Jeremy S. Dasen, Principal Investigator

Jeremy has had long-standing interest in the genetic and developmental programs involved in the assembly of neural circuits. He did his PhD work with Geoff Rosenfeld at UCSD, where he studied the gene regulatory networks involved in cell fate specification in the neuroendocrine system. As a postdoc with Tom Jessell at Columbia University, he studied the role of Hox transcription factors in generating neuronal diversity within the vertebrate spinal cord. His laboratory is interested in how genetic programs contribute the assembly and function of neural circuits that control movement.

Jeremy joined the Department of Neuroscience and Physiology at the NYU School of Medicine in 2006 and was promoted to Professor in 2019. He is the Program Director for the NYU Neuroscience T32 Training Program in Integrative Approaches to Explore Cellular Interactions in Neural Circuits. He is also the course director for the Advanced Topics in Molecular Neurobiology Course, required for all entering molecular-track NYU Neuroscience students, as well as the Assembly and Function of Neural Circuits course, designed for advanced students with an interest in molecular approaches to study neural circuits. Jeremy also participates in teaching and recruitment for the Medical Sciences Training Program (MSTP), Developmental Genetics Program, and Stem Cell Biology Program.

Jeremy was a recipient of a Burroughs Wellcome Fund Career Award in Biomedical Sciences, Sloan Research Fellowship, McKnight Scholar Award, and was a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Early Career Scientist.

Sara J. Fenstermacher, Postdoctoral Fellow

Sara Fenstermacher received her B.A. from Bucknell University and Ph.D. in neuroscience from Harvard University. Working with Dr. Rosalind Segal, she studied how neurotrophins promote axon viability through regulation of mRNA localization and translation in axons. She then started a postdoc with Dr. Tom Jessell at Columbia University before moving to NYU to continue her research with Dr. Jeremy Dasen. Sara is interested in the development and function of neural circuits that coordinate movement. Her current work seeks to understand how the serotonergic system modulates spinal cord circuits to allow for flexible motor control. Sara is a Junior Fellow in the Simons Foundation Society of Fellows. 

 

Outside of the lab she enjoys yoga and cycling, attending music and arts performances, and watching sports. 

Read more about Sara's work: Simons Foundation Society of Fellows

Ayana Sawai,

Postdoctoral Fellow

Maggie Shin,

Graduate Student

Maggie Shin graduated from University of Florida where she received her B.A. She continued her education in a science intensive post-baccalaureate program at University of California, Berkeley where she began working in the lab of Dr. Lu Chen at Stanford University. In Dr. Chen’s lab, she studied mechanisms of homeostatic synaptic plasticity. Currently, Maggie’s work focuses on molecular strategies underlying neuronal diversification and assembly of sensory-motor circuits in the spinal cord. She was a recipient of a T32 grant.

 

Maggie’s extracurricular interests include playing concert harp, dabbling in Claymation, pizza bagels, and frolicking around with her 2 dogs.

Kristen D'Elia,

Graduate Student

Kristen graduated Summa Cum Laude with her Bachelor of Science in Biology, Bachelor of Arts in Psychology, and a Certificate in Neuroscience from Providence College. As an undergraduate, she received three research grants to work in labs at Providence College, The University of Vermont, and Brown University, studying neural differentiation, neural migration, and axon guidance. As a graduate student, Kristen is interested in understanding the molecular mechanisms of motor neuron subtype specification. She is identifying transcription factors that define functionally distinct (fast versus slow) motor neurons in the zebrafish spinal cord. Co-mentored by Jeremy Dasen and David Schoppik, Kristen was a recipient of an NIH F31 Predoctoral NRSA, and two T32s, for her work on this project.

 

In her spare time, Kristen enjoys engaging in science communication through teaching, outreach, and is the editor of the graduate school newsletter.

Alexander Miller,

Graduate Student

Alex is a native of Oregon where he completed his undergraduate degree in Biology with a minor in Chemistry at University of Oregon. During his undergraduate, Alex earned departmental honors from his work identifying genes necessary for elongation in C. elegans.

Alex’s current work investigates the role of chromatin modifications in neurogenesis. Chromatin modifications – mediated through the activity of Polycomb group proteins – have been implicated in a range of biological processes, from sex-determination to cancer progression. Alex is interested how these PcG-mediated chromatin modifications are involved in the differentiation of motor neurons. What are the mechanisms behind gene regulation and maintenance of developmental genes? When are these PcG-proteins necessary for their regulatory role during neurodevelopment? How do PcG-protein interactions change during motor neuron differentiation? To address these questions, Alex is utilizing chick, mouse, and cell culture models to test the necessity and functionality of PcG-proteins at various stages of neurogenesis. 

 

Outside of lab, he enjoys hiking, rock climbing, playing music, and practicing mandarin Chinese. 

Sarah Pfennig,

Research Associate/Lab Manager

Originally from Long Island, Sarah sailed over the LI Sound to complete her B.A. in Biochemistry, Cellular and Molecular Biology at Connecticut College, graduating Summa Cum Laude with honors distinction. She was awarded the Paul Abel Schwartz Memorial Prize for excellence in chemistry and membership to the Phi Beta Kappa Honor Society. During her time at Conn, Sarah completed research projects on a variety of specimen including human cancer cells, axolotls, pitcher plants, and algae. Sarah is particularly proud of her work under T. Page Owen examining nectary gland structure-function relationships in Nepenthes ventricosa using electron microscopy. For Sarah’s thesis, she investigated the role of the Notch Signaling pathway in axolotl tastebud development under Deborah Eastman. 

 

In the Dasen lab Sarah thoroughly enjoys helping everyone with their projects as well as working on her own. Sarah’s miniature project investigates neurodevelopment in skates and its implications in our understanding of the evolution of movement. 

 

Outside of science, Sarah enjoys painting, hiking, traveling, and exploring the city. 

Lab Alumni 

Alessandro De Camilli

Research Assistant

2007-2009

Next Steps: Yale Medical School

Julia LaCombe

Postdoctoral Fellow

2008-2011

Next Steps: Research Scientist, IRCM

Jonathan Grinstein

Research Assistant

2009-2011

Next Steps: UCSD PhD Program

Olivia Hanley

Graduate Student

2009-2015

Next Steps: Postdoctoral Fellow,

University of Zurich

Catarina Catela

Postdoctoral Fellow

2011-2016

Next Steps: Assistant Professor, 

University of Chicago

Myungin Baek

Postdoctoral Fellow

2011-2018

Next Steps: Assistant Professor, 

Daegu Gyeongbuk Institute of Science and Technology

Lab Website

Molly Golden

Graduate Student

2008-2013

Next Steps: Consultant, ISA

Rocio Rivera 

Postdoctoral Fellow

2008-2011

Next Steps: Scientist, L'Oreal

Heekyung Jung

Graduate Student

2009-2015

Next Steps: Postdoctoral Fellow,

Stanford University

Pola Philipidou

Postdoctoral Fellow

2009-2015

Next Steps: Assistant Professor,

Case Western University

Lab Website

David Lee

Research Assistant

2013-2016

Next Steps: Consultant

Helen Kim

Research Assistant

2016-2018

Next Steps:  Cooper Medical School of Rowan University