Lab Members

Filip Benliyan
Research Associate II

Filip Benliyan joined the Cedars-Sinai F. Widjaja Foundation Inflammatory Bowel and Immunobiology Research Institute in 2009 after graduating from the University of California, Riverside with a bachelor's degree in biology. Since then he has performed serologies on over 13,000 patient specimens for specific projects. His present-day role in MIRIAD pertains to serology quality assurance, biobank repository involvement, purchase order processing, supply maintenance and database entry. He is currently working part time while completing clinical laboratory rotations at Cedars-Sinai in partnership with California State University, Dominguez Hills for licensure in clinical science.

Tiroui "Diana" Benliyan
Research Associate II

Diana Benliyan joined the MIRIAD group in 2015. Before joining Cedars-Sinai, she earned her bachelor's degree in biological science from the State University of Armenia with a major in physiology. Benliyan completed the University of Southern California's continuing education program and received her Pulmonary Physiology and Technology certificate. She joined Cedars Sinai's respiratory department's Pulmonary Physiology laboratory in 1992 and in 1995 she transferred to the Medical Genetics Institute. She currently works as part of the B-Cell Lab team in the MIRIAD group where she is involved in lymphocyte cell line (LCL) transformations, biobank repository organization and blood sample processing.

Emy Dacalos
Clinical Research Associate II

Emy Dacalos received her bachelor’s degree in physiology from San Francisco State University in 2016. Dacalos first started as a research lab associate at Parexel International, an early phase clinical trials unit that explores drug safety in healthy human subjects. Her position included collection and processing of blood and CSF samples to analyze how the body metabolizes a drug at various time points. Dacalos then joined the Cedars-Sinai F. Widjaja Foundation Inflammatory Bowel and Immunobiology Research Institute in 2017 as a clinical research associate. Her role includes data entry, collecting and processing of surgical tissue to distribute to researchers as part of the tissue procurement team in the MIRIAD group.

Jennifer Davis
Clinical Research Coordinator II

Jennifer Davis earned her bachelor's degree in health promotion and education from Weber State University in Ogden, Utah. She obtained public health experience working for the Utah State Health Department. Davis was involved in an epidemiological study to better understand a steep increase in sexually transmitted disease cases among intercity high-risk groups. She has worked previously as a phlebotomist where she enjoyed patient interaction. Davis joined the Cedars-Sinai F. Widjaja Inflammatory Bowel and Immunobiology Research Institute in January 2019. She currently works as part of the Clinical research coordinator team in the MIRIAD group.

Philip Debbas
Research Associate I

Philip Debbas graduated from the University of California, Berkeley in 2018 with a bachelor of science in molecular environmental biology. Debbas has previous experience working at an embryogenesis laboratory assisting in in-vitro fertilization. Debbas joined the Cedars-Sinai F. Widjaja Foundation Inflammatory Bowel and Immunobiology Research Institute in September 2019 as a research associate. His role includes serology, DNA isolation, data gathering, and data integration as part of the Serology, Genotyping and Database teams in the MIRIAD group.

Mary Hanna
Clinical Research Associate I

Mary Hanna received her bachelor's degree in biological sciences from the University of California, Irvine in 2017. There, she studied the underlying mechanism of neuroinflammation via microglial activation in patients with traumatic brain injuries. Hanna joined the Cedars-Sinai F. Widjaja Foundation Inflammatory Bowel and Immunobiology Research Institute in August 2019. Currently, she works as a clinical research associate in the MIRIAD group procuring surgical tissue samples.

Linda Hwang
Research Associate IV

Linda Hwang is a translational research informatics project manager and a senior research associate in the MIRIAD group. Prior to joining Cedars-Sinai, she served as a cheminformatics database manager and senior research associate at TargeGen, Inc. (acquired by Sanofi-Aventis), where she led the design and development of various drug discovery informatics. Prior to work at TargeGen, Inc, Hwang was a scientist at Deltagen Research Laboratories, formerly known as Combi-Chem, Inc., that was acquired by Bristol-Myers Squibb and DuPont Pharmaceuticals in San Diego. There, she was responsible for parallel synthesis of small molecule libraries. Hwang received her bachelor of science in pharmacological chemistry from the University of California, San Diego.

Justina Ibrahim
Clinical Research Associate I

Justina Ibrahim received her bachelor's degree in psychology from California State Polytechnic University, Pomona in 2018. There, she studied the role of ease of retrieval and attribution in memory among students over the course of the semester and how it is affected during finals week. She then went on to be a clinical coordinator for a pharmaceutical, cosmetic and personal care company before joining the inflammatory bowel disease research team at Cedars-Sinai. She currently works as part of the tissue procurement team in the MIRIAD group.

Carol Landers
Senior Research Project Advisor

Carol Landers has more than 30 years continuous research and research laboratory management experience in IBD. She is credited with inventing the antibody detection assays currently used by the serotyping unit, and directly oversees the serotyping unit as well as serving as impartial steward of the Mucosal Immunology Repository for Inflammatory And Digestive Diseases (MIRIAD) Biobank and Database, engaging with intra- and extra-mural collaborators to review proposals requesting access to MIRIAD services and specimens. Her expertise is documented in more than 80 articles published in high impact journals. Landers has a bachelor's degree in biochemistry from Iowa State University.

Yin Li
Research Associate II

Yin Li joined Cedars-Sinai in 2010. She began her tenure as a research associate in the tissue culture laboratory of the Medical Genetics Institute. Li is a member of the Cedars-Sinai F. Widjaja Foundation Inflammatory Bowel and Immunobiology Research Institute (IBIRI), following its merge with the Medical Genetics Institute. Her current expertise focuses on the isolation and preservation of patient lymphoid, fibroblast and other cell lines for subsequent genetic and bioinformatic analysis. Within these few years, Li proved integral in helping IBIRI achieve success on multiple projects related to human genetics. Before joining Cedars-Sinai, Li conducted basic scientific research in the field of adult infectious diseases at Harbor-UCLA Medical Center for more than 15 years. She graduated from the nursing school of the Chinese Academy of Medical Science and served as a nurse in the Beijing Cancer Hospital.

Anzhelya Makaryan
Research Associate II

Anzhelya Makaryan currently works as part of the B cell lab team in the MIRIAD group. Her field of expertise includes creation of lymphoblastoid cell lines from whole blood and setup of fibroblast cultures. Before joining the MIRIAD group, Anzhelya was part of the Medical Genetics Group at Cedars-Sinai. Anzhelya received her master's in biochemistry from the Yerevan State University in Armenia and had worked for over 20 years as a clinical researcher in various hospital labs.

Elmar Park, LVN
Clinical Research Coordinator

Elmar Park has more than 15 years of professional experience working as a special collections nurse for various research projects for preclinical and clinical applications in biology, immunotherapy and cell therapy. In 2010, Park had the opportunity to join in the Cedars-Sinai F. Widjaja Foundation Inflammatory Bowel and Immunobiology Research Institute, currently working as a clinical research coordinator in the MIRIAD group. Park works collaboratively with many research primary investigators, clinicians, and other coordinators to identify and recruit eligible study subjects.

Valeriya Pozdnyakova
Clinical Research Associate II

Valeriya Pozdnyakova received her bachelor's degree in microbiology and immunology in 2018 from Quinnipiac University, where she studied the mechanisms of horizontal gene transfer in Borrelia burgdorferi. She then worked as an emergency medical technician for American Medical Response in New Haven, Connecticut, before joining the inflammatory bowel disease research team at Cedars-Sinai. She currently works as part of the tissue procurement team in the MIRIAD group.

Maria Salas, LVN
Clinical Research Coordinator

Maria Salas joined the Cedars-Sinai F. Widjaja Foundation Inflammatory Bowel and Immunobiology Research Institute as a clinical research coordinator in 2003. Salas began her career at Cedars-Sinai as part of the Youth Employment and Development program, which is designed for high school juniors interested in careers in the medical field. Prior to her current position, Salas worked in the department of Medical Genetics as a research project assistant.  She received her LVN license from American Career College and is a certified phlebotomist. She also graduated from a two-year Spanish/English medical translator program at Mount San Antonio College and speaks fluent Spanish. Currently, Salas works as a clinical research coordinator in the MIRIAD group.

Terri Shih
Research Intern

Terri Shih completed her undergraduate studies in psychobiology and public health from UCLA and Fielding School of Public Health in 2018. She is currently a medical student at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, (Class of 2022). Over the years, Shih has been involved in Los Angeles community health projects, teaching and research. Prior to her internship at Cedars-Sinai, she studied the pathogenesis of neurodegeneration with experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis and RiboTag technology. Shih’s current research interests include using bioinformatic tools and "-omics" data to further understand complex dynamics of the gut microbiome in Inflammatory bowel disease.

Alumni Lab Members

Noam Jacob, MD
Jonathan Jacobs, MD
Susy Yusung, MS, MD
Ian McHardy, PhD
Maoyong "Leo" Fu, PhD
Ling "Lindy" Chen, MD
Daisuke Fujiwara, PhD
Lihui Luo, MD
David Ziring, MD
Madhuri Wadehra, PhD
James S. Tomlinson, III, MD, PhD
Siavash Khavar Kurdistani, MD
George V. Thomas, MD
Bo Wei, PhD
Eri Oshima, PhD
Galen R. Cortina, MD, PhD
Christopher Lee Sutton, PhD
Yadira Valles, MD, PhD

Contact the Braun Lab

110 George Burns Road
Davis Building, Room D4063
Los Angeles, CA 90048