Skip to main content


  • Tatum Simonson, Ph.D.

    Tatum Simonson, Ph.D.

    Associate Professor and John B. West Endowed Chair in Respiratory Physiology
    Division of Pulmonary, Critical Care, and Sleep Medicine, UC San Diego School of Medicine

    Founder and Co-Director, Center for Physiological Genomics of Low Oxygen

    National Geographic Explorer

    Principal Investigator

    Dr. Simonson applies integrative physiological genomics approaches to understand systems-level responses to environmental stress in diverse populations. Her research provides evidence for genetic adaptations to high altitude and associations among these factors, molecular functions, and physiological traits. In addition to her research in the highlands of Tibet and Peru, her team studies individual variation in human responses to environmental challenges and aims to understand the contributions of genetic and epigenetic factors to variation in hypoxia-related disease states (e.g., altitude illness, sleep apnea, and cardiometabolic diseases). These and related interdisciplinary efforts are coordinated through the Center for Physiological Genomics of Low Oxygen at UC San Diego.

  • Esteban Moya, Ph.D.

    Esteban Moya, Ph.D.

    Project Scientist

    Esteban is a Project Scientist interested in physiological responses to hypoxia in animal models and human populations living at high altitudes. He obtained his Ph.D. in Physiological Sciences at the P. Universidad Católica de Chile studying the carotid body, cardiorespiratory, and oxidative responses in an animal model of obstructive sleep apnea. Currently, his interests include understanding the consequences of sustained hypoxia on the neuroplasticity occurring in the neurons and glial cells of the brainstem areas that control the ventilation in rodents. As well as the genetic and physiological basis for the control of breathing in human populations living at high altitudes.

  • Ana Sánchez-Azofra, M.D.

    Ana Sánchez-Azofra, M.D.

    Postdoctoral Research Fellow

    Dr. Sánchez-Azofra is a Research Fellow at UC San Diego. The aim of her current Fellowship is to further deepen our knowledge of the physiological consequences of the superposition of intermittent and sustained hypoxia in animal and human models. Ana completed her training as a medical doctor at the University of the Basque Country in Spain, and her fellowship as a pulmonologist and sleep doctor in the Autonomous University of Madrid, Spain. In 2020, Dr. Sánchez-Azofra was granted an award by the prestigious Alfonso Martin Escudero Foundation to participate with the laboratory of Prof. Malhotra, who has a close collaboration with Prof. Simonson. Her research with Prof. Malhotra and Prof. Simonson aims to determine new biomarkers of inflammation, oxidative stress, metabolomics, and transcriptomics in patients with the COPD-OSA overlap syndrome.

  • Katie A. O’Brien, Ph.D.

    Katie A. O’Brien, Ph.D.

    Marie Skłodowska-Curie Global Research Fellow

    Katie is a Marie Skłodowska-Curie Global Research Fellow based between the University of Cambridge and UCSD. The aim of her current Fellowship is to characterise the high-altitude metabolic phenotype driven by unique Andean genetics. She completed her doctorate in 2017 on metabolic profile changes and effects of dietary nitrate supplementation in hypoxia at King’s College London under the supervision of Prof. Stephen Harridge. During this time, she was a scientific investigator on the Xtreme Everest 2 research expedition. Following this, she worked as a postdoctoral researcher investigating drug induced mitochondrial toxicity in the context of hypoxia in the group of Dr Andrew Murray at the University of Cambridge and in collaboration with GlaxoSmithKline and AstraZeneca.

  • James J. Yu

    James J. Yu

    Ph.D. Student, Biomedical Sciences Graduate Program

    James is a PhD student interested in identifying genetic, metabolic, and physiological variation in high-altitude populations that are adaptive in hypoxic (both chronic and intermittent) environments. He is interested in utilizing techniques and tools such as CRISPR, metabolomics, and hypoxic ventilatory response to investigate variation within these populations. He graduated from Duke University in 2016 and serves as a Medevac pilot and Platoon Leader in the Army Reserves. In his free time, he enjoys rock climbing and surfing.

  • Mitchell Kong

    Mitchell Kong

    Ph.D. Student, Department of Bioengineering 

    Mitchell is a Ph.D. student interested in identifying genetic mutations found in populations living in extreme conditions and linking those mutations to adaptive phenotypes. He seeks to apply engineering techniques to develop ways to maintain biological function despite environmental stress. Mitchell graduated from UC San Diego in 2020 with a B.S. in Bioengineering.

  • Mikael Fakhoury

    Mikael Fakhoury

    Graduate Research Assistant

    Mikael is a Biology Masters student and graduated in 2020 as a Human Biology major. He is interested in studying the inflammatory response involved in Chronic Mountain Sickness and intermittent hypoxia. After he obtains his Master’s in Biology, Mikael plans to continue onto medical school. Outside of academia, Mikael is an advisor for Global Medical Training at UC San Diego and enjoys helping the less fortunate in his community and abroad. His interests include hiking, rock climbing, and overall adventure. During the pandemic, he has focused on working out, reading, and overall self-care.

  • Santiago Fassardi

    Santiago Fassardi

    4th Year Undergraduate Research Assistant

    Sago is a Masters student in Biology. He is interested in studying the relationship between functional genetic variations and hypoxia adaptation in high-altitude populations. Outside of the lab, Sago enjoys reading about history, playing basketball, and walks on the beach.

  • Andrew Lin

    Andrew Lin

    Undergraduate Research Assistant

    Andrew is majoring in Human Biology and minoring in Math. He is interested in the different physiological responses to hypoxia across populations/living conditions and is currently exploring the field before focusing on a specific area of study. His passions include hugging his dog (Ollie), cooking, and working out.

Lab Support

  • Phoebe & Dudley

    Phoebe & Dudley

  • Cookie


Lab Alumni

Visiting Scholars

  • François Billaut, PhD

Postdoctoral Fellows

  • Erica Heinrich, PhD
  • Michael Tift, PhD
  • Pablo Catalan Serra, MD
  • Ana Sánchez-Azofra, MD
  • Katie O'Brien, PhD
  • James Hall, PhD

Postgraduate Students

  • Robby Boparai
  • Jason Pan
  • Chang Han
  • William Wegeng
  • Adam Zhao

Medical Students

  • Lu Wu
  • Jeremy Sieker 

Undergraduate Students

  • Christina Blaul
  • Matea Djokic
  • Gigi Yip
  • Sama Alpatty
  • Dean Tan
  • Kevin Lin
  • Chetan Potu
  • Madison Calder
  • Anh Bui
  • Elijah Lawrence
  • Wanjun Gu
  • Zhijian Zhang
  • Jennifer Reeves
  • Jeevan Singh
  • Marco Bauk
  • Sylas Eckhart
  • Nola Yinuo Xu
  • Jung Liew

High School Students

  • Catie Boehmer
  • Sarah Espinoza
  • Ian Xu
  • Naaz Fazeli
  • Christopher Ceballos