2018 Students

rabia-anjumRabia Anjum, Brandeis University

I’m a second year PhD student in Dr. Suzanne Paradis’ lab. My project focuses on Ras-like GTPase protein that has been identified as an activity-dependent nervous system gene, through which I intend to examine molecular correlates of hippocampal learning in a mouse model system. When I am not fumbling around in my lab, I love to cook, travel, write and swim!

reshma-basakReshma Basak, Indian Institute of Science

I’m a fourth year Ph.D. student and I work on single cell neurophysiology of CA1 hippocampal neurons, especially the role of ion channels in signal processing in these neurons through computational and experimental studies. I love listening to post-rock, reading crime thrillers and roaming around in the woods – when I’m not in the lab that is!

luis_bezares-calderonLuis Bezares-Calderón, University of Exeter

My research interests at Prof. Gáspár Jékely lab lie in exploring the sensory-motor systems of the marine annelid Platynereis dumerilii. I currently study locomotory behaviors that the planktonic larva of this animal displays in response to different mechanical stimuli such as hydrodynamic and hydrostatic forces. I aim to understand these behaviors using a systems neuroscience approach, from molecules to circuits to computation, and as a product of evolution using comparative approaches and naturalistic assays. I also enjoy reading, swimming, eating and traveling.

alisa-carioAlisa Cario, University of Vermont

I am a 2nd year graduate student working in Dr. Chris Berger’s laboratory.  I am interested in molecular building blocks of the nervous system. My current project is to better understand the role of the microtubule associated protein Tau in the axon. I primarily use reconstituted in vitro systems and total internal reflection fluorescence microscopy to study the interaction between Tau and the microtubule.

logan-ganzenLogan Ganzen, Purdue University

I am currently a 4th-year Ph.D. student in the laboratory of Yuk Fai Leung. The main focus of my work involves identifying novel treatments for the inherited retinal degeneration disease Retinitis Pigmentosa (RP). I do this by modeling variants of the disease in the zebrafish. Zebrafish RP models can have severe retinal degeneration as early as 7 days old. I employ a behavioral assay called the Visual Motor Response (VMR) to assess the vision of healthy and RP zebrafish, and the RP zebrafish have diminished vision compared to their healthy counterparts. I utilize this behavior as the foundation of a drug screening platform to identify drugs that can ameliorate the RP vision phenotypes. The goal of this project is to ultimately provide novel therapeutic options for patients suffering from this incurable disease.

haizea_goni_erroHaizea Goñi Erro, University of Copenhagen

I am a first year PhD student in the Mammalian Locomotor Laboratory lead by Prof. Ole Kiehn. I joined the lab in 2016 and worked since then dissecting the locomotion-promoting role of the mesencephalic locomotor region in mice. For my PhD project I will focus on investigating brainstem circuits that control movement arrest. I am currently using anatomy and behavioral assays, and my goal for the future is to combine them with techniques that enable the examination of neuronal activity such as electrophysiology and calcium imaging.

ethan-guthmanEthan Guthman, University of Colorado

I am a PhD student in the labs of Drs. Molly Huntsman and Diego Restrepo in Denver. For my thesis research, I am studying the roles of distinct subpopulations of inhibitory interneurons and their roles in microcircuits controlling learning and plasticity in the basolateral amygdala. Broadly speaking, I am interested in the role of non-glutamatergic neurotransmission in circuits underlying behavior and experience driven plasticity.

lauren-hewittLauren Hewitt, University of Texas, Austin

I’m a second year neuroscience PhD student currently working in Darrin Brager’s lab in the Center for Learning and Memory (Institute of Neuroscience) where I investigate the cellular and molecular underpinnings of Fragile-X Syndrome. Outside of the lab, I’m an adamant foodie, yogi, and embroidery artist.

ceci-herbertCecilia Herbert, University of Buenos Aires

I’m a Biology PhD student in the Dynamical Systems Lab led by Dr. Gabriel Mindlin in the Physics Department in Argentina. I study how song production is encoded in a particular nucleus of the avian brain by recording neural activity in singing birds. I’m interested in learning and memory as well as motor control, and in the intersection between neuroscience and technology. Outside of the lab, I enjoy baking and playing the oboe.



sanna-koskelaSanna Koskela, University of Helsinki

I’m a third year PhD student in the laboratory of Prof. Petri Ala-Laurila. We aim to understand how behavior arises from the function of neural circuits and ultimately, how the brain works, using vertebrate retina as the model. We use an integrative approach from single molecules to neural circuits and to the behavioral output. I’ve always been fascinated by the sense of vision and really love my PhD project. Outside the lab I enjoy reading, travelling, running and eating!

winston_liuWinston Liu , Duke University

I am an MD/PhD student in Dr. Diego Bohórquez’s laboratory.  We are interested in the way the gut senses its luminal environment, and how we can modulate these signals to impact behavior. I hope to translate this understanding of gut-brain circuitry to develop new treatments and diagnostic measures for my future patients.

matthew-murphyMatthew Murphy, University of Arkansas

I have just finished the first year of my PhD in Dr. Erica Westerman’s lab. The mushroom body plays a role in both memory and sensory processing in the insect central nervous system. I am studying how peripheral and central processing control the receipt of multisensory signals in the model butterfly Bicyclus anynana, which exhibits crossmodal associative learning of nuptial advertisement cues.

phoenix-quinlanPhoenix Quinlan, University of Massachusetts, Amherst

I am a PhD student in the lab of Dr. Paul Katz. I’m interested in the neural basis of behavior and how it is influenced by internal states and sensory stimuli. Currently, I am studying appetitive feeding behavior in nudibranchs.

claire_ruschClaire Rusch, University of Washington

I am a Ph.D. student in Biology working in Jeff Riffell’s lab in Seattle. My research interests focus on the how the environment shapes and is processed by the nervous system to control motor responses and behavior. Specifically, my PhD project aims to better understand the neural circuits and processing of visual information and memory in honeybees.  

david_saenzDavid Saenz, Texas A&M University

I’m a PhD student in Dr. Kirk Winemiller’s aquatic ecology lab where I study weakly electric fishes. Though I have broad interests in ecology and evolution, much of my doctoral work has focused on how ion channel abundance and activity are regulated by hormonal processes and how this regulation contributes to the expression of behavior, using weakly electric fish as model organisms.

jonny-saundersJonny Saunders, University of Oregon

I’m a PhD student studying complex, naturalistic auditory processing in mouse auditory cortex with Mike Wehr. So far we’ve taught mice to discriminate between classes of english phonemes with an eye to modeling the underlying computations using multiphoton imaging of GCaMP signal in auditory cortical neurons. I love these sorts of big, messy problems. Recently I’ve been taking a side-route through engineering and design to build a low-cost, easily reproducible system for running behavioral experiments. I waste, er, spend my spare time with my lovely housemates keeping our coop running, misusing computers to make digital art, and otherwise living an arguably human life.


schmalz_fabianFabian Schmalz, Julius-Maximilians University Wuerzburg

I am a PhD student interested in the integration of multimodal input in the Mushroom Bodies (MB), insect brain centers for sensory integration and memory formation. In my current project, I am performing extracellular long-term recordings to examine the activity of MB output neurons (MBON), to extract single unit activity and to investigate changes in MBON response patterns due to associative learning processes.




rebecca_somachRebecca Somach, University of Pennsylvania

I am a PhD candidate in the lab of Dr. Akiva Cohen. Using a rodent model, I study how Traumatic Brain Injury affects behavioral outcomes. Our lab uses electrophysiology in slices and in-vivo to understand how Traumatic Brain Injuries change neuronal activity. I’m looking to combine electrophysiological approaches with behavioral tasks to understand how observed alterations in neuronal activity can lead to altered behaviors after injury. Outside of the lab, I love games and good stories.

lior-tiroshiLior Tiroshi, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem

I’m a PhD student in a computational neuroscience direct PhD program. For the past 3.5 years I’ve been part of Josh Goldberg’s lab, conducting research focusing on Parkinson’s disease and basal ganglia electrophysiology. My projects combine analytical and computational tools with experimental methods like patch clamp and in vivo calcium imaging.

jessica-whitakerJessica Whitaker-Fornek, Idaho State University

I am a PhD student and member of Team Bird Brain (aka Dr. Jason Pilarski’s lab). Currently, I study how sensory information influences breathing-related motor output in the zebra finch embryo brainstem. Broadly, I am interested in the role of experience during prenatal and perinatal development of the nervous system. Outside of the lab, I enjoy rock climbing, birding, and exploring.