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

Terrance Chiang

Terrance joined the Steinberg lab in March 2017. He graduated from UC Berkeley with a BA in Molecular and Cell Biology with an emphasis on Immunology. His role as a lab manager includes overseeing laboratory services and daily lab operations, ensuring meeting safety and regulatory compliance, and supporting personnel with training and troubleshooting equipment issues. Terrance also actively engaged in research projects including optogenetic stimulation projects to elucidate stroke recovery pathways, and moyamoya disease projects to cultivate in vitro models to study its pathophysiology. Previous research includes stroke related studies in Robert Messing's lab at EGCRC and alcohol/opioid use disorders Richard van Rijn's lab at Purdue University.

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 leads several projects utilizing optogenetics, advanced imaging techniques, and next-generation sequencing to study post-stroke neural circuit dynamics and recovery mechanisms. Her primary focus revolves around understanding brain repair and recovery at both the molecular and neural circuit levels, with the objective of enhancing the recovery process. Michelle also spearheads our Moyamoya research, striving to uncover the cellular and molecular intricacies of Moyamoya Disease. She earned her PhD in Pharmacology from the University of California, Irvine, where her research centered on the role of a unique pair of gut peptides, Prokineticins, in brain functions such as circadian rhythms and neurogenesis. In her postdoctoral studies, Michelle highlighted the significance of Prokineticin 2 as a critical mediator in stroke. She also pioneered neuroprotective gene therapy methods for stroke, including an insult-inducible gene therapy system activated by hypoxia and reactive oxygen species.

Research Scientists

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.  

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.


Postdoctoral Scholars

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.

Varun Gupta, PhD

Varun received his PhD in Pharmacology from Panjab University, India where he studied the role of various pharmacological interventions that can modify the neuropathological cascades after an ischemic or hemorrhagic challenge in the acute phase using rodent models.  He also spent some time in Dr Lorraine Work’s lab at the University of Glasgow, UK as an awardee of the Newton-Bhabha research fellowship by the British Council where he worked on influence of hypoxia on the gene expression of primary cortical neurons. He joined the Steinberg lab in 2022 with an objective to unveil the mechanisms of stem cell induced brain repair after stroke. His interests are largely towards translational neuroscience by application of advanced techniques in stroke and neurodegeneration. In his free time, he loves music, sports and catching up with family and friends.

Pardes Habib, MD, PhD

Pardes is a neurologist and received a PhD in neuroscience and a PhD in biology/biochemistry from RWTH Aachen University, Aachen, Germany. 

His clinical and preclinical research focuses on the optimization of diagnosis and the identification of novel protective strategies after acute ischemic stroke. 

His previous work investigated the activation and modulation of inflammasomes and the unfolded protein response in the post-ischemic brain. 

He joined Dr. Steinberg’s Lab in 2022 to unveil molecular mechanisms of human neural stem cell (hNSC) action on immune cells and brain repair after ischemic stroke.

Hee Jae Ko, PhD

Hee Jae received her PhD in Korean Medicine from Dongguk University, Korea where she studied effect of acupuncture treatment in neuroinflammatory diseases. She studied how acupuncture treatment is involved in anti-inflammatory response and neurogenesis in Parkinson’s disease and inflammatory diseases. Her previous research also focused on investigating underlying mechanism and understanding pathophysiology of neuroinflammatory diseases via microRNA analysis.  She joined Steinberg Lab in 2023 and her current work focuses on using optogenetic approaches to understand neural circuits and their role in post-stroke recovery.

Richard Kopchock III, PhD

Richard received his BSc in Neuroscience from Bowling Green State University in 2015 and his PhD in Neuroscience from the University of Miami in 2021. In his graduate work, he used Ca2+ imaging and optogenetic approaches to study the role of acetylcholine signaling in model invertebrate neural circuits. Richard joined the Steinberg lab in 2021 and his current work focuses on using Ca2+ imaging to understand changes in brain activity following stroke and during stroke recovery.

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.


Zeynep Demirag

Zeynep Demirag received her BA in Neurobiology from University of California, Berkeley. As an honors student at Cal, she explored the convergent pathways that are featured in abnormal neuropathology and social isolation in the Ventral Tegmental Area (VTA). During her time in the Kaufer Lab, she developed an interest in anatomy of the brain and the physical act of correcting abnormalities of the brain as well as associated neuropsychiatric manifestations. Zeynep joined Dr. Steinberg’s Lab in 2022 to investigate the neurobiological foundation of post-stroke functional recovery using optogenetic brain stimulation and  pathophysiology of moyamoya (MMD) through patient derived iPSCs