Lab Members

Principal Investigator


Jeremy Willsey | UCSF Profiles
Assistant Professor, UCSF School of Medicine

Dr. Jeremy Willsey completed his BSc in Molecular Biology & Biochemistry in 2010 at Simon Fraser University in British Columbia, Canada. In 2014, he completed a Ph.D. in Genetics at Yale University in Matt State’s lab. After a one year postdoc at UCSF, he became an Assistant Professor under Dr. Stanley Prusiner in the Institute for Neurodegenerative Diseases at UCSF, and under Dr. Matthew State in the Department of Psychiatry at UCSF.

Jeremy’s research focuses on two complementary areas. He has played a key role in discovering genes contributing to autism and Tourette disorder and will continue to lead a major effort in characterizing the genetic architecture of Tourette disorder. The second arm of his research aims to use the clues provided by these discoveries, along with emerging data on the molecular landscape of human brain development, to understand key aspects of the underlying biology of these disorders. Together with Dr. State, his group has already used these methods to determine that autism risk genes coalesce in a specific part of the brain-the prefrontal cortex-during fetal development in a particular type of cell, the so-called deep layer cortical projection neurons. These two avenues of research not only provide critical information regarding the etiology of these psychiatric disorders, but promise new insights into developing novel treatment approaches. Along with Dr. State and Dr. Nevan Krogan, he has recently founded the Psychiatric Cell Map Initiative at UCSF (, aimed at elucidating the protein-protein, protein-DNA, and genetic interaction networks underlying psychiatric disorders. Dr. Willsey is also part of the TIC Genetics Executive Steering Committee ( and leads the committee for Systems Biology & High Throughput Data Generation.

– View Dr. Willsey’s Curriculum Vitae –

Postdoctoral Fellows

Nawei Sun
nawei_croppedDr. Sun has a B.S. in Biotechnology from the Jilin University of China and has recently completed a Ph.D. in Genetics at Rutgers University. With a decade of research experience, ranging from investigations of cancer cell line stability to differentiation of iPSCs, Dr. Sun’s doctoral research has focused on uncovering the genetic etiology and neurobiology of Tourette’s Disorder. Utilizing her expertise in stem cell biology, molecular genetics, and neurobiology, she has performed whole exome sequencing to identify Tourette Disorder associate sequence variants, generated iPSC lines and used transcriptome analysis to identify affected biological pathways, and leveraged this data to uncover possible molecular and cellular phenotypes. In her time at the Willsey Lab, Nawei will continue her cutting-edge research, leading our efforts to utilize iPSCs to better understand ASD and other neurodevelopment disorders.
– View Dr. Nawei Sun’s Curriculum Vitae –

Fima Zaltsman

Fima_circleDr. Zaltsman received his Ph.D. from the Department of Biochemistry at the University of Wisconsin–Madison. There, he conducted research in Dr. Laura Kiessling’s group with a focus on understanding the molecular mechanisms controlling hPSC fate decisions. In the Willsey Lab, Fima is interested in using hPSCs to help understand the pathobiology of neuropsychiatric disorders. He is investigating the protein-protein interaction networks of genes implicated in disorders such as ASD using hPSC-derived neural cells.


Irina Epstein
Irina_croppedDr. Epstein completed her Ph.D. at the Max Planck Institute for Brain Research / Goethe University in Frankfurt, Germany, where she studied RNA-based mechanisms underlying
the regulation of local protein synthesis in the context of synaptic plasticity and learning and memory. Currently, she is a Postdoc with Steven Finkbeiner at the Gladstone Institutes and in the Departments of Physiology and Neurology at UCSF. Irina has a keen interest in the molecular and cellular underpinnings of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and is collaborating with the Willsey Lab to study the effects of de novo ASD-associated mutations on the structure and function of iPSC-derived neurons using high-throughput robotic microscopy.

PhD Students

Sheng Wang
sheng_croppedSheng has a B.S. in Biological Sciences from China Agricultural University in Beijing, China. He recently concluded postgraduate work at the National Institute of Biological Sciences in Beijing. In his previous research, Sheng worked on projects involving genetic knock-out organisms, construction of a stable cell line with DNA-methylation silenced EGFP and subsequent screening for epigenetic regulators, identification of postzygotic mutations in donor tissues using whole genome sequencing data, and the creation of a next-generation sequencing library using a custom-designed autism-related genes panel. In his time at the Willsey Lab, Sheng will continue to lead cutting-edge research using next-generation sequencing data and systems biological analyses.
– View Sheng Wang’s Curriculum Vitae –

Nia Teerikorpi
Nia_croppedNia received her B.A. in Biochemical Molecular Biology from the University of California, Berkeley. She is currently pursuing her Ph.D. at UCSF as part of the multi-disciplinary TETRAD program. Nia joined the Willsey Lab in Spring 2017, where she is working to characterize the interaction network of NRXN1, a central protein in ASD pathology, at different stages of neuronal differentiation.


Staff Members

Clif Duhn – Operations Manager

Clif works as the Operations Manager for the Willsey Lab, the State Lab, and the Sanders Lab at UCSF. In his role as manager and coordinator, Clif plays a key role in the collaboration between these three labs as they work jointly to better understand the genetic pathways and neurobiology contributing to neurodevelopmental disorders such as ASD, Tourette Syndrome, and ADHD.

Ashley Clement – Administrative Officer

Ashley_croppedAshley joined the Willsey Lab in May of 2018. She brings extensive experience in hospital administration from her most recent management positions at UCSF Medical Center and Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, MA. Originally from Massachusetts, Ashley graduated from Clark University with a double major in Sociology and Gender Studies. She enjoys helping others find solutions in order to become more successful and brings these skills to her position in the lab.

Amanda Everitt – Bioinformatics Programmer

Amanda completed her B.S. in Biotechnology from UC Davis in 2017, having focused specifically on Bioinformatics. Her undergraduate research involved the genetics and gene expression underlying insecticide resistance in Anopheles mosquitoes. Amanda is interested in applying techniques from statistics and systems biology to construct predictive models for biological phenomena. In the Willsey Lab, she collaborates on projects involving ChIP-Seq and whole-exome sequencing data.

Juan Arbelaez  – Wet-Lab Manager

Juan is a research associate and the wet-lab manager in the Willsey Lab. With extensive experience working with stem cells, he lends his guidance, leadership, and wet-lab management skills to the Willsey Lab as well as the State Lab. Currently, Juan is working on several projects involving iPSCs and CRISPR-Cas9.


Tierney Baum – Staff Research Associate

img_2706Tierney completed her B.S. in Neuroscience from UC Santa Cruz in 2014, focusing her undergraduate research on the mechanisms underlying cytoplasmic focal accumulations in Drosophila motor neurons. She has since managed multiple clinical research studies on fMRI and fear conditioning in veterans with PTSD.  Tierney joined the Willsey lab in 2017, where she collaborates on projects including the proteomics of the top-associated ASD genes using iPSCs and CRISPRi technologies.

Rebecca Krasnoff – Staff Research Associate

rebecca_croppedRebecca graduated from UC Berkeley in 2016 with a degree in Psychology, having focused specifically on Neuroscience. In her time at Berkeley, she spent time in both clinical and basic research settings, where she looked at complex psychiatric disorders such as Bipolar Disorder and used techniques such as EEG to investigate basic cognitive processes.  In the Willsey Lab, Rebecca uses computer and data science techniques to analyze genetic data and works in iPSCs to aid the lab in its search to better understand the underlying neurobiology of disorders such as ASD.


Montana Morris – Staff Research Associate
Montana graduated from Stanford University in 2016 with a B.A. in Literature and Philosophy, where he also pursued the Pre-Med track with hopes of one day becoming a physician. His previous research experience includes several summers at MDIBL in Maine, during which he worked on epithelial chloride transport in the Shark Rectal Gland of the Spiny Dogfish, utilizing varied approaches, under Dr. John Forrest, M.D. Originally from New York City, he moved to San Francisco shortly after his graduation, and now works as a Research Associate in the Willsey Lab. His projects currently include IPSCs and proteomics. 

– View Montana Morris’s Curriculum Vitae –

Jeff Mandell – Bioinformatics Programmer

Jeff designs, builds, and runs software pipelines incorporating a variety of bioinformatic software tools to process and analyze genetic data. He frequently works with large amounts of whole-exome and whole-genome sequencing data, and he also contributes to RNA-Seq and ChIP-Seq experiments. Jeff has a broad interest in behavioral biology, as well as a particular interest in the application of computer science techniques to identify sources of genetic risk for complex, multicausal psychiatric conditions. Jeff has a BA from Stanford University in Human Biology.

Qihao Qi – Bioinformatics Programmer

Qihao is a bioinformatician/genomic data scientist with a strong interest in data mining and computer programming. The goal of his work is to solve complex biomedical research questions with cutting-edge computational statistics and machine learning methods. Prior to joining in Willsey lab, Qihao worked for scientists at National Cancer Institute to analyze genomic data and develop bioinformatics applications, including BRB-ArrayTools and BRB-SeqTools.
– View Qihao Qi’s Curriculum Vitae –

Xin Zhao – PhD Student
xin_croppedXin is currently pursuing her Ph.D. at Shanghai Jiao Tong University focusing on  Tourette Syndrome. Xin Zhao joined the Willsey Lab as a visiting graduate scholar in January 2018. During her time in the Willsey Lab, Xin will use next-generation sequencing data and systems biological analyses to analyze genetic data to better understand the underlying neurobiology of disorders such as Tourette Syndrome.