Alumni & Visitors

Ms. Saeko Hedo, Research Unit Administrator 2017 - 2019

I am very happy to be a member of Yoe Team (Uusisaari Unit)! Like building a machine with big or small, keen and complicated parts, Prof. Uusisaari is developing a great team in one year. To make the team stronger and heart-warming, I would like to support all the team members as much as I can.


I don’t have a scientific back-ground but hope to share some scientific interests with members. I also hope all the lab members to enjoy Okinawa and OIST life, and one of their good memories in their science life.


Dr. Alexander Kuck, Postdoc 2017-2019

I am a Biomedical Engineer mainly focusing on understanding, decoding and controlling the behavior of neural circuits, with possible applications in basic neuroscience and rehabilitation engineering. Modern neuro-scientific research is a fascinating field, evolving to become more demanding, interdisciplinary and collaborative by the minute. Within this neural maze of never ending scientific questions, I enjoy bridging technology and science to tackle extraordinarily hard questions. With an ever-increasing scientific complexity, I believe that good science can only evolve from an open, inspiring and collaborative environment.

I am currently establishing the hardware/software framework for a real-time motion capture experiments to allow the decoding of motor-related brain circuitry, especially those related to olivo-cerebellar motor pathways. My spare time I spend doing sports (martial arts, cycling) as well as working on my artistic skills. 

Dr. Emmanuelle Albert, researcher (Sep - Dec 2018)

It’s a stroke of luck to be in Neural Rhythms in Movement Unit, with Professor Uusisaari, an astounding woman! I joined the lab in September 2018. Professor Uusisaari needed an electrophysiologist for a few months and I was available! During my brief stay there, I helped in preserving the knowledge of slice preparation specific to NRIM and passed it on. This short period of time in NRIM allowed me to recover from a serious injury and changed my scientific perspectives. I am personally interested in neuroplasticity, synaptic remodeling, in other words how the CNS undergoes structural and functional changes to produce modified behaviors. On single cells level, how the information is encoded, shaped and transmitted.

I noticed a harmonious and friendly environment in this unit, which is of tremendous importance while doing science. A strong spirit of being involved in the work all together and helping each other is felt within the team. Last but not least, I believe that good things will come out from Neural Rhythms in Movement Unit. Keep it up guys!!!

Dr. Alex Tang, Postdoc (May 2016 - Aug 2017)

Present affiliation: Lecturer, Experimental and Regenerative Neurosciences, School of Biological Sciences, University of Western Australia. 

Understanding the brain is often described as the final frontier in science and despite the wealth of  research conducted over the last few decades, a lot remains unknown. Luckily for us, neuroscience has never been more exciting as we now have access to an evergrowing range of technology and biological tools that allow us to investigate the brain in great detail from the genetic to behavioral level. 

My personal interest in neuroscience centers around neuroplasticity, the brain's ability to change its structural and functional connectivity to produce new or modified behaviors. I'm particularly interested in how single cells process and transmit information to shape plasticity at the network level. I like to ask difficult and often annoying questions, despite my alleged strong Australian accent.

Darren Clarke, Visiting student (Oct-Nov 2017)

Mr. Darren Clarke is currently undertaking his PhD at the University of Western Australia, examining the response of astrocytes to repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation, a form of brain stimulation. Darren visited the NRIM laboratory from October to December 2017 to explore the response of astrocytes to stimulation using in vitro electrophysiological techniques. Darren enjoyed the opportunity to work in Japan under Dr. Uusisaari and Dr. Tang and further develop his patch-clamp skills.


Darren loved the culture and society of Okinawa, and experienced scuba diving and the tug of war festival, among other activities, during his time at OIST. He enjoys watching thriller movies and television shows, drinking craft beers, running, gaming, and telling jokes. His personality is as vibrant and colourful as the shirts and socks he wears.

Nora Vrieler, visiting patcher (Apr - May 2017)

I first joined an experimental neuroscience laboratory some three years ago, knowing nothing of the kinds of skills and techniques that – at least to my non-scientist friends and family – sound like science fiction, but have in the mean time become my day-to-day work. Keeping slices of (mouse) brains alive while measuring what goes on inside a neuron (a.k.a. ‘making zombie brains’); injecting viruses to brains to label specific neurons (a.k.a ‘doing brain surgery – but no, grandma, I’m NOT a doctor’) and then using laser-powered microscopy to see what’s in there (a.k.a. ‘time to get a pretty picture’). Dr Uusisaari's invite to come help set up her lab at OIST is a perfect reflection of being able to trust her student(s) to do what’s needed without her direct supervision.

Being left unsupervised might sound like a nightmare to some neuroscience students, but in the case of the nRIM team it’s the most wonderful way to work. Dr. Uusisaari herself is superior only in the amount of time she has to spend at her desk while the rest of the team gets to do experiments, and although all of the lab members may have different motivations for doing what they do, there’s a strong spirit of being all in it together and helping each other out when possible. Personally, I’ve been caught up in the question of how our brains are able to organize events in time – and I’m sure it won’t be such a long time before I get to visit OIST again to learn new experimenting-skills and hopefully get a bit closer to understanding that.


Hugo Hoedemaker, visiting technician (Mar - Apr 2017)

I consider myself quite lucky that when I found myself in between jobs in Holland when professor Uusisaari invited me to help set up her lab at the OIST. The period that I could help would last a bit shorter than two months so it was never boring. The first weeks I helped setting up laboratory equipment but after we got the surgery room running I spent most time passing on surgical techniques and comparing notes to my very capable colleagues, that last part is my forte. All in all, I saw a very healthy curiosity and an eagerness for collaboration between groups that led to a very friendly work environment. That’s why I believe that a lot of good is going to come from the Neuronal Rhythms in Movement Unit. Good luck guys!


On a side note, the hospitality of the people of Okinawa was heartwarming and to have witnessed such a wonderful culture really added to my tropical adventure.