Our Researchers

Bárbara de la Peña Avalos, PhD

Position: Postdoctoral Fellow
Email: delapenaaval@uthscsa.edu

Bárbara earned her Bachelor of Science degree in biochemistry and microbiology from Universidad del Valle, Guatemala in 2009 and Master of Science degree in molecular and cell/cellular biology in 2014 under the guidance of Dr. Manuel Navarro, working on the characterization of ERAS, a putative novel human oncogene, in skin and breast at Universidad Autónoma de Madrid, Spain. In 2015, she started her Ph.D. work in Dr. Dray’s laboratory, at the Translational Research Institute/Queensland University of Technology, in Brisbane, Australia. There, she studied the role of the protein phosphatase EYA4 in preventing genomic instability and breast cancer development, with the support of the Princess Alexandra Research Foundation. She completed her Ph.D. in 2018 and joined Dr. Sung’s Laboratory in January 2019, where she is focusing her research efforts on studying new breast cancer genes to establish their role in DNA damage repair, maintenance of genomic stability, and carcinogenesis. Outside the lab, Barbara enjoys outdoor activities: hiking, playing soccer, and kickboxing.


Arijit Dutta, PhD

Position: Postdoctoral Fellow
Email: duttaa1@uthscsa.edu

Arijit graduated from University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston, TX with a Ph.D. in biochemistry and molecular biology. In his doctoral research with Sankar Mitra, his studies revealed the molecular mechanisms of error-prone DNA repair pathway, microhomology mediated end joining (MMEJ). Arijit joined Dr. Sung’s Lab in early 2017 at Yale University and has been working on understanding the mechanisms of R-loop resolution and the role of RNA in DNA double strand break repair in human cells. With a comprehensive skillset encompassing protein purification, biochemical reconstitution assays, cell-based assays and high-resolution microscopy, Arijit aims to answer some underlying biomolecular mechanisms associated with cancer and neurodegenerative diseases. Arijit is from Durgapur, a city in West Bengal, India. He loves traveling, painting and classical music.

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Yuxin Huang

Position: Postdoctoral Fellow
Email: huangy9@uthscsa.edu

Yuxin obtained her Ph.D. in medical biochemistry and molecular biology from Peking University Health Science Center, focusing on the biochemical and structural characterization of PDZ domain-containing scaffold proteins INAD/INADL and their binding partners. She joined the Sung lab in 2019, where she will work on Fanconi anemia and homologous recombination pathways. Apart from work, she loves jogging and music.


Ajinkya Kawale, PhD

Position: Postdoctoral Fellow
Email: kawale@uthscsa.edu

Ajinkya completed his B.Tech. in Biotechnology from Mumbai, India before moving to the United States to attend graduate school. He received a Masters in Molecular Biology and Genetics in 2015 and then went on to get a Ph.D. in Pharmacology and Toxicology working with Dr. Lawrence Povirk at Virginia Commonwealth University, where he investigated the mechanisms by which DNA double-strand breaks with blocked ends are processed via the Non-Homologous End Joining (NHEJ) repair pathway. He is interested in understanding how cells make a choice between the different DSB repair pathways and is currently working on deciphering the mechanisms by which the newly identified Shieldin complex inhibits DNA end resection and thereby regulates DSB repair pathway choice. Ajinkya is an ardent sports enthusiast and loves playing cricket, badminton, and soccer. He is currently supported by a CPRIT Postdoctoral Fellowship.

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Cody Rogers, PhD

Position: Postdoctoral Fellow
Email: rogersc4@uthscsa.edu

Cody grew up in Michigan where he obtained a B.S. in biomedical sciences from Grand Valley State University. He received a Ph.D. in biochemistry from Indiana University in Matt Bochman’s lab where he worked on the role of RecQ4 helicases in maintaining genome integrity, with emphasis on the role of the yeast RecQ4 helicase in DNA inter-strand crosslink repair. Cody joined Dr. Sung’s group in 2019 as a postdoctoral fellow to investigate the roles of BRCA and BRCA-associated proteins in homology directed DNA repair. Outside of the lab, Cody can usually be found sampling the local breweries.


Sameer Salunkhe, PhD

Position: Postdoctoral Fellow
Email: salunkhe@uthscsa.edu

Sameer obtained his Ph.D. degree from ACTREC Navi Mumbai India in 2018. In his Ph.D. he worked on the cell biology of drug-resistant leukemia cells and identified the contribution of DNA repair mechanisms on the acquisition of acquired drug resistance. He joined Dr. Sung’s lab in October 2018 at Yale university and moved to University Health Science Center at San Antonio. His broad research interest lies in exploring the regulation of DNA double-strand break repair pathway of choice. He is involved in interrogating the multiple facets of DNA end resection with a major focus on 53BP1-RIF1 and BRCA1-BARD1 antagonism.

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Francisco Neal

Position: Graduate Student
Email: nealf@livemail.uthscsa.edu

Francisco earned his B.A. from Austin College with a major in molecular biology and a minor in music. While at Austin College, he studied the role of calcium and galactose-responsive transcription factors in modulating the expression of glycogen phosphorylase. During the summers of 2015 and 2016, Francisco worked at UT Southwestern as part of the Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship. His work at UT Southwestern focused on determining the effects of cyclin-dependent kinase inhibition on DNA double-strand break repair in cancer cells. After completing his undergraduate studies, Francisco started in the Medical Scientist Training Program at UT Health San Antonio. Francisco’s Ph.D. project aims to further elucidate the DNA binding activity of BRCA2 and its role in mediating homology-directed DNA repair (HDR). Additional work will seek to uncover the role of the RAD51 paralogs in orchestrating HDR.


Eva Galvan

Position: Intern
Email: galvane@uthscsa.edu

Eva Galvan, M.D. is currently a fifth-year radiation oncology resident at the UT Health MD Anderson Mays Cancer Center. Originally from Houston, she attended Yale University and double-majored in molecular, cellular, and developmental biology and in history of science and medicine. For medical school, she returned to Texas to attend the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio. She then decided to stay in town for a general surgery intern year and residency training in radiation oncology. She has conducted both clinical and basic lab research over the last 12+ years. She has published clinical research in the fields of both radiology and radiation oncology. In the lab, through college and medical school, she participated in DNA methylation research and immunology/cytokine research. Currently, she is working in the Dr. Sung’s lab investigating novel tumor suppressors and oncogenes and characterizing their function in DNA damage repair.


John Cavaretta

Position: Research Associate
Email: cavaretta@uthscsa.edu

John was born and raised in Buffalo, New York. He obtained his B.S. in neuroscience from the University of Pittsburgh before moving to Portland, Oregon, where he worked in Dr. Judy Cameron’s lab at the Oregon National Primate Research Center performing observational studies on the largest intact troop of Japanese Macaques in the U.S.  John returned to Pittsburgh after marrying his wife, Melissa, and worked initially in Dr. German Barrioneuvo’s lab studying learning and memory in CA3 hippocampal neurons before moving to Dr. Janet Lee’s lab at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, where he focused on performing radio-ligand assays and morphometric analysis of emphysema induced tissue damage in the lungs.  In 2011, John moved to the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign while his wife attended veterinary school and worked in Dr. Hee Jung Chung’s lab, studying the mechanisms underlying targeted axonal surface expression of voltage-gated potassium channels related to Epilepsy. After his wife finished veterinary school, they moved to Las Cruces, New Mexico, where John joined Dr. Amanda Ashley’s lab at N.M.S.U. and worked on the mechanisms underlying DNA damage repair in triple negative breast cancer.  He joined Dr. Sung’s lab in August of 2019.  John enjoys spending time with his family, playing tennis, and is a hobbyist machinist.


Zhuoling He

Position: Research Technician−Associate
Email: hez@uthscsa.edu

Zhuoling graduated recently with bachelor’s degree in biochemistry and has an interest in double-stranded DNA repair pathways. She joined Dr. Sung’s laboratory as a research technician in August of 2019, and is aiming to get a Ph.D. degree in the future.


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