Our lab

Lab members

Laura Fonken – Principal Investigator
Assistant Professor in the Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology at the University of Texas at Austin

Dr. Fonken completed her PhD in Neuroscience in Dr. Randy Nelson’s laboratory at The Ohio State University. Laura’s dissertation research focused on the effects of nighttime light exposure on physiology and behavior. Next, Laura completed a post-doctoral fellowship in Dr. Steven Maier’s laboratory in the Department of Psychology and Neuroscience at the University of Colorado Boulder. In the Maier laboratory, Laura’s research focused on understanding how heightened neuroinflammatory responses contribute to mood disorders and cognitive impairments with aging. Current research in her laboratory focuses on endogenous (e.g. circadian rhythms) and exogenous (e.g. infection and injury) factors that influence neuroimmune function across the lifespan.


Andrew Zentay – Lab Manager

Andrewa received a B.S. in Neurobiology from the University of Texas at Austin in 2017. Andrew is currently interested in the effects of immune challenge following stress in developing adolescents and the associated morphological changes in microglia of various brain regions. In his free time, he enjoys playing the cello, longboarding, and touring local breweries. Andrew aspires to go on to graduate school in a pharmacology/toxicology, cell biology, or neurobiology PhD program.




Neha Betrabet – PharmD Student

Neha is a current second year Pharm. D student at The University of Texas College of Pharmacy. She is currently investigating the effects of M. vaccae on the neuroinflammatory system in aged animals. She hopes to continue in this area of research and explore the circadian related experiments that are going in lab. Neha’s interests outside of lab include practicing Bharatanatyam, which is a form of Indian classical dance, and kickboxing.




 Tonia Li – Rotating Graduate Student

Tonia is a first year graduate student in the Division of Pharmacology and Toxicology.






Ruizhuo (Rachel) Chen – Rotating Graduate Student

Rachel is a first year graduate student in the Division of Pharmacology and Toxicology.






Ranjani Anirudhan – Undergraduate Research Assistant

Ranjani is a sophomore majoring in Biochemistry at the University of Texas.







Research opportunities

Dr. Fonken is interested in meeting and working with individuals who would like to contribute to innovative neuroscience, immunology, and pharmacology research. Motivated applicants for undergraduate, graduate, or postdoctoral research positions are encouraged to contact her.


Past team members at the University of Colorado. From left to right: Emma Hampson, Renata Daniels, Asni Solomon, Heather D’Angelo, and Laura Fonken.