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.


Nancy Day, PhD

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.

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 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 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 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 Freda

Sara Freda

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.

Former Lab Members

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.

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 postdoc in the Fernald lab at Stanford.

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 UNC Chapel Hill.

Former Undergraduates


Lalitha Balachandran, BS, Linguistics and Cognitive Science

Taylor Hobbs, BS, Neuroscience, Biomedical Research Minor

Jesse Torija, BS, Chemistry


Carolina Fuentes, BS, Chemistry

Parth Ingle, Computer Science

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, 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, 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


Erin Krantz

Dustin Morris


Petra Grutzik


Laura Vician-Taylor, MS