Heller Laboratory
Stanford University

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About our Research

Our laboratory works on inner ear development and regeneration, as well as on the biology of sensory hair cells, the mechanosensitive cells of the inner ear.  We are located at Stanford University in the School of Medicine and affiliated with the Otolaryngology department.  We are proudly affiliated with the Stanford Initiative to Cure Hearing Loss and we thank all supporters of this endeavor.

We are interested how the inner ear develops from an early anlage called the otic placode. Our goal is to describe the otic lineage from an early placodal progenitor until it splits up in multiple cell types making up the sensory epithelia, innervating ganglia, and accessory structures.

In parallel, we apply knowledge we gained from guiding embryonic and induced pluripotent stem cells along the otic lineage to find ways for treatment of hearing loss. This involves identification of mechanisms of sensory hair cell regeneration in animals such as chickens that recover naturally from hearing loss, screening for potential regenerative targets that can be activated with drugs, and exploring reprograming as well as cell transplantation strategies.


The image shown above depicts the embryonic mouse inner ear stained with an antibody to a protein that is specifically expressed in the otic lineage.  Postdoctoral fellow Byron Hartman is working on this ongoing project and provided this spectacular image.

We are affiliated with the following graduate and fellowship programs: Biology, Developmental Biology, Genetics, Molecular & Cellular Physiology, Neurosciences, Bioengineering, and Stem Cell Biology & Regenerative Medicine. If you are interested in rotating with us, please stop by the lab/office any time!


Joining our Lab

We are actively looking for a bioinformatics postdoctoral fellow.  The successful candidate has a PhD in bioinformatics or computational biology.  Strong interest and creative ability in data presentation, computer animation, and enthusiasm for bioart/biocreativity is a requirement. We expect strong work ethics, vision, and ability to independently learn and implement new technologies.

If you are interested in joining our group, please send a single introductory paragraph and your CV to Stefan Heller at hellers@stanford.edu


Additional information for PhD students interested in joining us for Postdoctoral Research

Please contact me at least one year in advance of your desired start date.  Postdocs who have been doing well in my group bring exceptional motivation, clear communication skills, creativity, focus, and independence.  I encourage every single postdoc to apply for independent fellowships.  Stanford has strict rules on minimizing lengthy postdoctoral stints and discourages applications of candidates who already have more than 2 years experience.


Additional information for incoming graduate students

We currently welcome graduate students. If you are already at Stanford and interested in rotating with us, please email me.  If you are interested in the Stanford graduate programs, please read about the requirements at the Stanford Biosciences website.  We are affiliated with all home programs.  Please list me as a potential advisor when applying and please send me an email to introduce yourself.


Additional information for medical doctors interested in joining us for Postdoctoral Research

Please contact me at least one year in advance of your desired start date. Our research topics, historically, have been complex and require at least 2 years of dedicated focus. Postdocs on these short stints who have been doing well in the past were especially motivated, creative, and highly independent. You are expected to successfully apply for an independent full fellowship before you start in the lab. We rarely have funds to supplement fellowships.


Additional information for Stanford undergraduate students

We have opportunities for undergraduate research projects. I encourage undergraduates to explore the Amgen Scholars program, Bio-X, as well as the SURF program. Please email Dr. Heller if interested.


Additional information for high school students

We occasionally accept high school students for summer internships and encourage interested students to consult the Science Outreach programs website. We only accept students who successfully applied to one of the official Stanford programs such as SIMR.  If you are interested in such an internship, please contact Dr. Heller in early January.  Please note that most of the Stanford programs favor local high schools.


What we do?

We are focusing on three main questions.

More about us

How about Some Fun Facts about our laboratory?

Backpacking trips to the Utah desert
years since we began in Boston in 2000
Countries represented in the last 16 years in the lab
of group members came back from lab desert hiking trips

Plenty of open questions in inner ear biology: how hearing really happens? Can we cure hearing loss?

Who are we?

Heller Laboratory

November 2016


member photo

Stefan Heller

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Andres Plata Stapper

Post-Doctoral Researcher
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Byron Hartman

Research Associate
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Daniel Ellwanger

Post-Doctoral Researcher
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Giovanni Diaz

Graduate Student
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Jörg Waldhaus

Post-Doctoral Researcher
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Megan Ealy

Post-Doctoral Researcher
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Melodyanne Cheng

Undergraduate Student
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Mirko Scheibinger

Post-Doctoral Researcher
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Sabine Mann

Laboratory Manager
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Previous Labmembers

How about Some Fun Facts about our laboratory?

Sunny days annually, on average in Palo Alto
Success rate of our group for student and fellowship grant applications (21 of 24, since we started counting)
Six packs usually consumed during lab meeting
qRT-PCR reactions done in the lab per week on average (last 12 months)

Our laboratory is located in the Edwards Building and stretches
from the first to the second floor

Work hard , Play hard

2016 Cedar Mesa – Grand Gulch and some more canyons

2015 Coyote Buttes North – The Wave and Glamping

2014 Coyote Gulch and more

2013 Memorial Day Weekend Lab trip

Buckskin Gulch 2012 – The Trailer

Buckskin Gulch 2011 – Mud, mud, and … mud



Here are some recent highlights

















Older publications

A list of all lab publications can be accessed via this link.


Are you ready?

Get in Touch

Lab hike 2012

The Heller Lab Blog

June 2016

  2016 has been fairly good to us thus far.  Our new NIH grant received a competitive score, which is most important…

Happy New Year – January 2016

I wish everybody a successful, happy, and healthy new year.  It is the time for New Year’s Resolutions and probably the most…

June update

June came quickly and we are almost half through 2015.  If someone has a pill that slows down time, please let me…

March update

It is the last day of March 2015 and I can quite honestly say that I truly enjoy my work, the collaborative…


Contact Us

300 Pasteur Drive, Edwards R123, Stanford University, Stanford, CA 94315, United States

+650 721 1032