UCI CSC Faculty
Joseph F. C. DiMento, JD, PhD
Professor of Law and Planning and of Criminology, Law and Society
I focus on the land use and environmental issues raised by the regulation of recreational and medicinal cannabis. Federal and state laws address cultivation, sale, distribution, and use of the substance and implicate statutory interpretation, constitutional and common law analyses.
Christie Fowler, PhD
Assistant Professor, Department of Neurobiology and Behavior
My research focuses on elucidating the neurobiological mechanisms underlying motivated behaviors and motivational deficits associated with neuropsychiatric disorders. We are currently working to define the role of extracellular epigenetic signaling mechanisms and brain circuitries involved in the development and maintenance of drug dependence. Of note, we have recently found that THC modulates the release of extracellular vesicles containing miRNAs from neural-derived cells. This line of research is currently being extended to examine the impact of cannabinoids, including THC and CBD, on extracellular signaling mechanisms both in the brain and periphery. We are also working to develop a vapor cannabinoid self-administration protocol to subsequently examine the impact of volitional drug intake on neural circuit function during prenatal, adolescence and adult developmental ages. Further information about our research can be found at the Fowler laboratory website.
Kalpna Gupta, PhD
Professor of Medicine, Department of Medicine, Division of Hematology/Oncology
Dr Kalpna Gupta has led pioneering work in understanding the mechanisms of adverse effects of opioids on cancer pain leading to cancer progression, and laid down the foundation of understanding the mechanisms of pain in sickle cell disease (SCD). These insights will help us treat both pain and the underlying disease process causing pain in the first place. Her laboratory has identified several new targets at the intersection of the sickle disease process and pain, including cannabinoid receptors, mast cells, and the nociceptin receptor, in addition to integrative approaches including environment’s modification, acupuncture and perception modulation to relieve pain. Dr Gupta is also a recipient of the Excellence in Hemoglobinopathies Research Award from NHLBI to examine the potential of cannabinoids to treat pain and develop methods to quantify pain objectively. She has served as an advisor to the SCD program at NHLBI/NIH and received the “Pioneer Award” from the Sickle Cell Disease Association od America.
Kaaryn S. Gustafson
Professor or Law and Director, Center on Law, Inequality & Race (CLEAR)
Gustafson’s research examines the effects of law and policy in both remedying and reinforcing racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic inequality. Her research includes exploration of the collateral consequences of criminalization.
Carrie L. Hempel
Associate Dean for Clinical Education and Service Learning
Clinical Professor of Law
I oversee the Law School’s clinical program, in which students, under the supervision of faculty, provide varied legal services to underserved communities. I am interested in facilitating connections between the Center’s research interests and the work of the clinical program.
Associate Adjunct Professor
Department of Anatomy & Neurobiology
My research is focused on the endocannabinoid system in the brain. More specifically, I have been studying molecular mechanisms controlling the biosynthesis and inactivation of endocannabinoid 2-AG. Moving forward, my study aims to elucidate the mechanism by which early-life cannabinoid exposure affects brain 2-AG signaling and causes persistent cognitive impairment.
Virginia E. Kimonis, MD
Division of Genetics and Metabolism School of Medicine
The Kimonis Laboratory is a molecular genetics lab within the Division of Genetics & Genomic Medicine at UC Irvine School of Medicine Department of Pediatrics. Dr. Kimonis discovered an important inherited muscle disorder that occured in combination with Paget disease of the bone and early onset of frontotemporal dementia.
Jonathan R. T. Lakey
Professor, Director of Clinical Islet Program, Department of Surgery and Biomedical Engineering
My research in diabetes is focused on alternative source of pancreatic islets for transplant, including stem cells, and using plant chemicals to improve blood glucose response. I plan to study the impact of cannabis on differentiation of stem cells to beta cells, and to suppress autoimmune response in diabetes.
Loftus studies human memory. She focuses on how facts, ideas, suggestions and other forms of post-event information can modify our memories. The particular problems faced by eyewitnesses to crimes, accidents, and other events has been a theme of her scientific experiments. Of new importance in current time is the role that cannabis play in the accuracy of eyewitness memory.
Hamid Moradi, MD
Associate Clinical Professor
My research has focused on deciphering novel pathways which can be targeted to improve survival in end stage kidney disease (ESKD). We have found that factors which improve energy efficiency can be associated with reduced morbidity and mortality. Moving forward, we plan to study the potential impact of cannabis on energy metabolism and cachexia in patients with ESKD being treated with dialysis.
Ariana Nelson, MD
Associate Clinical Professor
Department of Anesthesiology & Pain Medicine
My research explores using cannabis as a supplement to improve patients’ function as they decrease their opioid use. The interaction between the endocannabinoid and opioidergic systems has been shown in animal models, and I am investigating the type of cannabis physicians should recommend to improve the health and activity level of their patients.
Cornelia Pechmann, MS, PhD, MBA
Professor of Marketing at The Paul Merage School of Business, University of California Irvine
Connie (Cornelia) conducts lab and field experiments to study controversial marketing messages including tobacco and drug messages and social media messages. She has received numerous grants to study adolescents’ response to tobacco-related advertising and product placements. Her recent work examines the use of social media for online self-help groups and she has received a $2.5M NIH grant to develop Tweet2Quit for smoking cessation. Prof. Pechmann is currently seeking a grant to study how state and local policies and health events such as COVID affect youth and adult marijuana use by product type, and also the extent of youth exposure to direct marketing websites that sell marijuana. Prof. Pechmann has published numerous articles in leading marketing journals (JCR, JCP, JMR, JM and JPPM) and public health journals (AJPH, TC) and her work has received extensive press coverage. She is past Editor of the Journal of Consumer Psychology (2012-2015), an Area Editor at Journal of Marketing, a Top 50 Marketing Scholar, and a Who’s Who in Economics. She received the 2009 Pollay Prize for Research in the Public Interest, the 2005 JCR best article award, the 2020 Academic Senate Special Award for Impact on Society and the 2020 AMA-EBSCO Annual Responsible Research in Marketing Award. Her research has been presented to the U.S. Congress, the California State Legislature and the National Association of Attorneys’ General. Prof. Pechmann has an M.S., MBA, and PhD from Vanderbilt University.
Daniele Piomelli, PhD
Director, UCI Center for the Study of Cannabis
Louise Turner Arnold Chair in the Neurosciences
Professor, Anatomy & Neurobiology, Biological Chemistry and Pharmacology
My research is focused on understanding how endocannabinoid substances and other lipid-derived signaling molecules affect the function of the brain and other organs. More specifically, in the last few decades, we have investigated the biochemical pathways involved in the formation and deactivation of the endocannabinoid neurotransmitters, anandamide and 2-arachidonoylglycerol (2-AG), and has uncovered important physiological roles played by these molecules. We also studied another class of lipid messengers, the fatty-acid ethanolamides (FAEs) and ceramide, and identified the mechanism of action of these molecules. We have developed inhibitors of their degradation, whose potential therapeutic uses are currently under investigation. Moving forward, we plan to study the potential impacts of cannabinoids during lifespan, in particular regarding the persistent brain alteration caused by early-life exposure as well as its potential benefits for selected human disorders.
Steven G. Potkin
Steven G. Potkin, a board-certified psychiatrist, Professor Emeritus University of California, Irvine, and Director of Pharmacogenomics and Clinical Neuroscience at the Long Beach Veterans Administration, has played a pioneering role in investigating the interplay between genetics and brain function in serious mental illness and dementia. He will be investigating the effects of cannabis on the agitation, anxiety, and weight loss, common problems in dementia for which there are currently no effective treatments. He will also investigate the effects of cannabis on driving performance and other measures of intoxication.
Aaron J. Przybysz, MD, PhD
Assistant Clinical Professor
Department of Anesthesiology & Pain Medicine
Dr. Aaron Przybysz (pronounced shi-bish) is a board-certified UCI anesthesiologist and pain management physician who specializes in interventional pain management. His clinical interests include spine pain, peripheral joint pain, neuropathic pain, cancer pain, and headache management.
He earned his medical degree from Michigan State University’s College of Human Medicine in East Lansing and a PhD from Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tenn., where he studied signaling pathways associated with the oxidative stress response. He completed a residency in anesthesiology and a fellowship in pain medicine at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor.
His research interests include the use of perioperative and intraoperative analgesic techniques to reduce post-operative pain, the effects steroid injections may have on diabetes management, as well as the role cannabinoids may play in treating acute and chronic pain.
Christopher Reist, MD
Christopher Reist, MD, is a board-certified psychiatrist and Professor in Residence at the University of California, Irvine. He serves as the Associate Chief of Staff for Research at the Long Beach VA Healthcare System where he oversees the facility’s research infrastructure supporting a broad portfolio of basic and clinical research. He has been at the forefront of clinical trials utilizing novel approaches for treating PTSD including augmentation of psychotherapy using virtual environments and cognitive enhancers and new somatic methods such as stellate ganglion blockade and trigeminal nerve stimulation. Dr. Reist will bring his expertise to develop a better understanding of the role of cannabis in alleviating suffering for civilians and Veterans with PTSD.
Associate Professor, Department of Criminology, Law & Society
Keramet Reiter studies prisons, prisoners’ rights, and the impact of prison and punishment policy on individuals, communities, and legal systems. As such, her work often intersects with drug policy and it’s collateral consequences. She uses a variety of methods in her work — including interviewing, archival and legal analysis, and quantitative data analysis — in order to understand both the history and impact of criminal justice policies, from gun control laws and the use of long-term solitary confinement in the United States and internationally to medical experimentation on prisoners and record clearing programs.
John A. Scolaro, MD, MA
Associate Professor of Orthopaedic Surgery
Chief, Orthopaedic Trauma
School of Medicine
Dr. Scolaro is a board certified orthopaedic surgeon specializing in trauma and fracture care. A graduate of the University of Notre Dame, he earned his master’s and medical degrees at Boston University School of Medicine, followed by orthopaedic surgical residency at the University of Pennsylvania and fellowship at Harborview Medical Center – University of Washington. His research focuses on perioperative use of cannabinoids to mitigate pain related to skeletal fracture care. He is actively collaborating with Drs. Nelson and Yeung from the Department of Anesthesia & Perioperative Care as well as Dr. Piomelli and the UCI Center for the Study of Cannabis.
Shalini Shah, MD
Chief, Division of Pain Medicine and Director of Pain Services UCI Health
Assistant Professor, Dept of Anesthesiology & Perioperative Care, UCI Health
Shalini Shah, M.D. serves as Chief, Division of Pain Medicine and Director of Pain Services at the University of California, Irvine. Dr. Shah completed her residency in Anesthesiology from NYP-Cornell University and a combined fellowship in Adult and Pediatric Chronic Pain at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Beth Israel Deaconess and Children’s Hospital of Boston, Harvard Medical School. She is currently an Assistant Professor at the University of California, Irvine and has previous serves as Associate Program Director for the Pain Medicine Fellowship. Dr. Shah is the recipient of the ASRA Chronic Pain Grant Award in 2017 for her work in onabotulinumtoxinA (BOTOX®) use in pediatric migraine pain. She currently leads several industry and peer-reviewed funded clinical trials in pediatric and adult pain medicine and is energized by collaborating with other eager physician scientists. Moving forward, we plan to study the potential impact of cannabis on pediatric pain disorders as an analgesic. Dr. Shah currently serves as the Chair, of the Committee of Pain Medicine at the California Society of Anesthesiologists.
Clinical Professor of Law
Co-Director, Community and Economic Development Clinic
Co-Chair, UCI Center for the Study of Cannabis
Expertise: Community & Economic Development, Housing, Evidence, Trial Advocacy
I will be offering a Spring 2019 course titled The Law of Cannabis. My research includes a study of best practices in regulating cannabis, taxing cannabis and organizing cannabis businesses. In addition, I have helped organize and written about a community development bank, and I am examining the transferability of those principles to a cannabis-oriented bank.
David Timberlake, PhD, MPH
Associate Professor of Public Health in UC Irvine’s College of Health Sciences
My work focuses on epidemiology, marketing, and policy issues in tobacco control, particularly in regards to the contentious debate over the use of tobacco products (e.g., snus, electronic cigarettes) for harm reduction. I have also maintained an ongoing interest in the epidemiology of the co-use of tobacco and cannabis, mainly in the form of blunt smoking. More recently, this interest has extended to the retail availability of tobacco products that are used with cannabis (e.g., cigarillos), as well as the promotion of non-tobacco alternatives (e.g., hemp wraps).
Clinical Professor of Law
Director, Criminal Justice Clinic
The Criminal Justice Clinic provides free legal services in the criminal justice system to low-income individuals, including Prop 64 petitions (modifying, reducing, or eliminating past convictions related to marijuana use) and post-conviction relief for non-citizens related to past cannabis convictions.
Marcelo A. Wood, PhD
Professor and Chair, Dept. of Neurobiology & Behavior, School of Biological Sciences
My research is focused on understanding the epigenetic mechanisms that regulate gene expression required for long-lasting changes in behavior as related to drug-seeking and drug-associated memory processes. Current collaborative studies involve examination of how cannabis affects epigenetic mechanisms to induce persistent changes in neuronal function and ultimately behavior.
Qin Yang, MD, PhD
Associate Professor of Medicine, Physiology and Biophysics, UC Irvine Diabetes Center
Center for Epigenetics and Metabolism, University of California, Irvine
My laboratory uses comprehensive approaches including molecular biology, animal physiology, metabolomics, epigenetics and proteomic analysis to investigate the mechanisms for insulin resistance and energy expenditure in obesity and type 2 diabetes. We will apply these approaches to study the impact of cannabis on metabolism under physiological and pathophysiological conditions.
Brent Yeung, MD
Assistant Professor Clinical X
Department of Anesthesiology & Perioperative Care
My research is focused on identifying biomarkers to measure and identify intoxication/ impairment in individuals using cannabis and to quantify its impact on driving. I also am investigating its impact on various pain states and its potential role as an analgesic and reducing opioid use.