Current lab members

Andrea Ventura

Andrea Ventura, Lab Head

Andrea grew up in Sicily, in the small and quaint village of Furci Siculo. He obtained a medical degree from the Catholic University of Rome and a PhD in molecular and cellular biology from the European Institute of Oncology (Milan). In 2003 he crossed the pond to train as a postdoctoral fellow with Tyler Jacks, at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.  Andrea’s hobbies include chess, soccer, volleyball, and simracing. Recently, he has been trying to learn, with questionable success, how to play the piano.

Melissa Yao

Melissa grew up on Long Island, New York and graduated from SUNY Stony Brook University with a B.Sc. in biochemistry. She then went on to work as a research associate at CSHL studying mouse models of pancreatic cancer. She most recently earned her M.Sc. in biomedical sciences at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai studying mouse models of HCC. Melissa joined the Ventura lab in 2022 and is interested in studying the role of ecDNA in tumorigenesis. Melissa enjoys baking, crocheting, traveling, and indulging in reality TV. She also used to be haunted by the Duolingo owl until she deleted the app from her phone.

Ylenia Cendon Florez

Ylenia is from Madrid, Spain. She obtained her M.Sc. in Genetics and Cellular Biology from the University of Alcalá and her Ph.D. in Molecular Biosciences from the Autonomous University of Madrid, working on inherited mutations in Prostate Cancer at the Spanish National Cancer Research Center (CNIO). Ylenia joined Ventura lab in 2022, and she is interested in understanding how chromosomal rearrangements drive tumorigenesis and contribute to drug resistance. Apart from science, she is also passionate about music, art and traveling. You can reach her at

Ziqi Jiao

Ziqi Jiao, graduate student

I call homes to five cities where fond memories are made, endearing friendships forged, and life experiences enriched and expanded— Beijing (childhood), Tokyo (early teens), San Diego (late teens), Chicago (B.A. in Biological Sciences, University of Chicago), and my latest embarking, NYC (GSK PhD Program in Cancer Biology). I joined the Ventura lab in 2021 with an interest in the role of miRNAs in regulating cell state transitions during development, tissue repair/stress adaptation, and cancer. During my free time, I enjoy practicing Olympic weightlifting and Judo, playing video games, watching anime, reading books, and looking for good eats in the city. 

Davide Pradella

Davide Pradella, postdoc

Davide is from Gravedona, a small village on the north shores of Lake Como, in Italy. He obtained his Ph.D. in Genetics, Molecular, and Cellular Biology from the University of Pavia, working on RNA metabolism at the Institute of Molecular Genetics (IGM). Davide joined the Ventura lab in 2021, and is currently working on the role of circular DNAs in cancer. He is passionate about Science and enjoys traveling and exploring new places.

Kevin Chen

Kevin Chen, Research Assistant

Kevin was born in Taipei, Taiwan, and grew up in Parsippany, New Jersey. He completed a BSc in Animal Science at Rutgers University, with a focus in Laboratory Animals. He is the latest addition (for now) to the Ventura lab, having joined in Decemeber 2020. Science is not his only passion, he is a dog lover and in the process of getting a Boston terrier!. He also enjoy playing indie and pop music with my guitars. You can reach him at:

Gaspare La Rocca

Gaspare La Rocca, postdoc

Gaspare got his M.Sc. Molecular Biology and PhD in Molecular Oncology at the University of Palermo, although he always dreamed of becoming a professional piano bar singer. In the Ventura lab Gaspare tries to understand what microRNAs are for. His favorite superhero is Spiderman. Email:

Minsi Zhang

Minsi Zhang, MD. Fellow

Minsi was born in China and grew up in Massachusetts.  After she completed her undergraduate studies in chemistry and molecular biology at Johns Hopkins University, she entered the Medical Scientist Training Program at Duke University.  As a MD/PhD candidate in the lab of David Kirsch, she studied the role of hypoxia inducible factors in tumorigenesis, metastasis, and response to radiation therapy in primary mouse models of soft tissue sarcoma.  She recently completed the Radiation Oncology Residency Program at MSKCC and is currently working in the Ventura lab as a K12 fellow.  She is interested in using genome editing technology to identify novel targets for enhancing tumor response to radiation therapy.

Email: Zhang, Minsi/Graduate Medical Education

Chiara Mastroleo

Chiara Mastroleo, research technician

Chiara grew up in Veneto, Italy. She obtained her Master Degree in Biological Sciences at the University of Bologna. She has been working at MSKCC hospital since 2015. She joined our lab in 2017 as a research technician and since then she has been involved in different projects. Chiara loves cooking, traveling and playing ping pong. Email:

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