Leon Levy Fellows In Neuroscience

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.

Atheir Abbas, MD, PhD, Columbia University Medical Center


Dr. Abbas earned his B.S. from Case Western Reserve University where he graduated magna cum laude.  He entered the NIH-funded Medical Scientist Training Program at Case Western Reserve University, where he earned his M.D. and Ph.D. degrees.  His research interests focused on the role of serotonin receptors in cognitive processes, regulation of serotonin receptor function in the brain, and mechanisms of action of serotonergic drugs.  Atheir is author on a dozen publications in widely read scientific journals including Journal of Neuroscience, Neuron, Nature, Nucleic Acids Research, and Psychopharmacology.  His research projects included a report on the molecular underpinnings of serotonergic-glutamatergic crosstalk and an article on a novel method for measuring post-transcriptional RNA editing of serotonin 5-HT2C receptors.  His most recent award was the National Institute of Mental Health Outstanding Resident Award.  Through the Levy fellowship, Atheir plans to study neural correlates of psychiatric disease states in rodent models using in vivo electrophysiologic techniques.

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.

Argelinda Baroni, MD, NYU Langone Medical Center


Dr. Baroni is a Clinical Instructor in the Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, at the NYU Child & Adolescent Study Center and a Sleep Medicine Fellow at New York University Langone Medical Center. She completed her training in Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at the NYU Langone Medical Center. She trained in General Psychiatry at New York Medical College. Dr. Baroni received her medical degree cum laude at University of Tor Vergata, in Rome, Italy, and completed her first residency program in Psychiatry cum laude at the same university. Dr. Baroni has received the Chief Residents’ Executive Leadership Award at the American Psychiatry Association meeting, the Award for Clinical Excellence from New York Medical College, and the International Medical Graduate Award at the Psychiatry American Association of Directors of Psychiatric Residency Training (AADPRT) meeting.

Jacqueline Burré, PhD, Weill Cornell Medical College

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Dr. Burré is an Assistant Professor of Neuroscience in the Brain and Mind Research Institute, where she studies pathogenic changes at the synapse that trigger neurological disorders and neurodegeneration. She received her diploma and Ph.D. in Biochemistry from Goethe University (Germany), where she built a comprehensive proteomic map of synaptic vesicles to unprecedented detail. For her work, she received awards for the best diploma and Ph.D. thesis, and was awarded the Klaus Tschira Award for Achievements in Public Understanding of Science. As a postdoctoral fellow of the German National Academy of Sciences, she devoted her work to neurodegenerative diseases at Stanford University, where she investigated the role of α-synuclein in health and disease. Her work has been presented at various international meetings and has been published in journals including Science and Nature.

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

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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.

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.

Anthony Deo, MD, PhD, Columbia University Medical Center

Anthony Deo

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

Lisa Fenk Levy Fellow 2015.02

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.

Caryn Ratcliff Hale, PhD, The Rockefeller University

Caryn Hale

 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.

Sam Horng, MD, PhD, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai

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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.

Anli Liu, MD, NYU Langone Medical Center


Dr. Liu is an Assistant Professor in the department of Neurology where she studies epilepsy and the impact of sleep on memory. She received her BA from Stanford University in Human Biology, her MA from the University of California, Berkeley in Cognition and Education and her MD from the University of California, San Francisco. She completed her internship and residency at Weill Cornell Medical College of Cornell University followed by Fellowships in Clinical Neurophysiology and Cognitive Neurology at Harvard Medical School.  Among her honors and awards, she was a recipient of the Lila Wallis Women’s  Health Research Prize, the AAN/AES/EF Susan Spencer clinical research Training Fellowship and the American Epilepsy Foundation Clinical Research Fellowship.  Dr. Liu is a member of the American Epilepsy Society, the  American Association of Neurology and the Society of Neuroscience.

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.

Bradley Miller, MD, PhD, Columbia University Medical Center


Dr. Miller earned his BS summa cum laude in Neural Sciences from New York University where he was elected Phi Beta Kappa. As an undergraduate he studied the mechanisms of short term synaptic plasticity and won the Sherrington Award for the best undergraduate neuroscience research. He earned his M.D., Ph.D. degrees from Washington University in Saint Louis. His doctoral research was on the molecular mechanisms of axonal degeneration and was published in Nature Neuroscience.  Dr. Miller has been awarded the O’Leary Prize for outstanding research in neuroscience.


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.

Nicolas Renier, PhD, The Rockefeller University

Nicolas Renier Levy Fellow 2015.02

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.

Alon Seifan, MD, Weill Cornell Medical College

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Dr. Seifan completed a bachelors and Masters degree in Finance and Information Sciences at the University of Florida before going on to medical school at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York City.  He trained in Neurology at the University of Miami and in Behavioral Neurology at Columbia University Medical Center.  He was awarded an NIH T32 Neuroepidemiology Research Training Program which he completed during his Behavioral Neurology Fellowship.  Dr. Seifan currently holds the position of Assistant Professor of Neurology at Weill Cornell Medical College, with a clinical specialty in memory loss.  His research focuses on characterizing the clinical, behavioral and biological manifestations of Alzheimer’s Disease in adults with learning disability.  Dr. Seifan is the primary author of several peer-reviewed publications in the fields of medical education and Alzheimer’s Disease.  He is also the current recipient of a Community Engagement Award from the Weill Cornell Center for Translational Sciences.

Lucas L. Sjulson, MD, PhD, NYU Langone Medical Center


Dr. Sjulson obtained his BA with honors in Neuroscience from Johns Hopkins University.  He then enrolled in the Cornell/Rockefeller/Sloan-Kettering Tri-Institutional MD/PhD program, where he received his PhD in neuroscience for his work on genetically encoded voltage indicators for two photon imaging of neural activity. He next completed his residency training in adult psychiatry at the New York University School of Medicine, where he received the NIMH Outstanding Resident Award.  He is currently Research Assistant Professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Department of Neuroscience and Physiology, and his work focuses on the development of novel treatments for cocaine addiction.  His work has been published in numerous journals, and he has been the recipient of the NYU Physician Scientist and NYU KL2 Scholars Program Awards, as well as a NIDA K08 award.

Nicholas Stavropoulos, PhD, NYU Langone Medical Center

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Dr. Stavropoulos is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Neuroscience and Physiology at NYU where he studies the genetics involved in the regulation of sleep. He received his AB summa cum laude from Harvard University in Biochemical Sciences and his PhD from Harvard Medical School in Genetics. Dr. Stavropoulos did his postdoctoral research in the Laboratory of Genetics at Rockefeller University.  Among his awards and honors, Dr. Stavropoulos has been the recipient of the Whitehall Foundation Award, the winner of the Blavatnik Award from the NY Academy of Sciences and the Alfred P. Sloan Fellowship.

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.

Vikram Vijayan, PhD, The Rockefeller University

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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 BacteriologyProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences,  and Nature.

Brendon Watson, MD, PhD, Weill Cornell Medical College

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Dr. Watson obtained his BA from Cornell University with Summa Cum Laude status and then obtained his M.D. and Ph.D. degrees from the NIH-funded Medical Scientist Training Program at Columbia University.   During his Ph.D. he used two-photon microscopy to study fundamental properties of neurons engaged in local microcircuit behavior.  During his doctoral work he participated in the development of novel spatial-light modulator – and diffractive optical element-based imaging techniques. Upon graduation from medical school, Dr. Watson pursued a residency in Psychiatry at Weill Cornell Medical College.  He received the National Institute for Mental Health’s Outstanding Resident Award, the American Psychiatric Association’s Lilly Research Fellowship and was made the Cornell DeWitt-Wallace Psychiatric Research Scholar and Samuel Perry Research Scholar.  He is now utilizing the micro-circuit oriented approach he gathered during his PhD to study basic neuroscientific underpinnings of psychiatric health and disease as an instructor and research fellow at Weill Cornell Medical College.

Meg Younger, PhD, The Rockefeller University

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Dr. Younger earned a B.S. in neural science with honors from New York University and a Ph.D. in neuroscience from the University of California, San Francisco. She received a Genentech Fellowship for her graduate work and was awarded the Sherrington, Charles Barbeiri, and Phi Beta Kappa Research prizes for her undergraduate research.  She was awarded a 2014 Grass Fellowship in Neuroscience, to conduct independent research at the Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole. She is currently a postdoctoral fellow at The Rockefeller University, in the laboratory of Dr. Leslie Vosshall, where she is developing techniques to measure activity in the brain of the Aedes aegypti mosquito, the insect that transmits dengue fever, yellow fever, and chikungunya. She is working towards understanding how attraction to human hosts is represented in the mosquito brain. The long-term aim of this research is to find novel approaches to intervene in mosquito biting behavior.

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.