Who We Are

Veenstra-VanderWeele Lab

Who We Are

Jeremy Veenstra-VanderWeele, M.D.
Lab Director
Mortimer D. Sackler, MD, Associate Professor of Psychiatry
Director, Division of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry; Co-Director, NIMH T32 Postdoctoral Fellowship for Translational Research in Child Psychiatric Disorders

Dr. Veenstra-VanderWeele is a child and adolescent psychiatrist who uses molecular and translational neuroscience research tools in the pursuit of new treatments for autism spectrum disorder and pediatric obsessive-compulsive disorder. He trained in human molecular genetics in the laboratory of Edwin H. Cook at the University of Chicago. Following his child and adolescent psychiatry fellowship, he expanded his research experience with a postdoctoral research fellowship in molecular neuroscience with Randy Blakely and Jim Sutcliffe at Vanderbilt University. Prior to joining the Department of Psychiatry at Columbia in 2014, Dr. Veenstra-VanderWeele was director of the Division of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at Vanderbilt University, where he was also an associate professor and medical director for the Treatment and Research Institute for Autism Spectrum Disorder.

Dr. Veenstra-VanderWeele’s laboratory at Columbia University and NYSPI focuses on the serotonin and glutamate systems in genetic mouse models with abnormal social or repetitive/compulsive-like behavior. His clinical/translational research program at the NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital Center for Autism and the Developing Brain studies potential treatments for autism spectrum disorder and related genetic syndromes. His long-term goal is to be able to develop novel approaches in the molecular laboratory that can then be tested in children. Dr. Veenstra-VanderWeele’s work has been recognized with multiple awards, including the 2017 Blanche Ittelson Award for Research in Child and Adolescent Psychiatry from the American Psychiatric Association. He is dedicated to helping train and develop the next generation of child psychiatrists and scientists who can generate improved understanding of childhood neuropsychiatric disorders and deliver new treatments to the clinic.

Allison Anacker, Ph.D.

Allison Anacker, PhD

Postdoctoral Research Fellow
Dr. Allison Anacker received her BS in biology from Humboldt State University, and her PhD in behavioral neuroscience from Oregon Health and Science University, with an emphasis in behavioral genetics. For her doctoral dissertation, she developed an animal model of interactions between social relationships and alcohol drinking, and examined the neurobiology underlying these behaviors. She conducted a teaching postdoctoral fellowship at Smith College, where she studied the effects of stress and oxytocin on the development of same-sex peer relationships. Now a Postdoctoral Research Fellow in Jeremy Veenstra-VanderWeele's laboratory, she is conducting research on social behavior and gene expression in mouse models of autism spectrum disorders.
Dr. Muhammad O. Chohan

Muhammad O. Chohan, MD

Postdoctoral Research Fellow

Dr. Chohan obtained his medical degree from Shifa College of Medicine in Pakistan. While in medical school, he completed a research internship at Columbia University, where he studied abnormalities in cortical neuronal architecture induced by the disruption of early cortical neurogenesis. He then returned for additional research training at the New York State Psychiatric Institute, where he studied genetic models featuring dopamine-neuron-specific deletions of channels that control dopamine-neuron spike firing. More recently, Dr. Chohan has examined the early postnatal development of neuronal connections involved in the vocalization of infant rats and in social attachment in general, and has applied stem-cell transplantation, in vivo electrophysiology, data-analysis methods, and behavioral-neuroscience tools to query diverse but interrelated hypotheses of cortico-limbic basal ganglia dysfunction in animal models of mental illness. As a postdoctoral fellow in the Veenstra-VanderWeele Lab, focusing on basal ganglia circuits, Dr. Chohan hopes to determine neural mechanisms underlying behavior abnormalities seen in genetic models of autism spectrum disorder and obsessive-compulsive disorder.

Elizabeth Aaron

Elizabeth Aaron, BA

Research Coordinator and Assistant

Elizabeth received her BA in psychology from Skidmore College, where she completed an undergraduate research thesis project examining the role mindsets play in public speaking anxiety. She is a research coordinator and assistant for the Translational Medicine Program at the Center for Autism and the Developing Brain. Elizabeth is currently working on an autism biorepository for individuals with autism and their biological family members and a phase II clinical trial called "The Study of Oxytocin in Autism to Improve Reciprocal Social Behaviors" (SOARS-B) for children and adolescents with autism spectrum disorder.

Alicia Montgomery, BM, BMSc.Hons.

Alicia Montgomery, BM, BMScHons

Visiting Research Scholar

Dr. Montgomery completed her medical degree (Bachelor of Medicine/Bachelor of Medical Science-Honors) at the University of Newcastle, Australia. She is currently pursuing a Masters of Public Health through the University of New South Wales, Australia. Having completed her clinical pediatric examinations through the Royal Australian College of Physicians, Dr. Montgomery is now pursuing sub-specialization in developmental pediatrics. As a visiting research scholar in the Veenstra-VanderWeele Lab, she is currently working on a phase II clinical trial called "The Study of Oxytocin in Autism to Improve Reciprocal Social Behaviors" (SOARS-B) for children and adolescents with autism spectrum disorder.

Micah Davoren

Micah Davoren, BA

Research Assistant

Micah Davoren graduated from Haverford College with a BA in psychology and a minor in education. Her undergraduate research thesis examined attachment style and the therapeutic alliance as predictors of treatment outcome for social anxiety disorder. As a research assistant for the Translational Medicine Program at the Center for Autism and the Developing Brain, she is currently working on phase II clinical trials for children and adolescents with autism spectrum disorder.

Ziwen Wang

Ziwen Wang, BA

Research Assistant

Ziwen Wang received her BA in neuroscience and behavior with a minor in education from Vassar College. Using a rodent model of PTSD, she completed an undergraduate research thesis project at Vassar, examining the neurobehavioral effects of chronic ethanol exposure on fear extinction memory retrieval. She also worked with children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) at Stars and Rain, a non-governmental educational organization in Beijing, China. Ziwen is very excited to join the Veenstra-VanderWeele Lab as a research assistant.