Lisa Marie (Tolman) von Biela ’80

Lisa Marie (Tolman) von Biela ’80 graduated with a BS in Biology. She is thrilled to announce that her second novel, a medical thriller entitled The Janus Legacy, was just released. Her noir novella, Ash and Bone, is due out in May 2014, and her next novel, another medical thriller entitled Blockbuster, is due out in January 2015.  Her debut technothriller novel, The Genesis Code, came out in May 2013.  Updates may be found on her website:


David Kay ’79

David Kay ’79 graduated with a BS in Biology followed by a Master’s in biology in 1982 from Cal State University, Northridge.  He then received a Doctorate in Environmental Science and Engineering from UCLA, in 1988. Since 1999, David has managed the environmental mitigation projects required by the California Coastal Commission for Edison’s San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station.  These projects include restoration of 150 acres of degraded wetlands at San Dieguito Lagoon near Del Mar, construction of a 150-acre artificial kelp reef offshore from San Clemente, and funding for the Hubbs-Sea World fish hatchery in Carlsbad. Today, David also manages a group of over sixty environmental specialists, project managers and engineers responsible for environmental siting, licensing and construction compliance of all SCE generation and transmission projects.  Edison expects to spend nearly $5 billion in 2014 constructing new transmission line infrastructure, all of which requires advance environmental planning, permitting and construction oversight.



Francesco Chiappelli ’75

Francesco Chiappelli ’75 graduated with a BS from the Biology Department. But, as the department “evolved” over the years, from Department of Biology in the 1970s, to the departments of Molecular, Cell, and Developmental Biology (MCDB)  and of Biology in the 1980’s, to MCDB and the dept of  Organismic Biology, Ecology, and Evolution in the 1990s, he kinda always “saw” himself as an alumnus of MCDB – “perhaps because eventually I ended up in Dr. Fahey’s lab for my post-doc in fundamental & clinical immunology. Be that as it may, I am happy and proud to be considered ‘one of yours’!”
“Well, a lot has happened over the past four decades, but I can say – equally proudly – that for me at least, everything noteworthy that happened to me professionally happened at UCLA:  MA (’81), PhD (’86), post-docs (’87-’90), research faculty first at Harbor-UCLA (’90-’92), then with my first NIH grant: set up my first lab on the grounds of the West LA VA with an appointment in what used to be Anatomy & Cell Biology (’92-’94), then recruitment by the UCLA School of Dentistry, where I have been ever since – now for several years  Full Professor, tenured.
Most recent developments and updates that you might be interested in are:  becoming AAAS Fellow in 2011, becoming a Fulbrightalumnus last year (2012), and presently being the President of the Fulbright Association, Greater Los Angeles Chapter.
UCLA has been good to me, starting with the Department of Biology that I loved!  Indeed, I came to UCLA (and to the US in fact) in September 1972, and have been associated directly with UCLA ever since:  this is my 41st academic year on our campus.
Three profs, while I was a student in your/our department, to whom I will for ever be thankful:
  • Dr. Crescitelli, who taught me about scientific rigor, the scientific process, and scientific writing (I now have written close to 200 papers & book chapters, and several books published by Springer-Verlag and other noteworthy publishing houses),
  • Dr. Fessler, who first understood my gargantuan difficulties as I had just arrived from Europe, with no or little understanding of English, of the US university system, and of anything academic really, and took the time to listen to me, to guide me and to mentor me – he, really, taught me HOW to be a mentor by his own example, and
  • Dr. Clark, in whose lab I did my first 199 in cellular immunology, which opened up my mind to the beauty of cell biology in general and of cellular immune surveillance mechanisms in the context systems biology in particular.
My dream was always to be able, one day, to serve my “mother department”, if I may refer to Biology by such affectionate terms.  The closest I ever came was to be on the Graduate Review.”

Victor Passy ’53

Victor PassyVictor Passy ’53, MD, at left,  is Professor Emeritus in the Department of Otolaryngology, Head & Neck Surgery at the UCI College of Medicine. He received the “Lifetime Achievement Award” in 2005 for his contributions to otolaryngology (e.g.,development of the Passy-Muir Tracheostomy Speaking Valve, development of the ENT program at UCI, etc.). He was also awarded the”Golden Apple Award” by CCM (an undergraduate pre-med organization at UCI) in 1981, “Outstanding Teacher” by Rancho Los Amigos National Rehabilitation Center and White Memorial Hospital ENT Residents in1979, “Outstanding Teacher by UCI in 1978, elected into the AOA (Alpha Omega Alpha) Honorary Fraternity in 1976, President UCI Alumni in 1980 and UCI Alumni Physician of the Year in 1981.

Jana J. Johnson (formerly Sprute) ’08 PhD

Jana J. Johnson (formerly Sprute) ’08 PhD received tenure this year with the Biology Department of Moorpark College and teaches everything from Marine Biology to Human Anatomy. Her lab, “The Butterfly Project” was contracted to bring a third endangered Lepidopteran in house for research and rearing (Laguna Mountain Skipper is joining the Palos Verdes Blue butterfly & Lange’s Metalmark butterfly that are currently in her lab). Her former butterfly intern Adam Clause received the Presidential Scholarship (full ride) to work on his PhD at The University of Georgia (so both the undergrads and the leps are benefitting from The Butterfly Project). This spring, they were able to release endangered butterflies back to the wild in conjunction with her nephew’s Make-A- Wish trip prior to his passing two months later, one of the most moving moments of her life.

Ivan De La Torre ’07

Ivan De La Torre ’07 recently graduated from San Francisco State University (August 2012) with a Master’s Degree in Biology (Physiology and Behavior). He was on a Federal grant (NIH MA/PhD Bridge to the Future). He is now returning to the medical side, taking a revolutionary position with the UCLA Health System as a “Patient Champion.”

Bilquees Akhtar ’06

Bilquees Akhtar ’06 is Manager of Regulatory Affairs at Puma Biotechnology, Inc., in the Los Angeles area. She has received a Master’s in Public Health from CSU Northridge this spring. After graduating from UCLA, Bilquees started working for Cougar Biotechnology, Inc. She was working in the Regulatory Affairs department for a submission of late stage drugs for the treatment of prostate cancer. In July 2009, J&J acquired Cougar. She continues to manage and compile submissions of the New Drug Application for prostate cancer that was approved by the FDA in April 2010.

Marina Khubesrian ’89

From The Armenian Reporter, December 16th, 2011: Marina Khubesrian ’89 Biology, ’92 MD, took the oath of office as a new City Council member at South Pasadena’s City Council meeting on December 7th, 2011. She has served as the medical director of the Glendale Adventist Alcohol and Drug Services (GAADS) and is the associate director of the Family Medicine Residency Program. Her private practice is now in Montrose where she specializes in Family Medicine.