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Aref Zarin Ph.D.

Aref Zarin was a postdoctoral researcher in the HHMI laboratory of Chris Doe at the University of Oregon. Aref applies cutting edge technologies to study the development and function of neural circuits driving motor behaviors in Drosophila larva.


In collaborative research, Aref generated a comprehensive synapse-level motor connectome using electron microscopy reconstruction of the entire larval nervous system. Aref is a pioneer in application of calcium imaging methods to monitor neuronal activity and characterize animal locomotor behaviors at a single-muscle level. By altering the neural function and examining the motor output, Aref links the activity of individual neurons to animal behaviors.


Aref received his PhD from the University of Dublin, where he studied the transcriptional mechanisms underlying neural circuit development. He also has a M.Sc. degree in Molecular Genetics from the University of Tehran.  


Aref is a multicultural person who has lived in three different countries (four cultural distinct cities), and can fluently speak three different languages. Aref is a husband, father of a cute boy, and a pet lover. Traveling to different countries, exploring new cultures, camping, hiking and outdoor adventures, gardening and landscaping, beer tasting, and barbequing are the hobbies that Aref enjoys.

Interested in joining the lab? 

It could be YOU


Weston Aymond

In Dr. Zarin's lab, my main focus is the study of how motor circuits control different locomotor behaviors of the drosophila larva. This entails many different ways of acquiring data, such as observing live larva under the confocal microscope, examining the ventral nerve cord (VNC) of a dissected larval brain, and using MATLAB to analyze all the data collected.


Outside of the lab, I enjoy spending time with my friends, training my dog, and pursuing my goal of attending medical school here at Texas A&M.


Niloofar Ardekanian

The neuroscience laboratory is the most amazing Laboratory I have ever joined and worked. We are using Drosophila melanogaster larvae as our animal model. I started with dissecting the larva brain, and I learned how to distinguish between the lobes and ventral nerve cord of their brain. The amazing part of our lab is using the confocal microscope which lets us observe the images of larva in various depths and directions in multi-color fluorescence and in high resolution. I study the backward and forward crawling behavior in the Drosophila melanogaster larvae. We express genetically encoded calcium indicators (GECI) such as GCaMP and RCaMP in the body wall muscles, enabling us to observe and record muscle contraction patterns using the confocal microscope.

In the current research, I am trying to find out how premotor neurons control motor neuron/muscle activity. For that, we specifically silence different premotor neurons and see if muscle contraction pattern changes compared to wild type animals. Besides all the new laboratory technics, learning MATLAB application is one of the most important parts. We use it to analyze the experimental data and get quantitative results.

In my leisure time, I spend most of my time at the recreational student center, playing badminton and coaching my team members as a vice president.


Yuhan Huang

Yuhan earned her Bachelor’s degree in Biology from Sichuan University, China and a Master’s degree in Molecular and Cellular Biology (Garrity Lab) from Brandeis University, Massachusetts. With experience in genetics, molecular biology and behavioral study in the Drosophila model, she finds herself deeply interested in neuroscience, especially in how neural circuits produce disntinct behavioral outputs in different situations. The Zarin lab becomes an ideal place for her to study the activity pattern of motor neurons and interneurons in the motor circuit and their connectivity in a single-cell resolution, using cutting-edge confocal microscopy, Transmission Electron Microscopy (TEM) reconstruction, and advanced data analysis using MATLAB. During her PhD, she will be continuously working on neuronal activity of different neurons during Drosophila larvae locomotion and the hierarchy of neurons within the motor circuit; she is also interested in how sensory feedback helps optimizing motor circuit activity and behavior output during locomotion.

Yuhan is a HEAVY gamer and she plays a variety of video games in her free time. Yuhan enjoys learning computer technology such as programming, video editing, 3D modeling and assembly of PC, smartphone and other electronical devices. She also likes to build and collect figures and models of animation and video game characters.