Viviana Gradinaru, Ph.D.
Professor of Neuroscience and Biological Engineering
Heritage Principal Investigator
Director of the Molecular and Cellular Neuroscience Center of the Chen Institute at Caltech
Dr. Viviana Gradinaru completed her B.S. at Caltech and her Ph.D. research at Stanford University and is now a Professor of Neuroscience and Biological Engineering at Caltech. Prof. Gradinaru has more than 65 publications in top peer-reviewed journals and more than 10 granted patents, additional pending, in areas of optogenetics, viral vectors, and tissue clearing and imaging. Prof. Gradinaru has received the NIH Director’s New Innovator and Pioneer Awards and a Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers, and has been honored as a World Economic Forum Young Scientist and as one of Cell’s 40 under 40. Gradinaru is also a Sloan Fellow, Pew Scholar, Moore Inventor, Vallee Scholar, and Allen Brain Institute Council Member, and received the inaugural Peter Gruss Young Investigator Award by the Max Planck Florida Institute for Neuroscience. In 2017 she was the Early-Career Scientist Winner in the Innovators in Science Award in Neuroscience (Takeda and the New York Academy of Sciences); in 2018 she received a Gill Transformative award; in 2019 Gradinaru was a Life Sciences Finalist for the Blavatnik National Awards for Young Scientists; and in 2020 she was awarded the Vilcek Prize for Creative Promise in Biomedical Science; the Outstanding New Investigator Award by the American Society of Gene and Cell Therapy; and the Society for Neuroscience Young Investigator Award.
Professor Gradinaru teaches undergraduate and graduate level classes on viral biology and optogenetics techniques in neuroscience. Viviana Gradinaru has also been very active in technology dissemination, participating with lab members in regular technology training workshops at Caltech and for summer courses at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory as well as running the CLOVER Center (Beckman Institute for CLARITY, Optogenetics and Vector Engineering), which provides training and access to the group’s reagents and methods for the broader research community (awarded Addgene Blue Flame for reagent
Min Jee Jang, Ph.D.
CALTECH DIVISIONAL POSTDOCTORAL FELLOW AND NARSAD YOUNG INVESTIGATOR
Min received her BS, MS and PhD in Bio and Brain Engineering at KAIST, South Korea. Her doctoral thesis focused on developing algorithms and computational methods for quantitative analysis of large-scale calcium imaging data. Before joining Caltech, she worked as postdoctoral fellow at Korea University on developing meso-scale 3D imaging of the whole mouse brain and its digital reconstruction methods with tissue clearing techniques. In the Gradinaru lab, Min aims to develop high-throughput in situ assays for viral capsid libraries.
Anat Kahan, Ph.D.
Anat received her BS, MS and PhD in Physical Chemistry in The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Israel. Her doctoral thesis, under the supervision of Prof. Yehuda Haas, focused on environmental effects on ultrafast molecular photo-induced reactions in condensed phase. She worked as a postdoctoral fellow at Yoram Ben-Shaul’s lab at The Hebrew University on discrimination between socially related cues in the accessory olfactory bulb. In the Gradinaru lab, Anat is interested in the effect of behavioral stress on reproduction, using tissue clearing, viral tracing, electrophysiology and optogenetic techniques.
Máté Borsos, Ph.D.
Máté received his BSc and MSc in genetics and developmental biology from ELTE, Budapest, Hungary. During his studies, he worked on chromosome segregation in the mouse oocyte at the Tachibana lab, Vienna, Austria; and on DNA methylation and transposon control in the male germline at the Bourc’his lab, Paris, France. Máté did his PhD in the Torres-Padilla lab in Munich, Germany collaborating with Jop Kind’s laboratory. His work focused on 3D genome organization in the preimplantation mouse embryo. He mapped Lamina Associated Domains (LADs) genome-wide in single cells of embryos and identified epigenetic processes that could play a role in LAD formation upon fertilization. In the Gradinaru lab, Máté aims to engineer novel rAAV variants to target the germline.
Mengying Zhang, Ph.D.
Mengying received her B.S. in biological sciences at Sichuan University, China, and Ph.D. in molecular engineering and sciences at the University of Washington. Her doctoral thesis, under the supervision of Professor Elizabeth Nance, focused on fluorescent nano-sized semiconductor particles quantum dots (QDs), their performance as imaging probes in the developing brain, and their potential application for visualizing and tracking small biological entities, such as extracellular vesicles (EVs). In Gradinaru lab, Mengying is interested in studying AAV to target the primate brain.
Seongmin Jang, Ph.D.
Seongmin received his BS, MS, and Ph.D. in Biology at KAIST. His doctoral thesis focused on understanding the molecular mechanisms of epigenetic gene regulation using an integrative structural biology approach. He determined the cryo-EM structure of DOT1L histone H3 K79 methyltransferase recognizing H2B ubiquitinated nucleosome. In the Gradinaru lab, Seongmin is interested in the structural approach to understanding cell recognition and invasion by engineered AAV.
Xiaozhe Ding, B.S.
GRADUATE STUDENT – BIOENGINEERING
Xiaozhe received his BS from Tsinghua University, Bejing, China in 2014. Before joining Caltech, he was involved in multiple projects on structural biology and protein engineering. In the Gradinaru Lab, Xiaozhe is working on developing new molecular tools and viral vectors for neuroscience.
Gerry Coughlin, B.S.
GRADUATE STUDENT – NEUROBIOLOGY, NSERC PGS-D FELLOW
Gerry received a B.S. in Psychology, a B.S. in Primatology and a B.S. in Cellular, Molecular and Microbial Biology, all from the University of Calgary, Canada. During his undergraduate, Gerry investigated an array of research topics: how repeated seizures change the functional organization of the motor cortex, how cell adhesion molecules are involved in the development of hypothalamic nuclei, and how nanoparticles may be used to control liposome fusion. In the Gradinaru lab, Gerry is exploring strategies for non-invasive gene manipulation, for therapeutic and research applications.
Tatyana Dobreva, B.S.
GRADUATE STUDENT – MEDICAL ENGINEERING
Tatyana was granted her B.S. degree in Electrical Engineering from University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. Prior to joining as a graduate student in Medical Engineering, she worked at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory as a Signal Processing Engineer and volunteered at Viviana’s lab doing data analysis on AAV targeted evolution project and on image processing for light sheet fluorescence microscopy. Tatyana is co-advised by Viviana Gradinaru and Matt Thomson. In Viviana Gradinaru’s lab, she is currently working on engineering Arc capsid protein for targeted RNA trafficking with a motivation to guide development of novel delivery methods and improve existing systemic gene delivery methods.
David Brown, B.S.
GRADUATE STUDENT – COMPUTATION AND NEURAL SYSTEMS, CHEN GRADUATE FELLOW
David received his B.S. in Computer Science from the University of Michigan in 2014. Before collaborating with the Gradinaru Lab, he worked in Richard Andersen’s lab doing data analysis for single-neuron electrical recordings in implanted human subjects, and developing a framework for controlling a robotic prosthetic arm. He was a software engineer at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in the AI group and worked on planning and decision-making algorithms for autonomous systems, and image analysis of comets. David is co-advised by Viviana Gradinaru and Matt Thomson, where he is applying automation technology to biological applications, such as machine learning for AAV targeted evolution.
Miggy Chuapoco, M.S.
GRADUATE STUDENT – BIOLOGICAL ENGINEERING
Miggy received his B.S. and M.S. degrees in chemical engineering from Stanford University. Prior to joining the Gradinaru lab, Miggy developed carbon fiber electrodes designed to be used simultaneously with fMRI and optogenetics. As a graduate student in the Gradinaru lab, he is currently interested in engineering viral capsids to make novel vectors for research and therapeutic applications. Miggy is in Biological Engineering program in the NIH/NIGMS Biotechnology Leadership Predoctoral Program in Micro/Nanomedicine at Caltech.
Xinhong Chen, B.S.
GRADUATE STUDENT – NEUROBIOLOGY, CHEN GRADUATE FELLOW
Xinhong received his B.S. in Biotechnology from Tongji University, China in 2017. He studied the genetic impact on Alzheimer’s Disease using Drosophila and led a iGEM team manipulating C. elegans with Optogentics whist at college. Prior to joining Caltech as a student in Neurobiology program, he did his undergraduate thesis in Kay Tye’s lab at MIT focusing on the circuit underlying alcohol addiction. In the Gradinaru Lab, he is developing tools to study the interaction between Neuron System and Immune System.
Acacia Hori, B.A.
GRADUATE STUDENT – BIOLOGICAL ENGINEERING, USC-CALTECH MD-PHD
Acacia received a B.A. in Neuroscience in 2013 from Pitzer College in Claremont, CA. In her undergraduate research, she explored a range of topics involving medical therapies, including transplantation of engineered stem cells for epilepsy and vaccine production strategies for underdeveloped countries. After graduating, she worked as a lab technician for the Shorter group at the University of Pennsylvania, investigating the role of molecular chaperones in protein folding of disease substrates. After completing the preclinical curriculum at the Keck School of Medicine of USC, she has joined the Gradinaru lab, where she is investigating gene therapy applications for diseases affecting the nervous system. Acacia is part of the USC-Caltech MD-PhD program.
David Goertsen, B.ASc.
GRADUATE STUDENT – BIOLOGICAL ENGINEERING, NSERC PGS-D FELLOW
David received his B. ASc. in 2017 from the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada. During his undergraduate, David worked with the iGEM teams at UBC, engineering functional cellulase enzymes to express on the surface of C. crescentus and characterizing CRISPR/Cas9 in A. tumefaciens for crop protection. Between graduation and starting his PhD, David researched the degradation of environmental toxins using a genetically engineered bacteria and developed technology to scale the production of human pluripotent stem cells in vitro. In the Gradinaru lab, he is researching the AAV capsid and the production machinery of AAV to improve the production capacity of gene therapy vectors.
Anastasiya (Nastya) Grebin
UNDERGRADUATE STUDENT, BIOENGINEERING
Nastya is a current Caltech undergraduate pursuing a BS in Bioengineering. Her previous lab experience includes work on piRNA-mediated transcriptional repression with the Aravin lab. With the Gradinaru group, Nastya studies the application of AAV technology to develop gene therapies for human neurodegenerative disorders such as Friedreich’s Ataxia and Rett Syndrome.
UNDERGRADUATE STUDENT, COMPUTER SCIENCE AND ECONOMICS
Alex is currently a Caltech undergraduate pursuing a B.S. in Computer Science and Economics. He previously worked on classification of somatic L1 insertions in human neurons in Alexander Urban’s lab at Stanford and integration of deep kernel learning into multi-fidelity Bayesian Optimization algorithms in Yisong Yue’s group at Caltech. In the Gradinaru Lab, he is using machine learning to model and improve AAV-mediated gene delivery and to improve cell calling methods.
Elisha Mackey, B.S.
Elisha is our awesome lab manager who works tirelessly to keep our lab in good shape! Science wouldn’t be possible without her!
Pat is our incredible administrative assistant who works at lightening speed to help with everybody’s needs!
Nathan Appling, B.S.
Nathan received his B.S in Neuroscience at the University of California, Riverside in 2020. In the Gradinaru lab, he is excited to aide graduate students and post-doctoral scholars to manufacture, test, and study novel AAV variants.
Carrie Saada, B.S.
Carrie received their B.S. in Mathematical and Computational Biology from Harvey Mudd College in 2019. In their undergraduate research they studied the localization of bromodomain proteins during the differentiation of T. brucei in Prof. Schulz’s lab at HMC. They are excited to work on a variety of projects in the Gradinaru lab, and to learn more about and contribute to biology research.