Steinberg Lab Members

Gary K. Steinberg, MD, PhD

Bernard and Ronni Lacroute-William Randolph Hearst Professor of Neurosurgery and the Neurosciences and Professor, by courtesy, of Neurology

Dr. Gary Steinberg is the Founder and Co-Director of the Stanford Stroke Center,  Director of the Stanford Moyamoya Center and former Chair of the Stanford University Department of Neurosurgery. As a cerebrovascular and skull base neurosurgeon at Stanford for more than 33 years, he specializes in treating brain aneurysms, moyamoya disease, brain and spinal AVMs and other vascular malformations, carotid artery disease, meningiomas, skull base tumors, stroke, and hereditary hemorrhagic telangiectasia. He has pioneered microsurgical and radiosurgical techniques to repair intracranial vascular malformations and certain aneurysms that were previously considered untreatable. He has also refined revascularization techniques for patients with cerebrovascular arterial occlusions, as well as moyamoya disease.

Dr. Steinberg’s lab investigates pathomechanisms of cerebral ischemia and moyamoya disease, develops neuroprotective agents, and employs novel approaches such as stem cell transplantation and optogenetic stimulation to enhance post-stroke functional recovery. He has successfully translated this preclinical work into several stem cell clinical trials for stroke, spinal cord injury and traumatic brain injury, as well as leading numerous other clinical cerebrovascular trials.  

Lab Manager

Rani Agrawal

Rani has joined the Steinberg lab as Lab Manager. She received her MPhil in Analytical chemistry from Gwalior India and Masters in Biochemistry from CUNY. Rani has previously worked in understanding the role of beta adrenergic receptors in heart attack and hypertension in mouse model. Rani is looking forward to translating her knowledge from her previous cardiac lab to the brain, as well acting as the cerebellum in the lab bringing coordination and balance.

Senior Scientists

Tonya Bliss, PhD

Tonya received her BA from Oxford University, UK, and her PhD from the University Of Dundee, UK, where she studied p53, Ku and DNA repair. Following a brief post-doc in Cambridge, UK, she got her introduction to neuroscience in the lab of Dr Robert Sapolsky at Stanford University where she investigated the effects of stress and metabolism on neuron survival. As a senior scientist in the Steinberg lab she spearheads studies to understand and enhance the mechanisms of brain repair in rodent models of stroke with particular interest in stem cells, brain plasticity, and inflammation. 

Michelle Cheng, PhD

Michelle Cheng spearheads several projects that use optogenetic, imaging techniques and next generation sequencing to study post-stroke neural circuit dynamics and recovery mechanisms.  Her main interests are to study brain repair and recovery at both the neural circuit and molecular level, and to develop strategies to promote the recovery process. She received PhD in Pharmacology from UC Irvine.  Her PhD thesis focused on studying the role of a novel pair of gut peptides (Prokineticins) in the brain, including circadian rhythms and neurogenesis. During postdoc she further demonstrated Prokineticin 2 as a novel endangering mediator in stroke. Her postdoctoral work also includes developing neuroprotective gene therapy strategies for stroke, including the development of an insult-inducible gene therapy system that can be activated by hypoxia and reactive oxygen species. 

Research Scientists

ManKin Choy, PhD

ManKin Choy joined the Steinberg lab in 2020 as a research scientist with a background in preclinical neuroimaging. He is currently involved in several projects that aim to understand and improve recovery following ischemic stroke. He specializes in developing and using imaging methods, including structural and functional MRI, and in-vivo calcium imaging. He utilizes a multidisciplinary approach that incorporates optogenetics, behavior and advanced image processing tools. ManKin received his PhD from University College London, UK, where he investigated the impact of seizures with MRI, and he obtained his MSc in computer science from Imperial College London, UK, and his BSc in pharmacology from King’s College London, UK. His postdoctoral training was at UC Irvine, where he developed a predictive imaging biomarker for epilepsy. In his previous role at Stanford, he developed a multimodal whole brain seizure imaging method that enabled identification of a novel mechanism for seizure generalization.

Xibin Liang, PhD

Xibin Liang got his PhD from Shanghai University of Chinese Medicine and Pharmacology in China and then his postdoctoral training in neuroscience and neurology from Beijing University, UCLA and Johns Hopkins University.  His previous work investigated the role of prostaglandin receptors in models of neurological disorders such as Parkinson’s disease, ALS, Alzheimer’s Disease and Stroke. He joined in Steinberg lab in 2014 where he is investigating the optimal parameters for successful transplantation of human neural stem cell (hNSC) in stroke models and the mechanism of the therapeutic effects of hNSCs in the stroke-injured brain.


Shailaja Rao, PhD

Shailaja has a BS in Pharmacy from University of Pune, India and a Masters in Pharmacology from Nottinghan Trent University, UK. She received her PhD in Molecular medicine from Medical University of Graz, Austria where she studied the role of endothelial lipase and Lysophosphatidylcholines on vascular reactivity. In the Alvira Lab at Stanford University she investigated the role of endothelial specific deletion of IKKβ (main activator of NFκB) in neonatal lung development in mice. Her current work as a postdoctoral researcher in the Steinberg Lab is to study the pathophysiology of moyamoya disease by using patient derived iPSCs.

Postdoctoral Scholars

Zhijuan (June) Cao, MD, PhD

Zhijuan is a postdoctoral research fellow in Dr. Steinberg’s Lab. She received her MD from Yangzhou University and completed her residency training in Nanjing Drum Tower Hospital, China. Zhijuan studied innate immune signaling pathways in myocardial ischemia/reperfusion during her master degree training in Nanjing Medical University, China. She received her PhD in Cardiovascular Sciences from Baylor College of Medicine, TX. Her thesis work focused on studying a novel pharmacological cooling method for neurological protection in stroke. Her current studies focus on studying brain repair mechanisms during later phase of stroke by using optogenetic strategies. She aims to identify potential therapeutic targets for stroke treatments.

Hansen Chen, PhD

Hansen Chen investigates the interactions of the immune and nervous systems in ischemic stroke injuries, and focuses on identifying therapeutic targets for treating ischemic stroke. He received his Ph.D. in neuropharmacology from the University of Hong Kong. His Ph.D. thesis established peroxynitrite as an important molecular target for reducing hemorrhagic transformation in ischemic stroke with delayed tissue plasminogen activator (t-PA) treatment. During his postdoctoral training in Hong Kong, he contributed to the development of sensitive fluorescent probes for detecting free radicals in ischemic brains, and identified several active compounds for minimizing hemorrhagic transformation in stroke. His current work will pursue novel therapeutic targets in the immune system for protecting against ischemic stroke injury.

Susumu Yamaguchi, MD, PhD

Susumu Yamaguchi is a neurosurgeon who received his MD at Nagasaki University, Japan. He completed his residency training at Kyoto Medical Center and Nagasaki University.  As a neurosurgeon, he has performed microsurgery, endovascular treatment and endoscopic neurosurgery for patients with cerebrovascular disease and benign brain tumors. He received his PhD at Nagasaki University where he studied stem cell transplantation therapy for acute ischemic stroke. He joined the Steinberg lab in 2019 as a postdoctoral researcher to elucidate the therapeutic effects of stem cell transplantation therapy for ischemic stroke, especially focusing on neuroinflammation.

Yulia Zatulovskaia, PhD

Yulia Zatulovskaia received her Master degree in Neuroscience and PhD in Biochemistry from St. Petersburg State University, Russia. During her graduate training she studied molecular mechanisms of mutant huntingtin aggregation in the model of Huntington disease. She performed her postgraduate work in the Research Institute of Experimental Medicine in St. Petersburg (Russia), where she focused on exploring the system of copper metabolism in rodents. Yulia joined the Steinberg lab in 2016 to investigate the neuroinflammatory response to stroke and stem cell transplantation.


Terrance Chiang

Terrance obtained his undergraduate degree in Molecular and cell biology from University of California, Berkeley with an emphasis on Immunology. He has worked at Ernest Gallo Clinic and Research Center in the lab of Dr. Robert Messing working with Dr. Wenhai Chou on murine ischemia model and Purdue University with Dr. Richard van Rijn on alcohol and opioid use disorders in murine behavior models. Terrance joined the Steinberg lab in April 2017 and aims to clarify specific pathways that aid in stroke recovery.

Robert Diaz, PhD

Robert received his PhD in the laboratory of Dr. Judith Lengyel at UCLA.  Afterwards he has held various positions in biotech.  Most recently, he established iPSC generation, cell differentiation and CRISPR/CAS9 cell services at Applied StemCell Inc. in Milpitas CA.  Robert is looking forward towards contributing to the ongoing effort to qualify NR1 cells, a neural stem cell line developed in the Steinberg lab, as an Investigational New Drug (IND) to treat stroke patients.  

Chen Dong

Chen received her B.S degree in Zoology from Michigan State University and M.S degree in Biology from New York University. At NYU, she focused on how insulin pathway regulates longevity of ant Harpegnathos saltator. Chen joined the Steinberg lab in 2018 as a LSRP to focus on recovery of stem cell transplanted brain after stroke.

Feng Du

Anika Kim

Anika Kim received her BA in English and MS in Biology from Stanford University. After working in the Steinberg Lab during her freshman and sophomore year, she joined the lab again in 2019 to uncover specific pathways that promote recovery after stroke using optogenetic techniques.

Med Students

Seth Tigchelaar, PhD

Seth Tigchelaar received his PhD in Neuroscience from the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada. At UBC, Seth focused on the discovery of biomarkers for patients with spinal cord injury and helped develop a large animal model of spinal cord injury. Seth is now a medical student at Stanford and joined the Steinberg lab in 2019 to focus on recovery of stem cell-transplanted brain after stroke.