Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania

Fuccillo Lab

Header Image


Marc Fuccillo

Marc Fuccillo Lead Investigator  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

Elizabeth Holly

Elizabeth Holly Postdoctoral Fellow

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. Currently, I am interested in understanding the relevance of local striatal circuits in the formation and modulation of goal-directed behaviors. 

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

Nathan Henderson

Nathan Henderson Postdoctoral Fellow

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

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  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  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

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. 

Jamie Galanaugh

Jamie Galanaugh NGG Student

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.

Technical Staff

Alessandro Jean-Louis

Alessandro Jean-Louis Research Associate

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. 

Medical Students

Evan Iliakis

Evan Iliakis PSOM MS1

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 neural basis of negative reinforcement.


Michelle Yoon

Michelle Yoon Penn Undergrad

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. 

Lab Alumni (Doctoral)

Opeyemi Alabi

Opeyemi Alabi MD/PhD NGG Student  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  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  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  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  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

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

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

Lab Alumni (Undergrad)

Abbie Chan

Abbie Chan Undergraduate

Maxim Mounier

Maxim Mounier Undergraduate

Tristan Nguyen

Tristan Nguyen Undergraduate

Vedika Gopal

Vedika Gopal Undergraduate