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2024 Symposium Planning Committee


  • Francesca Soncin, Ph.D.

    Francesca Soncin, Ph.D.

    Planning Committee Chair
    Dr. Francesca Soncin is a stem cell biologist interested in early placenta development. She joined the faculty of the Pathology Department at UC San Diego in November 2020. Her lab investigates the mechanisms that establish a trophoblast stem cell population during early development, which then differentiate to form the mature placenta, in both normal and diseased pregnancies. They use pluripotent stem cells, placental primary cells, and both small and large (non-traditional) animal models to study trophoblast lineage specification and placental stem cells. Dr. Soncin collaborates with researchers at the San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance.
  • Kellie Breen Church, Ph.D.

    Kellie Breen Church, Ph.D.

    Dr. Kellie Breen Church is a mentor, educator and head of a collaborative NIH-funded research program investigating how stress disrupts endocrine physiology. The Breen Church laboratory employs state-of-the-art chemogenic, genetic, and neuroanatomical manipulations using mouse models to understand how stress-activated neural circuits elicit disrupted neuroendocrine function impacting the reproductive, metabolic, and immune/inflammatory systems.  Kellie received her PhD at the Univ. of Michigan in Molecular and Integrative Physiology, using the sheep as a model to understand the neural control of reproduction, and is currently an Associate Professor within the Department of OBGYN and Reproductive Sciences at UC San Diego.
  • David McCulley, M.D.

    David McCulley, M.D.

    Dr. David McCulley is a lung and pulmonary vascular developmental biologist and a physician in Neonatal-Perinatal medicine. He is an Associate Professor of Pediatrics at the University of California, San Diego and Rady Children’s Hospital. David and his lab investigate the genetic and developmental mechanisms responsible for lung hypoplasia and pulmonary hypertension in people with congenital diaphragmatic hernia (CDH). His lab collaborates with human geneticists, developmental biologists, and pulmonary vascular physiologists to determine the underlying mechanisms responsible for this disease and to identify novel approaches that promote lung and pulmonary vascular development and improve survival for patients. David was a fellow in Neonatology and the Cardiovascular Research Institute at UCSF and an Assistant Professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He and his lab moved to UCSD and Rady Children’s Hospital in 2021.