Meet the Team


Assistant 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. Melissa is interested in elucidating the neurobiological underpinnings of pediatric mood disorders and mechanisms of treatment response; the heterogeneity in the presentation of mood disorders with a specific interest in aggression, impulsivity, and irritability; the transactional nature between parenting and children’s internalizing and externalizing behavior; intergenerational transmission of risk for mood disorders; and peer relationship correlates of mood disorders in youth, especially bullying behavior (both perpetration and victimization), popularity/unpopularity, and friendlessness. Because Melissa also has a forensic psychology bent, she hopes to eventually examine these topics specifically in justice-involved youth as well. She plans to pursue an interdisciplinary academic research career. Outside of research, she enjoys hiking, scary movies, baking, and llamas.

Kevin Lee Sun

Kevin is an M.D. candidate of Stanford University School of Medicine. He joined the PEARL lab in 2018, excited to investigate the intersections of familial risk, metabolic dysfunction, and neurodevelopment of mood disorders. He was born and raised in Sacramento, where he was educated through the International Baccalaureate program. As a Stanford undergraduate, Kevin majored in Biology, and he conducted yeast genetics research in Ashby Morrison’s lab investigating chromatin remodeling complexes, as well as mouse model research in Michael Fischbein’s lab investigating molecular mechanisms of Marfan syndrome. He also majored in Classics, and his senior paper on Platonic philosophy and the Socratic method was published by Stanford’s Program in Writing and Rhetoric. Outside of research, Kevin is a concert pianist with a Masters degree from the San Francisco Conservatory of Music. He loves to teach kids piano and to perform outreach recitals at senior care centers.

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.

Sara Leslie

Sara graduated from Stanford University with a B.A. (Honors) in Psychology and a specialization in Neuroscience. While at Stanford, she worked in the Mood and Anxiety Disorders Laboratory on neuroimaging research and completed her thesis on the relation between depression, stress, and cortical thickness. Subsequently she has worked in research labs specializing in cognitive neuroscience, emotion regulation, and memory disorders, and has continued to be interested in the brain systems involved in emotion and cognitive processing. At the PEARL lab she is focused on the acquisition and analysis of neuroimaging data as a means to more deeply understand the development and treatment of pediatric mood disorders. She hopes to continue investigating the interactions between neural processes, cognition, and emotional experience. In her free time, she enjoys photography, writing, and exploring the beauty of nature. 

Nina Bahl

Nina grew up in Toronto, Canada, where she received her master’s in medical neuroscience from the University of Toronto. After graduating, she focused on neuropsychiatric research at the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto and UCSF in San Francisco—here, she worked with young people affected by mood disorders and psychosis, while integrating behavioural and neuroimaging research methods.

At Stanford, Nina hopes to contribute to a deepened understanding of the development and treatment of pediatric mood disorders. Outside of research, she enjoys all things creative, listening to podcasts, yoga, and eating great food in the Bay.

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.