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The overarching goal of our research program is to identify and characterize cellular and molecular processes, driven by changes in electrical activity and calcium signaling, that underlie the specification of distinct types of neural cells during normal and dysfunctional development of the mammalian brain.

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Requisite cheesy teamwork phrase highlighting our collective awesomeness.. :)

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Lab News

Follow along for all the exciting developments in our lab -- new lab members, grants, and papers, oh my!!

Our research. Check out our work!

In the Panagiotakos lab, we study how electrical activity and calcium signaling regulate the generation of distinct types of neurons during normal development of the mammalian brain, with an eye towards understanding mechanisms underlying the pathogenesis of neurodevelopmental disorders. We employ a variety of approaches to explore how immature, undifferentiated neural progenitor cells integrate intrinsic and extrinsic signals to commit to specific neural fates, such as the different types of excitatory cells inhabiting the cerebral cortex. We are also interested in understanding how activity-regulated developmental mechanisms may be reactivated in the context of adult neurological disorders and the development of brain tumors.

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Our Team. Play together, win together.

Georgia Panagiotakos, Ph.D.

Principal Investigator

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  • Hometown: The concrete jungle of Brooklyn, NY (before it was cool to live there), by way of a prolific olive oil-producing village in Greece
  • Favorite color: Purple
  • Favorite disney character: Minnie Mouse
  • Scientific hero(es): Barbara McClintock, Roderick MacKinnon, Susan Lindquist
  • Favorite non-neuro/non-development arena: mitochondria, comparative anatomy, world history, classic biochemistry, who can choose?!
  • Spirit animal: The sassy koala, the majestic giraffe
  • Lab call sign/nickname: G
  • Personal motto:

    "How you get back up after a tough blow defines who you are."

    "Well behaved women seldom make history."

My research interests stem from a curiosity about how undifferentiated progenitor cells integrate intrinsic and extrinsic developmental signals to generate the diversity of cell types in the brain. Building on my undergraduate training in molecular biology at MIT, I first pursued these interests in the laboratories of Drs. Lorenz Studer and Viviane Tabar at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, where I performed in vivo and behavioral studies investigating the specification and transplantation of pluripotent stem cell derivatives into the normal and diseased brain. This research, aimed at developing cell replacement therapies for neuro-degenerative disorders, formed the basis for my long-standing fascination with the mechanisms by which cells decide their fate. Using this background as a springboard, my doctoral studies at Stanford University in the laboratories of Drs. Theo Palmer and Ricardo Dolmetsch explored the function of calcium signals through a channel implicated in neuropsychiatric disease on the differentiation of specific neuronal subtypes in the developing mouse cortex and in human stem cell-derived neurons. Based on this work, I was selected to start my lab at UCSF as a Sandler Faculty Fellow in November of 2013. Since arriving at UCSF in late 2014, I have put together a research team that is integrating a variety of complementary approaches to investigate the role of electrical activity, calcium signaling and ion channel diversity in sculpting forebrain development and evolution, with an eye towards elucidating how these mechanisms are altered to give rise to neurodevelopmental disorders and to drive neurodegenerative processes. When I am not in the lab, I enjoy trail running, long hikes with adorable dogs named Astro, cooking, gardening, learning languages, obsessively following politics and listening to podcasts.

More about Georgia »

Arpana Arjun, B.A., M.S.

DSCB Doctoral Student

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  • Hometown: San Diego, CA
  • Favorite color: Red
  • Favorite disney character: Scar from the Lion King
  • Scientific hero(es): Rosalind Franklin, Marian Diamond
  • Favorite non-neuro/non-development arena: Performance studies
  • Spirit animal: Chimpanzee
  • Lab call sign/nickname: Arpanara
  • Personal motto:

    “There is no substitute for hard work.” -Thomas Edison

I graduated from UC Berkeley with a double major in Theater, Dance and Performance Studies and Molecular and Cell Biology. While there, I first became excited by laboratory science as an undergraduate researcher in Dr. Gabor Somorjai’s physical chemistry lab, where I studied the activity of novel nanoparticle catalysts. After I graduated, I became a research technician at the Gladstone Institutes in the Finkbeiner lab, where I investigated the biology that underlies amyotrophic lateral sclerosis and frontotemporal dementia. My work there motivated me to pursue a Master’s in Stem Cell Biology at the University of Southern California. There I worked in Dr. Leslie Weiner’s lab to probe the biology that goes awry in patients with multiple sclerosis. I am thrilled to be working towards a PhD in the Panagiotakos lab, where I have become interested in calcium regulation in the developing cortex. When I’m not at the bench, I enjoy playing the piano and attending the theater.

Ralitsa Petrova, Ph.D.

Postdoctoral Fellow

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  • Hometown: Somewhere in the mountains of Bulgaria
  • Favorite color: Yellow
  • Favorite disney character: Aladdin
  • Scientific hero(es): Eric Kandel
  • Favorite non-neuro/non-development field: mitochondria!
  • Spirit animal: Giraffe
  • Lab call sign/nickname: Ralitsara, RP
  • Personal motto:

    "Don't try, just do!"

I earned my doctorate at the Weill Cornell Graduate School of Medical Sciences, Sloan Kettering Division, where I conducted research in the lab of Dr. Alexandra Joyner. My doctoral studies made use of mouse genetics to study the role of the Sonic hedgehog signaling pathway in adult neurogenesis and in glial biology. After successfully completing my PhD, I continued to follow my passion for regenerative biology in the laboratory of Dr. Asa Abeliovich at the Taub Institute for Research on Alzheimer’s Disease and the Aging Brain at Columbia University, where I worked towards developing cell replacement therapies to treat neurodegenerative conditions. Focused on better understanding the molecular substrates underlying the pathology observed in neurodegenerative disorders, I joined the Panagiotakos lab to learn how to study electrical signals and downstream molecular changes in the brain, in order to later apply these lessons in the context of disease. Outside of lab, I enjoy exploring the landscape of food, nature and people in the Bay Area.

Teresa Torres, B.S.

Junior Specialist

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  • Hometown: The armpit of California - Bakersfield
  • Favorite color: Saphire blue, light pink, and black
  • Favorite disney character: Mulan
  • Scientific hero(es): Robert Koch, Louis Pasteur, Alexander Fleming, Jay Levy
  • Favorite non-neuro/non-development arena: Microbiology and Art
  • Spirit animal: Lioness
  • Lab call sign/nickname: Teresara (haha) or T, for short.
  • Personal motto:

    "The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams."

    "If you fall down seven times, stand up eight."

    "Some women fear the fire; other women simply become it."

Sasha Launer, B.F.A, M.M.

Junior Specialist

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  • Hometown: Minneapolis, MN
  • Favorite color: Turquoise
  • Scientific hero(es): V.S. Ramachandran, Alan Lightman
  • Favorite non-neuro/non-development arena: Music!
  • Spirit animal: Hummingbird
  • Lab call sign/nickname: S
  • Personal motto:

    "Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better." -Maya Angelou

Ahmad Ahmadzada

Undergraduate Researcher

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  • Hometown: Sacramento, CA
  • Favorite color: Crimson
  • Favorite disney character: Belle
  • Scientific hero(es): Avicenna, Ibn Al-Haytham, John Snow, Shinya Yamanaka
  • Favorite non-neuro/non-development arena: Astronomy and cosmology! How can I sleep knowing that above me lies a sky full of worlds and stars that we know almost nothing about? Let alone the sheer amount of emptiness that engulfs it all?
  • Spirit animal: A Grey Wolf. I seem really reserved but I love to work with others in a field that I am passionate about. I'm extremely devoted to my family, and I prefer to plan my moves and think outside-of-the-box instead of acting brashly or with brute strength.
  • Lab call sign/nickname: Ahmad
  • Personal motto:

    "Words are, in my not so humble opinion, our most inexhaustible source of magic" -Albus Dumbledore

Poorvi Dua

Undergraduate Researcher

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  • Hometown: Phoenix, AZ (nicknamed "the devil's frying pan" for the excessive dry heat)
  • Favorite color: Yellow
  • Scientific hero(es): Roger Sperry, Santiago Ramon y Cajal, David Presti
  • Favorite non-neuro/non-development arena: Psychology and philosophy!
  • Spirit animal: Llamas -- they have such wonderful personalities and show affection in the most endearing ways
  • Lab call sign/nickname: Poorv
  • Personal motto:

    "The only true wisdom is knowing that you know nothing." -Socrates

    "Keep your face always toward the sunshine and the shadows will fall behind you." -Walt Whitman

Chris Ki

Undergraduate Researcher

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  • Hometown: Riverside, CA
  • Favorite color: Black
  • Scientific hero(es): Oliver Sacks -- I admire his dedication to and love of the human brain.
  • Favorite non-neuro/non-development arena: Computer science, European history
  • Spirit animal: Cat. Like most cats, I enjoy spending time by myself. Also, my personal dream is to reach a point in my life where I can sleep all day and just bask in the sun.
  • Lab call sign/nickname: Crispy
  • Personal motto:

    "Never give up!"

Hayley Pippin

Undergraduate Researcher

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  • Hometown: Seattle, WA
  • Favorite color: Lavender
  • Scientific hero(es): Ada Lovelace, Gerty Cori
  • Favorite non-neuro/non-development arena: Anything math related! Especially logic, ciphers, differential equations. Also food chemistry, since I love baking.
  • Spirit animal: A dolphin (because they live in the ocean and always look like they're smiling).
  • Lab call sign/nickname: H-pips!
  • Personal motto:

    "No one can make you feel inferior without your consent." -Eleanor Roosevelt

Zachary Su

Undergraduate Researcher

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  • Hometown: Moraga, CA
  • Favorite color: Yellow
  • Scientific hero(es): Stephen Hawking
  • Favorite non-neuro/non-development arena: Physics
  • Spirit animal: Capybara
  • Lab call sign/nickname: Z$
  • Personal motto:

    "Sometimes when you start losing detail, whether it's in music or in life, something as small as failing to be polite, you start to lose substance." -Benny Goodman

Skeptical Hummingbird, Ph.D.

Lab Mascot

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  • Hometown: Peru
  • Favorite color: All the colors of ALL the flowers
  • Scientific hero: Anyone who does the right controls
  • Spirit animal: Seriously?
  • Lab call sign/nickname: Sternface
  • Personal motto:

    "Do better."

Lab Alumni. Happy trails..

Christos Haveles, B.S.

Junior Specialist


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Current position: medical student

(UCLA School of Medicine)

Yasmeena Khan

High School Intern


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Current position: undergraduate student


Jonathan Tong

CCSF Biotechnology Intern


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Current position: student intern

(Gladstone Institutes)

Lab News. What's Happening?

  • 11/2018: Arpana and Ralitsa present their projects at SfN to rave reviews! Amazing job!
  • 11/2018: Ralitsa's project and excellent talk earns the LLHF John S. Spice Award in Aging! Beaming with pride -- woohoo!
  • 10/2018: Ahmad officially joins the lab!
  • 08/2018: Jonathan leaves the lab to start an internship at the Gladstone Institutes -- good luck Jonathan!
  • 06/2018: Zachary rejoins our team and Poorvi is the newest member of the lab!
  • 12/2017: Georgia receives a UCSF RAP Pilot Grant for Junior Investigators in Basic and Clinical/Translational Sciences!
  • 10/2017: Georgia receives the SFARI Explorer Award from the Simons Foundation!
  • 10/2017: Sasha and Jonathan join our team!
  • 07/2017: Zachary and Hayley join the lab!
  • 06/2017: Arpana passes her qualifying exam - she is officially a PhD candidate. Go Arpana!
  • 06/2017: Teresa joins our team!
  • 06/2017: Ralitsa receives the Hillblom Foundation Postdoctoral Fellowship - congratulations Ralitsa!
  • 06/2017: Christos leaves the lab to start at UCLA Medical School - good luck, Christos!
  • 10/2016: Chris joins our team!
  • 08/2016: Arpana officially joins the lab (after the longest rotation in history)!
  • 05/2016: Ralitsa joins the lab!
  • 07/2015: The Panagiotakos lab moves to its final location in the Broad Center of Regeneration Medicine and Stem Cell Research.
  • 06/2015: Christos is the first member of the Panagiotakos lab!
  • 11/2014: Georgia's first day at UCSF!
  • 11/2013: Georgia is selected as a UCSF Sandler Faculty Fellow.

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Contact Information

georgia.panagiotakos at

Panagiotakos Lab

Department of Biochemistry and Biophysics

Kavli Institute for Fundamental Neuroscience

Eli and Edythe Broad Center of Regeneration Medicine and Stem Cell Research

University of California, San Francisco

35 Medical Center Way, RMB, San Francisco, CA