Current Lab Members

The Alvira lab aims to understand the molecular mechanisms that control postnatal growth of the lung, and how long term lung health is affected by injuries that occur in early childhood.  We combine multi-omic approaches with advanced mouse models of human disease to understand the mechanisms that promote lung development after birth, and elucidate how these mechanism are disrupted by disease. 

The Alvira Lab is part of a larger, multi-PI research group within the Stanford Center for Excellence in Pulmonary Biology focused on excellence in basic, translational, and clinical research relevant to pediatric lung diseases. The research group strives to create a highly collaborative, dynamic and positive environment that fosters intellectual curiosity, creativity and passion for the discovery of new knowledge.  The Alvira lab is committed to ensuring an inclusive, safe environment where lab members from diverse backgrounds and perspectives feel equally valued.

Cristina Maria Alvira, MD

Principal Investigator

Dr. Alvira completed her medical school training at Tufts University School of Medicine in Boston.  She came to Palo Alto to pursue residency training in pediatrics, and remained at Stanford to pursue subspecialty training in pediatric critical care medicine.    During her clinical fellowship, she began working in the laboratory of Dr. Marlene Rabinovitch, a world leader in pulmonary vascular biology.  It was during this time within Dr. Rabinovitch’s lab that Dr. Alvira recognized her passion for science in general and vascular biology in particular, and continued to pursue extensive post-doctoral training in basic research after the completion of her clinical fellowship in 2005.   Dr. Alvira transitioned to her own research program in 2010, and was appointed Assitant Professor of Pediatrics at Stanford University School of Medicine in 2010. The Alvira Lab is currently funded by four active NIH R01 awards from the National Institutes of Health. Dr. Alvira currently serves as the Associate DIrector of Basic Research for the Stanford Center for Excellence in Pulmonary Biology and the Director of the Stanford Physician Scientist Bridge to K Program. 

Min Liu, PhD

Life Science Research Associate

Dr. Min Liu joined the Alvira Laboratory at the Center for Excellence in Pulmonary Biology on January 2013. Her research focus is to explore the specific roles of the two NFκB activating kinases, IKKα and IKKβ on the migration and the cytoskeletal organization of pulmonary endothelial cells, with a particular interest in understanding how the NFκB pathway and Rho GTPases signaling networks regulate endothelial cell migration and angiogenesis. She also helps manage the lab and supervise students and postdocs. Out of the lab, she enjoys drawing, swimming and travelling.

Dr. Liu received her Ph.D. in Biology from University of Louisiana at Lafayette. Her postdoctoral research at Stanford University and School of Medicine and University of California, Davis focused on fungal vaccine development and microbial molecular Biology. Prior to join her doctoral program in US, she worked as an assistant professor and lecturer at Peking University Health Science Center in China.

Toshie Saito, PhD

Life Science Research Associate 

Dr. Toshie Saito received her MD degree from Gunma university's graduate school of medicine in Japan in 2000 and completed her internal medicine residency at Tokyo University and related hospitals in 2004. She started her career in basic science at Tulane University's department of physiology and hypertension center in 2007 and studied the renin-angiotensin system. She became interested in autoimmunity, and then she moved to the division of Rheumatology at Louisiana State University. She moved to Stanford University in 2011 and continued training in vascular pathology and immunology research and bioinformatics analysis of omics data. She joined Dr. Cristina Alvira's lab as a research professional in 2021. Toshie's research projects aim to elucidate underlying immunological mechanisms in normal lung development and the pathological condition bronchopulmonary dysplasia, which happens among prematurely born babies under ventilation. Currently, she focuses on lineage tracing of Mac I in the developmental stage using transgenic mice. She is also involved in bioinformatics analysis to understand cell-to-cell communication of diverse lineages of cells, including immune cells, endothelial cells, and mesenchymal cells. Her goal is to find critical immunological mechanisms in normal lung development and pathology of bronchopulmonary dysplasia, which will eventually lead to the discovery of innovative therapies for suffering patients.

Daoqin (Rebecca) Zhang, PhD

Postdoctoral Research Fellow

Daoqin Zhang joined the Alvira Lab on January 2022. She received her Ph.D. from Chinese Academy of Sciences in 2018.  Subsequently, she completed a three-year post-doctoral fellowship at UCLA, where she studied the role of ALK1 and Endoglin on the endothelial cell differentiation. She also explored the mechanisms of pulmonary and cerebral arteriovenous malformation (AVMs) and researched treatment for the AVMs. In the Alvira lab, she will lead a project leveraging single cell transcriptomic data to identify molecular mechanisms regulating pulmonary vascular and alveolar development during postnatal lung growth. She enjoys hiking, swimming, running, movies, reading and travelling in her spare time.

Past Lab Members

Racquel Domingo-Gonzalez, PhD

Postdoctoral Research Fellow

Racquel Domingo-Gonzalez obtained her Ph.D. in Immunology from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor in 2014. Her graduate work focused on understanding epigenetic and functional alterations in pulmonary immunity following stem cell transplant. Prior to joining the Alvira lab in the winter of 2018, Racquel pursued postdoctoral research at Washington University in St. Louis, studying the importance of lung innate immunity in multiple murine models of tuberculosis. Her postdoctoral research in the Alvira lab is currently focused on characterizing the lung immune compartment during alveolarization.

Judith Ingles, PhD

Postdoctoral Research Fellow

Judith received her Doctorate of Philosophy in physiology from Wayne State University School of Medicine. In the laboratory of Dr. Jennifer Condon, her dissertation examined the role of endoplasmic reticulum stress in the maintenance of myometrial quiescence. In July 2018, Judith joined the laboratories of Dr. Cristina Alvira and Dr. David Cornfield to continue her training as a Reproductive Physiologist. Her research is currently focused on elucidating the molecular mechanisms responsible for the transition of the myometrium from a quiescent to a contraction state, prior to the induction of term and preterm labor. Specifically, she is examining TRPV4-dependent activation and propagation of uterine inflammation and its contribution to myometrial contractility in murine models of preterm birth. When she is not in the laboratory, she enjoys reading, running, and morning coffee with her friends and family.

Shailaja Rao

Postdoctoral Research Fellow

Dr.  Rao completed her PhD in Molecular Medicine in December 2013 from The Medical University of Graz, Austria, under the mentorship of Professor Sasa Frank in the Institute of Molecular Biology and Biochemistry.  Her graduate project was centered upon the role of endothelial lipase and modified high density lipoproteins (HDL) on vascular reactivity. She joined the Alvira lab in the fall of 2014, and created a novel mouse model containing an inducible, endothelial-specific deletion of the NFkB activator, IKKb.  Based on her early work she was awarded a Stanford Child Health Research Institute Postdoctoral Fellowship Award, and Platform Presentations at the Pediatric Academic Societies Meetings in 2016 and 2017.