Stephanie A. White, PhD

Stephanie A. White, PhD

Stephanie White majored in biopsychology at Connecticut College, then obtained her Ph.D. in neuroscience from Stanford, followed by postdoctoral work at Duke. Throughout, she has used a neuroethological approach to understand how social interactions shape the brain. Her own lab studies songbirds to investigate how the environment influences one’s learning and creativity. Recently, humans have entered this comparative framework with collaborative exploration of the speech-related gene, FoxP2, in human and songbird vocal learning. Stephanie directs UCLA’s Undergraduate Neuroscience Interdepartmental Progrm and co-Directs the Neural Systems and Behavior course at the Marine Biological Labs in Woods Hole MA.

Graduate Students

Caitlin Aamodt, BS

Caitlin Aamodt, BS

Caitlin is a graduate student in the Interdepartmental Neuroscience Ph.D Program where she is developing a novel epigenetic therapeutic for treating learned vocal communication deficits. As an undergraduate she worked in the David Sweatt lab at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, earning a B.S. in Neuroscience and a B.A. in Anthropology in 2013. Her science writing has been featured on Knowing Neurons, Aeon, Discover, What is Epigenetics?, Speaking of Research, and others. She can be found online at

Madza Y Farias-Virgens, MS

Madza Y Farias-Virgens, MS

Madza is conducting a collaborative project between the Okanoya lab at RIKEN Brain Science Institute/University of Tokyo, the Huerta-Sanchez lab at Brown University, and the Xiao lab at IBP-UCLA. Her research investigates the evolutionary forces and neurogenetic mechanisms underlying changes in vocal behavior between Bengalese finches and their ancestral species, white backed munias. Her CV can be found at

Elizabeth Cooke, BA, BM

Elizabeth Cooke, BA, BM

Elizabeth is a graduate student in the NSIDP who is studying the role of zebra finch Area X in vocal learning at the level of gene expression and neural circuit activity. She previously attended Oberlin College & Conservatory where she received a BA in neuroscience and a BM in violin performance, and worked in the lab of Dr. Tracie Paine studying how GABA regulates attention. She then worked as a technician in the lab of Dr. Zachary Knight at UCSF, studying the neural circuit basis for mammalian thermoregulation. In her spare time, Elizabeth enjoys hiking and playing chamber music.

Elizabeth Fraley, PhD

Elizabeth Fraley, PhD

Elizabeth recently graduated from the MCIP program, earning her PhD! She is currently finishing up her research and submitting papers for publication. Liz attended Virginia Commonwealth University for her undergraduate degree in Biology and Psychology. Her thesis research explores the role of the reelin signaling pathway in both learned vocalizations (zebra finches), and in innate vocalizations (mice). In humans, deficits in reelin signaling have been linked to autism. Liz is also a trained dancer, and can often be found performing in and around Los Angeles.


Julie Cabang

Julie Cabang

Jahel Guardado

Jahel Guardado

Jude Hindiyeh

Jude Hindiyeh

Jude is a 3rd-year undergraduate student at UCLA, majoring in Biology. She is a work-study student involved in looking after and caring for the birds in the White Lab. Outside of the lab she is the Director of Administration at the Arab Interest Women’s Association and is involved in other clubs on campus including the Pre-Dental Student Outreach Program.

Precious Isidro

Precious Isidro

Precious is a Chemistry major and a pre-med student. She enjoys interacting with and taking care of the laboratory’s birds. She plans on going to medical school to become an OB-GYN.

Ruiting Jia

Ruiting Jia

Ruiting Jia is a freshman undergraduate student at UCLA, majoring in Molecular, Cell, and Developmental Biology, with an intended minor in Neuroscience. At UCLA, she is involved in Asian Pacific Health Corps, American Chinese Association, and Korean American Student Association. In the White Lab, she is a work-study student who helps care for the birds. Ruiting has done research in high school related to factors affecting end-of-life care (and you can find her final product website at: and hopes to continue on her pre-med track to becoming a surgeon in the future.


Kelli Walters, MS

Kelli Walters, MS

Lab Assistant

Kelli received her BS in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology from UC Irvine, where she went on to work as a research assistant in Dr. Tony Long’s lab performing pharmacogenomics research with Drosophila melanogaster. She continued her work with fruit flies in the Long Lab to earn her MS in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology. From there she worked at the International Bird Rescue and then two biotech companies before returning to academia. She is the Lab Manager for the White Lab.

Former Lab Members

Professor Nancy F. Day, PhD

Professor Nancy F. Day, PhD

Nancy received her Bachelor’s degree at Whitman College and her PhD with Teresa Nick at UMinn. She is currently an Assistant Professor at her very own alum, Whitman College, in Walla Walla Washington where she lives with 4 Siamese cats.

Zachary Burkett, PhD

Zachary Burkett, PhD

Zach received his Ph.D in the Molecular, Cellular, and Integrative Physiology program. His doctoral dissertation is entitled ‘Network-based Insights into Learned Vocalization’. He is currently employed as a Bioninformatician at Bio-Rad in the Bay Area. He spends his time outside of work running long distances in training for his next ultramarathon.

Todd Kimball, MS

Todd Kimball, MS

Todd completed his masters in Integrative Biology and Physiology. He is now a doctoral student in UCLA’s MCIP program.

Jon Heston, PhD

Jon Heston, PhD

Jon received his Ph.D in the Neuroscience Interdepartmental program. His doctoral dissertation is entitled ‘FoxP2 and basal ganglia function in zebra finch vocal motor learning and control’. He is currently a postdoc in the Hnasko lab at UCSD. He spends his time outside of work brewing craft beers along with his wife Emily and their dog Rosie.

Professor Julie E. Miller, PhD

Professor Julie E. Miller, PhD

Julie was a postdoctoral fellow and Research Associate in the lab where she developed the zebra finch as a model system for Parkinson’s Disease. She is currently an Assistant Professor at the University of Arizona in the departments of Neurobiology and Speech, Language and Hearing Sciences.

George Hafzalla, MS

George Hafzalla, MS

George received his Bachelor‘s and Master’s degree in our lab at UCLA. He is currently attending the Wake Forest School of Medicine.

Michael Condro, PhD

Michael Condro, PhD

Michael received his PhD in Molecular, Cellular and Integrative Physiology. He is currently an Associate Researcher in the Kornblum lab at UCLA’s DGSOM

Elizabeth Wong, MS, MD

Elizabeth Wong, MS, MD

Elizabeth received her Master’s degree Physiological Science in our lab at UCLA. She pioneered experiments on using viruses to specifically transduce Area X neurons.

Qianqian Chen, PhD

Qianqian Chen, PhD

Qianqian received her Ph.D. in Molecular, Cellular and Integrative Physiology. Her doctoral dissertation is entitled ‘Brain behavior interactions in avian models for language and speech’. She is currently a Professor at Zhejiang Elder University in China. Her professional passion is to write, direct and produce theatrical performances infused with scientific themes.

Austin T. Hilliard, PhD

Austin T. Hilliard, PhD

Austin received his PhD in the Neuroscience IDP. He was the first to apply WGCNA to learned vocal behavior. He is currently a Senior Computational Biologist at the Palo Alto Veterans Institute for Research.

Professor Carmen Panaitof, PhD

Professor Carmen Panaitof, PhD

S. Carmen Panaitof is an Assistant Professor of Biology at the University of Nebraska. While in the White lab, she studied the expression of Cntnap2, an austism susceptibility gene and FoxP2 transcriptional target.

Professor Ikuko Teramitsu Smith

Professor Ikuko Teramitsu Smith

Ikuko was the first student to complete her doctoral degree in the lab earning a PhD in Molecular, Cellular and Integrative Physiology. She demonstrated that FoxP2 is regulated by singing in Area X. She is currently an Assistant Professor at UC Santa Barbara.

Former Undergraduates


Cindy Flores, Physiological Science major

Claude Andres, BS, Biochemistry, Biomedical Research Minor

Ethan Frankel, Neuroscience major

Yunna Gu, BS, Physiological Science

Kushal Mohnot, BS, Computer Science

Celine Son, International Exchange Student, Neuroscience major


Lalitha Balachandran, BS, Linguistics and Cognitive Science

Sara Freda, BS, Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology, Neuroscience Minor

Taylor Hobbs, BS, Neuroscience, Biomedical Research Minor

Takyla Jones, UCLA-BRI Summer Undergraduate Research Experience (BRI-SURE) program, current home: Spelman College

Jesse Torija, BS, Chemistry


Carolina Fuentes, BS, Chemistry

Idan Kantor, UCLA-BRI Summer Undergraduate Research Experience (BRI-SURE) program, current home: Penn State University

Aneesa Yousefi, BA, English, Biomedical Research Minor


Ava Delu, BS, Neuroscience

Benjamin Schwartz, BS, Neuroscience


Chae Kim, BS, Psychobiology

Yishan Mai, BS, Neuroscience, Biomedical Research Minor

Jennifer Morales, BS, Ecology & Evolutionary Biology

Rustin Safari, BS, Neuroscience

Joseph Simon IV, BS, Neuroscience


Rozi Aulkah, BS, Psychobiology

Mandisa Taqqee, BRI-SURE program

Jingwen Yao, CSST program


Omar Casillas, BS, Molecular, Cellular & Developmental Biology

Debora Lee, BS, Ecology & Evolutionary Biology

Lily Sung, BS, Biophysics


Valentina Lin, Neuroscience


Venus Vakshori, MD (BS, Neuroscience)


Dorsa Beroukhim Kay, PhD (BS, Neuroscience)

Ryan Dosumu-Johnson, MD, PhD (BS, Neuroscience)

Guillermo Millian, Physiological Science

Diana Sanchez, BS, Neuroscience


Jia Liu, PhD (CSST program)

Ryan York, PhD (BA, Sociology)


Ellen Fitzmorris, PhD (BS, Neuroscience)

Donald Noble, PhD (BS, Neuroscience)

Monica Tse, BS Physiological Science


Linbo Yu, MS (BS, Molecular, Cellular & Developmental Biology)

Monika Nguyen, MD (BS, Physiological Science)

Justine Chen, BS, Ecology & Evolutionary Biology

Carol’s Belsai Montes, MD (BS, Physiological Science)

Lizette Flores, BS, Psychobiology

Jasmin Morrison, MD (BS, Psychobiology)


Justin Brown, PhD (BS, Neuroscience)

Janette Maghtallas, BS, Biopsychology

Bill Luo, MD (BS, Neuroscience)


Vivian Lin, BS Cornell University (summer volunteer)

Jerry Lin, BS Cornell University) (summer volunteer)

Van Nguyen, PhD (BS, Neuroscience)

Christine Lee, MD (BS, Physiological Science)

Judy Kim, MD (BS, Molecular, Cellular & Developmental Biology)

Linh Bui, BS, Ecology & Evolutionary Biology


Dzenan Lulic, MD (BS, Physiological Science)

Marc Uemura, MD (BS, Physiological Science)

Sandra Rodriguez, RN (Summer Bridge Program)

Joan Ong, BS, Physiological Science


Nadia Altaf, MA (BS, Physiological Science)

Former High School Students


Erin Krantz

Dustin Morris


Petra Grutzik


Laura Vician-Taylor, MS