K99/R00 Awardees

2019

Cohort 3

Photo of Shana Augustin, PhD 2019 K99/R00 AwardeeShana Augustin, PhD
2019 K99/R00 Awardee
National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism | Postdoctoral Fellow
Website

Dr. Shana Augustin is a postdoctoral fellow at NIAAA in the Laboratory for Integrative Neuroscience under the mentorship of Drs. David Lovinger and Steven Vogel. After receiving her B.S. in Biology from the University of the Virgin Islands, Dr. Augustin took part in a year-long postbac experience at Emory University. For her subsequent Ph.D. work in Neuroscience, Dr. Augustin worked with Drs. Xiaoxi Zhuang and Daniel McGehee at the University of Chicago. Her work focused on elucidating the role of cAMP in corticostriatal synaptic plasticity. For her postdoctoral work, Dr. Augustin chose to work with Dr. Lovinger to continue examining cellular mechanisms of corticostriatal synaptic plasticity with an emphasis on determining the locus of D2 dopamine receptors involved in the induction of endocannabinoid-dependent synaptic plasticity. Dr. Augustin became interested in studying the interaction of GPCR-mediated intracellular signaling molecules (e.g. cAMP and PKA) that affect synaptic transmission and behavior. To do this, she utilizes deep-brain imaging techniques in animals engaged in behavioral learning tasks. Dr. Augustin’s independent research program will use an integrative approach combining advanced imaging techniques with brain slice physiology and behavioral measurements to investigate the molecular mechanisms in cortico-basal ganglia circuits that regulate synaptic transmission and motor behaviors.

 

Photo of Kirstie Cummings, PhD 2019 K99/R00 AwardeeKirstie Cummings, PhD
2019 K99/R00 Awardee
Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai | Postdoctoral Fellow, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai
Website

Dr. Cummings is a postdoctoral fellow in the laboratory of Dr. Roger Clem at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai. Following the completion of her bachelor’s degrees in Cell & Molecular Biology as well as Music from SUNY Binghamton University in 2011, she pursued a PhD in Biophysics in the laboratory of Dr. Gabriela Popescu at SUNY University at Buffalo. Dr. Cummings’ NINDS NRSA F31-funded research was centered on using electrophysiological approaches to uncover the single-channel gating mechanism, pharmacology, and physiological role of excitatory glycinergic NMDA receptors. In May 2016, she joined the laboratory of Dr. Roger Clem for her postdoctoral training. Prior to winning a K99/R00 BRAIN Initiative award, Dr. Cummings was an awardee of a NIMH NRSA F32 fellowship which supported her research aimed at investigating how specific interneuron populations in the mouse prefrontal cortex function during fear memory acquisition and expression. Her current research is focused on understanding the circuit mechanisms underlying the dual fear -suppressing and -promoting functions of the ventromedial prefrontal cortex in mice.

 

Photo of Jessica Nelson, PhD, 2019 K99/R00 AwardeeJessica Nelson, PhD
2019 K99/R00 Awardee
University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine | Postdoctoral Fellow

Jessica Nelson is a postdoctoral fellow working at the University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine in the laboratory of Dr. Michael Granato. Jessica’s current work focuses on how post-translational modifications (such as palmitoylation) effect local changes that drive synaptic plasticity in vivo and ultimately impact animal behavior. Jessica received her BS in Neuroscience from the College of William and Mary and her PhD in Neuroscience from Yale University. As a PhD candidate in the laboratory of Dr. Daniel Colón-Ramos she conducted a forward genetic screen in C. elegans to dissect the molecular mechanisms critical for neuronal development. As a BRAIN Initiative investigator, Jessica will take full advantage of the optically transparent larval zebrafish, leveraging high-throughput behavioral assays, as well as biochemical, electrophysiological, and live imaging techniques to determine how neuronal activity and synaptic protein localization change and enable animals to learn.

 

Photo of Sarah Stern, PhD 2019 K99/R00 AwardeeSarah Stern, PhD
2019 K99/R00 Awardee
Rockefeller University | Research Associate
Website

Dr. Stern is currently a Research Associate at the Rockefeller University in the lab of Dr. Jeffrey Friedman. Dr. Stern received her bachelor’s degree from New York University where she worked with Dr. Joe Ledoux and Dr. Chris Cain. She then earned her PhD. at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine under the mentorship of Dr. Cristina Alberini studying the molecular mechanisms underlying memory consolidation. Dr. Stern’s current work focuses on understanding mechanisms by which the brain integrates innate and learned information to generate adaptive and maladaptive behavioral outcomes. She uses a wide range of techniques including behavior, opto/chemogenetics, viral tracing and calcium imaging and she is particularly interested in using transcriptomic techniques to identify novel cell types that regulate complex behaviors. Dr. Stern has been awarded both an NRSA F31 and F32 in the past and is currently also the recipient of a NARSAD Young Investigator Award.

 

Photo of Marie Suver, PhD 2019 K99/R00 AwardeeMarie Suver, PhD
2019 K99/R00 Awardee
NYU Neuroscience Institute | Postdoctoral Fellow
Website

Marie Suver is a Postdoctoral Fellow in the Neuroscience Institute at NYU Langone Health. She obtained her bachelor’s degrees in Biology and Computer Science at the University of Washington. Marie later earned her PhD in Computation and Neural Systems at the California Institute of Technology, working in the lab of Dr. Michael Dickinson, where she studied behavioral neuromodulation of visual circuits. As a postdoc in the lab of Dr. Katherine Nagel at the NYU Neuroscience Institute, Marie characterized novel central circuits underlying mechanosensation in the fruit fly. To study concrete neural circuits underlying sensory-motor coordination, Marie takes advantage of a broad array of tools including genetics, electrophysiology in behaving animals, modeling, and machine learning tools for quantitative behavioral analysis. She was recently awarded the Leon Levy Fellowship in Neuroscience. In her current work, Marie is developing tools to establish the fruit fly as a model for understanding mechanisms of active sensing.

 

Cohort 2

Hannah Choi

Hannah Choi, PhD
2019 K99/R00 Awardee
University of Washington | Postdoctoral Research Associate/Scientist
Website

Hannah Choi is a postdoctoral researcher working with Eric Shea-Brown (University of Washington) and Stefan Mihalas (Allen Institute for Brain Science). Previously, she was awarded a Washington Research Foundation Innovation Postdoctoral Fellowship in Neuroengineering to study invariant visual coding in the ventral visual pathway based on predictive coding models, with Eric Shea-Brown and Anitha Pasupathy (University of Washington). In 2018, Hannah was awarded a Simons Berkeley Research Fellowship to spend a semester (The Brain and Computation program) at the Simons Institute for the Theory of Computing at the University of California, Berkeley. Before coming to the University of Washington, Hannah received her Ph.D. in Applied Mathematics from Northwestern University and her B.A. in Applied Mathematics from the University of California, Berkeley. For her PhD, Hannah studied the dynamics of retinal interneuron models, advised by Hermann Riecke and William Kath. Interested in linking network structure and neural computation, in her recent studies, Hannah investigated network synchrony in a spatially-embedded whole-brain connectome and developed an unsupervised method to construct mouse cortical and thalamic hierarchies. Currently, her research focuses on connecting biologically plausible local learning rules to global network properties, as well as testing predictive coding theory in mouse visual cortex.

 

Jennifer Donegan

Jennifer Donegan, PhD
2019 K99/R00 Awardee
University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio | Post-doctoral Fellow
Website

Jennifer Donegan is a post-doctoral fellow in the laboratory of Dr. Daniel Lodge at UT Health San Antonio. Her post-doctoral research has focused on targeting inhibitory interneurons for the treatment of schizophrenia using preclinical animal models. This work has been published in journals such as Molecular Psychiatry and Nature Communications. In 2014, Jennifer received her PhD in Neuroscience from UT Health San Antonio where she studied the effect of neural immune signaling on stress-induced cognitive deficits in the laboratory of Dr. David Morilak. Jennifer's future work will use neuroanatomical and electrophysiological methods to examine the effect of inhibitory interneurons on circuit function both in health and in response to chronic stress. Jennifer received her bachelor's degree in Psychology from Texas Christian University in 2006.

 

Rebekah Evans

Rebekah Evans, PhD
2019 K99/R00 Awardee
National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke | Post-doctoral Fellow
Website

Dr. Rebekah Evans is a post-doctoral fellow at NINDS. After completing her bachelor’s degree at St. John’s College, she earned her master’s degree in education and her Ph.D. in neuroscience from George Mason University. Her Ph.D. work with Dr. Kim ‘Avrama’ Blackwell focused on computational modeling of dendrite and calcium dynamics in striatal neurons. Her post-doctoral work with Dr. Zayd Khaliq has used computational modeling and two-photon imaging to reveal the circuitry and channels which distinguish the dopamine neurons which are vulnerable to neurodegeneration in Parkinson’s Disease from the resilient dopamine neurons. Her current work functionally dissects the inhibitory circuitry that can pause dopamine neuron activity in response to an aversive event. In her independent research program, Dr. Evans will apply computational, electrophysiological, and imaging techniques to dissect the circuitry in the pedunculopontine nucleus which modulates movement.

 

Pui Ying Lam

Pui Ying Lam, PhD
2019 K99/R00 Awardee
University of Utah | Postdoctoral Fellow
Website

Dr. Lam is a postdoctoral fellow in Dr. Randall Peterson's laboratory at the University of Utah. Her research is focused on developing novel chemo-optogenetic tools for in vivo applications. Prior to receiving the BRAIN initiative K99/R00 award, Dr. Lam was an awardee of the American Heart Association postdoctoral fellowship. Dr. Lam received her Ph.D. in cellular and molecular biology from the University of Wisconsin-Madison working in Dr. Anna Huttenlocher's laboratory. Her PhD work examined cell signaling and the regulation of the cytoskeleton during the migration of neutrophils and macrophages in vivo. Prior to her PhD, Dr. Lam received her BSc and MPhil degree in biology from the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology. Dr. Lam is broadly interested in small molecule tool development as well as the use of these tools and in vivo imaging to interrogate biological processes in health and disease. Specifically, her current work is focused on developing novel chemo-optogenetic actuators to address some of the limitations of current optogenetic tools. Her work has resulted in the development of a tunable chemo-optogenetic system based on a high-conductance cation channel, TRPA1, coupled to photo-activatable channel ligands.

 

Cohort 1

David Barack

David Barack, PhD
2019 K99/R00 Awardee
Columbia University | Postdoctoral Research Scientist
University of Pennsylvania | Visiting Scholar

David Barack is a neuroscientist and philosopher. His neuroscientific investigations target the neural circuits of foraging decisions in humans and non-human primates. He is particularly interested in how primates search for information, how information is encoded in the brain independently of reward, and how information guides inferences to learn about states of the world. David’s philosophical work explores the conceptual foundations of cognitive neuroscience, especially the underlying dynamical basis for cognition, and the foraging foundations of reasoning. David received his PhD in philosophy from Duke University, worked as a postdoc at the University of Pennsylvania, and matriculated to Columbia as a Presidential Scholar in Society and Neuroscience. David is now a postdoc in neuroscience working under the tutelage of Dr. Daniel Salzman as well as a visiting scholar in philosophy at Penn.

 

Anna Blazejewska

Anna Blazejewska, PhD
2019 K99/R00 Awardee
Massachusetts General Hospital | Post-Doctoral Fellow
Website

Anna Blazejewska holds two master’s degrees, in philosophy (cognitive science) and in computer science. Her PhD work at Sir Peter Mansfield Imaging Center in Nottingham focused on investigating brain tissue properties with high resolution 7T MRI including quantitative analysis of iron- and myelin-related MR contrasts as well as correlations of the ex vivo MRI data with histology. During the first two years of her postdoctoral training she was studying the changes of T2* relaxation times due to tissue maturation in healthy developing fetal brain and their impact on protocol optimization for fetal fMRI. In late 2015 Anna joined A. A. Martinos Center for Biomedical Imaging at MGH as a post-doctoral fellow where she has been working on improving the performance of parallel imaging techniques for functional MRI at ultra-high field strengths, developing anatomically informed intracortical smoothing methods for high spatial resolution fMRI and investigating spatial specificity of the early positive BOLD fMRI response across cortical depths. The goal of Anna’s K99/R00 project is to develop a model of microanatomical and microvascular features of cortical brain tissue using ex vivo and in vivo MRI and histology stains to help remove confounding factors and make fMRI measurements more specific to neuronal activity.

 

Aparna Bhaduri

Aparna Bhaduri, PhD
2019 K99/R00 Awardee
University of California- San Francisco | Postdoctoral Scholar
Website

Aparna Bhaduri is a postdoctoral scholar at the University of California San Francisco in the Eli and Edythe Broad Center of Regeneration Medicine and Stem Cell Research, in the lab of Dr. Arnold Kriegstein. She previously completed her doctoral degree in cancer biology at Stanford University, and received her undergraduate degrees from Rice University. Her long term interests are in understanding how stem cells during cortical development give rise to the human brain, and how aspects of these developmental programs can be hijacked in cancers such as glioblastoma. One aspect of normal development and cancer that particularly interests her is the role of metabolism in regulating cell fate and tissue homeostasis. In order to explore these questions, Aparna uses single-cell genomics, informatic analysis, and organoid models.

 

Miriam Bocarsly

Miriam Bocarsly, PhD
2019 K99/R00 Awardee
National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism | Postdoctoral Fellow

Dr. Miriam Bocarsly is a postdoctoral fellow in the intramural program of the NIH at the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. She works in the Laboratory on the Neurobiology of Compulsive Behaviors under the mentorship of Dr. Veronica Alvarez. She earned her Ph.D. in psychology and neuroscience from Princeton University, where she worked first with Dr. Bart Hoebel on the shared neurobiological underpinnings of food intake and drug addiction, and then with Dr. Elizabeth Gould exploring alterations in brain morphology associated with cognitive deficits in an obese animal model. In her postdoctoral studies, Miriam is broadly interested in identifying the neural circuitry driving aberrant consummatory and appetitive behaviors. In doing so, her research aims to identify potential neurological targets that may provide therapeutic benefit in disorders such as obesity. Miriam’s independent research program will focus on further resolving the neural circuitry modulating food and water consumption in healthy and diseased states.

 

Lucas Cheadle

Lucas Cheadle, PhD
2019 K99/R00 Awardee
Harvard Medical School | Postdoctoral Research Fellow

Originally from rural Oklahoma, Dr. Lucas Cheadle graduated from the Oklahoma School of Science and Mathematics in Oklahoma City before attending Smith College in western Massachusetts. Lucas obtained his Bachelor’s degree with High Honors in Neuroscience from Smith in 2005 and became a research assistant at the California Institute of Technology. He joined the Interdepartmental Neuroscience Program at Yale University for his doctoral training in 2008. At Yale, Lucas applied cellular and molecular strategies to identify and characterize novel signaling pathways that promote synapse formation in developing neurons. After receiving his Ph.D. in Neuroscience from Yale in 2013, Lucas joined the lab of Dr. Michael E. Greenberg at Harvard Medical School where he adopted the developing visual system as an experimental paradigm to study the roles of sensory experience in shaping brain circuits in vivo. During his postdoctoral work, Lucas identified a pro-inflammatory cytokine signaling pathway that is repurposed by the brain to balance the number and strength of synapses made by sensory neurons. He’s enthusiastic to investigate the contributions of disrupted cytokine signaling to neurodevelopmental disorders as a BRAIN Initiative investigator. Lucas currently resides in Boston, Massachusetts and is a citizen of the Chickasaw Nation in southern Oklahoma.

 

Megan Crow

Megan Crow, PhD
2019 K99/R00 Awardee
Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory | Senior Computational Fellow
Website

Megan Crow received her Ph.D. in Neuroscience from King’s College London in 2014, and she is currently a postdoctoral fellow in the lab of Dr. Jesse Gillis at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory. Her research focuses on the replicability and integration of single cell RNA-sequencing data, with particular interest in gene coexpression networks and comparative analysis of neuronal identity across species.

 

Luis Gomez

Luis Gomez, PhD
2019 K99/R00 Awardee
Duke University Medical School | Postdoctoral Associate

Luis J. Gomez is a Postdoctoral Associate at the Department of Psychiatry & Behavioral Sciences in Duke University Medical School at Durham, NC, USA, where he is developing computational techniques for simulation, uncertainty quantification and optimization of non-invasive brain stimulation procedures. His main research interest is in computational electromagnetism, with a focus on wave propagation in highly heterogeneous materials, volume integral equations, electromagnetic imaging and optimization and uncertainty quantification of brain stimulation modalities. Previously, he was a Post-doctoral Fellow at the Radiation Laboratory (2015-2016), University of Michigan at Ann Arbor, Ann Arbor, MI, USA, where he developed fast-integral equation methods for analyzing scattering by highly-heterogeneous media and inverse scattering methods. He received a Ph.D degree in electrical engineering and M.S. degrees in electrical engineering and applied math from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI, USA, in 2015 and 2014, respectively, and the B.S. degrees in electrical engineering and mathematics from the University of Florida, Gainesville, FL, USA, in 2008.

 

Anna Jafarpour

Anna Jafarpour, PhD
2019 K99/R00 Awardee
University of Washington | Senior Fellow
Website

Anna Jafarpour is a post-doctoral cognitive neuroscientist working with Dr. Elizabeth Buffalo at the University of Washington and Dr. Robert Knight at the University of California, Berkeley. Previously in her Ph.D. at the University College London, she used machine learning to decode the content of memory and determined the neural dynamics of retrieving visual memories and retaining a sequence of visual items for a short time. In her research, Dr. Jafarpour found that temporal and spatial memories of naturalistic sequences, that are encountered in daily transportation, are distorted with familiarity. Being extremely interested in the impact of everyday life on memory, in her postdoctoral research, she investigated neural responses to contextual expectations in naturalistic stimuli such as speech and movies. Dr. Jafarpour used intracranial EEG from the hippocampus and the prefrontal cortices of epileptic patients to reveal that expectation built from prior knowledge plays a key role in regional neural responses. Most recently, she observed that individual differences in perception and memory of a sequence of events related to the retention capacity of short-term memory. Her current research focuses on the neural circuits for perception and memory of lifelike sequences of events using intracranial EEG and computational techniques.

 

Lucas Pinto

Lucas Pinto, MD, PhD
2019 K99/R00 Awardee
Princeton Neuroscience Institute | Postdoctoral Research Fellow
Website

Dr. Pinto obtained his medical degree from the Federal University of Minas Gerais, Brazil, in 2006. He then did a Master's degree in physiology at the same university, where he studied visual processing in owls with Jerome Baron. Dr. Pinto got his Ph.D. in neuroscience from the University of California, Berkeley in 2014, working in in Yang Dan's laboratory. He investigated how circuits downstream of the sensory cortex participate in perceptual decision-making. He moved to the Princeton Neuroscience Institute in 2015 for his post-doctoral research in the laboratories of Dr. David Tank and Dr. Carlos Brody. Dr. Pinto is broadly interested in neural mechanisms underlying cognition, both at the local circuit level and in terms of large-scale interactions between different brain areas. He uses a combination of recording, perturbation and computational techniques to study decision-making behavior. More specifically, his current work investigates how cortical areas interact at large scales to support decision-making relying on the gradual accumulation of sensory evidence, and how the cognitive demands of different tasks modulate cortical dynamics.

 

Arbora Resulaj

Arbora Resulaj, PhD
2019 K99/R00 Awardee
University of California- San Francisco | Postdoctoral Fellow

Arbora Resulaj is a postdoctoral fellow in the laboratory of Dr. Massimo Scanziani at University of California San Francisco (UCSF). Her research is focused on understanding how neural circuits enable perception, memory and decision-making. Prior to joining the laboratory of Dr. Massimo Scanziani, she received a bachelor’s degree in engineering from University of Toronto. She received her Ph.D. from University of Cambridge, where she was a student in the Cambridge-Janelia Ph.D. program. She worked with Drs. Daniel Wolpert and Michael Shadlen to combine theoretical approaches and experimental findings to study decision-making in humans. She then worked with Dr. Dmitry Rinberg to develop tools and methods to study the timing of olfactory perceptual decisions in mice. Her work has appeared in journals such as Nature. Dr. Resulaj's postdoctoral work in Dr. Massimo Scanziani's lab was recently published in 2018. Using behavior, electrophysiology and optogenetics, she provided the first direct answer to a fundamental question in systems neuroscience: what is the speed of visual cortical processing when making a perceptual decision? Her current work is focused on developing methods to study short term memory, and its role in visual perception and decision-making in mice.

 

Ikbal Sencan

Ikbal Sencan, PhD
2019 K99/R00 Awardee
Harvard Medical School & Massachusetts General Hospital | Research Fellow in Radiology
Website

Dr. Sencan is currently a Research Fellow in Optics Group at Martinos Center, appointed by MGH and Harvard University. She develops advanced optical microscopy methods to better understand the brain in action and investigates oxygen delivery and consumption in preclinical animal models under healthy and biologically challenged conditions. Ikbal received her M.S. and Ph.D. in Electrical Engineering from University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). Her graduate research was focused on lensfree computational microscopy tools and their biomedical applications such as telemedicine and high-throughput screenings. Dr. Sencan worked at Yale School of Medicine as a Postdoctoral Associate for two years, where she developed a high-speed interferometric confocal microscopy platform for quantitative analysis of the microscale physiology and cilia-driven biological flows on Xenopus embryos. Dr. Sencan’s research in the field of biomedical optics has led to 3 book chapters, 4 patent applications, 20 peer-reviewed journal articles, >50 conference presentations. She has h-index of 15 with >1700 citations. She serves as a reviewer for multiple scientific journals, book publishers, and grant agencies. Ikbal recently received the NIH BRAIN Initiative Advanced Postdoctoral Career Transition Award to investigate “Effects of standard fMRI calibrations on the diverse microvascular blood flow and oxygenation responses in cortical layers.”