The Foundation established the Leon Levy Fellowship in Neuroscience to expand on Leon Levy’s interest in neuroscience and the functioning of the brain to better understand its impact on human behavior. The Foundation hopes to advance the careers of outstanding young neuroscientists as they pursue innovative, risk-taking research at select New York institutions.
Sara Abrahamsson, PhD, The Rockefeller University
Dr. Abrahamsson earned her M.S. in Engineering Physics: Laser Physics and Quantum Optics, KTH from the Royal Institute of Technology, Stockholm and her Ph.D. in Bioengineering , USCF/UC Berkeley Graduate Program in Bioengineering. She was awarded a MBL Woods Hole, Whitman Summer Investigator Fellowship and a HHMI Janelia Farm Visiting Graduate Student Researcher. Dr. Abrahamsson holds a patent, Multi-Color Three Dimensional Imaging using Multi-Focus Microscopy. As a post-doctoral fellow at Rockefeller she will be working on applying Multi-Focus Microscopy (MFM) for functional neuronal imaging to study animal behaviors (leaning and memory) and exploring other advanced 3D imaging approaches for increased contrast and resolution in live imaging.
Leandro Alonso, PhD, The Rockefeller University
Dr. Alonso received his doctoral training in physics from the University of Buenos Aires, Argentina. As a graduate student, financed by a fellowship awarded by the Argentine Council of Science and Technology (CONICET), Dr. Alonso worked on the mathematical modeling of respiratory activity of songbirds at the Dynamical Systems Lab under the direction of Prof. G.B. Mindlin. In early 2012, Dr. Alonso joined the Laboratory of Mathematical Physics at The Rockefeller University as a postdoctoral associate under the direction of Prof. M.O. Magnasco. His main research interests include neural dynamics, the emergence of complex spatio-temporal patterns in brain activity, and more recently, the operational characterization of consciousness via electrophysiological recordings. For the past three years, together with colleagues, Dr. Alonso has been exploring the connection between consciousness and the dynamical stability of neural recordings. The main results of this research have recently been published in the Journal of Neuroscience. With the support of the Leon Levy Fellowship, Dr. Alonso will further explore this connection and the possibility of translational implications.
Jayeeta Basu, PhD, NYU Langone Medical Center
Dr. Basu is an Assistant Professor in the Neuroscience Institute at the New York University Langone Medical Center. Dr. Basu earned her bachelors degree in Physiology (B.Sc. Hon.’s) from Presidency College in Calcutta, India. In 2002, Jayeeta received a Masters degree in Neuroscience at the International Max Planck Research School, Georg August University in Göttingen, Germany for her research with Dr. Christian Rosenmund and Dr. Erwin Neher on the kinetics of neurotransmitter release. She then completed her Ph.D. at Baylor College of Medicine, where her thesis focused on molecular mechanisms of synaptic vesicle release and short-term plasticity in hippocampal cultured neurons. In 2007, Dr. Basu joined Dr. Steven Siegelbaum’s laboratory at Columbia University for her post-doctoral training. She examined how excitatory and inhibitory circuits interact to shape dendritic integration, timing-dependent plasticity, and learning behavior in the hippocampus. In her own lab, Dr. Basu aims to identify synaptic and behavioral correlates of learning-related activity in genetically defined circuits of the mammalian hippocampus and entorhinal cortex. Her research combines mouse genetics with electrophysiology, two-photon imaging, and behavior to parse out the synaptic, cellular, and circuit mechanisms of learning.
Wei-li Chang, MD, PhD, Columbia University Medical Center
Dr. Chang is originally from Houston, Texas, a few miles down the road from NASA’s Mission Control. She attended Stanford University, where she earned a degree in Human Biology, with a Concentration in Neurobiology and Psychobiology. From there, she was awarded an NIH Post-Baccalaureate Intramural Research Training Award, and under the mentorship of Dr. Karen Berman, studied schizophrenia and related disorders in the NIMH Section on Integrative Neuroimaging. After two years at the NIH, she matriculated into the MD/PhD program at the University of California San Diego. Within the Neurosciences Graduate Program there, she worked with Dr. Neal Swerdlow for her dissertation research on Dopamine D3 Regulation of Sensorimotor Gating, which is relevant to several neuropsychiatric disorders. Wei-li also managed the psychiatry clinic at the UCSD Student Run Free Clinic and served as the UCSD Chapter President of the American Medical Student Association. During residency, she will continue to study animal models of schizophrenia in the laboratory of Joshua Gordon.
Ivan Chavarria-Siles, MD, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai
Originally from San José, Costa Rica, Dr. Chavarria-Siles received his medical degree from University of Costa Rica. He completed his MSc in biochemical science at Francisco de Vitoria University in Madrid, Spain before starting an NIMH/Fogarty founded fellowship in psychiatric genetics research at UT San Antonio. He continued his research career at the Center for Neurogenomics and Cognitive Research at the VU University in Amsterdam, where his research work focused on understanding how genetic variations can produce structural and functional changes in the brains of patients with psychiatric disorders. After several years doing basic and clinical research, he decided to translate some of his research knowledge into clinical care of patients with psychiatric disorders. In 2012 he joined the Psychiatry Residency Program (Research Track) at Mount Sinai, where he has been able to get clinical training as well as protected time to continue his research in brain imaging genetics of schizophrenia under the supervision of Dr. Pamela Sklar. More recently he started working in a functional Neuroimaging study of Borderline Personality Disorder under the supervision of Dr. Harold Koenigsberg. In 2014 he received the NIMH Outstanding Resident Award.
Dilek Colak, PhD, Weill Cornell Medical College
Dr. Colak is an assistant professor of neuroscience in the Brain and Mind Research Institute at Weill Cornell Medicine, where she studies the role of RNA regulation in neurodevelopmental and neuropsychiatric diseases. She earned her bachelors degree in biology from Hacettepe University, Ankara, Turkey. She then enrolled in the PhD program at the Ludwig Maximilian University in Munich, Germany. During her doctoral thesis, Dr. Colak focused on the extracellular signaling molecules that regulate cellular fate in the adult neural stem cells. Her PhD studies showed that neurogenesis can be initiated upon inhibition of the apparent default pathway in the adult-brain progenitors that is oligodendrogenesis. During her postdoctoral studies in Dr. Samie Jaffrey’s laboratory at Weill Cornell, she explored the physiological role of local RNA translation and the mechanisms that regulate it. During her postdoc, she also became interested in the mechanism of FMR1 gene silencing in Fragile X Syndrome (FXS), which is a trinucleotide repeat expansion disease and the most common monogenic cause of autism. Using FXS human embryonic stem cells, she discovered that the expanded repeats of the FMR1 mRNA interacts with the genomic DNA that then triggers FMR1 promoter repression. Her studies showed for the first time that a coding RNA could bind DNA to induce epigenetic silencing.
Christopher Cselenyi, MD, PhD, Columbia University Medical Center
Dr. Cselenyi earned his B.A. from the University of Miami with majors in English and Biochemistry. He wrote his thesis on epic simile and developed biophysical methods to study an enzyme involved in DNA damage and repair. Christopher then enrolled in the Medical Scientist Training Program at Vanderbilt University where he earned his Ph.D. and M.D. degrees. In his doctoral research, he studied Wnt signaling using biochemically amenable Xenopus egg extracts. Christopher used egg extracts to address several problems in the field: receptor-mediated signal transduction, G proteins in Wnt signaling, and pharmacological modulators of Wnt signaling. After working with child and adolescent patients suffering from psychiatric diseases, Christopher decided to devote his career to understanding neurodevelopmental origins of psychiatric diseases as a child psychiatrist and developmental neurobiologist. At Vanderbilt, Christopher won awards for “most outstanding Ph.D. training accomplishments” and “most progress in clinical psychiatry.” Through the Levy fellowship, he will address the role of nervous system development on behavior.
Natalia De Marco Garcia, PhD, Weill Cornell Medical College
Dr. De Marco is an assistant professor of neuroscience in the Brain and Mind Research Institute at Weill Cornell Medical College. She earned her B.S. in molecular genetics and biotechnology from the University of Buenos Aires and her Ph.D. in neurobiology and behavior at Columbia University. Her thesis, which she completed under the guidance of Dr. Jessell, focused on transcriptional programs controlling motor neuron development and muscle-nerve connectivity. During her postdoctoral studies in the Fishell lab at NYU Langone School of Medicine, she examined activity-dependent programs of brain development. As principal investigator of her own lab, she continues to focus on interneuron development in the mammalian brain. She has published articles in Cell, Nature, Neuron, and Nature Neuroscience. She is the recipient of NIH Pathway to Independence, NARSAD Young Investigator and CURE Epilepsy Awards. In addition, she has received a Patterson Trust fellowship.
Anthony Deo, MD, PhD, Columbia University Medical Center
Dr. Deo attended Boston College as an undergraduate receiving a BS in Biology. He subsequently earned a PhD in biology from New York University developing techniques to identify genes associated with subsets of symptoms in psychiatric disorders supported by an NSF Doctoral Dissertation Improvement Grant. Tony then completed his MD and a Certificate in Clinical Research at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine’s five year Physician Scientist Training Program which included an additional year dedicated to research. His research, supported by a Doris Duke Foundation Fellowship, focused on signaling pathways that contribute to the disruption of auditory sensory processing in schizophrenia. Tony’s current research involves examining the mechanisms of clozapine response in cases of childhood onset schizophrenia using neurons created from induced pluripotent stem cells collected from patients suffering from schizophrenia.
Daniel Eskenazi, MD, PhD, Columbia University Medical Center
Dr. Eskenazi obtained his BS in Animal Physiology and Neuroscience from the University of California, San Diego, before matriculating at the University of Washington Medical Scientist Training Program (MD/PhD). His dissertation research, conducted under the direction of Dr. John Neumaier, addressed the role of serotonin 5-HT6 receptors and striatal circuitry in habitual behaviors, with relevance for substance abuse, obsessive compulsive disorder and Tourette syndrome. Daniel is also dedicated to education, having acted as instructor and teaching assistant for numerous courses (including biochemistry, cell physiology, general biology and neuroscience) and contributed work to the AAMC’s MedEd portal. He has written several papers and presented at both national and international conferences (including Society for Neuroscience, International Behavioral Neuroscience Society and Cold Spring Harbor Asia). He continues to pursue basic neuroscience research relevant to translational psychiatry.
Lisa Fenk, PhD, The Rockefeller University
Dr. Fenk earned her master’s degree in physics and French with honors from the University of Vienna, Austria, where she also completed a doctorate. For her master’s thesis in physics, she measured the aerodynamic properties of urticating caterpillar hairs. Having switched to sensory physiology for her Ph.D., her doctoral thesis dealt with the performance of spider eyes and was financed by a fellowship of the Austrian Academy of Sciences. She then continued as a postdoc at the Research Institute of Molecular Pathology (IMP), where she worked on neural circuits underlying visually guided behavior in flies. In early 2015, Dr. Fenk joined the Laboratory of Integrative Brain Function at The Rockefeller University as a postdoctoral associate. Her project aims to unravel circuit motifs by which motor systems and sensory systems interact.
Silvia Fossati, PhD, NYU Langone Medical Center
Dr. Fossati is an Assistant Professor of Neurology and Psychiatry at the New York University Langone Medical Center. She earned a B.S. Magna cum Laude in Molecular Biology at the University of Florence, Italy, where she later obtained a PhD in Pharmacology. She joined NYU Langone in 2007 as a postdoctoral fellow in the Department of Pathology. Her research focuses on identifying common pathways of cell stress in brain endothelial, neuronal and glial cells in Alzheimer’s disease, unveiling new targets for drug discovery and compounds able to rescue neurovascular cells from mitochondrial-mediated cell death. She is the recipient of numerous awards including the Alzheimer’s Association New Investigator Research Award, the Blas Frangione Foundation New Investigator Award, and the American Heart Association Scientist Development Award, and was nominated Director of the Blood Biomarker core of the NYU Cohen Veteran Center. Profiting from her background in molecular neuroscience and her experience in ultra-sensitive biomarker studies, she aims to investigate transcriptional and miRNA changes in neurovascular cells as therapeutic targets and biomarkers for the development of much needed strategies in Alzheimer’s disease, Traumatic Brain Injury and Post Traumatic Stress.
Alison Hanson, MD, PhD, Columbia University Medical Center
Dr. Hanson received her undergraduate degree from Colgate University where she played Division I varsity women’s basketball and earned a Bachelor of Arts in Molecular Biology. She then completed her MD/PhD training at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine where she studied the mechanism of Wnt signal transduction in the laboratory of Dr. Ethan Lee. During medical school, she also spent two years studying classical oil painting and drawing in the studio of Anthony Ryder in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Now a resident in psychiatry, Dr. Hanson is most interested in basic neuroscience research, psychosis, and integrative psychiatry. She lives in Washington Heights and enjoys the outdoors, working out, painting, drawing, cooking, and attending the myriad museums and shows New York City has to offer.
Caryn Ratcliff Hale, PhD, The Rockefeller University
Dr. Hale earned her BA in Liberal Arts from the Louisiana Scholar’s College and her PhD in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology from the University of Georgia. Her dissertation was the identification and characterization of RNA-protein complexes involved in a novel RNA-based prokaryotic immune system. She will be a post-doctoral Research Associate at Rockefeller working on investigating dysregulation of RNA binding proteins in neurological disorders. Dr. Hale has been a member of RNA Society since 2008 and is a co-inventor on a patent involving Cmr-guided cleavage of desired target RNAs.
Biyu He, PhD, NYU Langone Medical Center
Dr. He is an Assistant Professor in the Departments of Neurology, Neuroscience and Physiology, and Radiology at NYU Langone Medical Center. She obtained her B.S. in Biology from Tsinghua University and her Ph.D. in Neuroscience from Washington University in St. Louis. Prior to joining NYU Langone, she led her own independent research group in the intramural research program of the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, with an intramural equivalent of the NIH Director’s Early Independence Award. Her research uses a combination of invasive and non-invasive multimodal human brain imaging, brain stimulation, and computational and theoretical approaches to investigate the neural bases of conscious vs. unconscious processing in the human brain. Other research interests include spontaneous brain activity, arrhythmic brain activity, and nonlinear brain dynamics. She has delivered keynote lectures at multiple international conferences and is currently a deputy editor of Neuroscience of Consciousness. Her work has received coverage by media such as Discover Magazine and Yahoo!News.
Sam Horng, MD, PhD, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai
Dr. Horng received his BA in Biology, summa cum laude, from Columbia University. He pursued pre-doctoral training in clinical bioethics at the National Institutes of Health then completed his MD-PhD degrees at Harvard Medical School and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences. His graduate work with Mriganka Sur focused on mechanisms of visual map formation in the developing mouse. Currently, he is a resident in the Neurology residency at Mount Sinai Medical Center. He has joined the laboratory of Gareth John, where he studies mechanisms of blood brain barrier breakdown in inflammatory brain disease. As a Leon Levy fellow, he will focus on the role of reactive astrocytes in modulating soluble factor and leukocyte entry into the brain.
Daniel Landay Kimmel, MD, PhD, Columbia University Medical Center
After graduating with honors from Oberlin College with a BA and double majors in Neuroscience and Biology, Daniel Kimmel matriculated in the MD/PhD program at Stanford University. His thesis, entitled “Neural basis of valued-based decision making,” was completed under the direction of Dr. William T. Newsome. He has written and presented extensively at international meetings. He is also an accomplished jazz musician, performing internationally and leading a quintet.
Rebecca Jones, PhD, Weill Cornell Medical College
Dr. Jones is fascinated by how the human brain is different in individuals with autism. She graduated magna cum laude from Princeton University with a B.A. in psychology and neuroscience and was awarded the neuroscience thesis prize for her undergraduate dissertation on abnormal face processing in adults with autism. She was a Gates Scholar at the University of Cambridge in the UK where she completed an M.Phil. under the supervision of Dr. Simon Baron-Cohen, studying hormone influences in autism. Dr. Jones received her Ph.D. in neuroscience from Weill Cornell Graduate School of Medical Sciences where she published multiple papers in journals such as Science, Journal of Neuroscience, and Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. She worked with Dr. BJ Casey studying neural trajectories of social behavior across typical development. Dr. Jones completed a postdoctoral fellowship with Dr. Catherine Lord at Weill Cornell, studying clinical and diagnostic assessments of autism, supported by an Autism Speaks Fellowship. In 2014, Dr. Jones was a Mirzayan Fellow at the National Academies of Science, studying the intersection of public policy and scientific research on neurodevelopmental disorders. Dr. Jones’s current focus is studying how underlying neural circuitry changes across age and its effect on behavior in autism compared to typical development in order to better understand mechanisms to improve treatment outcomes in autism.
Lee Lovejoy, MD, PhD, Columbia University Medical Center
Dr. Lovejoy, originally from New Orleans, attended Tulane University and received his bachelors and masters degrees in Biomedical Engineering. At Tulane he studied chaotic and nonlinear dynamics in dopaminergic neurons of the substantia nigra in an effort to understand the extent to which seemingly random activity of neurons was a reflection of internal dynamics versus external input. He then joined the medical scientist training program at the University of California, San Diego. There he received his MD and PhD in neurosciences. In his dissertation work, published in Nature Neuroscience, he showed that neural circuitry in the superior colliculus, a brainstem structure normally associated with eye movement control, was necessary for selecting visual information that gave rise to perception. Now at Columbia, Dr. Lovejoy has joined the laboratory of Dr. Dan Salzman where he plans to continue his work on primate decision-making. He plans to investigate how patterns of decision making, which we often associate with personality, are embodied in neural circuitry of the amygdala and frontal cortex.
Pedro Olivetti, MD, PhD, Columbia University Medical Center
Dr. Olivetti is originally from São Paulo, Brazil and earned his BS in Applied Biology from the Georgia Institute of Technology prior to matriculating as an MD/PhD student at Baylor College of Medicine. He completed his doctoral thesis on Infantile Spasms Syndrome under the direction of Dr. Jeffrey L. Noebels. He has published extensively, presented at international conferences, and earned numerous awards for his work in translational neuroscience. Currently, he is a research track Psychiatry intern at Columbia University. He is the father of a beautiful little girl and plays blues harmonica on his free time.
Alejandro Ramirez, MD, PhD, Columbia University Medical Center
Dr. Ramirez obtained a Bachelors Degree in Biochemistry, summa cum laude, from the University of Colorado and an M.Phil in Biological Sciences from the University of Cambridge prior to enrolling in the MD/PhD program at Columbia University. His PhD thesis with Dr. Randy Bruno investigated mechanisms of neural plasticity and sensory coding in the rodent somatosensory system. His dissertation work was published in the journals Neuron and Nature Neuroscience and awarded the Andrew Mark Lippard Memorial Research Award in Neuroscience.
Nicolas Renier, PhD, The Rockefeller University
Dr. Renier received his bachelor’s degree from the Ecole Normale Supérieure de la rue d’Ulm in Paris, and his Ph.D. from the Université Pierre et Marie Curie. His doctoral work focused on the function and development of crossed projections in the brain and spinal cord. He received a Ph.D. award from the French Neuroscience Society and an EMBO postdoctoral fellowship. Working in the laboratory headed by Dr. Marc Tessier-Lavigne at The Rockefeller University, he co-developed a method for imaging in 3-D the molecular content of organs, such as the brain, by using immuno-labeling, optical clearing, and light-sheet microscopy techniques. This method enables the 3-D mapping of specific neuronal projections and circuits in the developing and adult brain in mice. As a Leon Levy Fellow, he plans to use this technique to study the molecular pathway regulating neuronal circuit rearrangements triggered by learning and sensory experiences.
Louisa Steinberg, MD, PhD, Columbia University Medical Center
Dr. Steinberg graduated with honors from Vassar College with a BA in Neuroscience and Behavior. She went on to pursue her MD/PhD at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine where she worked in the laboratory of Dr. Jose Luis Pena in the Department of Neuroscience. During her PhD, Dr. Steinberg studied neural coding and signal processing in the brain stem. She has presented many posters and has published several papers, including two first author of papers published in the Journal of Neuroscience. Going forward, she plans to study abnormalities in sensory processing using socially salient stimuli in mouse models of mental illness.
Nicolas Tritsch, PhD, NYU Langone Medical Center
Dr. Tritsch is an Assistant Professor in the Neuroscience Institute at the NYU Langone Medical Center, where he studies the functional organization of neural circuits that orchestrate voluntary motor actions. He obtained his B.S. in immunology and M.S. in neuroscience from McGill University before earning his Ph.D. in neuroscience from Johns Hopkins University under the mentorship of Dr. Dwight Bergles. He recently completed a postdoctoral fellowship in the laboratory of Dr. Bernardo Sabatini at Harvard Medical School. Dr. Tritsch is the recipient of several awards, including a National Institutes of Health Pathway to Independence Award and a Society for Neuroscience Peter and Patricia Gruber International Research Award. As a Leon Levy Fellow, he aims to identify the synaptic mechanisms that enable the nervous system to promote the execution of movements expected to bring about desired outcomes.
Vikram Vijayan, PhD, The Rockefeller University
Dr. Vijayan earned his B.S.E. in Electrical Engineering with Minors in Engineering Biology, Applications of Computing from Princeton University and his PhD in Systems Biology from Harvard University. He joined Rockefeller University in 2012 as a Postdoctoral Associate, Laboratory of Integrative Brain Function. Among his academic honors and awards, he has been a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellow and a National Defense Science and Engineering Graduate Research Fellow. Dr. Vijayan has been published in journals including Journal of Bacteriology, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, and Nature.
Yihong Zhao, PhD, NYU Langone Medical Center
Dr. Zhao is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at NYU Langone Medical Center. She obtained her B.S. in Statistics from the University of California at Riverside with high honor and received her Ph.D. in Biostatistics from Columbia University. Prior to joining NYU, she worked as an Assistant Professor of Clinical Behavioral Medicine in the Department of Psychiatry, Columbia University. She is currently the PI of an NIH supported project on finding links among DNA methylation, neurophenotypes, and alcohol use disorders. Her research focuses on developing statistical and machine learning methods useful for identifying and characterizing the relationships between genetic factors, neurophenotypes, and psychiatric behaviors.