Basic Sciences Faculty

Kamla Ahluwalia, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor

Dr. Ahluwalia directs the Gross Anatomy courses in the DPT and MPA programs. Her academic interests include both human and non-human primate anatomy, functional morphology and biomechanics of the knee, bone remodeling, and bone



Rhea Kimpo, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor

Dr. Kimpo earned her Ph.D. in Neuroscience from the University of California at San Francisco.  She teaches the Clinical Neuroscience and Neurology course for the CSPM program, and an undergraduate course in Human Physiology.  Her research interests include neurophysiological processes in the brain that underlie learning and memory, and science education.


Karissa Legleiter, M.A.


Karissa assists in Gross Anatomy lab instruction for MPA, DPT, OT and CRNA programs and instructs undergraduate Anatomy courses, as needed. Her background includes a Masters in Biological Anthropology with academic interest in archaeological bone material, bone pathology, forensics and human anatomy.


Christina Lewis, Ph.D.
Associate Professor

Dr. Lewis teaches Gross Anatomy, Physiology, and Pathophysiology courses in the CRNA program and Gross Anatomy in the OT and PA programs. Her academic interests include pulmonary physiology, pathophysiology, genetic and genomic studies of disease, and asthma. Dr. Lewis' research interests are in asthma, and her current research is investigating the role of the airway epithelium in mediating asthma pathogenesis.

Lewis Research Profile

Faculty Profile


Mary Premenko-Lanier, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor

Dr. Premenko-Lanier currently teaches Immunology, Biochemistry, and Microbiology lab courses in the DPM program. Her primary research focus has been on understanding dysfunctional immunity and disease progression during persistent virus infections. Dr. Premenko-Lanier's laboratory has found that an IFNγ response is necessary to sustain a prolonged antiviral state while type I IFN’s main role is to support immune activation and IFNγ production. Her lab has also identified a relationship between CD4 T cell activation and morbidity.

Premenko-Lanier Resarch Profile


Barb Puder, Ph.D.
Associate Professor and Chair

Dr. Puder has a Ph.D. in neuroscience and teaches medical neuroscience courses to students in various Samuel Merritt University programs. In addition to teaching, Barb has developed neuroscience community outreach programs designed for grades K-12 and the community. These programs introduce the brain and its functions by using age appropriate language and hands-on activities. Samuel Merritt University students participate in the brain programs by creating presentations, posters, and hands-on activities relating to a neuroscience topic. For more information regarding the neuroscience outreach programs, please click on the Brain Awareness link.


Richard Rocco, Ph.D.
Associate Professor

Dr. Rocco holds a PhD degree in Pharmacology/Toxicology. He teaches courses in pharmacology and an introduction to evidence based medicine along with a seminar in clinical ethics, all in the California School of Podiatric Medicine at SMU. Along with Dr. Christina Lewis he runs a lecture series program in health topics at Allen Temple Baptist Church in Oakland. His research interests include the development of low cost diagnostics for use in resource limited developing countries. His laboratory work has included funded research projects on uncovering the mechanisms of the complications of diabetes. His most recent publications are in the field of the history of medicine. These have included a biography of George H. Riess, for whom the anatomy lab at SMU is named and a biography of John Peters, a teacher at Yale School of Medicine, who introduced the glucose tolerance test into clinical medicine but whose career was destroyed

by the McCarthyism of the 1950s.

Rocco Research profile


Lab Coordinator

Matthew M. Smith

Matthew Smith is the Laboratory Coordinator for the Basic Sciences laboratories for anatomy, microbiology, neurobiology, and physiology. Matthew has an extensive scientific background as a molecular biologist and laboratory manager in academia (USC and UCLA Schools of Medicine) and the biotechnology industry. His research has been in the areas of somatic cell genetics, neurobiology, molecular virology, matrix metalloproteinase biochemistry, and advanced genomic technology development. Matthew previously served as the Research and Development Laboratory Manager at Avigen, Inc., a publicly-traded Alameda biotechnology company focused on AAV-mediated (adeno-associated virus) gene therapy for hemophilia B.

Please click here for Biosafety Materials.



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