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Meet the Team!
not all heros wear capes, some wear lab coats


Dr. Sandra Leibel (MS, MD)

Principal Investigator

Sandra is an associate clinical professor and a practicing neonatologist. Passionate about the care of neonates in the NICU, she devotes her time outside of clinical service to research.


Fun Fact:

Kaylee Smith

Undergraduate Intern

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Dr. Rachael McVicar (PhD)

Post-doctoral scientist

Rachael is our lab's go-to person for anything. she was first an undergraduate CIRM intern and has been mentored under Sandra all the way up to graduate school. She recently obtained her PhD from Sanford Burnham Prebys!! HOORAY! Rachael is currently continuing her studies of the novel role of BPIFA1 in maintaining airway epithelium homeostasis in premature human lung development. 

Fun fact: Rachael likes to surf and skate!

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Melina Melameka (BS)

Research Associate

Melina graduated from the University of California, San Diego, with a Bachelor's in Molecular and Cell Biology. She accumulated extensive experience working within the industry before joining our team. Melina is our lab's organoid guru, skilled in everything that makes our lab go around!

Fun fact: The croissants at Bella Vista are super fluffy and yummy. 

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Kaylee is a Human Biology major and is anticipating graduating from the University of California, San Diego, this spring! Woohoo!

Kaylee is our lab's confocal microscopy master, and she is also involved in Sandra's clinical trials.

Fun fact:

Join our team!

If you are interested in becoming a lab mate, reach us via email or through our contact form.

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Emily Smith

Undergraduate Intern

Emily first joined the lab as a CIRM Bridges intern. During her internship, she studied LRRK2's function in surfactant secretion. After transferring to UCSD, she continued her research through the YES program! Emily is a Public Health major and plans on pursuing medical school upon graduating in 2025.

Fun fact: The elastic around the disposable gloves makes a good hair tie if you ever need one.

Lab Alumni
Oh, all the places you'll go~

Grace Goetz

SENS Summer Intern

Anne Bush

CIRM Bridges Intern

Elizabeth Kwong

Lab Technician

​Gailan Constantino

​CIRM Bridges Intern

Temiloluwa Ogunyamoju

SENS Summer Intern

Mohit Aspal

SENS Summer Intern

Chandler Loshbough

CIRM Bridges Intern

Matangi Kumar

SENS Summer Intern

Alicia Winquist

Lab Technician

Andres Espinoza

YES Program Intern

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