About Us

Lab Members

Peter Tsai

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 and 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.

Fantao Meng

Fantao Meng Ph.D.


Fantao obtained his Ph. D. in Neuroscience (2011) at the University of Science and Technology of China. His Ph. D. research focused on the effect of ApoE genotype on Alzheimer’s disease and anxiety. He continued his postdoctoral training at the University of Iowa (2012-2014) and the Baylor College of Medicine (2014-2015). During this period, he was interested in deciphering the neural circuitry underlying the feeding behavior and energy metabolism. Since Nov. 2015, he has joined Dr. Tsai’s group, UT Southwestern Medical Center.
A fundamental mystery of brain science is to understand how neurons generate and control behavior through the coordinated activity of a specific neural circuit. With this in mind, he is currently interested in identifying the nuclei and neuron type of specific behaviors, such as feeding, anxiety and autistic-like behavior to work towards deciphering the specific neural circuitry involved. Now, taking advantage of cutting-edge technologies, he is trying to identify the cerebellar neural circuit underlying the autistic-like behavior.

Pei Liu

Pei Liu Ph.D.


Pei Liu is a native of China where she received her B.S. in Biomedical Engineering from Capital Medical University. She then attained her Ph.D in neurobiology at the Institute of Biophysics, Chinese Academy of Science. After graduation, she joined the neuroscience department at UTSW as a post-doctoral fellow where she studied mechanisms of neurotransmission in the central nervous system. In 2015, she joined Dr. Tsai's lab studying the cerebellar dysfunction in associated autistic behaviors through electrophysiological techniques. Outside of lab, she enjoys cooking, reading, watching movies, swimming, playing table-tennis, and traveling.

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.


Jennifer Gibson 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 recently moved to Dallas to work as a research technician in the lab helping to further define the role of the cerebellum in Neurodevelopmental disorders. An avid coffee addict and with a seldom satisfied sweet tooth, she's always hunting for new coffee shops and bakeries to make up for her mediocre kitchen skills. 


Cyrena Howland


Cyrene Howland is a physics undergraduate from a Community College in Santa Rosa CA. Interested in the mysteries of the brain as much as the mysteries of the universe, she pursued the opportunity to work in the Tsai lab. Cyrene moved from California to Dallas to research for a year before transferring to a university to finish her bachelor’s degree. Cyrene plans to eventually obtain a PhD in a physics discipline and hopes to apply physics principles and logic based reasoning to the field of neuroscience to merge her interest in both fields of scientific research. 

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.

Razaq Durodoye

Razaq Durodoye


Razaq is from Denton, Texas and received an Associate in Liberal Science from North Lake College May 2015. He now studies Biochemistry the University of Texas at Dallas with an intended minor in Philosophy and plans to graduate Spring 2018. He is working in the Tsai Lab as a UTD Greenfellow and intends to follow the MD/PhD route in his education. Some of his hobbies include performing poetry and creative prose, fantasy/sci-fi reading, and exploring philosophy. 

Sanaz Sajadi B.S.


Shwetiha Rajagopal



Previous Lab members

Cleone Howland B.S.

Christopher Cano M.D.

Shuping Jia


Past Stars Students

Alejandro Rey Hipolito

Nidhi Prakuzhy