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.

Ryan Passino

Graduate Student

Ryan is a Ph.D. candidate in the Cell and Developmental Biology Program. He graduated from Northern Michigan University (NMU) in 2012 with a degree in Physiology. For many years, Ryan’s scientific interests have been centered around mechanisms that promote tissue regeneration and improve the burdens of injury or disease. As a master’s student at NMU, he researched how glioblastoma tumors take advantage of wound repair mechanisms to promote their own growth. Now as a graduate student in Roman Giger’s lab, Ryan is studying neural tissue repair with a specific interest in how the immune system influences neuronal regeneration in the injured central nervous system (CNS).

Lucas Huffman

Graduate Student

Lucas is a 6th-year Ph.D. student in the Neuroscience Graduate Program. His work focuses on understanding the mechanisms by which loss of the integral phosphatase Fig4 leads to hypomyelination and excessive neuroinflammation. His secondary project centers on assessing the role of a specific immune receptor (Dectin-1) in promoting neuroregeneration following CNS injury and induction of sterile inflammation. In his spare time, he volunteers with various STEM outreach, community engagement, and biomedical consulting organizations. He also likes to relax by cooking, going rock climbing, and practicing yoga.

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.

Tony Robinson

Graduate Student

Tony is a Ph.D. student in the Cellular and Molecular Biology Program. He graduated from the University of Michigan Dearborn in 2016 with a degree in Biochemistry. In the Giger lab, Tony is interested in studying the biomolecular signaling pathways initiated by axon guidance molecules to precisely regulate central nervous system development.

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. 

Karen Wang

Graduate Student

Karen is a Ph.D. student in the Cell and Developmental Biology Program. As an undergraduate student at the University of Vermont, she had the opportunity to work with many talented scientists in labs researching REM sleep and epilepsy. Karen’s background in neuroscience motivates her to continue asking questions about neuronal circuits in health and disease. In the Giger lab, she is investigating the molecular mechanisms that orchestrate brain circuit assembly and the pathogenesis of neuropsychiatric disorders.

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

Summer Lab outing!

Giger Lab Alumni

TraineeGraduation YearCurrent PositionAffiliation
Karthik Venkatesh,
Neuroscience graduate student
Ph.D., June 2007
Scientific writer 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
Clinical Genetics Academic Research FellowBaylor 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
Rackham Neuroscience Fellowship
Senior Medical Science Director, Neuroscience Rare DiseaseGenentech, Inc.
Yevgeniya Mironova,
Graduate student,
Cell and Mol. Biology
Ph.D., June 2016F31-Center for OrganogenesisPostdoctoral 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
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

Giger Lab at the CDB Department Picnic