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Our Team


Karen Mestan

Principal Investigator

Dr. Karen Mestan is now the Division Chief of Neonatology at UC San Diego/Rady Children's Hospital after spending nearly 20 years at Northwestern University teaching, researching, and building a biorepository of placenta and cord blood. She received her B.A. in Human Biology from Stanford University and her M.D. from Chicago Medical School and completed her residency and fellowship at University of Chicago. In her free time, Dr. Mestan has run marathons and triathlons and likes to travel and spend time with her husband, two daughters, and dog.

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Janu Newar

Lab Manager/Staff Research Associate IV

Janu completed her Bachelor's in Biotechnology from St. Edmund College, Shillong, Meghalaya in 2012 and her Master's in Biotechnology from KIIT University, Bhubaneswar, Odisha in 2014. She successfully defended her Ph.D. work at KIIT University in July 2022 which focused on the isolation, characterization, and purification of adhesive proteins from gastropods and their use in developing biocompatible wound-healing adhesives hydrogels. She is from a beautiful town situated in the North Eastern part of India called Tezpur, Assam. Apart from doing research, Janu loves capturing moments with her camera, traveling and exploring new places, watching movies, gardening, and spending quality time with her loved ones. 


Lillian Blank

Staff Research Associate I

Lillian graduated with a B.S. in Microbiology and Minor in Chemistry from UC San Diego in Spring 2022. She will be matriculating to UC San Diego School of Medicine in Fall 2024 after being a part of the Mestan Lab for two years. When she's not in the lab, Lillian is the vocalist and pianist in an indie band and loves staying active and cooking for her friends. 


Hailey Catrambone

Clinical Research Coordinator

Hailey is a recent graduate of the University of California, Berkeley, where she earned a degree in Medical Biology & Physiology. She has a background in public health research and initiatives, particularly focusing on infectious diseases and addressing health and educational disparities among women. Her experiences have fueled her passion to pursue a career in medicine, with aspirations of attending medical school specializing in maternal or pediatric health. In her free time, Hailey enjoys traveling, playing tennis, and going to the beach.


Liz Brees

Medical Student

Liz Brees is a medical student at UC San Diego and is interested in neonatology. As a student in the Air Force Health Professions Scholarship Program (HPSP), she is currently a Second Lieutenant in the Individual Ready Reserve and will serve as an active-duty Air Force physician upon completion of her medical training. She grew up in Southern Maryland and received her B.S. in Biochemistry and Biology from Mount St. Mary’s University. After graduation, she taught high school biology and physics in Los Angeles for 2 years while earning her Master of Education from the University of Notre Dame. She loves hot yoga, riding her Peloton bike, hiking, camping, reading, and watching movies with her husband and pup. Her go-to fun fact is that she can find a 4-leaf clover in almost any patch!


Aliyah Abanes

Post-baccalaureate Student

Aliyah received her B.S. in Neurobiology from UCSD and is currently a student in the UCSD Premedical Post-baccalaureate program. Her previous work with vulnerable and underserved communities has inspired her to pursue a career in healthcare that will allow her to amplify marginalized voices. In her free time she loves reading, swimming, exploring new places, and spending times with family and friends. 


Rebecca Gin

Undergraduate Student

Rebecca is currently a fourth-year undergraduate student studying Human Biology at UC San Diego. She is interested in understanding maternal health and child development. She is the Co-President of the Biological Sciences Student Association and a BioSci Peer Mentor on campus. She enjoys trying new restaurants, hiking, reading, and watching the sunset with friends in her free time.

Michelle Kastner

Administrative Coordinator

Coming soon


Erika Lin

Former Lab/Data Manager


Rekha Karuparthy

Summer 2022 Research Medical Student and Former Clinical Research Coordinator

Lab Alumni

Rekha graduated with a B.A. in Global Health and MSW in Health from Washington University in St. Louis in 2019. Rekha has been with Dr. Mestan since 2020 and helped out at the lab during her summer break from medical school at UC San Diego. Her goal is to continue bridging social work and medicine as well as build her research skill set to one day be a Neonatologist herself. Outside of academics, Rekha loves to hang out with her friends/family and play board games!

Erika graduated with a B.S. in Biological Sciences from UC Irvine and a M.S. in Biomedical Informatics from the University of Chicago. Erika has been with Dr. Mestan since 2019 and transitioned to UC San Diego in September 2021. She is currently studying to receive a Master's in Medical Sciences at Boston University to prepare her for medical school. Her dream is to become a Physician Scientist studying pediatric diseases. Otherwise, Erika enjoys trying different cuisines, running, and cooking for friends and family.

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