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 Research Campus 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. Nick is funded by the NIH, the Klingenstein-Simons Foundation, the American Heart Association, and the American Diabetes Association.


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. Throughout her postdoc, Amber has been funded by an F32 NRSA, a K99/R00 Pathway to Independent Award, the L’Oreal USA For Women in Science Fellowship, and The Obesity Society Early Career Research Grant. Amber has also received an SFN Trainee Career Development Award (2018), the SSIB Randall Sakai New Investigator Travel Award (2018), the SSIB Harry Kissileff Award for Best Presentation by a Postdoc (2018), and has been recognized by Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology News as one of the “Top 10 Under 40 of 2019.”



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. Michelle received the 2019 Mahoney Institute for Neurosciences Best Poster Award.



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. Nitsan is funded by the NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Program. Nitsan has also received a Jameson-Hurvich Travel Award (2019) and the SSIB New Investigator Travel Award (2019).



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.



Onyoo Park, Research Assistant
Onyoo received her B.A. in Biological Basis of Behavior at the University of Pennsylvania. She joined the Betley lab as an undergraduate in 2016, and after graduation, stayed in the lab as a research assistant. She is interested in studying how feeding circuits in the brain influence behavior and how various nutrients and external stimuli influence the activity of these neural circuits. Onyoo received the 2019 Mahoney Institute for Neurosciences Best Poster Award.




Undergraduate Research Assistants
Frank Aguilar
Caroline Atkinson
Olivia Bruyn
Indeara Cogdell
Paul Ehmann
Youseff Jakher
Rebecca Ly
Jessica Naredo
Krishna Patel
Christina Shin
Alexandra Vargas
Kristina Wirkowski


Lab Alumni

Zhenwei Su, Senior Scientist, Pfizer

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