Goodman Lab In The Department of Molecular
and Cellular Physiology


Principal Investigator
Miriam Goodman

Postdoctoral Scholars
Juan G. Cueva
Michael Krieg
Sam Lasse
Valeria Vásquez

Graduate Students    Dean Lockhead  Sammy Katta

Technical Staff
Carmen Liao

Administrative Associate
Jzesern Tan


Dr. Miriam Goodman Academic Profile
Hometown: Lexington, Massachusetts
University: Brown University (Sc. B.), University of Chicago (Ph.D.)

It might be surprising to imagine that Dr. Miriam Goodman once considered careers in business consulting, pharmaceuticals and plumbing before becoming a neuroscientist. Take a closer look at her lab, though, and you’ll find that Dr. Goodman is much more than just a researcher. Her job as Principal Investigator of the lab not only requires her to perform various tasks but to constantly think of them from different perspectives. Her responsibilities, which range from overseeing the lab’s progress, providing material and human resources for her colleagues, writing grants and papers, and teaching two graduate level classes among other things, attest that Dr. Goodman is a veritable neuro-all star. Now scientists from all over the world contribute to her research in understanding the sense of touch at a fundamental level. Bringing together every lab members' background knowledge and unique skills to answer questions and solve problems as a team is her fondest wish.

Dr. Goodman started working at Stanford University in 2002 after completing her Ph.D. at the University of Chicago in 1995 and postdoctoral work in C. elegans neurophysiology and genetics at the University of Oregon and Columbia University. Dr. Goodman’s history working in labs dates back to high school, when she began writing scientific software in research labs at the NIH. She continued working in research labs throughout her undergraduate studies in biochemistry at Brown, save for one summer working as a material scientist. In 2004, Dr. Goodman was awarded the Eppendorf and Science Prize for Neurobiology for her essay describing her research on C. elegans to explore how the sense of touch works on a molecular level.

Juan CuevaDr. Juan G. Cueva
Hometown: Hacienda Heights, California
University: University of California, Los Angeles (B.S., Ph.D.)

Dr. Juan Cueva became the first postdoctoral scholar to join  the Goodman Lab in 2003. From his first research experience as an undergraduate, Dr. Cueva recognized that his curiosity and love for learning something new every day were a perfect match for a career in research. He is presently working on sensory transduction, looking to better understand the molecular mechanisms that underlie the activation of the mechanical mechanisms in the transduction channel. Additionally, he is developing immune technology to enrich touch receptor neurons from fixed populations of cells from dissociated embryos for the joint Goodman-Pruitt mechanobiology project. The joint project is an example of what Dr. Cueva appreciates the most about working at Stanford. “You can easily form collaborations with other groups in unrelated fields,” he said. “There are so many talented people and all the resources you need in state-of-the-art facilities.” Dr. Cueva has always been interested in research and hopes to continue neuroscience related research in the future, particularly in molecular mechanisms of neurodegeneration involved in diseases such as Parkinson’s and Alzeimer’s.

Dr. Valeria Vásquez
Hometown: Caracas, Venezuela
University: Universidad Central de Venezuela (B.S.), University of Virginia (Ph.D.)

After the first conference she attended in Margarita, Venezuela in 1999 at which she presented her work with electromicroscopy in plants, Dr. Valeria Vásquez knew that science was her passion. She first worked with ion channels in Dr. Eduardo Perozo’s lab at the University of Virginia and the University of Chicago and felt immediately hooked by these membrane proteins. From plants and bacteria to C. elegans and from Venezuela to the United States, Dr. Vásquez’s enthusiasm for her work has never wavered and lead her to work at Stanford University in 2009 to continue her studies on ion channels after earning her Ph.D. at the University of Virginia. What she finds the most fascinating about her field of research is the opportunity it gives her to look at things as a whole; seeing multiple aspects of each component working together. Her hope is to always find something new and exciting, whether it goes with or against her hypothesis. She is now working on research on the mechanical receptor channel complex in touch receptor neurons for C. elegans. While her drive to work hard is deeply self-driven, Dr. Vásquez keeps a photograph of her family in Venezuela to keep her spirits high during the workday.

Carmen LiaoCarmen Liao zliao-[at]-stanford-[dot]-edu
Hometown: Guangzhou, China
University: Medical School of Guangzhou (M.D.)

If the Goodman Lab were a puzzle, Carmen Liao would not only be the one helping to put it together, but she would also be the one making sure none of the pieces got lost when putting it away and the first one to know where it was when someone came looking for it. As the lab’s technician, Liao is responsible for helping piece together the parts of the lab’s projects and plays a key role in preventing the stress ensued by losing track of things. After two years doing medical training in China as a resident in a hospital, Liao came to Stanford University in 2000 with her husband where she started working as a technician for the medicine department. Now, her job in the Goodman Lab is twofold. She takes care of lab maintenance by keeping things running smoothly and knowing where everything is, and assists people in their work on different projects. Above all, chatting with her colleagues in the lab is her favorite part of every day. “They taught me a lot after I immigrated here,” Liao said. “I love Stanford and the environment here, but I especially like it for the people.”


Sam Lasse slasse-[at]-stanford-[dot]-edu
The Ohio State University (B.S.), University of California, San Diego (Ph.D.)

Sam Lasse grew up in Ohio and was enticed to apply to graduate schools in sunny California by his research mentor at The Ohio State University. He did his PhD at UC-San Diego with Colin Jamora, studying the regulation of skin stem cell proliferation and differentiation. While at UCSD, Sam spent one year working closely with a local high school teacher to design and teach accessible, compelling laboratory exercises for a chemistry course. Sam developed a keen interest in education pedagogy and hopes to eventually join the faculty at a primarily undergraduate university. Sam chose to work in C. elegans because this elegant, low-cost model system is well suited to training undergraduate scientists. Sam is studying motor programs in worms; in particular, he is investigating how egg laying and locomotion are controlled by external temperature. Worms have an optimal temperature at which these two behaviors peak—Sam has asked whether this temperature-dependence results from physiological properties inherent to neuromuscular function or from regulation by temperature sensing neurons. When Sam is not subjecting helpless worms to a variety of temperatures, he, in true California spirit, likes hiking and watching movies. His favorite movie of all time is Jurassic Park. Sam says he was hooked on biology after watching the scene with the dancing DNA.

Sammy Katta skatta-[at]-stanford-[dot]-edu
University: University of California, Berkeley (B.S.)

The picture tells the truth—when not in the lab, Sammy Katta can in fact be seen playing softball with her team the Myoclonic Jerks. Sammy grew up in the Bay Area, went to UC Berkeley, and then came to Stanford for the Neuroscience PhD program. As an undergraduate, Sammy studied touch and pain sensation in the mouse. She is now using molecular biology and electrophysiology to identify the molecular basis of gentle versus harsh touch sensation in the worm and to ask how much of the difference lies in the structure of a channel vs. its environment. To this end, she is generating and testing chimeric channels that combine the MEC-4 subunit from gentle touch neurons with various extracellular regions of the related DEG-1 subunit from a nociceptive neuron. Outside of lab and softball, Sammy is a co-founder and participant in NeuWrite West, a group of Stanford PhD students and postdocs interested in writing and podcasting about neuroscience for the public. While she has lived the majority of her life in the Bay Area, Sammy has probably traveled more than you have. Her most cherished travel spots, besides the labyrinthine waterways of Venice, are places with evidence of ancient civilizations, such as Hampi and Belur in Southern India, and the ruins of Athens and Rome.

Jzesern Tan
Hometown: Mountain View, California
University: University of California, Santa Cruz (B.A.)

What does it take a film and digital media student to come work as an administrative associate at a Stanford University research lab? For Jzesern Tan, a whole lot of guts and a good dose of curiosity was almost all he needed. Tan took a turn in his career not only for a change of pace, but also to keep finding out new information as to how things work and, as a result, always keep learning. In his words, “Never be complacent.” His tasks and responsibilities working as the administrative associate allow him to experience many different aspects of the work that goes on in the lab. His interests and hobbies expand beyond the scientific field to allow him to take advantage of as many living and work opportunities as he possibly can. One thing he’s happy not to change, however, is his location. According to Tan, nothing beats the climate he enjoys every day in the Golden State.


—Compiled by Stéphanie Keller-Busque,
undergraduate at McGill University

Footer Links: