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Research

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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People

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
  • 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.

Christos Haveles, B.S.

Junior Specialist

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  • Hometown: Danielson, CT
  • Favorite color: Black and charcoal grey
  • Favorite disney character: Belle and Hercules
  • Scientific hero(es): Ernest Rutherford and Marie Curie
  • Favorite non-neuro/non-development arena: Organic Chemistry and Foreign Languages
  • Spirit animal: Blue tang fish and elephant
  • Lab call sign/nickname: Christaki and Christara
  • Personal motto: "I still have my feet on the ground, I just wear better shoes." - Oprah, "Why pick one when you can pick both?" - Unknown

I graduated from Stanford University in 2015 with a BS in Biology. After my first foray into neuroscience research in Dr. Gary Steinberg’s lab, where I served as an undergraduate research assistant on a stroke recovery project, I became intrigued by the intricacies of the nervous system. I joined Dr. Panagiotakos’ lab to focus on understanding how calcium signals influence neurogenesis in the developing cortex and how defects in calcium signaling can manifest into psychiatric disorders in the clinical setting. My future plans include starting medical school in fall 2017. Outside of the lab, I enjoy exploring Bay Area cuisine and trying my hand at cooking and sharing Greek food.

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
  • 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.

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!"

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
  • Personal motto: "Do better. Hmmmmm you may want to do an actual control next time... I remain unconvinced."
  • Spirit animal: Seriously?
  • Lab call sign/nickname: Sternface


Lab News. What's Happening?

  • 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 ucsf.edu

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