Our main goal is to understand the process of epileptogenesis and to identify novel therapies that reduce seizures and that improve the quality of life of children with epilepsy. The lab combines different technologies and approaches including genomics and functional studies. 

Lab Members

Michael Hammer, PhD

For most of his career, beginning in 1991 at the University of Arizona, his research focused on genomics and human origins. In 2012, the Hammer Lab discovered the gene that caused his daughter’s severe epilepsy by sequencing his family’s  genomes. Dr. Hammer has continued to devote his time to epilepsy research ever since.


PhD Candidate 

Collin Thomas Krzyzaniak M.S.

Collin joined the Hammer lab to better understand the genetic processes that play a role in epileptogenesis specifically through blood brain barrier dysfunction. He is also interested in comparing our RNA seq and pathway results to other neurological movement disorders in order to find genetic underpinning for uncontrollable movements. When he is not in the lab, he will likely be out on a hike or watching Chelsea Football club with friends.

Joshua Hack, M.S.

Joshua received his Bachelors of Science and Master’s of Science in Molecular and Cellular Biology as well as a Bachelor’s of Arts in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology from the University of Arizona. His primary focus is on applying machine learning techniques to the SCN&A International Patient Registry to develop novel ways to diagnose patients and improve their treatment. Outside of the lab, Joshua plays upright bass in orchestras and as a soloist, and enjoys SCUBA diving and hiking in his free time.


Clinical Research Coordinator III

E. Tanzer, B.S.

E has a personal connection to epilepsy allows her to understand the tumultuous path to diagnosis and treatment. She holds a B.S. in Biochemistry, and worked as an industry scientist  in the CNS gene therapy space for almost a decade. She believes movement is powerful medicine and takes every opportunity to enjoy the great outdoors with her three dogs. 



Kiran John Smelser

Kiran is a third year undergraduate student at the University of Arizona, College of Science, and W.A. Franke Honors College. He is pursuing a Bachelor of Science in Computer Science with a secondary in Statistics and Data Science and has worked as part of the Hammer Lab research team since May of 2023. His ambition is to one day work as a machine learning or artificial intelligence engineer within the healthcare field. Aside from his academic and professional endeavors he enjoys scuba diving, skiing, camping, mountain biking, traveling, and supporting Chelsea F.C.



Taylor Lynn Camacho

Taylor is a second-year undergraduate student at the University of Arizona, R. Ken Coit College of Pharmacy, W.A. Franke Honors College, majoring in Pharmaceutical Sciences, aiming to receive a  Pharm.D. and one day become a pharmacist. She joined the Hammer Lab early in 2023 to get a better understanding of her sister’s epilepsy and
how to treat it. Outside of school and the lab, Taylor enjoys reading and being with her husband and family.


 Itzi Valenzuela 

Itzi is a third-year undergraduate student at the University of Arizona, College of Science, W.A. Franke Honors College majoring in Neuroscience and Cognitive Science and minoring in Psychology. Her ultimate goal is to earn a Ph.D. in Neuroscience or Genetics and do translational research in neurodevelopmental disorders. In addition to research, she serves as a SARSEF Science Ambassador for K-12 students and a Neuroscience Ambassador for her fellow peers. Outside of STEM, she draws fashion illustrations and collects cat figurines. 

Joseph Watkins, PhD

Dr. Watkins is a primary collaborator with the Hammer Lab.  Dr. Watkins is a professor in the Department of Mathematics and Director of the Data Sciences Academy.  His research training is in probability theory, and he has collaborated with scholars in anthropology, biochemistry, bacteriology, computer science, entomology, genetics, linguistics, molecular biology, public health, physics, and statistics. His service to the community includes Chair of the American Mathematical Association’s Human Rights of Mathematicians, the American Statistical Association’s Scientific and Public Affairs Advisory Committee, and the AAAS Committee on Academic Freedom and Responsibility. For a decade, Joe co-coordinated a science/math, literacy/culture summer experience for high school students from the two main tribal communities near Tucson.



Kyung Mi Chung, PhD

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