Dr. Claire Gao attended the University of California, Berkeley for her undergraduate degree studying Molecular and Cellular Biology. During her undergraduate years, she performed clinical research on patients with the metabolic disorder Niemann Pick Type C to investigate how a trial drug treatment could impact their quality of life and longevity. This sparked her interest in understanding the mechanisms behind the neural effects of these pharmacological treatments. She earned her Ph.D. in neuroscience in 2022 from the Brown University-NIH Graduate Partnership Program under the mentorship of Dr. Mario Penzo. Her thesis work focused on parsing out the molecular, anatomical, and functional organization of the midline thalamus. In 2023, Dr. Gao joined the laboratories of Drs. Michael Krashes and Andrew Lutas as a postdoctoral fellow to pursue her long-term goal of expanding the understanding of neural therapeutic targets in treating affective disorders. Her current project investigates how the peripherally administered drug semaglutide affects patterns of neuronal activity.
Throughout Qi’s scientific education, she has expressed an interest in the study of animal behaviors and metabolism. As an undergraduate student, she was involved in several studies of pulmonary fibrosis and lung metastasis of breast cancer with Dr. Wen Ning at Nankai University, where she received her bachelor in Biological Science. After joining Ali Güler’s lab at University of Virginia, she explored her interest in neuroscience by investigating the role of dopaminergic system in circadian and metabolic activities and obtained her doctorate. Her specific interest lies in the role of hypothalamic dopamine pathways in the regulation of feeding behaviors and metabolic processes using chemogenetics, optogenetics, and behavioral assays. She participated in identifying a novel connection between the dopaminergic neurons of the ventral tegmental area and the central circadian pacemaker located in the suprachiasmatic nucleus, and the subsequent examination of the necessity of dopamine signaling in the suprachiasmatic nucleus in high-fat diet induced obesity. Meanwhile, she identified a role for the dopamine input to the arcuate nucleus that encodes acute responses to food. As a postdoc fellow under the guidance of Dr. Michael Krashes at NIDDK, she continues to explore the involvement of distinct dopaminergic neuronal groups in feeding behaviors during varied energy states. Outside the research, Qi is a big fan of detective novels and horror movies, with the perfect companion of an adorable, fluffy, and intelligent guinea pig, whose feeding behaviors are keenly observed.
Shakira received her bachelor’s in biology from the University of Puerto Rico and is currently pursuing a Ph.D. through the JHU-NIH Graduate Partnership Program. She is interested in understanding how exposure to energy dense diet affects motivated behaviors and the neural circuits underlying those. Outside of research, she enjoys learning how to cook new things and obstacle course racing.
Eva is a postbaccalaureate fellow within the Intramural Research Training Award (IRTA) program. She graduated from Swarthmore College in 2022 with a B.A. in Neuroscience, where she completed her senior thesis on reward-affiliated neurons in the hippocampus. Despite possessing a wide range of scientific interests, Eva is most passionate about the complex biological bases of eating disorders and is applying to medical school to pursue eating disorder psychiatry. In the meantime, she is thrilled to be involved in various projects within the Krashes lab, ranging from investigating how hypothalamic processes are influenced by gut-brain signaling to interrogating possible anti-obesity drug targets. Outside of research, she enjoys biking throughout the DMV, playing softball, choral singing, oil painting, cooking, and volunteering.