The Van Haren Lab Research Team

Keith Van Haren, MD

Principal Investigator
Director, Pediatric Neuroimmunology Program
Co-Director, Pediatric Neurogenetics Program

Keith joined the Stanford faculty in 2015 as an Assistant Professor of Neurology. He was born and raised in Michigan, obtained an undergraduate degree in chemistry at the College of the Holy Cross, an MD at the University of Rochester, and clinical training at Harvard and Stanford. As a post-doc in the Stanford labs of Dr Larry Steinman and Bill Robinson, Keith studied the role of autoantibodies in neurologic disorders. He is grateful for the superb clinical and scientific mentorship he received throughout his training; he now thoroughly enjoys helping more young scientists build their careers in translational medicine.

Lab Manager

Avni Awani, PhD

Lab Manager

Avni did her M.Sc. in Biotechnology at Banasthali University, India and Ph.D. in Molecular, Cellular, and Integrative Biosciences at the Pennsylvania State University, USA. During her PhD, she studied the effect of perturbed vitamin B3 metabolism on cellular functions. She discovered that nicotinamide, a form of Vit B3, acts as a TRPV channel agonist, thus modulating sensory signaling, behaviors and in some cases eliciting cell death in C. elegans and D. melanogaster. Then, she worked in the Weinacht lab at Stanford University to study the role of mitochondrial metabolism in hematopoietic stem cell differentiation. In July 2019, Avni joined the Van-Haren lab and looks forward to making new discoveries in the field of vitamin D, fatty acid metabolism and demyelinating disorders.

Postdoctoral Fellows

Esha Kaushal, PhD

Postdoctoral Fellow

Esha received her PhD in Endocrinology and Metabolism from the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), New Delhi, India. During her PhD, she investigated the pathogenesis of hypoparathyroidism-associated with the Autoimmune polyendocrine syndrome-1 (APS-1). She studied the functional significance of the novel mutations in the candidate AIRE (Autoimmune regulator) gene. Her work identified a novel cytoskeletal interacting partner of the AIRE protein and provided a deeper insight in the possible mechanism linking hypoparathyroidism to APS-1. Besides her thesis, she also worked on several Vitamin D related studies in the lab. Then, she joined the Obstetrics & Gynecology Department at UCSF. During her postdoc at UCSF, she studied the neuroplasticity of the gut-brain axis in a rat model of functional dyspepsia. Her work showed that the gastric corticotrophin releasing hormone (CRF) is a key modulator of the gut-brain axis and contributes to low grade inflammation. In Oct 2019, Esha joined the Van Haren lab as a postdoctoral researcher. Her current work is focused on investigating the effect of vitamin D exposure on metabolic parameters and neuroinflammation in neurometabolic disorders like Adrenoleukodystrophy (ALD). She is particularly interested in studying the molecular mechanism by which vitamin D confers a neuroprotective effect in ALD. With her experience in vitamin D research, she hopes to refine the therapeutic potential of vitamin D in ALD.

Danielle Kim, PhD

Postdoctoral Fellow

Dani received her B.S. in Environmental Science and Ecological Engineering and her M.S. in Environmental Microbiology at Korea University. She then pursued her PhD in Immunology at UC Davis, where she focused on epi-immune clinical studies to characterize immune profiles associated with newborns later diagnosed with a neurodevelopmental disorder. Her current work focuses on determining immune-related factors that are associated with cerebral ALD during development.  

Rachel Walsh, MD

Neurology Resident Research Fellow



Ezzat Hashemi, PhD


Ezzat obtained her PhD in integrative pathobiology from the University of California Davis. In Dr. Martinez-Cerdeno lab, she studied the development of the human cerebral cortex and neurodevelopmental disorders. Her thesis focused on the role of cortical interneurons in autism. She joined Dr. Han's lab at Stanford for her postdoctoral work where she studied S1P1 signaling in CNS cells during demyelination and repair. She also studied the role or pericytes in blood brain barrier integrity and de-remyelination.  Ezzat joined Dr. Van Haren lab in September 2020; she is interested in understanding the molecular mechanisms underlying impaired lipid metabolism, neuroinflammation and neurodegeneration in Adrenoleukodystrophy (ALD). Ezzat is developing an animal model for ALD to explore the role of fatty acid metabolism on neurovascular unit. 

Isha Srivastava, MD, PhD


Isha joined the Van Haren lab in the Fall of 2018. She received her B.S. in biology and psychology from Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, and her MD/PhD from Lewis Katz School of Medicine at Temple University in Philadelphia. Her dissertation work in Dr. Peter Crino’s lab investigated mTOR as a novel therapeutic target in an animal model of cerebral palsy. Isha is currently pursuing her residency in child neurology at Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital. She is excited to join the team and looks forward to exploring the connection between metabolic derangements and neuroinflammation.

Research Coordinators

Jeilo Gauna

Clinical Research Coordinator Associate

Jeilo Gauna received a B.A. in psychology with a minor in music from the University of California, Santa Barbara in 2016.  He then enrolled in Clinical Research Fastrack, an intensive online program, to start his career in clinical research while also earning a phlebotomy certification which gave him the opportunity to start a career in clinical research at Stanford University. He began his employment in the Division of Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine as an assistant clinical research coordinator where he spent six months working in the Adult Pulmonary Hypertension Lab assisting with the COVID-19 project and other pulmonary hypertension studies. He continued on with Stanford in the Division of Child Neurology as an Associate Clinical Research Coordinator. As a CRCA, he frequently visits people in clinical studies and follows protocols for treating epilepsy, white matter disorders, stroke, and many other conditions.

He recently finished a pre-doctoral preparatory program (P3) in translational research offered by the Leukodystrophy Center of Excellence at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia and ITMAT Education at the University of Pennsylvania. In this program, he increased his understanding of clinical trials and general natural history research on rare diseases.

In his spare time, Jeilo enjoys taking solo trips, photography, and playing the ukulele!

Sweta Patnaik

Clinical Research Manager

Sweta Patnaik joined the Division of Child Neurology May 2016. She comes with over 16 years of experience working with both pediatric and adult population on various clinical research studies in the departments of Psychiatry, Neurology and Neurosurgery. As a clinical researcher, Sweta enjoys contributing to the advancement of healthcare and working closely with Principal Investigators, sponsors, and clinical research staff who are committed and motivated towards patient care.

 In her spare time, she enjoys spending time outdoors and listening to music.

Visiting Graduate Students

Paula Schorlemer, B.Sc.

Visiting Graduate Studen, Ludwig Maximilian University, Germany

Paula is a medical student at the Ludwig Maximilian University (LMU) in Munich, Germany. During her medical studies, she worked as a research assistant in the neuroimaging laboratory of Prof. Dr. Inga Koerte and in the neuroimmunology laboratory of Prof. Dr. Martin Kerschensteiner at LMU. Paula has joined our lab for her medical thesis to study cell death and inflammation in the neurometabolic disease X-linked Adrenoleukodystrophy. Her research stay is supported by the German Academic Exchange Service (BMEP program) and the LMU Doctoral Scholarship.  

Laurits Mathiesen

Visiting Graduate Student, Aalborg University, Denmark

Laurits Mathiesen, a medical student from Denmark, will be joining the Van Haren Lab from August 2023 to May 2024 as part of a 10-month research fellowship through the Danish-American Research Exchange (DARE) program, sponsored by Lundbeckfonden. Driven by a genuine and deep interest in neurodegenerative diseases, Laurits will undertake a collaborative research project between UCSF and Stanford University. The project involves utilizing hyperpolarized MRI to investigate brain metabolism in a mouse model of cerebral adrenoleukodystrophy (cALD). This work aims to unravel essential insights into neurodegenerative disorders and potentially pave the way for innovative therapeutic strategies.


Lab Alumni


Dohyup Kim PhD; postdoc; Lead Bioinformatics Analyst, Univ of Cincinnati/Cincinnati Children's Hospital

Jonathan Santoro MD; research fellow; Asst Prof of Neurology, USC/CHLA 

Laura Saucier MD; research fellow; Neuroimmunology Fellow, Harvard SOM/Boston Children's



Ezra Yoseph; LSRP; MD student at Stanford Univ

Shahrzad Talebian; LSRP;  LSRP2 at Stanford Genomics Core 

Jennifer Winterbottom; CRC; CGC student at Ohio State Univ

Nicole Rossi; LSRP; MD/PhD student at Rush University

Julianne Jorgensen; LSRP; MD/PhD student at Univ Illinois Chicago

Reema Eid; LSRP; Lab Scientist at Kite Pharma 

Dalia Pena-Solorzano; CRC; PA student at Yale Univ

Kunal Kirloskar; LSRP;  MD student at Georgetown Univ 

Simone Schubert; LSRP; Environmental Health & Safety Mgr at Stanford Univ

Emily Witt; undergrad honors; Rhodes Scholar/Oxford Univ

Siddhartha Chittaranjan; undergrad; MD/PhD student at Univ Rochester