Brain is Diverse, so are WE
Mubarak Hussain Syed (The 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 and mentoring at JKScientists. Global Scientist tweeting @neuroseq
Linking Stem Cells to Neural Circuits and Behavior: Thanks to these experts and cool collaborators-
Dr. Monica Dus Faculty University of Michigan https://sites.lsa.umich.edu/dus-lab/
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, epigenetics and Development 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.
"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. "
Ethan Kato Wilson
Fernando Figueroa Santiago
I completed my undergraduate studies at the University of Puerto Rico at Humacao. Here, I started my path in science, first working with Dr. Diaz in an entomology lab, looking at the relationship between mites and plants. During my time in this lab, a passion for neuroscience and developmental biology started to rise. This led me to work for two years at the Institute of Neurobiology of Puerto Rico under the mentorship of Dr. Andrew Seeds and Dr. Stefanie Hampel. Here, I learned how to trace and proofread using Flywire, a connectomics tool. I also learned about the grooming circuit and behavior in the fruit fly; this new understanding of how behaviors and circuits work led me to a bigger interest in development within the nervous system. Now, in the Diversity Lab, I’m interested in looking at how two different lineages communicate with each other during development. Because of this, I’m looking at the migration pattern of the chiasm glia in the fruitfly and their potential roles in the optic lobe. Although I’m still figuring things out in my science journey, I’m really passionate about making science accessible to everyone. I’m particularly interested in making neuroscience more accessible back home in Puerto Rico.
Gonzalo Nahim Chaya
Hola, 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 in 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.
Undergraduate Research Trainees
Alexa González (U-RISE Scholar)
Renae Simonson (McNair Scholar)
Hi, my name is Renae. I am an undergraduate with a major in Biology and a minor in Psychology. I am very interested in people, especially eccentric people. I want to know more about why people think and behave the way they do. I also want to learn more about how the brain functions at the molecular level. These strong interests led me to join Dr. Syed's Lab. At present, my goals are to graduate with my bachelor's, learn neuroscience techniques, learn all I can from the people around me, and of course learn from the fruit flies we are researching. Looking ahead, I want to complete graduate school and eventually have fun contributing to the field of neuroscience research. Other things I really like are spending time with family and friends, playing a friendly game or two of volleyball, listening to music, exploring places, and cooking new recipes.
Krishna Patel and the VR
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.
High School Research Trainees
La Cueva High School (Summer 2023)
Hello, my name is Kyuryeon Kim and I’m a rising junior at La Cueva High School. I have not yet decided on which field I will major in, but I have always been interested in the field of biology. I’ve learned so much from participating in the lab, not just about flies but about biology and technology as well. I’m very grateful that this opportunity has allowed me to indulge in activities that most high schoolers couldn’t even think of. In my free time, I like to talk to my friends, play video games, and spend time with my dog.
Clovis High School (Summer 2023)
“This summer, I am continuing my research internship in the Neural Diversity Lab and am building PiVR to assay fruit fly behavior.” see my interests below!
Albuquerque Academy (Summer 2023)
More to come here
Las Cruces High School (Summer 2022)
Clovis High School (Summer 2022)
“Hi, my name is Kriday Andiboina. I am a junior at Clovis High School in Clovis, NM. I became intrigued by neurology when I realized just how much power the brain has over us. The neural diversity lab allows me to experiment with fruit flies and equipment beyond my high school years. My goal is to practice neurology and continue research throughout my college years. I hope to sometime teach others as well. Some of my hobbies include competitively swimming, playing chess, traveling, and spending time with my brother”.
The Public Academy for Performing Arts in Albuquerque (Summer 2022)
Hello! My name is Sienna Allen. I am going to be a sophomore in high school this fall at The Public Academy for Performing Arts in Albuquerque, NM. Although I have yet to decide what career field I wish to go into, biology has always been an interest of mine and I would love to do more with it in the future. Working in the lab has taught me so many things that I would never learn in a classroom and I love that I can contribute to research that is helping to make the world a better place. In my free time, I enjoy listening to music, painting, and spending time in nature.
Gone but not forgotten
Brandi Hess (U-RISE Scholar) -2022
Brandi decided to study mice on the North Campus
Andrew Gutierrez (Research Assistant 2021-22) - Andrew got GRFP and is now continuing graduate school at UNM
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 developmental biology. Besides research, my passions include music, painting, dancing, video games, programming, anime/manga, and traveling.
Sean Maez 2021-22 Currently working in the health sciences center at UNM
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.
Lindsey Thomas, 2022
Aysu Nora Caglar (2019-2022) -
Current position: Health Sciences UNM - MD program
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!
Kamila Giermakowski Rios (Spring 2022)
Current position: Undergraduate at Barnard College
My name is Kamila Giermakowski Rios, I am a current high school senior at Albuquerque Academy. I will be heading to Barnard College of Columbia University in the fall, to get a B.S. in Neuroscience and Behavior on a pre-med track. Neuroscience interests me because there is still a lot of research to be done on the complex systems in the brain and a lot of good can be done through the field. I hope to work in research throughout my undergraduate years. When I am not focused on my scientific studies, I spend my time painting, dancing, and skiing.
Naima Pyarali (Spring 2022)
Current position: Undergraduate at Washington University St. Luis
Hello. My name is Naima Pyarali and I am a senior at Albuquerque Academy. I have always loved science and I hope to go into research in college. At school, I have been working with fruit flies and I have loved hands-on lab opportunities. The Neural Diversity Lab is a wonderful extension of the work I have done in school while also advancing my research skills. Outside of academics, I spend a lot of my time in Speech and Debate and I love taking pictures.
Noreen Rizvi (2020/21)
Noreen is working as a nurse practitioner
Jacob Bonnafoux (2019/20) Current position: MD UNM
Alexander Cordova (2020)