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Our Team

We are a diverse team of dedicated individuals who all contribute to the various projects we have going on. Here's a little about us:


Omar Mesarwi, M.D.

Assistant Professor

I have been a faculty member at UCSD since 2016. I did my undergraduate studies at Stanford, went to UT Southwestern for medical school and residency, and then did pulmonary, critical care, and sleep medicine training at Johns Hopkins. I love to spend time with my wonderful wife Paula and my amazing daughter Amal, and I like to cook - though I'm not particularly good at it - and I also enjoy traveling and watching basketball.


Laura Barnes, M.D.

PCCM Faculty

Dr. Barnes was born in Leeds, UK and moved to Minnesota to complete high school. She then went to Johns Hopkins, where she wrote her French thesis on TB in 19th Century French Literature and did research on exercise in Cystic Fibrosis. She then returned to the cold at the University of Minnesota for Medical School, where she continued to work in Cystic Fibrosis this time focusing on Pseudomonas transmission. During this she spent a year in Uganda studying malaria. She then followed the sun to Residency at UC San Diego where she did research on post-arrest outcomes. Due to the wonderful people, she stayed for a year as an Hospitalist and then for Fellowship. She is currently studying the effect of hypoxia in a COVID mouse model. She enjoys solo travel, hiking, poor piano-playing and trying to keep plants alive.


Charlotte Cong

Student research volunteer

I am a third year human health psychology major at UCSD! I plan on pursuing a career in the health field with plans to become either a physician or a physician’s assistant. I joined the Mesarwi lab to gain a better understanding of the effects of hypoxia and intermittent fasting in mouse models.  Outside of school, I enjoy going to the beach, hiking, and cooking!


Zehraa Haddawi

Student research volunteer

I am a graduating senior studying general biology at UC San Diego. I am pursuing a career in dentistry. I joined the Mesarwi lab because I'm interested in learning about the overlap between hypoxia and metabolic disorders. During my free time, I like to knit, draw, and play with my pet birds.


Ana Sanchez-Azofra, M.D.

Postdoctoral fellow

I am a medical doctor trained in Spain in pulmonary and sleep medicine. In the last year, I have focused my career on research, as a postdoctoral fellow. My main interest is the combination of sustained hypoxia and intermittent hypoxia in animal and human models, such as COPD/OSA overlap syndrome and OSA in high altitude.


Esteban Moya, Ph.D.

Research scientist

I am a project scientist working in the Section of Physiology at the UCSD School of Medicine. 

I received my PhD in Physiology, at the Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile studying the oxidative stress and cardiovascular consequences of chronic intermittent hypoxia in a rat model of obstructive sleep apnea. I continued my research experience with a postdoc at UC San Diego, studying the plasticity ocurring the centers that control ventilation in the brainstemin rodents exposed to sustained hypoxia. Currently, I study the contribution of physiological and genomic features on the adaptation to hypoxia observed in Tibetan and Andean populations living at high altitude, with Dr. Tatum Simonson. I also work with Dr. Mesarwi, exploring the metabolic and cardiovascular effects of diverse hypoxia protocols in mice. I am passionate about science, but I also enjoy running, cycling, good food, and meeting with good friends and family. If you want to join me and mix them all together, I’m down for it!


Kristine Zeta Olvera

Student research volunteer

I am a Molecular and Cellular Biology major at UC San Diego, using research to further my knowledge of hypoxia. I joined the lab to focus on the physiological effects and dynamics of COVID-19 in mouse models. Beyond school, I love traveling to new places, playing soccer, and hanging out with family and friends.


Chloe Afif

Student research volunteer

I am a Molecular and Cell Biology major at UC San Diego and I am interested in the functioning and effects of hypoxia via physiological mechanisms. In the Mesarwi Lab, I have had the opportunity to learn about the relationship between hypoxia and metabolism in mice, and I have gained an increased understanding of obstructive sleep apnea. Outside of classes, I love reading, crocheting, and watching basketball.

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Megan Hackbarth

Student research volunteer

I am an undergraduate student at UCSD studying molecular and cell biology. I plan to pursue a career in the field of medicine and drug discovery. Currently at the lab, I am studying the effects of obesity in hypoxic physiology. In my free time, I enjoy listening to true crime podcasts, making Spotify playlists, and raising my 6 pet chickens. They are my friends, not food!


Yinuo Xu

Student research volunteer

I am an undergraduate student majoring in biochemistry at UC San Diego. I am currently assisting with COVID-19 project and studying the effects of hypoxia on the mouse model of COVID-19. I am pursuing a graduate program in biomedical or related fields. Outside of school and work, I enjoy cooking, playing the piano, and traveling.

Emeritus lab members

Michelle Zhang, MD (in practice)

Jennifer Reeves (MBA program, University of Michigan)

Elijah Lawrence (MD/PhD program, Duke University)

Xin Zhen (PhD program, Vanderbilt University)

Adam Zhao

Mary Gautane

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