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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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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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Now Hiring

This Could Be You!

Open Positions:

Postdoctoral Researcher
Rotation Student (WashU only)

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Michael Ryan Kann


I am pursuing a career as a physician innovator in which I can combine my interests in engineering, human physiology, and medicine. Specifically, I am interested in how advancements in genomic sequencing, neural stimulation, and electrophysiology can be applied to better understand and create targeted therapies for neurodegenerative and neurodevelopmental diseases. Outside of the lab, I love to play tennis, play the guitar, and walk in the park!

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Aline Mika Matsuguma


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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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 is new to the world, so everything is exciting! In addition to playing with Toby, he enjoys eating, growing, and training his developing motor circuits to run as fast as possible.

Lab Worker


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