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.

Megan Cheng

Research Assistant

Juliet Heller

Research Associate


Aundrea Koger

Research Assistant

Ishta Madan

BISP199 Undergraduate Student


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.

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:

Kristaps Zilgalvis

Undergraduate Intern

Asahina lab alumni

Matteo Cortese

Post-doctoral Researcher

Henry Goh

Undergraduate Intern

Kenichi Ishii

Postdoctoral Fellow

Xubo Leng

Student Intern

Andrew Parker

Undergraduate Intern

Margot Wohl

UCSD Neuroscience Graduate Student

Sparsha Saxena

Research Assistant

Adam Samulak

Research Assistant

Chun Yin (Caven) Chow

Undergraduate Intern

Maria Villalon Landeros

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