We represent a team of scientists with expertise ranging from molecular biology to engineering to ethology to computation. We aim for scientific excellence through strong mentorship, teamwork, and through the collective representation of a diversity of backgrounds, voices, interests, and expertise.
Head of Laboratory
Priya obtained her B.S. from Cornell University, and an M.D.,Ph.D., in Neuroscience in 2013 from Columbia University under the mentorship of Eric Kandel. During this time, she identified a new class of genes in brain, piRNAs, that have novel gene regulatory functions during long-term memory storage. She did her post-doctoral work at Stanford University in the lab of Karl Deisseroth. During this time, she developed and applied methodologies for stimulation and imaging of rodent brain during behavior, leading to the discovery and characterization of a novel memory retrieval circuit in the brain. She joined The Rockefeller University as an assistant professor in 2017. She enjoys sports, cooking, friends and family, and she tries to make time for yoga.
Alessandra Bonito-Oliva, Ph.D.
Lab Manager/Senior Research Associate
Alessandra was born and raised in Italy, where she earned her Ph.D in Psychobiology and Psychopharmacology working on mouse models of drug addiction. She then moved to Sweden to work at the Karolinska Institute, where she set up a novel mouse model for the study of non motor symptoms in Parkinson's disease. In 2015 Alessandra was recruited by Dr. Sakmar to join his group at The Rockefeller University, where she developed an innovative platform technology for the generation of antibody-based therapeutics and diagnostics for Alzheimer's disease and other neurodegenerative diseases. In 2020 Alessandra joined the Rajasethupathy lab, where she works as senior research associate and lab manager. Outside of lab, she likes sport, reading and cooking.
John "Jak" Fak, Research Specialist
John “Jak” Fak earned his bachelor’s degree at the University of Michigan in 1995 and his master’s at NYU in 2001. Jak has over 20 years of experience as a Research Specialist. at Rockefeller University. He lives in Brooklyn with his wife, two daughters and golden retriever. Enjoys traveling, running, hiking, scuba diving and drawing.
Katie Hsiao, Ph.D., Postdoctoral Fellow
Katie earned her Master of Chemical Engineering degree from University of Rochester. She completed her Ph.D in Neuroscience at the Ichan School of Medicine at Mount Sinai Hospital, and then joined the Rajasethupathy Lab in 2017. Katie is a recipient of the Women & Science Fellowship (2017) and was awarded a grant from the Robertson Therapeutic Development Fund, which supports the translation of her research to serve clinical innovations and the public good. Katie’s current research explores the genetic and physiological mechanisms of short-term memory, and how persistent neural activity in executive regions orchestrate future goal-directed behavior thus enabling individuals to act beyond the confines of the here and now. The work has critical implications for understanding everyday cognitive challenges, as well as ADHD, learning disability, and other neuropsychiatric disorders.
Zachary Gershon, Ph.D. student
Zach is a New Yorker through and through. He grew up on Long Island and then earned his undergraduate degree in behavioral neurobiology from CUNY Macaulay Honors College at Hunter College. Zach’s interests in neuroscience and genetics stem from his own experiences with learning disabilities, which spurred him to understand why his brain worked differently from those around him. At Hunter, he worked on gene expression in mammalian olfactory systems, and studied fast axonal transport using the squid giant axon at the Marine Biological Laboratory. Zach’s research in the Rajasethupathy Lab intersects systems genetics, molecular neuroscience, and systems neuroscience to investigate the functional consequences of genetic variation on cognition. Outside his research interests, Zach serves as Education Officer in the Tri-Institutional Science & Education Policy Association and as the Chair of Accessibility and Neurodiversity for the Rockefeller Inclusive Science Initiative. When not in lab, he can be found attending theatrical performances, practicing yoga, or training in the circus arts (especially fire spinning).
Josue Regalado, Ph.D. student
Josue was born and raised in Las Vegas, Nevada. He earned his undergraduate degree in Neuroscience at the University of Nevada, Reno where he worked on the interaction between feeding and sleep in the fruit fly. In the summer he worked at Columbia University as a HHMI EXROP Fellow in Dr. Richard Axel's lab on mouse behavior and neural data analysis. This experience convinced him to move from the Wild Wild West to New York City and he decided to pursue graduate studies at Rockefeller University. In the Rajasethupathy lab, Josue uses virtual reality tasks and large-scale imaging to understand the distributed brain processes that underlie memory and cognition. Josue is a recipient of the HHMI Gilliam Fellowship and previously was awarded the NSF Graduate Fellowship and Goldwater Scholarship. He also leads initiatives to promote diversity and inclusivity at Rockefeller University as co-president of the Rockefeller Inclusive Science Initiative. Outside of Rockefeller, Josue likes to read analytic philosophy and play electric guitar.
Nakul Yadav, Ph.D. student
Nakul grew up mesmerized by stars and planets so much that his undergraduate major was engineering physics at IIT Guwahati. However, he got so captivated with cognition and neuroscience during his undergrad that he overloaded his coursework with biology courses as well. As a graduate student at Weill Cornell, he is delineating the mechanism of top-down control of cortical circuits over other regions in memory processing using two-photon imaging, optogenetics and machine learning. Despite his love-hate relationship with the city, he finds comfort in the bustling city which reminds him of his hometown Delhi. You can find him enjoying outdoor activities, hiking, running or bouldering, and his ever-growing love of boxing, or finding the best breweries and intimate concerts (when not in lab).
Andrea Terceros, Ph.D. student
Andrea completed a BSc. in neuroscience at McGill University in 2018. During her undergraduate years, she worked with Drosophila melanogaster to understand how neural circuits underlying innate behaviors are wired up. Through her various summer internships, in both Europe and the US, Andrea was able to gain research experience which motivated her to pursue graduate studies. A question that has always puzzled her is how memories persist for years or even a life-time? Andrea’s project aims to unveil the transcriptional programs underlying the process of long-term memory storage. Outside of lab, Andrea enjoys painting and learning new languages.
Andrew Toader, M.D./Ph.D. student
Andrew received his undergraduate degree in Biomedical Engineering/Electrical and Computer Engineering from Duke University in 2017. He is currently enrolled in the Weill Cornell/Rockefeller/Sloan-Kettering Tri-Institutional MD-PhD Program and has been in the Rajasethupathy lab since 2019. He is interested in using optical and electrophysiological tools to study the encoding and consolidation of memories in circuits across the brain.
James Brandt, Ph.D. student
James is originally from Washington State and in 2017 earned a bachelor’s degree in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology from Lewis & Clark College in Portland, Oregon. Before moving to NYC, James worked for Dr. Yumi Kim at Johns Hopkins University where he used the C. elegans germline as a model to understand how kinase cascades drive meiotic chromosome reorganization. Now as a graduate student, James is trying to understand how neuronal signaling cascades alter circuit-level properties to eventually drive cognitive ability. When James is not in lab you can probably find him eating ice cream or bird watching. Sometimes, you can even find him trying to feed ice cream to birds.
Chelsea Noble, Research Assistant
Vivian Li, Research Assistant
Vivian completed her Bachelor’s degree in molecular and cell biology at McGill University in Montreal. During her time there, she worked in labs which studies ranged from invasive species to neurodegeneration to collective cell migration. Ultimately, she wrote her honours thesis on the role of RhoGTPase regulators in cell migration. Vivian recently joined the Rajasethupathy lab as a research assistant, studying memory consolidation. Outside of the lab, Vivian is an avid hiker and enjoys everything outdoors. She also devotes a lot of time to making art and vintage hunting.
Millennium Gebremedhin, Visiting student
Millennium Gebremedhin was born in Eritrea but grew up in Germany. She is currently a 4th year medical student at the Saarland University in Saarbrücken, Germany, and joined the Rajasethupathy's lab in the Fall 2021 to complete her medical thesis. While in high school, she did an internship at the Neuroscience Academy of the Eberhard Karls University in Tübingen, Germany, and has been passionate about the idea of exploring the mysteries of the brain ever since. In 2017, she has been awarded a scholarship from the German National Academic Foundation based on her academic achievements.
Outside the lab (and probably inside it, too), Millennium enjoys listening to music and singing and dancing to it.
Ariadna Corredera Asensio (now Research Assistant at NYU)
Suraj Kumar (now Ph.D. Student at the Indian Institute of Science-India)
Tara Conniff (now Project Manager at Columbia University)
James Niemeyer (now Post Doctoral Scholar at Weill Cornell Medical College)
Florian Hollunder (now Ph.D. student at Rockefeller University)
Baila Schochet (now Research Assistant at Weill Cornell Medical College)
Rhia Singh (now Undergraduate Student at Hunter College)
Briana Mcrae (now Ph.D. Student at Columbia University)