Principal Investigator, Assistant Professor

Josie is a U-M alum from outside Grand Rapids, MI. As a PhD student, she worked on olfactory receptor choice with Stavros Lomvardas at UCSF. She then did postdoctoral work with Vanessa Ruta at Rockefeller, where she investigated neural circuits that allow flies to choose mates. The Clowney Lab opened in 2017. Josie has received early-career awards from the Sloan, Pew, Rita Allen, and McKnight Foundations.  Her non-science dream job is to be an HVAC technician.

Current Lab Members


Emerita Professor of Biological Chemistry, volunteer researcher

Roberta joined the lab in January 2023. She pursued undergraduate research at Yale with Terry Platt. Her PhD research on DnaA and oriC replication was with Arthur Kornberg at Stanford. Her postdoctoral work with Jeremy Thorner at Berkely focused on Kex2 protease, required for mating by MATa yeast cells. Students and postdocs in her Stanford and UM Labs studied the biochemistry and cell biology of secretory processing enzymes. She joined the Clowney lab to learn about the neurodevelopmental underpinnings of sexually dimorphic behavior. Her non-science dream job would be guitarist/backup vocalist for Courtney Love.


HHMI Hanna H Gray Fellow,
IRACDA Postdoctoral Fellow

Vanessa joined the lab in September 2019. She received a BS in Physics from Oakland University. She completed a PhD in Neurobiology from Duke University in the lab of Dr. Jeremy Kay. Vanessa highly values the roles of teaching and mentorship in building the next generation of researchers. Her non-science dream job would be to own a bookshop or bakery while moonlighting as a backpacking vlogger.


HHMI Hanna H Gray Fellow

Emily completed her BS in Molecular Biology at Lehigh University. She then went on to the University of Oregon to earn her PhD in Biology. As a graduate student, she worked in Chris Doe’s lab identifying cellular mechanisms that enable robust neural circuit formation. She joined the Clowney Lab as postdoctoral fellow in October 2022. She is excited to study how memory circuits develop and evolve. Her non-science dream job is to deliver mail for the USPS. 


PhD Student, CMB

Margarita joined the lab in 2019. She was an undergraduate research assistant in the lab of Dr. Michelle Starz-Gaiano at The University of Maryland, Baltimore County, where she majored in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology. She did a Post-Baccalaureate IRTA with Dr. Elissa Lei at the National Institutes of Health. She now studies the gene regulatory mechanisms that create hard-wired circuits. Her non-science dream job is to be a pâtissier.

Najia Elkahlah, MS

PhD Student, CMB

Najia received BS (Neuroscience) and MS (MCDB) degrees from the University of Michigan and completed her MS research in the Clowney lab, where she focused on combinatorial connectivity in the mushroom body. Najia re-joined the lab as a PhD student in 2021. She now studies the genetic mechanisms regulating the development and function of sexually dimorphic neural circuits. Her non-science dream job is to be a gardener.

Emma Thornton-Kolbe

PhD Student, NGP

Emma joined the lab in 2020. She did her undergraduate degree at Knox College where she double majored in Neuroscience and Anthropology/Sociology. Before graduate school she spent two years as a research tech in the Peifer lab at UNC Chapel Hill. Her non science dream job would be to run a bookstore/bakery.


PhD Student, NGP

Margaret completed her undergraduate degree at North Carolina State University, where she majored in Biology and minored in Genetics. During this time, she did a summer internship at the Jackson Laboratory in the Verhaak Lab and did research at the NC State College of Veterinary Medicine in the Breen Lab. Before grad school, she participated in the Scholars Connect Program at the NIEHS in the Birnbaum Lab. Margaret joined the lab as a PhD student in 2021. She now studies genomic organization of multigene families which impact chemosensation and neural development. Her non-science dream job is to be a musician. 

Yijie PAN

PhD Student, MCDB

Yijie joined the lab in May 2022. He graduated from Fudan University in Shanghai, China, with a BS in Biology. Before grad school, he spent one year as a visiting undergrad researcher in the Jan Lab at UCSF and a COVID-led deferral year with Dr. Shujia Zhu at IoN, CAS. He now studies how the Mushroom Body (MB) memorizes and discriminates odors. Yijie’s non-science dream job is to run a spicy Chinese food restaurant in a university town.


PhD Student, MCDB

Yunzhi received her BS in Biological Sciences from Fudan University, China. Before grad school, she spent a year working as a research tech with Dr. Yulong Li at Peking University. She now studies the genetic processes involved in shaping sexually dimorphic neural circuits. Her non-science dream is to be a choreographer.


PhD Student, MCDB

Valentina joined the lab in April 2023. She graduated from Universidad del Rosario in Bogotá, Colombia, where she received her BS in Biology. Before she joined, she worked as a research assistant in the CANNON research group, where she studied the protective effect of secondary metabolites against cognitive impairments induced by pesticides in honeybees. She’s now interested in the mechanisms underlying the diversity of behavioral expression of individuals. Her non-science dream is to be a scuba-diving instructor.


Senior Research Assistant

Veronica received a BS in Philosophy and MCDB from the University of Michigan. As an undergrad she worked as a research assistant in the C. Duan Lab at UofM, where she focused on mitochondrial bioenergetics and IGF signalling in zebrafish. Veronica joined the Clowney Lab after graduating in May 2022. As a research assistant, Veronica now investigates the genetic and molecular events that “hardwire” courtship circuits in flies. Her non-science dream job is to be a forager.


Senior Research Assistant

Jasmine received a BS in MCDB with a minor in Computer Science from the University of Michigan. She worked in the Clowney Lab as an undergraduate assistant. After graduating in May 2023, Jasmine joined the lab as a research assistant. Her non-science dream job is to be a fashion designer.


Joe is majoring in Mathmatics, and is also interested in Biology and Philosophy.

Mark is on the pre-med track. His non-science dream job is to be a history professor.

Finley is majoring in MCDB and minoring in both Statistics and Philosophy. His non-science dream job is to own a used bookstore.

Manav is interested in majoring in MCDB. His non-science dream job is to be a lawyer.


Isaac Levine, research assistant, 2017-2018. Isaac is an artist and musician living in Los Angeles. He works as an administrative assistant for the Kavli Neuroscience Innovators.

James (“Jimmy”) Harrison, research assistant, 2018-2019.

Noella Holmer, undergraduate student, 2017-2020.

Shahara Miah, undergraduate student, 2019-2021.

Abbie Burtis, undergraduate student and research assistant, 2019-2021. Abbie is now a PhD student at the University of Colorado-Denver.

Erik Pederson, undergraduate student, 2020-2021.

Mona Saeed, undergraduate student, 2021-2022.

Donnell Williams, undergraduate and research assistant,  2017-2022. Donnell is now a medical student at Harvard University.

Jamal Jenkins, Master’s student and research assistant,  2019-2022. Jamal is now a PhD student at Northwestern University.

Melissa Garcia, undergraduate student and Horizons Fellow, 2021-2023.

Bowen Wang, undergraduate student, 2022-2023. Bowen is now an undergraduate research assistant in the Diba Lab at the University of Michigan.

Maria Ahmed, doctoral graduate student, 2018-2023. Maria is now a postdoctoral fellow in the Hiesinger lab at Freie Universität Berlin.