Our Team

Steve Kay, PhD, DSc

Steve Kay, PhD, DSc, Director

Dr. Steve Kay currently serves as the director of the USC Michelson Center for Convergent Bioscience and is a provost professor of Neurology, Biomedical Engineering and Biological Sciences at the Keck School of Medicine of USC. He held the position as the 21st dean of the USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences from 2012 to 2015.

Dr. Kay is one of the world’s top experts on the genetics and genomics of circadian rhythms. Having published more than 200 papers, he was named by Thomson Reuters as one of “The World’s Most Influential Scientific Minds” from 2014 to 2017 and has been cited in Science magazine’s “Breakthroughs of the Year” three times since 1997. In 2008, Dr. Kay was elected as a member of the National Academy of Sciences. In 2009 he was elected as a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and in 2011 he was awarded the American Society of Plant Biologists’ 2011 Martin Gibbs Medal for his pioneering work in plant sciences.

Dr. Kay received his PhD and DSc from the University of Bristol, United Kingdom. Prior to joining USC in 2012, Dr. Kay served as dean of biological sciences at the University of California, San Diego. He also has held faculty positions at The Rockefeller University, University of Virginia and The Scripps Research Institute, as well as served as the VP of discovery research at the Genomics Institute of the Novartis Research Foundation, where he focused on using high throughput technologies to push novel development candidates into the Novartis clinical pipeline. Dr. Kay served as president of The Scripps Research Institute from 2015 to 2016. In addition, he has founded several biotechnology companies.

Vasiliki Anest

Vasiliki Anest, PhD, Senior Director for Business Development and Industry Relations

Dr. Vasiliki Anest joined the University of Southern California in 2012 as senior director of corporate collaborations at the USC Stevens Center for Innovation, bringing an extensive background in academic-industrial relations, corporate-sponsored research, global alliance and innovation management. In her new role, Anest leads business development and industry relations for the MESH Academy for the Keck School of Medicine.

Anest joined USC from Life Technologies Corporation, where she held positions as the associate director of global market development, program lead of cancer and epigenetics, and, most recently, associate director of global external R&D and strategic alliances, where she forged numerous strategic relationships with university, government and industry partners. She has significant experience leading global coordination, execution and management of new and ongoing corporate alliances to accelerate growth efforts and to drive strategic collaborations. Anest earned a Bachelor of Science in biochemistry and cell biology from the University of California, San Diego; a PhD in genetics and molecular biology from the University of North Carolina; and was a postdoctoral fellow in epigenetics at the Dr. C. David Allis laboratory at The Rockefeller University.

Armine Lulejian

Armine Lulejian, EdD, MPH, CHES,  Senior Director of Educational Initiatives

Dr. Lulejian is senior director of educational initiatives at MESH. In this role, Dr. Lulejian will lead the development of educational programs at all levels to fulfill MESH’s mission of convergence of multiple disciplines including Medicine, Engineering, Science and Humanities.

Dr. Lulejian has over 20 years of experience in teaching, research and administration in health services. Previously Dr. Lulejian was faculty at Kean University. Prior to that, she worked at NYU School of Medicine as director for graduate training programs. At NYU, Dr. Lulejian spearheaded the launch of doctoral and masters training programs in Biomedical Informatics. Dr. Lulejian has developed and redesigned several training programs, led and partaken in several accreditation cycles with different accreditors, and developed 20+ new courses.

Dr. Lulejian was the lead researcher on patient and provider surveys with the first community electronic health project in the United States while working at New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. Her research experience includes projects at the West Los Angeles Veterans Administration and UCLA Center for Health Policy Research. Dr. Lulejian has taught many courses in health services at Kean University, CUNY Graduate Center, NYU School of Medicine, NYU Global Institute of Public Health, John Jay College of Criminal Justice, and West Los Angeles College, among others.

Dr. Armine Lulejian received her doctorate in education (EdD) in health education from Columbia University Teachers College. She also holds MS in health education (Columbia University), MPH in epidemiology (UCLA), and completed her undergraduate studies in Psychobiology with a minor in Near Eastern Studies at UCLA. Dr. Lulejian is a certified health education specialist (CHES) and emergency care technician.

Melissa Rodgers, PhD, Associate Director for Business Development and Industry Relations

Dr. Rodgers is the Associate Director for Business Development and Industry Relations at the MESH Academy for the Keck School of Medicine. She is experienced in life science, medical device and healthcare IT commercialization; including technology evaluation, licensing and business development. Prior to joining USC, she was Manager of Intellectual Property and Market Strategy at the Innovation Lab, a healthcare technology incubator in Newport Beach, Ca. Before that, she spent four years in the Office of Technology Development at the Salk Institute, first as an intern and then as a Licensing Associate. She received her PhD in Cell Regulation at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center and completed her postdoctoral training at the Salk Institute.


Emily Chu  Program Administrator

Emily Chu joined the MESH team in July of 2018. She primarily assists with coordinating events at the MESH Academy. She first joined the University of Southern California in 2015.

She is excited to join a program that focuses on collaborative, interdisciplinary projects. She completed her undergraduate studies at the University of California, Davis. She received her Master’s Degree in History with a focus on Archival Management from New York University.

Dr. Paula Cannon, PhD

Paula Cannon, PhD, Associate Director for Interdisciplinary Advocacy and Cross-School Championship

Dr. Paula Cannon is a Distinguished Professor in the Department of Molecular Microbiology & Immunology at the Keck School of Medicine of USC. She leads a research team that studies viruses, stem cells, and gene therapy, with an emphasis on HIV/AIDS.

Cannon earned a PhD from the University of Liverpool in the UK and did post-doctoral training at Harvard and Oxford. In addition to her position at USC, she has held faculty positions at Uniformed Services University and Children’s Hospital Los Angeles. These positions provided her with opportunities to study highly pathogenic viruses of military significance and the therapeutic potential of bone marrow hematopoietic stem cells (HSC). Together, they shaped her current research program on the use of virus-based gene therapy vectors to engineer human HSC. Cannon’s research is funded by several foundations, the National Institutes of Health, and the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine.

She is a very active member of the USC community and served as Keck Faculty Council President (2014-2015), Academic Senate President (2016-2017), and Immediate Past President for the Academic Senate (2017-2018). Outside of her lab, she is known as a passionate advocate for the HIV community, whose ability to explain science in a straightforward and entertaining fashion makes her a sought-after and highly effective speaker.

Mary K. Bass

Mary Bass, Assistant Director of Programs and Operations

As assistant director of programs and operations for MESH Academy, Mary Bass facilitates faculty engagement and serves as MESH’s lead on mapping and connecting the research landscape across USC.

Ms. Bass developed her passion for science writing and public policy while growing up in northwest Montana during the asbestosis crisis. Her experience lies at the intersection of medicine, policy, and communications that involve complex scientific topics. Ms. Bass joined MESH from Americans for Cures (AFC), a non-profit organization that advocates for stem cell research and therapy development, where she served as director of public policy and subsequently executive director. At AFC, Ms. Bass directed a California state-wide scientific communications campaign to elevate support for biomedical research supported by the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine (CIRM). She recruited a 27-member Scientific Advisory Board of leading clinicians and clinician-scientists representing institutes throughout California.

Ms. Bass serves on the University of California, Berkeley Stem Cell Research Oversight Committee, as well as the Community Advisory Board of the Loving Mind Institute, a national mental health nonprofit with the mission of advancing research for mental illness and addiction. Ms. Bass graduated with a Bachelor of Art degree in Public Policy with a concentration in Health Policy from Stanford University, where she was an editor of the Stanford Journal of Public Health. She also holds a Professional Certificate in Genetics and Genomics from Stanford University School of Medicine and a Certificate in Regenerative Medicine from Wake Forest School of Medicine.