Team

Principal Investigator: Alessandra Porcu, Pharm.D., Ph.D.

Alessandra received her Doctor of Pharmacy degree in 2012 at University of Cagliari, Italy. She then obtained her Ph.D. in Neuroscience in 2016 from University of Cagliari and University of Basel, Switzerland where her research focused on pharmacological characterization of GABAB and CB1 receptors' modulators. Alessandra joined the Department of Psychiatry at University of California San Diego in 2016, where she performed her postdoctoral research studying light-induced neurotransmitter plasticity and clock dysfunctions in mood disorders. 

In 2020, Alessandra received the K99/R00 Pathway to Independence Award from the NIH-NCCIH to study the effect of light on amygdala plasticity and emotion-related behaviors. She started her lab in the Department of Drug Discovery and Biomedical Sciences at University of South Carolina, College of Pharmacy in June 2022. 

Outside the lab Alessandra loves to spend time with her dog, traveling, and cooking.

Postdoctoral Fellow: Pablo Bonilla, Ph.D.

Pablo graduated in Biology in 2016 from the University of Valencia, Spain and in 2018 he completed his Master degree in Biomedical Biotechnology from the Polytechnic University of Valencia. He then obtained his Ph.D. cum laude in Biotechnology in 2022 from the Polytechnic University of Valencia developing his research at the Principe Felipe Research Center. Pablo joined the lab in March 2023.

Pablo current research focus on the mechanism underlying medial amygdala somatostatin circuit adaptation to chronic light cycles disruption in adolescent mice. His goal is to shed light on the potentially deleterious effects of altered light environments on brain circuits regulating affective behaviors during adolescence.

In his free time, Pablo enjoys practicing sports, playing video games, hanging out with his friends and traveling.

Graduate Student: Alexandria Shanks, MS

Alex graduated from the College of Charleston in 2017 with a Bachelor of Science in Biology. She received her Master degree in Biomedical Sciences from the University of South Carolina School of Medicine in 2019. Alex joined the lab in September 2022 as lab manager and she was admitted to the Pharmaceutical Science Graduate program in 2023.

Alex current project investigate the effect of photoperiod on astrocytes in the suprachiasmatic nucleus. The goal of her project is to understand the role of astrocytes in regulating photoperiodic plasticity in the circadian pacamaker.

Her hobbies include drawing/painting, yoga, and spending time with family and friends.

Graduate Student: Ashita Bhan, MS

Ashita graduated from the Bangalore University in 2017 with a Bachelor of Science in Biochemestry. She received her Master degree in Biotechnology from Christ University in 2019. Ashita joined the Pharmaceutical Science Graduate program in 2021. She joined the lab in May 2024.

Ashita current project aims at unveiling how light cycle disruption during adolescence affects memory and hippocampus local clock.  Her goal is to illuminate the potential for circadian therapeutic strategies in the prevention and treatment of memory impairment in adolescents.



Undergraduate Research Assistant: Janhvi Kartik

Janhvi is a current sophomore at the University of South Carolina Honors College pursuing a B.S. in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, with a minor in neuroscience. She is from Irmo, South Carolina. Janhvi joined the lab in October 2022.

Her research interests include sexual dimorphic responses to environmental light disruption in the amygdala and regulation of social behavior in adolescent mice.

In her free time, Janhvi enjoys dancing and traveling. 

Janhvi received the Honors College Research Grant in December 2022, the Magellan Scholar Award in May 2023 and the Trainee Professional Development Award from the SfN to present her project at the Neuroscience meeting in Washington D.C. in November 2023.

Undergraduate Research Assistant: Yatin Nerella

Yatin is currently a Junior at the University of South Carolina Honors College pursuing a B.S. in Biological Sciences and a minor in Neuroscience. He is from Anderson, South Carolina. Yatin joined the lab in October 2022.

His research interests include the effect blue light exposure on the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN) regulating memory impairment and circadian rhythm in mice. 

In his free time, Yatin enjoys reading and exercising.

Yatin received the Honors College Research Grant in December 2022 and May 2023 and the Magellan Scholar Award in November 2023.

Lab Mascot: Leo

Leo is an English Cocker Spaniel. He was born in July 2020, and he loves to play with his ball, frisbee and wood sticks. Leo will join the lab to support the team in difficult moments and to celebrate our accomplishments.


Please send us your CV if you have a passion for 

neurobiology and circadian rhythms!

Alumni

Maria Piroli - Graduate Student rotation-IBS Program - USC (Spring 2024)

Jenna Brawley - Undergraduate Research Assistant - USC  (Fall - Spring 2024)

Lily Quick - Undergraduate Research Assistant - USC Honors College (2022-2024)

Susannah Spoto - PostBac Research Assistant (Spring 2023)