Elena Itskovich, Ph.D.

Postdoctoral Fellow

Years in Lab: 2018 - present 

I recently joined the Parker Lab to study the molecular and cellular mechanisms underlying the development of social cognition impairments implicated in neurodevelopmental and neuropsychiatric disorders. Previously, I studied medical and biological sciences at Tel Aviv University for my Bachelors of Science degree. For my Master's degree, I studied at the Weizmann Institute in the laboratory of Prof. Michal Schwartz, exploring the role of the innate immune system in the central nervous system. Using retinal neuropathies models, I found that monocyte-derived macrophages protect neural cells from injury and can activate neural progenitor proliferation. This led me to explore cell fate regulation in the laboratory of Prof. Rudolf Jaenisch at the Whitehead Institute. There, together with Dr. Yossi Buganim, I studied cell reprogramming towards induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) and helped to develop a protocol to direct cell reprogramming to embryonic Sertoli-like cells using transcription factors. To further gain insight into cell fate decisions, for my Ph.D. thesis at Cambridge University, I studied the role of epigenetic regulators in the specification of primordial germ cells in the laboratory of Prof. Azim Surani. There I found that BRD4 plays a key role in transcriptional activation of PGC-related genes, required for primordial germ cell specification in both mouse and human models. 

Awards and Accomplishments:

  • International society for stem cells research (ISSCR) Abstract Merit Award and Travel Award (2017)
  • Imanova Best Speaker Prizes 3rd place PDN, University of Cambridge, department presentations (2016)
  • Wellcome Trust 4 year PhD Stem Cells Scholarship (2012-2017)
  • Cambridge International Scholarship for PhD in Physiology (2012-2017)
  • Era-Net Neuron - Excellent Paper in Neuroscience Award (2012)