News & Events

October 2018 - It's official!  The Rao Lab has moved from Columbia University to the GI Division at Boston Children's Hospital.

Lab happy hour in Morningside HeightsEnjoying a summer lab happy hour in NYC before our move.  












November 2018 - Congrats to all the speakers for a highly successful mini-symposium at the annual meeting of the Society for Neuroscience.  Advances in Enteric Neurobiology: The "Brain" in the Gut in Health and Disease.

Picture of SFN symposium speakers

Speakers: Laren Becker, James Bayrer, Milena Bogunovic, and Julia Ganz. Co-chairs: Subhash Kulkarni and Meenakshi Rao.


December 2018 - Welcome, Salima!  We are excited to have Salima back with us as she makes the big move from NYC to Boston.

Salima and Daniella celebrating new equipment


April 2019 - Renovations complete, we are thrilled to finally move into our permanent lab space on Enders 6!


May 2019 - Welcome to Madison Mixer, a rising junior at Colgate University, who is joining our lab for the summer.


June 2019 - Welcome to two new lab members: Ari Robinson, a research assistant, and Aleks Prochera, a graduate rotation student from the Immunology program.


August 2019 - It's official! Aleks joins the lab for her Ph.D. thesis.


September 2019 - Welcome to Amy Shepherd, PhD, a new postdoctoral fellow joining the lab from the University of Melbourne.


December 2019 - Welcome to Kelly McGovern, a graduate rotation student from the Harvard Immunology program.


Lab dinner in the South End

Celebrating the holidays and Adriell's time in the lab with japanese-inspired cocktails.


January 2020 - Welcome to Anu Muppirala, a graduate rotation student from the Harvard Program in Neuroscience.


April 2020 - Amy Shepherd is selected as one of the 2020 class of Schmidt Science Fellows. Congratulations, Amy! Well-deserved!


April 2020 - It's official! Anu joins the lab for her Ph.D. thesis.


May 2020 - Our lab's first paper from BCH is accepted for publication!  


The Vil1 gene promoter is often used in GI and gut-brain axis research studies to selectively manipulate gene function in the intestinal epithelium. In the process of validating available tools for use in other work, we unexpectedly found that Vil1-Cre mouse lines that have been widely used for decades have distinct and unanticipated sites of Cre activity, including in the central nervous system. These observations should alter interpretation of previous work using these lines and guide future studies. 

We are proud to have collaborated with the Turner and Riccomagno labs on this work and hope that it will be a useful resource for the field.

Cross-section of brain from VilCre997-Ai9 mouse showing widespread Cre activity in the brain.

Coronal section of brain from a VilCre/997; Ai9 mouse reveals widespread tdTomato reporter expression (reflecting Cre activity) in the brain.


June 3, 2020 - BCH labs officially re-open and we are thrilled to be back in the lab. Masks and social distancing are our new norm for work and play!


July 2020 - Welcome to Melissa Musser, MD, PhD, a clinical fellow in Pediatric GI joining the lab for her postdoctoral research work.


November 2020 - Welcome to Valentina Lagomarsino, a graduate rotation student from the Harvard Program in Biological and Biomedical Sciences.


January 2021 - It's official! Valen joins the lab for her Ph.D. thesis.


March 1st, 2021  - The launch of gNeuro is a success!  

This is an interdisciplinary initiative bringing together scientists across Boston interested in gut neurobiology, to promote sharing of tools, ideas and research advances. We are excited to be partnering with Harvard Brain Science Institute (HBI) and the Harvard Digestive Disease Center (HDDC) to launch this group. All are welcome - please contact us if you are interested in participating! Next meeting: May 3, 2021


gNeuro logo


March 12th, 2021 - Anu passes her PQE with flying colors and now is officially a Ph.D. candidate in Neuroscience. Congratulations, Anu!


May 2021 - We bid adieu to Kristina Perez, graduating from Boston College this month and moving on to an RA position across the country. Kristina was one of the first people to join our lab upon our move to Boston and made many valuable contributions to our ongoing projects.  We are sad to see you go but so glad you are continuing your development as a scientist!


Kristina's graduation


Congraulations to Jordan Mubako, one of 6 undergraduate students nationwide selected for the 2021 AGA-Aman Armaan Ahmed Family Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship (SURF). Welcome back to the lab!


May 24, 2021 - Our first in person lab meeting in nearly 15 months - feels so good to be together again and engaging in scientific discussions without "Gallery View"!!


Summer 2021 - Celebrating good weather, summer students, and the return of in person conferences!


Lab happy hour at Milkweed

The Rao lab getting creative!

Celebrating a successful ANMS meeting!


August 2021 - Congratulations, Harry! His review titled "Enteric glia in homeostasis and disease: From fundamental biology to human pathology" is published in the Gut-Brain axis special issue of iScience.  

Check it out:


December 2021/January 2022 - Ever wondered if your hormones are affecting your bowels?  Turns out they are and the ENS mediates a major part of their effects! 

Check out our latest story, now in press at JCI. This was a labor of love and a huge team effort, spanning three institutions and bridging observations made at the bench in mice with observations made at the clinic in patients with a common digestive disorder.

Check it out:

JCI paper masthead


February 2022 - Welcome to Hannah Farnsworth, a graduate rotation student from the Harvard Program in Neuroscience.


April 2022 - The Rao Lab heads to Ferrara, Italy for the triennial ENS meeting.

We were honored to have 4 abstracts selected for presentation, including 3 talks!  Congratulations to Amy, Melissa, Anu and Aleks for fantastic presentations.  This was a wonderful forum for sharing cutting-edge science and meeting colleagues from around the world in an unparalleled setting. 


Lab at ENS meeting Basking in the post-talk glow!

Ferrara is a UNESCO world heritage site with a castle in the center of town, complete with a moat....

Ferrara Castle...and a dungeon!    Amy and Anu in the castle dungeon


April 2022 - RET signaling in the gut homeostasis - turns out the action is in enteroendocrine cells, not neurons!  

Check out the manuscript on Biorxiv. Congratulations to Amy Shepherd, Svetlana Sabel and Laurence Feinstein for tackling the twists and turns of this story to make these discoveries.


May 2022 - Congratulations to Kathryn Grabowski, undergraduate research intern from Boston University, for passing her honors thesis defense with flying colors!

We are going to miss you in the lab but look forward to seeing the great things you do next.


May 2022 - Digestive Disease Week 2022 - Kudos to Amy for giving an outstanding standing-room-only talk and Melissa for being recognized for her "Poster of Distinction".  

Great to catch up with GI biology, honor old colleagues, and keep up lab traditions!


Amy, Meenakshi and Melissa @ DDW2022Daniella and Bryana @ DDW2016












Dinner pic



June 1, 2022 - Congratulations to postdoc Amy Shepherd for the award recognizing her for giving one of the best research presentations at Boston Children's Hospital, Folkman Research Day!  



June 8, 2022 - Thrilled to welcome an outstanding set of speakers for the Harvard Digestive Disease Center/gNeuro spring symposium on the Neurobiology of Digestion: Cells, Circuits and Immunity.



June 2022 - Welcome to Perry Mitchell, a new research assistant joining the lab, and Avery Alperin, an undergraduate summer research intern from University of Rochester!


July 2022 - Congratulations to Melissa Musser for completing her fellowship training and receiving a Shore grant award to support her career development as a physician-scientist!


August 2022 - A fantastic party to bid a bittersweet farewell to Ariel Robinson, a research assistant moving on to graduate school at Wesleyan University. Ari not only made tremendous scientific contributions, she guided our lab through a global pandemic and a period of major expansion. We can't wait to see what you do next!


September 2022 - Amy Shepherd is selected to attend the Little Brain Big Brain Conference in Germany - a fantastic tradition of the ENS community!


November 2022 - The world premiere of our lab video! 

Check out this 2-minute video highlighting our scientific mission, made possible by the Smith Family Foundation.  Thanks to the Foundation for its efforts to advance science communication and the research support provided by the Odyssey Award, which has jumpstarted exciting projects in the lab over the past 2 years.


January 2023 -  Welcome to Maryam Dadabhoy, a graduate rotation student from the Harvard Program in Neuroscience.


March 2023 -  Welcome to Jana Erlmoser, a M.S. candidate in Molecular Medicine from the University Medical Center Göttingen who joins us for her thesis project.


April 2023 -  Welcome to Janki Patel, a graduate rotation student from the Harvard Program in Neuroscience.


May 2023 - Congratulations, Aleks! Her review titled "Enteric glial regulation of the gastrointestinal epithelium" is published in a special issue of Neuroscience Letters that is dedicated to our favorite glial cells!

Check it out: 10.1016/j.neulet.2023.137215


June 2023 - Congratulations to Harry Rosenberg for completing his residency and fellowship training in Pathology. We are so excited you will be staying in the neighborhood as a faculty member at Brown University and continue to work on unraveling the biology of human enteric glia!



Summer 2023 - We had the privilege of hosting a phenomenal group of undergraduate and medical students who worked with us this summer: Neha Mani (Columbia), Ivy Natabi (Bunker Hill), Mira Jiang (Harvard), Afiya Quryshi (Harvard), Avery Alperin (U Rochester), and Gamze Sonmez (Hacettepe University, Turkey). So glad that many of you will stay involved with the lab!


Picture of lab members


July 2023 - Welcome to Murillo Duarte Silva, a postdoctoral fellow joining the lab to advance the study of androgen signaling in gut neurobiology.


August 2023 - Congratulations to postdoc Amy Shepherd for being selected to participate in this year's ANMS Young Investigator Forum and giving a killer talk at the ANMS meeting in Austin, TX!



September 2023 - It's official! Maryam joins the lab for her Ph.D. thesis.



October 2023 - Welcome to Christian Lagares Linares, a graduate rotation student from the Harvard Program in Neuroscience.



October 2023 - It's out! Excited to share the results of our close collaboration with Min Dong's lab, showing how a microbial toxin targets specific cells in the colonic neurovascular complex (gut intrinsic and extrinsic peptidergic neurons as well as pericytes) to drive fulminant inflammation. Blocking this neuropeptide signaling dramatically alleviates infection.


C. difficile manuscript in Nature

Kudos to John Manion and colleagues in Min's lab, Melissa Musser and Amy Shepherd in our lab, as well as Gavin Kuziel in Seth Rakoff-Nahoum's lab, for driving this work forward.  A dream team!


Picture of collaborative team  

Learn more @:

Check out the manuscript and the accompanying News & Views piece in Nature.


November 2023 - It's out! The RET receptor tyrosine kinase is well known to be essential for ENS development but its functions in the mature gut have been less clear. In this work spearheaded by postdoctoral fellows Amy Shepherd, Svetlana Sabel and Laurence Feinstein, we show that RET acts as a molecular brake in enteroendocrine cells, limiting the nutrient-dependent secretion of the gut hormones PYY and GLP-1 to regulate intestinal motility.


Picture of manuscript title

Check out the paper and the Research Highlight in Nature Reviews Gastroenterology & Hepatology summarizing our work. 


December 2023 -  Bowling and our annual secret Santa gift exchange, a wonderful way to celebrate a banner year for the Rao lab before we took a break for the holidays! 


Pictures from lab bowling


January 2024 - Welcome to Trent Pottala, a graduate rotation student from the Harvard Program in Neuroscience, and Vicky Hajjar, a co-op student from Northeastern University.


March 2024 - ENS Meeting 2024 - Kudos to Valen and Anu for giving outstanding talks at this biennial international meeting of enteric neurobiology.


Picture of Rao lab team at the meeting Picture of Valen and Anu at the podium

April 2024 - Welcome to Kayla Kruger and Emily Kellogg, graduate rotation students from the Harvard Program in Neuroscience.