Stephanie A. White, PhD
Stephanie White (she/her) 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 Program and co-Directs the Neural Systems and Behavior course at the Marine Biological Labs in Woods Hole MA.
Gregory Gedman, PhD
Greg is a postdoctoral researcher studying the genetic drivers of vocal imitation in songbirds and humans. He received his Ph.D. from Rockefeller University in Erich Jarvis’ Laboratory for Neurogenetics of Language. Here, he found numerous genes showing parallel expression in the vocal production neural pathways of both zebra finches and humans. Now in the White lab, he is further exploring one of these candidate genes, the transcription factor ZEB2, to better understand its role in the formation and function of vocal imitation brain circuitry across species. This work is supported by a Postdoctoral Research Fellowship in Biology award from the National Science Foundation. Outside the lab, Greg enjoys long distance running, comic books, and lounging with his bulldog.
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.
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 https://www.researchgate.net/publication/343224132_Madza_Farias-Virgens_CV_-_July2020
Brian Kearney, BA
Brian is a masters student in the IBP program who is studying the electrophysiology of the language circuit HVc to RA in finch, specifically the effect of transcription factor ZEB2 on the neurodevelopment of this circuit. He previously attended The University of Colorado, Boulder where he received a BA in Evolutionary Biology and Ecology as well as Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology; he also minored in Anthropology. Brian is an illustrator, writer and musician whose work is deeply influenced by biology.
Lee (Elinore) Alms, BS
Lee is a rotating graduate student in NSIDP. Broadly, she is interested in autism spectrum disorders and has been exploring the condition through different model animals and labs. She has recently landed in the White Lab because of the exciting work being done in zebra finches with regard to social vocal learning. Prior to UCLA, she earned her BS in biochemistry at California State University, Fresno. There, she researched courtship behavior in fruit flies with fragile x syndrome in Dr. David Lent’s neurobiology lab. Lee also enjoys socializing, singing, traveling across the country, and exploring the city with her dog.
Daniella is a senior undergraduate student at UCLA studying Linguistics and Computer Science. She has been having a super fun time learning about bioinformatics under the mentorship of Dr. Greg Gedman. Daniella helped develop a computational pipeline to analyze zebra finch ChIP-Seq data by mapping sequence data to the reference genome to identify FOXP2 binding sites. Outside of the lab, Daniella enjoys catching Pokemon on PokemonGO, practicing martial arts, 3D printing dogs, playing piano, being in nature, and eating pizza.
Ariel is a third year undergraduate student at UCLA, majoring in Physiological Science. In addition to anatomy & physiology, Ariel loves studying neuroscience, psychology, musicology, and theology. Outside of the lab, you can find him playing alto saxophone with the UCLA Marching Band or volunteering with other UCLA organizations. His dream career is to become a physician, but he hopes to contribute as much as he can to research and service on his way there!
Kat (they/them) is a third year undergraduate at UCLA, majoring in Psychology and Education and Information Studies and an intended minor in Disability Studies. In The White Lab, they are a work-study student who cares for the birds and the lab space. Outside the lab, they are a Peer Mentor for neurodivergent students through UCLA’s neurodiversity club, AllBrains, and they love training service dogs for the disabled community. Kat is passionate about autism research and the autistic community. They plan on going to graduate school for a PhD in clinical psychology, specializing in autism.
Vivian is a fourth-year undergraduate student at UCLA majoring in Neuroscience and minoring in Anthropology. With Dr. Gregory Gedman as her mentor, her project in the lab focuses on the transcription factor ZEB2 and its role in organizing the zebra finch’s song circuitry. Outside the lab, she is a senior staff writer and photographer for the Daily Bruin student newspaper as well as a hiking trip lead for Peaks and Professors.
Kelli Walters, MS
Kelli (she/her) 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. Outside of the lab she enjoys cooking, hiking, biking, jigsaw puzzles, and reading.
Former Lab Members
Stacy de Florencio
Stacy is a rising senior undergraduate student at UCLA majoring in Neuroscience. She is helping graduate student Elizabeth Cooke adapt a recently published machine learning algorithm designed by Sara Keen (Wright lab; Brown University) to preprocess song motifs. Stacy spends her free time dancing folklorico with a group on campus, running, and playing with her two cats.
Gabriela (she/her) is a fourth-year undergraduate student at UCLA majoring in Computational and Systems Biology with concentration in Neurosystems. Under the mentorship of Dr. Gregory Gedman, she helped develop a computational pipeline using Linux and R-based algorithms to analyze zebra finch FOXP2 ChIP-Seq data and determine regions of high binding affinity (i.e. peaks). Outside of the lab, Gabriela enjoys being part of the UCLA equestrian team, going to the movies, reading, and exploring LA.
Ruiting Jia is a third year undergraduate student at UCLA, majoring in Psychobiology, with an intended minor in Cognitive Science. At UCLA, she is the External Administrative Director at Asian Pacific Health Corps, general member of the Undergraduate Psychology Society, and general member of Foundations Choreography. In the White Lab, she is a work-study student who helps care for the birds. Ruiting has done research on the different approaches to treating Dissociative Identity Disorder, in particular, the sociocognitive model versus the posttraumatic model, which has been presented at Undergraduate Research Week and published in the Spring 2020 Edition of UCLA’s Undergraduate Science Journal. She plans on going to medical school to become a psychiatrist.
Jahel Guardado is a senior undergraduate at UCLA. She is majoring in Neuroscience and is pursuing a minor in Biomedical Research. Her project in our lab investigates the role of CNTNAP2, an autism risk gene, in vocal learning. She has two dogs and enjoys hiking with them around Los Angeles.
Caitlin Aamodt, PhD
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.
Julie CabangThe White Lab
Rubi is a first-generation college student and opportunity scholar at Delaware State University. She is an undergraduate majoring in Psychology and Social Work with aspirations of pursuing a doctorate degree in Social Neuroscience after graduation. In the summer of 2020, she participated in the UCLA-HBCU Neuroscience Pathways Program in which she had the pleasure to study the influence of Contactin Associate Protein-like 2 on vocal learning, as well as developing a summer project remotely at the White lab. She is an advocate for mental health, and equal rights for undocumented students. After earning her doctorate she plans to pursue a career in academia and hopes to one day mentor her own students.
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.
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.
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
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.
Elizabeth Ross Fraley, PhD
Elizabeth received her Ph.D in the Molecular, Cellular, and Integrative Physiology program. His doctoral dissertation is entitled ‘Reelin signaling in the basal ganglia: comparative neuroanatomy and implications for vocal behavior’. See is currently a postdoctoral scholar in the Center for Pediatric Medicine at the Children’s Mercy Hospital in Kansas City, MO.
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 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 Associate 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 playwright living in London. 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 Senior Computational Biologist at the Palo Alto Veterans Institute for Research.
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 and in her program, 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.
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
Laura Vician-Taylor, MS