Mubarak Hussain Syed (FlyGuy)

Born and raised in Kashmir. A father, and a scientist exploring the mysteries of a fruit fly brain. I did my Ph.D. at the University of Muenster Germany, where I was working with Christian Klaembt as an International Max Planck fellow. Before starting my lab at the University of New Mexico, I worked as a postdoc with Chris Doe, who is an HHMI investigator at the University of Oregon. Neurotree. In 2019, I started Neural Diversity Lab at the University of New Mexico, Albuquerque. Thanks to the National Science Foundation, I was awarded the NSF CAREER award that will fund our science and diversity in science initiatives until the end of 2026.

I get excited about science, science advocacy, diversity, open access, travels, running, hiking, and playing cricket. Currently, I spend most of my free time outdoors with my kid exploring amazing nature. Global Scientist tweeting @neuroseq

Qussin Basharat Joo (The Fly Doctor)

I am interested in epigenetic modifications during in-utero development, particularly those induced by lifestyle and emotions. I teach genetics and epigenetics at the UNM. In my free time, I volunteer at the Neural diversity lab to understand the cell-signaling mechanisms that enable the progression from stem cells to circuits. I enjoy time with my kids, reading, teaching, and outdoors.

Graduate Research Scholars

Adil Rashid Wani

I received my masters in Clinical Biochemistry from the University of Kashmir (India). Before joining the neural diversity lab as Graduate Student, I worked as the project assistant in Dr. Saibal Chatterjee’s Laboratory, at the Indian Institute of Science Bangalore (India) where I worked on understanding the role of miRNasome (microRNA turnover complex) in miRNA turnover pathways in C. elegans.

The curiosity that initiated my interest in neuroscience and neurobiology is the diversity of the tasks the brain can perform which in turn is reflected in the diverseness of the neurons that it is composed of. These neurons procreate from progenitor stem cells, which divide and produce these different cell types one after the other. But how do these progenitors manage to generate specific and diverse types of neurons in the right place at the right time?

My work in the lab will involve exploring the cellular and molecular programs regulating the fate specification and identity of sleep neurons in Drosophila, and elucidating the targets of RNA binding proteins which may be playing a crucial role in generating the neural diversity.

The things which keep me motivated and energetic apart from the lab include Hiking, Reading, Playing Cricket and Poetry.

Aisha Hamid

"My inquisitiveness roots from a recombinant DNA technology course in my master's degree. I started my research experience with microbiology, studying orthologs of a peptidoglycan hydrolase in Gram-negative bacteria. Later I was interested in different signaling pathways regulating the cellular processes and studied the molecular mechanism of a unique non-enzymatic post-translational modification in eukaryotes known as pyro-phosphorylation. Intrigued by the concept of memory and neural circuits involved, and much more so by the microscopic images of the fly brain, I started studying neurogenesis. I intend to understand how various intrinsic and extrinsic cues regulate neurogenesis. I spend my time-off organizing and planning, and the me-time reading, painting and listening to music. I am pensive, taciturn, a naturalist, and an aesthete. "

Andrew Gutierrez

My name is Andrew Gutierrez. I graduated from UNM with a B.S. in Biology. I have always had an interest in the field of embryologic development as well as how the process may be altered and studied through genetic engineering techniques. My current focus in the lab is how external signals affect temporal identity and overall CNS development in fruit flies. I hope to use the skills and experiences I have and will gain in the Neural Diversity Lab to become a better researcher in the field of developmental biology. Besides research, my passions include music, painting, dancing, video games, programming, anime/manga, and traveling.

Undergraduate Research Trainees

Aysu Nora Caglar

Hello! My name is Aysu Nora Caglar and I am currently a Junior majoring in Biochemistry. Currently, I am working on characterizing various neural type markers labelling the fruit fly central complex. Other than studying and working at Syed Lab, I love to spend time outdoors, go skiing, and hiking. I also worked as a tutor for UNM, as a ski instructor during winter break and I am also a Nurse Assistant for a pediatric MD. In the future, I want to continue researching different neurodevelopmental disorders and discover more about the amazing human brain through Drosophila! For my academic career goals, I want to end up applying to MD/PhD programs around the United States and travel!

Krishna Patel

As an undergraduate researcher at Syed Lab, I am grateful for the unique opportunity to work on amazing devices used in fruit fly research. Currently, I am working on building an ethoscope, which is a small device built with 3D printed parts and running on a raspberry pi, that can track the motion of many flies in real-time. I hope to leverage the power of machine learning and AI, along with new innovative modes of manufacturing, to bring low-cost and high-throughput tools into the fly lab workflow for sleep, olfactory, optomechanical, and locomotion assays.

I am a returning student, currently pursuing a Biochemistry and English major preparing for the PhD/MD pathway. I decided to go back to school to learn more about the human brain, or brains in general, because I believe that neural interfacing will bring about amazing changes in our lifetime. My goal is to apply my education in entrepreneurial and non-profit endeavors.

To fill the gaps, I play Indian classical sitar along with a few other instruments, produce my own music, and sometimes work on small film/photography projects. I enjoy coding, 3D modeling/printing, anything to do with lasers, high voltages, and automated movement. My 2 dogs and 2 dog-like cats make for great company on my quest to stay busy for as long as I possibly can.




Gonzalo Nahim Chaya

Holla, my name is Gonzalo Morales Chaya and this is my third year at UNM as an international student from Tucumán, Argentina. I have various interests and as such, I am double majoring in Biochemistry and French, with a minor in Computer Science. While spending my time at the Syed Lab, I fell in love with neuroscience, specifically with the “puzzle" of neuronal diversity. In a near future I want to continue on the research field and apply for a PhD in biotechnology/biomedical engineering.

Overwhelmed with discouraging commentaries, I was drawn to research by Syed, the one professor who told me “you can do it.” I love learning, traveling and I am highly motivated to continue my studies once I graduate.


Alexa González

Holla, my name is Alexa González and I am a second-year student at UNM. While pursuing my bachelor’s degree in Biology and Spanish with a minor in Chemistry, I encountered the opportunity to participate in research through the Neural Diversity Lab. Although I would have never imagined taking this route, I was soon amazed by the contributions Drosophila research has established in the field of science. I was also impressed by the hostility and assistance of the laboratory members. I am now pleased to begin my journey in the study of Drosophila olfactory and navigation systems. Undoubtedly, Research will continue to be a pillar for my overall success. In the future, I plan to obtain a medical degree and travel. Outside of academics, I love spending time with family, learning more about my Latin culture, trying new dishes, and art viewing.

Sean Maez

Hello my name is Sean Maez. This is my fourth year at UNM and I am majoring in Biology. I was first introduced to the Neural Diversity Lab during my Genetics class that was taught by Dr. Joo and Dr. Syed. I was immediately intrigued by the research in this lab, and have been part of this diverse lab since then. I am aiming to understand the developmental mechanisms regulating sleep behavior n Drosophila. Outside of lab and my schoolwork, I enjoy participating in sports and traveling. My goal is to apply to various MD/Ph.D. programs to continue my work in the biomedical field.


Gone but not forgotten

Noreen Rizvi (2020/21)

Hello, my name is Noreen and this is my fourth year here at UNM. I graduated this past August with my Bachelor of Science in nursing. As a nursing student, I worked as an intern in the trauma surgical ICU and found a great liking to it. I am currently working on uncovering the complex behaviors associated with fetal alcohol syndrome, specifically sleep and aggression. This is a subject matter I am passionate about, as I have seen the consequences of this disease process in the clinical setting quite often and hope to play a role in decreasing its prevalence within our community. Outside of the lab, I enjoy spending as much time as I can outdoors, biking, hiking, and recently snowboarding. I’m also a Bob Ross fan, painting one happy tree at a time.


Jacob Bonnafoux (2019)

Alexander Cordova (2020)

I am Alexander (Xander) Cordova and I am from a tiny town in the northeast corner of New Mexico. I found a love for nature and science growing up in the land of enchantment and am a happy father of five kids. I am deeply passionate about research and the power it holds to unlock new doors. This is my first lab experience where I am looking to explore drug abuse and anxiety as it relates to pathology. I want to find new ways to treat people who struggle with drug addiction looking to restore the minds of people who may not have taken the best care of themselves over the years. I look forward to recruiting new minds to the field of neuroscience as a community outreach advocate for this lab. I absolutely love working with kids because they are the future, and the future of science is the brain so it follows naturally for me to stimulate young minds to be curious about the brain.