Dear CNLM Community,

As we step into the 5th year of the Schneiderman Training Program in Learning and Memory, we would like to introduce you to the 2023/2024 Fellows and celebrate the achievements of our program alumni. In the upcoming academic year, we are proud to announce the funding of 5 doctoral students. Among them, 4 are entering their second year of support, and one is embarking on their first year. A heartfelt congratulations to the entire cohort of current and former Schneiderman Fellows, as well as their dedicated mentors!



Manuella Oliveira Yassa
Director of Outreach and Education
Center for the Neurobiology of Learning and Memory

2023-2024 Schneiderman Fellows


Bianca Leonard is a rising 3rd year PhD student in the Medical Scientists Training Program training with Dr. Mike Yassa. Bianca's research aims to understand the origins of mental illness by studying how early life experiences impact to brain circuit development using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). She investigates how differences in the functional connectivity of brain regions that are important to decision-making, reward learning, and threat detection can underlie psychiatric symptoms and behavior. In the last year, Bianca became a tía, went as a hippocampus for Halloween, reunited with her family in Honduras for the first time since the pandemic, and celebrated her cohort friends’ medical school graduation in the Caribbean.



Kate Lawson is a rising 4th year PhD student training with Dr. Steve Mahler to understand how drugs of abuse and neural manipulations make animals feel. Check out Kate's recent preprint: A head-to-head comparison of two DREADD agonists for suppressing operant behavior in rats via VTA dopamine neuron inhibition. This summer, Kate has participated in the Irvine Summer Institute in Neuroscience program as a mentor to UC-HBCU Fellow Kayla Cason.



Ari Khoudari is a rising 3rd year PhD student training with Drs. Megan Peters and Aaron Bornstein. Ari uses computational modeling, human behavior, and neuroimaging to understand how humans use past experiences to reduce uncertainty about the present. This summer, Ari traveled to Japan to participate in the RIKEN CBS Summer Program on Learning and Imagination in humans and animals!



Nellie Nelson is a rising 5th year PhD student training with Dr. Autumn Ivy to explore exercise-induced epigenetic mechanisms and their potential role in reversing hippocampal memory impairments observed after early life adversity. This summer, Nellie spent 2 weeks participating in a Cold Spring Harbor course learning about Advanced Techniques in Molecular Neuroscience. Thus far on the T32, she co-authored 2 papers, including a co-first author publication: “SIT” with Emx1‐NuTRAP Mice: Simultaneous INTACT and TRAP for Paired Transcriptomic and Epigenetic Sequencing and Early-life exercise primes the murine neural epigenome to facilitate gene expression and hippocampal memory consolidation.



Ali Ozgur is a rising 5th year PhD student training with Dr. Gyuri Lur. Ali's work aims to understand the neural underpinnings of decision-making by following the activity of neurons throughout the learning process to see how they change. Check out Ali's recent first-author paper A Comprehensive, Affordable, Open-Source Hardware-Software Solution for Flexible Implementation of Complex Behaviors in Head-Fixed Mice published last month in eNeuro!


Schneiderman Program Alumni


Carlene Chinn continues to advance as an HHMI-funded Gilliam Fellow with her advisor Dr. Marcelo Wood. Carlene's project aims to explore epigenetic changes that occur in the aging brain (read more here).



Vini Duarte is a rising 5th year PhD Candidate training with Dr. Katherine Thomopson-Peer to understand how neurons use calcium to detect and respond to dendrite injury. Vini just successfully completed his second year on the T32 and has rotated off and joined the Schneiderman alumni group.



Steve Granger successfully defended his dissertation in 2022 and moved across the country where he is currently a postdoctoral scholar at Harvard McLean Hospital's Center for Depression, Anxiety, and Stress Research. His first post-doctoral co-author publication has been accepted in Biological Psychiatry: Cognitive Neuroscience and Neuroimaging, and he has received a seed grant from the McLean Conte Center for the Neurobiology of Approach-Avoidance Decision Making. Steve recently also got married and had a baby! Congratulations, Dr. Granger!



Rachael Hokenson continues to advance toward completing their doctoral degree. In addition to their impressive work in the lab, this year Rachael co-chaired a committee that organized both the Irvine Brain Bee and the USA Brain Bee in Irvine.



Elena Dominguez has been thriving as an Assistant Professor at Florida International University! Over the last year, she has taught a number of undergraduate courses and has learned so much from her students.



Miranda Chappel-Farley has been awarded an Individual Predoctoral Fellowship F31 by the National Institute on Aging to study the neurobiological mechanisms of sleep and exercise on memory in older adults at risk for Alzheimer's disease. Miranda has been selected to serve on the Sleep Research Society's Board of Directors as the Trainee Representative where she will support the advancement of the society's strategic plan and training goals.



Aliza Le defended her dissertation (Congratulations, Dr. Le!) and continues working with Drs. Gall and Lynch to wrap up a few projects before the next step. She recently published a paper with her advisors in the Journal of Neuroscience Research titled Sex differences in synaptic plasticity underlying learning. Check it out!



Sophia Levis completed her PhD in 2022 and transitioned back to medical school to complete her clinical training. This year she was inducted into the Gold Humanism Honor Society, a prestigious award recognizing top medical students who demonstrate excellence in clinical care, leadership, compassion, and dedication to service. She is currently in her final year of medical school and is applying to residency in Psychiatry this fall.


Enjoy some photos of our Scheiderman Fellows!


The Howard Schneiderman Training Program in Learning and Memory at the Center for the Neurobiology of Learning and Memory is a NIMH funded T32 predoctoral training program that is supplemented with a private endowment named in honor of Dr. Howard Schneiderman (1927-1990), former Dean of Biological Sciences at UC Irvine and a major driving force in building the School in its early days.


Learn more about the Schneiderman Training Program