Meet the Fall 2018 Brain Explorer Academy Team!

Applications for the Fall 2018 cohort of the Brain Explorer Academy are now open and the Science Mentor Team is excited to meet you! This Fall, neuroscience students and trainees from the UC Irvine Center for the Neurobiology of Learning and Memory will work hand-in-hand with Orange County elementary school children to explore the brain. The children and their mentors will spend Saturday mornings at the UC Irvine Center for the Neurobiology of Learning and Memory as part of the Center’s Brain Explorer Academy. This program is 100% free and is possible thanks to the dedicated scientists who are passionate about science education and brain awareness.

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Manuella Yassa
Director of Outreach and Education, Center for the Neurobiology of Learning and Memory
Director, UC Irvine Brain Explorer Academy

My interests lie at the intersection of neuroscience and education and I am passionate about the mission of the Brain Explorer Academy. I obtained my Bachelor's Degree in Neuroscience at Johns Hopkins University before teaching middle school science in Baltimore, Maryland. I am lucky to work among the brilliant junior scientists and professors at UC Irvine who value science outreach and public education. We look forward to meeting you!

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Morgan Coburn
Graduate Student, Laboratory of Dr. Matthew Blurton-Jones

Hi! My name is Morgan and I’m a second year grad student. I focus on the intersection between the immune system and the brain in Dr. Blurton-Jones's lab, where we study human microglia and their role in neuroinflammatory or degenerative states like Alzhiemer's Disease. I’m a SoCal native and when I’m not running experiments in lab I enjoy drawing, hiking, or hitting the beach.
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Mitchel Farrell
Graduate Student, Laboratory of Dr. Steven Mahler

Hello! My name is Mitch and I’m from New Jersey where I grew up with my four brothers and four basset hounds. At UCI, I study how the brain motivates us to do things. Ever wonder why we crave our favorite foods when hungry or seek out water when we’re thirsty?  These are the types of questions I research and can’t wait to share my interests with you!

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Jonathan Hasselman
Graduate Student, Laboratory of Dr. Matthew Blurton-Jones

Hi, my name is Jonathan Hasselmann and I am a neurobiology PhD student in Dr. Mathew Blurton-Jones’ lab. I became interested in neuroscience because I was fascinated by memory and how our memories shape the decisions that we make and the people that we are. I study microglia (a type of brain cell) to try to figure out what happens in the brain during Alzheimer's disease. If we can understand what this disease is doing to the brain, then hopefully we can figure out how to treat it. I can’t wait to meet you all so that we can explore the brain together!

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Caden Henningfield
Rotating Graduate Student

Hello! I’m Caden, and I am a graduate student at UCI. I am a Southern California native and I am interested in how certain types of cells in the brain, called “glia”, influence brain development. I like to think of the brain as a very tough puzzle that we as researchers try to put together piece by piece. I can’t wait to share my interests in neuroscience with you all!
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Amanda McQuade
Graduate Student, Laboratory of Dr. Matthew Blurton-Jones

Hi! I’m Amanda. I discovered my passion for science in elementary school through camps similar to the Brain Explorer's Academy, so I'm super excited to be a part of this program helping to inspire the next generation of curious scientists! This will be my second time participating as a mentor, and I can't wait meet everyone! Currently, I am studying how immune cells in the brain contribute to age-related diseases. My favorite thing about being a scientist is learning how to make new types of brain cells!

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Jessica Noche
Graduate Student, Laboratory of Dr. Craig Stark

Why do some memories last a lifetime while others slip through the cracks? Here at UC Irvine, my research focuses on answering questions such as these as well as exploring what happens to memory and the brain as we get older. Graduate students like me are making discoveries about the brain every day, but what's great about science is that there are many more discoveries that lie ahead. I can't wait to teach you how to think like a scientist at the Brain Explorer Academy!
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Julian Quintanilla
Graduate Student, Laboratory of Dr. Steven Mahler

Bio coming soon!
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Michelle Ren
Graduate Student, Laboratory of Dr. Shahrdad Lotfipour, PhD

Hi, I'm Michelle! What do you think people mean when they say to trust your gut feelings or instincts? Turns out that our gut may actually have a mind of its own! My research focuses on how the bacteria in our gut influence our feelings and behavior, specifically related to reward and motivation. I find the brain so fascinating because it is the most powerful thing we own!
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Isabella Sanchez
Graduate Student, Laboratory of Dr. Leslie Thompson

I was raised in Colombia before moving to New Jersey, where I assisted my grandmother in running a daycare center, and discovered my love for working with children. I completed my undergraduate studies at UC San Diego, where I majored with B.S. degrees in Cognitive Science and Physiology & Neuroscience. I am now continuing my studies in the laboratory of Dr. Leslie Thompson at UC Irvine, where my Ph.D. thesis project is focused on investigating how the fluid that bathes the central nervous system may be playing a role in neurodegeneration. After completing my Ph.D., I plan to attend medical school in hopes of one day conducting translational research as a physician-scientist. I enjoys weight-lifting, contemporary dance, petting puppies, and exploring new coffee shops with friends. I share my passion for neuroscience through various outreach programs, and hope to inspire children from all backgrounds to pursue careers in science.

Jessica Sanchez
Graduate Student, Laboratory of Dr. Matthew Blurton-Jones

Hi I'm Jessica. As a PhD graduate student I am able to combine my passion for science, teaching, mentoring, and exploring the brain. I study how the cells of the immune system, specifically microglia and T cells, influence Alzheimer's disease. When I'm not conducting research I enjoy playing video games and spending lots of time with my family. I am very excited to meet you all and share what's fascinating about the brain!