lab members

J. Nicholas Betley, Principal Investigator
Betley picNick’s spark for research was ignited as an undergraduate, where he explored the molecular determinants of cellular asymmetry in Jim Deshler’s laboratory. From this work, Nick became interested in how molecular codes influence the assembly of the nervous system and attended Columbia University where he worked with Thomas Jessell to investigate the developmental programs that determine synaptic partners during circuit formation. To better understand how neural circuits influence behavior he moved to Janelia Farm and worked with Scott Sternson to examine the structure and function of neural circuits that influence feeding behaviors. He moved to the University of Pennsylvania in the Fall of 2015 and is interested in exploring how the brain guides behavior in a dynamic world.


Amber Alhadeff, Post-Doctoral Research Fellow
Amber picAmber received her B.A. in Biology, M.A. in Psychology, and Ph.D. in Psychology/Behavioral Neuroscience from the University of Pennsylvania. In her doctoral work, Amber studied the hindbrain neuroendocrine control of food intake in the laboratories of Drs. Harvey Grill and Matthew Hayes. Amber’s postdoctoral research in the Betley lab is focused on the mechanisms through which different neural populations drive behavior. In particular, she is interested in how hunger neurons influence the perception of external stimuli, and how the gut communicates with the brain to control food intake.


Zhenwei Su, Post-Doctoral Research Fellow
Zhenwei picZhenwei obtained his Ph.D. at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, working with Dr. Ching Kung on electrophysiological characterization of mechanosensitive ion channels. He did his postdoc work with Dr. Roderick MacKinnon at The Rockefeller University on pharmacology of potassium channels. He is now investigating the physiology of brain circuits that control feeding



Michelle Klima, Graduate Student
Michelle received her bachelor’s from St. Mary’s College of Maryland in biology. After graduation, she worked as a research assistant for Dr. Mariella De Biasi at the Univeristy of Pennsylvania studying the intersection between addiction and anxiety. Michelle’s work in the Betley lab is focused on identifying how feeding circuits reduce the perception of pain and influence the immune system.



Nitsan Goldstein, Graduate Student
Nitsan received her B.A. in Biology from Williams College where she worked with Dr. Matt Carter researching the neural control of homeostatic behavior. She then worked as a research assistant in the lab of Dr. Stephen Gomperts at the Massachusetts General Hospital investigating hippocampal function in neurodegenerative diseases. Nitsan is currently a graduate student in the Neuroscience Graduate Group at the University of Pennsylvania. She is interested in the neural circuits underlying appetitive behaviors.


Elen Hernandez, Research Assistant
Elen picElen received her bachelor’s from Delaware Valley University in Small Animal Science and currently is a research assistant at University of Pennsylvania. Elen’s research investigates cell types that influence feeding behavior as well as the neural influence on metabolomics.




Santiago Pulido, Research Assistant
Santiago obtained his B.S. in Biology at The College of New Jersey (TCNJ) in 2015. After graduating from TCNJ, Santiago worked in Dr. Terence Gade’s lab in the Department of Radiology and the Department of Cancer Biology at Penn, researching the metabolic alterations in hepatocellular carcinoma cells under nutrient and oxygen deprived conditions. Santiago joined the Betley Lab in July 2017. In the Betley lab, Santiago is in interested in how feeding circuits influence the motivation for food consumption well as how these circuits influence inflammatory responses.




Undergraduate Research Assistants
Frank Aguilar
Caroline Atkinson
Indeara Cogdell
Paul Ehmann
Desiree Harding
Youseff Jakher
Rebecca Ly
Onyoo Park
Krishna Patel
Christina Shin

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *