The team.

 

Amar Sahay, Ph.D., Principal Investigator

Associate Professor, Principal Faculty, Harvard Stem Cell Institute

Associate Member, BROAD Institute of Harvard and MIT

James and Audrey Foster MGH Research Scholar

I'm a title

Amar’s scientific interests evolved from understanding fundamental mechanisms underlying cell-fate specification and patterning during embryogenesis as an undergraduate to neural circuit formation in vertebrates as a graduate student in the labs of Alex Kolodkin and David Ginty at Johns Hopkins.   Keen to probe how neural circuits relate to behavior in health and disease, Amar did postdoctoral work in Rene Hen’s lab at Columbia investigating the functions of adult-born dentate granule neurons and this continues to be a central focus in the Sahay lab.

 

The Interview

Q 1.  What excites you about being a scientist?

The joy and priviledge of contributing to our understanding of life.

Q 2.  What inspired you to go into science?

Learning about Mendel and genes in eighth grade.

Q 3.  In another life what other vocation would you choose and why?

A chef or a writer of fiction to create culinary experiences and characters.

Q 4.  Make one prediction of how science will change health or living in the next 20 years.

Sophisticated neural and genetic prosthetics and artificial organ systems will profoundly impact strategies to enhance brain and organ functions.  Think Singularity.

 

 

 

Antoine Besnard, Ph.D., Instructor, NARSAD YI Awardee, MGH Tosteson Fellow

I graduated with honors from the University of Pierre et Marie Curie, Paris VI (2008) before starting a Ph.D. program in Paris under the supervision of Dr. Jocelyne Caboche. What I find exciting about the brain is that it has unlimited resources for plasticity at the cellular and molecular level. These fantastic properties allow us to generate adaptive responses to our environment.  What I am interested in the field of Neuroscience is when discrete changes occur in the brain, these alterations can give way to maladaptive behaviors, as seen in drug addiction or anxiety disorders.  My research topic is therefore focused on neuronal plasticity to better understand and ultimately design new strategies to combat psychiatric disorders.

 

The Interview

Q 1.  What excites you about being a scientist?

Discovering one facet of the world that was never observed before!

Q 2.  What inspired you to go into science?

I think it is the human genome being fully mapped in 2003. I remember hearing about this tremendously challenging project that was solved in only 10 years. This might probably be the largest scientific endeavor in history. To me this is the very definition of science: when scientific innovation meets international scientific collaboration.

Q 3.  In another life what other vocation would you choose and why?

I would like to work with disabled people to find ways to make their life easier.

Q 4.  Make one prediction of how science will change health or living in the next 20 years.

The 21st century will witness tremendous progress and exciting revolutions in many different fields of research. Regarding neuroscience, I believe that functional brain imaging will come out of the labs and hospitals. I think it’s ability to provide us feedback on how we use our brain will become extremely useful in the context of education at school, in courts as a valuable tool to advocate a case, professional sport for mental preparation and why not art in the creation process!

 

 

Nannan Guo, Ph.D., Instructor, MGH Psychiatry fellow

Originally I hail from Inner Mongolia, China. I received my PhD from Fudan University in Shanghai, china, where I became fascinated by plasticity of hippocampal circuitry during learning and memory processing. Then I spent two years in Tohoku University in Sendai, Japan studying the role of adolescent hippocampal neurogenesis in establishment of normal GABAergic circuitry in adulthood. Currently I am interested how adult neurogenesis contributes to the functions of the dentate gyrus such as pattern separation and mechanisms underlying stem cell activation.

 

The Interview

Q 1.  What excites you about being a scientist?

Creativity and imagination: The best way to inspire my life.

Q 2.  What inspired you to go into science?

In my first semester of college, I successfully injected bovine oocyte into a mouse uterus and the mouse survived but of course a calf wasnt born……

Q 3.  In another life what other vocation would you choose and why?

Early education. Because I love kids.

Q 4.  Make one prediction of how science will change health or living in the next 20 years.

…..

 

 

 

 

Yu-Tzu Shih, Ph.D., Postdoctoral fellow, Taiwan Minisitry  Science & tech Fellow

Yu-Tzu grew up in Taiwan and trained as a medical technologist in college. During those years, she spent a lot of time studying viruses and was intrigued by the link between viral infection in the brain and cognitive impairments.  Towards her doctorate, she focused on molecular mechanisms underlying dendritic spine formation and their contributions to cognition.

 

The Interview

Q 1.  What excites you about being a scientist?

Trying my best to help people in need.

 

Q 2.  What inspired you to go into science?

In third grade, I took care of a relative who was hospitalized and I realized that there are many ineffective therapies for human diseases.

 

Q 3.  In another life what other vocation would you choose and why?

Running a homestay or vacation rentals. I believe that staying away from stress for a while is good for our brain.

 

Q 4.  Make one prediction of how science will change health or living in the next 20 years.

Personalized diagnosis and treatment will become widely accessible and feasible.  Because we are living longer than before, we will discover new age-related diseases that will challenge scientists.

 

 

 

 

 

Cinzia Vicidomini, Ph.D., Postdoctoral fellow, NARSAD YI Awardee

 

The Interview

Q 1.  What excites you about being a scientist?

The opportunity to use one characteristic of my personality, curiosity, to explore the unknown.

 

Q 2.  What inspired you to go into science?

One of my favourite movies is Jurassic park. I discovered the power of DNA when a drop of blood from a jurassic mosquito gave life to an extinct species.

Q 3.  In another life what other vocation would you choose and why?

Travel journalist to explore many places all over the world.

Q 4.  Make one prediction of how science will change health or living in the next 20 years.

I am pretty sure that genome editing technology will revolutionize the treatment of different human diseases.Q 4.  Make one prediction of how science will change health or living in the next 20 years.

 

 

 

 

Hannah Twarkowski, Ph.D, Postdoctoral Fellow, DFG Postdoctoral Fellow BIO

 

The Interview

Q 1.  What excites you about being a scientist?
Being in a creative environment every day and opening new doors to understand the thousands of miracles our brain performs every day some of them without us even noticing.

 

Q 2.  What inspired you to go into science?

Listening for the first time to the firing of a FEF neuron during a delayed-saccade task. With my eyes closed, I was able to tell when the animal did the saccade this was when I knew I want to go into neuroscience.

Q 3.  In another life what other vocation would you choose and why?

Probably I would have become an actress. It is a different form of being creative and gaining insight into brains – only here those brains of other characters.

Q 4.  Make one prediction of how science will change health or living in the next 20 years.

I think science will affect the diagnostic approach for many diseases and uncover surprising links between some of them. Prevention or very early diagnostic will probably gain more importance. However, I think it is highly important for scientists, medical staff and politicians to re-think the ethical, legal, and psychological responsibilities that come along with those amazing new tools.

 

 

 

 

Travis D. Goode, Ph.D, Postdoctoral Fellow.  BIO

Raised in Tennessee, Travis earned his bachelor’s degree in psychology from the University of Tennessee. As an undergrad, he had humble beginnings as a research assistant in the behavioral neuroscience laboratory of Dr. Matthew Cooper. Subsequently, he completed his doctorate in neuroscience in the emotion and memory systems laboratory of Dr. Stephen Maren at Texas A&M University. Travis’ primary scientific interests are in the neurobiological bases of aversively motivated memories, and in the meaningful translation of animal research.

 

The Interview

Q 1.  What excites you about being a scientist?
I am grateful to be able to learn something new every day, all the while helping society by contributing to humanity’s knowledge of the workings of the brain.

 

Q 2.  What inspired you to go into science?

Like many families, my family experienced the hardships of addiction. In turn, I am passionate about alleviating the burdens of mental illness. I see neuroscience research as an important tool in combating these issues.

Q 3.  In another life what other vocation would you choose and why?

While I enjoy the lab, I'm an avid guitar player; I'd love to play in a touring rock band.

Q 4.  Make one prediction of how science will change health or living in the next 20 years.

What used to be the stuff of science-fiction is increasingly just real science! In the next two decades, I would not be surprised if we see considerable advancements in pharmacotherapeutic interventions for at least some psychiatric illnesses. I believe this will occur in part through the advent and innovative use of neuroscientific tools. Rather than bathe the entire brain in treatment, I believe we will be better able to target problem sites and mechanisms that are at the heart of the disorder. Accordingly, a fundamental understanding of the psychological, biological, and genetic factors that contribute to such illnesses is critical!

 

 

 

 

Samara Miller, Ph.D, Postdoctoral Fellow

 

 

Victor Steininger, BSc (Harvard-EPFL Bertarelli Masters Fellow)

 

 

The Interview

Q 1.  What excites you about being a scientist?

There is really nothing more exciting than asking a question about how the brain works, and having the tools to actually answer it. 
 

Q 2.  What inspired you to go into science?

The highlight of my childhood was building an electrophoresis chamber from scratch in my garage. Enough said.

 

Q 3.  In another life what other vocation would you choose and why?

An automobile mechanic: because I would be able to use my hands to take things apart and get right in there to see how everything works. (If only neuroscience worked that way!)

 

Q 4.  Make one prediction of how science will change health or living in the next 20 years.
I predict that innovations in wearable/implantable technology, and access to an individual's physiological data, will revolutionize our understanding of human behavior and improve healthcare infrastructure.  

 

 

The Bertarelli Program in Translational Neuroscience and Neuroengineering is a joint program of the Harvard Medical School and Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne in Switzerland. The goal is to begin to bridge the existing gap between basic and translational neuroscience, by supporting basic and clinical research oriented towards translational opportunities, by creating stronger ties among scientists, engineers and clinicians, and by training the next generation of leaders in the field.

 

The Interview

Q 1.  What excites you about being a scientist?

Improving our understanding of human and channeling this knowledge to design therapies for tomorrow.
Q 2.  What inspired you to go into science?

When I was around 10 I did not understand why it was possible to cure some diseases and not others. So I wanted to become a doctor and be able to treat all my patients. Now I'm an engineer, but the kid's dream is still here.

Q 3.  In another life what other vocation would you choose and why?

I believe science allows me to use my creativity a lot. But in this other life I would explore it further and become a musician.

Q 4.  Make one prediction of how science will change health or living in the next 20 years.

With our progress in medicine, AI and engineering, I believe patients will be more and more empowered and in control of their health. Noninvasive monitoring, new generation of diagnostics, genome decoding. All these will give rise to more targeted therapies, better outcomes and will provide science with useful data to address the next challenges.

 

 

 

Ain Chung, Ph.D, Postdoctoral Fellow

PhD with Andre Fenton (NYU)

 

 

 

 

 

The Interview

Q 1.  What excites you about being a scientist?

When I see significant experimental results fitting together, therefore the outcome explains a mechanism underlies a phenomenon logically. 

Q 2.  What inspired you to go into science?

Intro to Neuroscience class in sophomore year.  

Q 3.  In another life what other vocation would you choose and why?

A watchmaker or a plastic surgeon. I enjoy putting sophisticated things together to make a fully functional and beautiful outcome.  

Q 4.  Make one prediction of how science will change health or living in the next 20 years.
I predict there will be an innovation in diagnostic technology by big data analysis. Everyone will know their life expectancy at birth, therefore, healthcare companies will support individual healthcare plans from birth. 

 

 

Haley Zanga, B.S, Lab tech/Manager

 

The Interview

Q 1.  What excites you about being a scientist?

The challenge to solve or understand a particular problem that, when once solved could make a profound impact on many peoples lives and future.

 

Q 2.  What inspired you to go into science?

My interest in health and medicine which stemmed from taking an Anatomy and Physiology course in High School. 

 

Q 3.  In another life what other vocation would you choose and why?

A journalist or vlogger. These would enable me to travel the world. I believe there is so much to see, learn and explore outside of our own country/state.

 

Q 4.  Make one prediction of how science will change health or living in the next 20 years.

The advancements in technology over the last 100 years have shaped the way of medicine. I can only imagine that technology will continue to keep driving advancements in healthcare, making it more efficient, easier, and cheaper in the long run. Artificial intelligence could be the next big thing in medicine.

 

 

Current Harvard College undergraduates doing honors thesis in Lab

Lina Ghosh (Class of 2021, Concentration in Neurobiology)

Lina Ghosh (Class of 2021, Concentration in Neurobiology)

The Interview

Q 1.  What excites you about being a scientist?

 

The potential for discovery and the ability to improve the lives of others through the conclusions gleaned from experimentation.

 

Q 2.  What inspired you to go into science?

 

I love that the scientific community is so collaborative. When scientists make a particular discovery, the newfound knowledge gained from their experiments is disseminated through the community and serves as a building block for the discoveries of others. This pattern ensures the most success and advancement.

 

Q 3.  In another life what other vocation would you choose and why?

 

I would love to be a primary or secondary school teacher. I believe that childhood development hinges on early instillation of values and exposure to a diversity of stimulating experiences. I owe a lot of my character and personal development to my school teachers, who have played integral roles in my life as inspiring educators, guiding mentors, dedicated advocates, and dear friends. I could only hope to give back to others what my teachers have given me!

 

Q 4.  Make one prediction of how science will change health or living in the next 20 years.

 

I think the advent of better technology will accelerate the understanding of human physiology and disease mechanisms and consequently cause treatments to be more preemptive. Greater understanding of pathology along with the availability of diverse treatments will foster a society-wide increase in both physical and psychological health awareness. 

The Interview

Q 1.  What excites you about being a scientist?

 

The potential for discovery and the ability to improve the lives of others through the conclusions gleaned from experimentation.

 

Q 2.  What inspired you to go into science?

 

I love that the scientific community is so collaborative. When scientists make a particular discovery, the newfound knowledge gained from their experiments is disseminated through the community and serves as a building block for the discoveries of others. This pattern ensures the most success and advancement.

 

Q 3.  In another life what other vocation would you choose and why?

 

I would love to be a primary or secondary school teacher. I believe that childhood development hinges on early instillation of values and exposure to a diversity of stimulating experiences. I owe a lot of my character and personal development to my school teachers, who have played integral roles in my life as inspiring educators, guiding mentors, dedicated advocates, and dear friends. I could only hope to give back to others what my teachers have given me!

 

Q 4.  Make one prediction of how science will change health or living in the next 20 years.

 

I think the advent of better technology will accelerate the understanding of human physiology and disease mechanisms and consequently cause treatments to be more preemptive. Greater understanding of pathology along with the availability of diverse treatments will foster a society-wide increase in both physical and psychological health awareness. 

James Coleman (Class of 2021, Concentration in Stem Cell and regenerative Biology, HSCI HIP Intern 2018)

The Interview

Q 1.  What excites you about being a scientist?

 Being able to discover things that have the potential to solve health problems and improve the lives of people.

 

Q 2.  What inspired you to go into science?

All those videos/channels on Youtube that showcase new and intriguing scientific discoveries.

 

Q 3.  In another life what other vocation would you choose and why?

I'd probably be a politician because I love to debate and would be able to make a positive impact on people's lives policy-wise.

 

Q 4.  Make one prediction of how science will change health or living in the next 20 years.

I feel like either regenerative medicine will improve so much to where people can regrow limbs and organs, or technology will advance to where people can get fully functional robotic/prosthetic limbs. Either would raise a lot of interesting political and ethical concerns.
 

Alumni (and where they are now...)

Sally Levinson, B.S, Lab manager 2011-2013.  (2013-Ph.D. program in Neuroscience NYU, Wenbiao Gan lab)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Melissa Boldridge, A.B, Harvard University, Undergraduate honors thesis 2014. (PhD program UC Berkeley)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tomer Langberg, B.S, Lab Manager 2013-2015. (2015-Ph.D program UC Berkeley, Neuroscience, MCB Program)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Shannen Kim A.B (Class 2015, 2014 HSCI-HIP Intern, B.S. Highest Honors Neurobiology, Sept 2017 UCSF Medical School)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Duong "Izzy" Chu, B.S, Lab Manager 2015-2016. (2017 Queen's University Medical school, Ontario, Canada)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Alexia Zagouras A.B (Human Developmental and Regenerative Biology, 2015 HSCI HIP Intern, 2016 Hoopes Prize, 2017 Cleveland Clinic Lerner College of Medicine)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Kathleen McAvoy PhD (Postdoctoral Fellow, Sahay lab, 2012-2017).  2018-Biogen, Boston, MA)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tara Raam PhD (PiN Graduate student, Sahay lab, 2012-2017).  2018-Postdoctoral Fellow, Weizhe Hong lab, UCLA)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Michael Taeho Kim, B.S.  (Lab Tech 2016-2018). 2018-BBS Graduate program, Harvard Medical School

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Alec Reed (2016-2018, Human Developmental and Regenerative Biology, 2017 HSCI-HIP Intern, Outstanding Honors thesis Awardee) 2022 Class of Harvard Medical School.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hugo Vega-Ramirez M.S  (2012-2018)

Charlotte Herber M.S, HSCI 2016 Summer HIP Intern, 2017 summer fellow, M.D/Ph.D program @Stanford 2018)

Christine Xu (2015) Harvard undergraduate research, HDRB.

Pakanat Decharatanachart, HSCI 2015 Summer HIP Intern (Faculty of Medicine, Chulalongkorn University

Somya Jain, Summer 2015 Intern, (Senior, Dougherty Valley High School, Class of 2016, 2016 UC Berkeley)

Wendy Feng, HSCI intern 2014, Summer fellow 2015 (Columbia University, Undergrad Research in Kellendonk lab)

Sreyan Chowdhury, B.S., HSCI intern 2012, summer fellow 2013. (Ph.D. program, Columbia University)

Craig Russo, B.S., HSCI intern 2013, summer fellow 2014, (9/2014-15, Lab tech, Woolf lab, HMS, 2016-Entrepreneur)

Paoyan Lin, Medical student, Research Intern, Sept 2012-January 2013, Summer 2013 (Karolinksa Institute Medical School)

Genelle Rankin, Research Intern, Jan-Feb 2012, 2013 (Bennington College), 2015-Lab Tech, PhD Progam PiN Harvard 2017)

Jennifer Gatchel, M.D., Ph.D., Summer 2012, MGH-McLean Psychiatry residency Program.