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.
Nancy Day, PhD
Nancy joined the White lab in Spring 2012. As an undergraduate, she went to Whitman College and double-majored in Biology and Psychology. She completed her Ph.D. at the University of Minnesota, in the birdsong lab of Dr. Teresa Nick, where she examined cortical circuit dynamics of the song nucleus HVC in juvenile and adult zebra finches. For her postdoctoral work, she is investigating if adult maintenance of learned song is regulated by the language-related gene FoxP2. As a hobby, Nancy is actively involved in the cat fancy promoting the Old-Style Siamese breed.
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 caitlinaamodt.wordpress.com.
Madza Y Farias-Virgens, MS
Madza received a master’s degree in Anthropology at UC Berkeley under the mentorship of Terry Deacon. She is currently conducting a collaborative project between the Okanoya lab at RIKEN, the Brainard lab at UCSF, the Huerta-Sanchez lab at UC Merced and the White lab. The goal is to investigate the genetic correlates of the evolutionary forces underlying changes in vocal behavior between Bengalese finches and their ancestral species, white backed munias.
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.
Todd Kimball, BS
Todd is student in the Integrative Biology & Physiology Master‘s program. He received his Bachelor’s degree in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology from Wittenberg University. He was a research technician in the Vondriska lab at UCLA where he studied cardiac hypertrophy and failure, as well as the methylome of cardiac patients. He is currently investigating the spatio-temporal landscape of gene expression permissive for vocal learning.
Sara is majoring in Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology and is an I2URP fellow. As part of ‘Team Cave’, she is examining the effects of FoxP2 over-expression on adult song plasticity.
Carolina is a chemistry major and a Howard Hughes EXROP awardee. Her research investigates neuroepigenetic mechanisms underlying developmental stages of vocal learning.
Jesse is a chemistry major. His project investigates the evolution of song complexity in Bengalese finches.
Taylor is an Neuroscience major. She is investigating female preference for adult male song.
Lalitha is majoring in Linguistics and Cognitive Science. She is part of team researching the evolutionary basis for complex vocal learning.
Parth is part of team researching the evolutionary basis for complex vocal learning.
Idan is visiting from Pennsylvania State University as part of UCLA’s Brain Research Institute summer undergraduate research program. He is investigating epigenetic mechanisms underlying vocal learning.
Former Lab Members
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.
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
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 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 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 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 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 received his PhD in the Neuroscience IDP. He was the first to apply WGCNA to learned vocal behavior. He is currently a postdoc in the Fernald lab at Stanford.
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
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 UNC Chapel Hill.
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, Neuroscience
Joseph Simon III, 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, Neuroscience
Dorsa Beroukhim Kay, PhD, Neuroscience
Ryan Dosumu-Johnson, BS, Neuroscience
Guillermo Millian, Physiological Science
Diana Sanchez, BS, Neuroscience
Jia Liu, PhD, CSST program
Ryan York, BA, Sociology
Ellen Fitzmorris, BS, Neuroscience
Donald Noble, BS, Neuroscience
Monica Tse, BS, Physiological Science
Linbo Yu, BS, Molecular, Cellular & Developmental Biology
Monika Nguyen, MD, Physiological Science
Justine Chen, BS, Ecology & Evolutionary Biology
Carol’s Belsai Montes, BS, Physiological Science
Lizette Flores, BS, Psychobiology
Jasmin Morrison, MD, Psychobiology
Justin Brown, PhD, Neuroscience
Janette Maghtallas, BS, Biopsychology
Bill Luo, MD, Neuroscience
Vivian Lin, BS (Cornell University), summer volunteer
Jerry Lin, BS (Cornell University), summer volunteer
Van Nguyen, PhD, Neuroscience
Christine Lee, MD, Physiological Science
Judy Kim, MD, Molecular, Cellular & Developmental Biology
Linh Bui, BS, Ecology & Evolutionary Biology
Dzenan Lulic, MD, Physiological Science
Marc Uemura, MD, Physiological Science
Sandra Rodriguez, RN, Bridge Program
Joan Ong, BS, Physiological Science
Nadia Altaf, MA, Physiological Science
Former High School Students
Laura Vician-Taylor, MS