Lab Members

Dr. Noelle L'Etoile

Principle Investigator

Though Noelle chose to train as a biochemist in Arnie Berk's lab at UCLA, she had always been fascinated by the human brain. Her first love was literature as she thought it was the clearest window into the functioning of the human brain. Biochemistry, however, provides the physical practical blocks upon which life and the brain are created. She hoped to use the critical, reductionist approaches provided by biochemistry, molecular genetics to study behavioral plasticity at the level of molecular interactions and in this way to understand the brain. In Cori Bargmann’s lab, she was introduced to the charismatic C. elegans.  Noelle became enchanted with the worm and started her own lab to attempt to have it all by trying to understand behavioral plasticity at the molecular, cellular and circuit levels. Then, Nando Muñoz-Lobato studying long term memory blew apart this reductionist’s understanding of the world and how to approach memory. Noelle and Nando kept hitting a wall when they ignored the dynamics of the neural circuit. Thus, they were thrilled to collaborate with the Kato and Wittmann groups to try to image the whole worm’s brain as it learns, maintains and recalls the memory of a smell. 

Screen Shot 2018-05-16 at 10.13.01 AM.png

Graduate Student

Raymond is from a small apple-pickin’ town in central Massachusetts. At UCSF he is a PhD student in the neuroscience program, and is co-mentored by Dr. Noelle L'Etoile and Dr. Saul Kato. Ray studies the relationship between neural network structure and function. Specifically he’s interested in how flexible but controlled behavior emerges from the comparatively simple worm brain. He hopes his research will lead to a better understanding of fundamental properties of neural dynamics and inform the design of machine learning NNs, but really he just thinks brains are super cool.


Connect with Ray on ResearchGate and GitHub

Graduate/ Dentistry Student

Trang's project focuses on understanding the biosynthesis of endogenous small interfering RNA (siRNA) in C. elegans. Recently, she discovered that almost 1/3 of the C. elegans genes have RNAs that are anti-sense to the genes and map to their intronic regions. Her current focus is on bioinformatically and biologically identifying the protein machinery associated with these newly identified antisense intronic RNAs that she calls aiRNAs. The aiRNA are also expressed in cancer cells and through this connection, Trang's work in C. elegans is aimed at providing basic insight into the biogenesis, utilization and cellular function of these aiRNA. She hopes this knowledge will contribute to improving diagnosis and treatment of cancer.


(Unofficial) Post-Doc

Although Matt is officially a post-doc in Dr. Andrei Goga's lab, he is keen to work with the L'Etoile lab to follow up on his graduate work.  Matt is interested in understanding what RNA can tell us about how cells work and what happens during disease. Many RNAs are transcribed and not translated into protein but rather regulate protein production. As a PhD student at the University of Nevada in Reno he helped identify new circRNAs in C. elegans that accumulate throughout its lifespan. Recently circRNAs were shown to regulate cell division during development and cancer via interactions with microRNAs, transcription factors and RNA binding proteins. During his post-doc at UCSF he hopes to identify a circRNA signature for specific oncogenes such as Myc then dissect the pathways necessary for circRNA-dependent oncogenesis.

Jerry Liu

Dentistry Student

Jerry received his B.S. in Human Biology at University of California, San Diego (UCSD). After graduating, he went on to complete his Masters in Biology in the Berg Lab at UCSD where he studied the regulatory effects of microRNAs on neurodevelopment. He is currently a DDS candidate at UCSF that is investigating the function of recently described species of small anti-sense RNA that map to introns.

Screen Shot 2018-05-16 at 10.56.15 AM.png


Katie was a graduate student in the Tetrad Program. She is continuing on as a post-doc in the L'Etoile lab to follow up on her graduate work. She studies the export of RNA signals from C. elegans cells, with a particular focus on neuronal export. Using molecular and genetic tools, she investigates the impact of various environmental cues on the spread of RNA silencing.

Fatema Saifuddin

Graduate Student

Fatema is a graduate student in the Tetrad program at UCSF. 

Dog's Portrait
Science Researcher

Veronica Maria Valdez

Lab Assistant

Veronica is the backbone of the L'Etoile lab. She works tirelessly to support the various research activities of the L'Etoile lab by providing the lab with a constant supply of media, reagents, basic lab equipment maintenance, ordering and bookkeeping.  She is an integral part of the team and we would not be able to reveal the secrets of biology without her.


Sarah is interested in how the nervous system integrates external signals from the environment with the organism's internal state to generate flexible, adaptive behavior. To this end, she has been working on characterizing a tool that can sense changing levels of cGMP, a molecule hypothesized to be important for both sensation and plasticity, in live C. elegans. Sarah hopes that this work could uncover how a single molecule can play a role in both of these processes both within and between neurons.

dog running with toy

Carlos Zuazo

Graduate Student

Carlos received his B.S. from the University of California, Berkeley.


Bo is originally from China and is currently a Postdoc in the L’Etoile lab. Previous studies in our lab showed increased binding of the heterochromatin associated factor HPL-2 at the odr-1 locus in AWC neuron as a result of odor adaptation in worm. This suggests that the repression of odr-1 expression might be attributed to chromatin conformation changes. Bo is interested in developing a fluorescence based imaging technique to facilitate monitoring of the dynamic changes in chromatin structure in vivo at specific loci, such as odr-1.


Former Lab Members

Science Consultant

San Francisco, California

Science Researcher

San Francisco, California


Founder/ SciComm


Science Illustrator

Youreka Science

San Mateo, California

Director of Faculty and Lecturer programs in VPTL

Stanford University, California

Brett Goldsworthy

Manufacturing Manager

Boehringer Ingelheim, California


Principal Investigator

Yonsei University, South Korea


Kaiser Permanente, California

Jeff Eastham-Anderson, M.S.

Scientific Manager

Genentech, Inc., California

Research Associate

Genentech, Inc., California

Sarah Gerhart.jpeg

Sr. Scientist

GlaxoSmithKline, Pennsylvania


Dr. Chantal Brüggemann

Grants Officer

European Molecular Biology Laboratory, Germany


Julia Kaye.jpeg

Scientific Program Leader

Gladstone Institutes, California


Clinical Trial Assistant

Myovant Sciences, California

Software Engineer

Karius, Inc.,



Assistant Professor

National Chiao Tung University, Taiwan


Associate Professor

George Washington University, Washington D.C.


Science Consultant

Seville, Spain

Biomedical Engineering Undergraduate Student,

Johns Hopkins University, Maryland

Graduate Student

 Johns Hopkins University,



Biostatistics Graduate Student

Lobachevsky University, Nizhny Novgorod