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Scientific Staff

Sandra V. Fernandez, PhD

Staff Scientist

Sandra has been a member of the BCRL since September 2002. Sandra received her doctoral degree in 1996 at Luis F. Leloir Institute (University of Buenos Aires, Argentina). At the BCRL, Sandra is involved in several projects: 1) “Genomic Basis of Reproductive History on Breast Cancer”. The major goals of this project are to characterize the specific gene expression profile of women at "low" and "high" risk of developing breast cancer due to reproductive history. 2) “Epigenetic Changes Induced by Estrogens and Xenoestrogens in Breast Cancer”. The main objective of this application is to determine whether the xenoestrogenic substances bisphenol A (BPA) and butyl benzyl phthalate (BBP) play a role in the initiation of human breast cancer, and if so, whether this effect is mediated by epigenetic mechanisms. 3) “Breast Cancer Therapy by Differentiation Gene Activation”. The major goals of this project is to determine whether the protection from mammary cancer induced by treatment of virgin rats with hCG is the result of the induction of a specific genomic imprinting that is specific for this hormone. Additionally, Sandra is serving on a grant review committee for the New Jersey State Commission on Cancer Research. Her interests outside of the laboratory include reading and gardening and some of her favorite books include Songbird by Walter Zacharius and Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon.

Ricardo Lopez, PhD

Postdoctoral Associate

Ricardo joined the BCRL in September of 2007. He received his doctoral degree from the University of Buenos Aires, Argentina in 2004. His Research Focus is in the study the genomic changes in mammary gland produced by different endocrine disruptors.

Jennifer McDonald

Administrative Assistant

Jen has been with the BCRL since 2003, during which time she been dedicated to making sure that all administrative aspects of the lab go smoothly, and in an important component of organizing the MORE program at Fox Chase. In her time outside the lab, Jen studies psychology and sociology.

Julia S. Pereira, PhD candidate

Technical Specialist

Julia has been with the BCRL since February 2006. Julia received her degree in Biomedical Sciences (2004) at Universidade Federal de Sao Paulo, Brazil, and now she is working towards her Ph.D. in Sciences, at the same university, in collaboration with Fox Chase Cancer Center.  Julia has been involved in several projects related to carcinogenesis and her main research area is in the study of effects of environmental contaminants in the gene expression of mammary gland development.

Patricia Russo, MLA

Research Technician II

Patricia has been with the BCRL since 2003, during which time she has worked on a variety of projects related to genomic expression and estrogen induced tumorigenesis in SCID mice. Her interests beyond the laboratory include urban studies, creative writing and competitive distance running.

Fathima Sheriff, MD

Research Associate

Fathima has been a member of the BCRL since 2000 and is actively involved in several projects. She earned her Medical Degree in Russia, and after several years working in her native Sri Lanka, she came to the Unites States in 1998. At the BCRL she served as Radiation Safety Officer and laboratory coordinator, and is currently the coordinator for the Breast Cancer Environment Centers at Fox Chase Cancer Center, and the Cooperative Breast Cancer Tissue Registry. She was awarded the Special Contributors award by Fox Chase Cancer Center in 2004. Her main goal is to help fight Breast Cancer, but when she’s taking a break from that, she enjoys gardening.

Kara Snider, BS

Research Technician

Kara has been working with the BCRL since 2006. Since then she has been working in histology as well as on projects studying xenoestrogens and epigenetics. Her interests outside of the laboratory include reading and photography.

Johana Vanegas, MD

Postdoctoral Associate

Johana joined the BCRL in December, 2002. She received her medical degree from La Fundación Universitaria Juan N. Corpas in December 2000, in Bogotá, Colombia. She first joined the laboratory as a volunteer scientist in December 2002, and was appointed as a post-doctoral associate in May 2003. Johana obtained a research training fellowship for 3 years, from the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) that allowed her to study clock gene expression during the Sprague Dawley rat mammary gland development. She also studying the protective effect of human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) in chemically induced mammary gland carcinogenesis in Sprague Dawley rats.

Luz Vargas


Luz has given her generous support the BCRL since 2003. Luz serves as a liaison to the advocate community, and has played a key role in the organization of the “A Day in the Life of the Breast Cancer Research Lab” workshops, as well as assisting BCRL staff with various day to day needs.