Current Members

Dr. Sam Reiter, Assistant Professor


I was born and raised in Rhode Island, on the east coast of the United States. I did my undergraduate degree at Brown University in Providence, RI. For my PhD. I joined the Brown-NIH graduate partnership program, moving to Bethesda, M.D. to work in the lab of Mark Stopfer at the National Institutes of Health. For my post doctoral work I moved to Germany to join the lab of Gilles Laurent in Frankfurt, Germany. I came to OIST in 2019, and am interested in studying animal brains and behavior.

Shoko Yamakawa, Research Unit Administrator


Native Okinawan. Loves rescued cats more than humans. Enjoys dancing every weekend.Have been working at OIST as a Research Unit Administrator since 2004. So proud to work here & be part of the OIST community to contribute to the science progress and to the development of Okinawan economy.

Aditi Pophale, PhD Student


I grew up in Nasik, a small town in India. I went to Johns Hopkins University for my undergraduate studies where I developed an interest in studying animal behavior. I wanted to understand the ecological context of animal behavior so I worked as a Research Assistant on a Chimpanzee Habituation project on Rubondo Island National Park, Tanzania and SCUBA dived extensively in East Timor and the Andaman Islands. I returned to India to pursue my MSc. in Wildlife Biology at the National Center of Biological Sciences, Bangalore. Following this, I was a part of the Nippon Foundation-POGO Centre of Excellence training in observational oceanography, at the Alfred Wegener Institute, Germany. I am currently a PhD student interested in studying cephalopods.

Sen Hadife, PhD Student


I graduated with a BSc in Genetics from the University of Nottingham, but switched my field and did an MSc in Marine Biology from Bangor University. I joined OIST in 2020 with the aim of studying the rich cephalopod diversity in the Okinawan waters. I joined the Reiter Unit in 2021 as a PhD student, and am currently researching learning and memory in these fascinating creatures.


Kazumichi Shimizu, Postdoc


I got my Ph.D. in biophysics and biochemistry at the University of Tokyo with a study on molecular mechanisms underlying neural development in Drosophila. In 2011, I moved to National Institutes of Health in the US, where I learned in vivo patch clamp electrophysiology that were combined with Drosophila genetics to study neural representation of olfactory sensory stimulus in the brain. From 2017, I spent three years as a research associate at the University of Tokyo, where I studied neural circuits underlying learning and memory in Drosophila using in vivo patch clamp electrophysiology and in vivo Ca2+ imaging combined with optogenetics. In 2020, I joined the Computational Neuroethology unit at OIST, fascinated by complex and sophisticated behaviors of cephalopods. My goal is to reveal neural mechanisms underlying those behaviors, utilizing a variety of electrophysiological and imaging techniques.


Natacha Roux, Postdoc


Born and raised in a small town in the center of France (Vichy), I have always been fascinated by the amazing biodiversity encountered in the marine environment. Therefore, I decided to choose a career where I could study marine living organisms. I conducted a PhD at the Observatoire Océanologique de Banyuls sur mer investigating the role of thyroid hormone in a key developmental step of coral reef fishesL the metamorphosis. This project offered me the opportunity to study a biological process in an integrative way, using various methods from molecular to behavioral analysis. Now, I am happy to completely change my research field and join Dr. Reiter’s team at OIST to study the phenomenon of cuttlefish camouflage in the wild. I am excited to enter the field of computational neuroethology and to have the opportunity to investigate the masters of camouflage in their natural environment using innovative techniques such as machine learning. I am looking forward to dive in Okinawa and spend hours observing cuttlefishes in their natural habitat.


Robert Ross, Postdoc (with Pigolotti Unit)


I research the physics of growing active matter. Currently, I am trying to understand how growth influences chromatophore patterning in cephalopods.  My thesis is that the same developmental processes can be funneled to different developmental outcomes by altering how the system is grown.

Makoto Hiroi, Staff Scientist (with Stephens Unit)


I was born in Nagasaki, Japan. After completing my Ph.D. in insect physiology in Japan and France (with Teiich Tanimura at Kyushu University and with Frederic Maion-Poll at INA P-G), I moved to Berkeley, California, to work in the lab of Kristin Scott. Back in Japan, I worked with Tetsuya Tabata at Tokyo University. In 2020, I came to OIST, joining Greg Stephens' Biological Physics Theory Unit and Sam Reiter's Computational Neuroethology Unit. I am interested in how animals behave and react to their environments. I want to seek mechanisms or theory underlying volitional behaviors through the quantitative analysis of collective squid behavior. Besides work, I enjoy traveling, but my favorite is cycling along the Okinawa coast.

Jeff Liner, Research Technician


I graduated from the University of North Carolina with degrees in Clinical Laboratory Science, Business Administration, and Japanese.  After spending 5 years studying HIV Associated Neurological Disease in human subjects, as well as basic neuroscience working with neuronal cultures, I returned to school for a short time to begin a career in Clinical Laboratory Science.  I then worked in a pathology laboratory until moving here to my wife’s home in Okinawa in 2016 to promote her career and raise our children with their hundreds of cousins.  I feel very fortunate to have found a position here at OIST in Masai Lab where I worked until 2020 using zebrafish to study retinal degeneration.  I am excited to now be a member of the Computational Neuroethology Unit where I hope to utilize different skillsets, work with incredibly interesting cephalopods, and gain new knowledge and techniques.

Balashwethan Chockalingam, Rotation Student


I graduated from the University of Chicago with a Bachelors in Physics and Math but I am now in the process of switching to Neuroscience with a specific focus on behavior, sleep and prediction. My current rotation project in the Reiter Unit involves performing data analysis on video data of octopus behavior.

Lab Alumni

Rika Nakamura, Research Unit Technician

Email: rika.nakamura at

I completed my MSc program in Tokyo University of Marine Science and Technology with a background in marine biotechnology and molecular biology. My fascination with marine invertebrates led me to join the Computational Neuroethology Unit as a research technician to support the unit’s research to uncover principles of cognition through the fascinating coleoid cephalopods. Aside from assisting in the unit’s management and experiments, my main role and focus are studying cephalopod biology and providing the optimum system and care for their rearing.

Minato Miyake, Rotation Student

Email: minato.miyake at

I graduated with a BSc in Agricultural Science from Tohoku University, where I studied Marine Science, in particular, the left-right asymmetric development of flatfish. I have a long-time passion for marine invertebrates (Ctenophores, Cnidarians… and of course Cephalopods!), with particular interest in the evolution and development of their nervous systems. My current lab rotation project in the Reiter Unit involves high-resolution tracking of squid chromatophore development using neural networks.