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

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.

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.

Kikutaro Tokairin, MD, PhD

Kikutaro Tokairin received his MD and PhD from Hokkaido University, Sapporo, Japan. He is a board-certified neurosurgeon and interventional neuroradiologist in Japan. His clinical field and research interest are on acute ischemic/hemorrhagic stroke and moyamoya disease. In his PhD thesis work, he generated cranio-cervical region specific vascular smooth muscle cells from moyamoya disease patient derived iPS cells and performed functional and transcriptome analysis to compare them with endothelial cells. He joined Dr. Steinberg’s Lab in 2021 and his main project is to investigate the underlying mechanism of post-stroke recovery after optogenetic brain stimulation focusing on a specific neural circuit. He also continues to study the pathophysiology of moyamoya disease by using patient derived iPSCs.

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.

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

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.  

Feng Du

Aneeqa Hasan

Aneeqa graduated from Michigan State University with her BS in Neuroscience and Human Biology. During her time at MSU, she worked in the Lonstein Lab to learn about the neurobiology of postpartum caregiving and affective behaviors in mammals. Her research focused on the role of CRH receptors in the midbrain serotonin system and its effect on maternal caregiving and related affective behaviors in rats. Aneeqa joined Dr. Steinberg’s lab in 2022 to gain a better understanding of how transplanted neural stem cells can aid with stroke recovery in rat models.

Med Students

Shihao He, PhD

Shihao He is a doctor of neurosurgery at Beijing Tiantan Hospital, Capital Medical University. During his postgraduate training, he studied DNA methylation alterations in moyamoya disease, helped understand the involvement of DNA methylation in the pathogenesis of MMD, and proposed novel pathogenic genes as biomarkers. He is currently engaged in molecular mechanisms and biological markers of endothelial cell proliferation in moyamoya disease. Shihao He joined Steinberg's laboratory in 2022 to conduct a visiting study to better understand the pathogenesis of moyamoya disease.

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.