Meet the Team

   

Jon-Paul Pepper, MD 

Principal Investigator

 

Dr. Pepper is the Director of the Stanford Facial Paralysis Center and directs both the scientific and clinical work that is dedicated to improving outcomes after facial nerve injury.  He has directed a research lab focused on nerve regeneration since 2013 and moved both his clinical practice and research to Stanford University in 2017.  While on faculty at the University of Southern California he was awarded the Research Mentor Award in 2016-17.

  

Lili He, PhD

Lili is a Life Science Research Professional who completed her PhD in Pathology and Cell Biology at the University of South Florida in 2008. She joined the Pepper Lab in 2019 and is working on vascular imaging of peripheral nerves and the role of endoneurial fibroblasts in nerve graft survival.

  

  

Zachary Kim, Undergraduate Student

Zachary is an undergraduate student at Stanford University, majoring in Biology. He joined the Pepper Lab in 2021. Zachary grew up in New Jersey and likes to golf and do archery in his free time.

  

Praveen Sundar, Undergraduate Student

Praveen is an undergraduate sophomore studying Biomechanical Engineering. Praveen’s interest and his current project in the lab lie in prostheses and nerve regrowth. Within the lab, my current project deals with Fibrinogen and Thrombin combinations, as well as 3D bio-printing scaffolding made specifically for nerve repair.

  

Justine Sato, Undergraduate Student

Justine Sato is an undergraduate student at Stanford University studying biomechanical engineering. In the Pepper Lab, she is collaborating on a project focused on localized drug delivery to the site of injury during nerve surgery. In her free time, she likes playing trumpet with several of Stanford’s musical organizations and studying Japanese.

  

Tannaz Azimi

Tannaz is a Life Science Research Professional who completed her BS in Neuroscience from Santa Clara University in 2022. She joined the Pepper Lab in the Summer of 2022 and is currently working on better understanding peripheral nerve regeneration post-injury through an in vivo model. 

  

Ali Mottaghi, Graduate Student 

Ali Mottaghi is a 5th-year PhD student working on AI in Healthcare. He is also part of the Medical AI and Computer Vision Lab (MARVL). Ali is interested in developing new computer vision algorithms for more efficient and accessible healthcare delivery. 

  

Aya Aziz, Undergraduate Student 

Aya Aziz is a Sophomore majoring in Human Biology at Stanford. She joined the Pepper Lab in 2022 and is one of two Co-Investigators for the IRB-approved project titled “Dynamic Analysis of Facial Paralysis,” a project aimed at developing an AI algorithm to assess palsy severity in patient videos and track recovery over time. Her interests within the lab lie in the intersection of clinical medicine and machine learning. Outside of the lab, she enjoys photography, drawing, and classical music. 

  

Mia Muoneke, Undergraduate Student 

Mia Muoneke is a Senior graduating this year with a degree in Symbolic Systems from Stanford. She also joined the Pepper Lab in 2022 and is a Co-Investigator of the project “Dynamic Analysis of Facial Paralysis.” She is pursuing a career in marketing after graduation. Within the lab, Mia is interested in neuroscience and human behavior. Outside of the lab, she is an involved member of Stanford’s Tri-Delta sorority chapter, and dog-sits in her free time. 

  

Ariana Kalili, Undergraduate Student 

Ariana Kalili is a Junior majoring in Biomedical Computation at Stanford. She joined the Pepper Lab in 2022 and is a research assistant for the IRB-approved project titled “Dynamic Analysis of Facial Paralysis,” a project aimed at developing an AI algorithm to assess palsy severity in patient videos and track recovery over time. Within the lab she is interested in advancing the use of individualized medicine, using machine learning methods. Outside of the lab she enjoys playing tennis, making pottery, and having picnics on Meyer Green.

  

Noor Hassan, Undergraduate Student 

Ms. Hassan is an undergraduate student serving as a Research Assistant at the Pepper Lab. She is working towards a B.S in Symbolic Systems with a concentration in Neuroscience at Stanford University. Ms. Hassan also serves as an officer for the Symbolic Systems Society and is a Research Assistant at Stanford University School of Medicine in the Shinozaki Lab. Her research interests include the relationship between the brain and artificial intelligence, neural networks, and natural language processing. 

  

Daniella Morales, Undergraduate Student 

Daniella Morales is a junior at Stanford majoring in Biomedical Computation. She joined the Pepper Lab in 2022 and is a research intern for the project “Dynamic Analysis of Facial Paralysis.” Within the lab, Daniella is interested in neuroscience and machine learning. Outside the lab, she enjoys hiking, listening to music, and spending time with her dog Lola.

  

Lab Alumni (mentees)

Chrisa Faniku, PhD

Dr. Faniku completed her PhD in Biomedical Sciences at Glasgow Caledonian University in Scotland. She was a postdoctoral fellow in Dr. Pepper’s lab from 2018 to 2022. Her manuscript, “Hedgehog signaling promotes endoneurial fibroblast migration and Vegf-A expression following facial nerve injury” was published in Brain research in 2021. Her research on this topic was awarded a 1st place prize at the Stanford Bio-X Symposium in 2020 and was presented at the Society for Neuroscience in 2019.

Max Bjorni, BS

Max majored in Neuroscience at Santa Clara University and completed a visiting student rotation in the Pepper Lab in 2019-2020.

Tiffany Wang, MD

Tiffany completed a co-first author publication that described the use of human induced pluripotent stem cells for the derivation of motor neurons. Using a mouse model of sciatic nerve injury, she successfully transplanted and engrafted these cells into immunodeficient mice. Her work was published in a JAMA-series publication. She matched at a highly competitive and sought after residency position in Otolaryngology at Harvard University, the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary, where she is completing her clinical training.

Gabriela Bobarnac, MD

Gabby focused her work as Dean’s scholar on the injury-responsive mesenchyme in the mouse facial nerve. She described a population of endoneurial fibroblasts in the facial nerve that proliferate after injury and replenish the injury site and the perineurium of the injured nerve. Her work was accepted for publication by Experimental Neurology and was featured on the cover of Volume 303 in 2018. She matched into a highly competitive residency position in Otolaryngology at the Oregon Health and Sciences University.