Ben Sivyer PhD (he/him)

Assistant Professor

Ben completed his PhD in the laboratory of David Vaney at the Queensland Brain Institute (QBI), The University of Queensland, Australia. Following this, he completed postdoctoral fellowships with Stephen Williams (QBI), Gabe Murphy (HHMI Janelia Research Campus), and Rowland Taylor (OHSU Casey Eye Institute).

Michael Berry MS PhD(He/him)

MD/PhD Candidate

Mike completed his undergraduate degree at UC Berkeley where he worked with Ehud Isacoff studying the function of light-activated proteins on vision restoration. Mike is studying intrinsically photosensitive retinal ganglion cells with mouse genetic tools and multi electrode array recordings. Mike defended his PhD in May 2022 and is now finishing the MD component of his MD/PhD.

Tavita Garrett Bs (She/her)

PhD Candidate

Tavita is a PhD candidate in the Neuroscience Graduate Program. In the Sivyer lab, she studies intrinsically photosensitive retinal ganglion cells (ipRGCs). Tavita uses intersectional genetic targeting approaches and synaptic physiology to uncover the properties of specific ipRGC synapses and their target neurons. Tavita is co-mentored by Henrique von Gersdorff.

lily Paivarinta BS BA (She/her)

Research Assistant 2

Lily graduated from Portland State University with a BS in Biology and a BA in Japanese. She wrote her undergraduate thesis on sea cucumber biology and sustainable fishery management strategies. Part of this research involved reviewing current medical research surrounding various species. She is interested in the intersection of biomedical research and conservation.

Joe Leffler PhD (He/Him)

Postdoctoral scholar

Joe Leffler trained in the Chen Laboratory at Havard University prior to completing a PhD with Rowland Taylor at OHSU & UC Berkeley studying the synaptic inputs to nNOS amacrine cells using 2-photon targeting strategies. Joe studies the glaucomatous injury in the mammalian retina and will investigate the synaptic integration of implanted stem cell-derived retinal ganglion cells which is a potential future treatment for glaucoma and other optic neuropathies.

JULIA LITZ BA (they/them) 

Research Assistant 2

Julia completed their undergraduate degree in Biology and Neuroscience at Lewis and Clark College. In the Weissman Lab, Julia completed an independent study investigating interkinetic nuclear migration in embryonic zebrafish. The project involved capturing time-lapses of Brainbow-expressing zebrafish to analyze the dynamics of dividing radial glial cells in the developing hindbrain. They are interested in pursuing a PhD in neuroscience in the future.  

Nina Luong BS (she/her)

PhD Candidate

Nina Luong completed her Bachelors in Human Physiology at the University of Oregon prior to becoming a postbaccalaureate scholar in the OHSU Neuroscience Postbaccalaureate Initiative (now OHSU PREP) program. Nina will undertake her PhD studies in the Wright Lab and Sivyer lab studying novel approaches to targeting and manipulating retinal ganglion cells.

Rispa Vranka Wafula (She/her)

Undergraduate Research Assistant

Rispa is a third-year undergraduate at Oregon State University Honors College studying Bioengineering and Neuroscience. She studies COVID-19 wastewater epidemiology in Dr. Christine Kelly’s Lab at OSU, and helps develop custom behavior boxes as part of a behavioral study in the Sivyer Lab. She is interested in pursuing a PhD in Biomedical Engineering in the future.


Elizabeth White BS MS (she/her)

Research Assistant 2

Elizabeth graduated from the University of Vermont with a B.S. in Biological Sciences in 2016. She has previously conducted research on muscle physiology using Drosophila melanogaster and the usage of microRNAs as therapeutic agents in the treatment of acute myeloid leukemia (AML). After completing a MS in biostatistics at OHSU, she is now a biostatistician in the COOL lab at Casey Eye Institute.

Alex Tomlinson BS (he/him)

Research Assistant 2

Alex is the creator and developer of pyStim and is now studying medicine at OHSU.