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Fotis Asimakopoulos, MB BChir, PhD |    Principal Investigator

Fotis completed his MD/PhD at the University of Cambridge in the UK, working with Tony Green on mapping 20q deletions associated with pre-leukemias. He then spent two (in his own words, “unforgettable”) years in Jerusalem working with Dina Ben Yehuda as a Golda Meir Fellow on mechanisms underlying CML clonal evolution.


After residency at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston and oncology fellowship at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York, he joined Nobel prize laureate Harold Varmus’ group at MSK. In Harold’s lab, he began his work to generate a RAS-driven model for myeloma, a goal that eventually came to fruition several years later, with the publication of the VQ model (in collaboration with Jing Zhang’s group at UW-Madison as well as Marta Chesi and Leif Bergsagel at Mayo). 


In 2010, he became an Assistant Professor and later a tenured Associate Professor at UW-Madison. The Asimakopoulos lab moved to UCSD and sunny San Diego in 2019.

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Athanasios Papadas, MD , PhD.  |    Project Scientist

After graduating from Medical School in Greece, Thanos moved to the US to join Asimakopoulos Lab at UW Madison. He pursued his PhD in Cancer Immunology, studying the underpinnings of innate sensing of tumors from the perspective of the stromal matrix. His focus is on the interplay between extracellular matrix and tumor immune milieu, particularly dendritic cells.


Thanos is looking forward to pursuing an academic career as a physician-scientist in Hematology/Oncology working on novel immunotherapies, cellular therapies, and dendritic cell vaccines.


Outside the lab, Thanos is enjoying playing tennis, biking, surfing and listening to house music.

Yun Huang, PhD.      |    Project Scientist

Yun completed his PhD in Molecular and Cellular Biology at the University of Science and Technology of China in 2012. His PhD works focus on the mitotic machinery in cancer cells and uncover the cause and consequence of chromosome missegregation, micronuclei and aneuploidy in cancer development. 


From 2013-2022 he joined the clinical research group of Prof. Jena-Pierre Bourquin at the University Children’s hospital Zurich where he pursuit the biomedical research focusing on childhood leukemia. Collaboration with distinguished scientists and clinicians internationally, he employed cutting-edge omics methodologies and in vivo approaches to dissect critical oncogenic determinants in fatal leukemia subtypes in children, model the disease in mice and translate into new insights of therapeutics (Huang Y, et al. Cancer cell 2019; Huang Y, et al. HemaSphere 2020; Boutter J, Huang Y, et al. Oncotarget 2014. etc). 


Inspired by the current progress in immune-oncology and the pioneering work by Prof. Fotis Asimakopoulos in anti-myeloma immunotherapy, he joined Prof. Asimakopoulos’s group as a project scientist at UC San Diego since 2022. Thanks to the innovational tools and discovery pipelines developed in the lab he will model and explore the molecular pathology of relapsed / refractory disease in anti-myeloma immunotherapy with hope of translating into clinical benefits with significant worldwide impact.

In his free time, Yun likes to go on hikes, play badminton and exploring sea sports. 

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Alejandro Rizo   |    Lab Manager

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Alejandro grew up in Miami, FL to immigrant parents, where he attended Florida International University. There he received a dual bachelors in Biology and Psychology. After graduation, his strong desire for humanitarian aid led him to the Peace Corps, where he was stationed in a rural community in Ghana, West Africa. 

Alejandro moved to San Diego in 2020 and started working with UCSD. First as a sampling technician, and then as a SRA for the Karin lab, where he focused on lung inflammation in obese and aging mice. He joined the Asimakopoulos Lab with the desire to receive superb mentorship under Dr. Asimakopoulos, so that he may pursue a PhD. He hopes to explore the realms of computational immunology and AI within his PhD studies in order to satisfy a desire of pushing biology into the future. 

In the real world, Alejandro spends his time surfing, rock-climbing, weight-lifting, traveling and DnD. 


Alex Tong    |    Internal Medicine Chief Resident

Alex grew up in Dallas, Texas and attended Rhodes College in Memphis, Tennessee. Throughout undergrad, he was part of the Taosheng Chen Lab at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital where he fell in love with bench-to-bedside translational cancer research.


Alex is currently an internal medicine resident at UCSD looking forward to pursuing an academic career in hematology/oncology. He did his MD/PhD at the Case Western Reserve University Medical Scientist Training Program in Cleveland, Ohio and worked in the Alex Huang Lab investigating cellular cancer immunotherapies and using 2-photon intravital microscopy to explore the dynamics of immune cells in lymph nodes.


He joined the Asimakopoulos Lab with an interest in uncovering immunoregulatory properties of matrix proteoglycans in multiple myeloma. 

Outside of the hospital/laboratory, Alex enjoys classical music, sci-fi novels and exploring San Diego with his wife and daughter. 

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Duncan Hong    |  Undergradate Researcher

Duncan is a sophomore majoring in General Biology. His interests within the lab include getting first hand experience working with various techniques used in cancer research and in understanding how various cancer models function at a molecular level. His goals are to enroll into medical school and to take part in the fight against myeloma. 

In his free time he likes road trips, watching sports, and learning about business. 

Viena Le    |    Research Assistant

Viena is a junior undergraduate at UCSD, studying chemistry. She has joined the lab under an NCI funded program and she hopes to pursue a post graduate degree in medicine. While in the lab she hopes to expand on her experience in the field of medical research. 


Outside of her studies, her hobbies include reading, crocheting and traveling with friends. 

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Brolyn Zomalan    |    Research Assistant

Brolyn is currently a Sophomore at UCSD, majoring in Human Biology. He joined this lab to gain hands-on experience with lab work and learn about the specifics of how myeloma works. His goal after completing his undergraduate degree is to attend medical school and pursue a career in Dermatology.

In his free time, he likes to spend time with his family and friends, watch sports, and go to the gym.

UCSD Lab Alumni 

Lab Managers, UCSD



Garrett Arauz, BS

University of California, Merced

Alex Cicala, BS MD/PhD (2022-ongoing)

University of Wisconsin BS

Stony Brook University MD/PhD



Varun Bansal, PhD 

Project Scientists


Gauri Deb, PhD

UW Madison Lab Alumni (2010-19)

PhD and MD/PhD Graduate Students, UW- Madison






Athanasios Papadas, MD PhD (2021) 

Cellular and Molecular Pathology (CMP) graduate program 

AACR Scholar-In-Training Awardee 2020 

UCSD Visiting Graduate Student 2019-21

Evan Flietner, BS PhD(2022)

Cellular and Molecular Pathology (CMP) graduate program 

CMP T32 awardee 

(2019-2022, Zhang lab, UW-Madison)

Zachary Morrow, BS 

Cellular and Molecular Biology (CMB) graduate program 

NSF Graduate Research Fellow 2019-2023 

(2019-, Sauer lab, UW-Madison)

Jeff Jensen, MD PhD (2015) 

Cellular and Molecular Biology (CMB) graduate program 

UW MSTP student- UW ICTR TL1 awardee

Chelsea Hope, PhD (2016) 

Cellular and Molecular Pathology (CMP) graduate program 

UW Hematology T32 awardee; 

ASH Abstract Achievement Awardee 2012

Postdoctoral Fellow, UW- Madison


Sarbjeet Kaur Makkar, PhD

(University of Arkansas)

Rural and Urban Scholars in Community Health Program (RUSCH)


Rima Minazetdinova, UW-Platteville


Patricia Krueger, UW-Parkside 

Bianca Ruffolo, UW-Parkside 

Mohammad Raza, UW-Parkside

Shapiro Summer Research Program UW- Madison



Elena Kurudza, UW-Madison

Claire Flanagan, UW-Madison

MS graduate student, UW- Madison


Joe Ollar, MS (2014) 

Cellular and Molecular Pathology (CMP) graduate program 

Genomic Sciences T32 awardee

Lab Managers, UW-Madison



Adam Pagenkopf, BS

Ellen Hebron, BS

Clinical Residents/ Fellows, UW- Madison




Muhammad Umair Mushtaq MD

Sibgha Chaudhary MD

Sanjay Patel MD

Biology 152 Undergraduate Lab Course, UW- Madison


Tyler Graham, UW- Madison


Alex Glodowski, UW- Madison


Kimberly Gromek, UW- Madison

(Hilldale Undergraduate/ Faculty Research Fellow)


Jaye Dvorak, UW- Madison 

Alexander Cicala, UW- Madison

(Hilldale Undergraduate/ Faculty Research Fellow)

Science Research Internship program (SRI)


Samik Partha, Memorial High School, Madison 

Andrew Jiang, Memorial High School, Madison

Staff Research Associate, UCSD, Undergraduate Researcher, UW-Madison


Joshua Wiesner, UW-Madison

Senior Undergraduate Thesis program, UW-Madison


James Menting, UW-Madison 

Alexander Cicala, UW-Madison

Undergraduate Researcher, UW-Madison


Bradley Nagel, UW-Madison

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