Lab Members

Current Lab Members

Carla M. Vélez
Research Assistant



Carla is originally from Ciales, Puerto Rico and has an 10-year-old daughter, Amélie. She began working in the Barresi Lab as an undergraduate.  After graduating from Smith in 2013, she has been the Barresi Lab’s Research Technician and has also served as a Lab Instructor for the Neuroscience Department.  She originally worked on the Axon-glial interactions project and recently switched to the Neural Stem Cell projects.  Carla recently completed her Masters and currently works as a part time research assistant/lab angel. Congrats Carla!


Jake Schnabl
PhD Student, Umass Amherst



Jake is a University of Massachusetts graduate student who is interested in the process and regulation of neural development.  He is currently investigating the signals that regulate midline guidance, the process by which neurons send axons from one side of the nervous system to the other.  Currently this involves studying the Slit-Robo system, which are key signals that influence midline crossing in the forebrain.  Before this, Jake was a Research Assistant at Umass Worcester and at University of California Riverside where he also received his B.S.


Katrina Anderson
Biology Major, 2018

Katrina is an undergraduate from Vancouver, Canada who began research in the Barresi lab in her first year. As a member of the class of 2018, she is pursuing a major in Biological Sciences, as well as a minor in Education and Child Studies. Using the CRISPR/Cas9 system, Katrina’s project aims to characterize the roles of various genes, including reelin, disabled and gfap in the development of radial glia in the zebrafish embryo. After spending a year studying and working in Germany and France she is thrilled to return to complete her senior year. In the future, Katrina hopes to combine her passions of biology and teaching and seek a career as a professor and researcher. 


Morgan Schwartz
Biology Major, 2018






Research: My work in the Barresi Lab focuses on developing computational methods that enable quantitative comparison of embryos to identify phenotypical differences. In particular, I focus on the structure of commissures in the forebrain that connect the two sides of the nervous system.

Future Plans: I hope to pursue a career in academia focusing on the intersection between computer science and biology. I am fascinated by questions involving image analysis and hope to learn more through either a masters in the UK or a PhD in the US.

Favorite moment in lab: As a computer scientist, I am constantly learning new things and expanding my skill set. My favorite moment in the lab was when I successfully ran my first multithreaded script to process a large set of images and managed to occupy over 90% of our computer’s 16 cores. 


Sophie Chase
Biology Major with a Biomath certificate, 2018


I work with a number of our transgenic zebrafish lines to try and model the role that the wnt5b protein plays in the proliferation and differentiation of Radial Glia during embryonic development . I use loss and gain of function mutant lines as well as agonist and antagonistic drug treatments to manipulate wnt5b levels. Upon graduation in 2018 I am planning on applying to Dental School! 


Emilie Jones
Neuroscience Major, 2018


Emilie is a born and raised Floridian who transferred to Smith in her sophomore year. She joined the lab summer 2016 to study the effects of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons on the development of the vertebrate pharyngeal system. Emilie is currently working on her honors thesis and intends to pursue a doctorate post graduation. In addition to research she loves video editing, drawing, and long walks on the beach.


Aliece Goodman
Biology Major, 2019

My name is Aliece Goodman and I’m a junior from Eleuthera, The Bahamas. I’m a Biology major with a minor in psychology and I’m also on the premedical track. I am also a member of Smith’s Varsity Track and Field Team. I’ve had the pleasure of being a part of the Barresi Lab for the past year working on a project that investigates the effects of PAHs on craniofacial development. After completing my time at Smith, I hope to be given the opportunity to conduct more research elsewhere and matriculate into medical school.



Mackenzie Litz
Intended Biophysics Major, 2020


I’m in the forebrain development group focusing on the processes of axonal midline crossing, specifically the slit/robo guidance cue pathways. We are also working to characterize the cells surrounding the post optic commissure  in the zebrafish forebrain.  My future plans are to pursue an advanced degree in biology, physics, or law. 



Cassie Kemmler
Biology Major with a Math Minor, 2019


I work on the forebrain development team characterizing the cell types that make up the post optic commissure region and investigating the role of slit proteins and their robo receptors in the condensation and midline crossing of the post optic commissure axons using knockout and over-expression methods.



Vivian Morris
Biology Major, 2018



I am a member of the Slit-Robo project and am currently working on creating a genetic knockout of the Slit2 gene. I became interested in the work of this lab after hearing about it from one of Dr. Barresi’s courses: Biology 159Y: From Environment to Embryo. I then joined the Barresi lab in the spring of 2015. After I graduate from Smith, I plan on going to graduate school to pursue a higher degree of Biology.



Past Lab Members

Kimberly Johnson
PhD Student, Umass Amherst







Caitlin Schneider
Masters Candidate, Biology, 2015




Caitlin graduated from Wellesley in 2011 with a degree in neuroscience. She bounced around for a while before joining the Barresi lab in the summer of 2013. She was a Master’s student on the axon-glial interaction project, which aims to elucidate the role of astroglia in forebrain development.


Abigail Antoine
Biology Major, 2015



Abby joined the Barresi Lab during her first year at Smith and she currently works on the Slit-Robo project. She completed a Neuroscience Honors Thesis that includes her work pioneering an in vitro experiment to further elucidate the role for Slit1a on axonal pathfinding. Abby is pursuing a doctoral degree in Cellular and Developmental Biology following her graduation from Smith in May 2015.


Jin Sook Park
Biochemistry Major, Physics Minor, 2015


Jin Sook started in the Barresi Lab in her first year as a STRIDE Scholar student. She has worked on the Slit/Robo project, which generally focuses on forebrain development and the role of the Slit-Roundabout protein receptor signaling pathway in axon guidance and post-optic commissure (POC) formation. More specifically, the unique role of the Slit1a protein signal is under investigation as acting as an attractive cue rather than a repulsive one, which is a characteristic of the Slit2 and Slit3 signals. Currently, Jin Sook’s main focus in the lab has been to develop an efficient and subjective quantitative analysis of the various POC phenotypes by incorporating the biological data into Geographic Information System (GIS) applications. Beyond the lab, Jin Sook also has interests in women’s health, children’s health and development, biophysics, neurodevelopment, and immunology.


Lydia-Rose Kesich
Biology Major, 2016


Lydia-Rose is originally from Portland, Maine. She has worked in the Barresi Lab since her first year at Smith, studying the effects of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons from crude oil on zebrafish development. She is now hoping to pursue graduate-level research in biological engineering, with a focus on providing energy alternatives.

Catalina Sakai

Neuroscience Major, Biology Minor, 2016


Catalina is a junior from Taos, New Mexico. She has worked in the Barresi Lab since January 2014. She is currently working on a project that is aiming to ascertain how Wnt5b, a secreted signaling protein, regulates proper radial glial cell division in the developing spinal cord. She hopes to pursue a master’s degree in neurobiology when she graduates.


Maggie Murgo
Biology Major, 2016



Maggie is third-year (junior) who is majoring in Biology and also on the pre-medical track. She has been in the Dr. Barresi’s Lab for a year now. Her current project is to study Pax3.2 and characterize the cell types that express Pax3.2. She hopes to work on this project during the summer and throughout her senior year. As for her future goals, she wants a career in the medical field.


Katherine Berg
Biology Major, Honors Thesis Student, 2016


Katherine was a part of the Teratogenesis project studying the effects of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons on the development and disruption of the vertebrate pharyngeal system.


Gina Cho
Biology Major, East Asian Studies Minor, 2017


Gina is a Biological Sciences Major and East Asian Languages and Literature Minor. She worked in the Barresi lab for all 4 years of her undergraduate career, and focused on how chemicals we encounter in our everyday lives (PAHs) impact craniofacial development. As she had volunteered at an orphanage in which many children have conditions associated with developmental defects, she was glad to work on a project that could help her understand how the chemicals in the environment could lead to the medical conditions she saw in the children. She hopes to be a pediatrician in the future. In her free-time, she likes watching anime, listening to Classic Rock and Neoclassical Metal (among many other genres of music), and writing on her blog about ethical fashion.

Nina Wren
Biology Major, 2017


Nina joined the Barresi lab beginning the second semester of her first year at Smith College. Her work aimed to characterize the role of Slit-Roundabout signaling in Post-optic commissure (POC) formation during embryonic development of the zebrafish forebrain. Nina is also worked on acquiring a range of computer spatial analyst tools for quantification of the POC. This novel project proposed by Dr. Barresi’s Lab aims to demonstrate the unique application of GIS (geographic information system) to objectively analyze images of biological.


Kalani Williams
Intended Biology Major, 2018


Kalani Williams is an undergraduate who got involved in the Barresi lab through the Environment to Embryo research course for first years. She worked on a project trying to understand the roles of slit guidance molecules and their roundabout receptors. Kalani hopes to continue looking at environmental effects on development throughout her career, particularly she would like to look at the effects of pesticides on bee development.


Kimberly Du

Intended Chemistry Major, 2018

Kim Du is a first year AEMES scholar student from Malden, Massachusetts. After working for a year on the neural stem cell project, Kim has searched out a new calling in geochemistry. She now works with Sarah Pruss. As an undergraduate enters a lab and begins research it is valuable to be able to experience new approaches and fields as she finds her way in Science. We are happy for the time Kim spent in the Barresi Lab.


Other Students who have participated in Barresi Lab research:

Emma Coleman (’09), Arlene Ellis (’07), Selmanesh Nida (’07), and Caitlyn Webster (’08), Alissa Ortman (’10), Sarah Bashiruddin (’10), Azucena Ramos (’09), Sarah Krikorian (’09), Elizabeth Deschene (’09), Michelle Wong (’08), Kristin Alligood (’08), Anne Tanenhaus (’07), Kristina DiPietrantonio (’07), Allegra Lord (’05), Christine Bishundat (’12), Alexandra Sobhani (’11), Sean Burton (Ph.D.), Alexander Workman, Rebecca Bernardos (Post Doctoral Associate), Paula Zaman (’13), Maria Caterina Lagdameo (’12), Alyssa Bobe (’15), Brittany Edens (’13), Lidiya Denu (’13), Nanami Kono (’17)