Ishmail is an Associate Professor of Biological Sciences at Columbia University in the Zuckerman Mind Brain Behavior Institute. He is also a Freeman Hrabowski Scholar at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. He received a B.S. degree in animal science from North Carolina A&T State University in 2006 and a Ph.D. in cell and molecular biology from the University of Pennsylvania in 2012, where he was supervised by Prof. Meera Sundaram. He completed postdoctoral training at Weill Cornell, then University of Pennsylvania, supervised by Profs. Ben Shykind and Wenqin Luo. He joined the faculty at the University of Pennsylvania in the Biology Department in 2018 as the Mitchell and Margo Blutt Presidential Assistant Professor. He was recruited to Columbia University in 2021 and promoted to Associate Professor in 2023. Ishmail’s research focuses on bridging the body and brain to discover mechanisms for social touch and pain. In addition to research, each fall semester, Ishmail teaches a large undergraduate lecture course on cell and molecular neurobiology.

Awards and Honors

  • Young Investigator Award, Society for Neuroscience, 2023
  • HHMI Freeman Hrabowski Scholar, 2023
  • McKnight Scholar, 2023
  • NIH New Innovator Award, 2022
  • Chan Zuckerberg Science Diversity Leadership Award, 2022
  • Pew Biomedical Scholar, 2022
  • Brain Research Foundation, 2022
  • Alfred P. Sloan Fellow, 2021
  • Kavli Fellow, National Academy of Sciences, 2021
  • Rita Allen Foundation Scholar, 2020
  • Mitchell Max Award for Research Excellence, 2018
  • NIH Pathway to Independence Award, 2017
  • Burroughs Wellcome Fund PDEP Postdoc Fellowship, 2015
  • NIH IRACDA Postdoc Fellowship, 2014
  • Tom Kadesch Prize in Genetics, 2012

curriculum vitae

Q and A interview of Ishmail (Quanta Magazine, 2024)

Q and A interview of Ishmail (Neuron, 2021)


Aleyna Silcott

Administrative Lab Manager

B.S., Ankara University, Turkey
aab2259 [at]


Sasha Fulton

UNCF EE Just Fellow
Burroughs Wellcome Fund PDEP

Ph.D., Mount Sinai Medicine
B.S., Columbia University
slf2127 [at]

Anissa Jhumka

B.S., Ph.D., Aix-Marseille University
aj3020 [at]

Aleksander Kaplan

Ph.D., Hebrew University
B.S., University of Maryland Baltimore Country
ak5200 [at]

Briana Nixon

Ph.D., Cornell University
B.S., Wesleyan University
bn2369 [at]

Andre Toussaint

Simons Junior Fellow
Burroughs Wellcome Fund PDEP 

Ph.D., Temple University
B.S., Hunter College
at3658 [at]

Anastasia Zavitsanou

Simons Junior Fellow
Ph.D., New York University
B.S., Imperial College London
az2764 [at]

Graduate students
*not accepting graduate students for 2024-2025

Brittany Bistis

Biological Sciences PhD student
B.S., Yale University
bb2977 [at]

Justin Burdge

Biological Sciences PhD student
NIH NRSA F31 Fellow

B.S., University of Pennsylvania
jb4582 [at]

William Foster

Neuro & Behavior PhD student
B.S., Haverford College
wf2284 [at]

Rachel Frazer

Neuro & Behavior PhD student
NSF Graduate Research Fellow
B.A., Wellesley College
ref2154 [at]

Simon Ogundare

Rotating MD-PhD student
*joint with Christine Denny
B.S., Columbia University
soo2111 [at]

Ryan Schwark

Biological Sciences PhD student
B.S., Elizabethtown College
rs4192 [at]

Preston Sheng

Biological Sciences PhD student
B.S., Emory University
ss6573 [at]

Isabella Succi

Biological Sciences PhD student
*Joint with Itamar Kahn
B.S., St. Joseph’s University
is2687 [at]

Wesley Yu-Young Tsai

Biological Sciences PhD student
B.S., Johns Hopkins University
yt2882 [at]

Viviana Vinci

Biological Sciences PhD student
B.S., Northeastern University
vv2373 [at]

Research technician

Alexis Knight

B.S., Columbia University
aak2220 [at]

Undergraduate students

Amanda Arnold

ala2214 [at]

Max Comfere

mkc2182 [at]

Ashar Khan

adk2176 [at]

Jake Kothandaraman

kothaj02 [at]

Sofia Marin-Quiros

sam2451 [at]

Simon Toney

sd3525 [at]

Olaedo Udensi

ocu2101 [at]

Leah Yadessa

lay2110 [at]