Principal investigator

Ilana Witten, PhD

Ilana studies the neural circuits underlying reward and motivation by combining optogenetics, electrophysiology and behavior. Her research program is driven by two long-term goals:
1) To provide insights into the functioning of reward circuits that could ultimately guide the development of new therapies for addiction 

2) To dissect reward circuits with sufficient rigor so we will be able to map the individual elements (cell-types) that compose the circuits onto computational models that can predict behavior

Ilana first became fascinated by neuroscience as an undergraduate physics major at Princeton, where she applied information theory to study neural coding in the retina (in the lab of Prof. Michael Berry). She then moved to Stanford to pursue a PhD in neuroscience, where she worked in the systems neuroscience lab of Prof. Eric Knudsen, and collaborated in computational neuroscience with Prof. Haim Sompolinsky (Hebrew & Harvard University), studying neural circuits underlying auditory processing and crossmodal integration.  As a postdoctoral fellow, she worked with Prof. Karl Deisseroth in the Department of Bioengineering at Stanford, developing and applying optogenetic tools to dissect the neuromodulatory control of reward behavior in rodents. She is thrilled to now return to Princeton to start her own lab in the Neuroscience Institute and the Department of Psychology. 

When she is not in lab, she can be found at the park or the zoo with her family, and she is enjoying being back on the East coast to watch the seasons change again.
2008-2012   Stanford University
Postdoctoral Fellow in Bioengineering
Deisseroth Lab

2002-2008   Stanford University 
PhD in Neurosciences
Knudsen Lab

1998-2002   Princeton University
AB in Physics, magna cum laude 
Concentration in Biophysics 


2014-2016 McKnight Scholar Award
2015-2016 NARSAD Young investigator
2013-2017 Pew Scholarship
2013-2015 Sloan Foundation Fellowship
2012-2017 NIH New Innovator Award
2009-2012  Helen Hay Whitney Fellowship
2008  Swartz Travel Fellowship to CoSyNe
2003-2006  NSF Graduate Fellowship
2002  High honors in physics from Princeton
2002  Allen G. Shenstone Physics Prize
2002  Sigma Xi Research Honor Society
2000  Lucent Technology Physics Prize
1998  Edward J. Bloustein Scholarship