Current lab members
Leire Abalde-Atristain, Ph.D. firstname.lastname@example.org
Born in the beautiful town of San Sebastian in the Basque Country (Northern Spain), Leire received her B.Sc. in Biotechnology from the Autonomous University of Barcelona, and her M.Sc. in Biomedical Research from the Pompeu Fabra University in Barcelona. Sponsored by the Spanish predoctoral La Caixa Fellowship, she then obtained a Ph.D. from the Johns Hopkins University, where she investigated the molecular mechanisms underlying neuron survival and death under the guidance of Ted and Valina Dawson. Leire joined the Freeman lab in late 2019 to pursue her interest in the signals injured neurons send to elicit a response in glia.
Adel Avetisyan, Ph.D. email@example.com
Adel completed her Ph.D. at the lab of Professor Adi Salzberg, Rappaport Faculty of Medicine, Technion — Israel Institute of Technology. During her graduate studies she worked on the programmed cell death and cell-fate determination processes that take place during the development of Drosophila chordotonal organs. Adel joined the Freeman lab in 2018 to study the molecular mechanisms underlying axonal degeneration.
Romina Barria, M.S. firstname.lastname@example.org
Senior Research Associate
Romina studied Biochemistry at the University of Chile, earning a B.S degree in 2003 and an M.S. in 2006, exploring the role of the S97N domain of Dlg in synapse development in Drosophila melanogaster. She then joined the laboratory of Dr. Vivian Budnik at UMass Medical School as a research associate, where she assisted in several projects examining synaptic development at the neuromuscular junction in Drosophila. Romina volunteered as a science teacher in India for a few years and later worked as a lab manager in a postharvest lab in Chile. From 2015 to 2017, she studied glia’s role in axon maintenance in the laboratory of Dr. Marc Freeman at UMass Medical School. Romina rejoined the Freeman lab in 2019, after it relocated to the Vollum Institute.
Jiakun Chen, Ph.D. email@example.com
Jiakun received his bachelor's and master's degrees in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology from Xiamen University, China. In 2012, he began his graduate studies in the laboratory of Dr. Lilianna Solnica-Krezel at Washington University in St. Louis where he studied early embryogenesis in zebrafish. After receiving his Ph.D., Jiakun joined the Freeman and Monk labs in March 2018. He is interested in astroglial maturation and plasticity during development and in neurological disorders and using both fruit fly and zebrafish models.
Megan Corty, Ph.D. firstname.lastname@example.org
Megan is a postdoc originally from sunny Southern California. She received her B.A. in Human Biology from Stanford University before heading east to earn her Ph.D. in Neurobiology from Columbia University, where she studied dendrite morphogenesis in the lab of Wesley Grueber. Megan started her postdoc in the Freeman Lab at UMass Medical School and moved with the lab to its new home at OHSU. Megan's research in the Freeman lab focuses on identifying the cellular and molecular mechanisms controlling glia-axon communication and glial ensheathment of axons.
Rachel De La Torre, B.S. email@example.com
Rachel earned a B.S. in Micro/Molecular Biology from Portland State University in 2015. She then spent several years researching immune signaling mechanisms underlying psoriasis and atopic dermatitis in the OHSU Dermatology Research Division. During the summer of 2015, she studied under the mentorship of Dr. Mary Logan in the Jungers Center at OHSU as a Portland State University McNair Scholar investigating glial cell involvement in synaptic loss in the context of Alzheimer's disease. Interested in furthering her neuroscience background, Rachel was accepted to the 2018–2019 cohort of the OHSU/Vollum Institute Neuroscience Post-Baccalaureate Initiative where she studied glial mediated elimination of dying neurons in the Freeman Lab. She continues this work now as an NGP graduate student.
Kevin Guttenplan, Ph.D. firstname.lastname@example.org
Kevin received his B.A. in Neuroscience and Mathematics from Pomona College in 2014, where he used biochemistry to characterize novel proteins in Drosophila melanogaster and mathematical modeling to better understand neuronal development. He then joined the lab of Dr. Ben Barres at Stanford University to study the role of astrocytes in mouse models of central nervous system diseases and injuries, earning his Ph.D. in Neurosciences in 2021. As a postdoc in the Freeman Lab, Kevin now studies the mechanisms that allow astrocytes to sense and respond to changes in the brain, including how astrocytes influence neuronal circuits.
Taylor Jay, Ph.D. email@example.com
Taylor grew up in Kansas and received her B.S. in Brain & Cognitive Science and in Physics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. She did her Ph.D. training at Case Western Reserve University, studying microglial function in Alzheimer’s disease and neurodevelopment with Gary Landreth and Bruce Lamb. She began her postdoctoral fellowship in the Freeman lab in 2019, where she is studying the role of glia in synapse development and plasticity.
Amanda Jefferson, B.S. firstname.lastname@example.org
Research Assistant 2
Amanda graduated from Portland State University with a B.S. in Biology in 2016. During her undergraduate studies she assisted in the labs of Philip Copenhaver (Department of Cell, Developmental and Cancer Biology, OHSU) and Mike Forte (Vollum Institute). Upon joining the Freeman lab Amanda has assisted in research examining neuron and glia communication during neuronal remodeling.
Yunsik Kang, Ph.D. email@example.com
Yunsik received his Ph.D. in Genetics in 2016 from University of Wisconsin-Madison, studying the genetic control of cell death during Drosophila development. He joined the Freeman Lab in 2016, and his research focuses on identifying mechanisms that eliminate unneeded cells in the brain.
Matt LaBella, Ph.D. firstname.lastname@example.org
Matt joined the Freeman lab in 2019 after receiving his Ph.D. in Genetics and Developmental Neurobiology. His doctoral work in Professor Erik Jorgensen’s lab at the University of Utah was focused on molecular mechanisms of neuron maturation. As a postdoc in the Freeman lab, Matt is using forward genetic screens to understand how astrocytes are built and function in the central nervous system.
Alexandria Lassetter, M.S. email@example.com
Alexandria earned her B.S. from the University of California, Davis in 2015. She went on to study mechanisms of familial amyotrophic lateral sclerosis while earning her M.S. in Stem Cell Biology and Regenerative Medicine from the University of Southern California in 2016. Alexandria joined the Freeman lab in 2017 and is currently investigating the role of glia in long-term axon maintenance.
Katy Lehmann, B.S. firstname.lastname@example.org
Katy earned a B.S. in Biology and Health, Science, Society and Policy from Brandeis University in 2016. While at Brandeis she worked in Dr. Avi Rodal’s laboratory to investigate how the regulation of endosomal trafficking in Drosophila hemocytes contributes to systemic immune activation. She then spent two years at the NIH as an IRTA Fellow in Leo Belluscio’s lab defining the role of glia in mouse olfactory system development. Katy joined the Freeman lab in 2019 and is interested in the neuron/glia signaling mechanisms underlying synaptic pruning.
Tzu-Huai (Leo) Lin, M.S. email@example.com
Tzu-Huai (Leo) Lin received his B.S. and M.S. in Life Sciences from National Yang Ming University in Taiwan in 2011 and 2013 respectively, where he studied how the Hippo pathway regulates collective cell migration using Drosophila ovary as a model. After a year of experience as a research assistant in Taiwan, he joined the Freeman lab in 2015, embarking on the quest for understanding axonal mitochondrial biology with Gaynor Smith, a former postdoc of the lab and currently a PI at Cardiff University, UK. Leo performed a forward genetic screen to discover new molecules regulating axonal mitochondrial dynamics during his first year in the lab and has been working on one of the hits pulled from the screen since then.
Ernesto Manzo, Ph.D. firstname.lastname@example.org
Ernesto received his B.A. in Biology from Swarthmore College where he became fascinated by how genetic alterations cause human disease. In 2010, he was an intern at the Clinic for Special Children, where he studied genetic diseases in the Amish and Mennonite Plain populations under Dr. Erik G. Puffenberger. He received his Ph.D. in Molecular and Cellular Biology from the University of Arizona where he studied metabolic defects implicated in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) in the laboratory of Dr. Daniela C. Zarnescu. He is currently interested in how cellular mechanisms control neuronal decay. He uses the fruit fly as a model organism to better understand how neurons survive or degenerate in response to genetic insults. Ernesto is a former HHMI predoctoral Gilliam Fellow with an interest in promoting diversity in higher education.
Paul Meraner, M.D. email@example.com
Senior Research Associate
Paul received an M.D. from the Medical University of Vienna in Vienna, Austria, in 1996, where he also trained as a clinical dermatologist, obtaining board certification in 2005. He then decided to pursue science full time. Coming to the U.S. in 2007, he worked on calcium signaling in the lab of Anjana Rao and Patrick Hogan at Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA, and the La Jolla Institute for Allergy and Immunology in La Jolla, CA. Paul then decided to switch gears from protein biochemistry to systems biology and joined the lab of Abraham Brass at UMass Medical School in Worcester, MA, where he performed CRISPR screens to study virus-host interactions and viral entry mechanisms. The broad applicability of CRISPR technology led to a collaboration with the Freeman lab at UMass, and ultimately to an offer to move out West and join the lab at OHSU. Paul, who always dreamt of working in neuroscience, is currently employing CRISPR screening technology to dissect the SARM1-mediated axon degeneration pathway. Taking advantage of his expertise in biochemisty, he also tries to understand SARM1 signaling at the molecular level.
Amy Sheehan, B.S. firstname.lastname@example.org
Senior Research Associate
Amy received her B.S. in Biology from Eastern Connecticut State University in 1994. From 1994 to 1999, she was the head research assistant — under the direction of Dr. Petra Ross-Macdonald — on a yeast function genome project in the laboratory of Dr. M. Snyder at Yale University. Amy moved to Eugene, Oregon in 1999. In 2000, she became a research technician III with the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, serving as the head molecular biologist on numerous projects in Dr. Chris Doe's lab at the University of Oregon. From 2004 to 2017, Amy was a research associate II and lab manager in the Freeman lab at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, Worcester, Massachusetts. She continues in her role as the Freeman lab manager here at the Vollum Institute. However, Amy's main job is being the mother of four wonderful kids and running the Freeman household — all with a large glass of wine!
Tobias Stork, Ph.D. email@example.com
Research Assistant Professor
Tobias worked on various aspects of glial development and function using Drosophila as a model organism throughout his career. He earned his masters degree and Ph.D. in Biology in the lab of Christian Klämbt at the University of Münster, Germany — analyzing the genetic control of midline glia development and the anatomy and function of the glial blood-brain barrier. In 2007 Tobias joined the Freeman lab to study the genetic control of astrocyte morphogenesis as well as astrocyte function in the Drosophila nervous system.