Group Members

Emily Sylwestrak, PhD

Assistant Professor of Biology, Institute of Neuroscience

Emily Sylwestrak, PhD

Dr. Sylwestrak received her bachelor's degree in biology in 2006 from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where she worked with Dr. Lee Cox to examine the electrophysiological properties of subtypes of thalamic neurons. She completed her Ph.D. in neuroscience from the University of California, San Diego in 2011 in the lab of Dr. Anirvan Ghosh.  As a graduate student, she studied the role of a class of cell surface molecules, leucine-rich repeat containing proteins, in controlling synapse formation in the hippocampus.  In work published with Dr. Ghosh, she identified that the LRR protein Elfn1 is critical for established target-cell specificity in the hippocampus, a phenomenon whereby neurons can tailor the properties of a presynaptic terminal to the cell type-identity of the postsynaptic target neuron. She continued working on the molecular control of synapse function at F. Hoffmann-La Roche in Basel with Dr. Ghosh and Dr. Peter Scheiffele before joining the Deisseroth Lab at Stanford in 2014. As a postdoc, she has developed protocols for labeling RNA in intact, transparent tissues, in order to merge molecular information with three dimensional structural information.  Her more recent work focuses on understanding how heterogenous, molecularly-defined neuronal populations work together to drive behavior, finding that different habenular cell types encode predictive or resultant aspects of motivated behavior, suggesting that habenular dysfunction may contribute to altered reward processing in neuropsychiatric disorders.  She will start her lab at the University of Oregon in Spring 2019.     

Blake Holcomb

Research Assistant


Blake recently graduated from the University of Oregon with a bachelors degree in biology, where he worked under Dr. Matt Smear to examine how populations of olfactory neurons respond to odor concentration change. He is excited to expand his skill set under Dr. Sylwestrak, and combine his background in neuroscience with his interest in molecular biology

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