Joe Dougherty, PhD

Lab Head

I am broadly interested in how a single genome creates the cellular diversity that is discovered in the brain, and how perturbations of specific cell types in the brain may lead to disorders of the nervous system, as well as alterations of normal behavior.  We approach these questions using the tools of mouse transgenics and conditional knockouts, but guide our studies using information gleaned from human genetics studies. We are looking for postdocs and students.  Feel free to contact me.

Elena Minakova, MD, MS

Assistant Professor of Pediatrics, Collaborating Researcher

Elena is a Neonatologist at Saint Louis Children’s Hospital. She has a neuroscience research background and an MS degree with a specialization in Developmental Neurobiology. She is interested in performing mouse autism studies with potential for translational applications. In her free time, she enjoys running, skating, and spending as much time as possible with her one-year-old

Anthony Fischer, PhD

Postdoctoral Researcher

Tony earned his PhD at the University of Missouri-St. Louis, where he studied mRNA decay regulation by Pumilio proteins and how this regulation leads to control of ribosome biogenesis. He joined the Dougherty lab in fall 2019, with an interest in how novel mutations in the 3′ UTRs of certain genes could be affecting decay rates of mRNAs. His hobbies include cooking, beer brewing, his kids, and strength training.

Francesca Manzella, PhD

Postdoctoral Researcher

Francesca received her PhD from the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus and M.A. in Behavioral Neuroscience from the University of Missouri-St. Louis. She has an extensive background in behavioral pharmacology and electrophysiology and previously researched the effects of neuroactive steroids on cognition, sleep, and anesthesia. Now she’s excited to switch gears and dive into the realm of astrocytes and is genetically characterizing astrocyte subtypes to study their roles in neuronal circuits. When not in the lab Francesca is in the kitchen cooking or scoping out the best places to eat in St. Louis. When not daydreaming of food, she’s on her yoga mat or taking walks in Forest Park.

Jiayang Chen

Graduate Student

Jiayang Chen is a graduate student in Molecular and Cell Biology program. And Wiki is his secret English name that only several people know about. He earned his Bachelor’s degree in biological sciences at Fudan University, China. Before coming to WashU, he worked as research assistant to investigate brainstem synaptic function and visual system development in neurological disorders. In the Dougherty Lab, he has continued pursuing his interest in studying neurodevelopmental disorders, especially autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Other dreams (hobbies?) outside the lab: becoming a marine mammal zoologist, winning badminton Olympic gold medal, being recognized as a professional photographer, and traveling around the world.

Simona Sarafinovska

Graduate Student

Simona is a MSTP candidate in the neuroscience program. She’s originally from Macedonia and came to the US for her undergrad at Columbia University. Her interest in molecular biology led her to a lab investigating how early-life adversity via epigenetic factors impacts later-life susceptibility to anxiety and depression. Now, she’s more broadly interested in developmental molecular and synaptic processes that drive maladaptive behaviors and susceptibility to psychiatric disorders. During her virtual rotation, she worked on analysis of behaviors in the opioid and Myt1L projects, with a focus on learning new pipelines and methods; she joined the lab in August ’20. In her free time, she loves traveling with her sister, watching TV, and pretending to read Russian literature.

Din Selmanovic

Graduate Student

Din is a graduate student in the Neuroscience program in the Dougherty Lab. Before coming to WashU, Din was a varsity athlete (good ‘ole long distance swimmer) who graduated with a BS in Neuroscience from the University of Cincinnati. At UC he worked with Dr. Matia Solomon looking at sex differences in HPA axis dysregulation and stress circuitry of Alzheimer’s Disease. Starting graduate school, he is interested in studying the molecular and genetic basis of sex differences in various neurodevelopmental, and psychiatric disorders. Outside of the lab, Din enjoys working out, reading books and buying weird and new ingredients he doesn’t know how to pronounce to cook with and then host friends for dinner (pre-COVID of course!).

Mari Gachechiladze

Graduate Student

Mari is an MSTP student in the Neuroscience program. She graduated from Georgetown University with a BS in Neurobiology. At Georgetown, she studied the role of APOE4 in Alzheimer’s disease in the Rebeck lab. Afterwards, she spent two years in the Ward lab at the NIH studying frontotemporal dementia using iPSC neuron technology and CRISPR screening. Now, she is broadly interested in discovering epigenetic factors that can predict individual differences in animal behavior. Outside of lab, Mari enjoys dancing, strolling through Forest Park, creating home video parodies with her cousins, and consuming fiction.

Kelli McFarland White, M.S.

Research Lab Supervisor

Kelli is excited to return to Washington University after a brief stint working for a medical device startup company.  Upon completing her Master’s (a long, long time ago) studying both the evolution of color vision in fishes as well as mandibular evolution of the African scaly-tailed flying squirrel, she enjoyed a year teaching high school biology.  The vast majority of her career, though, has been spent managing a biomedical engineering lab at WUSTL.  Outside of the lab, Kelli is a yoga teacher, a mom to a radical 3 year old, and a wife.  She loves being active outside; trail running, cycling, camping, and now even outdoor strength training (thanks, Covid).  Once upon a time, she even played roller derby and was a kickboxing instructor.  Kelli now finds contentment in her current, “gardening phase of life.”

Stuart Fass


Stuart received his Undergraduate Education at the University of Wisconsin Madison, where he studied Genetics, Computer Science and German. Stuart worked in both the Wisconsin Institute for Discovery (Handelsman Lab), the Microbial Science Building (Ané Lab) and as part of the EntoGEM International team. He joined the lab in Spring 2020 with interests in Bioinformatics and AI. Hobbies include skiing, hiking, biking, traveling, frizbee, dancing, houseplants, brewing kombucha and turn-based strategy games. Stuart is primarily working remote so is best contacted via email or other electronic means.

Shayna Mueller

Research Technician

Shayna is a research technician in the lab. She completed her undergraduate degree in Psychology at St. Louis University and her Master’s in Biochemistry at the University of Missouri-St. Louis. She is interested in how the brain works and why it malfunctions, specifically in neurodegenerative disorders. Outside the lab, she enjoys traveling, puzzles and hanging out with her husband and new baby girl.

Dora Tabachnick

Undergraduate Researcher

Dora is an undergraduate student at WashU majoring in Neuroscience and double minoring in Children’s Studies and Spanish. She is currently working with Susan and Katie and is interested in the behavioral mice studies being conducted in the lab. Dora plans on attending medical school and would like to practice as a surgeon. Outside of the lab, Dora enjoys practicing Tae Kwon do, watching movies and running her club “WashU’s Save a Child’s Heart”.







Susan Maloney, PhD

Assistant Professor of Psychiatry

Susan’s primary research interest is understanding the impact of genetic and environmental liabilities for intellectual and developmental disorders (IDD) on neural circuit function. Her current focus is how IDD liabilities disrupt developmental trajectories, social circuits, motor function, and the roles in these areas of the serotonin, oxytocin, and opioid systems. When not sciencing, Susan spends small amounts of time enjoying a large variety of hobbies. She most enjoys spending time with friends and family and winning at board games.

Mike Vasek, PhD

Postdoctoral Researcher

Mike earned his PhD in Neuroscience at WashU studying memory impairment and synapse elimination during viral encephalitis. His main research interests are mechanisms of learning and memory. Outside of the lab, Mike enjoys watching his 1-year-old son figure things out, cooking, playing ultimate frisbee, training his cats, and keeping African cichlids.

Kayla Nygaard

Graduate Student

Kayla hails from small town Minnesota (cue John Mellencamp) where she grew up collecting ladybugs on dandelions and reading books by the light of the moon. She decided to study Biology at Carleton College and, when she wasn’t saving puppies from tornadoes, she spent her summers researching the coloration of lizards and learning how to lasso the little guys out in Colorado. Leaving the lizards behind in 2012, she joined Teach For America and spent the next 4 years trying to cram scientific knowledge into the brains of reluctant children in both Kentucky and Massachusetts. Kayla is now settling into life as a Molecular Genetics and Genomics graduate student and quite likes the opportunities in nearby Forest Park. You might catch her running or playing ultimate frisbee on a warm day when she’s not in lab. While she would love to study the effects of environmental stress on animal behavior through the lens of genetics, she thinks videotaping Nathan’s back-flipping mice is pretty fun too! Kayla also holds the record for longest submitted bio for the lab’s people page.

Allen Yen

Graduate Student

Allen is a graduate student in the Developmental, Regenerative, and Stem Cell Biology program. Before coming to WashU, he received a BS in biomedical engineering and a MS in biomedical research technologies from Boston University. He is interested in investigating the role of gene-environment interactions in the development of autism spectrum disorders. He is also interested in applying new technologies to address these complex questions. Outside of the lab, he enjoys camping, photography, and going to live music shows.

Sarah Koester

Graduate Student

Sarah is a student in the Molecular Cell Biology program. She majored in Biochemistry at the University of Southern Indiana, where she also finished an 11-year cross country and track career that can be described as mediocre at best. Afterwards, she spent 2 years as a research technician in the Di Cera lab at SLU studying enzyme allostery and conformational selection in trypsin-like proteases. Starting graduate school, she is broadly interested in the regulation and functional diversity of RNAs. Outside of the lab, she is the proud pawrent of 2 dogs, an expired runner with all intentions of starting back up again, and probably the only one laughing at her own jokes.

Colin Florian

Graduate Student

Colin is a graduate student in Molecular Genetics and Genomics. He is broadly interested in transcription regulation and novel methods for studying this with the application of modern genomic techniquesBefore matriculation into graduate school, Colin spent several years working at the GEiC at Washington University where he gained experience with genome editing techniques using the CRISPR-Cas9 system. In his free time, he enjoys spending time with his wife and Great Dane, weight training, cycling, homebrewing, and playing video games. 

Sneha Chaturvedi

Sneha completed her undergraduate education at Washington University in St. Louis, earning a BA in Biology with a Neuroscience concentration. During that time, she worked in the lab of Erik Herzog, investigating the neural circuitry driving circadian release of glucocorticoids and potential mechanisms for known sex differences in the hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal axis. Sneha is currently pursuing a PhD in Neuroscience as part of WUSM’s MD/PhD program. She is working on bringing her knowledge of sex differences to investigating the genomics of neurodevelopment disorders. In her free time, Sneha likes to read, box, eat lots of good St. Louis food, and take care of her 40+ plants.

Katie McCullough

Research Assistant

Katie McCullough is a research technician from O’Fallon, MO. She graduated from Drake University in Biochemistry. Her undergrad research focused on genetic elements of swine flu. When she sarted in the lab, she discovered her love of neuroscience and animal behavior. Outside the lab, she has 2 dogs (Shiloh and Astro) and a tortoise (Francis). She loves reading and subscribe to all thing’s true crime. Her fears: Heights and spiders  

Raylynn Swift, M.A.

Research Technician

Raylynn Swift is a research assistant in the lab supporting mouse behavioral research. She graduated from the University of Missouri-St. Louis in 2020 with a master’s degree in psychology with an emphasis in behavioral neuroscience. At home, she has two rat roommates and is working on expanding her houseplant collection.

Victoria Chen

Research Technician

Victoria is a Junior majoring in the Neuroscience track of the Biology major at WashU. She is originally from China and came to the US for high school in the east coast. She joined the lab in fall 2019 and have been working with Rachel to study healthy development and Rett syndrome in a mouse model using optical neuroimaging and behavioral testings. Outside of the lab, she enjoys working out, cooking, watching Netflix and spending time with her two cats and friends!

Yvette Sol

Undergraduate Researcher

Yvette is from New York and is a pre-med student at WashU. She is a sophomore majoring in Biology and double majoring in PNP (philosophy-Neuroscience- Psychology). She joined the lab in summer of 2021. Some of her hobbies outside of the lab are cooking, dancing, watching netflix, and going to concerts.