Updated July 13, 2021
Vosshall Lab Members
Leslie B. Vosshall PhD
Robin Chemers Neustein Professor and HHMI Investigator
Leslie B Vosshall is the Robin Chemers Neustein Professor, Head of the Laboratory of Neurogenetics and Behavior, and Director of the Kavli Neural Systems Institute at The Rockefeller University. She is a molecular neurobiologist known for her work on the genetic basis of chemosensory behavior in both insects and humans. Her notable contributions to science include the discovery of the insect odorant receptors, and the elucidation of general principles regarding their function, expression, and the connectivity of the sensory neurons that express them to primary processing centers in the brain. She founded the Rockefeller University Smell Study in 2004 with the goal of understanding the mechanisms by which odor stimuli are converted to olfactory percepts. Vosshall received an A.B. in Biochemistry from Columbia University in 1987 and a Ph.D. from Rockefeller University in 1993. Following postdoctoral work at Columbia University, she joined the Rockefeller faculty in 2000. She is the recipient of the 2008 Lawrence C. Katz Prize from Duke University, the 2010 DART/NYU Biotechnology Award, the 2011 Gill Young Investigator Award, the 2020 National Academy of Sciences Pradel Research Award, and the 2021 W. Alden Spencer Award (joint with Kristin Scott). Vosshall is an elected fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and a member of the National Academy of Sciences. Photo: HHMI (2019)
Nipun is a 2015 graduate of Grinnell College, where he received a BA in Chemistry, and was elected to Phi Beta Kappa. He was a summer undergraduate research fellow at the Mayo Clinic in 2014, where he worked with Jim Maher on a project that investigated protein-mediated DNA loops. At Grinnell, Nipun worked in Mark Levandoski’s lab, where he studied allosteric modulation of the nicotinic acetylcholine receptor. He rotated in the lab in Fall-Winter 2015, working with Ellen DeObaldia on microbiome-driven mosquito attraction, and with Laura Duvall on neuropeptide biology in Aedes aegypti mosquitoes. Nipun joined the Vosshall Lab in Fall 2016 and is studying the genetic and anatomical basis of sexually dimorphic behaviors in the mosquito. Photo: Trevor Sorrells
High School Summer Intern
Rashaun is a high school student at Trevor Day School in New York City. He is a participant in the highly selective Prep for Prep leadership development program. Rashaun is working with Olivia Goldman in the summer of 2021. He also supports general lab operations mentored by Libby Mejia.
Maria Elena (Ellen) De Obaldia PhD
Ellen earned an A.B. with high honors in Biology from Harvard College in 2008. As an undergraduate, she studied in vivo vasculogenesis from human cord-blood derived progenitor cells in Joyce Bischoff’s laboratory at Children’s Hospital Boston. She went on to complete PhD training in Immunology, mentored by Avinash Bhandoola at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, graduating in 2014. Ellen was awarded the Tom Kadesch Prize in Genetic Research and the Saul Winegrad, MD Outstanding Dissertation Award for her thesis work on mechanisms of T cell lineage commitment. Ellen joined the Vosshall Lab in 2014, with a broad interest in studying the interactions between anthropophilic disease vector mosquitoes and their mammalian hosts, from which they must obtain a blood meal to reproduce. Specifically, Ellen is investigating why Aedes aegypti mosquitoes prefer skin odor from some humans over that of others. Further, she wants to understand the mechanistic basis for the preference of Aedes aegypti for biting humans over other non-human mammals, using novel in vivo and ex vivo animal models. Ellen envisions that the answers to these fundamental questions will suggest novel ways to deter mosquito biting behavior and disease spread. Ellen is the recipient of a 2014 Harvey L. Karp Discovery Award, is a 2016 Helen Hay Whitney Foundation Fellow, and is a recipient of a 2017 pilot award from the Rockefeller University Center for Clinical and Translational Science (RUCCTS), supported by the NIH National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences (NIH/NCATS). Photo: Trevor Sorrells
SMELL-RS study consultant
M (Melisa) Dougherty is a nonbinary artist and designer, concerned with research and intention. Influenced by ancient techniques and practices, where humans first faced the conception of machine, M moves fluidly between artistic mediums in an attempt to better study the juxtaposition of technology and humanity. Playing with memory and perception, their work often combines soft science and artistic expression. These explorations manifest primarily through environmental design, scent art, installation, performance, and visual / video work. In the Vosshall Lab they are serving as a consultant on the SMELL-RS project led by Andreas Keller. Photo: credit.
Administrative Assistant II
Barbara previously was the administrator for laboratory of Markus Stoffel and joined our group in 2006. In the Vosshall Lab, Barbara expertly handles all aspects of laboratory administration. Photo: Trevor Sorrells
Olivia earned her BA in neuroscience in 2010 from Barnard College of Columbia University. As an undergraduate, she worked with John Glendinning on fetal ethanol exposure-induced changes in the peripheral taste system of rats. From 2014-2016, supervised by Eleanor Simpson and Eric Kandel, she worked as a research assistant using behavioral pharmacology and microdialysis to investigate 5-HT2c modulation on tonic dopamine release during motivated behavior. Subsequently, she worked for a year as a science journalist. In 2017, She rotated in the Vosshall laboratory in 2017, working with Laura Duvall on behavioral assays studying inter-species mosquito mating and host-seeking. She joined the lab in 2018 and now investigates contact chemosensation in mosquitoes and the neurobiological mechanisms underlying the efficacy of insect repellents, including DEET. She was a fellow of the Women & Science Initiative in 2017, the recipient of the NSF Graduate Research Fellowship in 2019 and was named a Kavli Neural Systems Institute Graduate Fellow in 2021. Photo: Trevor Sorrells.
Leah Houri-Zeevi PhD
Leah started her first steps in academia in the Adi Lautman Interdisciplinary program for excellent students at Tel Aviv University, where she studied a variety of disciplines ranging from Philosophy, History and Law, towards Psychology, Neuroscience, and biology. In 2013, she joined the Oded Rechavi lab for her MSc. studies in the department of Neurobiology at Tel Aviv University. In her Master’s research, Leah studies the effects of early life starvation on transgenerational inheritance of small RNAs in C. elegans nematodes. She earned her MSc degree, summa cum laude, in 2014 and continued directly to obtain a PhD from Tel Aviv University in the Sagol School of Neuroscience graduate program. In her PhD research, Leah dove into the basic mechanism of transgenerational inheritance of small RNAs, seeking for the basic rules that govern the inheritance across generations, and was the recipient of the Clore PhD fellowship. Leah joined the Vosshall lab in July 2019, where she studies the transcriptional and epigenetic basis of long-term behavioral changes following mating in mosquitoes. She is a 2019 recipient of Rockefeller University Women & Science postdoctoral fellowship, and the Israeli National Postdoctoral award for advancing women in science. She was selected as a 2020 Junior Fellow of the Simons Society of Fellows, The Simons Foundation. Photo: Trevor Sorrells
Andreas Keller PhD
Guest Investigator and Lead Scientist, SMELL-RS
Andreas received his PhD degree in Genetics from the Julius-Maximilian-University in Wuerzburg, Germany, where he worked with Dr. Martin Heisenberg. He also holds a PhD degree in Philosophy from the City University of New York (2015) where he worked with Dr. Jesse Prinz. He is the 2019 recipient of the Barry Jacobs Memorial Award for Research in the Psychophysics of Human Taste and Smell and the author of The Philosophy of Olfactory Perception as well as numerous journal articles. Andreas currently works towards developing and commercializing a diagnostic test of olfactory function and since 2020 is the founder and owner of the downtown NYC art gallery Olfactory Art Keller
. Photo: Ronniedavidphotography.com, 2011
Priyanka earned her B.Sc. degree in Biology with a minor in mathematics from New York University Abu Dhabi in 2019. As an undergraduate, she worked with Kirsten Sadler Edepli on stress-dependent transcriptomic signatures in zebrafish livers, and with Claude Desplan on the regulation of neuronal identity in Drosophila. She rotated in the lab in Spring 2020, working with Olivia Goldman on characterizing chemosensory neurons in the sensory appendages of Aedes aegypti. She joined the lab in Fall 2020 and is working on the evolution of Aedes aegypti behavior, specifically by identifying lineage-specific genes. Photo: Trevor Sorrells
Mona obtained her undergraduate degree in biochemistry with honors from Columbia College of Columbia University in 2020. She spent her junior year abroad studying biological sciences at Newnham College, University of Cambridge as part of the Columbia College Oxbridge Scholars Program. In 2018, she worked in Harris Wang’s lab at Columbia as part of the iGEM program, developing a test for pathogenic bacteria. At Cambridge in 2019, she worked in Mario De Bono’s lab developing techniques for regulated protein degradation in C. elegans. From 2019-2020, Mona worked in Marty Chalfie’s lab at Columbia, screening for mutations that affect touch receptor neuron ensheathment in C. elegans. She joined the Vosshall Lab in September 2020 to establish a mosquito microinjection facility and collaborate with Leah Houri-Zeevi on her mosquito mating project.
Laboratory Assistant II
Libby joined our group in 2012 as a half-time laboratory helper. She was promoted to Laboratory Assistant II in 2021. She provides expert help with a wide variety of lab support functions for the Vosshall Laboratory. She has worked with a number of laboratories at The Rockefeller University over the past decade, including Dr. Tarun Kapoor’s group. Photo: Trevor Sorrells
Takeshi Morita PhD
Takeshi received his BS in Physiology and Neuroscience from the University of California, San Diego, where he was also a research assistant in the laboratory of Dan Feldman. He earned a PhD in Molecular and Cell Biology from the University of California, Berkeley in 2016. His graduate thesis work was carried out jointly with Diana Bautista and Rachel Brem, studying the molecular mechanisms of itch. In the Vosshall Lab, he is studying molecular mechanisms of thermotaxis in the mosquito. Takeshi is a Harvey L. Karp Discovery Fellow and a recipient of a JSPS Postdoctoral Fellowship. Photo: Trevor Sorrells
Lauren (Lola) Neal
Lola obtained her undergraduate degree from Agnes Scott College in 2020, and rotated in the Vosshall Lab in Fall 2020. She worked with Krithika Venkataraman on two novel ovary-specific genes. She joined the Vosshall Lab as a PhD student in summer 2021.
Rotation PhD student
Jacopo joined the Vosshall Lab in Summer 2021, working with Olivia Goldman on imaging taste responses in mosquito tarsi.
Adriana received her B.S. degree from Universidad Iberoamericana in Nutrition and Food Science. Following her interest for research she received her M.S. from CINVESTAV in Molecular Biomedicine where she studied the impact of sweeteners on gut microbiota and kidney injury. In 2017 she worked as a Research Assistant at Ken Cadwell’s lab in NYU focusing in host-pathogen interactions and analyzing the expression of TLR4 in a mice model of inflammatory bowel disease. Adriana joined the PhD program at The Rockefeller University in 2019. She is a recipient of the 2019-2020 Women & Science Fellowship. She rotated in the Vosshall lab in Spring 2020, working with Trevor Sorrells on the mosquito persistent behavior state in response to various stimuli. She joined the lab in Fall 2020 and is working on mechanisms of blood and nectar detection by the mosquito stylet. Photo: Trevor Sorrells
Nadav Shai PhD
Nadav earned his BS in biology with research honors from Ben-Gurion University of the Negev in 2011. He went on to obtain an MS in biology from Ben-Gurion University of the Negev in
2013 working in the laboratory of Anat Ben-Zvi in 2013 were he study the connection between protein folding and aging in C. elegance. In his thesis work, he studied how the onset of reproduction regulates protein folding in the adult animal. Nadav earned a PhD in Molecular and Cell Biology from the Weizmann institute of science, working in the laboratory of Maya Schuldiner in 2018. At the Schuldiner lab, he developed a fluorescence complementation assay for identifying sub-cellular contact sites between organelles. Using high-throughput tools in yeast he further characterized the structure and function of the Mitochondria-Peroxisomes contact site. He joined the Vosshall Lab in December 2018 and is studying how visceral tissues regulate mosquito attraction to humans. He is a 2019 recipient of EMBO Long-Term Fellowship. Photo: Trevor Sorrells
Trevor Sorrells PhD
Trevor earned his BS in biology with research honors at Stanford University in 2009. As an undergraduate, he worked on the behavioral ecology of invasive and native ant species in the laboratory of Deborah Gordon, and ribosome-associated chaperones in the laboratory of Judith Frydman. He went on to obtain a PhD from UCSF in the Tetrad Graduate Program, working in the laboratory of Alexander D. “Sandy” Johnson in 2016. In the Johnson Lab, he studied the evolution of transcriptional networks. He was the recipient of an NSF Graduate Research Fellowship, and a Jane Coffin Childs Postdoctoral Fellowship. He joined the Vosshall Lab in February 2016, and is studying the genetic and neural basis of motivated behavior in the mosquito. He is a 2019 recipient of a Kavli Neural Systems Institute Postdoctoral Fellowship. Photo: Trevor Sorrells
Laboratory Assistant I
Doreen graduated from the Federal School of Chemistry in Göttingen, Germany where she trained to be a pharmaceutical technical assistant. She was was employed in formulation laboratories in various pharmacies in Germany and for a time worked for Robert Bosch Power Tools GmbH. In 2012, she worked in the tissue culture biotechnology division of Lonza Houston, Inc. Doreen joined the Vosshall Lab in Summer 2021 and supports all aspects of laboratory operations.
High School Summer Intern
Ahanaf is a high school student at Phillips Academy in Andover, MA. He is a participant in the highly selective Prep for Prep leadership development program. Ahanaf is working with Olivia Goldman in the summer of 2021. He also supports general lab operations mentored by Libby Mejia.
Yael Tsitohay received her undergraduate degree from Smith College. After college, she worked as a research assistant in the laboratory of Mike Greenberg at Harvard Medical School. She rotated in the lab in the fall of 2019, working with Nipun Basrur on female mosquito feeding and sexual behavior. She joined the Vosshall Lab in the fall of 2020 and is developing new tools to monitor sexually dimorphic circuits and behaviors in the mosquito.
Krithika Venkataraman earned a B.A. magna cum laude from Smith College in 2015, with highest honors in biochemistry and a minor in neuroscience. She was elected to Phi Beta Kappa and Sigma Xi. At Smith College, Krithika studied gene regulation in filarial parasites in the laboratory of Steven A. Williams. For this work, she was awarded the 2014-2015 McKinley Honors Fellowship and the 2015 Margaret Wemple Brigham Prize from Smith College. Krithika was a summer intern in the laboratory of Dr. Utpal Tatu at the Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore, India, where she worked on methods to control infections caused by protozoan parasites. She was also a visiting summer student in the laboratory of Kevin C. O’Connor at the Yale School of Medicine, where she investigated the role of muscle-specific tyrosine kinase (MuSK) autoantibodies in myasthenia gravis pathology. Krithika entered the PhD program at The Rockefeller University in 2015, and joined the laboratory of Leslie B. Vosshall. Currently, as a PhD candidate, Krithika studies how female Aedes aegypti mosquitoes regulate their attraction to humans depending on their reproductive physiology. Specifically, she is interested in how mosquito-specific genes and endocrine signaling modulate mosquito attraction. The broader goal of her work is to elucidate novel points of intervention to break the deadly biting cycles of disease vector mosquitoes. She is a recipient of the 2015-2016 Women & Science Fellowship and the 2018-2019 David Rockefeller PhD Fellowship from The Rockefeller University. She was also awarded the 2018 Boehringer Ingelheim Fonds PhD Fellowship. Photo: Trevor Sorrells
Meg Younger PhD
Meg earned a BS in neural science with honors in 2004 from New York University. As an undergraduate, she worked with Justin Blau at NYU on circadian rhythms in Drosophila and with David Spray at Albert Einstein College of Medicine on mammalian gap junction channels. She went on to earn a PhD in neuroscience from the University of California, San Francisco in 2013, working with Graeme Davis. Her graduate thesis concerned the role of ENaC sodium channels in synaptic homeostasis and plasticity in Drosophila. Meg earned a Genentech Fellowship in 2009 for her graduate work and was awarded the Sherrington, Charles Barbeiri, and Phi Beta Kappa Research prizes for her undergraduate research. She was a Grass Fellow at the Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole, Massachusetts in summer 2014. After joining the Vosshall Lab, Meg earned a Leon Levy Neuroscience Fellowship in 2015 and a Jane Coffin Childs Postdoctoral Fellowship in 2016. Meg is using neurophysiology and calcium imaging to study neural circuits in the mosquito brain. Meg also developed the mosquito brain atlas mosquitobrains.org, with the support of a Kavli Neural Systems Institute Pilot grant. She is a 2018 Kavli Neural Systems Institute postdoctoral fellow. Meg is starting her own laboratory at Boston University in 2022. Photo: Trevor Sorrells
High School Summer Intern
Ashley is a rising high school junior at the Dr. Richarch A. Vladovic Harbor Teacher Preparation Academy in Wilmington, CA. She is also taking classes at Los Angeles Harbor College in Wilmington, CA. She was a recipient of the Principals Award in 2019 and 2020. Ashley is working the Vosshall lab in July 2021. She supports general lab operations mentored by Libby Mejia.
Emely obtained her high school degree from the California Academy of Mathematics & Science in 2016 and her undergraduate degree from Middlebury College in 2020. She is the recipient of a Posse Foundation Full-Tuition Merit Leadership Scholarship. At Middlebury, she was a research assistant in the Cluss lab, studying the biology of Borrelia burgdorferi, the causative agent of Lyme Disease. In 2019, she was a Biomedical Near-Peer Mentor in the Army Educational Outreach Program (AEOP) at Walter Reed Army Institute of Research (WRAIR), Silver Spring, MD. She joined the Vosshall Lab as a research assistant in Fall 2020, working with Laura Duvall on an RTDF-funded project developing novel mosquito appetite-modulating compounds. She was promoted to Lab Coordinator in the summer of 2021.