Michael Carey

Co-Director of UPLIFT
David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA
Department of Biological Chemistry

Email: mcarey@mednet.ucla.edu
Office Location:
351A Biomedical Sciences Research Building
615 Charles E. Young Drive
Los Angeles, CA 90095


Dr. Carey studies biochemical mechanisms of gene activation and silencing. In 1990, Dr. Carey established biochemical systems for studying gene regulation based on a model transcriptional activator termed GAL4-VP16. Using that system, Dr. Carey established a mechanism by which genes are controlled synergistically by upstream activators. Synergy is a key principle in gene regulation and underlies the combinatorial control of gene transcription. Throughout the 1990s, Dr. Carey’s lab showed that synergy is first manifested during assembly of transcription preinitiation complexes (PICs). His lab identified assembly of a co-activator complex, termed DAMed, as the key step influenced by activators. More recently, Dr. Carey has been studying the biochemistry of transcription on chromatin templates after a one year sabbatical at the Stowers Institute for Medical Research in 2006. Dr. Carey’s lab has shown how a protein termed p300 coordinates chromatin modification with assembly of the DAMed complex and then the PIC. His lab has also shown how a protein termed HP1 silences transcription by selectively affecting key components of the DAMed complex. Dr. Carey’s recent work has focused on recreating the effects of histone methylation on gene activation and silencing in vitro. Dr. Carey served as Director of the Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center Gene Regulation Program from 1999-2005 and 20011-present. Dr. Carey started the Cold Spring Harbor Eukaryotic Gene Expression Course with his UCLA colleague, Dr. Steven Smale, and served as course director in 1997. Drs. Carey and Smale wrote a 650-page textbook titled “Transcriptional Regulation in Eukaryotes; Concepts, Strategies and Techniques.” The first edition was published by CSHL Press in 2000 and the second edition was published in 2009. Dr. Carey is a scientific cofounder of Agensys, a biotechnology company focused on prostate cancer therapy. In 2000, during a leave of absence from UCLA, Dr. Carey served as Director of Biology at Genesoft, a company focused on cancer therapeutics targeting transcription factor binding sites in the genome. From 2006-2010, Dr. Carey was Chief Scientific Advisor for OncoTx, a biotech company focused on using transcription factors as therapeutic targets in melanoma and other cancers. Dr. Carey is on numerous committees at UCLA that oversee undergraduate and graduate research education.


1998-2000 CaPCURE Research Awards
1998 JCCC David Paul Kane Scholar

Tracy Johnson

Co-Director of UPLIFT
Department of Molecular, Cell and Developmental Biology

Email: tljohnson@ucla.edu
Office Location:
5159 Terasaki Life Sciences Building
610 Charles E. Young Drive
Los Angeles, CA 90095


Tracy Johnson is the Maria Rowena Ross Chair of Cell Biology and Biochemistry. Dr. Johnson moved from UC San Diego to UCLA in 2013 to join the faculty in Molecular, Cell, and Developmental Biology. She earned her B.A. in Biochemistry and Cell Biology from UCSD, her Ph.D. in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology from UC Berkeley, and was a Jane Coffin Childs postdoctoral fellow at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) where she studied the mechanisms of RNA splicing with John Abelson. Dr. Johnson’s research is focused on the mechanisms of eukaryotic RNA processing, particularly pre-messenger RNA splicing. Her lab has most recently been interested in the coordination of these reactions with RNA synthesis and chromatin modification. Dr. Johnson is the recipient of the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE) and serves on a number of scientific boards and federal Grant Review panels. In 2013, she received the UCSD Chancellor’s Associates Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching and in 2013 was selected as one of the Top 20 Women Professors in California. In 2014, Dr. Johnson was named a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Professor. As one of 15 leading scientist-educators, the distinction recognizes leadership in research and education, and provides $1 million over five years to create innovative activities that integrate research with undergraduate education.

Erin Sanders

Director of CEILS
Assistant Adjunct Professor, Department of Microbiology, Immunology & Molecular Genetics
Academic Coordinator, Department of Life Sciences Core Education

Email: erins@ceils.ucla.edu
Office Location: 126 Hershey Hall
(310) 825-1783


Erin Sanders is an accomplished leader in the development and assessment of innovative strategies for undergraduate STEM education both in the classroom and laboratory. Dr. Sanders earned her B.S. in Chemistry from DePaul University in Chicago, IL in 1998 and her Ph.D. in Biological Chemistry from UCLA in 2005. Her research interests and experience span a variety of life sciences disciplines including molecular systematics of plastid genes in green algae, mechansims of site-specific DNA recombination in bacteria, and composition studies of bio-energy relevant microbial communities. As a faculty member in UCLA’s Department of Microbiology, Immunology, and Molecular Genetics, Dr. Sanders pioneered the development of an innovative state-of-the-art curriculum for MIMG undergraduates and coordinated the creation of new upper division courses that provide authentic research experiences for all MIMG and Molecular, Cell, and Developmental Biology majors. Dr. Sanders is the author of a popular textbook about this curriculum, has published on her assessment-informed curricular reform efforts, and is a recognized leader and scholar in STEM education.

As the founding director of CEILS, Dr. Sanders works with the Associate Dean Van Valkenburgh and the Faculty Advisory Committee to coordinate CEILS activities to meet the needs and interests of participating faculty in departments and interdisciplinary programs responsible for instruction of undergraduate courses in the Life Sciences. By conferring with CEILS participants, leadership, and cross-campus units, Dr. Sanders helps promote and support education and diversity initiatives that strengthen the teaching community at UCLA.

Ann Mao

UPLIFT Program Coordinator

Email: maojacan@ceils.ucla.edu
Office Location: 122 Hershey Hall
 (310) 825-6695


Ann Mao is a UCLA alum, having graduated with her B.A in Linguistics and Asian Languages and Cultures. As an undergraduate, she spent her time working in a Drosophila melanogaster research lab as stock-keeper and laboratory assistant, where she conducted research pertaining to the phenotypes of flies and the frequency of the display of these phenotypes resulting from various genetic crosses. Ms. Mao works directly with CEILS Director Sanders, providing administrative and clerical support, assisting with programming logistics and scheduling, creating content for websites and other media, and helping with communication strategies for CEILS-related projects.

Sabeeha Merchant

Chair of the UPLIFT Advisory Committee
Distinguished Professor, Biochemistry

Email: merchant@chem.ucla.edu
Young Hall 5070A
(310) 825-8300
Young Hall 5043
(310) 825-3661



View research website. 

Professor of Biochemistry; Director, Institute of Genomics and Proteomics; Member, Molecular Biology Institute; BS and PhD, University of Wisconsin-Madison; Post-doctoral Scholar, Harvard University; Searle Scholar; National Institutes of Health Research Career Development Award; UCLA Faculty Career Development Awards; Guggenheim Foundation Fellow; Charles Albert Shull Award of ASPB; Herbert Newby McCoy Award; AAASFellow; ASPB Fellow; NAS Gilbert Morgan Smith Medal; ASPB Charles F. Kettering Award; Humboldt Forschungspreis (Alexander von Humboldt Foundation);
Darbaker Prize from the Botanical Society of America; Elected to the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, Elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences; External Member, Max Planck Institute – Molecular Plant Physiology