Meet the Team


Associate Professor and Akiko Yamazaki and Jerry Yang Faculty 
Scholar in Pediatric Translational Medicine
Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences
Director, Pediatric Mood Disorders Program
Director, Pediatric Emotion And Resilience Lab
Stanford University School of Medicine

Melissa Packer

Melissa received an M.A. in clinical psychology with an emphasis in marriage and family therapy from Pepperdine University. Prior to joining PEARL, she was the lab manager for the  Cancer Survivorship Research Team, also in the Stanford Psychiatry and  Behavioral Sciences Department. Broadly, Melissa is interested in neuroimaging, mood and anxiety disorders and symptoms (including self-destructive behaviors), impulsivity,  antisocial behavior, and peer relationship interactions with these syndromes (e.g.,  popularity/unpopularity). She plans to pursue an interdisciplinary academic research career. Outside of research, she enjoys hiking, scary movies, baking, and llamas.

Akua Nimarko

Akua is a Neurosciences PhD candidate at Stanford. Prior to Stanford, Akua graduated from the University of Maryland, Baltimore County with a B.S. in Biological Sciences and Psychology. Akua is interested in the neural basis of mood disorders and of resilience. In the PEARL, Akua uses neuroimaging techniques to understand brain factors that help differentiate between adolescents who will and will not develop a mood disorder. After completing her PhD, Akua plans to pursue an academic research career as a professor. Outside of research, Akua enjoys traveling, watching movies, dancing, and hanging out with friends.

Yvonne Lu

Yvonne graduated from University of California, Los Angeles with a major in Psychobiology. While at UCLA, she worked in Dr. Carrie Bearden’s Lab in the Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior for three years. Her research focus was on risk factors for the development of child- and adolescent-onset neuropsychiatric disorders 22q11.2 Deletion (DiGeorge Syndrome) and Prader-Willi Syndrome. At the PEARL, she currently works as a Clinical Research Coordinator for the AIMS study. Yvonne is interested in understanding the development and treatment of genetic disorders in children. In her free time, she likes going to amusement parks, trying out new cafes, and eating Taiwanese food.

Corrina Fonseca

Corrina graduated from UC Santa Cruz with a B.A. in Intensive Psychology and a B.S. in Cognitive Science. As an undergraduate, she worked as a Research Assistant in Dr. James Gross’s Stanford Psychophysiology Lab (SPL) on a study of emotion regulation and physiological and neural responses. After the SPL, she worked for several years at the SFVA Medical Center as a Research Associate and Senior Imaging Technician under Dr. Michael Weiner and Dr. Duygu Tosun. Her main focus was on MRI data processing and analysis for studies of brain-based biomarkers in Alzheimer’s Disease and late life depression. Corrina joined the PEARL in 2018 hoping to expand on her experience with clinical populations and the underlying neural correlates in psychiatric disorders. She hopes to attain a Ph.D in Cognitive Neuroscience to further explore functional network connectivity and brain-based biomarkers of mood and anxiety disorders. Outside of the lab, Corrina enjoys spending time with her Jack Russell Terrier at the beach and exploring San Francisco with friends.

Swapnil Mehta

Swapnil is a dual M.D./M.S. candidate at the Stanford University School of Medicine. Having lived in four states by the third grade, he eventually found himself out east at Amherst College, where he majored in Neuroscience and completed his senior honors thesis in biochemistry. After graduating, he moved to Boston to work in Dr. Kimberly Stegmaier’s laboratory at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute helping identify novel targeted therapies for pediatric cancers. Since coming to Stanford, Swapnil’s interests in both clinical and basic science research have grown. Projects he has worked on to date include studying the role of aberrant immune amplification in Alzheimer’s disease pathogenesis and investigating the efficacy of stem-cell transplantation for stroke recovery. Ultimately, Swapnil’s interests in clinical populations led him to enroll in a master’s program in clinical epidemiology. As a member of the PEARL lab, Swapnil looks forward to better understanding the impact of family environment on the course and severity of childhood mood disorders. This fall he will be applying for psychiatry residencies, where he hopes to continuing pursuing his joint passions for research and clinical care.

Megan Parker

Megan is an undergraduate student at Stanford, studying Human Biology with a concentration in the Social and Biological Determinants of Mental Health. She began assisting in research at Stanford’s Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences during her first year at Stanford, focusing on neuroimaging. Megan is interested in studying the causes and effects of neurobiological changes during development, endocrine effects on the brain, and individual variation in the presentation of mood disorders. At the PEARL, Megan focuses on neuroimaging. Upon graduating from Stanford, she will complete an honors thesis on the brain morphology of approach motivation in depressed youth. She hopes to continue investigating the relationship between brain morphology and mood disorders through a career in neuroscience or medicine. Outside of research, Megan enjoys dancing, swimming, and listening to music. 

Sarthak Angal

Sarthak is a M.D. candidate of Stanford school of medicine. He grew up in Cupertino and attended U.C. Davis. He majored in Genetics and conducted research in Dr. Hunter’s lab, studying proteins that conduct crossover events during meiosis in mice. After graduating, he worked at Stanford as a research assistant in the Artandi lab, studying the effects of telomerase in various cancers. He initially wanted to be a veterinarian, and volunteered at multiple veterinary clinics during undergraduate. Although he ultimately decided on human medicine, he still loves animals and enjoys spending time with his dog outside of research. At PEARL, Sarthak coordinates patient visits for the AIMS study and assists in the data analysis. He is interested in the impact of mood disorders in children and is planning on a future career in child psychiatry.

Whitney Tang

Whitney graduated from Loyola University of Chicago with a B.A. in English and a specialization in Writing.  Prior to joining PEARL, Whitney founded a startup publication focused on developing professional standards in the childcare community.  After selling her startup, Whitney transitioned to a more medically based childcare approach and started working with young children affected by Cystic Fibrosis at Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago. Whitney joined PEARL in 2018 as the Clinical Research Coordinator for the MOMENTUM study and is excited to investigate the clinical, demographic, and familial risk factors for developing worsening depression in youth.  Outside of the lab, Whitney can be found volunteering at Lucille Packard Children’s Hospital, spending time with her young children at the beach, or immersing herself in a classic Russian novel.

Esther Rah

Esther graduated from UC Berkeley with a B.A. in Sociology. Prior to joining PEARL, Esther was a research coordinator for Drs. Michael Weiner on the Alzheimer’s Disease Neuroimaging Initiative at the San Francisco Veterans’ Affair Medical Center, Kate Possin on the Dementia Care Ecosystem study at the UCSF Memory and Aging Center, and most recently Marilu Gorno-Tempini on the Dyslexia Phenotyping Project at the UCSF Dyslexia Center. Esther joined PEARL in 2018 as a Clinical Research Coordinator and is excited to learn more about the risk and protective factors of pediatric mood disorders and to work with families affected by these diseases. She hopes to deepen her understanding of neurodegenerative diseases, learning differences, and pediatric mood disorders by becoming a clinical psychologist. Outside of the lab, Esther can be found reading paperback fiction novels, hiking, and exploring the city.