Message from the Director

Message from the Director

Hello UCLA neuroscientists! Wednesday, May 1st is my first day as the new director of the Brain Research Institute, the BRI. I feel so honored to help lead this storied institute into the next exciting phase of neuroscience research and dissemination.  Insights into what makes us all “tick” are more important than ever these days, and we should let our light of expertise shine.

Gina PoeI earned my PhD in Neuroscience here at UCLA in 1995 under the mentorship of Distinguished Professor Ron Harper in the first Neuroscience Interdepartmental PhD cohort, serving as a student representative to the NSIDP. Many of my professors at that time are still here, looking not one day older! My love for the BRI and neuroscience on campus runs long and deep. About 8 years ago I returned to UCLA as Professor. My primary appointment is in Integrative Biology and Physiology in the College of Life Sciences. I also have appointments in the Semel Institute for Psychiatry, and in the Department of Neurobiology in the School of Medicine. My students who have been in graduate programs in the Neuroscience Interdepartmental Program (NSIDP), the Molecular Cellular and Integrative Physiology (MCIP), Psychology, and Bioengineering research the functions of sleep for learning and memory consolidation, emotional memory resolution, and insight. Our basic science has translational potential to find treatments for PTSD, intellectual disabilities, and disorders involving memory. I feel so lucky to be able to peek inside the nervous system and glimpse the amazing synergy of this incredibly complex system that underlies consciousness, action, emotion, and experience.

My aim as Director is to raise the profile of and services for neuroscientists of all training stages across campus. The BRI needs all of us to help in a multipronged approach to accomplish this. We will establish a Student Council (including undergraduates and graduates involved in neuroscience all over campus), a Postdoctoral Council, and Faculty Council and will hire several new staff members to assist the current stellar BRI support staff in realizing the initiatives you propose. Over 1,000 people at UCLA are involved in neuroscience research across 8 schools and 35 departments, and the BRI is here to serve as the BRI-dge between and for all of us.

I am the 7th Director of this storied institution for research, education, and outreach.  UCLA was the first place to establish a center for neuroscience 65 years ago with John French as the first Director, then Carmen Clemente, and when I was a student here, Arnie Scheibel. His graciousness, strong leadership, vision, and community-building style set the standard of leadership for me. He established the BRI’s first community outreach program called SPARCS, funded by donations from the ARCS program that still supports neuroscience graduate students at UCLA today. Since Arnie’s leadership, only three others have been at the helm: Allan Tobin, Chris Evans, and Felix Schweizer, each of whom have given unique gifts to our BRI community. Allan helped find funds for the building in which the BRI is now housed, the Gonda building. Chris greatly expanded the outreach programs that involve schools all over Los Angeles, and Felix has carried the BRI through great changes in leadership at all levels across campus – further strengthening outreach and diversity over the past almost 7 years.

I am honored to join this list of BRI Directors and look forward to hearing your ideas for positive growth and community-building activities. I want to hear about things that will bring more joy to your pursuits. Thank you for this opportunity to serve you and thanks in advance for your involvement in strengthening our community.

Here is a link for you to tell us about your priorities and provide ideas for our community. On this link, you will find a list of innovative and game-changing ideas I have heard on my 1-month listening tour leading up to today. Feel free to provide your support for these ideas and add your own!

Here is my CV for you to get to know me a bit better.

Here is a place for you to drop your CV so we can learn of your interests and accomplishments, tag you for award nominations, and figure out ways to serve you better.

Click here for a brief hello from me and the BRI Advisory Committee from earlier today. Come visit us in Gonda 1st floor! If you need keycard access, email Joseph,, and he can get it for you.

Thanks! I look forward to working with you!