Current Members:

Yao Yao

Principle Investigator

Email:      Phone: 706-542-9767

Yao received her Bachelor’s degree in Bioengineering and Business Administration from Shanghai Jiao Tong University. After that, She was recommended for admission to graduate school at the Chinese Academy of Sciences, where she earned her Ph.D. degree in Genetics under the supervision of Dr. Hai Huang. To expand the vision and link her research more directly to human health and daily life, she then joined Dr. Douglas Epstein’s lab at the University of Pennsylvania for her postdoctoral training. Yao relocated to the University of Georgia as an Assistant Research Scientist in 2017 under Dr. Steve Stice at the Regenerative Bioscience Center and started her own lab as an Assistant Professor in 2019. Yao’s research has been driven by her curiosity about gene regulation and manipulation in development and diseases and by her passion for improving human health and life quality. Outside of the lab, Yao enjoys hiking, running, and Zumba which makes her feel less guilty to consume delicious food from different countries!

Current Graduate Students

Yaochao Zheng

Ph.D. Candidate, Regenerative Bioscience


Yaochao graduated from Sun Yat-sen University with his B.S. and M.M. degrees under the supervision of Dr. Shaoling Wu. He previously focused on the pathophysiological mechanism of neuropathic pain and traumatic brain injury, which equipped him with basic neuroscience knowledge and skills in rodent behavioral paradigms. With a long-term goal to contribute to the well-being of the whole world, Yaochao joined Dr. Yao’s lab at the University of Georgia in the summer of 2021 and now focuses on the pathogenic and therapeutic roles of extracellular vesicles in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. In his spare time, Yaochao enjoys badminton, chess, and video.

Jinghui Gao

Ph.D. Student, Regenerative Bioscience


Jinghui received her Bachelor’s degree in Biosciences and Biotechnology major at the University of Camerino in Italy. After that, she enrolled in the Translational Biotechnology master’s program at the University of Southern California. Her current research are focusing on developing exosome-related therapy for neurodegenerative diseases, such as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), and exploring the therapeutic potential for fibro-adipogenic progenitors (FAPs) for muscle weakness and atrophy caused by neurodegenerative disease. In her leisure time, she likes to travel around and read books.

Elijah Sterling

Ph.D. Student, Regenerative Bioscience


Elijah is a Regenerative Bioscience PhD student. He graduated from Emory University College of Arts & Sciences with a Bachelor of Science in Neuroscience & Behavioral Biology and double majored in Anthropology & Human Biology. While he was a student at Emory University he first participated in research at The Fleischer Lab working on research topics in the neuroimaging field. Currently, he is working on developing novel drug delivery shuttles utilizing extracellular vesicles as well as understanding the context of fibro-adipogenic progenitor (FAP) cells in muscle regeneration.

Outside of the lab, Elijah enjoys working out and listening to music. His favorite songs to listen to while working out include Hardstyle EDM, punk rock, and country.

Current Undergraduate Researchers

Aria Sikal

Applied Biotechnology


Aria is an undergraduate student from Johns Creek, Georgia majoring in genetics and anthropology. Outside of school, Aria enjoys running, doing puzzles, and watching TV. 

Aiden Streleckis

Regenerative Bioscience & Applied Biotechnology


I’m an undergraduate student from Sugar Hill, Georgia, majoring in Regenerative Bioscience. I hope to one day get a PhD and pursue research in finding a treatment/cure for isolated congenital anosmia. Outside of school, I’m a Philadelphia Eagles and 76ers fan, I like to play basketball and try my best to keep up with TV shows. 

Lab Alumni

Nivik Bharadwaj

Young Scholar 2023 | High School Student

I’m Nivik Sanjay Bharadwaj, a current senior at Lambert High School. Through the YSP program, I was privileged enough to work in the Yao Lab during the Summer of 2023. I see myself following the pre-med track in my undergrad years.

Outside of school and research, I am an active member of Boy Scouts of America; I love camping, tying lashings, and cooking for my troop during outings. I also love playing Indian Classical violin and singing.

Brian Jurgielewicz

Ph.D. Student (Co-mentored with Dr. Steve Stice)


Brian is a Neuroscience PhD Candidate. He graduated from Cornell University with a double major in Biology and Animal Science. From there, he earned his Master’s at the University of Georgia under the direction of Dr. Steven Stice for his work on neural stem cell-derived extracellular vesicles as a novel therapeutic for stroke in a pig model. Currently, Brian is mentored by both Dr. Stice and Dr. Yao further expanding his work on optimizing the therapeutic potential of extracellular vesicles. Outside of the lab, Brian is an avid cook, where he specializes in “Sous Vide Duck Breast,” and other cuisines that he has developed from his travels around the world. Upon graduation, Brian is passionate about working in the biotech industry with his science background to develop and commercialize next-generation therapeutics for neurodegenerative and other rare diseases.

Taylor Ellison

MS Student


Taylor graduated with her B.S. degree in biological sciences from the University of Georgia in 2015. Since then, she has worked in wildlife disease studying the effect of urbanization on disease transmission among wildlife populations, and more recently, she has joined the Stice lab at UGA and works with stem cells and exosomes. She hopes to further her education with a Master’s degree and continue conducting research in her future career. In her free time, Taylor enjoys writing, reading, hiking, and spending time with her family.

Nicolin DeDecker

Undergraduate Student


Nic is a returning undergraduate Double Dawgs student who has completed a BS in Biological Engineering and is currently finishing a minor in Genetics and a certification in Entrepreneurship. He previously earned a BA in Geography and a certificate in Geographic Information Systems from the University of Georgia and worked with the Northeast Georgia Regional Commission as a GIS Technician. Nic is planning to apply to the UGA’s undergraduate direct to the Ph.D. pathway to pursue a Ph.D. in Biological Engineering and is interested in researching cell-to-cell communication via extracellular vesicle (EV) release and uptake by cells, EV molecular composition and customization, the mechanism involved in EV uptake by target cells, and in developing applications for EVs as vessels for the targeted delivery of therapeutic molecules. Outside of school, Nic enjoys hobbies including working out and running, gardening, cooking, investing, astronomy, and having a good time with his family, his girlfriend Christina, and his friends. 

Kade Garrard

Undergraduate Student


Kade is an undergraduate student originally from Rome, Georgia majoring in biology on the pre-medicine track. He hopes to one day apply his research as a physician in the hopes of further advancing modern medicine and improving patient lives. Aside from academics, he is an avid Atlanta Braves and Georgia Bulldogs fan who loves to travel and spend time with others around.

Rishika Pandey

Undergraduate Student (2017-2020)


Rishika is a third-year undergraduate student at UGA, studying for a Genetics major and Spanish minor. She aspires to become a doctor in the future, but for now, she enjoys hiking, traveling, reading, photography, and cheering on the Dawgs every Saturday.

Current: Medical school at Auburn (VCOM-Auburn)

Kendall Clay (ILS, Fall 2020): Rotating Student

Taylor Medlock (ILS, Fall 2020): Rotating Student

Kathy Bui (ILS, Fall 2018): Rotating Student

Joseph Whitley (ILS, Fall 2018): Rotating Student

Sarah  Hartley (Spring, 2019): Undergraduate Student