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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.

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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.
Machhindra Garad, Postdoc

Machhindra grew up in India. He completed bachelor’s degree in Pharmacy from India, during which he became drawn into Neuroscience field leading to Masters in Neuroscience from Germany. For Masters dissertation, Machhindra studied recruitment of brain-derived neurotrophic factor signaling in synaptic plasticity at mossy fibre -CA3 synapses in hippocampus of mice. In 2021, Machhindra completed his PhD from Germany, where he studied synaptic plasticity mechanisms at single neuron level in the hippocampus of Alzheimer’s disease mouse model. In his spare time, he enjoys running, bouldering, yoga, and hiking.
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Kevin Dinh, Undergrad

Kevin was born and raised in Garden Grove, California, and went to the University of California, Riverside (UCR) for a bachelor’s degree in Biology (B.S.). Kevin looked up to his uncle who was in the process of getting his Ph.D. in organic chemistry and wanted to explore research for himself. He began his lab studies as a third year in the Haga-Yamanaka lab, learning the basics of lab work and culture, understanding more about the olfactory system, and developing a curiosity to learn more about neuroscience and biology. In 2022, Kevin joined the Yang lab as a student assistant and is expected to graduate in 2023. After graduation, Kevin is interested in and hopes to get into graduate school for a Ph.D. of his own. He enjoys watching anime, movies, indoor rock climbing, and hiking.
 Morale support team (a.k.a. Troublemakers)
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and all of the mice


Simran Bhogal, undergrad assistant

Sandra Saborio, undergrad assistant

Yina Sun, Postdoc. Now: Research associate, Western University 
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Jennifer Shyong, Junior specialist
Now: Graduate student, USC

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.
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Zahra Ghasemahmad, Postdoc
Now: Postdoc, Harvard University

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.
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Jim McBurney-Lin, Graduate student
Now: Scientist, Akoya biosciences

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.
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Lucas Tortorelli, Postdoc
Now: Research associate, NIDA

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.
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