Lab Members

Baoji Xu, PhD

Principal Investigator

Dr. Xu received his Ph.D. in molecular biology at Stanford University, California and postdoctoral training in neuroscience at the University of California San Francisco, California. He subsequently became Professor at Georgetown University Medical Center in Washington, DC. In 2013, he moved to the Scripps Research Institute Florida.


Juanji An, PhD

Senior Staff Scientist

Juanji obtained her Ph.D. degree from Yonsei University, Korea, where she investigated the roles of dopamine receptor D2 and melanocortin receptors in the striatum and adipocytes. She is currently studying the neural basis for BDNF-regulated energy balance.


Robert Bass

Graduate Student  

Robert obtained his B.S. from Virginia Tech in 2020, where he studied endocrine signaling in the developing Xenopus laevis brain. Currently, he is working to understand how BDNF signaling in astrocytes contributes to the development of Alzheimer’s disease.


Jessica Houtz, PhD

Postdoctoral Fellow

Jessica obtained her PhD degree in 2016 at Johns Hopkins University, where she discovered that nerve growth factor is a novel regulator of insulin secretion from beta cells. She is currently studying the central control of energy balance.

Jessica Houtz, PhD

Heng Li, PhD

Postdoctoral Associate 

Heng obtained her Ph.D. degree in 2017 from the University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong, China, where she researched molecular and pharmaceutical strategies to promote motor axon regeneration and motor neuron survival after branchial plexus avulsion injury. She is currently investigating the role of microglia in brain disorders such as autism spectrum disorder and Alzheimer’s disease.


Guey-Ying Liao, PhD

Senior Staff Scientist

Guey-Ying obtained her Ph.D. degree from University of Illinois at Chicago. She is currently studying the mechanism underlying diet-induced obesity.


Changran Niu

Graduate Student 

Changran obtained her B.S. degree in 2019 from UNC-Chapel Hill where she studied the dietary and genetic effects on vitamin D metabolism in mice. She is currently studying the role of microglia in autism spectrum disorder.


Jiwei Tan, PhD

Postdoctoral Associate

Jiwei obtained his Ph.D. degree in 2014 from Kunming Institute of Zoology, Chinese Academy of Sciences, where he used electrophysiology and brain imaging to study the neural basis of addiction and learning. He is currently studying the neural basis for hedonic eating.

Jiwei Tan

Hannah Deane, BS

Graduate Student

Hannah obtained her BS degree in 2021 at Bridgewater State University in Massachusetts where she studied metabolic and physiologic strain differences in responses to constant light in mice. She is currently investigating the regulation of BDNF gene expression by small molecules and the role of BDNF in synaptic development and function.


Xinpei (Ryan) Yue, BS

Graduate Student

Ryan obtained his B.S. degree in 2018 at Wuhan University of Technology. After graduation, he worked as a research assistant at University of Pittsburgh, where he developed in vivo dopamine sensors for rhesus macaque. He is currently studying neural circuits controlling energy balance.


Alexandra James

Laboratory Administrative Coordinator

Alex joined Scripps Florida in 2010. She supports Drs. Baoji Xu, Srinivasa Subramaniam, and William Ja in the Department of Neuroscience; and Dr. Thomas Kodadek in the Department of Chemistry. Before joining Scripps Florida, Alex worked as an Executive Administrative Assistant at an Environmental Consulting Firm in Jupiter for 15 years.

Alexandra James

Yuting Chen, BS

Graduate Student

Yuting obtained her BS degree in 2020 at China Agricultural University where she researched the role of Raf in aging-related memory impairment in Drosophila. She is currently studying the structure and function of pancreas-innervating nodose neurons and the central regulation of dietary fat intake in mice.