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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

Hua Lehonard Tan

Hua Leonhard Tan, Ph.D.

Hua majored in Bioengineering in China, where he discovered his strong interest in basic science. Following this interest, he obtained an M.S. in Biochemistry at the Ruhr University of Bochum in Germany and went on to do a Ph.D. in physiology, studying the role of chloride channels in disease. In addition, he developed a dual-color colocalization (DCC) algorithm for resolving oligomeric states of membrane protein complexes using single molecule localization microscopy. To pursue his developing interest in neurobiology, Hua came to the US to do postdoctoral research on the modulation of neural circuits, first in Quentin Gaudry’s lab at the University of Maryland, College Park, and more recently in the White lab at NIMH. His current research exploits light-sheet microscopy to comprehensively characterize the activity of neuromodulatory neurons and the circuits they act on during pupal ecdysis in the Drosophila brain.

Photo of Huu Tho Nguyen, Ph.D.

Huu Tho Nguyen, Ph.D.

Tho was an undergraduate at the Vietnam National University. He earned his Ph.D. in Life Science from the Kyoto Institute of Technology in Japan where he learned Drosophila genetics. After serving as a staff scientist at Hanoi Medical University, he ventured to the United States to pursue his interest in neurobiology. His postdoctoral research in Mihaela Serpe’s lab at NICHD used scRNAseq and super-resolution microscopy to explore the role of BMP signaling in motoneuron development and function. As a research fellow in the White lab, Tho is broadening his scRNAseq investigations to analyze how neuromodulatory neurons coordinate pupal and adult ecdysis in Drosophila. Outside of the lab, Tho enjoys going to the pool, riding his bike and reading books.

Photo of Sam Asinof, Ph.D.

Sam Asinof, Ph.D.

Sam first became interested in understanding how nervous systems worked while he was an undergraduate at Oberlin College. He went on to get his PhD in Neuroscience from the University of California, San Diego, where he studied how spontaneous fluctuations in brain state modulate sensory responses of neurons in mouse primary auditory cortex. As a postdoctoral fellow in Gwyneth Card’s group at the Janelia Research Campus, Sam investigated the effects of analogous brain state fluctuations on defensive decision making in Drosophila melanogaster. As a fellow in the White Lab, Sam continues to use Drosophila as a model for investigating how the nervous system coordinates innate but flexible behaviors.

Postbaccalaureate Fellows

Photo of Niall Demady, B.A.

Niall Demady, B.A.

Niall graduated from the College of the Holy Cross with a B.A. in Biology and Neuroscience. As an undergraduate, he worked in Dr. Alexis Hill's lab studying how genes modify neuronal activity and behavior in Drosophila. His work in the White Lab is to study the neural mechanisms involved in coordinating the eclosion and wing expansion motor programs at adult ecdysis in Drosophila. Niall plans to pursue a PhD in neuroscience. Outside of the lab, he enjoys traveling, spending time outdoors, and playing basketball and soccer.


Snehashis Roy

Snehashis Roy, Ph.D.

Snehashis received his M.S.E. and Ph.D. degrees in Electrical and Computer Engineering from Johns Hopkins University, where he specialized in machine learning and artificial intelligence in medical image processing. During his postdoctoral research at the Henry M. Jackson Foundation, he developed algorithms to analyze brain MR and CT images of patients or animals with traumatic brain injuries. Snehashis joined NIMH in 2019 and is a Staff Scientist working jointly between the White Lab and the Systems Neuroscience Imaging Resource, run by Dr. Ted Usdin. His work in the White lab has focused on methods for processing and analyzing big data generated by lightsheet fluorescence imaging of brain-wide activity in Drosophila.

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.

Photo of Ana Folgar

Ana Folgar

Ana is our sine qua non: she maintains the lifeblood of the lab—the flies! She keeps the stocks and makes sure that everyone else in the lab has the flies and fly food that they need. Ana says: “What I enjoy most about my job is knowing that what I do is important for research within the laboratory. In my free time I enjoy the company of my grandchildren and I like to walk and visit different nature parks and trails.”


Postdoctoral Fellows

  • Haojiang Luan
  • William Lemon
  • Nathan Peabody
  • Fengqiu Diao
  • Sudipta Saraswati
  • Sarah Naylor
  • Elyssa Burg
  • Feici Diao
  • Amicia Devin Elliott
  • Luis Sullivan

Postbaccalaureate Fellows

  • Paul Zelensky
  • Jascha Pohl
  • Andrew Vreede
  • Patricia Grace
  • Juhi Shukla
  • Michael Syme
  • Isaac Dripps
  • William Shropshire
  • Rebecca Vaadia
  • Brianna Walker
  • Matthew Roberts
  • Sarav Shah
  • Sanghoon (James) Park
  • Andrew Lazarchik
  • Glennis Muldoon
  • Adama Berndt
  • Matthew Houpert
  • Princess Felix
  • Matthew Barker
  • Richard Vuong
  • Madeline Kane
  • Eli Buncick-Roakes
  • Jahred Quan
  • Richard Farrell

Summer Students/Visiting Graduate Students

  • Halyn Nielsen
  • Howard Wang
  • Kevin HoWan
  • Sarrah Ben Achour
  • Sherry Liu
  • Daniel Yasoshima
  • Abhilash Potluri
  • Daniel Konzman
  • Jiaili Zhang
  • Abraham Arzola
  • Valeria Silva Moeller
  • Graham Kupshaw
  • Shira Gui