Shamloo Lab Members

Mehrdad Shamloo, PhD

Professor (Research) of Neurosurgery and, by courtesy of Comparative Medicine and of Neurology

Director, Stanford Behavioral and Functional Neuroscience Laboratory (BFNL)


Mehrdad received his doctoral degree in 1999 from the Wallenberg Neuroscience Center of Lund University in Sweden. He was recruited to the San Francisco Bay Area the same year where he held several positions at biopharmaceutical companies, including Affymax and AGY Therapeutics, until 2008. During this time he was responsible for the discovery and development of novel neuroprotective and regenerative small molecule and peptide therapeutics for multiple diseases. As the program leader for neuroprotection and regeneration programs at AGY Therapeutics, his work enabled several patent applications, scientific publications, and an IND application and subsequent clinical trials. These years of experience in industry built on his extensive background in CNS drug discovery and preclinical development. 

In 2008, Mehrdad joined Stanford University to establish a new behavioral neuropharmacology center for the neuroscience institute. He also formed his own research laboratory to focus on understanding normal and pathological brain functions for neurological disorders such as stroke, Alzheimer’s disease (AD), and autism. Efforts are currently directed towards a subset of genes and proteins involved in neuroprotective or neurodegenerative pathways, which are regulated in these disorders. Through these investigations, Mehrdad and his team hope to understand the processes leading to the functional and behavioral malfunction in these disorders and develop experimental therapeutics. The ultimate goal is to accelerate the translation of these experimental discoveries into novel therapeutic approaches, to improve the quality of life for patients with brain disorders.

Lab Manager

Nay Lui Saw

I am the lab manager for Shamloo Lab. I graduated from San Francisco State University with B.S. in Biology. After working in U.C.S.F. Department of Anesthesia, I became a part of Stanford community in 2007. My primary responsibility includes running the day-to-day general operations of the lab, as well as, assisting Professor Shamloo and other colleagues in achieving their research goals. My scope of scientific work involves conducting behavioral pharmacology experiment, colony management, and training collaborators. My area of expertise is in phenotyping transgenic rodent model and CNS diseases models such as Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, and Autistic Spectrum Disorder. Beside managing the lab and conducting classical experiments, I’m keenly interested in developing new protocols and behavioral paradigms to tackle current challenges facing the neuroscience community.

Lab Services Manager

Rachel Lam

I graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Neurobiology, Physiology, and Behavior Sciences at University of California, Davis and shortly joined the Shamloo Lab and SBFNL behavior core. While I didn’t have much laboratory experience out of college, I’ve always been interested in neurodegenerative research. I started working as a research assistant performing and analyzing various in vivo and ex vivo experiments that aim to evaluate the effects of therapeutic drugs on impaired rodents. My responsibilities included performing various surgical procedures, colony management, and wet lab experiments. Through my work and experience at this lab, I’ve developed a passion in scientific research, and a desire to continually expand my knowledge and skill set. I now work as a lab manager to train and supervise other LSRPs in in vivo, in vitro, and ex vivo techniques, as well as procedures that occur in the surgery room. Working with Dr. Shamloo and other colleagues in the lab has helped me to grow as a researcher and as a person willing and wanting to pass on the skills, techniques, and scientific knowledge to future researchers.

Research Scientist

Andrew Evans, PhD

Andrew did his undergraduate degree at Bowdoin College, after which he worked as a research assistant in the laboratory of Dr. James L. Goodson at UCSD, examining behavior and neural networks engaged following social encounters in wild-caught finches.  He went on to do a Ph.D with Dr. Christopher A. Lowry at the University of Bristol, UK, where he studied stress-related modulation of serotonergic systems and anxiety behavior, focusing on serotonin metabolism and functional specificity within subregions of the serotonergic midbrain raphe complex. He did his post-doctoral training in the laboratory of Dr. Robert M. Sapolsky at Stanford, where he developed projects in which he used functional neuroanatomy to begin to understand how a common brain parasite, Toxoplasma gondii, manipulates host behavior, incorporating aspects of neuroimmunology into his neurobiological view. He is currently a Basic Life Science Research Scientist in the laboratory of Dr. Mehrdad Shamloo, in the Stanford School of Medicine, leading projects to further explore interactions between the immune system and the central nervous system in the context of neurodegenerative disorders and cognition and behavior.  Andrew is interested in the role of microglia-neuron communication in neurodegenerative disease and the role of neurotransmitter systems, such as the locus coeruleus noradrenergic system, in regulation of neuroinflammation, neurodegeneration and behavior in the context of Alzheimer’s Disease.


Erwin Defensor, PhD

Erwin is an in vivo pharmacologist with interest in therapeutic approaches for neurodevelopmental and neurodegenerative disorders, as well as brain injury and addiction. He has academic and industry experience in study/program management and has conducted studies across various therapeutic areas for leading pharmaceutical companies and early-stage biotechs. Erwin holds additional expertise in scientific product and applications for emerging in vivo technologies. He promotes the advancement of automated methods for generating digital biomarkers to accelerate the preclinical discovery pipeline. Erwin received a PhD with concentration in Behavioral Neuroscience from the University of Hawaii and a BS in Neuroscience from UC Riverside.  He completed postdoctoral fellowship research training in the Department of Neurosurgery at Stanford School of Medicine. 

Postdoctoral Fellows

Amna T. Adam, PhD

Amna earned her Bachelor of Science degree in chemistry and molecular biology from Montclair State University in 2015, where she also worked as a research assistant in the laboratory of Dr. David P. Rotella for 4-years. She pursued a PhD degree in Medicinal Chemistry at the University of Mississippi under the mentorship of Dr. David A. Colby, specializing in fluorine chemistry and organic synthesis. She conducted research on the interface of drug discovery, method development, and synthesis of fluorinated therapeutic for various diagnosis, such as cancer and drug addiction, and neurodegenerative disorders. She developed a method to efficiently synthesize Morpholine 3,3,3-trifluoropropanamide and commercialized this reagent with MilliporeSigma (911933) in 2020. Also, she developed an efficient synthetic reaction to introduce methylene to L-γ-glutamine, which led to the successful synthesis of L-γ-methyleneglutamine that were tested for anticancer activity. Furthermore, she led the method development of fluortrifluoromethyl- and fluoropentafluorosulfanyl-containing methylene in the search of new highly fluorinated therapeutics. Currently, she is a postdoctoral scholar in the Shamloo Laboratory at Stanford Medicine. She works with Professor Shamloo on projects to develop novel therapeutics to treat drug addiction and neurodegenerative diseases. 


Pooneh Memar Ardestani, MD, PhD

My interest in neuroscience goes back to first year of medical school. After getting my MD I did my PhD at National University of Singapore where I worked on localization and role of Sirt6 in the CNS. As an MD/PhD my interest has been finding novel treatments for neurological diseases. So, I started working at Shamloo Lab as a postdoctoral fellow trying to find new therapeutic approaches for Alzheimer’s disease.  My ultimate goal is to be a physician-scientist to merge my basic science knowledge and clinical experience to help people with neurological disorders.


Denise Briggs, PhD

I earned my bachelor’s degree at the University of Michigan where I majored in neuroscience and psychology. During my undergraduate studies, I was fortunate to have had the opportunity to work in several high-profile laboratories, including the neurology laboratory of Drs. Marina Mata and David J. Fink, where I studied the role of Nogo-A in dorsal root ganglion cells following sciatic nerve injury. Upon graduation, I followed my interest in CNS trauma/pathology to the laboratory of Dr. Donald Kuhn, where I worked on in vitro models of blast-induced neuronal injury before entering the Translational Neuroscience Program at Wayne State University School of Medicine. My colleagues and I developed a novel mouse model of repetitive mild traumatic brain injury (rmTBI) that allows for the administration of multiple, biomechanically relevant head impacts. This model served as the foundation for my graduate studies that focused on the cognitive, psychiatric, and neuropathological manifestations of rmTBI. My interest in acquired neuropathology evolved to include both heritable and aging-related diseases of the CNS. In pursuit of these interests, I joined the Stanford Behavioral and Functional Neuroscience Laboratory as a postdoctoral fellow to work with Dr. Shamloo. My research projects aim to elucidate the role(s) of the noradrenergic system in the behavioral and neuropathological manifestations of Alzheimer’s disease and ischemic stroke. Using a variety of CNS disease models and validated neurobiological assessment tools, I hope to further our understanding of the mechanisms that underlie the development of acquired and heritable neuropathologies.


Sezen Kislal, PhD

During my undergraduate studies in Biology at Hacettepe University in Turkey, I participated in ecological projects such as protecting Longerhead Sea Turtles and prolonging their conservation. After graduating, my focus turned to experimental psychology with special emphasis on context aversion learning which I explored during my Ph.D program in the Department of Biobehavioral Health at Pennsylvania State University under the guidance of Dr. David Blizard. I also had the opportunity to work in the National Institute of Genetics in Mishima, Japan where I worked on the genetics of bitter taste in mice. Thus, my background started in biology and extended into behavioral studies. In the Shamloo lab, I am developing an interest in translational neuroscience focusing on novel therapeutic approaches in experimental models of stroke.


Bitna Yi PharmD, PhD

My long-standing interest is in translational research to discover and develop novel therapeutics for CNS diseases. Having hand-on experience working as a pharmacist and research training as a molecular pharmacologist, understanding mechanisms underlying the disease and translating the laboratory findings into new therapeutic strategies are attractive area to me. Currently in Shamloo lab, I am working on many projects that focus on Alzheimer’s disease. Using a comprehensive and multidisciplinary approach, I am testing several drug candidates in models of Alzheimer’s disease regarding their effects on both symptoms and pathology. I find my projects very exciting and I am really happy to be part of our team. Outside of lab, I enjoy traveling, hiking, cooking, reading, watching movies, drinking a good glass of wine, and so many other things.


Matteo Santoro, PhD

I joined Shamloo’s lab in March 2021 and my area of research focuses on Parkinson’s disease, neuronal vulnerability and identification of therapeutic markers in relation to α-synucleinopathies. Prior to my arrival at Stanford, I held a position as a clinical monitor at Syneos Health. There I have acquired the knowledge needed to translate lab-based findings into clinical and commercial applications. Previously, I held a postdoctoral position for one year at the University of Aberdeen (Scotland, UK) working on amyloid-beta extracts from Alzheimer’s disease patients. During my postdoctoral research, I have designed and optimized a cheap and quick assay for the measurement of toxic amyloid-beta species in human biofluids. In 2017, I obtained my Ph.D. (4-year program) at the University of Aberdeen on Parkinson’s disease (PD), immunology, and behavior. The major findings during my Ph.D. were 1) the characterization of a small protein called HMGB1 as an inflammatory mediator in PD; 2) the motor and non-motor behavioral characterization of three neurotoxin based mouse models of PD, 3) the characterization of toll like receptors in PD and 4) the evaluation of the effects of chronic systemic inflammation on both resident and infiltrating immune cells in the CNS. I also led the Ph.D. student community at the University of Aberdeen as their student representative within the neuroscience division whereby, I established the practice of holding monthly scientific seminars involving the Ph.D. alumni. In 2012 I graduated in chemistry and pharmaceutical technology (5-year program) at the University of Calabria (Italy) during which I undertook an internship at the King’s College London (SGDP Centre) and worked for over a year on a rat model of stroke.

During my free time, I like to practice activities such as cycling, running, fishing, birdwatching, planting trees, snorkeling and sea diving, and hiking. I am terrible at telling jokes and don’t like going to the gym.

Research Engineer

Jennifer Lin, PhD

Jennifer Lin is a bioengineer with experience in molecular biology and analytical chemistry. She received her B.S. in Chemical Engineering from Cornell University and Ph.D. in Chemical Engineering from Northwestern University. She joined the BFNL team in 2019 and has been managing recent research projects investigating novel treatments for addiction. 

Medicinal Chemistry Advisor and Consultant

Michael J. Green

I was trained as an organic chemist at Sheffield University in the UK. My life's goal has been to use my knowledge of organic chemical reactions to design and synthesize novel compounds for biological testing and, ultimately, to discover new drugs.  After two Post Docs, one at the University of Chicago and the other at Brookhaven National Labs, I joined Schering-Plough Research Institute in New Jersey where I worked for almost 25 years. In that time I contributed to the discovery of AclovateR, ClaritinR and XetiaR. I then came to California to use my skills in small biotech companies, including Trega Biosciences, Celera Genomics and, a company I helped start, Virobay Inc. For the past 12 years I have been a consultant in medicinal chemistry, helping startups with their dreams of discovering new therapeutics. In this role I have been working with Professor Shamloo for the past 4 years with his projects to identify new ways to treat neurological degenerative diseases.

Alam Jahangir, PhD

I am an organic/medicinal chemist by training.  Most of my projects and research is in designing and discovering small molecule-based therapeutics and specifically ailments related central nervous system such as neuropathic pain, neurocognitive impairment, stroke, substance-addiction, and schizophrenia. I have over 25 years of experience in drug discovery. During my MS (Brock University, Canada), I worked on chemical and biochemical transformation of steroids. Later for Ph.D., I joined Prof David MacLean’s group at Mc Master University (Canada) where I designed lateral metalation based new synthetic methodology and demonstrated its utility by synthesizing several alkaloids and compounds of therapeutic interests. I joined Syntex Corporation at Palo as a Post-doctoral fellow where I further advanced both ortho and lateral metalation techniques in the synthesis of complex alkaloids and heterocyclic systems. This convergent methodology since then has received wide acceptance in organic and medicinal chemistry. During my second post-doctoral at University of Tennessee (Knoxville) with Prof David Baker’s group, I worked on carbohydrate based anti-viral compounds.  In 1990, I joined Syntex and continued to work at after its acquisition by Roche. I lead programs mostly related to CNS and neurological diseases. I successfully progressed 3 NCEs to human clinical trials. I have also used my prodrug expertise in improving properties of several lead drug candidates. Since 2011, I am SPARK advisor at Stanford School of Medicine. Since 2014, I am working with Prof Shamloo’s group in the discovery of noble compounds for the treatment of neurocognitive diseases.

Life Science Research Assistants

Claire Bachmeier

I graduated from the University of California, Santa Cruz with a B.S. in Neuroscience and a B.A. in Psychology. While at the university, I participated in the neuroscience research lab of Dr. James Ackman, making contributions by performing genotyping PCR assays, brain sectioning, and brain dissections. Upon arriving at Dr. Mehrdad Shamloo’s lab here at Stanford, I have not only continued to improve upon the skills already obtained in previous years, but have also gained experience in brand new assays and techniques and have found a passion for cell culture in particular. One of my main roles here in the Shamloo laboratory is performing in vitro testing of novel pharmacological compounds using a variety of cell culture assays.


Emily Chu

I graduated from the University of Puget Sound in 2021 with a degree in Biochemistry and a minor in Mathematics. Prior to working in the Shamloo lab I worked in the Boisvert lab at the University of Puget Sound with the focus on the formation of amide bonds via the use of green chemistry. I grateful for the opportunity to work in the Shamloo lab to learn more about neurosurgery and biology lab techniques. 


Peter Ciari

I am a bay area local, attending Bellarmine College Prep before completing my undergraduate studies at the University of Puget Sound in Tacoma, Washington. There I majored in biochemistry with a focus on inflammatory cytokines found in blood plasma for future use in regenerative medicine. Although I had limited opportunity for lab research due to covid, I have quickly picked up the skills to play a significant role in the wet lab running western blots, qPCR, and ELISA. I plan to continue my work here with the hopes of furthering my education to make an impact on the future of medicine. 


Soheil Falsafi,​ PhD

I received my PhD in Neuroscience from medical University of Wien. My previous research focuses on neurotransmitter receptor complexes in spatial memory and fetal Down Syndrome brain. I recently joined the Shamloo Lab and SBFNL behavior core. My research interest includes Neuropharmacology, Neurodegenerative and Behavioral Neuroscience.


Heui Hye Park

I joined the Shamloo Lab and SBFNL behavior core with a passion in neurodegenerative diseases researches shortly after completing a bachelor’s degree in Neurobiology, Physiology, and Behavior at University of California, Davis. As a Life Sciences Research Professional, I design and perform experiments both in vitro cell culture assays and in vivo tissue analyses to validate target engagement of pharmacological ligands in different neurodegenerative disease rodent models. I perform my responsibilities through primary and secondary cell culture techniques, microdialysis, and in vivo tissue analyses, such as immunohistochemistry, western blot, qRT-PCR, and ELISA. Working with Dr. Shamloo and other colleagues in the lab helped me to grow as a researcher and inspired me to keep pursuing researches in neuropharmacology. My career goal is to further take my research pursuit in neuropharmacology and neurodegenerative diseases.


Katrina Shao

I graduated from UC Santa Barbara with a B.S. in Environmental Studies, concentrating in Biological Oceanography. During my first two years of undergraduate studies, I assisted with research in the SBC-LTER and Moorea Coral Reef LTER labs. For my final two years in Santa Barbara, I was a research intern in the Hofmann Lab, where my primary focus was studying the Sea Star Wasting Disease. I also spent multiple summers in the Animal Health and Stress Physiology Lab at the National Institute of Marine Biology and Aquarium in Taiwan to conduct research for my senior thesis while contributing to other studies and research publications. During the last few years, I became interested in pharmacology while working as a veterinary assistant. That interest brought me to Shamloo Lab as a neuropharmacology and neurobehavioral research assistant. My current responsibilities include qRT-PCR, ELISA, data analysis, and colony management.


Maria Vashchenko

While studying Neurobiology, Physiology, and Behavior at University of California, Davis, I became interested in scientific research and decided to pursue a laboratory internship on campus. During my senior year of college, I conducted a project on Primary Biliary Cirrhosis, an autoimmune liver disease, which I presented at the Undergraduate Research Conference. As a team member of the behavioral core at SBFNL, I perform and analyze various experiments that usually aim to access the effect of a certain genetic mutation or a drug on rodent behavior. My other responsibilities include assisting with animal colony management and some of the general laboratory procedures. Being very passionate about medicine, my long-term career goal is to become a medical doctor and incorporate the knowledge of neurological disorders and their underlying mechanisms into clinical treatment of patients.


Laura Vidano

I graduated from Vassar College with a bachelor's degree in Biochemistry and a minor in Economics of Public Policy. While in college, I explored connections between these areas while developing an interest in the underpinnings, both scientific and social, of good health. As part of that exploration, I worked as a research assistant on projects related to photocurrent generation and intertidal ecology, as a medical scribe in an emergency department, as a microbiology teaching assistant, and as a swim instructor. As a research assistant with SBFNL, I work with the behavioral team and conduct in vitro tissue analysis, such as immunohistochemistry, western blot, and qRT-PCR. I am particularly passionate about our lab's work on neurodegenerative disorders because I have personal, daily experience with the impact of medical advancements. In my case, a surgery developed in 1984 has allowed me to move without pain and explore a new love of distance running instead of needing a cane just to walk. As a member of SBFNL and in my future career, I hope to contribute to work that can have a similarly profound impact for others.


Christine Xu

I completed my undergraduate degree in Neuroscience at Carnegie Mellon University, where I worked as an undergraduate researcher in a neurogenomics lab focusing on the computational analysis of next-generation sequencing data. After graduating in 2017, I joined the Shamloo lab as a research assistant working on projects led by Dr. Andrew Evans. I also interface with the BFNL core facility to assist with surgeries. My main responsibilities include running experiments, downstream analysis and quantification of data, performing stereotaxic surgeries, and assisting colony management. Out of the lab, I enjoy painting and participating in puzzle hunts. 

Students/Interns

Lauren Clarke

I am a medical student at Stanford University and previously graduated with my BS and MHA from the University of Southern California. My research and clinical interests are focused on improving health outcomes for people with intellectual/developmental disabilities through contributing to advancements in research, physician education, and healthcare delivery. I will be working with the Shamloo Lab on studying the role of kinase inhibition in preventing neuronal damage following brain injury and subsequently identifying potential therapeutic targets for patients. I am currently interested in pursuing a career in neurological rehabilitation and hope to perform translational research related to improving clinical outcomes of patients with brain injury and patients with intellectual or neurocognitive disabilities.  

Sarah Victoria Schurr

I am currently an undergrad pursuing a B.S. degree in neurobiology with the goal of matriculating into an MD-PhD or MD program. Long-term, I would like to remain active in investigating and implementing novel, patient-centered therapies for debilitating diseases. Since joining the Shamloo Lab in 2015, I have worked under the guidance of Postdoctoral Fellow Bitna Yi on projects studying the therapeutic potential of drug agonists for Alzheimer’s disease. I first became interested in Alzheimer’s treatment in high school. As my Girl Scout Gold Award project, I developed “Talk to Me” – a therapeutic toolkit, research booklet, and website (www.talktomegold.com) dedicated to increasing meaningful communication with dementia and Alzheimer’s patients. Beyond my involvement in lab, I am also a nationally certified Emergency Medical Technician and a Classroom Director for a local after school academic mentoring program called DreamCatchers.

Undergraduate Students

Aisha Balogun

Courtney Gao

Inbar Kodesh

Julien Segre

Swetha Shutthanandan