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Our team

Current team

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Dmitry Velmeshev, PhD

Dmitry received his PhD in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology from the University of Miami for his work on analysis of transcriptomic changes in autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Upon joining the lab of Arnold Kriegstein at UCSF, he adopted and applied single-nucleus RNA sequencing methods to study how specific brain cell types change in ASD and other CNS disorders, as well as during normal development.

Dmitry started his lab at Duke in 2022 to focus on studying and modelling brain development and disease using single-cell genomics, organoid cultures and bioengineering approaches. 

Zijian (Zack) Zhang, PhD
Postdoctoral scholar

Zijian grew up in Rock Hometown (SJZ), China. He received his B.A. and his Ph.D. in molecular medicine from Sun Yat-sen University. During his Ph.D., Zijian focused on cell organelle regulation in cancer. In the lab, Zijian is exploring the cellular mechanisms of human brain development and disease on the single-cell level.

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Zihan Yan
Graduate student

Zihan is a first year PhD student from Duke developmental and stem cell biology program. She did her undergraduate study at UC Berkeley. She is interested in studying the role of epigenetic signaling during brain development and in diseases, such as autism spectrum disorder, using single cell genomics. 

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Skylar Davis
Lab manager

Skylar received her B.S. in Biology at Jacksonville State University in Alabama. After graduating, she worked for three years in a neurology lab at UAB studying frontotemporal dementia. She is the Velmeshev lab manager.

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Nirvika Rastogi
Research associate

Nirvika graduated summa cum laude from Indraprastha University, New Delhi, with a bachelor's in Biotechnology and most recently from with a masters degree from Duke's BME program, during which she worked in the Velmeshev lab. She also started a company designing and producing low-cost orthopedic products geared toward underprivileged people in India. 


She is now working at the Velmeshev Lab on dissecting mechanisms of Down syndrome and on developing bio-printed scaffolds emulating human brain development.

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Imani Hall
Undergraduate student

Imani is an undergraduate student from Martha's Vineyard, Massachusettes. She is studying neuroscience and psychology with a certificate in child policy & research. She works under Zijian (Zack) in decoding abnormal circuits in mouse models of autism and is particularly interested in neurodevelopment in developmental-behavioral disabilities such as autism spectrum disorder. Imani is doing an undergraduate thesis project with Zack in which she creates a fusion protein to help study rabies transcripts in the nucleus.


Kristina Schaufele
Undergraduate student

Kristina is an undergraduate student from Atlanta, Georgia. She is intending to major in neuroscience and minor in computer science. She is intrigued by how genetic differences provoke changes in brain development and cognition, particularly in neurodevelopmental and psychiatric disorders. As a Huang Fellow, she is assisting on Zihan Yan’s project by developing a lentiviral method to track cell lineage in autism spectrum disorder.  


Brittany Gilbert
Master student (2022)



Kiran Shehnaz Kaur
Master student

Kiran Shehnaz is currently pursuing Master's degree in Biomedical Engineering, specialization in Neural Engineering. She completed her undergraduate studies in Biomedical Engineering at VIT University, Vellore, India. She is currently a member of the Velmeshev Lab where her research interests lie in utilizing spatial transcriptomics approach to develop interventions for neurological disorders that are more precise and personalized.

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