Our Team

Meet the Co-founders

Ashlea Morgan (she/her) is a sixth year PhD candidate in the Neurobiology & Behavior program at Columbia University. She studies how neurons use a chemical called serotonin to lead to the ability to adapt thinking and emotional behavior. As an executive board member of CUNO and coordinator for Late Night Science, she helps members of the community learn more about the scientific research happening in labs at Columbia through monthly (now virtual) lecture and lab tour events. She is a SciSub co-founder, EIC, and writer.

Leslie Sibener (she/her) is a fifth year PhD candidate in the Neurobiology & Behavior Graduate Program at Columbia University. Her research in Rui Costa’s lab focuses on the circuits in the brain that help animals learn new movements. Outside of the lab, she is involved in science communication organizations (Stories of WiN, NeuWrite) and helped launch a free online curriculum database in her past role as Curriculum Development VP for CUNO. She is a SciSub co-founder, EIC, and writer. She takes time to enjoy tennis, hiking, music, and friends. 

Michelle Stackmann (she/her) is a fourth year PhD candidate in the Neurobiology and Behavior program at Columbia University. In Christine Denny’s lab, she studies how positive and negative memories are encoded and stored in the brain. She is president of Columbia University Neuroscience Outreach (CUNO). She is a SciCub co-founder and EIC. She enjoys baking sourdough bread, biking through the city, and taking long drives.

Giulia Zanni (she/her) is a Postdoctoral fellow in the Department of Psychiatry at Columbia University. In Mark Ansorge’s lab, she studies how serotonin alterations in early life shape emotions during the adolescent period. She earned her PhD in Medical Sciences in Sweden, where she lived for 8 years, and her long-standing interest is in understanding the neural brain circuits underlying anxiety in children and adolescents. She is passionate about learning new languages, rowing, and reading. She is a SciSub co-founder, EIC, and writer.

Meet the Writers

Shivani Bigler (she/her) is a third year PhD student in Columbia’s Neurobiology and Behavior Program. In Dr. Siegelbaum’s laboratory, she is working on understanding how mice encode social cues in the hippocampus to promote social memory. In her free time, Shivani enjoys exploring the city with friends and playing volleyball.

Briana Chen (she/her) is a fifth year Ph.D. candidate in the Neurobiology and Behavior program at Columbia University. As a part of Christine Denny’s lab, her research aims to develop new interventions to enhance stress resilience and prevent stress-related psychiatric disorders such as post-traumatic stress disorders (PTSD) and major depressive disorder (MDD). She is passionate about music, needlepoint, and reading. She is a SciSub writer and social media head.

David Clark (he/him) is a second year Ph.D. student in the Neurobiology and Behavior program in the labs of Larry Abbott and Richard Axel. He is interested in using machine learning and theoretical modeling to understand how the brain represents and processes information. In his free time, David enjoys listening to music and exploring NYC.

Rachel Duffié (she/her) is an Associate Research Scientist in Stavros Lomvardas’ laboratory at the Zuckerman Mind Brain Behavior Institute. She graduated from the University of Virginia and moved to France where she completed a Masters and PhD at the Curie Institute. She is fascinated by the way the genome works, especially in the context of neuroscience and development. Rachel marvels at the natural world and is eager to find solutions to mitigate climate change. When she is not at the lab, she can be found at the playground with her two small children, or outside of the city traveling, camping, or hiking.

Ching Fang (she/her) is a second year PhD student in Columbia’s Neurobiology and Behavior program, in the labs of Dmitriy Aronov and Larry Abbott. She is interested in computational models of memory formation and retrieval. Outside of the lab, she enjoys birdwatching and climbing.

Ishani Ganguly (she/her) graduated from Caltech with a degree in Computation and Neural Systems and is now a first year PhD student at Columbia’s Zuckerman Institute. She is interested in building computational models to understand how the brain organizes and processes sensory information. When she’s not working on her research, Ishani can be found listening to new music and podcasts, catching up with her friends, or exploring local restaurants, museums, and coffee shops.

Camille Gasser (she/her) is a second-year PhD student in the Psychology Department at Columbia. She works with Dr. Lila Davachi to study the cognitive neuroscience of episodic memory, and is currently interested in exploring how prior knowledge about the structure of the world can help scaffold memory for new experiences. Camille spends her free time reading, playing video games, and forcing her friends to look at pictures of her family’s two dogs: Olive & Tootsie. 

Liz Hodgson (she/her) is a junior at Barnard College. Her major is Neuroscience and Behaviour and she is also on Barnard’s Urban Teaching Track for NYS certification for teaching secondary school science. This summer, she was a remote research assistant with a Neuroscience Lab at Indiana University! The project focused on the gesture-language relationship in participants who have had strokes that caused damage to different regions of their brain. Liz is super passionate about STEM education outreach and engagement so she enjoys volunteering with organizations running science workshops and experiment demos in NYC and now virtually!  

Eliza Jaeger (she/her) is a second year Ph.D. student in Biological Sciences at Columbia, working in the lab of Maria Tosches. In the Tosches Lab, she studies the evolution neural circuits in the vertebrate forebrain using the salamander model Pleurodeles waltl. She is also super passionate about science communication and outreach, and has loved working with CUNO and as the co-president of Women in Science at Columbia (WISC). When she isn’t hanging out with her salamanders, Eliza loves traveling, exploring New York City, and eating way too much Thai food.

You-Nah Jeon (she/her) is a fourth year PhD student in Columbia’s Neurobiology and Behavior program, in Dr. Elias Issa’s lab. She studies the marmoset visual cortex and is the neural mechanisms and computations behind our ability to visually recognize objects. Outside the lab, she enjoys exploring New York City by foot or by electric scooter. 

 Jon Kasdin (he/him) is a second year Ph.D. student in the Neurobiology and Behavior program. He is currently studying how zebra finches learn to perform motor sequences using computational and experimental techniques. In addition to his lab work, Jon has strong interests in science writing and science policy. Outside of science, his passions include listening to and playing music, biking, and anything to do with nature.

Josephine (Josie) McGowan (she/her) is a fifth year Ph.D. student in the Neurobiology and Behavior program at Columbia University. Her research focuses on the underlying biological basis of resilience against stress-induced psychiatric diseases such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and major depressive disorder (MDD) in Christine Denny’s lab. As a first-generation college student of a Hispanic background, she actively seeks to serve as a positive influence on others of similar background. She is also passionate about literature, marathon running, and seeing and engaging with as much of the world as possible.

Elizabeth Pekarskaya (she/her) is a fourth year PhD student in the Neurobiology and Behavior program at Columbia University. She works in the Department of Molecular Therapeutics with Dr. Jonathan Javitch, investigating the neurobiology underlying affective disorders and how the opioid system can become both dysregulated and targeted in a subset of depression. Outside of the lab, she loves aerial acrobatics, reading (too many books at once so she never finishes any), and games with friends. 

Nova Qi (she/her) graduated from Case Western Reserve University with degrees in Systems Biology and Biochemistry. She is currently a PhD student in the Integrated program at Columbia Medical Center and is interested in studying the neuroscience of behavior. Nova also enjoys classic films, modern rock music and spicy food, and when she’s not in lab she’s probably trying local restaurants, tending to her houseplants, or on her couch with a good book.

Nainika Roy (she/her) is a third-year PhD student in the Neurobiology and Behavior program at Columbia University. She works in the Center for Translational and Computational Neuroimmunology and is co-mentored by Dr. Ai Yamamoto and Dr. Falak Sher. Her research investigates the mechanistic roles of Alzheimer’s Disease (AD) risk genes across different cell types in the brain. Outside of the lab, she is passionate about trying new cuisines, exploring the world, and long-form articles. 

Ben Silver (he/him) is a second year PhD student in Columbia’s Psychology department. He works in the Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience lab under the mentorship of Kevin Ochsner. His research focuses on neural representations of other people, and how those representations change over time as we acquire new information. He also works as an instructor with the Zuckerman Institute’s BRAINYAC program. In his free time, he enjoys reading, volunteering for political campaigns, and playing his new favorite board game, Azul.

Urvashi Thopte (she/her) is an M.A. Biotechnology student at the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences. She is working under the mentorship of Dr. Brandon Pearson to study how de novo mutations caused by exposure to certain environmental agents can play a role in the development of neurological disorders. In her free time, Urvashi enjoys reading, yoga, going out with her friends and playing board games.

Marina Triplett (she/her) is a fourth year Ph.D. student in the Integrated Program in Cellular, Molecular, and Biomedical Studies at Columbia University.  In the lab of Dr. Livio Pellizzoni, she studies the mechanisms and therapeutic targeting of motor neuron degeneration in spinal muscular atrophy (SMA).  She also serves as a board member of Women in Science at Columbia (WISC). Outside of the lab, she loves attending Broadway shows, the opera, and progressive rock concerts.

Maia Weisenhaus (she/her) is a research assistant in the Behnia Lab at Columbia University. She uses calcium imaging to study neural circuits in the fruit fly visual system. She is passionate about microscopy and photography, which she studied at Bard College and LaGuardia High School. Maia is also a part time student at the Columbia School of Professional Studies where she is taking classes in human physiology and development. Maia loves learning about the brain and body, and enjoys sharing science and teaching others just as much.

Alice Xue (she/her) recently earned her Bachelor’s degree in Neuroscience from Columbia University. She is currently working as a research assistant in Dr. Daphna Shohamy’s lab, where she is studying the neural and computational mechanisms of decision-making, learning, and memory. Alice spends her free time watching cooking and travel shows, reading long-form articles, and listening to funny podcasts.