Heather Christofk
Assistant Professor, Institute for Molecular Medicine
Molecular & Medical Pharmacology

Heather grew up in San Diego and received her BS in Molecular, Cell, and Developmental Biology from UCLA and her PhD in Cell and Developmental Biology from Harvard University.  At Harvard, Heather was a graduate student in Lew Cantley's lab and discovered an important role for pyruvate kinase M2 in cancer metabolism and tumor growth.  She also elucidated a novel regulatory mechanism by which tyrosine kinase signaling pathways directly impact on metabolism.  Heather did her postdoc work in Frank McCormick's lab at UCSF where she studied additional mechanisms of cancer metabolism regulation.  In 2008, she returned to southern California and joined the faculty at UCLA.  Outside of the lab, Heather is a huge fan of UCLA basketball and the Boston Red Sox.  She enjoys painting, playing the piano, and spending time with her
family and golden retriever puppy, Theo. 

Postdoctoral Fellows

Minh is a life-long Bruin.  He received his B.S. in the department of Physiological Sciences at UCLA, and stayed on to complete his doctoral work in the department of Biological Chemistry.  There, he worked under the guidance of Dr. John Colicelli to study the biochemical regulation of an enzyme involved in leukemia and lymphoma.  His emphasis was to understand the specific regulatory elements that promote BCR-ABL1 induced transformation of hematopoietic cells.

He joined the Christofk lab in September 2009 as a postdoctoral scientist.  His research takes advantage of the robust and fast changes in cellular metabolism observed during adenovirus infection of host cells to study metabolic switching mechanisms.  He will elucidate the adenoviral gene elements necessary for the metabolic switch to increased glycolysis in host cells, and define the cellular networks impacted by the virus-mediated shift in metabolism.  

He is also most awesome.

Daniel Braas

Daniel was born in Germany where he received his masters degree in chemistry and a Ph.D. in biochemistry/molecular biology from Prof. Dr. Karl-Heinz Klempnauer's lab at the University of Muenster.  His Ph.D. thesis was on the oncogene v-Myb and how it regulates the expression of target genes. 

Daniel then moved to UCLA to work on the innate immune system in Dr. Stephen T. Smale's lab.  A special focus of this work was on the transcription factor interferon regulatory factor (IRF)3 and how this protein facilitates chromatin remodeling of IRF3-dependent genes.

He joined Dr. Christofk's lab in Oct. 2009 to investigate non-glycolytic cancers. The model system for this work is liposarcomas, which represents the majority of all soft tissue sarcomas.  The goal of this project is to elucidate the metabolite used by these transformed cells as their main energy source. Information about the metabolism of liposarcomas will help to develop novel molecules that can be used for positron emission tomography (PET).  More importantly, knowledge about cancer metabolism will hopefully reveal potential targets for liposarcoma t

Graduate Students

Wen Gu

Wen is a graduate student in the Molecular and Medical Pharmacology program at UCLA.

Wen received his Bachelor of Medicine degree from Peking University (in Beijing, China) in 2009. As an undergraduate student researcher, he did thesis work with Dr. Yanyi Huang

He joined Dr. Heather Christofk's lab in the 2010. For his thesis work, Wen is studying the role of metabolism in human embryonic stem cells.

Candice received her B.S. from UCLA as a Molecular, Cell and Developmental Biology major in 2006. After graduating Candice spent 2 years working with Dr. Michael Levine in the Neuroscience department at UCLA. Her project in the Levine lab was to determine which R6/2 transgenic mouse model best reflected the human phenotypes of Huntington's disease. 

Candice  joined the Christofk lab in April 2009 as a staff research associate, and is continuing in the lab to complete her PhD. She is currently working to elucidate the mechanisms by which regulators of metabolism establish and maintain cancer. 

Abby Krall

Abby is studying the role of signaling pathways in regulation of metabolic fluxes. Abby received her B.S. in Molecular, Cell, and Developmental Biology from UCLA in 2007.  As an undergraduate she worked in Professor Steve Clarke's lab and spent a summer doing research at Harvard in Professor Gavin MacBeath's lab. Following graduation, she spent two years working with Siavash Kurdistani at UCLA researching the mechanisms that maintain global levels of histone modifications.


BJ Sullivan

BJ is interested in understanding the regulation of oxidative metabolism in cancer cells through a spliceosomal protein that sits at the convergence of signaling and alternative splicing. 
He graduated from Princeton in 2011 with an AB in Molecular Biology and a certificate in Global Health & Health Policy. He has previously worked in the intramural research program at NIH--in the Laboratory of Mitochondrial Biology and Metabolism and the Clinical Endocrinology Branch, and has conducted epidemiological research on chronic disease in war-ravaged Kono District, Sierra Leone. 

Staff Research Associate

Undergraduate Researchers

Alanna Chan

Alanna is a third year undergraduate planning to graduate in June 2014 with a BS in Molecular, Cell, and Developmental Biology and a minor in Biomedical Research. She joined Dr. Christofk’s lab in March 2011 under the mentorship of Wen Gu. Her project deals with how the metabolism of human embryonic stem cells can be altered to promote their survival upon dissociation. She plans to apply to graduate school this coming fall. She also enjoys running and being outdoors.

Taylor Brown


Margarita Calderon

Former Lab Members


 Current Affiliation
 Claire Sanford    
 Sean Hunter
Ethan Ahler
 Graduate Student, University of Washington
 Adrian Garcia
 Medical Student, UCLA
 Danny Nicklas
 Graduate Student, UC Davis