Von reyn catherine

Catherine von Reyn, PhD

Principal Investigator
Assistant Professor
School of Biomedical Engineering,
Science and Health Systems, Drexel University,
Department of Neurobiology and Anatomy, DUCOM

Office: Bossone 707
Phone: 215.895.2749

Postdoctoral Fellows

Hyojong jang
HyoJong (HJ) Jang, PhD

Postdoctoral Fellow

HJ received his PhD degree in the School of Biomedical Engineering, Science and Health Systems from Drexel University. Prior to his graduate studies at Drexel, he received his BS, MS and PhD degrees in Computer Science from Soongsil University in South Korea. During his graduate research in South Korea, he studied image processing and pattern recognition. He then gained industry experience at SFA, developing automatic inspection systems to detect manufacturing defects in Samsung LCD panels. Both his academic and industry experience in computer vision algorithms have guided his current research interests in the von Reyn Lab. He now uses the model organism Drosophila melanogaster to tease out the mechanisms underlying how the brain recognizes or responds to external inputs. Visit his Google Scholar page.

PhD Candidates

Natalie smolin
Natalie Smolin, MS

PhD Candidate

Natalie Smolin graduated with a BS in Biology from The Pennsylvania State University and an MS in Biomedical Sciences from The University of Pittsburgh. Throughout her academic career, she has worked in numerous research labs, focusing on cancer pharmacology, plant pathology, and immunology. At the Hillman Cancer Center, Natalie investigated PUMA, CD47-1, and CD47-2, and their roles relating to programmed cell death. She investigated the roles of inbreeding and genetic variation on herbivory and the immune response at the Pennsylvania State University. She also worked at the University of Pennsylvania exploring the mechanisms by which organisms that recovered from sepsis developed a long-term immune system depression. Now at the von Reyn lab, Natalie works towards understanding synaptic connection specificity, with the long-term goal of changing synaptic partner specificity. Outside of the lab, Natalie enjoys creating stained glass mosaics, reading, and taking long walks with her dog. Visit her Google Scholar page.

Bryce hina
Bryce Hina, BS

PhD Candidate

Bryce Hina graduated with a BS in Electrical Engineering and a BS in Biomedical Engineering from Trine University and is currently pursuing his PhD in Biomedical Engineering. He gained industry experience at Zimmer Biomet as a Manufacturing Engineer, where he helped research and development teams in the design and manufacturing of new orthopedics. He now seeks to understand multimodal sensory integration by studying the model organism Drosophila melanogaster using current genetic tools and methods. In his free time, he enjoys flying RC airplanes, watching movies, and watching hockey games. Visit his Google Scholar page.

Jana Smuts
Jana Smuts, BS

PhD Candidate

Jana Smuts received her Bachelor of Science in Engineering from Drexel University in 2019. She then spent some time as a research technician in the Gidalevitz Lab where she investigated a neuroprotective role for the PERK branch of the unfolded protein response. Now, Jana is a second-year student pursuing her PhD in Neuroscience. In the NCE Lab she is working on understanding how spontaneous network activity contributes to synaptogenesis during development. She is currently enjoying setting up live calcium imaging using two-photon microscopy to further understand this process. In her free time she enjoys spending time with her pets and friends, exploring the city, reading, and music.

Haley Croke
Haley Croke, BS

Haley Croke received her BS in Biology with a minor in Neuroscience from Drexel University. As an undergraduate researcher, Haley participated in the SEA-Phages program where she isolated a bacteriophage from an environmental sample and annotated its genome. Haley’s interest in neuroscience research brought her to the NCE Lab, where she is currently involved in mapping out neural circuits in the model organism Drosophila melanogaster. She is also designing behavioral assays for investigating sensorimotor transformations.

Masters Students

Alexander Wang
Alexander Wang

Alex graduated with a BBA from CUNY Baruch College in New York City majoring in Finance. He is graduating with his MS in biomedical engineering with a dual concentration in neuroengineering and biomaterials/tissue engineering. After a co-op with the Ayaz Lab utilizing brain-computer interfaces with ALS patients, he continues to study as a research assistant in the Neural Circuit Engineering Lab eliciting neural circuit behavior in Drosophila melanogaster through computational modeling. Alex is passionate about advancing the field of neuroengineering across various applications of disciplines, from pharmaceuticals to brain-computer interfaces. He enjoys long runs, literature, and stand-up comedy.

Daniel Ogunkunle
Daniel Ogunkunle

Daniel is a Drexel student working towards the completion of his master’s degree in biomedical science with concentrations in neuroengineering and medical device development. His previous experience, having completed a bachelor’s degree in Neuroscience, and interest in computational neuroscience have led to his involvement in the NCE Lab where he hopes to build upon his background and gain new skills and experiences within modeling and computational neuroscience. Currently he is involved in the construction of detailed and biologically accurate in silico models of voltage-gated Drosophila ion channels, to aid in understanding how ion channels enable neurons to perform specific computations. In his free time Daniel enjoys being active, reading, traveling, and writing poetry.

Undergraduate Students


Connor Zabielski is a Drexel STAR scholar pursuing a bachelor’s degree in Biomedical Engineering. In the future, he aspires to research and develop medical devices that could help those with neurodegenerative diseases like Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease. It was this interest in neuroscience that brought him to the NCE lab. Currently, Connor is using the Drosophila hemi-brain dataset to investigate a specific class of visual projection neurons, called LC neurons, in order to gain deeper insights into the visually evoked escape behavior of Drosophila and the neural circuitry that causes it. At Drexel, he is a member of the Sigma Phi Epsilon fraternity and plays bass guitar in the Fusion Ensemble. In his free time, Connor enjoys playing guitar, learning French, reading, and playing Dungeons and Dragons with his friends.

Olga Kravchenko-Surant
Olga Kravchenko-Surant

Olga Kravchenko-Surant is a Drexel student working toward her bachelor's degree in Biomedical Engineering. She plans to pursue a BS/MS dual degree in Biomedical Engineering and plans to concentrate in Neuroengineering. She is involved in the NCE Lab as a STAR Scholar student. Her project is centered around utilizing genetic and molecular tools to identify ion channels within the giant fiber neuron of Drosophila. Outside of the lab, she enjoys traveling, photography, and reading.

Jessica Vasserman
Jessica Vasserman

Jess Vasserman is a Drexel student working towards a bachelor's in Biological Sciences. She plans to pursue further education after her bachelor's. Jess joined the NCE Lab through Drexel's STAR Scholars program, where she is currently using Drosophila's genetic toolkit to examine the biophysical properties of one descending neuron, DNp03. At Drexel, Jess was part of the SEA-Phages program, allowing her to conduct her own bacteriophage-related research and explore certain fields of biology to truly home in on her interests. Outside the lab, Jess spends her free time creating art, reading, learning Japanese, and playing video games.

Shirin Kaye
Shirin Kaye

Shirin Kaye is a Bioengineering student at the University of Pittsburgh. In the NCE lab, she worked on applying machine learning to single-cell RNA sequencing datasets; such techniques could help researchers better understand how genes interact. In free time, she enjoys doing arts and jigsaw puzzles.

Casey Cha
Casey Cha

Casey Cha is a Biomedical Engineering student at Drexel working toward his bachelor’s degree with a concentration in Neuroengineering. He found the NCE lab through a modeling project in which he, along with another student, created a Simulink model of sensorimotor circuits for collision avoidance. He is currently involved in the assessment of a device used to understand the effects of neural coupling in the early formation of neural circuits. Outside the lab, he enjoys fitness, distance running, eating and creating artwork.

Cole Schwartz
Cole Schwartz

Cole Schwartz is a Drexel student working towards his bachelor’s degree in Biomedical Engineering. His interest in Neuroscience and previous experience modeling Drosophila behavior brought him to the NCE lab. After graduating in June, Cole plans to pursue medical school. In his spare time, Cole enjoys being active, playing the guitar, and reading.

Sanjana Bandi
Sanjana Bandi

Sanjana is working towards her bachelor's degree in Biomedical Engineering at Drexel University. Her interests lie in the field of neuroscience, and she joins the lab with previous high school research experience. Within the NCE Lab, she's excited about the opportunity to gain more hands-on experience and learn about how connections are established between neurons within the brain. Outside the lab, she enjoys reading, art, and listening to music.

Olha Metenko
Olha Metenko

Olha Metenko is a third year Drexel student working towards a bachelor’s degree in Biomedical Engineering. She plans to pursue a BS/MS dual degree in Biomedical Engineering, with a concentration in Neuroengineering and Bioinformatics. In the future, she plans to develop therapeutics for patients with neurodegenerative diseases. She is currently also working part-time at her previous co-op job as an R&D Biology Intern at Avid Radiopharmaceuticals. Her interest in neuroengineering is what brought her into the NCE lab, where she is studying spontaneous network activity during circuit development.


  • Khang Duong, BS 2025
  • LaBeausha Harris, MS 2022
  • Brennan McFarland, PhD 2022
  • Bhakti Marfatia, BS 2022
  • Pratishtha Guckhool, STAR Scholar and MS Thesis, BS/MS 2022
  • Jillian Saunders, MS Thesis, BS/MS 2022
  • Alexander Vasserman, MS Thesis, BS/MS 2022
  • David Goodman, MS, 2022
  • Joseph Rajasekaran, BS, 2022
  • Roze (Alzabey) McDevitt, BS/MS, 2021
  • Daniel Gallagher, STAR Scholar, BS/MS 2021
  • Kah Young, STAR Scholar, BS/MS, 2021
  • Neha Nevasekar, STAR Scholar, BS/MS 2021
  • Liudi Luo, MS 2019, Research Technician 2021
  • Linda Solomon, Research Specialist, 2021
  • Sean O'rourke, MS, 2020
  • Abby Eldredge, MS, 2018
  • Megan Brown, BS, 2016