2020 Retreat Speaker Bios

Alysson MuotriDr. Alysson Muotri is Professor and Director of the Stem Cell Program for the Institute for Genomic Medicine at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine. He earned a BSc in Biological Sciences from the State University of Campinas in 1995 and a PhD in Genetics in 2001 from University of Sao Paulo, in Brazil. He moved to the Salk Institute as Pew Latin America Fellow in 2002 for a postdoctoral training in the fields of neuroscience and stem cell biology. He has been at the School of Medicine, University of California in San Diego since 2008. His research focuses on human neurodevelopment, brain evolution, and modeling neurological diseases, such as autism spectrum disorders. His lab has developed several techniques to culture human cells and functional brain organoids. He has received several awards, including the prestigious NIH Director’s New Innovator Award, NARSAD, Emerald Foundation Young Investigator Award, Rock Star of Innovation from CONNECT, NIH EUREKA Award among others.

UCSD Profile >>


Dr. Penny Burgoon is the Director of the Office of Policy, Communications, and Education at the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences, NIH, where she previously and concurrently also served as the chief of the Policy Branch within that office. Before joining NCATS in July 2014, she was the director of the Salivary Biology and Immunology Program for the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, where she managed a portfolio of research in salivary biology, salivary gland disorders and diseases, host immune responses to infection, autoimmunity, and systemic diseases. Burgoon joined NIH in 2004 as an American Association for the Advancement of Science AAAS Science Policy Fellow. She provided program support for the first trans-NIH projects supported through the NIH Roadmap for Medical Research. She then served as the senior assistant to the NIH principal deputy director from 2006 to 2010, providing primary staff support for several NIH leadership committees, including the NIH Steering Committee and the NIH Advisory Committee to the Director, and for Institute and Center Directors’ meetings. Burgoon received her bachelor’s degree from Oberlin College, a master’s degree from California State University, Northridge, and her PhD in physiology from The Ohio State University.

NIH Profile >>


Dr. Na Ji is an Associate Professor of Physics at the University of California, Berkeley, where she develops and applies novel imaging methods to understand the brain. Besides inventing methods that make an immediate impact on neuroscience, her lab also aims to extend the applications of technologies to other living (and nonliving) systems. She received her BS in Chemical Physics from the University of Science & Technology of China in 2000. She received her PhD in Chemistry from Berkeley in 2005. She started working as a postdoctoral fellow at Janelia Research Campus, Howard Hughes Medical Institute in 2006, before becoming a Group Leader there in 2011. She returned to Berkeley and joined the Physics and Molecular & Cell Biology Departments in 2016.

UCB Profile >>

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