Unit Members


Kurato Mohri, Staff Scientist 

I joined the Evolutionary Neurobiology Unit in May 2020. I’m an experimental biologist in the field of developmental and evolutionary biology. My current research interest is the achievement of muscle tissues during the evolution of metazoan. I use some basal metazoan models to approach this question. In addition, I also study regeneration of multicellular bodies of social amoebae by molecular imaging. I’m really enjoying Okinawa, especially the beautiful sea and lovely Okinawan creatures.

Email: kurato.mohri@oist.jp

Hongdi Wang, Postdoctoral Scholar

I joined the Evolutionary Neurobiology Unit (ENBU) in February 2021. I got my Ph.D. degree in 2020 at Hokkaido University in Japan. When I was a doctoral student, I mainly focus on the research of the genomic and molecular mechanisms of species-specific vocal learning behavior of songbirds. My research interests mainly on the genomic and molecular mechanisms of evolution and development. I will use bioinformatic and molecular tools to explore some interesting evo-devo questions during the days in ENBU. Okinawa is a beautiful place to live, you can enjoy fishing, swimming and many things here. OIST is modern and international which is a wonderful place to do science.

Email: hongdi.wang@oist.jp

Ryotaro Nakamura, Research Unit Technician

I joined the Evolutionary Neurobiology Unit in May 2017. As a research unit technician, my primary job is to help the researchers and students advance their research. Our research focus, the evolutionary origins of the nervous system, is a new but interesting field to me, and I’m excited about the future perspectives. I’m surrounded by unit specialists and people from other units/sections, which is ideal for being constantly up-to-date or to learn new stuff.

Email: ryotaro.nakamura@oist.jp

Chihiro Kawano, Research Unit Technician

I joined the Evolutionary Neurobiology Unit in Dec, 2017. My job as a research unit technician is to assist the research projects that focus on mass spectrometry-based omics and informatics to study nervous system in basal metazoans.

Email: chihiro.kawano@oist.jp

Yayoi Hongo, Research Unit Technician

My background is Analytical Chemistry. I’ve been working on molecular/elemental characterization with MS(GCMS, LCMS, MALDI, Direct ionizations, ICPMS, etc.),based on ion reaction chemistry.  In ENBU, various species, from tiny molecules to huge protein complexes will be targeted.  OKINAWA life is full of surprises for me. I am enjoying it a lot.

Email: yayoi.hongo@oist.jp

Chihiro Arasaki, Research Unit Administrator

I joined Watanabe Unit in April, 2016 when Prof. Watanabe joined OIST. My task as a Research Unit Administrator is to provide administrative support for the unit members. Outside work, I enjoy baking breads and biscuits.

Email: chihiro.arasaki@oist.jp


PhD Student

Minato Miyake (DC1)

I graduated from Tohoku University with a B.Sc. where I studied flatfish asymmetric development. I have long been interested in marine invertebrates, and as a Ph.D. student in the Unit, I currently study Ctenophore nervous system evolution and development. My favorite pastimes include exploring wildlife, reading, and of course, research.

Email: minato.miyake@oist.jp

Sen Hadife

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. In the Evolutionary Neurobiology Unit I have the opportunity to combine my expertise from both fields to answers questions about the evolutionary origins of the animal lineage by studying Cnidarians.

Email: shagufta.qamar@oist.jp


Research Intern

Jeric Da-Anoy, University of the Philippines

October 2018–December 2018

JK joined ENBU in September 2018 as a research intern from the Philippines. He devotes his time at OIST understanding the role of select neuropeptides in neurodevelopment of Nematostella vectensis using gene knockdown techniques and molecular biology tools. His motivation to dedicate his research in neurodevelopment and early animal evolution was mainly influenced by his adviser, C Conaco. As a marine biotechnology student in the Philippines, his graduate research project aims to identify neuronal and circadian clock genes in corals.  He also wants to gain insights on how these genes are regulated under thermal stress, using molecular biology and transcriptomic tools. In the future, he likes to continue his pursuit to understanding early animal evolution particularly the evolution of the nervous system in early extant animals.

Daniel Soto Carballo, Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona

May 2022–November 2022
Travelling from lively Spain, I joined ENBU in May 2022! I obtained my BSc in Genetics at the Autonomous University of Barcelona. There I am also coursing my MSc in Bioinformatics, while working on my thesis project remotely with Dr. Ivan Erill’s lab in US. As a researcher, I am deeply fascinated by the evolution of nervous systems and transcriptional regulatory networks. How do such complex and coordinated systems arise during development? During my time at OIST I will apply molecular biology and bioinformatic tools to study the potential role of selected transcription factors in early neurodevelopment using Nematostella vectensis as model species. 

My Linkedin profile is always open to know more! 

In my free time I love reading, hanging with friends and new people and exploring nature’s wonders. Okinawa has so many gorgeous locations you never run out of places to enjoy! 

Ayumi Yoshikawa, Tokyo Metropolitan University

April 2023–August 2023

I am a four-year undergraduate student at Tokyo Metropolitan University, where I am specified in developmental biology.

I have joined Watanabe Unit as a research internship student from April 2023 to learn techniques to progress my research related to eco-devo questions in the future. Although my participation in the research internship will be for 4 months, I am looking forward to experiencing a part of research of ctenophores which might gives a hint to understand the evolution of animal-specific traits.


Shinya Komoto, Staff Scientist

October 2016–March 2018

Cell biologist diving into the field of evolutionary neurobiology! My research strategy involved intensive microscope and molecular biology techniques. Currently, I tried to understand the origin of central nervous system, and how neuron network is established through the embryo development. or I'm simply enjoying to visualize all those beautiful world of neurons.


Currently: Research Support Specialist, Imaging Section, Office of the Dean of Research, OIST

Amol Dahal, Research Unit Technician

May 2016–November 2018

I completed my Master’s from Kochi University (Japan) and will defend my Ph.D. in Molecular Genetics there. I joined OIST in May, 2016 in the Evolutionary Neurobiology Unit. I am involved in the culture of marine invertebrates such as Nematostella and Hydra. I will be assisting in their molecular and neurobiological research to understand the origin and evolution of nervous system.


Currently: Lecturer, Department of Biotechnology, Kathmandu University, Nepal

Erina Kawai, Research Unit Technician

August 2016–July 2019

I took my master’s degree in marine biology in the University of Ryukyus. I’m working on fieldwork and trying to establish Lab cultures of marine invertebrates. This aims to have new model animals useful for EvoDevo studies. I love dogs, sweets, scuba diving and Okinawa.

Currently: Research Unit Technician, Marine Climate Change Unit, OIST

Rio Zakou, Research Assistant

April 2018–March 2019

Mei Fang Lin, Postdoctoral Scholar

May 2017 – July 2020

Originally from Taiwan, I have been fascinated by the theory of evolution since I took the Biology course as an undergraduate student. During that time, I was introduced to the systematics of red algae and the world of coral reef. I then carried it for my MSc in Marine Biology in National Taiwan University with the study of coral evolution by applying molecular phylogeny. After MSc, I joined the Biodiversity Research Centre in Academia Sinica where I developed my interest of coral genomics. After obtaining working experience, I decided to pursuit a PhD degree and started PhD journey in James Cook University, Australia studying coral genomics and evolution under the supervision of Prof. David Miller. Using the transcriptomic data of corals’ close relatives, corallimorpharians (coral-like anemones), new insights into the major questions in cnidarian evolution, coral calcification and cnidarian-algal symbioses, were provided. Having a great interest in the basal animal evolution, I join Evolutionary Neurobiology Unit at Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology as a postdoctoral researcher working on a series of basal animal transcriptomes and genomes to understand the origin of neuron. Outside of work, I enjoy playing badminton, watching movies, taking photos, and visiting nice restaurants for good food.

Google scholar profile:https://scholar.google.com/citations?user=jNFTrt8AAAAJ&hl=en

Currently: Assistant Professor, National Sun Yat-sen University

Doctoral Degree Program in Marine Biotechnology

Hibiki Fukunaga, Research Assistant

October 2019 – March 2021

Akiko Tanimoto, Research Assistant

February 2019–February 2022

Born in Tokyo, and moved to Okinawa 25 years ago. I joined Watanabe Unit as a Research Assistant to provide culture service of the marine animals such as Nematostella. 
I love cats and fishing!


Junko Higuchi, Research Assistant

June 2022–May 2022

My role as a Research Assistant is to take care of the culture of Nematostella and Jellyfish at Watanabe Unit. I am excited to work with these aquatic animals.

Ivan Mbogo

September 2015–March 2022

I graduated with a BSc in Biomedical Sciences (Physiology) and an MSc in Genetics both from the University of Aberdeen, Scotland. My thesis was to do with the molecular and genetic basis of clubfoot under the supervision of Prof. Martin Collinson and Dr. Neil Vergesson.

Currently: Associate of Hematology Business Development, Sysmex Corporation

Kun-Lung Li

September 2016–September 2021

I joined OIST as a PhD student in 2016. I am interested in how animals evolve new morphological innovations. Now, with the collaboration and support of Prof. Noriyuki Satoh (OIST), I use the ascidian animal model Ciona to study ascidian cellulose synthesis ability and its effects on their physiology, development, and evolution. Before joining OIST, I was born and raised in Taiwan. I did my master study with Dr. Jr-Kai Yu in National Taiwan University and Academia Sinica, Taiwan, with my thesis topic on the evolution and expression of basic helix-loop-helix transcription factor genes in amphioxus, a basal chordate animal. I enjoy the time in OIST working with knowledgeable supervisors and intelligent colleagues from all around the world. 

Currently:  PostDoc, Institute of Cellular and Organismic Biology, Academia Sinica, Taiwan

Eisuke Hayakawa, Group Leader 

April 2016–March 2023

My research focuses on the development and application of methods of analytical chemistry. In particular I integrate mass spectrometry and informatics to analyze biological compounds involved in nervous system (e.g. neurotransmitters, metabolites and synaptic proteins) to study the neurochemical aspect of the evolution of nervous system.

Currently: Researcher at RIKEN CSRS

Larisa Sheloukhova

September 2015–March 2022

My Master's research in the Laboratory of Functional Morphochemistry of Neurology Research Center, RAMS (Moscow, Russia) was devoted to examining the morphological changes of rodent astrocytes following chemical injury. In the Evolutionary Neurobiology Unit I continue studying glial cells and their evolution using basal metazoans, mainly Nematostella. This is also a perfect way of combining two passions of mine: glial biology and marine creatures. I love sea, dancing, fresh whole foods, exploring the Ryukyu Islands, and writing about them in the student-run magazine "Kuroshio".

Email: larisa.sheloukhova@gmail.com

Currently: Program-specific researcher, SACI at Kyoto University

Kanako Hirata, Research Unit Technician (PoC)

December 2019–March 2023

I joined Evolutionary Neurobiology Unit in December 2019.
My job is to assist with analysis of mass spectrometry-based metabolomics data and spectral library building.

Mika Ogata, Research Assistant (PoC)

May 2021–March 2023

I joined the Evolutionary Neurobiology Unit in May 2021.

My job is to assist the reserch projects that non-target metabolomics analysis using mass spectrometry.

Christine Guzman (DC1)

September 2017–April 2023

Christine hails from the Philippines. For her PhD project, she is interested in studying the early evolution of synaptic protein complexes. She is also interested in gene expression response in marine organisms to environmental stress.

Currently: Postodoctoral Fellow at University of Fribourg, Switzerland

Osamu Horiguchi (DC1)

September 2017–August 2023
I graduated with a B.Sc. in biology from Hokkaido University and joind OIST in 2016.  
I'm interested in the evolution of functions or organs that are ubiquitously existed in animals.
In the Evolutionary Neurobiology unit, I'm working on functional analysis of bHLH transcription factor in Ctenophores.
Email: osamu.horiguchi@oist.jp

Ryo Nakamura, Postdoctoral Scholar

October 2018–September 2023

I joined Evolutionary Neurobiology Unit in October 2018. My research interest is the relationship between the developmental process and the evolution. I am currently trying to understand how the central nervous system were established during evolution using basal metazoan models. In addition, I attempt to apply epigenetic tools to understand the molecular machineries in ancestral animals.

Email: ryo.nakamura@oist.jp

Currently: Special-Appointment Assistant Professor, Faculty of Environmental, Life, Natural Science and Technology, Okayama Unviersity