About Us

Lab Members

Peter Tsai M.D. Ph.D


Pete is a native Texan from the Houston area. He graduated from Harvard University with an A.B. in Biochemical Sciences before migrating west to the University of California – Los Angeles – where he completed his M.D./Ph.D. There, he worked in the laboratory of Dr. Hong Wu, M.D., Ph.D. where he investigated the contribution of the Erythropoietin Receptor in neuronal development and post stroke neurogenesis. After completion of his graduate and medical training, he returned east where he completed his pediatrics and child neurology residencies at Boston Children’s Hospital. He then completed a child behavioral neurology fellowship where he started and directed the Cerebellar Neurodevelopmental Disorders Clinic, focusing not only on the motor aspects of cerebellar dysfunction but also on the significant cognitive and behavioral sequelae of these disorders. He joined the laboratory of Dr. Mustafa Sahin, M.D., Ph.D. where he investigated the contribution of cerebellar dysfunction to autistic behaviors by developing a cerebellar mouse model of Tuberous Sclerosis Complex. There, he was faculty from 2011–2014, until he made the move to Dallas to further pursue these research interests. Clinically, Pete continues to care for children with autism and cerebellar dysfunction in the Center for Autism & Developmental Disabilities while pursuing his interests in delineating the mechanisms by which cerebellar dysfunction results in abnormal cognition and behavior in neurodevelopmental disorders. Outside of the above, he can frequently be found having food related fun with his family.

Read the Tsai lab diversity statement.

Christine Ochoa

Christine Ochoa Ph.D.

Postdoctoral Researcher


Christine graduated from The University of Texas at San Antonio Honors College with a bachelor's degree in Biology in 2011, and received her Ph.D. in Neuroscience from UT Southwestern in 2017.  Her graduate work in Craig Powell's lab explored the role of Kctd13 in regulating synaptic transmission and RhoA signaling. In the Tsai lab, Christine will define cerebellar circuits influencing social behaviors and identify how dysfunction of the cerebellum contributes to autism-related behaviors. In her spare time, Christine enjoys spending time with her family and pets, watching NBA basketball (Go Spurs Go!), and attending kickboxing classes.

Chongyu Ren

Chongyu Ren M.D., Ph.D.

Research Scientist


Chongyu Ren is a researcher who enjoys working with patch clamp techniques. Chongyu is from Shandong Province, the North of China, where he got his M.D, Ph.D. in Physiology at Peking Union Medical College, in Beijing. In 2006, he came to the U.S. for his first post-doctoral training position where he worked on cardiovascular electrophysiology in Dr. Blaustein’s lab at the University of Maryland until 2008. He has also worked in Dr. Yong Wang’s lab at the University of Utah from 2008 to 2012, until he made the move to Dallas with his family. Currently, he is a research scientist in Peter Tsai’s lab at UT Southwestern, and is focusing on understanding electrical properties of brain slices in mouse models of Autism and cerebellar dysfunction. In his free time, he enjoys spending time with his two little girls at home, playing tennis, swimming and sitting quietly the watching sky.

Elyza Kelly

Elyza Kelly B.A.

Graduate Student


Elyza is a neuroscience graduate student in the Tsai Lab studying neural circuits influenced by the cerebellum which facilitate social reward and repetitive behaviors. Elyza is from Vermont and received her bachelors degree in neuroscience at Wheaton College (MA). After college she worked for three years at Boston Children's Hospital studying mouse models of autism spectrum disorders before coming to UTSW for graduate school.

Brianne Dentel

Brianne Dentel B.S.

Graduate Student


Brianne is a native of Kansas, and graduated from Kansas State University with a B.S. in Microbiology. She is now in the Medical Scientist Training Program here at UT Southwestern, and has finished the first two years of medical school. She is interested in the biological mechanisms behind autism and focal epilepsies we see in humans. In her free time she likes to run, ride her bike, and bake breads and pies

Jennifer Gibson

Jennifer Gibson B.A.

Graduate Student


Jenn received her B.A. from Wheaton College, MA, where she studied Neuroscience. During that time she worked in the laboratory of Dr. Meg Kirkpatrick, completing an honors thesis analyzing the behavioral and biomechanical effects of methylmercury on adult mice. A native Vermonter, she moved to Dallas to work as a research technician in the lab helping to further define the role of the cerebellum in Neurodevelopmental disorders. She recently re-joined the lab as a neuroscience graduate student.


Lidiette Angeles-Perez B.S.

Graduate Student


Lidiette was born and raised in Puerto Rico and recently moved to Dallas to pursue a PhD in Neuroscience. She received her B.S. in Molecular and Cellular biology at the University of Puerto Rico and participated in summer research programs focusing on Tau pathology in neurodegenerative diseases. Now, she is interested in learning about the molecular mechanisms driving Autism and Epilepsy, with the hope of identifying potential therapeutic targets for patients with these diseases. Outside of lab, she enjoys trying out new restaurants and coffee places with her friends, in addition to singing and dancing. When back home, she loves spending time with her family and friends at the beach.


Aby Flores

Abigail Flores B.S. 

Research Technician


Aby is a native Floridian and received her B.S in both biology and neuroscience from the University of Florida. With previous research experience in Alzheimer's disease and Spinal Cord Injury, she is excited to learn more about the cerebellum's role in Autism Spectrum Disorders. She currently assists the Tsai lab by managing the mouse colony. Outside of lab, she enjoys crossfit, bouldering, and billiards. 

Yasaman Kazemi

Yasaman Kazemi M.S. 

Research Technician


Yasaman is from Tehran, Iran where she graduated with a Bachelors Degree in Clinical Psychology and spent time working in a psychiatry hospital. In her work with a clinical psychologist her research experience was focused on attachment patterns and anger management. Recently she graduated from UT Dallas with a masters degree in Cognitive Neuroscience and through her experience in the clinic Yasaman spent time working with autistic patients and became interested in the neural circuits that govern Autism Spectrum Disorders. During her masters program she interned in the Tsai lab assisting in different areas of the lab research. After completing her masters degree, Yasaman re-joined the Tsai lab as a research technician helping to identify neural circuits in ASD. 

Dylan jiang

Dylan Jiang


Dylan Jiang is a native of Texas originally from The Woodlands. He is interested in Neuroscience and previously worked in the laboratory of Joanna Jankowsky at Baylor College of Medicine. Outside of lab, he enjoys taking road trips with his friends, playing tennis and visiting his family.


Olutayo Sofela


Tayo is from Toronto, Canada where he spent time volunteering and working in community health. After successfully gaining admission to University of Texas, at Dallas (UTD), he decided to move to the United States to bolster his profile and gain admission into the medical scientist program at UTSW. As a member of the Tsai Lab, Tayo will be working to identify how mutations in CNTNAP2, a protein associated with Autism Spectrum Disorders, affects brain circuitry and behavior in genetic mouse models of autism. In his free time, he enjoys climbing, hiking, snowboarding, and volunteering in his local church.

tommy tan

Tommy Tan


Tommy is a native of Texas from Beaumont. He is currently pursuing his B.A. in biology at The University of Texas at Dallas. He is interested in pursuing medicine and becoming a physician-scientist. In his spare time, he enjoys climbing and pestering his roomates about the Boston Celtics.

zain lakhani

Zain Lakhani B.S.


Zain Lakhani, born and raised in the Dallas metroplex, graduated from Baylor University in 2016 with a B.S. in Neuroscience. He is currently a Master's student at the University of Texas in Dallas. Zain is also passionate about teaching young adults and tutor children of all ages in various school subjects and loves being their mentor. In his free time, Zain loves spending his time outdoors camping and dedicates his time helping out with a local Boy Scouts troop.

Previous Lab Members

Fantao Meng Ph.D

Sanaz Sajadi M.S.

Pei Liu Ph.D

Christopher Cano M.D.

Shuping Jia Ph.D

Previous Student Researchers

Fiona Chace-Donahue

Emily Oh

Mariam Madinawala

Razaq Durodoye

Eskedar Girmash

Zasca Ristianto

Cyrena Howland

Cleone Howland B.S.

Shwetiha Rajagopal B.S.

Nidhi Prakuzhy

Alejandro Rey Hipolito