Adjunct Professor

Robert Rickert, PhD

Robert Rickert earned his Ph.D. in Immunology from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill in 1992. He trained as a postdoctoral fellow at The Institute for Genetics in Cologne, Germany. In 1997, Dr. Rickert was appointed as an Assistant Professor in the Division of Biological Science at the University of California, San Diego. In 2004, Dr. Rickert was recruited to Sanford Burnham Prebys Medical Discovery Institute as an Associate Professor. He served as Professor and Director of the Tumor Microenvironment and Cancer Immunology Program, Associate Dean, and Director of Academic Affairs until being recruited to Pfizer in 2017. At Pfizer, he is the SVP and Chief Scientific Officer for Cancer Immunology Discovery, Pfizer Oncology R&D.

Principal Investigator

John Apgar, PhD

JA_150wJohn Apgar earned his Ph.D. in the Department of Microbiology and Immunology at Duke University in 1982. After a postdoctoral fellowship at Harvard Medical School, he became an Assistant Professor at the Medical Biology Institute in 1986. He later joined the faculty at Scripps Research Institute in the Department of Molecular and Experimental Medicine in 1992. After working as a Senior Scientist at BD from 2001-2012, he joined Dr. Rickert’s group at Sanford Burnham Prebys Medical Discovery Institute in 2012 where he is a Research Assistant Professor.

Research Personnel

Daniel Balsells

DanielDaniel earned his Bachelor’s degree in Neuroscience at University of California, Riverside. He is now learning Immunology by helping out the students and postdocs with their projects. He also makes sure that the lab is well supplied and well fed.


Cindi Chen

CC_150w Cindi earned her Master’s degree at UCSD. She studies B cell tolerance in the gut associated lymphoid tissues using a new mouse model developed in the lab.




Charlotte Leung, MS

CL_150wCharlotte is the lab manager. She earned her master’s in genetics at Newcastle University studying cardiac development in the zebrafish. She is now learning to be an immunologist while keeping the mice and postdocs in line.




Postdoctoral Researchers

Jesus Banuelos, PhD

Jesus earned is Ph.D. in 2016 from Northwestern University studying the role of glucocorticoids in regulating the functions of helper T cells. The current focus of his work is further understanding the role of NF-κB and cytokine signaling pathways in regulating germinal center B cell differentiation.


Elaine Kao Heatherington, PhD

Elaine earned her Ph.D. in 2015 from University of California, San Diego, studying the role of interferon-inducible genes in DNA damage. The current focus of her work is to understand how alterations in B cell activation lead to autoimmunity.


Parham Ramezani-Rad, PhD

PR_150wParham completed his graduate work at Childrens Hospital Los Angeles, studying the malignant transformation of early B cells. The current focus of his research is on the biology and genetics of cell cycle regulation in peripheral B cells. The significance of the research lies in its potential to yield fundamental insight into the regulation and function of cyclins in B cells, and the generation of pre-clinical models to address the etiology and treatment of B cell malignancies.


Ashima Shukla, PhD

Ashima completed her Ph.D. at the University of Nebraska Medical Center. Her graduate work focused on understanding the regulation of B cell receptor signaling in malignant B cells. She is currently learning B cell biology and understanding the role of B cell tolerance in gut associated lymphoid tissues (GALT). She is also interested in elucidating the role of different B cell receptor isotypes in lymphomagenesis.


Zilu Zhu, PhD

ZZ_150wZilu obtained his Ph.D. at the Univ. of Alabama-Birmingham and leads studies in two research areas: (1) To investigate the roles of Foxo1 in normal and transformed B cells. (2) To characterize the roles of the High-mobility group box (HMGB) proteins in B cell development and activation.



Graduate Students

Numana Bhat

Numana completed her bachelor’s in General Science, and a master’s degree in Clinical Biochemistry at the University of Kashmir, India. For her PhD project, she is interested in elucidating the signaling pathways that drive B-cell differentiation in the germinal center.



Undergraduate Students

Miguel Galvin

Miguel is currently pursuing his Bachelors of Science degree in Molecular Biology at the University of California, San Diego. He is the founder and director of the UCSD dance team. As a lab assistant, he helps keep the lab in great condition through constant maintenance and support.

Winston Lee

Winston is currently pursuing her Bachelors of Science degree in Biochemistry and Cell Biology at the University of California, San Diego. In his free time he enjoys graphic design and martial arts. As a lab assistant, he helps keep the lab in great condition through constant maintenance and support.


V_150wVesper completed her early training at the Helen Woodward Animal Center and is now pursuing her Docterate Dogterate. Her main focus of study is Narcolepsy – from which she also suffers. In her free time, she appreciates some friendly petting and going on long walks at the beach. Woof.



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