Principal Investigator


Sarah Heilbronner


Heilbronner photo

Sarah Heilbronner is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Neuroscience at the University of Minnesota. She is interested in what the brain's wiring diagram can tell us about its function.

PDF icon sarah_heilbronnercv2019.pdf


Lab Managers


Tanya Casta


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Tanya Casta is a Researcher 3 who is writing her bio


Hannah Lee


Hannah graduated in 2019 with a BS in Biochemistry from the University of Minnesota. She works as a Researcher 1 in both the Heilbronner and Hayden Labs. 


Postdoctoral Fellow


Mark Grier



Undergraduate Students


Elena Hayday




Amera Hassan


Amera Hassan photo

Amera Hassan is a "freshman, sophomore, or junior, depending on how you look at it". She is currently a physiology major in the BA/MD JAS program.



Samia Ibrahim




Ben Johnson




Alexa Mathis



Alexa is a junior undergraduate volunteer majoring in Neuroscience at the University of Minnesota. She is also volunteering for Jessica Burkhart, who is working with the Lion Lab. Alexa hopes to attend medical school post-graduation. 



Lensa Toka




Austin Werner



Graduate students


Adriana Cushnie


Adriana Cushnie photo

Adriana Cushnie, I am a first-year student in the Graduate Program of Neuroscience. I completed my undergraduate degree in Psychology at Brooklyn College - CUNY.  I am interested in circuit level mechanisms that are involved in the development and organization of the brain and how this information can improve our understanding of neurodevelopmental disorders. 



Megan Monko


Megan Monko

Megan Monko is a third-year graduate student in the GPN. She received her B.A. in Biology, Neuroscience, and Molecular Biology from Coe College. Her research interests include changes in connectivity caused by experience and rat homology. 




Jessica Burkhart


Burhart photo

I have a degree in Neuroscience from the University of Arizona, and am now working on my PhD at the University of Minnesota. I love African lions, and love studying the brain, so what better way to spend my time than studying the brains of lions! African lions have a unique social structure and I am hoping to learn more about what makes them different than their asocial cousins, the tiger and the leopard. We will be analyzing neural densities in the putative social networks to investigate this further. This can help us learn more about sociality across species and even help us to understand many psychiatric disorders! I was born in Alaska, grew up in Seattle, but spent most of my time in Arizona. I also lived in the Caribbean for 4 years! I have a furry family consisting of two dogs and two cats, who have traveled the country and over the seas with me. I love to travel and can't wait to spend much of my time in Africa! I am so excited to be here at UMN investigating the neurological mechanisms of lion social behavior!



Kiran Miryala



Kiran Miryala is a masters student in the Carlson School of Management. Kiran is interested in studying human choices and decision-making through model-based tasks from behavioral, cognitive and multi-sensory perspectives. During free time he practices meditation, runs for 5k races, reads biographies and volunteers for TEDxMinneapolis. After graduating from Carlson, Kiran wants to pursue PhD in Neuroscience.


Maya Wang


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​Maya Zhe Wang is ​a 4th year graduate student in the Department of Brain & Cognitive Science at the University of Rochester and currently a visiting graduate student in the Department of Neuroscience at University of Minnesota. She is interested in ​studying ​​the brain circuit supporting model-based decision making and future planning from representational, anatomical, and causal perspectives.



MariPen Yeatts



Ruyuan Zhang




Olivia Drake


Olivia is a junior biology major at Juniata College in Huntingdon Pennsylvania, and she is here with LSSURP. Aside from playing with monkey brains, her hobbies include art, reading, and hiking. After graduation, she plans to work toward an M.D./Ph.D, and her ultimate career goals are to go into research in clinical neuroscience.

Max Griesgraber

Max Griesgraber is a senior studying neuroscience at the University of Saint Thomas. His main field of interest is the neurological basis of mood disorders. Outside of academia Max enjoys playing guitar and working on cars in his free time.

Amanda Hassan


Pooja Kandikonda

Pooja Kandikonda is an undergraduate, at the University of Minnesota, majoring in neuroscience with a minor in business management. After graduation, she hopes to pursue a PhD in neuroscience. 

Emily Kilen


Kelsey Person


Anish Sethi

Anish is an undergraduate sophomore at the University of Minnesota Twin Cities majoring in neuroscience. He likes to spend his spare time playing soccer, coding websites and apps, and running. Anish has a keen interest in cars and planes and loves to drive cars and fly planes when he gets the chance (only once so far). He is also an EMT with the University of Minnesota’s Emergency Medical Services and is involved with multiple extracurricular activities on and off campus. Anish hopes to attend medical school after his undergraduate years.

Tenzin Sonam

Tenzin Sonam is an undergraduate majoring in Biochemistry with a minor in Public Health.  When not in lab, she enjoys reading and learning more about science, especially Ecology and Organic Chemistry, playing badminton, tutoring students in the Minneapolis-St. Paul public schools, and obsessing over the latest skincare. After graduation, she hopes to focus her studies around Dermatology.