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Transforming the understanding
and treatment of mental illnesses.

Section on Neural Function Section on Neural Function (SNF)

Lab Members

Principal Investigator

Benjamin White, Ph.D.

 Benjamin White, Ph.D.

Dr. White studied physics and mathematics at the University of Oregon (Honors College) as an undergraduate, but a long-standing fascination with the brain and how it generates things like thoughts, feelings, and behavior took him to graduate school in neuroscience at Washington University in St. Louis. After pursuing postdoctoral research at Yale University, Dr. White came to NIMH where he started the Section on Neural Function (AKA, the White Lab) in 2002. His laboratory’s interest in the circuit-level organization of the fruit fly brain is guided by the desire to understand how a simple “mind” makes sense of its world, makes decisions, and takes meaningful action.

Postdoctoral Fellows

Amicia Devin Elliott, PhD

Amicia Devin Elliott, Ph.D.

Amy is a PRAT fellow studying the neuromodulatory control of behavior in the fruit fly. She completed her Ph.D. in molecular physiology and biophysics at Vanderbilt University, where her primary focus was studying the role of paracrine factors in the glucose-dependent inhibition of glucagon secretion from pancreatic alpha cells. She also developed methodologies for studying, simultaneously, calcium and cAMP signaling in live cells using real-time hyperspectral imaging. Working between the White lab and the NIBIB laboratory of Dr. Hari Shroff, Amy has built a light-sheet microscope from scratch that she is currently using to study the neural substrates of pupal ecdysis behavior. Her project exploits the advanced genetics of the Drosophila model system with novel microscopy and computational biology methods to analyze brain-wide activity at cellular resolution.

Luis Sullivan, Ph.D.

Luis Sullivan, Ph.D.

Luis completed a Ph.D. in neuroscience at the University of Oregon. Under the mentorship of Chris Q. Doe, he discovered how neuronal circuits used for navigation in adult Drosophila were assembled during development. In the White Lab, he is investigating how simple brains adapt to changing demands during animal development. He is using a combination of transcriptomics, imaging, and behavioral analyses to determine how conserved neuronal circuits change to execute different behaviors necessary for growth and maturation, using the ecdysis neural network of Drosophila as a model system. When not focused on research, Luis enjoys romping around various parks in Washington D.C. with his dog Bailey.

Postbaccalaureate Fellows

Madeline Kane, BA

Madeline Kane, B.A.

Madeline graduated summa cum laude from Indiana University with a B.A. in Biology and minors in Swahili and Molecular Life Sciences. At I.U., she worked In the laboratory of Jason Tennessen to elucidate the role of the Drosophila Estrogen Related Receptor in regulating aerobic glycolysis. In the White lab, Madeline takes advantage of genetic tools and techniques like the Split Gal4 system, Trojan Exons, and SpaRCLIn –all methods all developed in the lab!–to understand the neuromodulatory mechanisms underlying eclosion and wing expansion. In her free time, Madeline makes a podcast about Buffy the Vampire Slayer and also skateboards.

Eli Buncick-Roakes, BS

Eli Buncick-Roakes, B.S.

Eli graduated from Appalachian State University with a B.S. in Psychology and a double minor in Biology and Chemistry. During his undergraduate education, Eli worked in a behavioral neuroscience lab, studying the effects of environmental enrichment on the entorhinal cortex, subiculum, and hippocampus. Following graduation, Eli worked for half a year as an EMT in rural North Carolina and is now working with Amy Elliott in the White lab to understand how the pupal brain generates an ecdysis sequence. Eli plans to apply to medical school after his post-bac, using his experience in both research and medicine to inform him in practice.

Jahred Quan, BS

Jahred Quan, B.S.

Jahred graduated from Pepperdine University in 2021 with a degree in Biology. At Pepperdine, he worked in Dr. Javier Monzon’s ecology laboratory where he helped investigate how humidity influences the survival and questing behavior of various tick species (Amblyomma americanum, Dermacentor variabilis, and Ixodes scapularis). He was also a member of the Pepperdine University rugby club team. In the White lab, Jahred is studying how the bursicon signaling pathway coordinates the behaviorally distinct and developmentally separated processes underlying head eversion and wing expansion in Drosophila. When not in the lab, Jahred enjoys spending time outdoors and plans to go on to medical school.


Haojiang Luan, MD, PhD

Haojiang Luan, M.D., Ph.D.

Dr. Haojiang Luan received his M.D. from XinXiang Medical College in 1995 and his Ph.D. in Endocrinology from the Peking Union Medical College of the Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences in 2001. As a postdoctoral fellow in the White lab, he developed the Split Gal4 system and pursued his interest in neuronal circuits underlying animal behavior. After working at HHMI’s Janelia Research Campus for two years, Haojiang returned to the White lab as a Staff Scientist where he continues to pioneer novel techniques for targeting transgene expression to small sets of neurons in the fly nervous system.

Fengqiu Diao, PhD

Fengqiu Diao, Ph.D.

Fengqiu received his Ph. D. degree in Developmental Biology from the Institute of Developmental Biology at the Chinese Academy of Sciences in 1999. During postdoctoral training with Dr. Susan Tsunoda, Fengqiu gained a deep appreciation for Drosophila as a research model. Since 2006 he has worked in the White Lab, where he has spearheaded the development of techniques for cell-type-specific transgene targeting—most notably the Trojan Exon technique—which he has been applying to mapping the neural circuitry underlying wing expansion behaviors.

Robert L. Scott, MS

Robert L. Scott, M.S.

Rob graduated from St. Mary’s College of Maryland with a Bachelor’s degree in Biology in 1997. He got his start in Drosophila research as a summer intern at NIH and earned a Master’s degree in Biotechnology from Johns Hopkins University in 2003. He has worked as a technician in the White Lab since 2012. With over 20 years of experience working on the fly, Rob is the guy who keeps everything running in the lab and still finds time to do his own experiments.


Postdoctoral Fellows

Haojiang Luan
William Lemon
Nathan Peabody
Fengqiu Diao
Sudipta Saraswati
Sarah Naylor
Elyssa Burg
Feici Diao

Postbaccalaureate Fellows

  • Paul Zelensky
  • Jascha Pohl
  • Andrew Vreede
  • Patricia Grace
  • Juhi Shukla
  • Michael Syme
  • Isaac Dripps
  • William Shropshire
  • Rebecca Vaadia
  • Matthew Barker
  • Brianna Waller
  • Matthew Roberts
  • Sarav Shah
  • Sanghoon (James) Park
  • Andrew Lazarchik
  • Glennis Muldoon
  • Adama Berndt
  • Matthew Houpert
  • Princess Felix
  • Richard Vuong

Summer Students/Rotating Graduate Students

Halyn Nielsen
Howard Wang
Kevin HoWan
Sarrah Ben Achour
Sherry Liu
Daniel Yasoshima
Abhilash Potluri
Daniel Konzman
Jiaili Zhang
Abraham Arzola