Updated February 24, 2024
Vosshall Lab Members
Leslie B. Vosshall PhD
Robin Chemers Neustein Professor and HHMI, Vice President and Chief Scientific Officer
Curriculum vitae (2024)
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, the 2021 W. Alden Spencer Award (together with Kristin Scott), and the 2024 Perl-UNC Neuroscience Prize. Vosshall is an elected fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and a member of the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Medicine, and the American Philosophical Society. Photo: HHMI (2019)
Lab Administration Research Technician
Melissa joined the lab in March 2022 and was promoted to Lab Administration Research Technician in October 2023. She supports all aspects of lab operations.
Alexandra “Allie” DeFoe
Research Assistant II
After attending high school in New Paltz, New York, Allie received her undergraduate degree in Biology and Political Science from the University of Vermont in 2021. At the University of Vermont she received the Presidential Scholarship and the Gund Institute Summer Research Award. She spent her three years as a research assistant in the lab of Allison Brody studying honeybee epidemiology and flower morphology. Additionally, she served on the founding board of the Vermont Bee Lab as a research and administrative coordinator. Allie joined the Vosshall Lab in December 2021 as a research assistant under the mentorship of Dr. Nadav Shai and PhD candidate Olivia Goldman. She is currently contributing to the Mosquito Cell Atlas project.
SMELL-RS study consultant
M 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.
Adelia Gaffney earned her undergraduate degree from New York University. She rotated in the lab in Spring 2023, mentored by Nadav Shai. During her rotation, Adelia worked with Nadav and Allie Defoe to investigate the chemosensory mechanisms that allow female mosquitoes to differentiate between blood and sugar meals. She worked to develop a method for ex-vivo functional calcium imaging of neurons in the mosquito digestive tract. Adelia joined the lab in the winter of 2023 and is developing a project to understand the neural basis of sexually dimorphic feeding behaviors in the mosquito. Photo: Umberto Palatini.
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 discovering the behavioral and anatomical rules governing female mosquito mating acceptance and has led the Exotic Mosquito Genome project, which is generating high-quality genomes of a number of blood-feeding and non-blood-feeding mosquito species. 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 from the Association for Chemoreception Sciences (AChemS) 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 function of two tightly-linked, rapidly evolving genes called Tweedledee and Tweedledum. Photo: Trevor Sorrells
Research Technician II
Libby joined our group in 2012 as a half-time laboratory helper. She was promoted to HHMI Research Technician 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, including the discovery of a novel mechanism of sensory compensation. 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, and is developing a molecular and cellular parts list of the female mosquito reproductive nervous system. She was named an HHMI Gilliam Fellow in 2022.
Umberto Palatini PhD
Umberto received his BSc in Biology in 2016 and his MSc with honors in Molecular Biology in 2017 from the University of Pavia. As an undergraduate, he studied anelloviridae infection dynamics in immunocompromised patients in the Molecular Virology Unit of San Matteo Hospital in Pavia. He joined the Bonizzoni laboratory at the University of Pavia in 2016, first as a Master and then as a PhD student, where he explored the biological role of endogenous viral elements in mosquito genomes. Umberto expanded his research to the mosquito small RNA pathways, visiting the Chen Lab at the Southern Medical University in Guangzhou (China) and the Rasgon Lab at Penn State University, thanks to an IGTRCN peer-to-peer fellowship. He completed his Phd in 2021 with a thesis describing the assembly of a novel reference genome for Aedes albopictus to study its immunity and evolution, which granted him an Award for Genomics from the Italian National Academy of Sciences. He joined the Vosshall lab in the summer of 2022 to study the effect of arboviral infection on Aedes aegypti neurobiology, with a grant from the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Institute for Global Infectious Disease Research. Umberto is the recipient of postdoctoral fellowships from the Human Frontier Science Program and EMBO. Photo: Trevor Sorrells
Jacopo received his BSc in Neuroscience at University of Dundee in 2021. As an undergraduate, he studied lemurs’ ecology in Northwestern Madagascar, neural coding of zebrafish motor control at Max Planck Institute of Neurobiology and the effect of acute exercise on cognition in humans at University of Northern British Columbia. In the fall of 2022 he joined the Vosshall lab to conduct a project aimed at understanding the neural and behavioral basis of common insect repellents. Jacopo is interested in modelling behavior using state-of-the-art computational and experimental tools. Outside of lab, Jacopo enjoys scuba diving, birdwatching, building Legos, and reading. He owns two dogs, two cats, one bearded dragon, and definitely too many fish.
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 ATP detection by the female 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 the female mosquito enteric nervous system discriminates between sugar and blood meals. He is also co-lead with former PhD student Olivia Goldman of the Mosquito Cell Atlas. He is a 2019 recipient of EMBO Long-Term Fellowship. Nadav was promoted to Senior Scientist in 2023. Photo: Trevor Sorrells
Rotation PhD Student
James Tang earned his Bachelor of Science in Cell and Developmental Biology and Bachelor of Arts in Economics, with a Minor in Statistics from the University of Rochester in May 2021. He carried out honors research in the laboatory of Dr. Michael Welte, studying the function of the heat shock factor HSF in the development of Drosophila melanogaster. James is rotating in the Vosshall Lab in spring-winter 2024, working with Jacopo Razzauti on mechanisms of contact chemorepellency in mosquitoes. Photo: Linked.in.
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 studying the function of a novel sex-specifically spliced nuclear protein called Carrie, first discovered by former PhD student Nipun Basrur.
Madison Walker received her B.S. degree in May 2022 from the University at Albany, SUNY in Biology with a minor in Mathematics. Starting in the summer of 2021, she worked in Dr. Ting Wang’s organic chemistry laboratory, focusing on visible-light mediated thiol-ene reactions. She joined the Vosshall lab in May 2022 to work under the mentorship of Leah Houri-Zeevi on her mosquito mating project. Madison established our in-house microinjection system and has collaborated with many lab members to generate transgenic and CRISPR-Cas9 gene-edited mosquitoes. Photo: Trevor Sorrells
Kenzie received her undergraduate degree in Neuroscience from Middlebury College in 2018. After a summer fellowship at Rockefeller University in 2017 in Vanessa Ruta’s lab, she joined full-time as a Research Assistant working on the structural underpinnings of insect olfaction. She then started at Rockefeller as a graduate student and joined the Vosshall Lab in June 2022. She is interested in using structural and molecular approaches to uncover the role of OATP ecdysone transporters in mosquito reproduction and vitellogenesis. She has received a Women & Science Fellowship as well as a NIH Genetics & Cell Biology Predoctoral Training Grant. Photo: Trevor Sorrells