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Hongdian studied physics as an undergrad at Nanjing University, China. During that time, he was fascinated by neuroscience, particularly the functions of sleep and dreams, although none of his later work is related to these topics. He pursued his Ph.D. in characterizing and understanding population neuronal dynamics under the framework of statistical physics, phase transition and E/I balance, supervised by a physicist Rajarshi Roy at University of Maryland and a neuroscientist Dietmar Plenz at National Institute of Mental Health. In 2012, Hongdian moved to Johns Hopkins and did his postdoc work with Dan O'Connor to investigate cellular and circuit mechanisms of tactile perception. In 2016, he established his own lab at UC Riverside, with the aim to elucidate the roles of neuromodulation in shaping perception and decision making. Outside of the lab, Hongdian enjoys photography, movies and video games.

Jim McBurney-Lin, Graduate student
Jim was born in Singapore and moved to California during elementary school. He became fascinated with the brain and the study of neuroscience during high school AP biology, leading to his pursuit of a bachelor’s degree in physiology and neuroscience at UC San Diego. There, he divided his time between studying the neural development of fruit flies and devising the fastest way to get to the beach from campus. After graduating, Jim spent a couple years working as a research technician, developing clinical diagnostic assays, before moving on to join the Yang lab at UC Riverside. In his spare time, he enjoys hiking, surfing, and rock climbing.
Lucas Tortorelli, Postdoc
Lucas grew up in Porto Alegre, Brazil, and performed undergraduate in Biological Sciences, PhD in Biochemistry (UFRGS) and a brief postdoc (UFCSPA).  During this period Lucas studied the involvement of inflammation in rodent behavior, neuropathology and astrocytic damage. Then Lucas moved to Dublin, Ireland, and worked as a postdoc researcher in a neuroimmunology lab (TCD) focused on animal models of delirium with translational approach. After that, Lucas moved to Riverside and joined Yang Lab. Lucas also enjoys psychology, social sciences, philosophy and arts.
Marco Nigro, Postdoc
Marco was born in Brescia, Italy, and moved to Milan in pursuit of a bachelor’s degree in Pharmaceutical Biotechnology. During this period he became fascinated of neuroscience field, leading to his pursuit of  master degree in Neurobiology (University of Pavia) and Ph.D. in Neuroscience and Neurotechnologies (IIT). During these periods Marco has been involved in different research projects starting with the study of energy metabolism protein and cellular plasticity in learned helpless rats, moved to the analysis of different isoforms of the receptor after transient ischemic attack and extracellular recordings in freely moving animals during social behavior paradigms in mouse models for psychiatric disorders. Later, he briefly worked as a postdoc researcher in drug development lab focused on X-fragile syndrome.  After that, he joined Yang Lab at UC Riverside. Marco also enjoys basketball, playing guitar and other science fields such as physic and astronomy.
Gréta Vargová, Postdoc
Greta grew up in Slovakia where she pursued her undergraduate studies in molecular biology and PhD in neuroscience. In her doctoral research at the Slovak Academy of Sciences, Greta co-developed, applied and characterized several types of adeno-associated viral vectors expressing human truncated tau and red fluorophore mCherry in equal ratio. These AAV vectors were developed to induce Alzheimer’s disease-like pathology in wildtype mice. She performed two-photon calcium imaging in awake mice to investigate the effects of developing neurodegeneration on cortical circuits. Greta also had the opportunity to participate in long-term research at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, where she studied the role of cortical feedback projections in sensory perception. In her free time, she enjoys exploring new places, reading and sports.
Marine Megemont, Postdoc
Marine grew up in France where she pursued her undergraduate in physiology and pharmacology. She become fascinated by neuroscience field, leading her to do a Ph.D. in Neuroscience. During her doctoral research in the laboratory Neuro-Dol in Clermont-Ferrand (UCA), she studied the role of glial cells, and more specifically astrocyte, in a model of chronic migraine developed in rats. She used behavioral and in-vivo extracellular recording of WDR neurons in Sp5C in anesthetized animal to investigate the role of neuron/astrocyte interactions in the progression of the disease. After her Ph.D she moved to Riverside and joined Yang Lab’s team. In her free time Marine enjoy traveling, listening music and dance.
Zahra Ghasemahmad, Postdoc
Zahra received her B.S. and M.Sc. in audiology from Tehran University of Medical Sciences in Tehran, Iran. During her work as a clinical audiologist, she became interested in the neural mechanism underlying processing music and speech. After working as an audiologist in both academia and industry for a few years, she decided to pursue her passion in auditory neuroscience and thus, moved to U.S. and joined the laboratory of Jeff Wenstrup at Northeast Ohio Medical University/Kent State University for her Ph.D.. During this time, she investigated the role of neuromodulators in processing emotional vocal communications in the amygdala. Her work unraveled the involvement of dopamine and acetylcholine through the basolateral nucleus of amygdala in context- and state-dependent responses to emotional vocalizations. She then, joined Yang lab for her postdoc to explore the neural mechanism of decision-making. Outside of work, Zahra enjoys playing music, cooking, traveling, and hiking in nature.
 Morale support team (a.k.a. Troublemakers)
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Meow Meow
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and all of the mice


Simran Bhogal, undergrad assistant

Sandra Saborio, undergrad assistant

Yina Sun, postdoc
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Jennifer Shyong, Junior specialist
Jennifer was born and raised in the Bay Area and moved to Riverside in pursuit of a bachelor’s degree in biology. During her time as an undergraduate at UCR, she participated in research involving gene drives as well as studying the development of immature larval sensory systems in the mosquito vector, Aedes aegypti. After graduating, Jennifer continued working with mosquitoes for another year before joining the Yang lab. In her spare time, she enjoys traveling, hiking, and playing with her cat.