Jackie Giovanniello, Chair

I am originally from New York and I received my BS in Biology from Brown University in Rhode Island and my PhD in Neuroscience from Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory in New York. I am currently a postdoc in Kate Wassum’s lab at UCLA, where I study the brain circuitry that allows stress to accelerate the formation of habits. Outside of the lab, I enjoy making functional ceramics pieces at my favorite pottery studio and going to the dog park with my 6-year-old black lab, Jenkins. As Chair of the PDA, I look forward to engaging with the postdoc community at UCLA and working to improve your personal and professional lives.

Martin Toderi, Vice-Chair of  Advocacy and Campus Relations

I received my PhD in Physics in 2020 from the National University of Rosario in Argentina and have experienced academia in Latin America and Europe during my undergraduate and graduate stages. I was born in Argentina with Italian roots and I am always interested in cultural enrichment and exploring new environments. I started my Postdoctoral work at the Bozovic Lab (Physics & Astronomy department) in January 2021 where we study the dynamics of inner hair cells through optical techniques. I wish to embrace UCLA community and as Vice-Chair of Advocacy and Campus Relations I will serve my colleagues attending the interests and issues of postdocs on campus. Besides academia, I enjoy cooking, learning languages, playing the guitar and rowing.

Amelia Palermo, Vice-Chair of Career & Professional Development

Amelia grew up in Italy and received her MS in chemistry and pharmaceutical sciences from La Sapienza University of Rome. She obtained her PhD in 2017, working at Sapienza and at The Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich, Switzerland. She later moved to the US to join Scripps Research in San Diego, CA, and since 2020 she is a member of the Graeber lab at the Department of Molecular and Medical Pharmacology at the David Geffen School of Medicine. Her research revolves around the study of metabolism in health and disease using metabolomics and high-throughput systems biology approaches. Her areas of focus include the discovery of novel metabolic vulnerabilities of resistant cancer phenotypes, the study of metabolic changes induced by COVID-19, as well as the development of novel tools for the analysis and interpretation of big data for systems biology. Besides her work, she loves swimming, sailing, and enjoying the beauty of California mountains. As Vice-Chair of Career and Professional Development she is looking forward to fostering programming to provide career, networking and mentoring opportunities for national and international postdocs at UCLA.

Baila Hall, Vice-Chair of Communications

I am originally from California, and recently returned from NYC to do a postdoctoral fellowship in the Psychology department with Kate Wassum after completing my B.A. in Neuroscience and Behavior at Barnard College and Ph.D. in Neuroscience at Weill Cornell Medical College. I am currently studying the neural bases for reward motivated decision making as it pertains to both adaptive and maladaptive choices. Outside of the lab I enjoy hiking with my partner and son. As a new mother, I am particularly attuned to the unique challenges of balancing academic responsibilities and family life. As Vice-Chair of Communications I look forward to engaging with the broader postdoc community to educate about the opportunities and support available to encourage the success of all postdocs on campus. 

Yue Zhang, Vice-Chair of Community Engagement

I am originally from Wuhan, China. I received B.S. in Pharmaceutical Science from Huazhong University of Science and Technology. I obtained Ph.D. in Nanoengineering from UC San Diego. Currently, I am working with Prof. Gerard Wong in Bioengineering at UCLA. My goal is to utilize multidisciplinary strategies to understand the molecular mechanism behind SARS-CoV-2 pathogenesis. While serving as the president of the UCSD Chinese Student and Scholar Association, I gained valuable experience in organizing social and academic events. That experience allows me to better understand the challenges facing scholars with an international background. As the Vice-Chair of Community Engagement, I am aiming to better connect the postdoc community and help postdoc achieving the life/career goals.

Daniel Velez-Ramirez, Vice-Chair of International Affairs

I have been interested in microbiology since I have memory, and for me, the path to become a researcher was clear since high school. I obtained my BSc majoring in Biology and my PhD at the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM), the best public university in Mexico and one of the best ones in Ibero-America. Now, as a postdoctoral researcher in the Department of Microbiology, Immunology, and Molecular Genetics (MIMG), my research focus on the flagellum of Trypanosoma brucei, a unicellular eukaryotic parasite, causative of the sleeping sickness, a neglected tropical disease in the Sub-Saharan Africa. Having moved from my home country to California for my postdoctoral training, represented a huge challenge for me, and my family; and as the PDA Vice-Chair of International Affairs, my goal is to help other international postdocs to solve their particular issues.

Valeria Gonzalez Diaz, Vice-Chair of Operations

I was born in Chile where I received my B.A. in psychology from the University of Chile. Then I moved to Portugal, getting my PhD in basic psychology from the University of Minho in 2020. I am currently a postdoc in the Blaisdell and Izquierdo lab in the psychology department at UCLA, where I study the neural and behavioral basis of suboptimal decision-making and causal reasoning. In my free time, I enjoy cooking international food and baking for my friends inside and outside the lab, along with traveling and playing boardgames.  I am excited to join the Postdoc Association and contribute to the postdoc community in UCLA.