Graduate Program in

Mathematical, Computational & Systems Biology

1st-Year MCSB Students

Caroline Cannistra

Univ of Washington

Hi! I’m Caroline Cannistra (she/her) from Redmond, Washington in the US. I majored in bioengineering and applied math at the University of Washington and graduated in 2017. Ever since I started in research, I’ve always been fascinated by biological models and the interplay between theory and experiments. I started by modeling how social behaviors affect population dynamics in structured yeast populations. Since then, I’ve also worked in agent-based tissue modeling, synthetic biology, statistical analysis of clinical -omics and imaging data, and inferring ecological interactions from time series data. I’m coming to UCI to learn more about how theory and experiments influence each other, and to practice conducting model-informed research that benefits other scientists and the world at large. In my free time, I love to knit, teach kids about recreational mathematics, and hang out with my pet tortoise.


Abbey Keegan

Penn State University

Hi everyone, my name is Abbey! I was raised in Westerly, Rhode Island, and spent the last four years at Penn State. There, I received a B.S. in Biology and a minor in Mathematics. I researched neuroscience under the guidance of Dr. Yingwei Mao for two and a half years. In his lab, I studied Rbm8a and the EJC; we utilized a conditional knockout model to investigate its effects. Specifically, I implemented immunofluorescence imaging and statistical analysis to observe astrocyte distribution and formation in experimental mice. In the future, I hope to continue to view behavioral neuroscience with a computational lens and move toward applications in public health. Outside the classroom, you can find me in the kitchen cooking, at the beach swimming, or at home watching college football.

Arvind Krishnan

Univ of Chicago

Hi everyone! I’m Arvind. I grew up in Sacramento, CA and graduated from the University of Chicago with a B.S. in Molecular Engineering. My research background is in the computational modeling of cardiomyocyte action potentials, as well as in using data driven methods to provide insights into breast cancer and cardiometabolic disease. I am interested in the research and development of precision medicine tools using mathematical modeling, bioinformatics, and machine learning. In my free time, I like to watch football, read books, and spend time with family and friends.


Ren Li

Wuhan University of Technology

Hi, my name is Ren Li, and I’m from Zhengzhou City, China. I obtained my master’s degree at University of Chinese Academy of Sciences and bachelor degree at Wuhan Universality of Technology majoring in computer science. My previous research includes developing mathematical models and computational algorithms to analyze biological data, especially biological graph/network data. I’m interested in utilizing graph or network methods to explore the ubiquitous interconnected systems and complicated phenomena in biology area, like gene regulatory networks, protein interaction networks, cell communication networks, etc. Outside of academics, I like listening to music and enjoying delicious food.

Austin Marcus

Penn State University

I majored in Computer Science, with minors in Physics and Philosophy, at Penn State University, and just graduated from Binghamton University with an MS in Systems Science. I'd like to understand in a general way the range of organized motion that life can take on, and how that is a function of its chemistry and physical structure. I used my masters thesis to begin to explore these questions and sharpen my focus. To do so, I created a simple collective motion model representing physical particles, and explored measurements of how organized their arrangement was under different interaction forces. Now that my interests and overall question are sharper, I am interested in learning about the specific ways in which biological systems produce their organization. Tentatively, I am thinking of focusing on protein machines and how they exploit mechanical and chemical properties. I hope to develop mathematical and computational models that explain how life organizes at different scales.

Parker, Dylan

Dylan Parker

Univ of Florida

Hi, my name is Dylan. I’m from Davie, Florida, and I graduated from the University of Florida with a bachelor’s in biology. I worked for two years at a QSAR model development company, where I helped create models that use chemical structure to predict various types of toxicity, such as skin sensitization and carcinogenicity, for medical device and drug development companies. My interests are still broad but include computational modeling, molecular biology, organic chemistry, and quantum mechanics. In my spare time I like to play music, ride my bike, and hike.

Kyla Pierce

UC Santa Barbara

Hello! My name is Kyla and I grew up in Lake Tahoe, California. I completed my BS in Biological Sciences at University of California, Santa Barbara. As an undergraduate I investigated the nutrient dynamics of reef systems and analyzed giant sea bass interactions along the California coast. Most recently I have been working at C16 Biosciences to develop a sustainable alternative to palm oil using precision fermentation. Looking forward, I am largely interested in synthetic biology, particularly in protein engineering, strain engineering tool development, and metabolic network modeling. Outside of the lab I enjoy backpacking, surfing, and attending concerts.


Luke Pierik

Univ of Southern California

My name is Luke Pierik, and I’ve just returned to California after completing a Master’s degree from the University of St Andrews in Scotland. Before moving to Europe, I completed my undergraduate degree at the University of Southern California (USC) studying Applied Mathematics and Physics. My research background includes studying quorum sensing at a USC biophysics lab and developing criteria for efficient cancer treatment at the Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa, FL. I am eager to work on projects in theoretical/mathematical biology, evolutionary disease dynamics and philosophy of science at UCI. Beyond academics, I love visiting new restaurants, reading classic literature, and supporting STEM outreach.


Luis Solano

UC San Diego 

Hello! My name is Luis and I’m from Los Angeles, CA. During my undergraduate studies at UC San Diego, I performed neurodevelopmental research while I double majored in General Biology and Cognitive Science. After graduating, I spent 6 years working in the California biotechnology industry where I helped to develop and validate clinically focused NGS and qPCR assays. I then resumed my education at CSU Fullerton where my Master’s thesis studied the human cellular stress response via the computational integration and analyses of human gene expression (RNA-Seq) and lipid metabolism (lipid mass spectrometry) datasets. My primary research interests revolve around experimental designs which leverage multi-omics approaches, particularly those with potential for clinical applications. Relatedly, I’m interested in building tools that optimize the integration and functional enrichment steps of these experiments via deep learning approaches. In my spare time, I like to cook, explore new music, swim, run, and scuba dive. I also enjoy nerding out playing video games and Magic, the Gathering.


Rany Tith

UC Riverside

Hello everyone, my name is Rany Tith. I got my BS in Pure Mathematics with a minor in Computer Science at UC Riverside.  I have general interests in multi-scale computational/mathematical modelling and AI/ML from the foundations perspective.  In general my interests are mixed between applying abstract math, computer science towards complex systems modeling.  Outside of research, in my free time I like to read, try new coffee places, and go to the gym.


Qingyuan Xia

Zhejiang University

Hello! My name is Qingyuan Xia. I’m originally from Shanghai in China. Then I received a B.A. in biomedical sciences at Zhejiang University from Hangzhou, another beautiful city in China. I worked in the lab at Zhejiang University for three years focusing on transcriptomic profiling of the brain areas in neurodevelopmental diseases. My research interest lies in how to apply high-throughput techniques (like multi-omics) to find out promising molecular targets for disease therapies. Outside of school my hobbies include enjoying delicious food, watching movies, traveling.


Zhishun Yang

Qingdao University

Hi! I'm Zhishun, and I come from Yantai, a coastal city in China. I completed my bachelor's degree at Qingdao University, and I just received my master degree in statistics at UC Irvine. While I was at UCI last summer, I investigated gene differential expression alongside Dr. Zhaoxia Yu. Now, I'm eager to apply my statistical expertise and machine learning techniques to the exciting fields of genomics, computational modeling, and clinical trials and drug studies. Outside of school, I have a passion for photography and swimming.

Jacy Zanussi

Middle Tennessee State University

Hello! My name is Jacy. I was born in northern California near the Bay Area but lived in Franklin, Tennessee for 20 years, about 30 minutes south of Nashville. I earned my MS and BS in math as well as my BA in philosophy from Middle Tennessee State University. After graduating, I worked on precision medicine, genomics, and epidemiology for three and a half years split between Vanderbilt University Medical Center and the University of Miami. My research interests are broad but center around the theme of dynamics, networks, and data analysis in biological disciplines, including neuroscience and developmental biology. In my free time, I play video games, listen to music, take walks, try new food, and watch TV.


Madi Tezlaff

Univ of Minnesota, Twin Cities

Hello! I am Madi Tetzlaff (she/her), a UCI MSTP student as of August 2021, and a UCI MCSB graduate student as of August 2023. Prior to moving to UCI, I completed my B.S. in Neuroscience and Genetics, Cell Development and Biology with a minor in Philosophy at the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities. I then spent a year working on neural circuits and epilepsy, continuing on in the Krook-Magnuson Lab where I had completed my undergraduate honors thesis. I joined the Baram Lab and began using spatial transcriptomics to study the molecular mechanisms underpinning early life adversity in 2023. In my spare time, I enjoy spending time with my partner and our dog, Milkweed, as well as reading, lifting, and hiking.