White Structure

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

Neir Eshel, MD, PhD

PI, co-founder

he/him/his

Neir's 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!  

Brandon Bentzley, MD, PhD

Co-founder, on leave

he/him/his

Brandon's 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.

Lara Taniguchi

Research assistant

she/her/hers

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

she/her/hers

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

he/him/his

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

she/her and they/them

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.

Zane Conant Norville

Undergraduate

he/him/his

Zane is a Stanford senior majoring in Bioengineering. He has worked in the Malenka and STAAR labs since his frosh year, and is now completing a senior honors thesis that combines 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.

Daniel Cardozo Pinto

Graduate student collaborator

he/him/his

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

Gavin Touponse

Medical student

he/him/his

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.

Ariana Rodrigues

High school student

she/her/hers

Ariana is a junior at Presentation High School in San Jose who is passionate about science and math. She is fascinated by neuroscience, and the world of biology in general, and hopes to further study these areas in college by possibly majoring in fields such as neurobiology or biochemistry. In her free time, she loves to draw, read, play piano, and tutor elementary students. She is thrilled to be a part of STAAR Lab’s research!

Jason Tucciarone, MD, PhD

Co-founder, collaborator

he/him/his

Jason is a 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.

Rob Malenka, MD, PhD

Senior Advisor

he/him/his

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.

  Our funders 

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

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