Lab Members


Robert H. Blelloch

Robert H. Blelloch

Principal Investigator

Stem cells exist both in the developing embryo and in many organs of the adult organism. Differentiation of these cells is tightly regulated so that their progeny become increasingly specialized and lose the potential to revert or transform into other cell types. This regulation is very important both to maintain organ function and to avoid the possibility of uncontrolled cell growth, the basis of cancer. Our laboratory is interested in determining the molecular mechanisms that direct and stabilize cellular differentiation with the focus on post-transcriptional regulation and epigenetics. The goal is to control the differentiation and de-differentiation of cells in order to regenerate tissues for replacement therapies as well as develop novel means for treating cancer.

Senior Scientists

Cassandra Belair

Associate Researcher

Cassandra is currently an Associate Researcher at UCSF studying the role of microRNAs in prostate cancer progression and their use as diagnostic markers. She began studying different aspects of cancer biology after her graduation from SUNY Plattsburgh in 1990 first by working as a technician at Cornell University in the laboratory of eminent biochemist Dr. Efraim Racker. She studied the earliest steps of bladder carcinogenesis under the mentorship of Dr. Catherine Reznikoff at the University of Wisconsin Madison, where she obtained her PhD in Molecular and Cellular Toxicology. She moved on to a post-doctoral project aimed at understanding the toxicology of dioxins, a prominent pollutant in the Great Lakes waterways, on developing organisms using the zebrafish as a model under the mentorship of Drs. Warren Heideman and Richard Peterson, also at UW Madison. There she discovered the beauty of development through watching the fertilized egg morph into a fully functioning fish in just 3 days. She accepted a position as instructor/scientist in the HHMI laboratory of Dr. Leonord Zon at Harvard Children’s Hospital, Boston. While in the Zon lab, Cassandra managed the operations of the 5000 tank zebrafish facility and studied liver carcinogenesis using a cell cycle mutant that had been isolated in the lab.

Finally she moved to UCSF in 2005 as an Assistant Researcher within the Blelloch Lab. Within the lab she has many roles but her primary focus is on understanding prostate cancer progression. She established a mouse model to study the roles of microRNAs in prostate cancer by combining a recently published model of prostate cancer, the PB-cre conditional PTEN deletion model with the conditional DGCR8 deletion model established by Robert. Her more recent interests are moving into the area of prognostic biomarkers and learning the bioinformatics tools to uncover serum microRNAs that will add value to the current UCSF nomograms.

Outside of lab Cassandra volunteers in many capacities at her children's schools. With her family, she enjoys the fact that San Francisco has a climate conducive to year-round outdoor activities from hiking, biking and sailing locally to camping, hiking and skiing in the mountains.

Post-Doctoral Fellows

Brian's photo

Brian DeVeale

Post-Doctoral Fellow

I grew up a mediocre hockey player in Toronto, although in retrospect, I think advanced metrics would be kind to my contribution. I did my undergraduate studies in Life Sciences at Queen's University (Seroude lab) and then went on to do a PhD in Molecular Genetics at the University of Toronto (van der Kooy lab). For my graduate work, I studied lineage specification and genomic imprinting in early embryos. Currently I'm a postdoctoral fellow working jointly in the Laird lab. I'm interested in the consequences of cellular heterogeneity during lineage specification. My studies are supported by a CIHR fellowship (2014-17)

Carolyn Sangokoya, post-doctoral fellow

Carolyn Sangokoya

Post-Doctoral Fellow

Carolyn is a post-doctoral fellow in the Blelloch Lab and a clinical instructor and research fellow in the UCSF Pathology Physician-Scientist Program pathway. She completed her undergraduate studies at Stanford University studying Human Biology with a concentration in molecular genetics. She then went on to earn both her MD and PhD through the Medical Scientist Training Program at Duke University School of Medicine.

For her graduate work, she trained in the lab of Jen-Tsan Ashley Chi in the Duke Program for Genetics and Genomics, gaining expertise in RNA biology, genomic approaches to the discovery and functional analysis of microRNAs, and the elucidation of biological roles for microRNAs in human biology and disease. For her graduate thesis she developed methods for isolation and characterization of microRNA expression in human erythrocytes (red blood cells) and studied cellular stress response in erythrocytes in sickle cell anemia, with findings contributing to the biological basis for clinical trials for new treatments.

At UCSF, Carolyn has completed her residency and fellowship training in anatomic and surgical pathology with a focus on liver/gastrointestinal disease and has returned to the lab to focus on her interest in stem cell biology and mapping post-transcriptional RNA-binding regulatory networks in dynamic cell states, specifically within the embryonic stem cell fate transition.

Deniz Goekbuget

Post-Doctoral Fellow

Deniz grew up in Frankfurt, Germany. He studied biochemistry at Goethe University Frankfurt, performing his graduate work on biochemical and biophysical properties of Channelrhodopsin-2 at the Max-Planck Institute of Biophysics. He then joined Ueli Suter’s lab at ETH Zurich in Switzerland to obtain his Ph.D. working on the role of the microRNA pathway in myelination of peripheral nerves. In the Blelloch lab, he is focused on molecular mechanisms of transcriptional regulation of embryonic stem cell differentiation. Outside lab he enjoys being in the mountains for hiking and skiing. Deniz is a fellow of the German Research Foundation (DFG).

Mauro Poggio

Post-doctoral Fellow

Mauro joined the lab in the winter of 2017.  

Qi Fu

Post-Doctoral Fellow

Qi join the lab as a post-doctoral fellow in the summer of 2016.

Graduate Students

Amy Chen

Graduate Student - BMS

Amy was born in New York City but grew up in Vancouver, BC where she enjoyed Canadian privileges such as poutine, ketchup-flavoured chips, and cheap tuition. While studying molecular biology and biochemistry at Simon Fraser University, she performed research on alternative splicing in C. elegans and mechanisms of breast cancer drug resistance. She then ventured south of the border and enrolled in the Biomedical Sciences program at UCSF, where she is currently a graduate student in the Blelloch lab. Her work focuses on epigenetic regulation of embryonic stem cell differentiation. When not in lab, she enjoys watching TV, rock climbing, reading, practicing yoga, and baking.

Bryan Marsh

Graduate Student, DSCB

Bryan Marsh is a DSCB graduate student who joined the lab in the Summer of 2017.

Jacob Freimer

Graduate Student - DSCB Program

Jake Freimer grew up in Santa Monica, CA. He studied Bioengineering at UC Berkeley, where he became interested in stem cell biology. During his undergraduate research he studied both mammalian muscle regeneration and epigenetics in Drosophila development, which led him to join the Developmental and Stem Cell Biology graduate program at UCSF. In the Blelloch lab he studies the post-transcriptional regulation of mouse embryonic stem cell differentiation. Outside of lab he enjoys outdoor activities including: running, rock climbing, surfing, and sailing.