Former Team Members

  • Tuck is a postdoctoral scholar in the lab whose main interest is in sex differences in the brain and behavior. He is currently investigating the biological basis of sexual orientation using twin pairs that are discordant for sexual orientation with Matteo Pellegrini's group. In addition, he is working on the genetics of gender identity in collaboration with Dr. Mark Keil, who is currently at the University of Michigan Medical School. Tuck was a graduate student in the lab. His dissertation work focused on the long-term effect of perinatal testosterone exposure on the brain and the role of sex chromosome complement and number on behavior and molecular phenotypes in the brain of a mouse model of Klinefelter Syndrome. Tuck graduated from the University of California, San Diego with a B.S. in Molecular Biology where he worked on elucidating the links between splicing and transcription.

  • Francisco "Cisco" J. Sánchez is an Assistant Professor of Counseling Psychology at The University of Wisconsin-Madison; and he is an Assistant Research Scientist of Human Genetics at the UCLA School of Medicine.  He received his B.S. in Psychology from Texas A&M University and his Ph.D. in Counseling Psychology from the University of Iowa. Prior to joining the Center, he completed a one-year internship in professional psychology at the University of Southern California. His current research interests stem from his extensive clinical training—in particular his work with gay men and gender variant people. His primary research project is "The Neurological and Genetic Basis of Transsexualism." He also studies the effect of traditional masculine norms on gay men; he studies quality-of-life issues among transgender and intersex people; and he is a co-investigator on the "Genetic Studies of Sexual Orientation" and the "Genetic Studies of Disorders of Sexual and Reproductive Development."

  • Raphaël is a graduate student in sociology of health and medicine, from the French Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales (master’s degree), working in the Vilain lab from January until August 2014. His current work is a comparison of the clinical management of Disorders of Sex Develoment (DSD) in different US and European clinical networks, mainly focused on the recent changes in practices and the ethical debate surrounding consent in pediatrics for elective treatments.

  • Valerie graduated with a BA in Biology from Columbia College in New York City. She completed a year as a HHMI Medical Student Research Training Fellow and is currently a MD/PhD student at the David Geffen School of Medicine. Her research focuses on the molecular mechanisms of sex determination using both an animal model of XY-sex reversal and genetic studies of patients diagnosed with disorders of sex development.

  • Ruth’s current research projects are on the epigenetic changes associated with aging and the identification of novel genes involved in sex development. She studied signal transduction pathways for her PhD from the department of Biochemistry at the University of Dundee, UK. Following post-doctoral research work at the National Jewish Hospital in Denver and Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston she took a position at Biogen (now Biogen Idec) in Cambridge, MA. For the next ten years Ruth worked on mechanisms underlying extracellular matrix production, wound healing, scar formation, and fibrotic disease, in the biotech industry and academia. In addition to research Ruth is now training in clinical molecular genetics in he Intercampus Medical Genetics Training Program.

  • Dr. Sven Bocklandt is a native from Belgium, and initially worked as a member of research staff, helping to make reports on science and technology for Belgian public television. One such documentary, on the genetics of personality and behavior, brought him to Washington DC to interview Dr. Dean Hamer. Dr. Hamer was the first person to show a link between male sexual orientation, and a region on the X-chromosome called Xq28. Bocklandt had always been fascinated by human sexuality and how all this complex behavior could be encoded in our DNA, and promptly enrolled in a Ph.D program and moved to the US to contribute to the research of Hamer’s lab.

    Whilst there, Sven discovered that women with more than one gay son show extreme skewing of X-chromosome inactivation more often than control moms (See here and here). He participated in a whole genome linkage scan in gay brother pairs (See here), studied a number of candidate genes and looked at gene expression in cell lines derived from gay and straight men and their families. When Dr. Hamer switched to HIV research, Sven transferred to UCLA and has been working with the Center for Gender Based Biology.

    Whilst at UCLA, Sven has been involved with gene expression studies on the brains of homosexual sheep (See here), worked with transgenic mice, studied some more candidate genes, and devoted much of his time to studying a role for epigenetics in sexual orientation. Since receiving his PhD, Sven has been working with identical twin pairs where one is gay, and one is straight. Greater explication of this project can be found on the Projects page.

  • Saunders Ching was a graduate student in Dr. Vilain’s laboratory. He received his B.S. in Physiological Science from UCLA. His work focuses on elucidating the molecular mechanisms underlying mammalian adrenal development and studying sex differences in adrenal function. His projects included using cDNA microarrays to compare gene expression profiles between different stages of adrenal development and between males and female adrenals. He was also interested in the role of cellular signaling pathways during fetal adrenal development.

  • Alice Fleming has studied sex determination in three different model systems. She received her doctorate at the University of Texas at Austin studying molecular mechanisms of temperature-dependent sex determination in the red-eared slider turtle. As a postdoctoral fellow at Stanford, she completed a genomics study of gene expression in the sex determination and development of Drosophila. At UCLA, her research shifted to molecular mechanisms of mammalian sex determination. Contrary to the fly model, the fundamental mechanisms underlying mammalian sex determination are not yet understood, particularly in females. Dr. Fleming’s current work focuses on the discovery of female-specific gene expression in this process.

  • Negar Ghahramani earned her Ph.D. at UCLA. She earned her M.S. and B.S. degrees in Cellular & Molecular Biology and Molecular Biology from San Diego State University and Tehran University, respectively. Her main interests include research in human genetics. Her current work has been primarily on identification of epigenetic differences between identical twins discordant for sexual orientation.

  • Megan is a fourth year biochemistry major at UCLA.  She works with Matt to plan genetic crosses to observe the effects of DNA methylation and AR modification that alters female drosophila mating behavior.  Megan is also interested in data analysis and using biostatistical approaches to interpret molecular mechanisms that develop sexual orientation. Megan lived in the Bay Area her entire life and plans to return there for industry experience before pursuing her PhD. 

  • Jason is a California native, and a second year biochemistry major here at UCLA.  He works closely with Matt, in an attempt to uncover novel DNA methylation and gene expression alterations that lead to permanent programing of the CNS.  Jason is a very independent undergraduate, whose work in the lab greatly contributes to the success of current and future projects. 

  • Brandon is a first year neuroscience major, who came to LA from Arizona.  He works closely with Matt in trying to determine how minor genetic variations lead to major phenotypic differences in patients with disorders of sexual development (DSD) namely CAH.  Brandon is also interested in uncovering the molecular mechanisms that contributes to sexuality.      

  • Eric is a Norcal native who has future ambitions of obtaining a degree in medicine.  He works closely with Matt,  focusing on an in vivo model of how gonadal hormones guide brain sexual differentiation. 

  • Kajori is a third year environmental science and environmental engineering major at UCLA. She has been working closely with Tuck for two and a half years, helping investigate long-term sexual differentiation of the brain as well as understanding the involvement of epigenetic mechansims in male sexual orientation. Kajori is a very hard-working and focused individual who loves to explore the various challenges and rewards of research. She grew up in Orange County, California, and has a twin sister who attends college in the East Coast.