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.

 

 

Ain Chung, Ph.D, Postdoctoral Fellow

 

 

Samara Miller, 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. 

 

 

 

 

 

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

 

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. 2020 NARSAD Young Investigator 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!

 

 

 

 

Michael Kritzker-Cheren, M.D. Ph.D Instructor Psychiatry MGH, T32 Translational Neuroscience for Clinicians

 

 

Bill Meara, BSc Lab Tech/Manager

Mike received his medical and graduate degrees from the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine. His graduate work in Molecular Pharmacology studied  the integration of signaling cascades upon an AKAP scaffold protein at the nuclear membrane. He then completed Psychiatry residency at Duke University and a clinical fellowship in Behavioral Neurology and Neuropsychiatry at Massachusetts General Hospital. He is currently an Instructor at MGH in the Department of Psychiatry, Division of Neuropsychiatry, with clinical service in Neuropsychiatry, Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation and the Acute Psychiatric Service. He is also a Research Fellow in my laboratory through the Psychiatry Department’s Translational Neuroscience Training for Clinicians T32 investigating neurocircuit-based mechanisms of the lateral septum’s role in motivated behavior.

 

The Interview

Q 1.  What excites you about being a scientist?

Neuroscientist have developed remarkable tools for understanding brain processes. The notion that mechanisms of mental phenomena is understandable, and that its disorders can be treated more precisely, is the next frontier in medicine. I am privileged to be able to help in this endeavor. 

 

Q 2.  What inspired you to go into science?

I have been interested in the discovery process and the practical applications of my findings since undergrad. As a neuropsychiatrist, there is so much more to understand about how the brain creates the mind and how these processes go awry. There is still a lot to learn about how to optimize treatment for neuropsychiatric disorders. I am grateful for medical and technological advancements. I’m looking forward to new and exciting possibilities.

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

Hard to know exactly. I am already straddling two careers by being a clinician and scientist. I like design and architecture, so perhaps I’d be renovating and “flipping" houses. 

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

I see the expanded use of circuit-based noninvasive brain stimulation beyond the treatment of mood and anxiety disorders. Over time, we will hone targets and protocols for improved delivery of brain stimulation for the treatment of neuropsychiatric disorders.

 

 

 

 

The Interview

Q 1.  What excites you about being a scientist?

The prospect of gaining new insights into the human condition through neuroscience research.
 

Q 2.  What inspired you to go into science?

My first research experience working with Drosophila during my freshman year of college. It was thrilling to see how using RNA interference we could alter the neuronal morphology and behavior of fly larvae.

 

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

I believe I would enjoy life as a painter because art and science have a shared admiration of nature.

 

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

In addition to improving clinical outcomes, neuroscience will intensify debates on free will, consciousness and the soul. As the circuitry and processes underlying behavior become better understood, many will begin to reevaluate their stances on how much agency humans truly have.

 

 

 

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. (2015-2020 Ph.D program UC Berkeley, Neuroscience, MCB Program, Fulbright Scholar, Post doc Tel Aviv University)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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).  Scientist, Arvinas Biotech)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Victor Steininger MSc (2018-2019, Harvard-Bertarelli EPFL Fellow) Entrepreneur

Haley Zanga (Lab tech 2018-2020) Research Associate Simcere Innovation)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nannan Guo, PhD (Postdoc, Instructor, Sahay lab, 2012-2020).  Tenure Track Assistant Professor, SMU, Guangzhou, China

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Antoine Besnard PhD (Postdoc, Instructor, Sahay lab, 2012-2020).  Permanent Position, INSERM, IGF, Montpelier, France

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.