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PERC Group Members

Shlomit Radom-Aizik PhD

Shlomit Radom-Aizik, PhD
Executive Director, Pediatric Exercise and Genomics
Research Center
saizik@uci.edu

Primary research focus: Functional genomics and exercise physiology, including: immune system and muscle genomic and epigenetic responses to exercise; effects of exercise and training during childhood and adolescence; the effects of exercise and training on children with chronic disease and those with special needs.

As a molecular biologist and exercise physiologist, Shlomit Radom-Aizik, PhD, seeks to open new avenues of research in the molecular transducers of physical activity, focusing on the genomic and epigenetic response of circulating leukocytes to exercise. In her role as executive director of PERC, she oversees a team of research associates, exercise technicians, trainers and molecular laboratory technicians who have successfully studied and trained hundreds of healthy children and adolescents in prescriptive exercise, as well as children with conditions including obesity, asthma, leukemia, congenital heart disease and spina bifida.

“By understanding the molecular mechanisms responsible for the beneficial effects of exercise, we can better prescribe exercise for all children. In this way, we optimize health outcomes and push the boundaries of the body and mind.”

Dan M. Cooper MD  

Dan M. Cooper, MD
Founding director, PERC
Associate Vice Chancellor for Clinical and Translational Science
dcooper@uci.edu

Primary research focus: How exercise can best be used to prevent asthma and obesity in children, with particular interest in new therapies involving both pharmacologic and lifestyle interventions.

Dan M. Cooper, MD, is recognized for his transformative efforts to uncover the molecular mechanisms of exercise that affect children's health. Cooper, who is board certified in pediatrics and pediatric pulmonology, has conducted NIH-funded research for more than 30 years. This unique combination of clinical expertise and robust research experience places Cooper in an ideal position to guide and mentor young investigators. His projects are designed to develop platforms to translate research discoveries that will ultimately benefit children's health.

"The right kind of exercise at the right time in childhood can promote health across the life span."

Chen Jen Jen M,D

Jen Jen Chen, MD
Assistant Clinical Professor
jenc@uci.edu

Primary research focus: Tele-exercise, remote monitoring and cystic fibrosis.

Through a telemedicine platform at PERC, Jen Jen Chen, MD, streams live exercises to children with cystic fibrosis (CF), a population that is less inclined to be active and exercise regularly. The program motivates these children to exercise, which can result in positive health benefits. It also helps Chen assess the feasibility of this type of program in the everyday life of a CF patient. Her research incorporates biometric monitoring with accelerometers and heart-rate monitors, as well as exercise and physical activity assessments, to evaluate patients’ fitness and habitual physical activity levels. Chen soon will complement her clinical and research skills with an advanced degree in data science. Her bioinformatics insights will add an important perspective to PERC’s study of exercise as medicine for children.

"Combining advances in the brave new world of data science with the ability to integrate ‘big data’ into exercise-as-medicine will be the new frontier of physical activity research."

Fadia Haddad PhD

Fadia Haddad, PhD
Manager and Scientific Advisor PERC Molecular Laboratory
fhaddad@uci.edu

Primary research focus: Functional testing of leukocytes, RNA and DNA analyses, as well as epigenetic modifications in response to chronic and acute exercise.

As PERC's laboratory manager, Fadia Haddad, PhD, supervises all molecular assays for the center's research. She has more than 30 years of experience developing and performing molecular assays to study gene function, transcriptional regulation and the effect of exercise/activity/inactivity, growth and the endocrine system on genomic and epigenetic molecular mechanisms in the tissue/cells. Haddad’s main mission at PERC is to adopt new laboratory technologies to advance exercise-as-medicine for children's health. Using cutting-edge technologies and tools, she ensures that sample collection and processing protocols are performed according to highest standard procedures.

"New technologies have revolutionized our ability to understand exercise at the molecular levels. Today we can use sophisticated techniques that are completely feasible in children, to probe how individual cells respond, grow and develop in response to physical activity."

Kim Lu PhD

Kim Lu, MD
Assistant Clinical Professor
kdlu@uci.edu

Primary research focus: The interaction between fitness, asthma and obesity.

Asthma and obesity are significant diseases that affect many children and their families. Obesity has an impact on the risk for asthma and on health throughout a person's lifespan. As a pediatric pulmonologist, Kim Lu, MD, seeks to better understand how physical activity and weight affect asthma in children. Her studies explore ways cinicians can use exercise as treatment for children with asthma and obesity.

"In order to understand the relationship of obesity and asthma, both terrible epidemics in today’s children, we must probe the impact of exercise on fundamental genomic function in the immune system."

Kimberley Lakes PhD

Kimberley Lakes, PhD
Associate Professor
Director, PERC Executive
Function and Behavioral Assessments Program
klakes@uci.edu

Primary research focus: The impact of exercise interventions on psychological outcomes, including cognitive, social, emotional and behavioral functioning.

Kimberley Lakes, PhD, studies the impact of various exercise programs on executive functioning in children. Her research indicates that exercise programs are not all equal for improving the executive functions. She is investigating approaches to exercise that may maximize the positive effects of those skills. She also studies the impact of exercise on the development of executive functions in children with and without neurodevelopmental disorders (particularly attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and autism spectrum disorder).

Given the pressure on school systems to decrease the amount of time spent on physical activity in favor of more instruction time, Lakes’ research has practical implications. Thoughtful approaches to increasing physical activity for children could improve physical and mental health, which in turn could improve academic outcomes.

"A healthy body is essential to a healthy mind."

Dwight Nance PhD

Dwight Nance, PhD
Professor
dnance@uci.edu

Primary research focus: Long-term immunological and behavioral effects of metabolic and physical challenges faced early in life, and the further development of animal models of asthma, obesity and metabolic syndrome.

Diet and exercise have a powerful impact on the development of humans, and may provide novel therapies for the treatment of chronic diseases in children. As a neuroimmunologist, Dwight Nance, PhD, is interested in the interactions between the brain and immune system. His current research is helping to develop experimental models of childhood diseases to further test the role of these experimental interventions.

"Exercise can lessen the damaging effects of stress. We must gain a better understanding of these processes in children, in whom very little basic research exists linking stress, exercise and overall health."

Hye-Won Shin PhD

Hye-Won Shin, PhD
Project Scientist
hyewons@uci.edu

Primary research focus: Exploration of the human "ventilome” (the collection of all volatile organic gases in the exhaled breath). This knowledge will help develop a minimally invasive medical tool through gas biomarkers to detect and monitor diseases, especially for (but not limited to) cancer, inflammation and bacterial or viral infection.

Hye-Won Shin, PhD, is investigating breath gas biomarkers as a diagnostic and/or therapeutic tool with which to follow disease. This minimally invasive technology would be extremely beneficial to children, who have limited ability to do conventional clinical measures like blood panels. Breath gas sensor systems may also advance pediatric health by allowing remote and real-time monitoring of disease. She is engaged in a multidisciplinary collaboration involving chemists, respiratory physiologists, gas sensor and microfabrication experts, biostatisticians, infectious agents specialists, pediatric allergy/immunologists and pharmacological scientists.

"Non-invasive and mobile medical technologies are key to promoting child health."

Candice Taylor, MD

Candice Taylor, MD,MPH, FAAP
Assistant Clinical Professor
taylorce@uci.edu

Primary research focus: Early-life physical activity and childhood obesity, with special consideration for health disparities and fitness gaps that exist among youths in minority and underserved communities.

As an academic general pediatrician and physician-researcher, Candace Taylor, MD, studies the effects of exercise and advocates for children to engage in active play and other physical activity as early as infancy. PERC research findings often make their way into her patient care. And it’s not uncommon for a wellness check or weight management visit to conclude with the patient receiving a prescription for exercise. Taylor shares her knowledge and experience with community-based organizations, promoting health behaviors that prevent obesity and diabetes among children and adolescents.

"Physical activity matters to healthy growth. It takes a village—children, families, neighborhoods, healthcare providers, daycare programs, schools, community-based organizations, health systems and more—to enable children to achieve their daily dose of active play."

Frank Zaldivar PhD

Frank Zaldivar, PhD
PERC Flow Cytometry Program Leader
Director, PERC Community Education and Outreach
fpzaldiv@uci.edu

Primary research focus: Exercise immunology and community outreach.

Frank Zaldivar, PhD, is an immunologist who leads the PERC flow cytometry program. He also directs the Biospecimen Handling and Storage Unit at the UC Irvine Institute for Clinical and Translational Science. With a background in immunology and hematology, he has used flow cytometry for 17 years to evaluate how exercise in growing children affects circulating immune cells. Flow cytometry is the cornerstone of any  immunology laboratory exercise, including at PERC.

Zaldivar has published extensively with PERC team on growth and exercise in children. His vision is to use flow cytometry to explore children’s immune systems and to determine how exercise can improve health and prevent adult diseases, like atherosclerosis and cancer.

"Just a short time ago, few would have believed that we could identify markers on individual white blood cells that indicate where a cell has been, where it’s going and how it might respond to stress. Today, breathtaking advances in flow cytometry make this all possible."

Ronen Bar-Yoseph MD

Ronen Bar-Yoseph, MD
Visiting Researcher
ronen.by@uci.edu

Primary research focus: Gas exchange kinetics across the life span; development and standardization of exercise protocols; use of pediatric exercise as medicine.

Ronen Bar-Yoseph seeks to better understand the kinetics of oxygen consumption in healthy children and in children with different clinical conditions. His research project begins the process of systematically identifying the best protocols to use for children and young adults. Through oxygen consumption analysis, he strives to better understand how children’s bodies cope with physiological challenges that arise. This research could lead to improved and more accurate fitness assessment both in health and disease. Bar-Yoseph is also a consultant for the UC Irvine Cardiopulmonary Center Clinical Exercise Laboratory.

"The key to understanding why healthy children or children with chronic diseases are limited in their physical activity lies in advanced mathematical modeling of how children use oxygen while exercising."

Greg Adams

Greg Adams, PhD
gradams@uci.edu

Primary research focus: Cellular and molecular mechanisms that mediate the adaptation of tissues.

Greg Adams, PhD, conducts primary research into the cellular and molecular processes that help tissues adapt to changes in functional demands. A major theme of his work has been the modulation of the adaptation of skeletal muscle in the presence of changing signals received via the circulation (e.g., hormones, growth factors and cytokines) and the presence non-muscle cells that contribute to the immediate environment of the muscle cells.

This work is conducted in the context of various states and/or conditions (e.g., exercise, renal failure, spinal cord injury, chronic inflammation) or manifestations thereof (e.g., cytokine levels, chronic inflammation, hypoxia, disuse) that disrupt skeletal muscle homeostasis in both animals and humans.

Szu-Yun (Sharon) Leu PhD

Szu-Yun (Sharon) Leu, PhD
Project Scientist
Biostatistician
sleu@uci.edu

Szu-Yun Leu, PhD, is a project scientist in the UC Irvine Department of Pediatrics as well as the primary biostatistician at the Institute for Clinical and Translational Science (ICTS) since 2010, and at PERC since 2006.

Leu obtained her doctoral degree in biostatistics from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and her master's of science in statistics from Texas A&M University. She provides statistical consultation, research design guidance and statistical analysis to clinicians and researchers associated with PERC. She is also co-investigator of several PERC projects.

Annamarie Stehli, researcher and biostatistician for the UC Irvine Health Pediatric Exercise and Genomics Center.

Annamarie Stehli, MPH
Biostatistician
astehli@uci.edu

Annamarie Stehli, MPH, earned a master's degree in public health at UC Berkeley, assumed the role of a statistician in the Department of Pediatrics in 2002. She has since contributed to a wide range of projects related to children and families affected by developmental disorders. These included three National Institutes of Health-funded multi-site longitudinal studies, the CHOC-UC Irvine Neurodevelopmental Programs (A First 5 Initiative of the California Children and Families Commission), and interdisciplinary research with programs and investigators in genetics, neuroimaging, clinical trials, education and public health.

In 2015, she joined PERC,where she provides analytic support for study design and grant development, outcomes reporting, and manuscript preparation.

Martin Perlsteyn, MD
PERC Research Scholar
Fitness for ALL Project Manager
ICTS THEMES Project Manager

Martin Perlsteyn, MD, has research experience from the Université De Montréal, St. Justine Hospital's' Department of Pediatric Endocrinology and from McGill University Language Development Lab. He joins the PERC research team as a study manager for the Fitness for ALL project. This pilot project studies the effect of exercise on the immune system genomic response in children who have survived acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL).

Hoang Pham

Hoang Pham, MS
Exercise physiologist
hoangnp1@uci.edu

Hoang Pham is a PERC exercise physiologist. Prior to joining the PERC team, he was a member of UCLA’s Exercise Physiology and Metabolic Disease Research Lab. In addition, he has extensive experience working with cardiac patients at Pomona Valley Hospital Medical Center’s Cardiac Rehabilitation program.

Pham has a master's of science in kinesiology from California State University, Fullerton. He is certified in advanced cardiac life support and EKG rhythm recognition by the American Heart Association. He also is a certified specialist in strength and conditioning through the National Strength and Conditioning Association.

Study Coordinators

Peter Horvath

Peter Horvath, PhD
Specialist
Pediatric BioAssay and Flow Cytometry Laboratory

Marissa Jones

Marissa M. Jones
Clinical Research Coordinator
Alfonso Cruz Ortiz

Alfonso Cruz Ortiz, Jr.
Specialist
Julia Rich

Julia K. Rich, RN, BSN
Clinical Research Coordinator

PERC/ICTS Staff

Bridgette Duarte, PERC nutrition expert

Bridgette Duarte
Nutritionist
Diane Capobianco, PERC nursing

Diane Capobianco
Nurse
Georgia Bachman

Georgia Bachman
Senior Research Associate
Pediatric BioAssay and Flow Cytometry Laboratory
Cherryl Nugas

Cherryl Nugas
Senior Research Associate
Pediatric Functional Genomics Laboratory


Joseph Wu
Analyst and Programmer
Information Techology

Trainees

Abraham Chiu

Abraham Chiu
Pharmacology graduate student

Sheena Maharaj, MD
Fellow, Miller Children's & Women's Hospital Long Beach — UC Irvine training program in pediatric pulmonology
Sophia Williams, MD
Fellow, Miller Children's & Women's Hospital Long Beach — UC Irvine training program in pediatric pulmonology
Leila Yoonessi, MD
Fellow, Miller Children's & Women's Hospital Long Beach — UC Irvine training program in pediatric pulmonology