Gordon Li Lab Members

Gordon Li, MD
Professor of Neurosurgery and Vice Chair of Faculty Affairs, Department of Neurosurgery

Gordon Li graduated from Brown University with honors in neuroscience and received his MD at UC Davis School of Medicine.  He completed his neurosurgical residency at Stanford University School of Medicine and was hired on to help build the brain tumor center at Stanford University School of Medicine.  His clinical interests include improving surgical techniques for brain tumor surgery, immunotherapy for the treatment of brain cancer, and novel uses for stereotactic radiosurgery.  His research laboratory studies the biology of brain tumors with the goal of developing novel therapeutics for the treatment of malignant brain tumors and translating that research into clinical trials.

Ryan Nitta, PhD

Dr. Ryan Nitta attended Grinnell College where he was awarded the Benjamin F. Graham Jr. Scholarship given to the top biology student of year and obtained a Bachelor of Arts in Biology. He later conducted his graduate work at the University of Washington with Dr. Brian Kennedy studying the role of A-type lamins in gene regulation and disease. Upon receiving his Ph.D. he was a postdoctoral fellow at Stanford University with Dr. Albert Wong in the Neurosurgery department. His work focused on studying novel kinase pathways involved in brain and non-small cell lung cancers. He continued his postdoctoral studies at the Geron Corporation elucidating the molecular mechanisms of the telomerase inhibitor, imetelstat. Currently he is a Research Associate/laboratory manager in Dr. Gordon Li’s laboratory. His current projects include studying the role of casein kinase 2 alpha in glial cancer stem cell maintenance and studying novel therapeutic targets in glioblastoma.  In his spare time he enjoys white water rafting, participating in outdoor adventures and playing fantasy football.  


Quan Zhou, PhD

Quan received a four-year full ride Scholarship for Outstanding Mainland Student (Education Bureau, Hong Kong) to obtain a BSc (Hons) degree in Applied Biology (field of study: Biotechnology) and Chemistry from Hong Kong Baptist University. In her honors thesis, she investigated the acute and prolonged effects of alcohol intake on dopamine receptor expression in the substantia nigra. Quan completed her MS and PhD in Biomedical Engineering (fields of study: Biomaterial and Biomedical Imaging, respectively) at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, where she was awarded the Richard and Eleanor Towner Prize for Distinguished Academic Achievement. Her doctoral research on optical and photoacoustic imaging for early detection of liver and colorectal cancers with molecular targeting probes received the American Gastroenterological Association (AGA) Research Foundation Award. Quan is currently a postdoctoral fellow in the Li Lab and the Molecular Imaging Program at Stanford (MIPS) conducting a Phase I/II clinical trial on fluorescence-guided neurosurgery with an EGFR-targeting near-infrared antibody to improve resection accuracy of brain malignancies. Her recent work has established a theranostic imaging and analysis framework in both human and animal models to predict therapeutic distribution in brain tumors from clinical, radiographic and tumor microenvironment features. Her projects also include intratumoral immunosuppression of high-grade glioma and enhanced antibody delivery across the blood-brain barrier.

Quan has served as a formal mentor (183 mentees) and informal counselor (2550+ trainees) for students of all ages and backgrounds. In 2017 she became the first non-faculty recipient of Willie Hobbs Moore Aspire Advance Achieve Mentoring Award recognizing her outstanding mentorship in multiple academic, outreach and athletic programs, and her leadership roles in the Society of Women Engineers (SWE), the engineering honor society Tau Beta Pi (TBP) and the University of Michigan Table Tennis Club (UMTTC). In 2015-2017, Quan and her teammates represented University of Michigan in winning the NCTTA Great Lakes Regional Championships. At Stanford, she has been a key organizer for the MIPS Journal Club, bringing in experts in quantum computing for clinical imaging frontiers. In her spare time, Quan enjoys reading, stand-up comedy and long walks.

Lab Alumni

Maya Agarwal

Maya Agarwal graduated from the University of California, Berkeley in May 2013 with a Bachelor's degree in South and Southeast Asian Studies, complemented with a multidisciplinary training in Science, Math, and Economics. While at Berkeley, she was also a two-time recipient of The Leadership Award scholarship of the Cal Alumni Association.  Maya has been conducting neurosurgery research since 2007 when she designed an award-winning research project on the cost-effectiveness of alternative treatments for positional plagiocephaly at Johns Hopkins Hospital under the mentorship of Dr. George Jallo.  Maya began working at Stanford in her third year at Berkeley and is pursuing her interests in neurosurgery as a Research Assistant at the Li Lab in preparation for attending medical school.  Her current project with Dr. Gordon Li involves studying the tumor suppressive abilities of chromatin remodeling protein, ikaros, in glioblastoma multiforme.  In her spare time, Maya enjoys practicing yoga, competing in her fantasy football leagues, and scuba diving.  

Parvir Aujla

Parvir Aujla is a 3rd year undergraduate at UC Santa Cruz pursuing a degree in Biology with a field of study in Neuroscience. He has been working in the Gordon Li lab every summer since his senior year of high school. His current project involves discovering the synergistic and additive effect of combining CX-4945 with other cancer therapeutics in glioblastomas. He plans on going to medical school after he finished his undergraduate career. In his spare time, he likes to stay physically active, as well as play fantasy football.

Sara Bolin, PhD

Sara Bolin obtained her PhD from the Department of Immunology, Genetics and Pathology at Uppsala University, Sweden. During her PhD she worked on pediatric brain tumors where she showed how the oncoprotein MYC can be specifically targeted by combined epigenetic BET inhibition and cell cycle/CDK2 inhibition in a MYC-driven brain tumor model. Sara also showed that medulloblastoma metastasis is driven by the stem cell protein SOX9. Currently, she is a postdoc in the Li lab studying the role of Casein Kinase 2 and metastatic spread of childhood brain tumors. Outside of work Sara enjoys backpacking and music shows.   

Timothy Bui

Timothy Bui is a 4th year undergraduate at Stanford University pursuing a degree in Biology with a field of study in Neurobiology. He has been working in the Gordon Li lab since his 2nd year. In the summer of 2013 he was awarded the Major Research Grant to study the therapeutic potential of reducing gamma-glutamyl transferase 7 in immortalized glioblastoma cell lines. He is continuing his research elucidating the tumor suppressing abilities of this novel gene in his senior year. He plans on going to medical school after he finishes his undergraduate career. In his spare time, he likes to keep physically active, as well as play fantasy football.

Ben Jin

Ben Jin is a 3rd year undergraduate at Stanford University, pursuing a degree in Biology with a field of study in Computational Biology, as well as a minor in Feminist, Gender, & Sexuality Studies. He has been working in the Li Lab since his freshman year. In his freshman year summer, he was awarded the Minor Research Grant to study the tumorigenicity of over-expressed wild-type and certain mutant strains of casein kinase II-B in medulloblastoma cell lines, and was awarded the Major Research Grant to continue this research during his sophomore year summer. He is continuing his research to further elucidate the tumorigenic potential and proteomic pathways of CK2 in medulloblastomas. He plans on going to graduate school after attaining his bachelor's and devoting the rest of his life to bio research. In his spare time, he likes to explore the human condition, contemplate life, and slowly but surely learn the art of fantasy football. 

Karen Lee

Karen Lee is a fourth year undergraduate at Stanford completing her bachelor’s degree in biology with honors in neurobiology.  In the Li Lab, her project focuses on studying Casein Kinase 2 regulation of tumor metastatic potential in glioblastoma. In the summer of 2015, she was selected as a recipient of the Undergraduate Research Major Grant in the department of Biology to study the invasive and migratory phenotypes underlying epithelial to mesenchymal transition in glioblastoma. 

In line with her love for biotechnology, Karen serves as the Advising Team Officer in Stanford’s Biomedical Engineering Society for which she leads mentorship programs and community outreach events for undergraduate and high school students. Apart from research, her clinical interests lie within the realm of improving healthcare for cancer patients and quality of life for neuropsychiatric disorders. She volunteers with Stanford USVH as an advocate for Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s patients at the Menlo Park VA Hospital, and leads the Public Relations team for an organization dedicated to improving hospital stay for children with cancer. In her spare time, Karen enjoys piano, music, hiking, and writing. After graduation, she plans to complete a one-year masters program in biology at Stanford before pursuing medical school.

Emily Luo

Emily Luo is a 3rd year undergraduate at Stanford University, pursuing a B.S. degree in Human Biology as well as a minor in Religious Studies. She previously interned at George Mason University, where she studied the effects of natural plant extracts on HIV-1 replication. She has also worked at TopAlliance Biosciences, a small bio-tech company in Rockville, MD that is currently conducting clinical trials for their anti PD-1/PD-L1 monoclonal antibody. Emily has been working in the Li Lab since the beginning of her sophomore year. She has been researching the apoptotic effects of modulating casein kinase 2 in medulloblastoma cell lines, and was awarded the HB-Rex Major Grant to continue this research during her sophomore year summer. She plans on attending medical school after graduating from Stanford. In her free time, Emily enjoys lifting weights, playing volleyball, long boarding, and listening to music.