Lab Members

Our Staff

Our Fellows

Photo of Chia Li
Chia Li
Staff Scientist
Chia’s passion for neuroscience began with her undergraduate research experience in the behavioral neuropharmacology lab with Dr. Rick Bevins at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, where she received her Bachelor of Science in Biochemistry, Biology, and Psychology. During this time, her work focused on learning theories behind motivational behaviors in drugs of abuse such as Nicotine and Cocaine. Chia continued to explore her interest in neuropharmacology and obtained her doctorate from the Neurobiology Curriculum at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Under the guidance of Dr. Thomas Kash, she probed neural networks and nuclei surrounding the extended amygdala in the midbrain using ex vivo electrophysiology, optogenetics, chemogenetics and behavioral assays. Her work focused on the effects of stress, alcohol and opioids on neural signaling and their mechanisms. Before becoming a staff Scientist at Department of Endocrinology, Obesity Branch at NIDDK, Dr. Li’s postdoctoral work under the guidance of Dr. Michael Krashes investigated hypothalamic networks and their functional roles involving feeding, showing one of the first evidences of cell-type specific connectivity between the Arcuate Nucleus and the Paraventricular Nucleus of the Hypothalamus. As a staff scientist, Dr. Li continues to explore hypothalamic networks and their involvement in motivational and orthogonal behaviors associated with feeding, incorporating neural imaging techniques such as photometry. Outside of research, Chia enjoys hiking with her dog and family, eating and cooking, making soap and upcycling materials for craft, and any excuse to use power tools.
Picture of Isabel De Araujo Salgado
Isabel De Araujo Salgado
Isabel De Araujo Salgado is a 2019 CCB fellow and a postdoctoral fellow in Dr. Michael Krashes’ laboratory at the NIDDK. She aims to investigate food-related decision-making, which can be driven by external (e.g. advertisement, threat) and internal (e.g. hunger) cues. Specifically, her work investigates the interaction between two key drives fundamental to an individual’s survival: foraging and threat avoidance. Isabel earned her M.Sc. in Medical Biology from the University of Lausanne (Switzerland) in the lab of Dr. Ron Stoop. She received her Ph.D. in Neuroscience from the University of Fribourg (Switzerland) where she studied neuronal circuits matching body metabolic signals and behaviors under the mentorship of Dr. Christophe Lamy.
Claire Gao, Ph.D.

Dr. Claire Gao attended the University of California, Berkeley for her undergraduate degree studying Molecular and Cellular Biology. During her undergraduate years, she performed clinical research on patients with the metabolic disorder Niemann Pick Type C to investigate how a trial drug treatment could impact their quality of life and longevity. This sparked her interest in understanding the mechanisms behind the neural effects of these pharmacological treatments. She earned her Ph.D. in neuroscience in 2022 from the Brown University-NIH Graduate Partnership Program under the mentorship of Dr. Mario Penzo. Her thesis work focused on parsing out the molecular, anatomical, and functional organization of the midline thalamus. In 2023, Dr. Gao joined the laboratories of Drs. Michael Krashes and Andrew Lutas as a postdoctoral fellow to pursue her long-term goal of expanding the understanding of neural therapeutic targets in treating affective disorders. Her current project investigates how the peripherally administered drug semaglutide affects patterns of neuronal activity.

Qi Zhang, Ph.D.

Throughout Qi’s scientific education, she has expressed an interest in the study of animal behaviors and metabolism. As an undergraduate student, she was involved in several studies of pulmonary fibrosis and lung metastasis of breast cancer with Dr. Wen Ning at Nankai University, where she received her bachelor in Biological Science. After joining Ali Güler’s lab at University of Virginia, she explored her interest in neuroscience by investigating the role of dopaminergic system in circadian and metabolic activities and obtained her doctorate. Her specific interest lies in the role of hypothalamic dopamine pathways in the regulation of feeding behaviors and metabolic processes using chemogenetics, optogenetics, and behavioral assays. She participated in identifying a novel connection between the dopaminergic neurons of the ventral tegmental area and the central circadian pacemaker located in the suprachiasmatic nucleus, and the subsequent examination of the necessity of dopamine signaling in the suprachiasmatic nucleus in high-fat diet induced obesity. Meanwhile, she identified a role for the dopamine input to the arcuate nucleus that encodes acute responses to food. As a postdoc fellow under the guidance of Dr. Michael Krashes at NIDDK, she continues to explore the involvement of distinct dopaminergic neuronal groups in feeding behaviors during varied energy states. Outside the research, Qi is a big fan of detective novels and horror movies, with the perfect companion of an adorable, fluffy, and intelligent guinea pig, whose feeding behaviors are keenly observed.

Shakira Rodriguez Gonzalez
Shakira Rodriguez González
Graduate Student

Shakira received her bachelor’s in biology from the University of Puerto Rico and is currently pursuing a Ph.D. through the JHU-NIH Graduate Partnership Program. She is interested in understanding how exposure to energy dense diet affects motivated behaviors and the neural circuits underlying those. Outside of research, she enjoys learning how to cook new things and obstacle course racing.

Eva Karolczak
Eva Karolczak

Eva is a postbaccalaureate fellow within the Intramural Research Training Award (IRTA) program. She graduated from Swarthmore College in 2022 with a B.A. in Neuroscience, where she completed her senior thesis on reward-affiliated neurons in the hippocampus. Despite possessing a wide range of scientific interests, Eva is most passionate about the complex biological bases of eating disorders and is applying to medical school to pursue eating disorder psychiatry. In the meantime, she is thrilled to be involved in various projects within the Krashes lab, ranging from investigating how hypothalamic processes are influenced by gut-brain signaling to interrogating possible anti-obesity drug targets. Outside of research, she enjoys biking throughout the DMV, playing softball, choral singing, oil painting, cooking, and volunteering.

Photo of Jordan Becker
Jordan Becker
Graduate Student
Jordan Becker is a graduate student in the NIH-GPP program. He is interested in the choroid plexus’s role in feeding, and he is interested in applications of computational vision models for automating animal behavior analysis. In his free time, Jordan is a nationally competitive Olympic weightlifter.
Picture of Ivan Alcantara
Ivan Alcantara
Graduate Student
Ivan received his bachelor’s in neuroscience from Brown University and his masters in cell biology from the Max Planck Institute of Brain Research. Currently, he is pursuing his Ph.D. through the Brown-NIH Graduate Partnership Program in Neuroscience. His scientific interests include the interplay between feeding behavior and social interactions in mice, and the genetics and neural circuits underlying those behaviors. He is also committed to making science, education, and digital information more accessible to underprivileged communities.

Past Trainees

Chris Mazzone
Research Scientist at Eli Lilly
Ames Sutton Hickey
Assistant Professor at Temple University
Emily Webber
Director of Life Science Research Analytics at Truveta
Joey Burnett
Assistant Medical Director at Health Science Communications
Samuel Funderburk
Senior Research Associate at Sarepta Therapeutics
Jing Liang
Field Scientific Consultant at Inscopix, Inc.
Laura Mickelsen
Associate Scientific Editor at Nature Communications
Last Reviewed July 2023