Photo: Giger Lab BSRB Spring 2021

Current Lab Members

Roman Giger, PhD

Principal Investigator

Postdoctoral fellow, Johns Hopkins University (Advisor: Alex Kolodkin)
Postdoctoral fellow, Netherlands Institute for Brain Research (Advisor: Joost Verhaagen)
Ph.D. University of Zurich, Switzerland (Advisor: Peter Sonderegger)

Roman Giger is a Professor in Cell and Developmental Biology at the University of Michigan School of Medicine. His research is focused on molecular and cellular mechanisms that regulate nervous system regeneration following injury or disease. To study gene function in the mammalian nervous system, the Giger laboratory pursues a variety of mouse genetic approaches combined with surgical, histological, biochemistry-based, electrophysiological, and behavioral studies. These investigations have led to the identification of novel ligands and receptors that orchestrate neural network assembly, axonal regeneration, myelin development, and synaptic plasticity in the mammalian central nervous system. 

Thus far, Dr. Giger has mentored 17 graduate students in his laboratory. He is deeply committed to mentoring trainees in critical thinking, scientific writing, and scientific rigor to tackle important problems at the forefront of biomedical research.

Xiaofeng Zhao, PhD

Research Assistant Professor

Ph.D. (Molecular Biology), University of Bergen, Norway
Master’s Degree (Pharmacology), Chinese Academy of Sciences, China
Bachelor’s Degree (Biochemistry), Sichuan University, China

Xiao-Feng is involved in all aspects of day-to-day research in the Giger lab. He has many years of research experience in the field of developmental biology. At the University of Michigan, he has ongoing projects relating to both the central and the peripheral nervous systems. He is greatly interested in research questions about how immune cells regulate nervous system regeneration following injury.

Ligia Buloto

Ligia obtained her dental and master’s degrees at the University of Sao Paulo, Brazil. She specializes in the field of Oral Medicine, and conducted her PhD at the Oral Health Sciences Program, University of Michigan School of Dentistry. Her PhD work focused on cancer neuroscience, the investigation of nerve-tumor interactions, more specifically in the context of oral cavity cancer. Now a postdoctoral fellow at Roman Giger’s lab, Ligia will focus on Schwann cell biology in peripheral nervous system injury and regeneration.

Qian (Fanny) Feng

Postdoctoral Fellow

Qian (Fanny)’s research focuses on neuroprotection and axon regeneration. At the University of Michigan, she is exploring the interaction between neuronal and non-neuronal cells in the ocular niche to enhance neuronal resilience and regenerative capacity in adult and aged mice.

Hannah Hafner

Graduate Student

After completing her bachelor’s degree at Michigan Technological University, Hannah entered the biotech industry with a research associate position at R&D Systems. Here, she put her biochemical knowledge into practice, developing purification strategies for new protein products. Because metabolic disorders can damage the peripheral nervous system (PNS) and result in peripheral neuropathy, Hannah became interested in mechanisms that regulate nervous system degeneration and regeneration. To learn more about this subject, she rotated in and subsequently joined Dr. Roman Giger’s laboratory for her graduate studies. Hannah’s thesis work utilizes a mouse genetic approach to study the immune response to PNS injury.

Matthew Finneran

Graduate Student

Matthew is a Ph.D. student in the Neuroscience Graduate Program. In 2018 he obtained his Bachelor of Science from Central Michigan University in neuroscience and chemistry and subsequently obtained his Master of Science in chemistry and biochemistry in 2020 from the University of Oklahoma. Matthew is interested in identifying molecular mechanisms that lead to improved neuro-regeneration following nervous system injury or disease. 

Mitre Athaiya

Graduate Student

Mitre is a first-year Ph.D. student in the Neuroscience Graduate Program. He moved to the United States in the fall of 2016.  During his undergraduate studies, he joined the Aran Lab where he quickly absorbed many concepts from electronics, physics, chemistry, and biology in order to think in an interdisciplinary manner. He was able to develop these skills, emerging as a well-rounded individual with a keen sense of and interest in conducting scientific research. In the Giger lab, Mitre is investigating the role of microRNAs in nervous system regeneration. After completing his Ph.D., Mitre plans to work in a biotechnology firm to possibly develop diagnostic devices for neurodegenerative diseases.

David Wilborn

Undergraduate Researcher

Giger Lab Alumni

TraineeGraduation YearCurrent PositionAffiliation
Karthik Venkatesh,
Neuroscience Graduate student
Ph.D., June 2007
DirectorR&D Governance, Biogen Inc.
Onanong Chivatakarn,
Neuroscience Graduate student 
Ph.D. , July 2008
Senior ScientistWave Life Sciences Inc., Boston
Laurie Robak,
Ph.D., December 2008
MSTP training grant
Assistant ProfessorBaylor College of Medicine,
Stephen Raiker,
Neuroscience Graduate student 
Ph.D., November 2010
Assistant Professor St. Mary’s
College of Maryland 
Travis Dickendesher, 
Neuroscience Graduate student 
Ph.D., December 2013
F31-Rackham Neuroscience Fellowship
Principal Medical Science Director, Neurological Rare DiseaseUS Medical Affairs, Genentech, Inc.
San Francisco
Kathrine Baldwin,
Graduate student,
Cell and Mol. Biology
Ph.D., May 2015
Assistant ProfessorUniversity of North Carolina
Cell Biology and Physiology
Yevgeniya Mironova,
Graduate student,
Cell and Mol. Biology
Ph.D., June 2016
F31-Center for Organogenesis
Postdoctoral fellowJohns Hopkins University
Dwight Bergles lab
Jing-Ping, Lin, 
Graduate student, 
Cell and Developmental Biology
Ph.D., June 2017Postdoctoral fellowNational Institute of Health 
Danny Reich’s lab
Rafi Kohen,
Neuroscience Graduate student
Ph.D., March 2020International Medical WriterCDM, Barcelona, Spain
Lucas D. Huffman,
Neuroscience Graduate student
Ph.D., June 2021
Project ManagerHenry Ford Health & Michigan State University
Ryan Passino
Graduate student, Cellular and Developmental Biology
Ph.D., November 2023Postdoctoral fellow
Postdoctoral FellowYears in Giger LabCurrent PositionCurrent Affiliation
Hakjoo Lee, Ph.D. Postdoctoral fellow,
Research Faculty Augusta University, Georgia
Xiaorong Xu, Ph.D.Postdoctoral fellow,
Research Assistant ProfessorUniversity of Rochester Medical Center, New York
Yuntao Duan,  Ph.D.Postdoctoral fellow, 
Research Scientist BioAxone Biosciences, Inc. Boston
Choya Yoon,
Postdoctoral fellow, 2013-2018Assistant Principal Scientist, NeuroimmunologyMerck Discovery Neuroscience, Boston
Xiao-Feng Zhao,
Postdoctoral fellow, 2014-2018Research Assistant ProfessorUniversity of Michigan Medical School
Ann Arbor, MI
Ashely L. Kalinski,
Postdoctoral fellow, 2015-2020Assistant ProfessorBall State University,
Muncie, Indiana

Giger Lab at the CDB Department Picnic