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  • 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
    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 natural 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 recently developed 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.

  •  James Hall, Ph.D.

    James Hall, Ph.D.

    Assistant Project Scientist

    Dr. James Hall is an Assistant Project Scientist interested in elucidating the mechanisms underlying the interactions between genomes, environment, and phenotypes in high altitude populations. His research focuses on the importance of the integration of multidisciplinary research to elucidate the mechanisms of complex systems. He received a PhD in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology in 2014 from UC Riverside while working in the laboratory of Dr. Russ Hille on the structure and function of molybdenum-containing enzymes. Dr. Hall was then recruited to UC San Diego in 2015 as a postdoctoral scholar and UC San Diego Institutional Research and Academic Career Development Award (IRACDA) Fellow in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry working within the laboratory of Dr. Susan Taylor on multimolecular signaling complexes containing protein kinase A (PKA). In 2020 he joined the lab of Dr. Simonson where he has been actively involved in research regarding structural biochemistry and understanding the functional roles of hypoxia-adaptive genetic variants identified through whole-genome sequence analyses.

  • 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.

  • Wanjun Gu

    Wanjun Gu

    Research Data Analyst

    Wanjun graduated from UC San Diego with majors in Chemical Engineering and Economics. He is interested in hypoxia physiology and population genomics. He is currently doing genomic, transcriptomic, and metabolomic analysis on Tibetans, Han Chinese, and Andeans.

  • Elijah Lawrence

    Elijah Lawrence

    Postgraduate Research Assistant

    Eli graduated cum laude from UCSD with a BS in Biochemistry and Cellular Biology. With his interests vested in molecular biology and human physiology, he has dedicated his college career to research and clinical work. He has been a part of the Simonson Lab for over four years and plans to continue his research in a clinical context as he pursues admittance into a variety of MD/Ph.D. programs. His ultimate goal is to contribute to the world of healthcare through both the study and practice of medicine as both a physician and a scientist.

  • 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.

  • Caroline Gaeta

    Caroline Gaeta

    Graduate Research Assistant

    Caroline graduated from UC San Diego (UCSD) in 2020 with a major in Human Biology. She is currently a Biology Master’s student in the BS/MS Program at UCSD. Her research focuses on hypoxia, Chronic Mountain Sickness, and epigenetics modifications such as DNA methylation. After graduating from her Master’s program, Caroline plans to apply for dental school in the hopes of becoming an orthodontist in the future. Outside of academia, Caroline enjoys baking, traveling, and spending time with her cat and two dogs.

  • 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.

  • Zhijian Zhang

    Zhijian Zhang

    Graduate Research Assistant

    Jack is interested in both the biological and computational components of cellular hypoxia as well as adaptations in genomics of high altitude populations and how these physiological and genetic changes affect their lives. In addition, he hopes to learn more about how current bioinformatics tools can contribute to the discovery of new knowledge in regards to cellular hypoxia. Outside of lab and classes, he enjoys playing the cello.

  • Jennifer Reeves

    Jennifer Reeves

    Undergraduate Research Assistant

    Jennifer is a Human Biology major interested in physiological and genetic aspects of hypoxia with a focus on recurring biological pathways and how certain mutations induce phenotypic variation in high altitude populations. Outside of academia and personal endeavors, she enjoys cooking, boxing, and traveling.

  • Marco Bauk

    Marco Bauk

    Undergraduate Research Assistant

    Marco is a fourth-year Human Biology major interested in the physiological responses to hypoxia in high-altitude populations. He is narrowing his focus on whether certain functional variants of endothelin receptor genes are associated with specific medical conditions in Andean populations. Marco occupies his free time with water polo, ship restoration on the USS Midway, and sailing.

  • Jeevan Singh

    Jeevan Singh

    Undergraduate Research Assistant

    Jeevan is a third-year Human Biology major with a minor in Chemistry. He is interested in investigating the body’s response to hypoxia at the molecular level and understanding how variation between populations can be used to advance precision medicine. His current research focuses on investigating functional variants of genes related to the Andean response to hypoxia using gene-editing technology. Outside the lab, Jeevan is a safety officer for the UCSD club lacrosse team and a member of AED. After graduating from UCSD, he plans to attend medical school. A San Diego native, Jeevan enjoys spending his free time playing lacrosse, mountain biking, and surfing.

  • Santiago Fassardi

    Santiago Fassardi

    4th Year Undergraduate Research Assistant

    Sago is a 4th-year Molecular Biology major. He is interested in studying the relationship between cancer and hypoxia in high-altitude populations at the genome and transcriptome levels. Outside of the lab, Sago enjoys reading about history, playing basketball, and walks on the beach.

  • Maianh Phan

    Maianh Phan

    Undergraduate Research Assistant

    Maianh is a 4th-year Physiology and Neuroscience major interested in the comparative physiology of high altitude hypoxia. She is currently investigating the effects of hypoxia on Tibetan sheep and its relation with hypoxic effects on humans. After graduating, she will be in pursuit of obtaining a master's degree through UCSD’s BS/MS program and later planning on applying to medical school. Aside from academics, she enjoys spending time with her two dogs and is a proud member of the UCSD Kendo Team.

  • Andrew Lin

    Andrew Lin

    Undergraduate Research Assistant

    Andrew is a second-year student 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

  • Macho


  • Phoebe & Dudley

    Phoebe & Dudley

  • Kiyomi


  • Milou & Toto

    Milou & Toto

  • Cookie


Lab Alumni

Postdoctoral Fellows

  • Erica Heinrich, PhD
  • Michael Tift, PhD
  • Pablo Catalan Serra, MD

Postgraduate Students

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

Medical Students

  • Lu Wu
  • Jeremy Sieker 


  • Christina Blaul
  • Matea Djokic
  • Gigi Yip
  • Sama Alpatty
  • Dean Tan
  • Kevin Lin
  • Chetan Potu
  • Madison Calder
  • Anh Bui

High SchoolStudents

  • Catie Boehmer
  • Sarah Espinoza
  • Ian Xu