Research overview

We aim to fundamentally understand how the brain works, which is key to treating developmental, degenerative, and psychiatric neurological disorders.


Su Guo, PhD

The brain is the central commander of an organism. We seek to answer:

  • How is the brain formed and maintained?
  • How does the brain control important functions, such as seeking reward, avoiding punishment, and learning?

We use the model organism zebrafish (Danio rerio) together with mammalian pluripotent stem cell models and apply technologies such as molecular and chemical genetics, pharmacogenetics, imaging, computational sciences, and behavioral studies.

Why now

Today many diseases afflicting the human brain are without effective cure. These include:

  • The rising incidence of autism diagnoses
  • Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, and other neurodegenerative diseases, as an outcome of increased life span
  • Psychiatric disorders (e.g., anxiety, depression, addiction) in relation to environmental pollutants and heightened societal stress

Our research is poised at the current frontiers in biological sciences, and it is critical to enabling future significant discoveries. As an example, see Guo Research Key to Nobel Prize.

Why here

Every day the UCSF Mission Bay campus in San Francisco, California, bustles with the activities of faculty, students, and staff focused exclusively on excellence in health science and health care. Based in the UCSF School of Pharmacy’s Department of Bioengineering and Therapeutic Sciences, our lab participates in a vibrant and collaborative research community with broad interests ranging from basic to translational to clinical dimensions. Expertise in technological developments is an important strength of the campus. UCSF is also a rich training and learning environment specifically for neuroscience, with research labs that pursue interests spanning brain development, machine learning, and neuroengineering. Our research benefits greatly from broad collaborations with innovative technologists and biologists across the campus. These include:

Principal Investigator Su Guo, PhD, has expertise in molecular biology, genetics, cell biology, developmental biology, and neurobiology. She believes that curiosity and a collaborative attitude are key to successful scientific inquiries. The lab members are a close-knit, friendly bunch from all over the world. Together their interests include:

  • stem cells
  • brain development
  • neural circuitry and behavior
  • cancer
  • neurodegeneration
  • neuropsychiatric diseases

Image credit: Guo: © majedphoto