Our Team

Pinar Ayata

Principal Investigator (2020 – present)

Pinar received her BSc in Biological and Biomedical Science from Sabanci University in Turkey, where she was born and raised. During her undergraduate studies, she did summer internships at the German Cancer Research Center and Harvard Medical School. She served both as a Teaching Assistant and a Research Assistant during the final years of her undergraduate studies before embarking on her PhD thesis research in the lab of Dr. Nathaniel Heintz at The Rockefeller University. Here, she focused on understanding the interaction of 5-hydroxymethylcytosine modification and MeCP2 protein, and the pathophysiology of Rett syndrome. Upon completion of her doctoral studies, the joined the lab of Dr. Anne Schaefer at Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai for her post-doctoral work. There, her work led to the identification of cerebellar microglia as a subtype of microglia that functionally specialize in the phagocytic clearance of apoptotic neurons. Her work also highlighted the epigenetic mechanisms that maintain the specification of microglial subtypes and their importance in normal brain function. Pinar’s most recent unpublished results from her postdoc reveal subsets of microglia that play opposing roles in in Alzheimer’s disease (AD) progression. She also discovered that transcriptional regulation of the population dynamics of the AD-associated microglia. Pinar’s work has received several awards including the Women and Science Graduate Fellow Award, The Rockefeller University Graduate Fellowship, NARSAD Young Investigator Award, and Robin Chemers Neustein Postdoctoral Award.

Anna Flury

PhD student (2022 – present)
Provost’s Pre-Dissertation Science Research Fellowship
Doctoral Student Research Grant (DSRG)
ASRC Private Donor Student Conference Travel Award

Anna is a second-year PhD student in Molecular Cellular and Developmental Biology Program. She received a BA in Molecular and Cellular Biology from UC Berkeley in 2019, where she worked in an evolutionary genetics lab with yeast. After that, she went on to work with C. elegans on another evolutionary genetics project as a Research Associate at the Buck Institute for Research on Aging.

Leen Aljayousi

PhD student (2022 – present)
Provost’s Pre-Dissertation Science Research Fellowship

Leen is a second-year PhD student in Molecular Cellular and Developmental Biology Program. Her research interest revolves around exploring the role of epigenetic changes on behavior and neurodegenerative disorders. She completed her undergraduate studies in Biology at Al-Quds Bard College in Palestine. There she joined the Palestinian Neuroscience Initiative (PNI) and conducted her undergraduate research on the effects of serotonin transporter haplotypes on rule generalization in healthy individuals. She then continued to work as a research associate in the behavioral neurogenetics unit at the PNI investigating the effects of Dopamine and serotonin SNPs on cognitive functions in humans.

Thi Ngo

Lab Manager / Research Assistant (2021 – present)

Thi is deeply fascinated by how life works at the molecular level. Prior to joining the ASRC in December 2021, she earned a Bachelor’s degree in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at UC Irvine, and went on to complete a Master’s degree in Molecular Evolution at Vanderbilt University.  Using both experimental and bioinformatics techniques, she has led projects exploring the molecular mechanisms behind nutrient sensing in fruit flies, and the pattern of molecular evolution in insect immune genes. Outside of the lab, you can find Thi engaging in various personal projects in the visual arts.

Jack Mechler

PhD student (2023 – present)

Jack is a third-year PhD student in the Biochemistry Program and he is co-mentored with Amedee des Georges at NYU. He did his undergraduate at Saint Lawrence University, where he worked in the Marano lab researching bacterial amyloid proteins. In his PhD studies, he has worked in the lab of his co-mentor Dr. Amedee des Georges, to uncover the structural stories of native membrane protein interaction, to this end, employing cutting-edge techniques in in situ cryo-electron microscopy. He is interested in leveraging these techniques to study the structural components of Alzheimer’s disease. Outside of research, Jack is an avid reader and writer.

Katie Park

High school student (2023-present)

Former Members & Alumni

Rotation Ph.D. Students

Swastik PG (MCD, Fall 2021)

Erna Mitaishvili (MCD, Fall 2021)

Praveena Naidu (MCD, Spring 2022)

Ezekiel Willerson (CNC, Spring 2022)

Anastassiya (Nastya) Kim (MCD, Fall 2022)

 Mitali Bhate (Biochemistry, Spring 2023)

Siaresh Aziz (CNC, Fall 2023)

Denice Moran Ramirez (MCD, Spring 2024)


Undergraduate Students

  Hannah Tetrault (Summer 2021)

Dvir Avnon-Klein (2021-2023)Excellence in Neuroscience Research Award, Best General Presentation at the CUNY Graduate Center SciCom Symposium; current: PhD Rockefeller University

Suhani Yerepathi (Summer 2022); current: Master’s at Icahn School of Medicine

Alekhya Maram (Summer 2022)

Deniz Zenep Sonmex (2022)

Ayesha Khan (2022-2023), Truman Scholar

Lillian Altonen (Summer 2023)

 Laura Ejiofor (Summer 2023)



Emily Boyd (2021-2022); current: PhD at Medical College of Wisconsin

Thi Ngo (2022-2023)


High school Students

Aleena Skylar (2022-2023)

Alexis Mai (2022-2023)

Violet Teodorescu (Summer 2023)

Zenel Agolli (Summer 2023)