Our Team

Pinar Ayata

Principal Investigator

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 Pinar’s most recent unpublished results from her postdoc reveal subsets of microglia that play opposing roles in in Alzheimer’s disease (AD) progression.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.

Emily Boyd

Research Assistant

Emily is interested in studying the epigenetic changes in microglia in response to high fat diet. Prior to joining ASRC, Emily conducted graduate-level research for one year at Columbia University where she completed a master’s thesis on disordered eating behaviors in correlation with changes in cortical thickness and gray matter volumes in the brain. She holds a Master of Science degree from Columbia University, and a Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Michigan.

Dvir Avnon-Klein

Undergraduate/Accelerated Master’s student

Dvir is a dedicated student researcher pursuing a Masters at Queens College Accelerated Neuroscience Masters Program. He was selected as one of 19 delegates from the United States and awarded a full scholarship by the American Committee for the Weizmann Institute to conduct immunology research in collaboration with international researchers. Afterward, Dvir developed a novel biosensor concept, becoming a finalist at the QC Pitchfest and winning first place at the JA Business Competition. Also a passionate violinist, he led his chamber ensemble to win first place at the Lincoln Center Society Competition and the Chamber Music Competition of the Manhattan School of Music Precollege. He was recently selected as a fellow for the Carnegie Hall Future Music Project. He still tours with ensembles, and produces original music.

Swastik P G

Rotating PhD student

Swastik completed his BS-MS dual degree from the Indian Institute of Science Education and Research Mohali majoring in biology. His research interests revolve around the field of neurodegeneration, protein biology of neurons, liquid-liquid phase separation of IDPs, and epigenetics. It has been his long-standing interest to understand the effect of the environment on our central nervous system and how it plays a crucial role in the normal functioning of the brain and its dysfunction in diseases. In his free time, he likes to play soccer, table tennis, or travel the world.

Kaiming Wang

Master’s student

Kai is a Master’s student in Behavioral Neuroscience at Queens College. At Queensborough Community College, he worked with Dr. Villegas to study the effect of deep brain stimulation on attentional tasks in Alzheimer’s rats. After transferring to Queens College for his bachelor’s degree, he worked in Dr. Brumberg’s Lab to investigate the relationship between microglia and the perineuronal net during the critical period development of the somatosensory cortex. He is interested in studying how the environment alters Alzheimer’s disease-associated microglia.

Erna Mitaishvili

Rotating PhD student

Erna is a first year PhD student who will rotate in our lab in November 2021.

Anna Flury

Rotating PhD student

Anna is a first year PhD student who will rotate in our lab in December 2021.

Praveena ​Naidu

Rotating PhD student

Praveena is a first year PhD student who will rotate in our lab in Spring 2022.


Hannah Tetreault

Hannah was a CSURP student in Summer ’21. She is a Cellular and Molecular Biology undergraduate student at CUNY’s John Jay College. She is interested in studying cellular changes in microglia in response to high fat diet.