Jeffrey Milbrandt, M.D., Ph.D.
James S. McDonnell Professor and Head, Department of Genetics

Professor of Pathology & Immunology, Medicine and Neurology


Aldrin Kay Yuen Yim
Graduate Student

Aldrin has always maintained a dual-interest in both computer science and medical research. He is currently a Ph.D. candidate in the Computational and System Biology Program, Washington University School of Medicine. Aldrin received his B.Sc. and M.Phil. degree in Biochemistry from The Chinese University of Hong Kong. Before joining Dr. Milbrandt’s lab, his research primarily focused on Bioinformatics, which led to multiple discoveries including a novel major allergen class (designated as Group 24th Major allergen by WHO/IUIS Allergen Nomenclature subcommittee) through multi-omic approach analysis of dust mite (JACI, 2015). His current research aims to understand the heterogeneity of cell types within the peripheral nervous system, and their various roles in neurological disease formation. Apart from research work, Aldrin is also engrossed in biotech entrepreneurship.

Alicia Neiner
Research Specialist

Alicia Neiner received a Bachelor of Science in Sustainability Science and Environment from Washington University. She’s an analytical chemist who’s worked with liquid chromatography-tandem mass spectrometry and high-performance liquid chromatography instruments for the last 10 years. She runs samples for many researchers in the Milbrandt and Di’Antonio labs. She previously worked in the Anesthesiology Department where she developed and validated bioanalytical LCMS methods for drugs from clinical studies and at environmental labs running LCMS, GCMS and HPLC instrumentation following EPA methods.

Amber Hackett
Postdoctoral Fellow

Amber Hackett received a Bachelor of Science in Biomedical Engineering at Virginia Commonwealth University in 2011. During this time, she worked in the lab of Dr. Jeffrey Dupree studying the role of sphingolipids in central nervous system myelin development and maintenance. Amber received a Ph.D. in Neuroscience at the University of Miami in 2016. For her thesis project, she studied glial scar formation and remyelination after spinal cord injury at the Miami Project to Cure Paralysis in the lab of Dr. Jae Lee. She is now a Postdoctoral fellow in the Milbrandt lab studying how Schwann cells support axons. To do this, she is perturbing several major metabolic pathways in Schwann cells in vitro and in vivo to determine the impact on axons.

John Bermingham
Research Associate Professor

John Bermingham obtained a B.A. in Biology from Yale, and a Ph.D. from the University of Colorado, Boulder, where he studied the homeotic gene Antennapedia in Matthew Scott’s lab.  Following a year of postdoctoral work on the Factor VIII coagulation gene in Jane Gitschier’s lab at UCSF, John moved to Geof Rosenfeld’s lab at UCSD, where he studied SR splicing factors, and generated mice that lack the transcription factor Oct-6(Pou3f1; SCIP; Tst1).  He found that these mice display specific CNS defects and a delay in peripheral myelination. In his own laboratory at the McLaughlin Research Institute in Great Falls, MT, John obtained NIH funding to study Oct6 target genes in peripheral nerve.

Caitlin Dingwall
MD/PhD student

Caitlin Dingwall received a Bachelor of Science in Molecular and Cellular Biology with Honors from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 2015. For her Honors thesis, she worked in the lab of Dr. Phillip Newmark where she pursued dual projects investigating the role of matrix metalloproteinases in stem cell homeostasis in the freshwater planarian Schmidtea mediterranea and characterizing the male germline in the parasite Schistosoma mansoni. Caitlin is in the Medical Scientist Training Program at Washington University School of Medicine where she is now beginning her PhD training in Molecular Genetics and Genomics. Her rotation project in the Milbrandt lab focuses on further elucidating the mechanisms that govern SARM1 activation in response to axonal injury.

Cassidy Menendez
Research Technician

Cassidy is a Registered Veterinary Technician. She graduated from Sanford-Brown College in 2010. Cassidy has worked at veterinary hospitals since 2008 and joined Washington University with DCM as a RVT in 2017. She joined Dr. Milbrandt’s lab in August 2018.

Tasha Crawford
Lab Assistant

Sandretta (Tasha) Crawford has worked in the Milbrandt Lab for 29 years. Tasha is a lab assistant to all. She takes care of stocking supplies, making standard lab reagents, and keeping the lab clean and straightened. Tasha is the mother of Nathan and she loves her coffee (and her coffee machine).

Tim Fahrner
Research Lab Supervisor

Fengping Dong
Postdoc Research Associate

Fengping received his PhD from the Pennsylvania State University where he studied risk genes related to schizophrenia and autism spectrum disorders. Fengping joined the Milbrandt and Mitra labs with interests of applying a series of functional genomics tools to understand neurodevelopmental diseases. Combining CRISPR/Cas9-mediated gene regulation with next-generation sequencing, he aims to discover underlying molecular mechanisms of neurological diseases. His work will focus on understanding how risk genes contribute to intellectual and developmental disabilities using induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs).

Jian Zhu
Instructor in Genetics

Jian Zhu received his B.S. in Biochemistry from Zhongshan (Sun Yat-sen) University in Guangzhou, China, and a Ph.D. in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology from Oklahoma State University. He was trained in protein chemistry and biophysics as a postdoc in Lawrence Berkeley National Lab, and subsequently in the late Dr. Evan Sandler’s laboratory here at Wash U where he had a special interest in small angle X-ray scattering. He joined Dr. Milbrandt’s group in 2019, and currently focuses on utilizing various biophysical tools to study the different components in the axon degeneration pathway.

Joseph Bloom
Assistant Professor of Genetics and Assistant Director of the Needleman Center for Neurometabolism and Axonal Therapeutics

Joseph has spent most of his life toiling in the trenches of model organism and human genetics, publishing on subjects from axon guidance and retinotopic mapping to drug metabolism and addiction. He is especially interested in common human variants associated with neurological function and disease risk. In his role as assistant director, he seeks to facilitate research in the Milbrandt and DiAntonio labs with the principle goal of making the Needleman Center more awesome. After growing up on the East Coast and receiving his bachelor’s at UC Berkeley, Joseph fell in love with the Midwest and wants to tell you why Saint Louis is an ideal place to live and do science. Outside of lab he enjoys running with his wife and chasing his six children around Forest Park.

Josh Langmade
Staff Scientist

Josh Langmade received a B.S. in genetics and an M.S. in biochemistry and molecular biology both from The University of Kansas.  He has worked at Washington University for over 17 years, with the majority of that time spent in the Ory/Schaffer lab within the Cardiology department.  Through his previous research experiences, he developed an interest in projects involving next-gen sequencing and bioinformatics, which helped lead him to his current position.  Josh joined the Mitra and Milbrandt labs as a staff scientist in May of 2019.  His current research, through the MGI pilot project, involves helping to develop a method to encode cellular phenotypes with fluorescence.  When not working in the lab, Josh enjoys spending time with his wife and kids, enjoying a variety of outdoor activities and cooking BBQ.

Matthew Lalli
Postdoctoral Research Scholar

Matthew Lalli is a post-doc in the Milbrandt and Mitra labs interested in understanding neurological diseases using patient derived stem cells. He is trying to apply new technologies to improve disease-in-a-dish modeling by expanding the number of relevant cell types we can generate. Through Cas9-based transcriptional modulation of disease-causing genes, he hopes to discover molecular underpinnings of disease phenotypes. Altogether, these projects have the potential to identify novel targets for treating neurological diseases such as Alzheimer’s and autism.

Xianrong Mao
Staff Scientist

Xianrong Mao received a B.S. from Lanzhou University in China, and a Ph.D. from the University of Arkansas for Med Science. His research background is neuroscience, in particular with genetic and metabolic approaches. Currently his focus is identifying the signaling pathways activating SARM1, the central molecule controlling axon degeneration. Mao is investigating how activity SARM1 is activated in response to axon damage.  This will also allow scientists to find tools to suppress SARM1 activity and further down the road will give them therapeutic intervention to block axon degeneration.

Mark Zaydman
Resident, PI-WUPATH

Mark studied Biomedical Engineering as an Undergraduate at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio before moving to St. Louis to continue his training with MD and Ph.D. degrees at Washington University in St Louis. He is currently a second-year resident physician in the Clinical Pathology Physician  Scientist Training Program in the Department of Pathology and Immunology. Drawing from his backgrounds in engineering, medicine, and biophysics, he is investigating the structural and functional evolution of SARM1 TIR NADase activity through a combination of computational and experimental approaches. Outside of the lab, Mark enjoys cooking, yoga, and fly-fishing.

Mihir Vohra
Postdoctoral Research Scholar

Mihir received his BA in biology from the University of Chicago in 2011 and a PhD in neuroscience from UCSF in 2017. His thesis work in Kaveh Ashrafi’s lab included establishing that the tryptophan metabolite kynurenic acid is a neuromodulator indicating nutrient status to the nervous system to control learning, brain aging, and tauopathy. In the Milbrandt lab he is studying mechanisms of SARM1 activation and its role in mediating axon degeneration.

Peter Wang
Graduate Student

Rachel McClarney
Research Technician

Rachel McClarney got a B.S. in Animal Science from the University of Missouri – Columbia. Prior to her employment at Washington University, she was an assistant at House Springs Animal Clinic, where she still works on Saturdays. In September Rachel will have worked at House Springs for 12 years.

Yo Sasaki
Ph.D., Research Associate Professor

Yo Sasaki was born and raised in Japan. He attended Tokyo University of Agriculture and Technology (B.S.) and Gunma University School of Medicine (Ph.D.) and decided to come to U.S. Yo is interested in the mechanism of axon degeneration. Axon degeneration is a common and early step of many neurological disorders and could be a useful therapeutic target for neurodegenerative diseases. Using injury-induced axon degeneration as a model, Yo and his colleagues discovered that overexpression of the NAD+ biosynthetic enzyme NMNAT1 can block axon degeneration. They identified other enzymes and substrates in NAD+ biosynthetic pathways that significantly delay axon degeneration. Based on these findings, Yo’s research is focused on the identification of axon survival signaling pathways that are linked to NAD+ metabolism.

Kelli Simburger
Research Technician

Kelli has worked in the Milbrandt lab for 28 years. She does much of the cloning for the lab along with a lot of general lab support. Kelli enjoys hiking, biking, travel and spending time with her family.

Amy Strickland
Research Lab Manager

Amy Strickland got a B.S. in psychobiology from University of Evansville in 1997. She received an M.S. in Criminlogy & Criminal Justice from UMSL in 1999. She is the Milbrandt lab manager. She’s been employed by Washington University Medical School since 1998 and been in the Milbrandt lab since 2002. Amy received the Dean’s Research Support Award 2016. She is the mother of three very active children and enjoys watching and coaching all kinds of sports in her “free” time, as well as working out.


Debbie Peterson
Assistant to the Chair