The Committee



Raffaele Sarnataro, Co-President:

Raffaele is a DPhil student in the 4-year Wellcome Trust Doctoral Programme in Neuroscience. He studied at Scuola Normale Superiore and University of Pisa, in his native Italy, obtaining a BSc in Biotechnologies and an MSc in Molecular and Cell Biology. After international experiences at Harvard Medical School and University of Cambridge, in 2017 he joined the University of Oxford, obtaining an MSc in Neuroscience. He is currently working with prof. Gero Miesenböck on the mechanistic understanding of sleep homeostasis and how sleep pressure is physically encoded in the brain.

After one year as Committee member, he is currently Co-President of Cortex Club, thrilled by the opportunity of fostering Neuroscience in Oxford, experimenting new Cortex Club formats and interacting with a brilliant neuroscience community, from students to world-leading local and external researchers.

Email: raffaele.sarnataro [at]

Marta Blanco Pozo, Co-President:

Marta is a 1st year DPhil student in the Wellcome Trust Doctoral Programme in Neuroscience at Oxford. She obtained her BSc in Human biology from Pompeu Fabra University in Barcelona. Afterwards, she went to University College London where she received an MSc in Neuroscience and worked on the functional architecture underlying internal models in the cerebellum in Prof. Michael Häusser’s lab. Currently, she is working with Prof. Mark Walton and Prof. Tim Behrens on the neural mechanisms underlying decision-making during reinforcement learning paradigms.

Email: marta.blancopozo [at]

Naroa Ibarra Aizpurua, Secretary:

Naroa is a MSc in Neuroscience student. She obtained her BSc degree in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology from the University of the Basque Country, Spain. She did her BSc thesis in Achucarro: Basque Centre for Neuroscience, studying how GABAB receptors affect oligodendrocyte development. She is particularly interested in studying the molecular mechanisms behind neurodegenerative diseases, in order to understand how and why these diseases develop. Naroa describes herself as an organizer, and she is looking forward to working as the Secretary of the Cortex Club in order to be part of this multidisciplinary Neuroscience community and to help bring everything together.

Email: naroa.ibarraaizpurua [at]

Paula Kaanders, Treasurer: 

Paula is a DPhil candidate in Neuroscience supervised by Jill O’Reilly and Laurence Hunt. She is studying the neural signatures of decision-making, belief updating and information gathering. Before coming to Oxford she obtained a BA and BSc in Liberal Arts & Sciences from University College Utrecht, the Netherlands and an MSc in Neuroeconomics from Maastricht University, the Netherlands. Subsequently, she worked in Dr Benedetto De Martino’s lab at the University of Cambridge and University College London for 2 years as a research assistant on confirmatory information processing, the tendency individuals have to selectively search for information in line with their beliefs.

Email: paula.kaanders [at]

Atika Syeda, IT Officer: 

Atika is currently doing her MSc in Neuroscience. She did her Bachelor’s in Health Sciences from the University of Calgary with a major in Bioinformatics. During her Honors thesis project, Atika investigated the role of electrical activity patterns that underlie neurite growth and connectivity using a neurochip. With her interdisciplinary background, Atika is interested in studying the neural code using theoretical and experimental approaches. As part of the cortex club, Atika is excited for promoting and coordinating events that showcase the wide variety of neuroscience research conducted locally and internationally.

Email: atika.syeda [at]

Celinie Nguyen, Social Secretary:

Celinie is a visiting undergraduate student obtaining a Sc.B in Cognitive Neuroscience from Brown University. She is in Brown’s 8-year BS-MD program and will be matriculating into the Warren Alpert Medical School at the end of her undergraduate degree. She is studying Experimental Psychology at Pembroke College for her year abroad at Oxford. Before coming to Oxford, she conducted research in the Barnea lab at Brown University studying the olfactory and gustatory circuit in Drosophila melanogaster using the transsynaptic modelling tool, trans-Tango. Celinie is excited to be coordinating events and starting Cortex’s first string of neuroscience competitions among Oxford students.

Email: celinie.nguyen [at]

Jasper Hunt, Social Secretary:

Jasper is a 1st-year student on the Wellcome Trust Doctoral Training Programme in Neuroscience. At the University of Wyoming, where Jasper received his BSc in Psychology and Philosophy, Jasper worked with Dr. Robin Barry to study psycholinguistics, then with Dr. Kara Pratt to study synapse formation and the neural processing of color vision in Xenopus laevis tadpoles. Now, Jasper is enthusiastically exploring the research programmes at Oxford through his lab rotations. Jasper has many and varied interests within neuroscience, with neuroethology being a particular interest. Outside neuroscience, he is passionate about both LGBTQ+ and disability rights.

Email: jasper.hunt [at]

Maria Claudia Caiazza, Social Secretary:

Maria Claudia is a second year DPhil student in Physiology, Anatomy and Genetics from Christ Church College. She obtained her BSc in Biotechnology and her MSc in Neuroscience from the University of Pisa. Parallel to this she also studied Biological Sciences at Scuola Normale Superiore. In Pisa she worked in the Di Primio lab focusing on Tau pathology. Currently, Maria Claudia works in the Wade-Martins laboratory where she focuses on unveiling the molecular and cellular mechanisms of Parkinson’s disease (PD) employing iPSC-derived dopaminergic neurons. As Social Secretary, Maria Claudia is responsible for organising and running the Club’s social events.

Email: maria.caiazza [at]

Tara Diviney, Fresher’s Officer:

Tara is currently on the MSc year of the 4 year doctoral Wellcome Trust programme in Neuroscience. She graduated from the National University of Ireland, Galway in 2019 with a BSc in Biomedical Science specialising in Pharmacology. During her Bachelor’s degree, Tara undertook a research placement at the University of Cambridge and obtained a study abroad studentship to go to Hong Kong University of Science and Technology. She completed her Bachelor’s thesis in collaboration with the Galway Neuroscience Centre and the SFI Centre for Research in Medical Devices (CÚRAM) looking at the effect of DOPAL on the viability, reactivity and bioenergetic function of an astrocyte cell line. As the Fresher’s Officer of the Cortex Club, Tara hopes to encourage new undergraduate and graduate students to engage with the club by disseminating information about upcoming events. She is very delighted to be part of the rich Neuroscience community at Oxford and is excited to welcome distinguished international neuroscientists to Oxford over the coming year.

Email: tara.diviney [at]