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"The world is full of magic things, patiently waiting for our senses to grow sharper."

- W. B. Yeats




I am broadly interested in understanding the beautifully complex mechanisms that guide nervous system development. The human brain is made up of billions of neurons that communicate with one another through trillions of specialized connections called synapses. Along with neurons, 50% of the human brain is comprised of a group of cells called glia. I have dedicated my scientific career to understanding how these glial cells- the underdogs of the neuroscience community - instruct proper nervous system assembly and function.


To do that, I take advantage of multiple model systems (zebrafish, fly, and mouse) to understand the evolutionarily conserved mechanisms used by glia to guide assembly, maintenance, and function of the nervous system in health and disease. My long-term goal is to use this information to better inform therapies for neurodevelopmental and neurodegenerative disorders. Outside of the lab, I enjoy gardening, baking, trying new restaurants, and taking long walks with my pups.


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Dunham Clark


Since I started my research career, I have been captivated by how the human body organizes itself at a microscopic level to create such a complex final product. At the University of Michigan, I studied the sub cellular components of the circadian clock in Drosophila. In Dr. Ackerman's lab, I am building on my experience in fly while focusing on understanding the cytoskeletal contributions to critical period termination and, exploring the potential consequences that cytoskeletal failures may have on neural development. Outside of the lab, I love to bake, travel, and play trombone!

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Hallie Youker

Undergraduate Research Assistant

I am deeply fascinated by neurodegenerative diseases, and once I was made aware of the function of glia (as well as how little is known about their role in the nervous system), my interest became focused on these enigmatic cells. Although I am only beginning to dip my feet into this field, my curiosity encompasses the regulation of glial cells’ supportive & growth-inducing functions, the mechanisms for how glia induce numerous types of changes in neurons, and how these factors have a larger effect on nervous system health/function. Outside of the lab, I enjoy playing piano (I have been playing for 16 years!), baking, taking swing dancing classes, and roller skating!

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Haley Jetter, MSc

Graduate Student

I have always been fascinated by how the brain works. During my Master's, I built a custom microscope to compare responses to thermal stimuli across various species of nematode. In the Ackerman Lab, I have switched my focus to understanding the contribution of glial cells to neurodevelopmental disorders. Specifically, I am interested in investigating the molecular mechanisms underlying congenital disorders of glycosylation and brain overgrowth disorders. Outside of lab, I enjoy playing saxophone and clarinet, climbing, foosball, and maintaining my tank of non-mutated fish.

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Aline Mika Matsuguma, MSc


I have always been interested in understanding how things work, especially the molecular mechanisms involved in the making of a new organism. For my Master’s degree, I used mouse embryonic stem cells as a tool to study the signaling pathways orchestrating early embryo development. In the Ackerman lab, I am applying the skills I learned about early embryonic development to a new system for me- the brain! Here, I aim to study the mechanisms that influence critical period plasticity, and how this in turn stabilizes long-term circuit structure, function and behavior. When not in the lab, I enjoy exploring new places, trying out different foods and hanging out with friends.

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Jake Brandt, PhD

Postdoctoral Fellow

I am fascinated with cellular interactions in the developing nervous system. In development, interactions between neurons and glia shapes neural circuitry. By studying these interactions, we will have a better understanding of neural circuitry in mature animals. Specifically, I want to investigate how neuronal activity can shape astrocyte identity. By leveraging the power of Drosophila and zebrafish, I aim to begin identifying how activity of neurons can shape long-term identities of astrocytes. Outside of the lab, I love exploring new parks, catching up with friends, and playing board games.

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Now Hiring

This Could Be You!

Open Positions:

Staff Scientist (Postdoctoral)
Rotation Student (WashU only)


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Toby is interested critters of all sorts, but especially birds and squirrels. He would like to know why they are so fast, and why they can’t be friends. Toby enjoys long walks, lots of treats, and laying in the sun.



George (aka Georgie Porgie or Curious George) definitely grew into his name- he is a very curious boy and the best little brother Toby could have hoped for! His top passion in life is food, and he is constantly on the search for more...

Lab Worker


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