The Team

The core team of Knowing Neurons comprises a group of graduate students and postdoctoral scholars, who specialize in different areas of neuroscience.  We discuss and edit all content on the site, write our own articles, and apply our diverse scientific interests and expertise to making Knowing Neurons an effective educational resource about all things brain!

Click on a profile picture to see all posts by that team member!

Arielle Hogan, Chief Executive Officer

Arielle Hogan is pursuing a Ph.D. in Neuroscience in the lab of Dr. Daniel Geschwind at UCLA. Her research focuses on bioinformatic approaches to studying nervous system injury and repair. Specifically, she is researching the intrinsic gene regulatory programs underlying PNS regeneration and how these programs can be induced in models of CNS injury to promote regeneration. She graduated from the University of Virginia in 2019 with a BS in Biology and a BA in French. Outside of the lab, she spends time playing basketball, going to the movies (even the bad ones), and traveling. For more information about Arielle Hogan, please visit her full profile.



Lauren Wagner, Editor-in-Chief

Lauren Wagner is a doctoral student of Neuroscience at the University of California, Los Angeles, where she uses magnetic resonance imaging and behavior to understand the neural bases of language development in infancy and adolescence. Lauren is passionate about discovering the secrets of the brain's critical and sensitive periods for language-learning. Outside of the lab, she is currently an officer at the Science Policy Group at UCLA and enjoys researching issues in science policy, science diplomacy, and linguistic equity in science. In her free time, she enjoys learning languages, gardening, and testing out new recipes on friends. Lauren received her bachelor’s degrees in Neuroscience and Linguistics from the University of Texas at Austin.

Sumana Shrestha, Contributing Editor

Sumana Shrestha, Head of Illustration

Sumana Shrestha is a PhD student at the Institute of Cancer Research, London. She currently studies the childhood brain tumour “Medulloblastoma”, and during her PhD, she hopes to create a more robust and comparable disease model for this cancer type. She is super excited about her project in which she will be using novel stem cells to develop a cerebellar organoid system amongst other in vitro/in vivo systems. Out of work, she loves teaching science to students, and exploring all the amazing restaurants in London! For more about Sumana's research and experience, please visit her full profile.

Alba Peris-Yagüe, Head of Translation and Outreach

Alba is a PhD student at Universidad Politécnica de Madrid / Universidad Autónoma de Madrid. She researches how salience, such as emotion, influences human episodic memory as well as how gist and detail modulate it. In order to do so, she uses several techniques such as behavioral testing and intracranial electrophysiology and is planning on expanding her work to functional magnetic resonance imaging. Previous to her PhD, Alba obtained her MSc in Neuroscience at King's College London where she investigated the effects of antipsychotics on GABA-A receptors as well as she worked on the characterization of a neuroinflammatory protein in preclinical models of neuroinflammation. When she is not doing science, Alba loves to read books, go for long walks while listening to music and going out with friends. If you're interested in Alba's work, visit her full profile here.

Elizabeth Burnette, Lead Podcast producer & Contributing Editor

Elizabeth Burnette is pursuing a PhD in Neuroscience at UCLA, in the lab of Dr. Lara Ray. Her research uses neuroimaging and psychoneuroimmunology methods to study the neurobiology of addiction in clinical populations. Her dissertation project explores the role of neuroinflammation in alcohol use disorder. She received her BS in Neuroscience from Duke University in 2018. For more about Elizabeth's research and experience, please visit her full profile and website.

Chaoqun Yin, Lead Podcast producer

Chaoqun is currently a PhD student in systems neuroscience at UCLA. His research focuses on perceptual decision making and multisensory integration. Generally speaking, his research deals with how the information is encoded/decoded/transferred between different brain regions, and how the decisions emerge from these processes. When he is not in the lab, Chaoqun is an enthusiastic novel reader and book review writer. Prior to neuroscience, he spent some time developing a book review-based podcast with a friend.

Zoë Dobler, Senior Editor & Social Media Team

Zoë Dobler is a 2nd-year Neuroscience PhD student at UCLA. Before beginning her doctoral studies, she completed a Fulbright scholarship in Vienna, Austria, investigating the genetic mechanisms underlying neurodevelopmental disorders. As a PhD student, she applies in vivo 2-photon imaging techniques to study the neural circuits involved in processing sensory stimuli. Outside of research, she loves learning languages, reading, and exploring new places.

Carolyn Amir, Contributing Editor and Website Manager

Carolyn Amir is a Neuroscience PhD student at UCLA in Dr. Carrie Bearden's lab. Her current research focuses on using neuroimaging and genetics approaches to study the human brain and behavior in psychiatric and developmental disorders. Before coming to UCLA, Carolyn worked at the National Institutes of Health where she studied human pain, medication use and expectancy. She holds a Bachelor's degree from Boston University in Psychological and Brain Sciences, where she used EEG and brain stimulation to examine the effects of neuromodulation in both healthy and patient populations. When she's not in the lab, Carolyn enjoys camping, hiking, and spending time at the beach. To read more about Carolyn's research and contact visit her website.

Rayven-Nikkita Collins, Head of Science Policy

Rayven-Nikkita "RN" Collins (she/they) is finishing her MS in Anatomy & Neurobiology at Boston University School of Medicine, where she is studying the impact of social stress through allostatic load biomarkers on brain structure and, ultimately, function in AD-signature brain regions utilizing techniques for analyzing and interpreting neuroimaging data. This research line aims to understand structural factors proliferating racial disparities in neurocognitive and brain aging measures. In Fall 2023, RN will begin pursuing a Ph.D. in Neuroscience in the lab of Pablo Lopez at the Karolinska Institutet, studying how psychedelic compounds, such as psilocybin and ketamine, modulate brain plasticity in preclinical rodent models employing molecular biology and computational neuroscience methods. Outside the lab, RN is a research assistant at Harvard Business School in Dr. Ting Zhang's Lab and a psychedelic medical education program & research coordinator at Yale Psychiatry but can always make time for being in nature, reading, watching documentaries, and traveling. She integrates environmental justice, universal design, and community-driven research into all of her scholarly pursuits. RN received her bachelor's degree in Psychology from the University of Pennsylvania and her MA in Developmental Psychology from the City University of New York.
Ayushe Sharma Profile Photo

Ayushe Sharma, Head of Social Media

Ayushe Sharma is a PhD candidate in the Departments of Neurology and Neurobiology at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB). She uses brain imaging to map brain temperature and study neuroinflammation in patients with seizure disorders. Ayushe’s scientific pursuits outside the lab strive to make science more accessible to the lay public. She leads UAB’s Brain Core journal club, and also organizes the Brain Awareness Week celebrations in Birmingham, Alabama. In her spare time, Ayushe is a mixology enthusiast, vegetable gardener, and hobby artist. For more about Ayushe’s research and experience, please visit her full profile. 

Gil Torten, Content Illustrator & Infographic Lead

Gil Torten is currently in his 4th year of his Ph.D. at UCLA. His research is particularly interested in vision, specifically in the maintenance and function of the rod photoreceptor cell in the retina, with a focus on utilizing new technology in microscopy to better understand this complex cell. While Gil spends a bit too much time in the lab, he is also passionate about art and has been working with clay in some capacity for over 15 years - see his work on his Instagram: @tortenceramics. In the future, Gil hopes to utilize his training in science communication to get the newest scientific information to the right people!

Melis Cakar, Content Illustrator

Melis Cakar is currently pursuing a PhD in Neuroscience at UCLA. She received her BA in Neuroscience, with a minor in French, from Pomona College. Her research focuses on the neurobiological mechanisms that underlie sensory over-responsivity in youth with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Melis is interested in bridging ASD research in humans and animal models to provide insight into the etiology of the disorder. Outside of research, Melis spends her time singing, trying out new recipes and reading.

Rebeka Popovic

Rebeka Popovic, Contributing Editor

Rebeka is a PhD student at the University of Cambridge. Her current research explores molecular mechanisms driving Parkinson’s disease using the fruit fly as a model organism. She received her MSc in Neuroscience from King’s College London, specialising in neurodegeneration research. Outside the lab, she enjoys bouldering and listening to music. For more about Rebeka’s research and experience, please visit her full profile.

Daniel Kusko, Podcast Editor

Danny Kusko is a Clinical/Medical psychology PhD student in Dr. Burel Goodin's lab at The University of Alabama, Birmingham. His research interests are: psychological risk/resilience factors for chronic pain disorders, interventions for chronic pain (e.g. mindfulness meditation), and interdisciplinary care for mental health. He is working with the Knowing Neurons Podcast team as an assistant editor.

Himani Arora, Illustrator

Himani works as a Science Communicator with Hello Tomorrow Asia Pacific. She completed her Masters in Zoology from BHU, India. She has been working in the field of science communication since the last year. She writes articles, creates illustrations and makes science comics. You can follow her work here.

Caitlin Goodpaster, Contributing Editor and Website Manager

Caitlin earned her Bachelor’s degree at The Ohio State University before joining the Neuroscience Interdepartmental PhD Program at UCLA. In the lab of Dr. Laura DeNardo, she studies how early life stress alters prefrontal circuitry involved in avoidance behavior during adolescence. She is passionate about understanding how early experiences can lead to the development of aberrant behaviors and is motivated to eliminate the stigma surrounding mental illness. Outside the lab you can catch her on a hike, reading a good book or baking.

Chris Gabriel, Contributing Editor

Chris is a doctoral candidate in neuroscience at UCLA and previously received a BS in Human Biology and a BA in Psychology from North Carolina State University. He is interested in understanding prefrontal control of defensive behaviors and links to fear- and anxiety-related disease. Chris combines UCLA Miniscopes and advanced computational techniques to link neural activity directly to behavior. Outside the lab, Chris enjoys camping, rock climbing, playing music, and traveling as often as possible.

Talia Oughourlian, Contributing Editor

Talia Oughourlian is pursuing a Ph.D. in Neuroscience at UCLA under the mentorship of Dr. Benjamin Ellingson. Her dissertation research uses neuroimaging to characterize structural and functional alterations within the brains of patients with degenerative cervical myelopathy (DCM) during disease progression and following surgical intervention. Furthermore, her research aims to evaluate the relationship between degree of spinal cord compression and upstream supraspinal alterations, as well as sex-dependent microstructural and functional brain reorganization in DCM patients. In addition, Talia has studied brain tumor metabolism and the prognostic value of tumor acidity and hypoxia imaging biomarkers. Talia received a BS with honors in Computational Neuroscience from USC in 2018. In her spare time, Talia enjoys painting, baking, and hiking with her puppy Mila.

Jenna Hartstein, Translation and Outreach

Jenna Hartstein is an undergraduate student at UCLA studying Human Biology and Society, and minoring in Spanish. She is a member of the Stress Processes and Pregnancy Lab where she is studying the impact of stress (psychosocial, early life adversity, adulthood) on maternal cortisol at different periods of life. She enjoys connecting the realms of neuroscience with her Spanish minor, and was a member of the UCLA Brain Research Institute and Knowing Neurons collaboration as a student translator in Spring 2021.

Chris Turner, Social Media Team

Chris is in his second year at UVA on a pre-med track and hoping to major in neuroscience. His curiosity in neuroscience is primarily in behavioral psychology, neurodegenerative conditions, and regenerative medicine. Chris is also considering osteopathic medicine due to his belief in holistic healing and as it relates to the nervous system. Outside of the classroom, he enjoys hiking the Shenandoah, volunteering in the community, and playing lacrosse.

James Cole, Contributing Editor

James Cole is a Ph.D. student working in the lab of Dr. Xiaorong Liu at the University of Virginia, where he studies retinal development and the disruptive effects of aniridia, a panocular eye disorder. In 2018 he graduated from The College of William and Mary, where he pursued neuroscience and medieval-renaissance studies. He is chiefly interested in areas where neuroscience intersects with the humanities, particularly in the processing and appreciation of art, literature, and culture. In addition to his scientific pursuits, James is a poet, author, filmmaker, and lover of all things historical. He teaches composition and literary criticism at WriterHouse, hosts Poetry Live! at Live Arts Theater, and serves on the Board of Governors for the Virginia Writers Club.

Shriya Varada, Social Media Team

Shriya Varada is a first year undergraduate student at the University of Virginia hoping to major in neuroscience. She plans to pursue either a Ph.D. degree in neuroscience or go to medical school after graduation. Shriya is specifically interested in behavioral neuroscience, neurodegenerative disease, and the study of behavioral disorders and mental illness. Apart from neuroscience, Shriya loves to spend her time reading, listening to music, volunteering at the UVA hospital, and exploring Charlottesville with her friends.

Marisa Guajardo, Website Team

Marisa is an undergraduate student in her second year at the University of Virginia and is hoping to major in neuroscience. She is particularly interested in neurodegeneration, the central nervous system, as well as behavioral processes and the relation to anthropology. She plans on combining the study of neuroscience with related studies of computer science and artificial intelligence. Soon, Marisa is currently conducting research as a member of iGEM, exploring the creation of an earlier detection method for atherosclerosis through antibody engineering. Outside of these fields, she enjoys playing volleyball, making art, going to new food spots, and finding all the dogs on campus.

Peyton Yee, Fundraising Team Manager

Peyton is a second-year undergraduate student at the University of Virginia pursuing a degree in neuroscience. After graduation, she plans to earn her PhD in neuroscience. Peyton's specific interest in neuroscience focuses on the relationship between developmental processes and behavioral neuroscience. She currently works in the Condron lab focusing on neural signaling for larvae cooperation. Outside of science, she enjoys crocheting, painting, and traveling.

Vincent Medina, Contributing Editor

Vincent is a Cognitive and Brain Sciences PhD student at Louisiana State University. His research interests are in sound, space, and time perception. He previously earned an Aging Sciences B.S. from the University of South Florida, then an Experimental Psychology M.S. with a focus in cognitive neuroscience from Seton Hall University. He has also been an intern for both the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory at NASA Stennis Space Center and the U.S. Army Research Laboratory at Aberdeen Proving Grounds.

Kayla Lim, Illustrator

Kayla Lim is currently pursuing a PhD in Physiology at UCLA, where her research is focused on investigating the neural circuits underlying affiliative social behaviors. Before discovering her interest in neuroscience, Kayla went to a specialized arts high school training to be a professional dancer. In a turn of events, she went on to receive Bachelors degrees in Neuroscience and Psychology. She believes that art and science are a lot more similar than others let on, and continues to find creativity in both. Outside the lab, Kayla enjoys getting others excited about science and occasionally spends too much time testing out new recipes.

Ebrahim Feghhi, Editor and Podcast Producer

Ebrahim Feghhi is PhD student in Neuroscience in the lab of Jonathan Kao at UCLA. He is interested in reverse engineering deep learning systems and comparing them to the human brain, specifically in the domain of language. His goal is to build machines with human like intelligence, as well as use this knowledge to better understand psychiatric disorders. Outside of lab, Ebrahim enjoys wrestling and jiu-jitsu.

Shiri Spitz, Contributing Editor

Shiri Spitz Siddiqi is a PhD student at the University of California, Irvine, working with Dr. Pete Ditto and Dr. Pia Dietze. Her research lies at the intersection of morality and politics. She is particularly fascinated by the American "culture war" (including phenomena like the QAnon conspiracy theory and cancel culture) and its consequences for democracy. An avid collaborator, Shiri is also an affiliate with the Center for the Science of Moral Understanding. In her free time, she enjoys knitting, listening to podcasts, playing the cello, and hanging out with her cat, Scout. Shiri received her BS in Psychology and BA in Linguistics from the University of Texas at Austin in 2018. Before beginning her PhD program, she managed the EEG Lab in the Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences at Colgate University. You can view her full profile here.

Amy Than, Contributing Editor

Amy Than is a Neuroscience PhD student at UCLA in the lab of Dr. Shulamite Green, using neuroimaging to study the neural mechanisms underlying sensory over-responsivity in children with Autism Spectrum Disorder. She is fascinated with how the brain perceives and interacts with the world. Prior to UCLA, she was involved in tobacco cessation research at the California Smokers' Helpline and drug addiction research at the Scripps Research Institute. Her passion for neuroscience is paired with a dedication to supporting underrepresented scholars through equity-minded mentorship and educational access efforts. In her free time, Amy enjoys making travel vlogs, matcha lattes, and quality time with her family. More info here

Federica Raguseo, Content Illustrator

Federica is in her third year of PhD at Imperial College London. Her work focuses on Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) and Frontotemporal Dementia (FTD), the two most common types of dementia in people above 65. Both diseases are characterized by the presence of pathological aggregates that affect neurological functions. Her aim is to understand the mechanism of formation of such aggregates, hopefully aiding in the development of a new drug target! Outside the lab, she loves being involved in science communication projects with younger audiences and drawing science related content for the media.

Sarah Wade, Editor and Fundraising Manager

Sarah Wade is pursuing a Ph.D. in Neuroscience in the lab of Dr. Anna Molofsky at UCSF. Her research focuses on neuron-microglia interactions in health and disease. Sarah graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 2019 with a B.S. in Chemistry and a minor in Neuroscience. Outside of science, Sarah enjoys doing triathlons, loving her plants to death, and brewing kombucha.

Justin McMahon, Contributing Editor

Justin McMahon earned his Bachelor’s degree at the University of Michigan, where his fascination for two things really began to grow: neuroscience and Swahili. Having spent time in multiple research settings throughout his undergraduate career, he studied Alzheimer’s Disease, epilepsy, memory, and ultimately composed his thesis on neurophysiological aspects of psychiatric disorders. Justin went on to work at the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard where he developed viral tools for targeting different neuronal cell types. He is currently working as the senior research coordinator for the Neuropsychiatric Genetics in African Populations (NeuroGAP)–Psychosis Study, where he is able to combine his interests in both neuroscience and Swahili. Interested primarily in genetics and translational neuroscience, Justin is applying to begin a Neuroscience PhD program in Fall 2023. Outside the lab, you can find Justin enjoying music/podcasts, practicing photography, boxing, or appreciating a good coffee bean.

Mary Cooper, Contributing Editor

Mary Cooper is a Graduate Student in the Departments of Neurology and Psychology at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB). She uses a range of techniques including mRNA hybridization, EEG, and behavioral machine learning programs to study circadian influences on Alzheimer’s Disease. Mary’s scientific pursuits outside the lab are to make useful connections between classical arts and academic sciences. She is a contributor and volunteer at the Brain Awareness Week celebrations in Birmingham, Alabama. In her spare time, Mary is a pianist, gardener, and painter.

John Zhou, Contributing Editor

John is a first-year neuroscience PhD student at UCLA. He received his BS in computer science from Columbia University, where he worked on spike sorting, behavioral video analysis, and motor decoding. He is broadly interested in using machine learning and statistics to model computation and knowledge representation in the brain, including applications for brain-computer interfaces. When not coding, he enjoys cooking, learning new languages, playing soccer, training Muay Thai, and skiing.

Sneha Chaturvedi, Illustration and Outreach Team

Sneha Chaturvedi is a MD-PhD student at Washington University School in Medicine in St. Louis, Missouri. Her research focuses on sex differences in neurodevelopment, including work on autism spectrum condition. Sneha is also a part of the American Medical Women’s Association where she leads a team of volunteers to create content on sex and gender differences in various medical conditions. In her personal time, she enjoys painting murals, watching scary movies with friends, and taking her dogs to the dog park. For more about Sneha’s research and other interests, visit her profile.

Martin Jarzyna, Outreach and Translation Team

Martin Jarzyna is a 2nd-year PhD student in the Neurosciences program at Washington University in St. Louis. He is broadly interested in how environmental pressures shape neural circuits and the behaviors they mediate. In his research, he uses in vivo electrophysiology to investigate seasonal plasticity in the electric communication circuits of West African mormyrid fish. Martin is additionally passionate about making science more accessible and useful to the public, beyond barriers of language and education level. If he's not in the lab, you can find Martin writing and recording music, skateboarding, cooking, or staring at bodies of water.

Keya Vijapure, Outreach and Translation Team

Keya Vijapure is an undergraduate student at UCLA majoring in Physiological Sciences, and minoring in Spanish. She is passionate about advocating against disparities in the education and healthcare field and therefore enjoyed her time as a student translator for Knowing Neurons. Keya is currently working in a sleep and circadian rhythm lab where she is studying the effects of diet on gut microbiomes as they relate to sleep durations in mice. After graduating, she plans on applying to medical school. Outside of school, she enjoys baking, reading, and gardening.

Katelyn Mooney, Social Media Team

Kate is a first-year neuroscience PhD student at UCLA. She received a BS in Molecular and Cellular Biology and a BA in Economics from the University of Connecticut in 2020, while minoring in Physiology and Neurobiology. She then earned her MS in Physiology and Neurobiology under Dr. Geoffrey Tanner, researching the effectiveness of dietary ketone supplementation at ameliorating post-TBI pathological markers. She is broadly interested in joining a lab focused on studying neurodegeneration or addiction. When not conducting research, Kate enjoys walking, cooking (pasta), trying out new coffee shops, and golfing.

Vanessa Ho, Illustration and Outreach Team

Vanessa is a final year PhD student at Imperial College London. She received her BSc in Chemistry and MRes in Chemical Biology from Imperial College London. Her research uses microfluidic technology to detect RNA molecules in chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) at a single cell resolution using optical lasers and microscopy. She is an active Women in STEM mentor and have a passion to communicate science to younger generations as well as the public! She enjoys traveling around the world, going to the gym and bouldering! Follower her twitter for find out more: @vanessaho_

Honoreé Brewton, Contributing Editor

Honoreé is a Ph.D. student in psychology at UNC-Chapel Hill, studying the neural mechanisms involved in alcohol use disorder. She previously received her B.S. in psychology from Howard University and completed some postbaccalaureate work at the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. She enjoys all things neuroscience and strives to share her knowledge--as well as the work of other scientists--with the broader community. Outside of the lab, she enjoys reading graphic novels/comics, boxing, and taking in the outdoors. You can find her on LinkedIn.

Johanna Popp, Contributing Editor

Johanna Popp is currently a 2nd year PhD student at Würzburg University in Germany. She received a BSc in Neuroscience and a MSc in Multidisciplinary Biomedical Science from the University of Alabama at Birmingham. In her dissertation research, she uses brain imaging and network neuroscience techniques to understand the relationship between brain structure, brain function and individual differences in general cognitive ability. In her free time, she plays soccer on a semi-professional team, loves to go on runs and enjoys spending time with friends and family.

Eleonora Bano, Illustrator

Eleonora Bano is a 2nd-year PhD student in the Neuroscience program at Washington University In St. Louis. She’s working in a coo-mentorship between the Tavoni and Kepecs labs with the goal of using optical techniques such as 2 photon calcium imaging, optogenetics, and fiber photometry to create computational models of the processes underlying hallucinations and memory formation in mice. She is also actively involved in organizing moments of scientific exchange in the scientific and non-scientific community. Whenever she is not in lab you can find her on a climbing wall, on the tennis courts or skating around the park.

Mariella Careaga, Contributing Editor

Mariella Bodemeier Loayza Careaga is a postdoctoral researcher at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences. She currently works in a neuroendocrine lab studying the effects of prolonged stress and traumatic brain injury on the stress response. Writing about science is one of Mariella’s passions. To hone her writing skills, she enrolled in a Specialized Certificate in Science Communication at the University of California, San Diego, in 2021. Since then, she has published articles on Knowing Neurons and Massive Science. She also contributes as a content creator to the Brazilian science communication project Nunca Vi Um Cientista. When she is not in the lab or writing, Mariella enjoys riding her bike around town and finding new places to try new foods. She also loves binge-watching suspense and horror movies/series and playing with her cats. Mariella received her bachelor’s degree in Biomedicine, and a Master’s and Ph.D. in neuroscience from the Universidade Federal de São Paulo (UNIFESP), in Brazil.

Rachel Fox, Newsletter Team

Rachel Fox is pursuing her PhD in Neuroscience in the lab of Dr. Michael Wells at UCLA. Since graduating from Reed College in 2015, Rachel’s research interests have revolved around the genetic and molecular mechanisms of neurological disorders. She hopes that a better understanding of the mechanisms of brain development and how they go awry can lead to potential therapeutics for affected patients.

Hoki Fung, Social Media Team

Hoki is a PhD student in the Neuroscience Interdepartmental Program (NSIDP) at UCLA. Her research combines behavioral experiments, neuroimaging, and computational modeling to study the neural mechanisms underlying reward processing and decision making in healthy and clinical populations. She received her B.A. in Psychology from the University of California, Berkeley, M.Res. in Cognitive Neuroscience from the University College London, and M.Comp. in Artificial Intelligence from the National University of Singapore. When she is not busy doing research, she enjoys cafe hopping, playing basketball, and hanging out with friends.

Vidya Saravanapandian, Illustration Team

Vidya Saravanapandian graduated with a Ph.D. in Neuroscience from UCLA and an M.S in Biotechnology from Birla Institute of Technology and Science, Pilani, India. She is currently a postdoctoral research fellow in the laboratory of Dr. Peyman Golshani at UCLA. Vidya is passionate about studying brain development and exploring ways to understand and treat neurodevelopmental disorders (NDDs). Her research investigates changes in sleep physiology in NDDs and how these changes may contribute to poor cognitive and developmental outcomes, and bridges clinical research and research in animal models to understand NDDs. Outside of research, Vidya serves as a neuroscience outreach coordinator and has been closely working with the LAUSD schools to bring neuroscience education and awareness to K-12 children in low-income/low-opportunity communities around the Los Angeles neighborhoods. In her free time, Vidya loves baking and exploring new hiking trails.

Anastasiia Gryshyna, Contributing Editor

Anastasiia Gryshyna is a doctoral student in the Departments of Anesthesiology and Psychology at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB). She received her master’s degree in nanotechnology at University of Central Florida and became fascinated with neuroscience and techniques that can be used to study our brain. Her current interests are in basic science and pelvic pain. Anastasiia uses electrophysiology and optogenetics to examine how pain signals travel to the central nervous system and how we can address issues associated with urologic conditions using optogenetics. Outside of the lab, she enjoys hiking, training Jiu jitsu, and spending time with her family.

Yang-Sun Hwang, Illustrator

Yang-Sun Hwang started her Neuroscience PhD program at UCSF in 2022. She was first driven into neuroscience by the question, ‘how do collections of cells give rise to unique individuals?’ During her undergraduate studies in microbiology, this question inspired her to start a master’s thesis in systems neuroscience at the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology. There, she uncovered the role of the neuropeptide somatostatin in visual processing. In her Ph.D. program, she is interested in how environmental factors shape neural circuits, learning, and memory, which will eventually cast light on attenuating neuropsychiatric or neurodegenerative disorders. Outside the lab, she is a huge fan of video games, loves trying new places, foods, and outdoor activities, as well as running and drawing.

Francesca Canturi, Translator

Francesca is pursuing a PhD in Neuroscience at University of Parma (Italy), in the lab of Dr. Vera Ferrari. She currently studies the habituation of the attentional interference prompted by emotional distractors. Her dissertation project aims to investigate whether the distractor suppression may be modulated by  learning mechanisms, such as sustained practice, and contextual factors that affect environment predictability. In order to study that, she measures electrophysiological (ERP, alpha-ERD) and behavioral (reaction time) responses while participants are engaged in a main task. Francesca is also interested in studying how picture details and retrieval modulate human memory for natural scenes. Francesca obtained her MSc in Neuroscience from the University of Parma in 2019.

Liza Chartampila, Contributing Editor

Liza Chartampila is a second-year PhD student in the Neuroscience program at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Her current research focuses on understanding the role of sleep in development and neurodevelopmental disorders like autism and schizophrenia. Before beginning her doctoral studies at UNC, Liza completed her B.S. in neuroscience at Washington and Lee University and worked as a research assistant at New York University. Outside of research, she enjoys painting, hiking, reading, listening to podcasts, and playing sports (especially volleyball).

Brenda Leyva Garcia, Outreach and Translation Team

Brenda Leyva received her Bachelor's Degree in Neuroscience and Chemistry from Smith College. She is currently working as a Research Associate for the Broad Institute of MIT & Harvard, in the Stanley Center for Psychiatric Research. Her research is focused on helping to develop viral vectors to target and manipulate circuits of GABAergic neurons in the cortex. Specifically, she is interested in the potential of these viral vectors to be used in gene therapy, using AAV-driven gene expression to target neuronal populations that are related to diseases such as autism and epilepsy. Her goal is to join an MD/PhD program in the fall of 2024, to join her passions of neuroscience and research with her desire to help diversify the medicine field and advocate for the Hispanic community in the US. When not in the lab, Brenda enjoys reading, drawing, and teaching. See her full profile here (

Daniel Janko Headshot

Daniel Janko, Newsletter and Editing Teams

I am a first-year master's student at the University of Potsdam in Germany studying Cognitive Science. I received my BS in psychology from the University of Alabama at Birmingham. After graduation, I worked as a research assistant at UAB researching emotional processing in epilepsy patients using sEEG, and also did some work on somatosensory mapping using fMRI. Now, I am doing DTI, resting-state fMRI connectivity, and DBS connectivity research in Parkinson's patients trying to build predictive models of DBS surgery outcomes. In my free time, I like exercising, playing video games, cooking, traveling and exploring new cultures (mostly through food).

Tori King Headshot

Victoria King, Social Media and Science Policy Editing Teams

Tori is a PhD student in Behavioral Neuroscience at The University of Alabama at Birmingham. She works in the lab of Dr. Nina Kraguljac studying pathophysiological biomarkers of first-episode psychosis patients. She uses MRI to map myelin content and neurite density in order to assess neurodevelopmental abnormalities in people with schizophrenia compared to healthy people. Tori received her BS in Psychology with minors in Neuroscience and Spanish from The University of Alabama in 2020. In her free time, Tori loves doing yoga, going to coffee shops, and hanging out with her dogs, Peter and Banks.

Previous Core Team Members

Kate Fehlhaber, Founder and Editor-in-Chief

Kate graduated from Scripps College in 2009 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Neuroscience, completing the cellular and molecular track with honors.  As an undergraduate, she studied long-term plasticity in models of Parkinson’s disease in a neurobiology lab at University of California, Los Angeles.  She continued this research as lab manager before entering the University of Southern California in 2011 and then transferring to UCLA in 2013.  She completed her PhD in 2017, where she studied the first synapse of sight.  Listen to her talk about her vision research, science communication, photography, and other hobbies in this recent episode of Forbes podcast "The Limit Does Not Exist."

Huixuan Liang, Content Editor and Visual Designer

Huixuan Liang, Content Editor and Visual Designer

Huixuan is a postdoc in the Neurology Department at UCLA. Her current research focuses on identifying stem cell-based therapeutic approaches in stroke recovery. Huixuan earned her PhD from North Carolina State University, where she studied the molecular mechanisms regulating neural stem cell function during brain development. As a mentor of 15 students, Huixuan has developed the passion for science communication and she loves to present scientific ideas to diverse audiences. Outside the lab, Huixuan enjoys playing musical instruments (violin and guitar), pop dancing, playing board games, snowboarding and rock-climbing.

Kayleen Schreiber, Content Editor and Visual Designer

Kayleen is obsessed with the brain. After majoring in neuroscience at Vanderbilt University, she went straight to a PhD program in neuroscience at the University of Iowa. She currently studies how our brains process speech. She measures electrical changes produced by the brain to understand how the gender of a person talking influences how we hear their speech. Outside the lab, she works to get others excited about science and occasionally plays the bassoon.

Miguel Alec Marin, Content Illustrator

Miguel Alec Marin, Content Illustrator

Miguel Alec Marin is a postdoctoral scholar in the department of Neurology at UCLA. His research centers on the exploration of the mechanisms that drive remyelination and neural repair after stroke. More broadly, he is fascinated by the inner life of neurons and glia and the functional interface that exists between them. He discovered his love of neuroscience and cell biology while interning in several laboratories and a psychiatric clinic during his undergraduate studies at the University of St. Thomas in Houston, TX. He then went on to complete his doctoral studies at Baylor College of Medicine where he studied axon biology in models of neural degeneration and regeneration. When he isn’t in lab, he is at his drafting table and easel painting and drawing –an interest that arose during his childhood and was developed during his graduate studies. For more on his science and his art, follow him on instagram.

Jooyeun Lee, Senior Graphic Designer

Jooyeun (JL) dreamt about being an artist and yet she is now in her fifth year as a Neuroscience Ph.D. student at USC.  As she studied art in college, it opened up a whole new world beyond her perspective and turned out earning a Bachelor’s degree in Biology.  Thereafter, she joined a neuroscience lab at California State University, Northridge, studying wound healing response in diabetic neuropathy as her Master’s thesis project.  Currently, she studies neurological disorders, such as Down syndrome and Alzheimer’s disease, using Drosophila as a model system.

Jillian L. Shaw, Senior Editor

Jillian decided to dedicate herself to a life of exploring the mysteries of the brain after reading neurological case studies by Oliver Sachs and Ramachandran as a student at Vassar College.  After completing a B.A. in Neuroscience with honors in 2009, Jillian headed to USC to pursue a Ph.D. in Neuroscience where she is now in her 5th year.  A research stint in Belgium exposed Jillian to the complexities of cell signaling pathways, and her interests shifted from cognitive neuroscience to cellular and molecular neuroscience.  Her current research focuses on the link between Down syndrome and Alzheimer’s disease using Drosophila as a genetic model to explore axonal transport, mitochondria dysfunction, synaptic defects, and neurodegeneration.  When she is not in the lab, Jillian is forming new synapses by rock climbing throughout Southern California.

Anita Ramanathan, Contributing Editor

Anita met neuroscience during her undergraduate project, and it was love at first sight.  While majoring in biotechnology at the B.M.S. College of Engineering, Bangalore, she had the opportunity to learn about biochemical subtyping as a method for biomarker discovery in neurodevelopmental disorders.  She then pursued a Master’s in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at USC.  During her thesis project, her interest in translational neuroscience further evolved as she studied a kinase pathway (PI3K) highly implicated in autism.  She currently belongs to the Neuroscience Graduate Program at USC and works on components of the blood-brain barrier and its integrity in animal models of neurological disorders. Outside the lab, Anita is very enthusiastic about educational and scientific storytelling! Some of her parallel interests include consumer psychology and behavior.

Pratichi Dixit, Social Media Marketing Manager

Pratichi completed her Masters in Business Administration, specializing in International Business and Marketing from Birla Institute of Management Technology, Noida, India. She has over 3 years of experience in the field of Social Media Marketing and Business Development. Currently, she lives in Germany, learning the German language and about German Culture.

Jennifer Tribble, Contributing Editor

Jennifer Tribble graduated from the University of Texas at Austin in 2013 with a B.S. in Chemistry and a B.S. in Microbiology.  She first discovered her love of neuroscience research as an undergraduate, and is now working toward her PhD at UCLA in the laboratory of Dr. Michael Fanselow.  Jennifer’s interests lie primarily in behavioral neuroscience, and specifically mapping cellular changes to holistic behavioral phenotypes.  In the Fanselow lab, she studies fear behavior and Pavlovian conditioning to understand the neural mechanisms of fear acquisition and extinction.

David Jaimes, Visual and Video Designer

David Jaimes is originally from Colombia, but grew up in Canada.  He attended The Master’s College and received his BS in biology. He is currently a graphic designer making videos for Knowing Neurons.  In his spare time he likes to hit the gym, draw people at Starbucks, and spend time with family.

McCall Sarrett, Content Illustrator

McCall Sarrett is a Nashville native who graduated from the University of Tennessee in 2013 with a BA in Neuroscience and the Perception of Language, and a minor in Portuguese. After a brief stint working on a dairy farm, she returned to graduate school to pursue her PhD in Neuroscience at the University of Iowa. McCall is primarily interested in how the brain integrates multiple sources of information during speech perception, and how these dynamics change throughout word learning and second language acquisition. The goal of her research is to better inform clinical diagnostics and treatments for those with language difficulties and hearing loss. In her spare time, she enjoys biking, whistling, and making ice cream.

Daniel Toker, Contributing Editor

Daniel Toker is a neuroscience PhD student at the University of California, Berkeley, specializing in computational and cognitive neuroscience. In his research, he uses information theory and graph theory to characterize what the brain is doing when it's conscious, and what changes when it's not. Before coming to Berkeley, Daniel studied philosophy and neuroscience at Princeton University. His other science writing can be found on the following social media platforms: Instagram: @the_brain_scientist, Twitter: @daniel_toker, Website:

Gabrielle-Ann Torre, Contributing Editor

Gabrielle-Ann Torre, Contributing Editor

Gabrielle-Ann is a PhD student at Georgetown University and studies the neural correlates of reading, IQ, and socioeconomic status. She is broadly interested in using neuroimaging methods to ask questions about human cognitive behaviors and abilities. Previously, she studied brain-behavior relationships in healthy aging at the University of Arizona, where she developed a love for literature and creative writing. She still enjoys reading and writing, as well as live music, gender studies, and eating.

Sophie Fessl, Contributing Editor

Sophie Fessl, Contributing Editor

Sophie’s discovered her love for all things brain-related during her undergraduate studies in Biology at the University of Oxford. She then earned her PhD in Developmental Neurobiology from King’s College London. In her thesis, Sophie studied how axons are guided through the developing brain of fruitflies. After her PhD, Sophie returned to her hometown of Vienna, Austria, where she is now working as a science writer. Sophie also writes about science and the brain on her blog,

Michal Rössler, Content Illustrator

Michal Rössler, Content Illustrator


Caitlin Aamodt, Contributing Editor

Caitlin Aamodt, Contributing Editor

Caitlin Aamodt is a Ph.D. Candidate in Neuroscience at UCLA in the lab of Stephanie White. Her research focuses on using songbirds as a translational drug discovery model for treating autism and other neurodevelopmental disorders. Broadly she is interested in gene regulation in behavior, cognitive evolution, and neuropharmacology. In addition to Knowing Neurons her science writing has appeared on Aeon, Discover, What is Epigenetics?, and others. She can be found online at

Alexa Erdogan, Podcast Producer & Senior Editor

Alexa Erdogan is currently pursuing a Master's in Space Systems Engineering at John Hopkins University. Although she originally started in molecular and cellular biology and neuroscience, she has since combined those fields with space science, leading to the pursuit of her ultimate final frontier: space neuroscience. Her prior research has delved into the role of microglia in ischemic preconditioning, while her current pursuits explore the impact that outer space has on neurological systems across various species. Outside of research, she tries to share her passion for science with other curious minds using science communication across various media, from print to podcast. For more about Alexa's research and experience, please visit her full profile.

Rajamani Selvam, Senior Content Illustrator

Rajamani Selvam received her Ph.D. in Neuroscience. She is currently pursuing a fellowship where she studies the blood-brain barrier. She is interested in a career in science policy or regulatory affairs. During her free time, she volunteers as a judge to Science Fairs to elementary and high schoolers, performs demonstrations and hands-on activities to provide insights on brain and Neuroscience. She also mentors students through the 1000 Girls 1000 Futures program and Freedom English Academy where she provides career guidance. Away from science, she is an artist and enjoys leisure travel.

Selena Milanovic, Chief Partnership Officer

Selena is an enthusiastic biomedical engineer who strives to improve global healthcare. She is currently completing a PhD in mathematical neuroscience at the University of Oxford, with the aim of uncovering what MRI pictures hide. Indeed, the tiniest brain vessels that can’t be captured through imaging play a key role in brain degenerative diseases, making their understanding crucial. Being very passionate about science communication, Selena often gives talks in schools and universities and has also recently presented her research in the UK Parliament. For more about Selena's research and experience, please visit her full profile.

Amin Kamaleddin, Business Development Officer

Amin Kamaleddin is a PhD candidate in Biomedical Engineering at the University of Toronto. His research seeks to decipher how information is processed by the nervous system and how disruption of that processing leads to clinically important conditions such as chronic pain. Besides research, Amin is experienced with higher education governance and mental health initiatives. You can follow him on LinkedIn or Facebook to know more about his research and advocacy.

Desi Nesheva, Contributing Editor

Desi Nesheva received a BSc degree in neuroscience with pharmacology at the University of Nottingham and she is currently working on a PhD project in molecular pharmacology and drug discovery. Her project explores targeting chemokine receptors for the treatment of inflammatory conditions as well as cancer. She likes combining aspects of her knowledge in neuroscience, immunology and pharmacology and exploring new targets for the treatment of CNS diseases such as schizophrenia! Outside of science she enjoys cooking (and eating), reading fiction and gardening. For more about Desi's research and experience, please visit her full profile

Kellie Au, Statistician

Kellie is a senior at Palos Verdes Peninsula High School. She has strong interest in math, sciences, and coding. Her curiosity in neuroscience has grown as she continues to investigate the effects of music on social bonding. Kellie spends hours volunteering at the hospital and community philanthropies serving underserved families and children. In her spare time, she loves playing basketball, learning guitar, and exploring different music genres.

Joel Frohlich, Columnist

Joel Frohlich is a postdoc studying consciousness in the lab of Martin Monti at UCLA. He is interested in using brain activity recorded with EEG to infer when a person is conscious. Joel earned his PhD from UCLA in 2018 studying EEG markers of neurodevelopmental disorders in the lab of Shafali Jeste. You can also check out Joel's blog Consciousness, Self-Organization, and Neuroscience on Psychology Today. For more about Joel's research and writing, please visit Joel's website at

Sean Noah, Senior Editor

Sean is a PhD student at UC Davis, studying the neural mechanisms of attention. Previously, he studied cognitive science and neurobiology at UC Berkeley, and then worked for Think Now, Inc., studying attention with EEG. He is deeply interested in artificial intelligence, the nature of information in the brain, and the relationship between consciousness and attention. He also loves reading, writing, eating, and gardening.

Nerissa Culi, Web and Digital Content Officer

Nerissa received her MSci in Neuroscience from The University of Nottingham where she studied the protective effects of hypothermia on brain physiology. During her placement year, she investigated the role of inflammation in the development of Alzheimer’s Disease using MRI and computational techniques. Nerissa now works in digital marketing where she exercises her analytical skills as a Tech Account Manager, helping businesses to grow through optimisation and automation. Outside of work she loves trying out new restaurants, traveling and baking. For more information on Nerissa, please visit her full profile.

Holly Hake, Academic Outreach Officer

Holly is a 2nd year PhD student in Neuroscience at the University of Washington. Her current research involves using intrinsic resting state brain activity as a means of predicting an individual’s intelligence and decision-making abilities. Before graduate school, Holly earned her BSc in Psychology and Religious Studies at the University of Colorado, where she studied MDMA (ecstasy) as an adjunct therapy for posttraumatic stress disorder. She later joined the National Institute on Drug Abuse to map novel neural circuitry implicated in anxiety and depression. Outside of the lab, Holly researches scientific policy, and participates in science education outreach to bridge the gap between science and the public.

Nerea Felices, Translator and Outreach Coordinator

Nerea Felices received her BS in Basic and Experimental Biomedicine from the University of Seville (Spain) in 2019. During her MSci in Genetics and Evolution, she became passionate about science communication. She joined a science communication agency as an intern in Madrid and continued working on her skills through courses and seminars. She is currently working as a technology transfer technician in the Andalusian Center of Nanomedicine and Biotechnology BIONAND in Málaga (Spain) but wants to keep on pursuing a communication career, and combine it with her art enthusiasm.  In her free time she enjoys reading and painting tiny canvases - you can see her work on her website.

Marco Travaglio, Former Editor-in-Chief

Marco Travaglio is currently pursuing a PhD in Neuroscience at The University of Cambridge. His research aims to generate novel mechanistic insights into the selective vulnerability of dopaminergic neurons in Parkinson’s disease. His project involves the use of both embryonic and induced pluripotent stem cell based model systems to study the onset of the disease and its subsequent pathological manifestations. He received his MSci in Neuroscience from the University of Nottingham in 2018. For more about Marco's research and experience, please visit his full profile.

Lisa-Ruth Vial, Content Illustrator

Lisa is pursuing her Phd in Dr. Holger Lerche’s lab at the Hertie Institute for Clinical Brain Research in Tübingen, Germany. In her thesis she studies the role of Parvalbumin positive interneurons in hereditary forms of epilepsy and migraine. She received both her BSc in Biology and her MSc in Neurobiology at the Eberhard Karls university of Tübingen. In her free time she enjoys video games, culture and art.

Yuki Hebner

Yuki Hebner, Head of Science Policy & Contributing Editor

Yuki earned her BA and MA in Molecular Biology and Biochemistry at Wesleyan University before starting her PhD in Gene Regulation, Epigenomics, and Transcriptomics at UCLA. In the lab of Dr. de la Torre-Ubieta, she studies chromatin remodeling during human cortical development to understand the epigenetic mechanisms underlying psychiatric disease. She is passionate about exploring chromatin biology and neurodevelopment, and is also motivated to advocate for the incorporation of the existing science to help guide problem solving in society. Yuki is the VP of the Science Policy Group at UCLA.

Zoe Guttman, Contributing Editor

Zoe received degrees in Neural Science and Psychology from New York University before moving to Los Angeles to pursue her PhD in Neuroscience at the University of California, Los Angeles. In the lab of Dr. Edythe London, she combines cognitive neuroscience and behavioral economics (Neuroeconomics) to investigate decision-making under risk and uncertainty in both healthy people and those with addictive disorders. She uses neuroimaging methods (fMRI, PET), economic tasks, and computational models to better understand why people make less-than-ideal choices in environments of uncertainty. She is a co-founder of the Science Policy Group at UCLA and enthusiastic about science policy and communication.

Vicente Elgueta, Translator and Outreach Coordinator

Vicente Elgueta is a 20-year-old undergrad med student from Chile. He’s currently doing his clinical rotations in Universidad Austral de Chile, in Osorno, Chile. He’s also the local officer of Research Exchanges in IFMSA.UACh. Vicente has participated in a neurology project about COVID-19 and its effects on the brain and in Mental Health. Since then he developed a great interest in neurosciences and neurology in general. He joined the KN team because he wants to broaden his knowledge on the wonders of the brain, and because he loves science communications. Outside studying and academics, he likes playing guitar, listening to music, chilling with friends, and playing games online.

Charmi Porwal, Neuroscience News Reporter

Charmi Porwal received her BSc in Physiotherapy from D.Y. University Navi Mumbai in 2018. During her time there, she worked and trained children with multiple developmental disorders to help them to improve their motor and sensory functions. More recently, she decided to shift her focus to fundamental aspects of neuroscience, having joined the Cellular Neurobiology Lab at the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research, Mumbai, in 2019. Currently, her interest lies in understanding the neuronal pathology underlying autism spectrum disorder. More specifically, she is interested in understanding how altered sensorimotor experience in children translates into structural impairments during neurodevelopment. For more about Charmi's research and experience, please visit her full profile.

Sarah Barron profile photo

Sarah Barron, Social Media and Content Specialist

Sarah is currently a PhD student the University of Cambridge studying bioelectronics and bioengineering. Sarah's background is multidisciplinary, receiving her BSc in neuroscience and MSc in brain imaging from the University of Nottingham before moving into the engineering field and receiving her MRes in sensor technology and application from the University of Cambridge. Her current work focuses on developing flexible electronic devices to monitor 3D in vitro models of epithelial tissue. She is also a STEM ambassador and is passionate about science communication and outreach work. Apart from science, Sarah loves sports and competes nationally in powerlifting and cheerleading! For her full portfolio and contact visit her full profile.