home in Osaka when he did clinical oncology externship at Massachusetts General Hospital under Dr. Siddhartha Mukherjee as a final year medical student.  Life is so unpredictable to see himself doing research in NY. Making a bridge from science to medicine is his task.


Claudio Alarcon
Postdoctoral Fellow: Now Assistant Professor, Dept. of Pharmacology, Yale School of Medicine

Claudio is a native of Santiago, Chile, where he obtained his B.S. in Biochemistry in the P. Catholic University of Chile. He obtained his PhD from Weill Cornell Medical College/Sloan Kettering Institute. As a postdoctoral fellow in the Tavazoie Lab, he has discovered new roles for RNA methylation in gene expression regulation as well as identified the first nuclear reader of the m6A RNA methylation mark. 

He is now Assistant Professor of Dept. of Pharmacology at Yale School of Medicine.

Juliane Bräuer
Visiting Medical Student

Juliane is a 2nd year medical student at the university of Freiburg, Germany.  She joined the lab in October 2017 as a visiting student and works with a Biomedical Fellow, Lisa Noble, on the Creatinkinase-Brain project. In her spare time Juliane enjoys reading, walking and discovering new cities. She is also interested in learning languages and learning about different cultures.

Hoang Chuong Bui Nguyen
Research Assistant: now MD-PhD student at UPenn

I came from a small, peaceful coastal city called NhaTrang in Vietnam. Discontent with the lack of infrastructure for biotechnology in Vietnam, I ventured to explore the richness and diversity of the USA. While a research assistant in the Tavazoie lab, I have discovered a new and exciting role for tRNAs in cancer progression and will be starting my MD-PhD training in the fall. 

He is now an MD-PhD student at UPenn.

Colin Buss
Research Assistant; now PhD student at Harvard/MIT

Colin graduated with a degree in Chemical Engineering from Cornell University. His interests lie largely in the overlap of engineering principles with the biomedical field, and his current research involves the regulation of melanoma metastasis. Formerly a research assistant in the Tavazoie lab, he's currently a PhD student at the Harvard-MIT Division of Health Sciences and Technology.

Lisa Fish
Postdoctoral fellow: now postdoc at UCSF

Lisa received her B.A. in biology from Scripps College.  She completed her graduate work in the Tavazoie lab and discovered a role for the Muscleblind RNA-binding protein in suppression of breast cancer progression. She has also made major contributions to the lab's studies of post-transcriptional gene expression regulation. Lisa is currently staying on in the lab as a postdoc to pursue these intriguing findings.

She is now a postdoc in the Goodarzi Lab at UCSF.

Paul Furlow
MD-PhD Student; now Surgical resident at Harvard/MGH

Paul hails from Michigan's beautiful Upper Peninsula. he received his BS in Physiology from Michigan State University and his MS in Neurobiology from Northwestern University.  Paul was aTri-Institutional MD-PhD student in the lab studying the genetic basis of breast cancer metastasis. He is currently a surgical resident at Harvard Medical School/MGH.

Hani Goodarzi
Postdoctoral Associate, now Assistant Professor in the Department of Biochemistry & Biophysics at UCSF

Hani was born and raised in Tehran (Iran), arguably one of the most crowded cities in the world. He received his B.Sc. in Biotechnology from University of Tehran and moved to Princeton University for his graduate studies. He received his Ph.D. in Molecular Biology in Nov. 2010 and he joined the Tavazoie laboratory as a postdoctoral associate in 2012. In Sohail's lab, Hani has uncovered novel roles for non-coding RNA interactions in governing cancer progression and mechanistially dissected the underlying biology. 

Nils Halberg
Postdoctoral Associate; now Group Leader at University of Bergen

Nils is originally from Holbæk, Denmark. He obtained his M.Sc. from the University of Copenhagen and his PhD from University of Texas Southwestern Medical School/University of Copenhagen. As a postdoctoral fellow in the Tavazoie Lab, Nils discovered a role for the miR-126 regulon in metastatic angiogenesis. He also implicated the phosphoinositol binding protein PITPNC1 in cancer progression and dissected its mechanism of action. Nils now heads his own lab as a Group Leader at the University of Bergen in Norway.

Hyeseung Lee
Graduate Student; now Postdoctoral Fellow at MIT

Hyeseung was born in Seoul, South Korea. She graduated from Seoul Science High School and received her B.S in Chemistry and Life Sciences from Ewha Womans University. Her graduate work in the Tavazoie lab centered around the role of the SOX4 transcription factor in driving cancer metatasis as well as the role of the m6A methylation mark in regulating non-coding RNA processing. Upon graduating, she pursued postdoctoral training at MIT.

Jia Min Loo
Graduate Student; now Research Fellow at the Genome Institute of Singapore

Jiamin completed his undergraduate work at the National University of Singapore, followed by a year as a research assistant at the Institute of Molecular and Cell Biology, Singapore. In the Tavazoie lab, he uncovered a metabolic pathway that regulates colorectal cancer metastatic colonization and provided proof-of-concept for its therapeutic targeting. Upon graduating, he returned to Singapore as a Research Postdoctoral Fellow.

Fung Ying Man
Research Assistant: now a surgeon

Fung Ying Man was born in Canada. She earned her Bachelor’s degree from McGill University and spent time in Germany and London before joining the lab as a research assistant studying colorectal cancer.  In her spare time she studied sculpting and classical piano.  After leaving the lab, Fung Ying began medical school and is pursuing residency training.  She is currently training in surgery at the Charite in Germany.

Emily Mandel
Lab Administrator; now Novelist

Emily is from British Columbia, Canada. She is a world-renowned novelist and for the first 6 years of the lab handled all of our administrative matters.

Tobias Mederer
Visiting Medical Student

Tobias is a 5th year medical student from Germany and has previously worked in the lab of Prof. Klein on single disseminated cancer cells. He is thrilled to join the Tavazoie lab and investigate the role of tumor endothelial cells in metastatic formation.  In his spare time he enjoys running, reading or the theatre.

Rohit Mital
Sarnoff Medical Student; now Internal Medicine Resident at UCSD

Rohit was a bold medical student in the lab investigating the mechanisms of colorectal cancer metastasis. He is currently in residency at UCSD.

Kristina Navrazhina
Undergraduate Research Fellow; now MD-PHD student at Cornell-Tri-I

Kristina was an undergraduate student in the lab while at the Macaulay Honors College at Hunter College majoring in Biological Sciences with minors in Chemistry and Spanish Literature. She studied mechanisms of breast cancer metastasis and published 2 papers while in the lab. Kristina is now an MD-PhD student at Weill-Cornell and enjoys traveling, ballroom dancing, learning new languages, and trying out various dessert cafes around NYC.

Alexander Nguyen
MD-PhD Student

Alexander received his undergraduate degree in Cell Biology from the University of California, Berkeley, where he studied tissue growth regulation in Drosophila. Zander completed his PhD providing novel insights regarding the molecular mechanisms that govern colorectal cancer metastasis as well as the biology underlying cancer cell diversification capacity.

He will be a GI fellow at UCLA in 2019.

Nora Pencheva
Former Graduate Student; currently postdoc at Netherlands Cancer Institute

Nora is originally from Bulgaria. She received her undergraduate degree from Kenyon College and her PhD from The Rockefeller University. As a graduate student, she made key contributions to our understanding of the regulation of melanoma metastasis by non-coding RNAs--for which she was awarded the Weintraub award. She furthermore, extended this work towards the development of a small-molecule therapeutic. She is currently a postdoctoral fellow in the Netherlands. 

Kim Png
Graduate Student; Currently Postdoc in Sidney Brenner's lab

Kim grew up in Singapore, an island city state better known for its shopping, cleanliness and food.  She moved to US after high school, where she received her B.S.E. in Biomedical Engineering from Duke University.  She joined the lab in Jan 2009 to study the cell biological mechanisms underlying breast cancer metastasis and in her free time, enjoys checking out the myriad of food options that NYC has to offer.  After graduating from the lab, Kim joined the laboratory of Nobel Prize winner Sir Sidney Brenner for postdoctoral training.

Ilana Pollack
Graduate Student

Ilana graduated from Wellesley College with a degree in Biology in 2013. Her research interests lie at the intersection of Cancer Biology and Immunology. She is interested in studying how the immune system can be modulated to inhibit cancer progression. Outside of lab, she enjoys cooking and trying new restaurants around the city!

 She's curretnly pursuing a medical degree.

Zhiji Ren
Postdoctoral Fellow

Zhiji is from the northeast region of China. He received his bachelor’s degree in biology from Nanjing University and came to the United States for his graduate study. He is fascinated with the functions of noncoding RNAs in various developmental and physiological processes. He completed his PhD work on modulators of microRNAs in Caenorhabditis elegans in University of Massachusetts Medical School (under the direction of Victor Ambros). He joined the Tavazoie laboratory in 2016 to continue pursuing his passion in studying the biology of noncoding RNAs, particularly in the context of cancer metastasis. In his spare time, he enjoys cooking, traveling, volleyball and tennis.

Jason Ross
MD-PhD Student now Intern, Internal Medicine, Abington Hospital–Jefferson Health

Jason is originally from California and obtained his B.S from Stanford University. He's currently a student in the Tri-Insitutiional MD-PhD program and is interested in the cell biology governing tumor re-initiaiton in breast cancer metastasis. In his spare time he enjoys rock climbing, running, and basketball.

Simon Ruffing
Visiting Medical Student

Simon is a medical student from the University of Münster in Germany. He joined The Tavazoie Lab to investigate the role and  mechanisms of tumor endothelial cells in metastatic dissemination. Outside the Lab Simon enjoys to do sports and to play the piano.

Mahan Sadjadi
Visiting Medical Student

Mahan is a medical student at the University of Münster (Germany) and scholar of the German National Academic Foundation. He joined the Tavazoie lab to study mechanisms of tumor-stromal interaction and identify potential regulators of metastasis.

Alexis Scherl
Clinical Postdoctoral Fellow: Currently Research Pathologist at Genentech

Alexis Scherl was a clinical visiting fellow in the lab studying colorectal cancer progression while she was a Resident in Anatomic Pathology at New York Presbyterian Hospital-Weill Cornell Medical Center. She then completed a Gastrointestinal Pathology Fellowship at Yale University. Alexis is currently a Research Pathologist at Genentech.

Caitlin Sengelaub
Graduate Student; now Healthcare/Biotech consultant at McKinsey

Caitlin Sengelaub was born and raised in Bloomington, Indiana.  She graduated cum laude from Yale University in 2010 with a B.S. in chemistry.  She has previously conducted research in chemistry at Indiana University and Yale University and research in cancer biology at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center.  Caitlin joined the Tavazoie laboratory as a graduate fellow in 2011 and investigated the molecular mechanisms underlying breast cancer metastatic progression with an emphasis on the role of phosphoinositides. She is currently a healthcare/biotech consultant at Mckinsey & Company.

Kimia Tafreshian
Visiting Medical Student

Kimia is a 5th year medical student at the Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin. She joined the Tavazoie laboratory in 2017 to investigate mechanisms of tumor growth and metastasis of breast cancer. Outside the lab she loves climbing, cooking and playing the trumpet.

Christian Tessier-Lavigne
Research Assistant

Christian grew up in California, outside of San Francisco. He graduated from Princeton University in 2013 with a bachelor’s in computer science. As a research assistant in the Tavazoie lab, he studies immune responses to cancer. Outside the lab he enjoys basketball and tennis.

Helen Tian
Research Assistant: now medical student at UMass

Helen graduated from Cornell University with a degree in biology and minor in biomedical engineering. As a research assistant, she is studying the mechanisms of cancer metastasis and seeks therapies to treat it. She enjoys exploring new places and learning about relativity and quantum theory.  

She is now a medical student at UMass.

Hien Tran
Clinical Postdoctoral Fellow: Now adjunct Professor UC Irvine, Dermatologic surgeon Kaiser Permanente

Hien Tran received his undergraduate training at Stanford and MD-PhD training at Harvard Medical School, followed by dermatology training at NYU. Hien was a clinical fellow in the Tavazoie Lab studying melanoma metastasis. He then relocated to California to accept an appointment at the University of California at Irvine.

Ethan Weinberg
Visiting Clinical Fellow, now Clinical Associate of Medicine at UPenn

Ethan is a gastroenterology fellow at New York Presbyterian Hospital-Weill Cornell Medical Center and a Clinical Scholar at Rockefeller University.  He is broadly interested in hepatology, and his current research focuses on the hepatotropism of colorectal metastases.  He graduated from Princeton University in 2003 with a degree in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology.  He received his medical degree from the University of Maryland School of Medicine in 2009 followed by Internal Medicine residency at NYPH-WCMC in 2011.

Mitsukuni Yoshida
Research Assistant; now MD-PhD student at Washington University

Mitsu grew up in Japan and moved to the U.S. for high school. After he graduated from Cornell University in 2009 and he joined the Tavazoie lab. He is currently in the MD-PhD program at the Washington University in St. Louis studying the molecular regulation of systemic aging in organs of human and mouse.

Mathias Yuan
Visiting Medical Student

Mathias is a fourth year medical student from the University of Hamburg in Germany. In 2016 he joined the Tavazoie lab to study the mechanisms of breast cancer metastasis and potential therapies in close collaboration with Benjamin Ostendorf, a postdoctoral fellow. Mathias has the vision to enhance development in Global Health.

Steven Zhang
Former Research Assistant, currently medical student at Stanford

Steven Zhang graduated cum laude in 2012 from Cornell University studying biology and government. After failing to be drafted by the Los Angeles Lakers, he decided to join the Tavazoie Lab as a research assistant as the next best thing. After publishing a paper in Nature on the role of structural RNAs in the regulation of cancer progression, he pursued medical school training at Stanford.