Asahina Lab

Kenta Asahina

Associate Professor

Kenta received B.S. from the University of Tokyo, and Ph.D. from The Rockefeller University. His Ph.D. thesis in Professor Leslie Vosshall’s lab elucidated a neuronal mechanism of intensity-invariant chemotaxis behavior. He received his postdoctoral training in Professor David Anderson’s lab at California Institute of Technology, where he uncovered neuronal and genetic elements controlling antagonistic behavior. From 2011 to 2013, he was a Japan Society for the Promotion of Science Research Overseas fellow. Since October 2014, Kenta is an Assistant Professor at The Salk Institute. He loves nature, arts and good coffee. In his scarce free time, he likes to hike trails in San Diego County, snorkel, visit art galleries and try out new cafes.

Juliana Fox

Student Trainee

I completed my bachelor’s degree in Molecular and Cell Biology at UCSD in 2022. Throughout my undergraduate education, I performed research in organic chemistry and clinical cardiology. I’m currently a master’s student at UCSD studying biology education and completing a thesis investigating the connections between student epistemology and academic performance. I am also currently a research assistant at the Daniels Lab at UCSD’s ACTRI studying biomarkers of cardiovascular and renal damage. I joined the Asahina Lab to further my understanding of biological techniques and delve into the world of neuroscience research. I hope to next complete a PhD in the field of neuroscience and plan to one day teach and do research at the university level. Outside of lab, I enjoy reading, going to the gym, hiking, and cooking new recipes!

Claire Lee

Student Trainee

I am currently majoring in Neurobiology with a minor in Economics at UCSD. Outside of science, I enjoy reading, playing soccer, and running.

Victor Lee

Student Trainee

I am completing my degree in B.S. Mathematics – Applied Science at UCSD. I joined Asahina Lab to build skills in researching neural mechanisms behind social behaviors with insect models. I am broadly interested in biological systems consisting of interacting modules, from cellular signaling to eusocial insects. In my free time, I enjoy going for a bug hunt, playing piano, sketching, and practicing judo.

Veronica Morad

Research Assistant

I received a B.S. in Biological Anthropology and a minor in Mathematics from Thurgood Marshall College at UC San Diego. My coursework focused primarily on animal cognition and behavior as well as statistical analysis. I joined Kenta’s lab in 2022 as a Research Assistant I and also serve as Lab Manager. Outside of the lab, I enjoy going to zoos, museums, and thrift shops!

Sheetal Potdar

Postdoctoral Fellow

I received a B.S. in microbiology from Fergusson College, Pune University, India and joined a integrated Ph.D. program in Jawaharlal Nehru Centre for Advanced Scientific Research, Bangalore, India where I received M.S. and Ph.D. During my Ph.D., I studied the neuronal circuitry that regulates sleep and wake cycles in Drosophila, specifically those involved in connecting the timing of sleep with the need for sleep. I turned my focus from need-based to choice-based behaviors and joined Kenta’s lab as a post-doc to explore how the brain allows organisms to make behavioral changes based on different internal and external cues. Outside of lab, I enjoy watching and commenting on cricket, listening to classical music and making terrible puns.

Cherie Sun

Student Trainee

Ibrahim Khan

BISP199 Undergraduate Student


Max Trask

Research Assistant

I received a B.S. in Biology from Suffolk University and a M.S. in Marine Biology from Northeastern University. After transitioning from the ocean to a neurobiology laboratory during my graduate research I continued my career in neurobiology by joining the Asahina Lab as a Research Assistant II. Outside of the lab, my interests are snowboarding, diving, cycling, and the beach.

Donovan Ventimiglia

Postdoctoral Fellow

I received a B.S. in biology from the College of Creative Studies at UC Santa Barbara, and I completed my Ph.D. at The Rockefeller University with Cori Bargmann, where I studied synaptic biology, neural circuits, and quantitative behavior in C. elegans. Following my Ph.D., I did a short postdoc at the Marine Biology Laboratory with Roger Hanlon, where I studied the neurobiology of cuttlefish camouflage and trained as a scientific diver at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute.

In 2019, I joined the Asahina lab to study social behavior in the fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster. My work in the Asahina lab is focused on social dominance. When male flies fight, winners and losers can be clearly observed: winners remain aggressive, while losers flee their dominant opponent. Reminiscent of social hierarchies in many animals, these kinds of dominance hierarchies in Drosophila have been noted since the earliest descriptions of fly aggression, but where and how such social information processing occurs in the fly brain is not known. My project seeks to identify and dissect these neural circuits in the fly brain and determine how they govern the switch from fighting to fleeing.

Outside of science, my interests are in surfing, diving, and synthesizers.

Publications can be viewed here:


Ezgi Yalbir

Research Assistant

I received a B.S. in Genetics and Bioengineering from Yeditepe University and I received a M.S. in Molecular Medicine from Yeditepe University, Turkey. After my graduation, I worked as a postgrad research associate in a neurosurgery lab where I worked on brain tumors, aneurism and neurodevelopmental diseases at Yale University. In 2022, I joined Asahina lab as a Research Assistant II to study neuronal gene expression profiling of Drosophila melanogaster by using 10x Genomics Chromium single cell/nuclei RNA sequencing technology. Outside of lab, I like exploring restaurants and coffee shops, cooking new recipes, traveling and hiking.

Asahina lab alumni

Matteo Cortese

Post-doctoral Researcher

Kenichi Ishii

Postdoctoral Fellow

Henry Goh

Undergraduate Intern

Xubo Leng

Student Intern

Andrew Parker

Undergraduate Intern

Sparsha Saxena

Research Assistant

Adam Samulak

Research Assistant

Margot Wohl

UCSD Neuroscience Graduate Student

Maria Villalon Landeros

Undergraduate Intern

Chun Yin (Caven) Chow

Undergraduate Intern

Courtney Ambrosius

Research Assistant I

Teagen Gray Partin

Research Assistant II

Stella Kramer

Postdoctoral Fellow

Julia Liu

Undergraduate Intern

Melissa Vieri

Exchange Student

Pavan Nayak

Research Assistant I

Cheng-Lin (Vivian) Shaw

Undergraduate Intern