Principal investigator

 Patricia Janak, Ph.D | Google Scholar

Patricia received a BA in psychology and biology from Rutgers College and her Ph.D in biological psychology from the University of California, Berkeley. After postdoctoral positions at the Wake Forest School of Medicine and the National Institute on Drug Abuse, Patricia joined the Ernest Gallo Clinic and Research Center at the University of California, San Francisco, as an Assistant Professor in 1999. She was appointed as Associate Professor in 2006, and named the Howard J. Weinberger Endowed Chair in Addiction Research at UCSF in 2011. In 2014, Patricia joined the faculty of Johns Hopkins University where she is a Bloomberg Distinguished Professor with joint appointments in the Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences in the Krieger School of Arts and Sciences, and in the Solomon H. Snyder Department of Neuroscience in the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine.

Research Scientists

M. Flavia Barbano, Ph.d | Google Scholar

Flavia received her BS in biology from National University of Cordoba, Argentina. She completed her Ph.D in neuroscience and pharmacology in Bordeaux, France under the supervision of Martine Cador. As a graduate student, Flavia focused on how dopamine and opioids modulate motivation for natural rewards in rats. As part of her post-doctoral work, she learned to perform self-administration procedures with mice in the lab of Rafael Maldonado at Pompeu Fabra University in Spain. She then went on to the labs of Marisela Morales and Roy Wise at NIDA. While there, Flavia investigated the role of lateral hypothalamic projections to the VTA in motivation and feeding using optogenetics. She held a researcher position in Argentina where she studied the neurobiological substrates underlying cocaine-related memories. In the fall of 2014, Flavia joined the Janak Lab as a senior scientist and lab manager. She is continuing to pursue the involvement of the lateral hypothalamus in motivation to seek and consume natural rewards and drugs of abuse, in addition to the persistence of reward-related memories. Flavia enjoys travelling, sightseeing, reading Stephen King, trying out new recipes with her husband, and spending time with her cats, Simon and Duke.

ROnald Keiflin, ph.d | Publications

Ron grew up near Strasbourg, France where he received his BS in cellular biology and physiology from the University Louis Pasteur. He then completed his Ph.D in Bordeaux, France where he worked in the lab of Martine Cador. As a graduate student, Ron studied the psychological and behavioral determinants of drug-induced reinstatement, a common animal model of relapse to drug addiction. He then joined the Janak Lab in 2008 as a postdoc, where he showed that phasic activation of midbrain dopamine neurons constitute an error-correcting teaching signal, driving Pavlovian reward learning in a manner consistent with formal learning theories. Now a senior scientist in the lab, Ron continues to study the role of phasic dopamine signals in various forms of associative learning. His work combines sophisticated behavioral tasks derived from learning theories with pharmacological and optogenetic manipulations. In his spare time, Ron enjoys endless sessions of peek-a-boo with his toddler, spending too much time and money in record stores, and any activity that involves drinking wine.

Postdoctoral Fellows

Jocelyn Richard, ph.d | Google Scholar | Homepage 

Jocelyn received her BA in psychobiology from Occidental College, where she worked in the lab of Nancy Dess studying risk-related feeding patterns and taste aversion learning. From there, she moved to Ann Arbor to complete her PhD at the University of Michigan in Kent Berridge's laboratory. While a graduate student, Jocelyn's work focused on nucleus accumbens circuitry involved in excessive eating and defensive reactions, as well as changes in hedonic impact, assessed via taste reactivity. For her initial postdoctoral work, Jocelyn joined the lab of Howard Fields at UC San Francisco, where she was supported by an F32 from NIAAA and investigated neural encoding of cues and cue-elicited reward-seeking in the ventral pallidum. Since joining the Janak Lab as a postdoc in January 2015, Jocelyn has focused on dissecting the functional contributions of activity in ventral pallidal neurons and specific inputs to cue-elicited reward seeking, including in response to alcohol-predictive cues and following acute stress. She is particularly interested in how signals related to learned cue value, positive and negative affect, and physiological state are integrated in the ventral pallidum to generate cue-elicited behaviors. Jocelyn is supported by a NARSAD Young Investigator Award. In her spare time, Jocelyn enjoys seeking out delicious food and beverages, reading speculative fiction, and spending time with her ridiculous cat.


Benjamin Saunders, Ph.d | Google Scholar | Homepage | Twitter

Ben received BS degrees in biology and psychology from West Virginia University. He then completed his Ph.D at the University of Michigan, where he worked in the lab of Terry Robinson. As a postdoc in the Janak Lab, Ben has used optogenetics and anatomical methods to explore functional heterogeneity among midbrain dopamine neuron subpopulations in Pavlovian reward processes. He is currently utilizing in vivo calcium imaging methods to investigate midbrain activity dynamics during cocaine-seeking behavior. Ben is funded by an F32 from NIDA and a NARSAD Young Investigator Award. When not doing science or talking about science in real life, he is usually on Twitter tweeting about science.


Youna vandaele, ph.d | ResearchGate

Youna received her BS in cellular biology and physiology from the University of Lille in France. She then completed her Ph.D in Bordeaux, France under the supervision of Dr. Serge Ahmed. During her Ph.D, her main objective was identifying psychological and behavioral determinants of choice between drugs of abuse, specifically cocaine and heroin, and sweet water. She joined the Janak Lab as a postdoc in February of 2015 and is now investigating the neural circuits underlying goal-directed and habitual decision making using optogenetics and in vivo electrophysiology. In her spare time she enjoys eating good food, drinking good wine and beer, hiking, and climbing.

graduate students

Kurt fraser | Google Scholar | Twitter

Kurt is originally from Richmond, MI, a small farmtown with a bowling alley in the middle of a cornfield. He received a BS from the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor in 2015 with high honors in neuroscience. While at Michigan he worked with Dr. Shelly Flagel and studied systems mediating the attribution of incentive salience to reward-paired cues, particularly on the role of dopamine. He worked on a wide array of projects and helped establish the paraventricular nucleus of the thalamus as a key region gating the attribution of incentive salience to food-paired cues. He joined the Janak Lab in the fall of 2015 as a biopsychology graduate student and is interested in the neural circuits underlying reward, particularly the contributions of dopamine in distinct striatal subregions to cue-motivated behavior. If you find Kurt not thinking about science he is likely enjoying craft beer, brewing his own beer, or watching Bravo.


Tabitha Kim

Tabitha is from La Habra Heights, California. She received a BA from Cornell University in psychology, with a minor in neuroscience. While at Cornell, she worked with Dr. Michael Goldstein to study the role of social interactions in birdsong learning and wrote an honors thesis on the developmental effects of arginine vasotocin on song learning in zebra finches. Afterwards, she spent a year working with Dr. Rachel Smith at Texas A&M University studying the neurobiological mechanisms underlying cue-induced drug seeking and modeling habitual and compulsive drug seeking. She joined the Janak Lab in the fall of 2016 and is interested in the neural circuitry involved in reward, particularly the association between cues and rewards. When not in the lab, she is usally exploring places to eat, watching TV, or running.


David ottenheimer | Google Scholar

David is from Arlington, MA. He graduated from Yale University in 2014 with a BS in psychology, with a focus in neuroscience. Afterwards, he spent a year working in the laboratory of Dr. Ralph DiLeone at the Yale School of Medicine studying the neural circuitry underlying feeding behavior. His projects included packaging novel AAVs, breeding new strains of transgenic mice, and developing an optogenetics-based model of anorexia. He started pursuing his PhD in the Solomon H. Snyder Department of Neuroscience at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine in fall 2015 and joined the Janak Lab in summer 2016. He is interested in comparing the neural ensembles that encode different reward modalities. If he's not in lab, David is likely singing, running, or mentoring students across Baltimore.

lab technicians

Deanna acs

Deanna received her BA in biology and neuroscience at St. Mary's College of Maryland. While at St. Mary's she worked with Dr. Anne Marie Brady studying the effect of antioxidants on habit based learning in neonatal ventral hippocampal lesion (NVHL) model rats. She joined the Janak Lab as a tech in May 2015. Deanna's long term goal is to attend graduate school to obtain a Ph.D in either psychology or neuroscience. When not in the lab Deanna enjoys travelling, attending wine festivals, and playing board games with friends.


alex haimbaugh

Alex received her BA in neuroscience in 2015 from the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor. Her undergraduate work under Dr. Ajeesh Cherian in the lab of Dr. Martin Sarter focused on the choline transporter's role in sustained attention in mice. Before joining the Janak Lab she spent a year traveling, reading, and was involved in social research and drug policy reform. She joined the Janak Lab in July 2016 with the long-term goal of pursuing a Ph.D in neuroscience. Outside of the lab she enjoys traveling, beer, and literature.


heather pribut

Heather graduated from St. Mary's College of Maryland in 2014 with a BA in neuroscience and psychology. Her undergraduate work with Dr. Wes Jordan examined the impact of entorhinal cortex lesions on latent inhibition in rats. After graduating, Heather worked with Dr. Todd Gould at the University of Maryland studying ketamine's mechanism of action as a rapid-acting antidepressant. She joined the Janak Lab in June 2016 and is excited to learn and broaden her laboratory experiences before someday pursuing a graduate degree in neuroscience. When she's not in lab Heather enjoys drawing, baking, and watching horror movies.

undergraduate students

lab alumni

Staff scientist

2000-2014 T. Mike Gill, Ph.D.

Current Position: Staff Scientist/Director of Neurobehavioral Core, Gladstone Institutes, UCSF, San Francisco, CA

Graduate Students

1998-1999 Ming-Teh Chen, M.D, Ph.D., National Institute on Drug Abuse, National Institutes of Health, Baltimore, Maryland

Current Position: Professor, National Yang Ming University, Taipei, Taiwan

2001-2008 Steven Shabel, Ph.D., UCSF Neuroscience Graduate Program

Current Position: Postdoctoral Fellow in the laboratory of Roberto Malinow

2001-2007 Cory Blaiss, Ph.D., UCSF Neuroscience Graduate Program

Current Position: Analyst, Clinical and Scientific Assessment, Kantar Health, Foster City, CA

2002-2007 Marian Logrip, Ph.D., UCSF Neuroscience Graduate Program

Current Position: Assistant Professor, Psychology Department, Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis, Indiana

2003-2008 Bhavana Vishnubhotla Ph.D., UCSF Neuroscience Graduate Program

Current Position: Glen Eden Multimodal Centre, Vancouver, BC, Canada

2005-2008 Kay Tye Ph.D., UCSF Neuroscience Graduate Program

Current Position: Assistant Professor, Picower Center, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Boston, MA

2007-2013 Elizabeth Steinberg Ph.D., UCSF Neuroscience Graduate Program

Current Position: Postdoctoral Fellow in the laboratory of Rob Malenka

2010-2013 Sarah Fischbach Ph.D., UCSF Neuroscience Graduate Program

Current Position: Data Systems Analyst, KIPP Foundation, Oakland, CA

2010-2015 Kate Vitale Ph.D., UCSF Neuroscience Graduate Program

Current Position: Scientist, Circuit Therapeutics, Palo Alto, CA

2010-2014 F. Alexandra Loucks Ph.D., UCSF Neuroscience Graduate Program

Current Position: Development Office, Omniox, San Carlos, CA

2012-2013 Josiah Boivin, UCSF Neuroscience Graduate Program

PostDoctoral fellows

2000-2003 Hong Nie Ph.D.

Current Position: Statistical Analyst, Abbott Vascular, Santa Clara, CA

2001-2002 Isabella Zironi Ph.D.

Current Position: Researcher, University of Bologna, Italy

2001-2003 Maria Pia Arolfo Ph.D.

2002-2004 Graham Cousens Ph.D.

Current Position: Associate Professor of Psychology, Drew University, Madison, NJ

2004-2008 Terry Kremin Ph.D.

2005-2009 Laura Corbit Ph.D.

Current Position: Senior Lecturer, School of Psychology, University of Sydney, Sydney, Australia

2005-2009 Nadia Chaudhri Ph.D.

Current Position: Associate Professor, Department of Psychology, Concordia University, Montreal, QC, Canada

2006-2010 Irene Merzlyak Ph.D.

Current Position: Data Analyst, Stanford University, Palo Alto, CA

2009-2012 Susan Sangha Ph.D.

Current Position: Assistant Professor, Department of Psychology, Purdue University, West Lafayette, IN

2011-2014 Zack Chadick Ph.D.

2011-2013 Virginia Long Ph.D.

Current Position: Predicitive Analytics Scientist, MedeAnalytics, Emeryville, CA

2012-2016 E. Zayra Millan Ph.D.

Current Position: Postdoctoral Fellow, University of New South Wales, Australia