Personnel


PI

Marc Fuccillo

Marc Fuccillo

Lead Investigator
 fuccillo@mail.med.upenn.edu
 215-898-8744

Shortly after beginning my dissertation work in the lab of Gordon Fishell at New York University School of Medicine, I was drawn towards understanding the consequences of abnormalities in early brain development for mature circuit function. I focused on mechanisms of neuroepithelial patterning and the transcriptional specification of cortical interneurons in the developing mouse forebrain. Through my doctoral work, I gained a deep appreciation both for the power of combining mouse genetics and electrophysiology, as well as the breadth of cellular diversity in the mature mouse brain. 

After forgoing further medical training, I went to Stanford University to do postdoctoral work in the labs of Robert Malenka and Thomas Südhof. I was convinced that molecular dysfunction at the synapse would be a key component in understanding the pathophysiology of many neuropsychiatric disorders. I spent my postdoc studying the biophysical function of synapses and neural circuits, as a stepping stone towards understanding how changes in neural circuit output produce altered behavior — a pursuit which continues in my own lab. 

In my scarce free time, I enjoy practicing violin, cooking foods of all nationalities and going on "urban adventures" with my family.


Postdoctoral Fellows

Nathan Henderson

Nathan Henderson

Postdoctoral Fellow
 Nathan.Henderson@pennmedicine.upenn.edu

For my undergraduate degree I attended Temple University, majoring in Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience and graduating in 2012. In the summer of 2012 I began graduate school at Thomas Jefferson University where I studied molecular mechanisms of excitatory synapse development in cortical neurons, as well as the molecular nano-organization of excitatory synapses in the laboratory of Matthew Dalva. I received my Ph.D in neuroscience in the summer of 2018, then joined the Fuccillo lab in the fall of 2018 to expand my repertoire of experimental techniques and to study the development of corticostriatal synaptic connections. I am currently focusing on identifying and studying novel molecules that mediate corticostriatal synapse development, and on determining the function of Zswim6, a striatally-expressed gene that has been implicated in schizophrenia and intellectual disability.

Edgar Diaz-Hernandez

Edgar Diaz-Hernandez

Postdoctoral Fellow
 edgar.a.diaz.h@gmail.com

I grew up in Mexico City and studied Pharmaceutical Chemistry. After that I decided to perform a Ph.D. in neuroscience in the lab of Fatuel Tecuapetla at UNAM. There I studied the contributions of cortico-thalamic-basal-ganglia loops to initiation or execution of action sequences. I have joined the Fuccillo lab to study how these same circuits generate abnormal motor behaviors in the context of pathologies like obsessive-compulsive disorder or autism. In particular, I am interested in amygdalar-basal ganglia interactions mediate the integration of positive and negative reinforcement. In my free time, I love playing with my dogs, play Fronton and listening to good rock music.

Kyuhyun Choi

Kyuhyun Choi

Postdoctoral Fellow
 kyuhyun@mail.med.upenn.edu
 215-898-8741

I attended Kyung Hee University in Korea for my undergraduate training and was granted a PhD degree in 2016. My dissertation research focused on defining neural circuits important for the interplay between learning and emotion. In particular, I used slice electrophysiology and in-vivo optogenetics to study intra-amygdala and septo-habenular circuits. I joining the Fuccillo lab in mid-2016 to extend my knowledge about the function of disease-associated molecules in neural circuit function. Currently I am working to understand the contribution of fronto-striatal sub-circuits to goal-directed behavior.


Graduate Students

Luigim Vargas Cifuentes

Luigim Vargas Cifuentes

NGG Student
 luigim@pennmedicine.upenn.edu
 215-898-8741

I grew up in Queens, NY and went to Brown University from 2013-2017, graduating with a BS in Neuroscience. Early in my undergraduate career, I became interested in neuroscience and started volunteering in labs in my spare time. I was very curious about the neural mechanisms behind our daily experiences as humans and was in awe throughout my training. More recently, I have become interested in  the functional role of the basal ganglia and its associated neuromodulatory systems in decision making, particularly in regulating the transitions between exploitative and explorative behavioral states.

Luigim's research in the lab is currently funded by an NIMH F31 (2021-2024).

Sarah Ferrigno

Sarah Ferrigno

NGG Student
 sarfer@pennmedicine.upenn.edu

For my undergraduate, I attended the University of Connecticut where I double majored in Psychology and Molecular & Cell Biology. From early on, I was interested in understanding neuropsychiatric disease and during my undergraduate research I studied the neuropharmacology underlying motivational dysfunction in rodent models of Major Depressive Disorder. For my graduate work, I am interested in elucidating how dysfunction of neural circuits in the basal ganglia play a role in neuropsychiatric and neurodevelopmental disorders. 

Sarah's research in the lab is currently funded by an NIMH F31 (2023-2025).

Jamie Galanaugh

Jamie Galanaugh

NGG Student
 jamiegal@pennmedicine.upenn.edu

I was born and raised in Philadelphia and attended undergrad here at Penn from 2016-2020. I obtained my BA in the Biological Basis of Behavior in the College of Arts & Sciences and am now working toward a PhD in Neuroscience in the School of Medicine. While in undergrad, I trained in cellular and molecular methods at the bench and computational and clinical methods in the classroom. Now as a graduate student in the Fuccillo Lab, I aim to combine behavioral, molecular, and neuroimaging techniques in the mouse to answer questions of neurodevelopment, both normal and abnormal, in a translationally relevant manner.

Evan Iliakis

Evan Iliakis

MD/PhD NGG Student
 evan.iliakis@pennmedicine.upenn.edu

I grew up in Düsseldorf, Germany and went to Pomona College near Los Angeles, CA, graduating with a BA in Linguistics and Cognitive Science in 2018. From there, I went on to spend two years working with Lois Choi-Kain at the Gunderson Personality Disorders Institute at McLean Hospital near Boston, MA, working on clinical research projects to improve understanding of personality disorders, especially borderline personality disorder, and increase access to affordable care for them. My experience working with individuals with personality disorders, coupled with the relative lack of clarity about the pathophysiology and mechanisms of treatment of these disorders, led me to become increasingly interested in neuroscience research on neuropsychiatric disorders during medical school. Currently, I am working on a project that aims to elucidate the role of striatal interneurons in value-based decision-making. In my free time, I enjoy playing the piano, learning languages, cooking, and reading.


Technical Staff

Alessandro Jean-Louis

Alessandro Jean-Louis

Research Associate
 Alessandro.Jean-Louis@Pennmedicine.upenn.edu

I attended Temple University and graduated in 2021 with a degree in Neuroscience as an undergraduate. While at Temple I worked as an undergraduate researcher in the lab of Debra Bangasser. The main focus of the work we did was to investigate how sex differences in stress responses bias males and females towards different pathology. In my free time I enjoy playing basketball and occasionally exploring Philly. 

Myra Granato

Myra Granato

Research Associate
 myra.granato@pennmedicine.upenn.edu

I grew up in Philadelphia and graduated from Johns Hopkins University in 2022 with a BA in Behavioral Biology. In the Fuccillo lab, I work with Dr. Edgar Diaz-Hernandez on two projects studying the role of neural circuits involved in behaviors relating to obsessive-compulsive disorder. Outside of the lab I enjoy listening to podcasts, playing squash, and cooking.

Alex Ramirez

Alex Ramirez

PREP Scholar
 alex.ramirez@pennmedicine.upenn.edu

I grew up in Colorado and received my BS in Psychology from the University of Colorado at Denver. There, I worked with Dr. Ethan Hughes establishing the safety of long-term in vivo 3-photon imaging of the mouse cortex. I am a current postbaccalaureate scholar through the PennPREP program. In the Fuccillo lab, I am working on a project studying the role of various GABAergic interneuron subtypes in the striatum during value-based goal-directed behavior. I plan to pursue a PhD in neuroscience, and I am interested in studying circuit mechanisms of motivation and decision-making in graduate school. When not in lab, you can find me experimenting with new recipes in the kitchen, trying different restaurants around Philly, or hitting the gym.


Undergraduate (Honors)

Wenxin Tu

Wenxin Tu

Undergraduate Thesis Student
 wenxint@sas.upenn.edu

I’m an undergraduate student at Penn majoring in Neuroscience, minoring in Music and Chemistry. In the Fuccillo Lab, I’m interested in studying the mechanisms of neurodevelopmental and neuropsychiatric disorders such as the Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder. I participate in Undergraduate Neuroscience Honors Program and did my honors thesis on investigating the brain-wide ensembles of neurons involved in positive and negative reinforcement. I also received the Ernest M. Brown, Jr. College Alumni Society Undergraduate Research Grant in Fall 2022 and the Alumni Fellowship for Neuroscience Research in Summer 2023. Currently, I am studying neural circuits related to positive and negative reinforcement in the striatum and other parts of the brain. In my free time, I’m a passionate musician playing both the piano and cello, participating in Penn Marian Anderson Soloist Performance Program and Penn Chamber Music Society.

Nathan Zhang

Nathan Zhang

Undergraduate Thesis Student
 nszhang@sas.upenn.edu

I was born in Fremont, California and grew up in Shrewsbury, Massachusetts. At Penn, I am majoring in neuroscience with minors in chemistry and healthcare management. I am interested in investigating attentional deficits through circuit-level behavioral manipulations. This past year, I investigated the role of Neurexin1α in cortical-striatal circuits in attention, which also served as my NRSC 3999 project. My NRSC 4999 honors thesis project will look to investigate the role of auditory striatum in behaviorally relevant sensory filtering with optogenetic manipulations. Both projects use a novel head-fixed treadmill task to assess attention. Outside of research, I volunteer at the VA hospital and CHOP. In my free time, I enjoy practicing the piano and cello, playing soccer and basketball, and am training to run my first marathon!


Undergraduate

Aarav Chandra

Aarav Chandra

Undergraduate
 aarav.chandra@gmail.com

I grew up in San Diego, CA for most of my life and am currently an undergrad at Penn studying neuroscience. In high school, I worked with a neurobiologist at UCSD studying how neural networks involved in behavior are developed during embryogenesis in flatworms. I have been interested in molecular and behavioral aspects of neurological disorders like autism and Tourette’s and wanted to explore more through this lab. In my spare time, I enjoy playing basketball with friends and exploring center city, especially new restaurants.

Isha Bhandaru

Isha Bhandaru

Undergraduate
 ishab@sas.UPenn.edu

I am from West Windsor, NJ and am currently and undergraduate at the University of Pennsylvania studying Neuroscience and Fine Art. I joined the Fuccillo lab my freshman year to immerse myself in wet lab techniques and get a better understanding of mice models for neurodevelopmental disorders. In the lab, I have worked on epigenetic regulation of striatal development in relation to autism and intellectual disability. I am currently assisting on a project studying the role of synaptic adhesion molecules on the mechanisms of striatal synapse development. Outside of lab, I love to work on my art, go on drives, and explore the city with my friends.

Jonibek Muhsinov

Jonibek Muhsinov

Undergraduate
 Jonibekm@sas.upenn.edu

I was born and raised in Key West, FL, with family roots in Uzbekistan. I am currently an undergraduate student at Penn majoring in biophysics and biochemistry. I previously worked in the Mallouk Group where I studied Z-scheme photocatalytic water splitting. In the Fuccillo Lab, I am interested in investigating neurobiological relationships with value-based decision-making and its potential implications for autism research. Outside of the lab, I enjoy food, playing basketball, and quality time with friends and family.

Marcella Soewignjo

Marcella Soewignjo

Undergraduate
 msoewig@sas.upenn.edu

I’m from Queens, New York and I am an undergraduate student at the University of Pennsylvania majoring in neuroscience. I joined the Fuccillo lab hoping to get a better understanding of how altered neuro circuitry affects the presentation of neuropsychiatric disorders. In the lab I assist in running behavioral paradigms to investigate the role of the striatum in goal-directed decision making behavior in mice. My hobbies outside of lab include crocheting, volunteering at local animal shelters, and exploring farmers markets in the Philly area!

Randy Cai

Randy Cai

Undergraduate
 randycai@sas.upenn.edu

I am originally from Los Angeles, California, and am pursuing a bachelors in Neuroscience at Penn. I miss LA weather and my family's cat dearly. In the lab, I am involved in a project investigating the mechanisms underlying behavioral reinforcement. Outside of lab, I work as an EMT, a learning assistant in the Chemistry Department, and am involved in various Penn student organizations.


Lab Alumni (Postdoctoral)

Elizabeth Holly

Elizabeth Holly

Postdoctoral Fellow
 eholly@mail.med.upenn.edu

I grew up in Oklahoma, then attended Northern Michigan University in Michigan's Upper Peninsula for undergrad. At Northern, I first got involved in research investigating the neurobiological basis and treatment of cognitive deficits in schizophrenia, which I continued at Pfizer. I completed my PhD at Tufts University in Medford, MA, where I combined neurochemistry, behavior, and psychopharmacology to investigate how dopamine neurons in the ventral tegmental area are activated by stress, and how this activation during stress increases later drug self-administration. I joined the Fuccillo lab in June 2016 to expand my current technical repertoire with molecular neuroscience tools and further explore the role of dopamine in reward, stress, and psychiatric diseases. My work in the lab focused on the relevance of local striatal circuits in the formation and modulation of goal-directed behaviors. 

I am currently an Assistant Professor in the Center for Molecular and Behavioral Neuroscience at the Rutgers University - Newark.

Elizabeth's research in the lab was funded by an NIMH F32 (2017-2020) and an NIMH K01 (2021-2026).


Lab Alumni (Doctoral)

Opeyemi Alabi

Opeyemi Alabi

MD/PhD NGG Student
 oalabi76@outlook.com
 215-898-8741

I started my MD/PhD at Penn in 2014 and joined the Fuccillo Lab in February 2016. I am currently focused on designing operant behavioral paradigms that allow us to assess value-based selection of actions in mouse genetic models for neuropsychiatric disease. 

Since graduating, I have entered the neurosurgery residency program at Massachusetts General Hospital. 

Ope's research in the lab was funded by an NIMH F31 Fellowship (2017-2019).

Felicia Davatolhagh

Felicia Davatolhagh

NGG Student
 mdavatol@gmail.com
 215-898-8741

I am interested in studying striatal microcircuits and how they are altered in mouse genetic models for neuropsychiatric disease. Currently, my work in the lab uses multiple genetic models for autism that exhibit similar motor control abnormalities in an attempt to identify commonly altered striatal circuits. In my free time, I like to sit around with my psychopath cat, Misty Mo Mo.

Since graduating, I have moved onto a postdoc in the Churchland lab at UCLA.

Felicia's research in the lab was funded by an HHMI Gilliam Fellowship (2017-2020).


Lab Alumni (Technical Staff)

Alexandria Cowell

Alexandria Cowell

Research Technician
 Alexandria.Cowell@pennmedicine.upenn.edu
 215-898-8741

I was born and raised in Texas by a small pack of grey wolves. I later moved to Philadelphia because someone told me the cheesesteaks were amazing. I graduated from Temple University in 2016 and have been working at UPenn ever since. My hobbies include playing with dogs, wearing loud sweaters and registering new vendors into the UPenn Marketplace.


Lab Alumni (Undergraduate Honors)

Afrah Mohammad

Afrah Mohammad

Undergraduate Thesis Student
 afrah.mw@gmail.com
 215-898-8741

Afrah is originally from the Bay Area, CA and is completing a bachelor's in neurobiology. In the Fuccillo lab she investigates striatal inhibitory networks underlying action selection and writes code for operant tasks. She enjoys exploring Philly and browsing Quora and misses California weather, among other things.

Michael Fortunato

Michael Fortunato

Undergraduate Thesis Student
 mfort@sas.upenn.edu
 215-898-8741

Originally from Brooklyn, NY, Michael is an undergraduate majoring in the biological basis of behavior. In the lab he performs operant task experiments and is interested in the striatal basis of neuropsychiatric disorders. In the past he has worked in the Jongens lab studying the genetics of mutant Drosophila flies with Fragile-X syndrome. On campus he is a writer and editor for the Penn Bioethics Journal, in which he has had an article published regarding the ethics of editing the human germline. In addition, he is involved in the ACTION Spanish mentorship organization, the Social Planning and Events Committee, and the Punch Bowl Comedy magazine.

Andrew Furash

Andrew Furash

Undergraduate Thesis Student
 afurash@sas.upenn.edu

Raised in Los Angeles, California, Andrew attends the University of Pennsylvania, earning a Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology and Mathematics. In the lab, Andrew conducts statistical analysis of various operant behavior tasks as well as detailed forceplate-based analyses of grooming structure. Andrew has worked as a private tutor on campus and founded a tutoring program in high school. An avid pianist and vocalist, Andrew sings in UPenn's University Choir. 

Sara Seyedroudbari

Sara Seyedroudbari

Undergraduate Thesis Student
 sarasey@sas.upenn.edu

Sara is a student at the University of Pennsylvania and plans to declare a major in the Biological Basis of Behavior. She will begin working in the lab in May/June 2017 where she will perform various operant tasks. On campus, she is a member of Dischord A Capella and The Collctve, a DJ and music production club. 

Mikaela Glass

Mikaela Glass

Undergraduate Thesis Student
 mikglass@sas.upenn.edu


Lab Alumni (Undergrad)

Abbie Chan

Abbie Chan

Undergraduate
 abbiechn@sas.upenn.edu

Maxim Mounier

Maxim Mounier

Undergraduate
 mmounier@seas.upenn.edu

Michelle Yoon

Michelle Yoon

Undergraduate

Michelle was born in Boulder, Colorado but grew up in Daejeon, South Korea for most of her life. At Penn, she is planning to major in Neuroscience and minor in ASL and Deaf Studies. She is interested in autism and neurodevelopmental research and is part of the Fuccillo lab and Brodkin lab to study its neurobiological mechanisms and psychological implications. Michelle has been a musician for most of her life and is currently involved in the Penn Symphony Orchestra. She is also involved in Mindly Magazine, Penn Bens peer counseling, Camp Kesem @ Penn, and two greek organizations: Zeta Tau Alpha and Phi Delta Epsilon. 

Tristan Nguyen

Tristan Nguyen

Undergraduate
 tristann@sas.upenn.edu

Vedika Gopal

Vedika Gopal

Undergraduate
 vedikag@sas.upenn.edu