University of California San Francisco

Skull Base & Cerebrovascular Laboratory

A cutting-edge center for
surgical anatomy research

Ranked Top 5 In The Country


#1 on the West Coast


The UCSF Neurosurgery Department is the #1 in the nation in research excellence

Geographic Location

"We are inspired by the challenging cases, those with technical limitations,
those we can’t answer with a single explanation"

Welcome to our laboratory

The UCSF Skull Base & Cerebrovascular laboratory is formed by world-renowned Neurosurgeons and Otolaryngologists in the fields of skull base, neuro-oncology and cerebrovascular surgery. Every year, we welcome talented  research fellows, who, with their work and commitment, are the heartbeat of the laboratory’s daily function.

We believe that our wide range of backgrounds, cultures, subspecialties and singular visions of operative Neurosurgery and Otolaryngology are our best assets, rather than our primary limitations, to making progress in minimal impact Neurosurgery & Otolaryngology. Since its foundation in 2012, the Skull Base & Cerebrovascular laboratory has produced numerous publications for the most prestigious journals in our field; some of our publications have re-designed the surgical treatment for specific lesions and provided sound scientific basis for the best practices in operative Neurosurgery and Otolaryngology.

The laboratory activities are meticulously designed for promoting surgical innovation. Our multi-million dollar laboratory is equipped with cutting edge surgical equipment to recreate any surgical procedure, enabling our researchers to simulate, design and test promising techniques aimed to answer the most complex cases in skull base, brain tumor or cerebrovascular surgery.

We believe in the potential of our team, especially that of our fellows. At the Skull base & Cerebrovascular laboratory, we have engineered a laboratory setting that enhances the potential of our fellows. From personalized research coaching to supervised dissection in our surgical laboratory, our fellows are integrated in a dynamic of learning while researching that allows them to acquire a wide range of skills and to learn surgical anatomy thoroughly. We emphasize creating an inspiring and collaborative work environment in the laboratory, which has proven to be the key to our high quality research and unparalleled productivity.

It is a privilege and an honor to lead this laboratory. I wish to share this exciting adventure of discoveries with you.



Arnau Benet, MD

Director, Skull Base & Cerebrovascular Laboratory

“We are inspired by the challenging cases, those with technical limitations, those we can’t answer with a single explanation.”

Our vision of Surgical Research

The skull base is a beautiful landscape of compartments, bony ridges and prominences, winding sutures, scattered foramina, and dural folds. This exquisite complexity is further convoluted by relationships with cranial nerves, brainstem surfaces, posterior circulation arteries, and veins.

We, at the Skull Base & Cerebrovascular laboratory, believe that knowledge of skull base anatomy is a cornerstone of surgeon skill and the inspiration source for surgical research. Many consider manual dexterity to be the quality that makes a neurosurgeon skillful. Dexterity is what observers see as “great hands” in the operating room, but knowledge of anatomy guides the hands and gives the neurosurgeon the confidence to explore the surgical field and design surgical approaches to treat lesions deemed impossible to reach or quite risky. Mastery of anatomy is the cognitive skill that informs the neurosurgeon on where to work, what to see, how to maneuver better, and what to protect. Comfort in the anatomical arena around the skull base translates to confidence in executing the surgical strategy designed for the patient’s pathology.

Confidence in the operating room is seen amongst “great surgeons” and it is the reason to study anatomy passionately. Analyzing anatomical relationships, practicing surgical steps, and making educational mistakes in bloodless cadavers translates to a better surgery on live patients. Repeating this quest for excellence every day has the potential to change the whole concept of operative Neurosurgery, reaching beyond the limits of what is theoretically possible to what science proves impossible. We are fueled by our deep commitment to improve surgical treatments for patients suffering from neurological conditions. We are inspired by the difficult cases and those we cannot answer with a single explanation. We, at the Skull Base & Cerebrovascular laboratory, invite the most talented neurosurgeons of the world to join our team and help us in our quest to improve patients’ lives.

Our commitment to neurosurgical education

At the Department of Neurosurgery’s Skull Base & Cerebrovascular laboratory, we are true to the vision of UCSF “advancing health worldwide”. Our commitment to teaching neurosurgical anatomy and technique knows no limits. We deliver inspiring and engaging 3D lectures to a wide variety of health providers, including nurses, residents and attending neurosurgeons in both national and international venues. We open the doors of the operating room to more than 25 international observers each year, who are inspired to learn advanced techniques and improve patient care in their home countries.

In 2010 we started reaching out to countries with unfavorable conditions to help local neurosurgeons tackle complex cases and save lives. Despite our continuous efforts to share the latest advances in neurosurgical care and share our expertise in neurosurgical anatomy and technique, we want to reach a larger audience and inspire every neurosurgeon who may be interested in learning from us, without borders or limits. We believe we will be able to achieve our ultimate goal.

inside the laboratory


Scholarly Productivity

Our commitment to advancing neurosurgical anatomy and technique has resulted in extensive peer-reviewed publications in major journals of our field. The inclusion of research fellows in the lab beginning in 2014 has played a major role in the quality and number of our publications.

Check out some of our Scholarly Publications here.


The Skull Base & Cerebrovascular laboratory is home to neurosurgeons and otolaryngologists who have consistently pushed the envelope to refine open surgery techniques and minimize its impact. At UCSF, we have a tradition of clinical excellence in the fields of skull base, neuro-oncology and cerebrovascular surgery. Our diverse surgical experience provides us with the perfect combination of high case volume and high case complexity, which challenges us to innovate, explore, and apply our ideas to advance Neurosurgery.

Dr. Benet is director and principal investigator of the laboratory. He is an expert in surgical research, 3D photography, surgical simulation, minimal impact neurosurgical research, and neurosurgical anatomy. Dr. Benet oversees the activity of the laboratory directly, directs the laboratory meetings, and coaches the research fellows.

Arnau Benet, MD
Assistant Professor, Departments of Neurosurgery and Otolaryngology University of California San Francisco

Dr. Lawton is co-director. He is an expert in the surgical treatment of cerebrovascular lesions and has written authoritative reports on cerebrovascular surgery. Dr. Lawton is a senior faculty member and oversees the cerebrovascular research projects of the laboratory.

Michael T Lawton, MD
Professor and Vice-chair, Department of Neurosurgery University of California San Francisco

Dr. El-Sayed is co-director of the laboratory. He is the Co-Director of the UCSF Center for Minimally Invasive Skull Base Surgery and a recognized and respected skull base surgeon. He is fellowship trained in Head and Neck Oncologic Surgery. Dr. El-Sayed is a senior faculty member and oversees endoscopic endonasal skull base research projects of the laboratory.

Ivan El-Sayed, MD
Professor of the Department of Otolaryngology and Head & Neck surgery University of California San Francisco

Dr. Berger is co-director of the laboratory. He is a renowned expert in the surgical treatment of intra-axial brain tumors and a major contributor to the clinical treatment and basic research of brain cancer. Dr. Berger is a senior faculty member and oversees the intra-axial tumor surgical research projects of the laboratory.

Mitchel S Berger, MD
Chairman and Professor, Department of Neurosurgery University of California San Francisco

Dr. Theodosopoulos is co-director of the laboratory. He is a respected skull base surgeon with extensive experience in surgical anatomy and minimally invasive research. Dr. Theodosopoulos is a senior faculty member and oversees skull base research projects of the laboratory.

Philip Theodosopoulos, MD
Professor and Vice-Chair, Department of Neurosurgery University of California San Francisco

Laboratory collaborators

The skull base & cerebrovascular laboratory has strategic international connections and active collaborations for inter-institutional, multi-center research in minimal impact Neurosurgery.

Dr. Feng is a former research fellow of the laboratory, recipient of the 2015 outstanding research fellowship award. Dr. Feng is a faculty member at the First center Hospital in Tianjin, China. With the support and guidance of the skull base and cerebrovascular laboratory, Dr. Feng is leading the creation of an advanced neurosurgical laboratory at First Center Hospital, which will be the first of its kind in China. Dr. Feng will continue the research program he started with us and establish a solid international collaboration.

Xuequan Feng, MD PhD
Attending neurosurgeon, Associate Professor, First Center Hospital, Tianjin, China

Dr. J. Gonzalez is a former research observer (2013) and international volunteer (2014) of the laboratory. He is the director of the Neurosurgery residency program at the Hospital Clinic I Provincial de Barcelona, Spain. In his brief but very productive time in our institution, Dr. Gonzalez contributed to the production of several pivotal publications of the laboratory. Dr. Gonzalez is a very respected and versatile neurosurgeon, who is leading the institutional research collaboration between the Department of Neurosurgery of the University of Barcelona and our laboratory, with exceptional results.

Jose Gonzalez Sanchez, MD PhD
Attending neurosurgeon, Hospital Clinic I Provincial de Barcelona, Spain

Dr. Rincon-Torroella is a postdoctoral fellow in neuro-oncology at the Johns Hopkins Department of Neurosurgery and a permanent research collaborator of the laboratory. Dr. Rincon-Torroella is a talented researcher whose collaboration with the skull base & cerebrovascular laboratory, which dates back to its foundation, has produced many publications. She leads a research project in surgical neuro-oncology, which has recently published a novel, minimally invasive approach to the ventricular system. Also the SBCV Laboratory is collaborating with Dr. Rincon-Torroella in the first edition of the book: Video-Atlas of Neurosurgery: Tumors and Contemporary Skull Base Surgery” a unique resource for neurosurgeons and residents.

Jordina Rincon-Torroella MD
Post-doctoral fellow in neuro-oncology, The Johns Hopkins University, MD, US

Mr. McElroy is a senior embalmer and laboratory technician at the UCSF’s Willed Body Program. His outstanding embalming skills and creativity are pivotal to the development of cutting edge surgical simulation procedures and critical to the final quality of our dissections. Mr. McElroy has implemented successfully our novel embalming procedure for neurosurgical simulation in a large amount of cadavers and is currently developing a grading system to anticipate the quality of the specimens before dissection.

Karl McElroy
Senior technician, UCSF’s Willed Body Program, CA, US

Academic Support Team

The following are very talented professionals of our team, who provide essential support to faculty and research fellows and are responsible for our continued success.

Sasha Mortezaei
Chief Financial Officer,
Department of Neurosurgery
University of California San Francisco
Erica Helms
Human Resources and Research Fellow coordinator
Department of Neurosurgery
University of California San Francisco
Lara Tourian Englot
Financial Analyst
Department of Neurosurgery
University of California San Francisco

Talent and effort are at the core of innovation.
Our team of highly selected research fellows is formed by
very talented neurosurgeons, otolaryngologists and residents.

Present Fellows

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Ali Tayebi Meybodi

2014 - Present

“Here, a unique anthology of knowledge, friendship, perseverance, mutual care, and teamwork makes the atmosphere! All gathered under the mentorship of the knowledgeable lab director (Dr. Arnau Benet)”


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Pooneh Mokhtari

2016 - Present

“I believe this lab is a greenhouse for growing the saplings of scientific creativity to strong trees of knowledge.”

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Levent Beker

2015 - Present

“The Skull Base & Cerebrovascular Lab is an amazing and vibrant place to work due to the supportive and friendly members with various backgrounds pushing boundaries of the neurosurgery. The lab has the latest generation of equipment and access to pretty much anything you need for research. Finally, the great support and enthusiasm of Dr. Benet is what makes the lab truly special.”

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Liu Ming

2016 - Present

“I recommend neurosurgeons to study here. It will be unimaginable wealth for your career.”

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Yuan Li

2016 - Present

“The exceptional work atmosphere and Dr. Benet’s considerate mentorship are very cherishing wealth for all members of the lab. It is an extremely great experience to work in Skull Base & Cerebrovascular Laboratory of UCSF.”

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Roberto Rodriguez Rubio

2016 - Present

“The Skull Base and Cerebrovascular Laboratory is a crucible where passion, creativity, and knowledge are melted to obtain groundbreaking neurosurgical research.”

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Sirin Gandhi

2016 - Present

“With my primary interests in neuroanatomy, brain tumors and cerebrovascular diseases, I feel fortunate to have received an opportunity to pursue a research fellowship at the Skullbase and Cerebrovascular laboratory at UCSF under the guidance of Dr. Arnau Benet. This laboratory is fueled by the amalgamation of intellectual curiosity and uninhibited imagination, where each member is a source of constant inspiration and support for another.”

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Halima Tabani

2016 - Present

“’Do not go where the path may lead; go instead where there is no path and leave a trail,’ is the maxim that summates the day to day working of the Skull Base and Cerebrovascular Lab. The lab is based on the principles of teamwork and dedication. Dr. Benet is a great mentor who invests a lot of time and effort in all the lab members to bring out the very best in us and inspires us to push our boundaries to achieve perfection.”



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Muyuan Liu

2016 - Present

“The Skull Base and Cerebrovascular Laboratory is an amazing place where you can learn a lot of novel knowledge as well as team spirit.”

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Vera Vigo

2017 - Present

“Thanks to the direction of Dr. Benet and the collaboration of the excellent team of Fellows, in this lab we make possible what seems impossible. How we do that? Passion, inspiration, hard work and collaboration are the perfect ingredient to achieve the best results.”

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Sergio Garcia Garcia

2017 - Present

“The Skull Base & Cerebrovascular laboratory is the right place to perform outstanding research in clinical oriented neurosurgical anatomy. Having the opportunity to collaborate under leadership with Dr.Benet, the team is committed in pushing the limits and broaden the horizons of treatment in the most challenging neurosurgical cases. I’m thankful to be part of such a devoted and cooperative group of professionals.”

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Flavia Dones

2017 - Present

“This laboratory represents a continuous source of knowledge, where everyone in the team can share passion and creativity to give born to highly scientific impact researches. Under Dr. Benet’s guide I have the chance to greatly improve my neurological anatomical knowledge and develop both research and microsurgical skills.”

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Mahsa Sedaghati

2017 - Present

“The Skull Base and Cerebrovascular laboratory is a place where I can be extremely proud of all that we are accomplishing together as well as doing meaningful work with good people who are positive and contribute to each others success. Mastery of the skull base anatomy will guide my hands and give me the confidence to explore the surgical field and design surgical approaches to treat lesions impossible to reach or quite risky when I become a neurosurgeon.”

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Ruth Lau Rodriguez

2017 - Present

“In this laboratory, I have discovered an excellent team of professionals who strive to do the best possible research to improve the management of neurosurgical pathologies that will greatly benefit patients.”

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Sofia Kakaizada

“The Skull Base Cerebrovascular laboratory gives undergraduate students the opportunity to explore, learn new skills, grow and work with a diverse team of researchers and leaders in the field. Not only do we face the challenges complexity of the skull base, but we find different approaches and ways to discover innovative techniques to improve the lives of people. That is why we aim to challenge ourselves to strive for the best.”

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Sonia Yousef

“…love, enthusiasm, and constant encouragement of exploring uncharted territories allows each of us to challenge each other to see beyond traditional ways of thinking in order to innovate. “

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Olivia Kola

I have fallen in love with Neurosurgery. This experience would not have been possible without the passion and support displayed by Dr. Benet and each of the fellows.

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Hansen Deng

“The Skull Base & Cerebrovascular Laboratory is the compass to navigate the complexities and challenges of skull base anatomical landscape in order to maximize lives and livelihoods saved.”



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Aashna Mehta

“Research is an integral component of the medical field, and I am privileged to work in a lab that encourages a supportive and educational environment.”

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Ashna Khare

“The Skull Base and Cerebrovascular Laboratory is where unmarked territory meets aspiring people prepared to achieve the impossible. Dr. Benet and the fellows at UCSF have offered me remarkable opportunities that have ignited my passion for medicine, adding to the excitement I have for my future.”

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Andre Payman

“What makes the UCSF Cerebrovascular Skull Base Lab so unique is the perfectly balanced dynamic of hard work and a friendly atmosphere, which provides an ideal environment for everyone to learn, grow, and be as productive as possible.”

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Peyton Nisson

“The resources and expertise never fail to meet even the most extraordinary of ambitions.”

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Former Fellows

Jose Luis Sanmillan


“Working at the Skull Base and Cerebrovascular Laboratory not only means performing cadaveric dissections and learn surgical neuroanatomy, but it also means be part of team who cares about the future.”



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Xuequan Feng

2014 - 2015

“Frankly, I feel very honored to be part of the Skull Base and Cerebrovascular Laboratory at UCSF. The atmosphere here is thought-stimulating, full of exploration, innovation and collaboration.”

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Alireza Sadighi

2014 - 2015

“Working in a neurosurgical laboratory in the University of California-San Francisco, fully equipped with the latest technology in the field, is an unforgettable experience.”

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Li Wei

2014 - 2015

“The time I spent in the lab will be the most beautiful memory of my life.”

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Kaiming Su

2015 - 2016

“Teamwork is the secret that makes common people achieve uncommon results.”

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Xiaoming Guo

2015 - 2016

“Ideal is the beacon. Without ideal, there is no secure direction; without direction, there is no life.” – Leo Tolstoy

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Xin Zhang

2015 - 2016

“Our lab lives in UCSF Medical
Center in San Francisco – a most charming, peaceful and beautiful place. You can get a distinctive learning experience here.”

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Dylan Griswold

2015 - 2016

“Every man hopes to one day find joy and purpose in his work. Neurosurgery, and in particular working in the UCSF Skull Base and Cerebrovascular Laboratory, offers no shortage of both.”

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Simar Singh

2014 - 2015

“To any undergraduate student keen on joining the team, she strongly encourages an eagerness to explore the daunting challenges that face neurosurgeons today.”

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Xinming Ding


“Here, you can learn a profound amount of knowledge, discuss with great doctors, and made great friends – all in the spirit of teamwork.”

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Guanglong Huang


“Here, everyone who is a member of the UCSF Skullbase Lab is an intelligent researcher who has applied his knowledge, creativity, resourcefulness, common sense, and multiple disciplines in his research work. Professionally, he has proven himself to be a highly qualified neurosurgeon.”

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Outstanding Fellowship Awards

“Xuequan Feng MD, PhD was awarded the 2015 outstanding fellow award”

“Xin Zhang MD, PhD was awarded the 2016 outstanding fellow award”


Daily life at the lab

Role of research fellow

Our research fellows are the heartbeat of the Skull Base & Cerebrovascular laboratory. We take pride on selecting the most talented and committed applicants, who will then be given an optimal environment to develop and reveal their full potential. It is because we are very passionate about advancing operative Neurosurgery and otolaryngology that we enjoy teaching our fellows and commit to their professional development.

Because training a new research fellow is not a light endeavor, we believe in working in small groups of highly selected individuals. This application is very competitive; the time from application to starting the fellowship with us (considering Visa process) may take months or years.

…we will bring you an unparalleled research experience,
San Francisco will bring you the magic…

How to Apply


Our research fellows are the heartbeat of the Skull Base & Cerebrovascular laboratory. We take pride on selecting the most talented and committed applicants, which we then provide with an optimal environment to develop and reveal their full potential. It is because we are very passionate about advancing operative Neurosurgery and otolaryngology that we enjoy teaching our fellows and commit to their professional development. Because training a new research fellow is not a light endeavor, we believe in working in small groups of highly selected individuals. This application is very competitive; the time from application to starting the fellowship with us (considering visa immigration process) may take months or years.

The following are some of the most important factors we consider during applicant selection:


Letter of intent. Background of the applicant in both surgery and surgical anatomy (with specific examples). Personal motivations and career goals. Commitment to hard work.


English Proficiency & familiarity of the international anatomical nomenclature.


Curriculum Vitae with special emphasis to official training, publications and creativity.


Project proposal. Proposal of an area of study, innovative idea and relevance of the project in the field.

Professional profile of the applicants for the minimal impact Neurosurgery fellowship position

The research position in our laboratory will be offered to a highly qualified neurosurgeon with expertise in the field of surgical anatomy who is preferably experienced with research in the field of cerebrovascular and skull base surgery. Applicants with knowledge of 3D photography (routine to our research and educational projects) would have priority, as it will increase efficiency during the laboratory time.

A committee formed by Dr. Benet, Dr. Lawton and Dr. Berger will ensure a fair selection process.

Duties of the fellow

The fellow will be required to fulfill the following duties:


The fellow will commit to a relevant research topic consisting of sequential projects of progressive scientific complexity. The research topic will be designed to finally cover a specific research area in the field of cerebrovascular and or neuro-oncological surgical anatomy with the aim of answering pivotal current questions or limitations in the field.


The progress of the projects and the performance of the fellow will be presented to the laboratory director during laboratory meetings.


The end product of the fellows who work in the laboratory will include publication of the research findings in renowned peer-reviewed journals in the field.


Preparation of specimens for surgical simulation as defined in the research projects.


Mastering the techniques for 3D photography of anatomical dissections that are used for illustrative purposes in submitted research manuscripts to peer reviewed journals and national and international educational events.


Actively participate in teaching new fellows that engage in research projects in the lab approved by the laboratory. This includes teaching techniques of 3D photography for illustrative anatomical dissections.


Elaboration of an Internet-based resource to share the educational resources of the laboratory to the neurosurgical community.


Help develop a series of 3D neurosurgical anatomy video-lectures taught by our faculty and prepare them for worldwide divulgation.

  • Step 01Letter of intent
  • Step 02Upload your CV
  • Step 03Proof of English
  • Step 04Project
  • Step 05Submit



Letter of intent

Upload your CV


Proof of English



By clicking the submit button you confirm and provide written assurance that the information included in this application is accurate to the best of your knowledge. Falsified documents will lead to permanent disqualification from the application process. You authorize sharing the application package to the SBCVL. You consent to be contacted back for further interaction and a possible interview request. You will not legally process the UCSF’s SBCVL under any terms related to the submitted application. While we guarantee we will review your application, please understand that we receive multiple applications and the time of response may be variable. You may send update requests through the contact panel of this website if we have not contacted you within 2 months of submission. Only one application may be sent by each applicant.

“If you want to go fast, go alone.
If you want to go far, go together”


“As neurosurgeons, we are committed to our patients; as academicians, we are committed to all patients.”

At the UCSF Skull Base & Cerebrovascular laboratory, we are committed to teach and share the cutting edge neurosurgical techniques to the widest audience we can reach. The laboratory produces an average of 3Gb of high-definition 3D photographs that depict complex anatomy and surgical approaches. We use the best photographs of our virtual library to generate highly educative 3D lectures, which take place on a monthly basis.

Here we highlight a list of different teaching activities we organize:


3D Neurosurgical anatomy series. Monthly. Directed comprehensive study of the surgical anatomy relevant to a specific approach, including a stepwise review of the technique and critical structures. Faculty: Dr. Benet. Directed to Neurosurgery residents, Open to current research fellows.


Laboratory meeting review. The research innovations of the laboratory are thoroughly reviewed. The surgical anatomy, literature review and alternative techniques to the innovative approach are described. Lecturer: active research fellows. Closed to laboratory active fellows and observers.


3D Anterolateral Skull Base Surgery Course (hands-on). Once a year, the UCSF Skull Base and Cerebrovascular laboratory partners with Stryker to organize an international Hands-on cadaveric course for OHNS and Neurosurgery senior residents. Faculty: Dr Ivan El-Sayed, Arnau Benet, Philip Theodosopoulous, Michael McDermott, Michael T Lawton. Participants upon registration, Open to active research fellows of the laboratory.


3D Otolaryngology Head & Neck surgical anatomy series. Each quarter. The surgical anatomy of the Temporal bone and Endoscopic Endonasal approaches is reviewed thoroughly. Faculty: Arnau Benet. Directed to residents in OHNS. Open to the active research fellows of the laboratory.


One-to-one sessions. On demand. Review of complex surgical anatomy and less familiar regions of the head and neck, brain and vasculature. Faculty: Arnau Benet. Reserved to active research fellows and UCSF residents.