The lab, circa Fall 2019

Lab Members

Kevin J. Bender, Ph.D.

Kevin is an Associate Professor in Residence in the Department of Neurology, and holds an Endowed Chair in Honor of the Gallo Family. He received his PhD from UC San Diego, where he worked with Dan Feldman (now at UC Berkeley). His thesis focused on understanding the cellular mechanisms of cortical map plasticity, which is how circuits rewire to represent altered sensory input. Following graduate training, Kevin moved to Portland, Oregon for postdoctoral training with Larry Trussell at the Oregon Health & Science University and Vollum Institute. There, Kevin identified new cellular mechanisms involved in initiating and modulating neuronal output. Outside the lab, he enjoys hiking and mountain biking around the Bay Area.

Twitter: @neurobender

Graduate students

Anna Lipkin

Anna's thesis will focus on the development and function of different GABAergic circuits in prefrontal cortex. She was awarded an NSF Graduate Fellowship for this work! Before coming to UCSF, Anna studied the role of the striatum in choice learning at the National Institutes of Health. Outside of the lab, she enjoys watching and dancing ballet, reading, and commenting on how pretty the fog is. She is an active member of several UCSF science communication groups, including The Fog at Bay and Carry the One Radio.

Twitter: @anna_lipkin




Perry Spratt

Perry studies everything aboot dendritic integration, plasticity, and neuromodulation. He is an NSERC, Genentech and Discovery Fellow. As an undergraduate, Perry studied development in frog visual circuits at McGill University. Outside of lab, he can be found biking up or skiing down mountains.

Twitter: @PerrySpratt



Selin Schamiloglu

Selin recently joined the lab and is interested in studying the role of the D3 receptor in second generation antipsychotic efficacy in the brain. She comes from a behavior and in vivo background, first at Josh Gordon’s lab (then at Columbia University) and then in Anatol Kreitzer’s lab at UCSF. Now, she’s excited to dig more into the electrophysiological properties of individual neurons. In her spare time, you can find her at the farmer’s market, her kitchen, or running along Embarcadero.

Twitter: @sschamiloglu

Chenyu Wang

Chenyu joined the lab in 2019, developing an interest in understanding how dysfunction in sodium channels alters circuits and behavior in mouse. Outside the lab, Chenyu is a rabid Oakland A's fan, attending all home games this past year. Despite this, they didn't get as far in the playoffs as the Yankees. This makes Kevin and Selin happy, and will continue to make them happy since it will never change.



Serena Tamura (affiliate)

Serena, who is technically a graduate student in the Ahituv Lab at UCSF, has been working with us to develop new methods to modulate gene function in the context of neurodevelopmental disorders. Before coming to UCSF Serena studied non human primates monkey models of neurodevelopmental disorders and also worked as a clinical researcher at Stanford. Serena is a PhD candidate in the Pharmaceutical Sciences and Pharmacogenomics Program and is an Autism Science Foundation and Discovery Fellow. Outside of lab, Serena enjoys keto baking and spending time with her dogs.

Postdoctoral fellows

Roy Ben-Shalom, Ph.D.

Roy joined the lab with a wealth of computational experience, but nary a patching bone in his body. Now he patches like a fiend, and codes like something even more fiendish. Roy is studying channelopathies associated with autism spectrum disorder, and developing new ways to leverage computational tools to understand neuronal disorders. He is the lead of the NeuroGPU program within the lab, which is aimed at delivering high-end computational power in cost-friendly packages. He is an F32 individual training grant awardee from NIMH.

Twitter: @roybensh

Andrew Nelson, Ph.D.

Andrew joins us from the great Midwest. He is studying channelopathies linked to autism spectrum disorder and evaluating new therapeutic strategies to restore channel function. Andrew received his PhD in Pharmacology from the University of Michigan under the mentorship of Paul Jenkins. His thesis focused on understanding the molecular mechanisms of GABAergic synapse connectivity and how abnormalities in inhibitory circuits may contribute to neuropsychiatric disease. Outside of lab, he enjoys playing hockey, golfing, and spending time with family and friends at the lake.



Lab Manager

Atehsa Sahagun



Undergraduate scholars 

We have a number of undergraduates who have worked in the lab in the past few years, largely with Dr. Roy Ben-Shalom on various computational projects. These are typically as part of the Undergraduate Research Apprenticeship Program at UC Berkeley.

Nikhil Shridhar Athreya
Christopher Cross
Hersh Sanghvi
Kyung Geun Kim
Ebrahem Farooqui
Matthew Tinwai Sit 
David Mao
Hugh Jiang
Nathan Fong

Former lab members

Kenneth (Ken) Burke

Ken's research focused on cellular mechanisms that modulate transmitter release.  Ask him about PPR. He was an ARCS Fellow during his time in the lab. As an undergraduate, Ken studied Parkinson’s disease at Emory University. His non-science interests include board games, foreign languages, a terrible football team from New England, and his garden. Ken took a summer sabbatical during his last year in the lab, learning the ins and outs of AI and machine learning as a Google intern. He is now doing research on artificial neural networks or image recognition at Google AI.

Twitter: @KenBurkeJr

Jegath (Jiggy) Athilingam

Jiggy studies how serotonin modulates the activity of prefrontal interneurons. She was the recepient of an NIMH F31 training grant. Before grad school, she studied the effects of cocaine on structural plasticity. Outside of lab, you can find her cooking Indian food, running, surfing, hiking with her dog, or protesting in the streets. Her new life is lots of the latter, as she has moved into the world of politics and policy, trying to make this world a better place.

Twitter: @jiggy_ca


Rebecca (Becky) Clarkson, Ph.D.

Becky was the first graduate student in the Bender lab, beginning her studies in 2011. An NSF Fellow, her graduate research focused on the distribution and function of dopamine receptors in prefrontal circuits. She applied machine learning techniques to improve classification accuracy of distinct dopamine-receptor-expressing neuronal populations. She enjoys group fitness classes (Zumba!), folk and contra dancing, and attending improv shows all around San Francisco. Becky has moved on to data science, and now working with a small startup in Cupertino, called Apple, and is focused on health sciences.


Gina Rinetti-Vargas, Ph.D.

During her postdoctoral fellowship, Gina examined the development of inhibitory circuits in prefrontal cortex, and found that pyramidal cell responses to chandelier cell input mature far slower than their dendritic bretheren. We are building on this work, investigating how this delayed maturation affects network properties in the adolescent brain. Gina has moved on from Herculean perforated patch sessions and is currently delving into big data as a scientist at Kaiser-Permanente.


Sungchil Yang, Ph.D.

During his postdoctoral fellowship, Sungchil found that D3 dopamine receptors make use of a novel, arrestin-dependent signaling cascade to regulate axonal calcium channels. We are currently building on this work, investigating when and how different signaling pathways are recruited in dopaminergic systems. Sungchil now has his own lab at City University of Hong Kong. He also dresses better than the rest of us.



Alayna Liptak

Alayna was our first lab manager when this whole thing got started at the Gallo Center. She joined us from Amherst College, where she was patching oocytes full of funky currents. Before moving on to persue a nursing degree, she was a project manager with the Huntington's group at UCSF. Outside of lab, Alayna protested with Jiggy and taught high school kids the ins and outs of lacrosse. She is notoriously hard to capture on camera.



Caroline Keeshen

In addition to keeping the ship sailing, Caroline was our resident histologist, focused on ion channel distribution in the axon initial segment. Before coming to UCSF, Caroline studied striatal morphological differences in transgenic mice at UC Berkeley and patterns of connectivity between OFC and A1 following auditory training at the University of Maryland. When not in the lab, she enjoys climbing tall things and writing haikus. Caroline headed to UC Davis to join their neuroscience graduate program in the fall of 2019.