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Our core principles

We're enthusiastic team players and we're committed to doing science that is rigorous, reproducible, and translatable.
Our field, our funders--and most importantly, all those struggling with mental illness--deserve no less.

We're committed to diversity, equity, and inclusion. We welcome trainees and collaborators from underrepresented backgrounds and actively seek to reduce inequity and discrimination. By learning from each other, we hope STAAR Lab can help train the next generation of ethical, clinically-informed circuit neuroscientists. 

The Team

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Neir Eshel, MD, PhD

PI, co-founder


Neir is an Assistant Professor in Stanford's Department of Psychiatry & Behavioral Sciences. He earned his A.B. summa cum laude from Princeton, M.Sc. from University College London, and M.D.-Ph.D. from Harvard, before entering Stanford's psychiatry residency. Outside of lab, he sees patients in Stanford's LGBTQ+ clinic, loves playing chamber music, and makes a mean pear chocolate torte. For more info, check out his Stanford profile, CV, and Google Scholar page, or write him directly!  


Jason Tucciarone, MD, PhD

Co-founder, collaborator


Jason graduated from the research-track psychiatry resident at Stanford. He received his M.D.-Ph.D. from Stony Brook University, conducting his graduate research at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory. He is passionate about understanding the neural circuits of opiate use disorder. Outside of lab and clinic, he's a talented artist (his drawings adorn the walls of STAAR Lab) and loves spending time with his wife and toddler.


Teema Yassine

Lab Manager/Research Assistant

Teema is a recent graduate of Georgia Institute of Technology, where she earned a Bachelor of Science in Biomedical Engineering. During her time there, she investigated how neural representations of prospective memory in mice affect planning and decision making when new information is given. Teema plans to attend graduate school to study neuroscience. Outside of lab, Teema loves going to concerts, traveling, and exploring the bay.

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Ja Eun Choi


Ja Eun is a postdoctoral researcher interested in unraveling the mechanisms of how antisocial behaviors, like aggression, are manipulated through the intricate crosstalk among various neuromodulatory systems. She has a PhD in Biological Sciences from Seoul National University, where her research primarily focused on investigating how social isolation impacts prosocial behaviors, with a specific emphasis on the dopaminergic neurons. When not in lab, she enjoys tending to plants on her balcony and taking advantage of the delightful weather that California offers!


Zoe Zhang



Zoe is a postdoctoral researcher co-mentored by Neir Eshel and Rob Malenka. She investigates how serotonin and dopamine modulate downstream neurons to regulate reward-seeking and aggression. She obtained her PhD at University College London, developing techniques for closed-loop two-photon imaging and two-photon manipulation of neural circuits during behavior.


Hugo Martin



Hugo is a postdoctoral researcher investigating the role of serotonin and dopamine in the neurobiology of frustration. He obtained his PhD at the University of Bordeaux, focusing on the role of serotonin and insulin interaction in the development of metabolic-induced emotional disorders. Passionate about understanding the mechanisms underlying psychiatric diseases, he aims to develop projects at STAAR lab with a translational purpose. In his free time, Hugo enjoys spending time riding his bike to discover the flourishing nature of California and also playing basketball.


Daniel Cardozo Pinto



Daniel just obtained PhD in neuroscience from Rob Malenka's lab, supported by fellowships from the National Science Foundation and Howard Hughes Medical Institute. His thesis research integrated optogenetics, calcium imaging, viral tracing, and behavior to understand how dopamine and serotonin neurons work together to drive learning. He is now collaborating with the STAAR lab during his post-doc to integrate fiber photometry with operant conditioning. Other STAARs know him as a master beer brewer. 


Gavin Touponse

Medical Student


Gavin is a Stanford medical student investigating the role of dopamine in reinforcing behavior. He completed his undergraduate studies in Chemistry and Biology at Emory University where he also worked in a biomaterials research lab. In Atlanta, Gavin helped lead a volunteer first responder organization providing free emergency medical services for the nearby community. In his free time, he enjoys reading, playing guitar, and exercising.


Ashley Moses

Graduate student


Ashley is a Neurosciences PhD student co-advised by Neir Eshel and Rob Malenka. She completed her undergraduate studies in Biological Sciences and Psychology from Florida State University. Ashley is interested in the interaction between multiple neuromodulatory systems and how their interaction informs adaptive behaviors. In her free time, she loves to spend time being amazed by nature, training for triathlon, and cooking healthy food. Ashley is particularly passionate about research communication and is the founder of The Civilian. 


Pia Alderman

Graduate Student


Pia is a graduate student in the neuroscience program. She earned her BSc in neuroscience at the University of Pittsburgh, where she conducted research investigating paralaminar amygdala development and function. In the STAAR lab, she studies how serotonin modulates amygdala activity during aggression and social behavior. Outside of the lab, Pia enjoys baking, painting, and spending time outdoors with her partner Hector.

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Anjali Temal



Anjali is a junior at Stanford majoring in Psychology on the premed track. She is broadly interested in the neural basis of psychiatric conditions like addiction and depression. Outside of lab, Anjali staffs at the Bridge Peer Counseling Center, where she helps provide free, anonymous counseling to members of the Stanford community. In her spare time, Anjali enjoys sharing meals with friends/family and playing We're Not Really Strangers.


Michaela Guo



Michaela is a Stanford undergraduate studying Human Biology, concentrating in Behavioral Health Care and Policy. She is interested in the way humans learn, how the neural mechanisms that drive learning are altered in disease states, and how policy shapes our access to behavioral health care. When she's not in lab, she spends her time volunteering at a free clinic, with Asian Women's Alliance on campus, or making art and music.

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Ariana Rodrigues



Ariana is a Stanford undergraduate on the pre-med track. She is fascinated by the medical field and its ties to subjects such as economics, politics, and visual aesthetics. She seeks to learn about and discover neuroscience’s vast potential for addressing modern-day needs. In her free time, she loves to draw, read, play piano, and make new friends.


Troy Harris



Troy is a Stanford Undergraduate student concentrating in Neurobiology. He is intrigued by the foundations of behaviors like addiction, aggression, and joy along with how complex the brain is. He hopes to use his studies to improve global healthcare and medical treatments in the future. In his free time, he loves to spend time exploring the outdoors, play table tennis/chess, learn something new, and travel with family and friends.


Jean Chun

Undergraduate Student 


Jean Chun is an undergraduate at Stanford planning to major in Symbolic Systems on the Neuroscience track. She is fascinated by the relationship between the mind and the brain, particularly their psychological, creative, and linguistic capabilities. She is excited to dive deeper into the neural mechanisms behind addiction and psychiatric disorders through the lab. In her free time, she enjoys reading and writing poetry, listening to music, practicing the drums, and experimenting with her DJ kit. 


Jonas Huber

Rotating Medical Student 


Jonas is a master student at LMU Munich studying Human Biology. With a particular interest in interindividual variabilities in psychiatric diseases, as well as discovering underlying mechanisms for precision medicine, he joined STAAR Lab for his master’s thesis. Outside of the lab, he likes to play soccer, tennis, or basketball.


Brandon Bentzley, MD, PhD

Co-founder, on leave


Brandon is a Clinical Assistant Professor at Stanford, on leave starting 2021 as the founder and CSO of Magnus Medical. He received his bachelors in physics from The College of New Jersey and his M.D.-Ph.D. from the Medical University of South Carolina. He is passionate about developing treatments for substance use disorders. Whenever he's not building equipment in STAAR Lab, he's forging, welding, or otherwise manufacturing precision machines in his garage.


Rob Malenka, MD, PhD

Senior Advisor


Rob is the Pritzker Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Director of the Pritzker Laboratory, and Deputy Director of the Wu Tsai Neurosciences Institute at Stanford. Over a 30+-year career, he has made foundational contributions to our understanding of brain plasticity and the control of motivated behavior. He makes STAAR Lab possible, contributing his resources and expertise to all of our projects.

 Former STAARs 

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Lara Taniguchi

Research assistant


Lara was born and raised in Japan and moved to the US to attend college. She graduated from UC Berkeley in 2019 with a major in neurobiology and a minor in toxicology. She plans to attend graduate school to study the neural mechanisms of psychiatric disorders such as addiction and eating disorders. Outside of the lab, Lara loves to dance, run, swim, hike, try new food and write Yelp reviews, travel, and watch K-dramas.


Alexa Groome

Research assistant


Alexa is a graduate of Wake Forest University, where she received her BA in Psychology in 2019. She is currently in a post-baccalaureate program to complete her pre-medical school requirements, and intends on pursuing psychiatry. She is originally from New Jersey but prefers the Bay area weather! In her spare time, she enjoys volunteering for a telemedicine non-profits and exploring California’s state parks.


Allan Wang

Medical student


Allan is a Stanford medical student investigating the role of dopamine in motivated and compulsive behaviors. He completed his undergraduate degree at Northwestern University, where he studied Neuroscience and Philosophy, and an MPhil at the University of Cambridge in the History and Philosophy of Medicine. He is originally from the Chicago area, and in his free time, he enjoys cooking, crossword puzzles, and playing tennis.


Marija Kamceva

Medical student

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Marija is a Stanford medical student investigating the frustration-aggression model of behavior, particularly in female animals. A first-generation college student, she graduated from Yale, where she helped lead multiple LGBTQ+ organizations and first caught the neuroscience bug. When not in clinic or lab, she continues to be involved in LGBTQ+ advocacy and hopes to pursue a residency in psychiatry.


Amei Shank

Research Assistant

Amei graduated from Columbia University in 2021 with a B.A. in Neuroscience & Behavior. During her time there, she investigated cue-mediated spatial navigation in the dentate gyrus in the Hen Lab and volunteered as an EMT. Amei is fascinated by all things neuroscience and hopes to continue her learning through pursuing medicine. Outside of the lab, Amei enjoys learning new instruments, trying her hand at challenging recipes, reading, and exploring the bay. Her next adventure will be attending the Stanford's Medical School.


Zane Conant Norville



Zane is a Stanford graduate who majored in Bioengineering. He worked in the Malenka and STAAR labs since his frosh year, and completed a senior honors thesis that combined machine learning with optogenetic stimulation and fiber photometry during aggressive behavior. Outside of the lab, he is the National Co-President of United Students for Veterans' Health and enjoys distance running and spending time outdoors. His next adventure will be attending the Stanford's Medical School.


Amber Osterman

Research Assistant


Amber graduated in ’19 of Smith College, where she earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in biology. She then was a NIMH Post-Bac researcher at Vassar College in Dr. Bojana Zupan’s lab. Amber has moved on to attend UW Madison to study the relationships among genetic and environmental factors programming neurodevelopment, brain function, sex differences, and behavior. Outside of lab Amber is an avid reader and gardener.


Blake Zhou

Graduate student


Blake is a first-year in the neuroscience PhD program at Stanford. They received a BS in brain and cognitive sciences in 2020 from MIT, where they studied adult neurogenesis in rodents in the Heiman lab and profiled recurrent thalamocortical networks in the Sur lab. Blake is interested in learning, neurodevelopment, and aging. In their free time, Blake enjoys cooking, crafting, and firespinning.


Sabrina Jones

Rotating Graduate Student


Sabrina is a rotating PhD student from the Neurosciences IDP program. She completed her undergraduate studies at the University of Arkansas, majoring in Physics, Psychology, and Spanish. During undergrad, she worked in the Shew lab, investigating spontaneous neural activity in visual cortex and its behavioral correlates. She is interested in applying computational approaches and modeling to study learning and other cognitive processes. In her free time, she enjoys running, hiking, playing with her dog Pete, and baking.


Nour Omar

Rotating Graduate Student


Nour is a first-year Neuroscience Phd student. She completed her undergraduate studies in Cognitive and Behavioral Neuroscience and Psychology at Virginia Tech where her research focused on the molecular and epigenetic mechanisms of memory formation during different behavioral paradigms associated with PTSD. Nour is interested in learning, memory, and social interactions associated with neurodevelopmental disorders. In her free time, she enjoys swimming, hanging out with friends, and painting. 

  Our funders 

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Our lab is located right in the heart of Stanford's medical campus


Don't miss the Chihuly glass sculpture in the lobby of our building

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