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Postdoctoral Fellows & Research Associates

  • Associate Research Scientist

    I am a neurobiologist specializing in Parkinson’s disease and neurodegeneration research, with a background in medical physiology. I am interested in studying the role of presynaptic endolysosomal system in neurodegeneration, particularly in Parkinson’s disease, with a long-term goal of unravelling how genetic and environmental perturbations disrupt presynaptic terminals and their aging, leading to neurodegeneration.My research background: My journey in neuroscience began during my Master's in Medical Physiology, where I developed a profound interest in the motor system and its disorders, prompting me to pursue a Parkinson's disease (PD) focused PhD. My work revealed mechanisms behind mice strain-dependent susceptibility to parkinsonian toxin MPTP, shedding light on ethnicity-based differences in PD prevalence. Additionally, we pioneered the delineation of age-related glial changes in the human nigra, which significantly contributed to the morphology-based identification of glial cell activation. Collaborations for PD drug development and exposure to patient deep brain stimulation surgeries further solidified my dedication to PD research, a commitment I carried into my postdoc at Yale. During my postdoc, I specialized in endolysosomal dysfunctions of PD, focusing on auxilin and GBA. I authored a highly cited review on this topic within a year of joining. In a recently published study, we unveiled how auxilin-linked PD involves dopamine transporter and synaptic vesicle sorting defects. While establishing the importance of auxilin and its function of presynaptic endocytosis in PD, this study also contributed a novel auxilin knockout mice model of PD which is now being used for drug testing. In another study, we delved into mechanisms of cognitive dysfunction in PD and dementia with Lewy bodies. We first showed that GBA-SNCA double mutant mice are a good model to study these conditions, and using snRNA-seq and proteomics, we uncovered α-synuclein pathology independent mechanisms for cognitive dysfunction of GBA-linked PD, along with a putative modifier. I was funded as PI/co-PI for both projects, which also brought collaborations resulting in four related research articles. I have also ardently pursued leadership and mentoring opportunities, gaining experience in independently steering projects, fostering collaborations, and mentoring students. Yale University recognized my undergrad mentorship with an award, while one of my undergrads won Yale Outstanding Student Employee award. I have raised and managed funds as PI, published as the corresponding author, reviewed federal grants, and contributed to several departmental initiatives like Chair search, establishing high-throughput microscopy at Imaging Core, etc. I've been committed to promoting inclusivity in science through diverse teaching programs, neuroscience outreach, diversity initiatives, and as a founding member of the Yale Neuroscience Postdoc Committee. I was chosen as an Associate for the Intersection Science Fellow Symposium (ISFS) 2023, which mentors and spotlights select postdocs across the US for the faculty job market.My future research: Dopaminergic presynaptic terminals are often the initial sites affected by neurodegeneration in PD. Nevertheless, their remarkable adaptability and dynamic nature within an otherwise post-mitotic soma present a substantial potential for novel PD therapeutics, if we gain an understanding of the factors underlying early presynaptic degeneration. Recent advances in PD genetics and cell biology have spotlighted the putative role played by the presynaptic endolysosomal system in early degeneration, particularly in processes such as presynaptic clathrin-mediated endocytosis and autophagy. My primary objective as a faculty member is to comprehend how dysfunction within the presynaptic endolysosomal system contributes to neurodegenerative mechanisms in PD. I plan to investigate novel PD-related mutations within presynaptic endolysosomal proteins, exploring their interactions with genetic and environmental risk factors, as well as the influence of age. These studies will reveal insights for innovative treatments and biomarker discovery in PD and related neurodegenerative conditions. With my extensive expertise in PD research and specialized training in endolysosomal dysfunctions, I'm well-prepared to take up this exciting and important work.RESEARCH SUPPORT/GRANTS:Michael J. Fox Foundation, Target Advancement Program Grant, Aug. 2021 – Sept. 2023Project: Pathogenic Mechanisms for Auxilin-mediated Parkinson's DiseaseRole: Co-Principal Investigator (US$150,000)U.S. Dept. of Defense, CDMRP Early Investigator Research Award, July 2019 - 21, NCE till 2022Project: Role of Lipid Dyshomeostasis in Cognitive Dysfunction of Parkinson's DiseaseRole: Principal Investigator (US$340,000) National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences (NIMHANS) Fellowship, May 2012 - April 2017Role: Ph.D. Scholar (INR 1,260,000, covers complete stipend for 5 years)Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), Declined as I received an extension for previous.Role: Senior Research Fellow (covers two-year PhD stipend)
  • Associate Research Scientist

    Na Wang received her Ph.D. in neurobiology from Zhejiang University where she investigated the mechanisms of  glutamate receptors trafficking. In her current postdoctoral research, she is particularly interested in early synaptic dysfunction which may be therapeutically beneficial to prevent cognitive decline and disease progression.

Graduate Students

  • Mary Alice received her B.S. in Biochemistry from Elon University, where she completed an undergraduate honors thesis on the ability of small-molecule catecholamines to stabilize amyloid beta oligomeric aggregates and alter their toxicity. Mary Alice then worked as a postbac in the Viral Immunology Section of the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS), studying several features of human herpesvirus-6 including its ability to integrate the viral genome into host chromosomes and the potential association of the virus with Alzheimer’s disease. As a PhD student in the Interdepartmental Neuroscience Program in the Chandra lab, she is focused on the role of the gut-brain axis in the initiation and spread of Parkinson’s pathology.
  • I'm broadly interested in neurodegenerative disease with a translational focus at the molecular level, and am currently being mentored by Dr. Sreeganga Chandra, working on the intersection of a rare lysosomal storage disorder, NCL, and Parkinson's disease (PD). I am also a part of the inaugural class of Wu Tsai graduate fellows, for which I am happy to answer any questions about the institute or fellowship. My previous research was in the treatment of Levodopa-induced dyskinesia by sub-anesthetic ketamine in a preclinical rodent model of PD under Dr. Torsten Falk's lab at the University of Arizona. As a first-generation, underrepresented minority in STEM, I highly value outreach to demographics similar to mine, especially at the higher-education level. I hope to continue in academia and someday contribute back to my Latino community by opening my own laboratory and providing a space for URM students via outreach programs/summer internships where they can grow and be guided by someone who was once in their shoes as well.
  • Leah received her B.S. in Neuroscience and Behavior with a supplemental major in Applied and Computational Math and Statistics from the University of Notre Dame. She completed an undergraduate honors thesis exploring functional connectivity across cognitive states in normal brain aging. She also was a 2019 Harvard Amgen Scholar and worked in the Sinclair Lab at Harvard Medical School studying the role of epigenetic noise in brain aging. As a PhD student in the Interdepartmental Neuroscience Program in the Chandra lab, she is focused on molecular and cellular mechanisms of Parkinson's Disease, specifically involving synaptic vesicle cycling and endocytosis at the presynaptic terminal. Outside of lab, Leah is passionate about STEM education and outreach, and is involved in several initiatives, including Yale Brain Education Day and the Yale Women's Mental Health Conference. She also works as a Writing Partner at Yale College's Poorvu Writing Center.
  • Sofia earned a BSc in Biology and minor in Neuroscience at Haverford College, where she conducted her senior thesis research on aggregative protein interactions in a D. melanogaster model of C9ORF72-mediated Frontotemporal Dementia and Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis. At Haverford, she was also an NCAA saber fencer and a manager of the campus art gallery. After graduating, Sofia worked at NASA Ames Research Center for two years on the BioSentinel mission, a nanosatellite examining the effects of deep space radiation on biological systems. She helped optimize the mission’s data analysis pipeline, worked on improving yeast desiccation tolerance for long term spaceflight, and employed transcriptomic approaches to query responses to simulated galactic cosmic radiation at the NASA Space Radiation Laboratory. As a PhD Student in Yale’s Interdepartmental Neuroscience Program, Sofia’s research interests have again turned to the molecular mechanisms of neurodegenerative disease. In the Chandra lab, she is investigating how the function of substrates of the depalmitoylating enzyme palmitoyl protein thioesterase 1 (PPT1) are altered in Neuronal Ceroid Lipofuscinosis (NCL), a rare lysosomal storage disorder that affects infants. She is also investigating the biogenesis and nature of lipofuscin, an autofluorescent material that accumulates in the brain in disease and natural aging states. During her time in the INP, Sofia has served as a coordinator for INP outreach and recruitment committees, a student accessibility aide, and a Graduate Student Assembly representative for the Neuroscience Department. She is currently a Graduate Writing Fellow for the Poorvu Center for Teaching and Learning. Outside of the lab, Sofia loves to travel home to her native Colorado or as far abroad as her bank account will allow. She is also an avid rock climber and soccer player, and can be found riding her bike around New Haven, baking, or thrift shopping for first edition novels.

Undergraduate Students

  • Risha is a prospective Neuroscience and Chemistry double major in Yale College. In the Chandra Lab, she works with her mentor Dr. Vidyadhara D J to explore how mutations in the GBA gene contribute to lipid dyshomeostasis and cognitive dysfunction in Parkinson’s Disease.In addition to her research, Risha enjoys writing for the Yale Scientific Magazine, playing trumpet and piano, and volunteering at a homeless shelter in New Haven. As a prospective neuroscientist-neurosurgeon, she wishes to explore the molecular relationships between neurodegenerative and neurodevelopmental pathologies while helping make crucial treatments accessible to all.
  • Chandler Rosas (he/him) is a class of 2025 Yale College student. He majors in Neuroscience on the pre-med track and is pursuing Yale's Mandarin Chinese Language Certificate. In the Chandra Laboratory, he works with his mentor Sofia Tieze to characterize Lipofuscin, the aggregate responsible for Neuronal Ceroid Lipofuscinoses (NCL). Outside of the lab, Chandler enjoys listening to music (especially mandopop), weightlifting, and volunteering in clinical and tutoring programs. As an FGLI student from a small Kentucky town, he is passionate about increasing access to education and healthcare. He hopes his research in the Chandra Lab will aid him in his goals of becoming both an educator and physician.
  • Angela Zhao is a Yale College junior (class of 2025) majoring in cognitive science with a theme in neurodevelopment and connections between brain and behavior, and pursuing an Education Studies Certificate. In the Chandra Lab, she works with her mentor Mary Alice Allnutt to investigate the gut-brain axis in Parkinson's disease pathology using Line 61 alpha-synuclein overexpressing mouse models. During her free time, Angela finds joy in dancing, traveling, playing the flute, and working with children in educational contexts. As an FGLI student, she believes STEM education should be accessible and engaging for everyone. She aspires to blend her passions for community engagement and studying the mysteries of the brain, envisioning a future where she can contribute meaningfully to both clinical and research settings in neurology.