Samantha R. Santacruz, Ph.D.

Samantha R. Santacruz joined the Biomedical Engineering (BME) department at the University of Texas, Austin, in October 2018. Previously she was a postdoctoral fellow at the University of California, Berkeley, working with Dr. Jose Carmena. Her research focuses on developing systems-based neurotherapies to both treat neural pathologies and to better understand the neural mechanisms responsible through data-driven models and analysis. Dr. Santacruz received her B.A. degree with honors in Applied Mathematics with an emphasis in Systems Theory from UC Berkeley in 2006, her M.S. degree in Electrical Engineering from Rice University in 2010, and her Ph.D. degree in Electrical Engineering at Rice University in 2014. She was awarded the Best Thesis Award for her doctoral work on engineering new methods of deep brain stimulation. She has been awarded fellowships from the National Science Foundation, Schlumberger, and Texas Instruments.


Lab Philosophy

The overarching goal of the lab is to make a definitive impact on our understanding of how the brain works and how we can interface with the brain in order to treat neurological disorders. In order to achieve this, it’s necessary to create a lab environment that is inclusive and encourages curiosity, enthusiasm, communication, and perseverance in the face of set-backs. I believe that all lab members have a responsibility to demonstrate the highest level of scientific integrity, to engage in scientific discourse, and to be passionate about their projects. I also believe that the most productive lab is also a happy one, and that a supportive and collegial lab culture is integral to developing such an environment.

Lab Members

 Enrique Contreras Hernandez, PhD – Postdoc

Enrique Contreras joined the Santacruz Lab with 10 years of biomedical research experience, including prior work on in vivo electrophysiological extracellular recordings of single-unit neural activity and mathematical analysis of biological potentials. He received his Ph.D. in Cell and Molecular Neurobiology in 2015 from Centro de Investigación y de Estudios Avanzados in Mexico City, and then completed his first postdoctoral position at the University of Pennsylvania investigating sensory feedback and neuroprosthetics. His main contribution is in the field of spinal circuits and central processing of sensory information. Additionally, he also has expertise in brain neuronal coding. His main research interest is to understand how sensory information is transformed by the spinal cord and the brain to create an internal representation of the body and environment in order to prepare and execute volitional acts such as movement.

 Hannah Stealey – Graduate student

Hannah M. Stealey joined the Santacruz Lab shortly after starting her graduate studies in Fall 2018 in the Department of Biomedical Engineering. Prior to joining UT, she completed her B.S. in Biological Engineering, with an emphasis in Biomedical Engineering, from Mississippi State University in May 2018. Hannah’s undergraduate research experience included over two years of investigating traumatic brain injury using rodent and computational models. She is currently working on novel paradigms to study neural circuitry and behaviors impacted by neuropsychiatric disorders.

 Yin-Jui (Derek) Chang – Graduate student

Yin-Jui (Derek) Chang is a Ph.D. student in Santacruz lab since Fall 2019. He earned a M.Sc. degree in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Texas at Austin in 2018. His research focuses on the development of the multi-scale dynamical model to integrate multi-modal brain signals and to illuminate the mechanistic understanding of brain computation.

 Hung-Yun Lu – Graduate student

Hung-Yun Lu is a Ph.D. student in the Santacruz lab since Fall 2019. His current project is to study the dopamine fluctuation pattern in non-human primate’s brain using fast-scan cyclic voltammetry. He is always fascinated by how brain functions and even more surprised by how scientists are able to extract these information to improve people’s quality of lives. Outside of lab, he really enjoys movies, music, reading, and playing with his lovely cat Sesame.

 Yi Zhao – Graduate student

Yi Zhao is a Ph.D. student and still on the way to learning about the brain. She is fascinated by the process of how the brain makes decisions. To investigate this, she focuses on local field potentials which are the summary of the activities of a bunch of local neurons. Local field potentials are obtained by invasive recording electrodes, which are implanted in the brain. Besides exploring the brain, she loves reading novels and traveling.

 Grace Jeanpierre – Graduate student

Grace Jeanpierre joined the Santacruz lab as an electrical and computer engineering Ph.D. student in Fall 2020. She graduated with a B.S. in electrical engineering from San Jose State University in Fall 2019. She is a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship awardee and is interested in developing the next generation of chronic neural electrodes for closed-loop deep brain stimulation and recording. Her hobbies include golfing, listening to comedy podcasts, hunting down the best cup of coffee in Austin, and spending time with her two fluffy cats Bunny and Wilma.

 Megan Baker – Graduate student

Megan Baker joined the Santacruz Lab as a Ph.D. student in Fall of 2021 after completing her Masters at Purdue in 2021 and her Undergraduate Degree at Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology in 2019. She is currently working to fabricate carbon nanofiber electrode arrays for use in recording and stimulating deep brain structures. She hopes to continue to better understand and treat various neurological and psychological disorders. She is also passionate about science education, communication, and policy. Outside of lab, she enjoys paddle boarding, hiking, camping, and playing with her two kitties.

We are not currently hiring.

The lab is currently not looking for post-docs, graduate students, and undergraduates. Thank you for your interest!