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!
Marco Travaglio, 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.
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 joelfrohlich.com
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.
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.
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.
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, travelling and baking. For more information on Nerissa, please visit her full profile.
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.
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.
Arielle Hogan, Editor & Partnership Officer
Arielle Hogan received a B.S. in Biology and a B.A. in French from the University of Virginia. She is now pursuing a Ph.D. in Neuroscience in the NSIDP program at UCLA. Her research focuses on CNS injury and neural repair. Specifically, she is researching the differential intrinsic transcriptional programs that allow for PNS regeneration and investigating how these transcriptional programs can be induced in models of CNS injury to promote regeneration. She also enjoys learning about biomechatronics and brain-machine interface (BMI), as well as participating in science outreach and teaching. Outside of the lab, she spends time practicing her French, playing basketball, watching movies (even the bad ones), and traveling. For more information about Arielle Hogan, please visit her full profile.
Elizabeth Burnette, Contributing Editor & Content Producer
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, Contributing Editor & 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.
Gil Torten, Content Illustrator
Gil Torten is currently in his 2nd year of his Ph.D. at UCLA. His research is particularly interested in vision, specifically in the maintenance and function of the 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 12 years – see his work on his Instagram: @tortenceramics. In the future, Gil hopes to use his experience in both art and science to encourage cross disciplinary education in K-12 and in universities, and teach others about the value of exploring a wide range of interests
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.
Zoë Dobler, Editor & Social Media Manager
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.
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.
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.
Yuki Hebner, 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.
Ayushe Sharma, Podcast Producer and Contributing Writer
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.
Lupita Valencia, Contributing Editor and Translator
Lupita Valencia received her BS in Neuroscience and BA in Chicano/a and Central American Studies from UCLA. As an undergraduate in the Wassum lab, her research focused on behavioral neuroscience, specifically how corticolimbic circuits facilitate the decision making process and how this ultimately influences behavior. She will be participating in the PREP Post-Baccalaureate Program at Tufts University in Boston to gain more research experience. As a first generation student, Lupita is very passionate about uplifting underrepresented students in both outreach education and as a mentor. She is very dedicated in making science more accessible by overcoming language barriers, especially in the Spanish-speaking community.
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.
Sarah Barron, Social Media & 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.
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.
Laura Fernández-Merino, Translator and Outreach Coordinator
Laura is currently a PhD student in the Cognitive Neuroscience of Language at the Basque Center on Cognition, Brain and Language (BCBL-Spain). She received her BA in English Studies and Linguistics before earning her MA in Neuroscience. Her research focuses on neural entrainment and its role in language acquisition and speech perception in bilingual infants. She is also studying the effect of music training on cortical entrainment, and its link to a possible intervention for language treatments as in dyslexia. When she is not surfing brain waves in the BabyLab, she like surfing real waves and playing piano.
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.
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.
Alba Peris-Yagüe, Translator and Outreach Coordinator
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.
Himani Arora, Illustrator
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 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 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: danieltoker.com.
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’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, brainosoph.wordpress.com.
Michal Rössler, Content Illustrator
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 caitlinaamodt.wordpress.com.
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.