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Department of Neurobiology and Anatomy Postdoctoral Fellows & Research Associates

Jadwiga Bilchak, PhD

Jani Bilchak, BS

jnb94@drexel.edu

Education:
Jadwiga earned her bachelor’s degree in neuroscience from King’s College London, where she investigated the firing properties of human immortalized stem cells used for stroke therapy. After graduating with first class honours in July 2016, she entered the Drexel University graduate program and joined the lab of Dr. Marie-Pascale Côté. She earned her PhD in 2021.

Research interests:
Spinal cord injury, motoneurons, chloride homeostasis, exercise-based rehabilitation.

Research overview:
Jadwiga’s research focuses on the effects of restoring chloride homeostasis on locomotor recovery and spastic symptoms after spinal cord injury (SCI). After SCI, there is a decrease in expression and function of KCC2, a critical regulator of chloride homeostasis in the central nervous system. By pharmacologically enhancing KCC2, Jadwiga’s project aims to improve locomotor function and attenuate spastic symptoms via a restoration of endogenous inhibition.

David Leonardo (Leo) Garcia Ramirez, PhD

David Leonardo (Leo) Garcia Ramirez, PhD

dg679@drexel.edu

Education:
PhD in cellular and molecular biology at CINVESTAV of the National Polytechnic Institute (Mexico)
Bionic engineering at National Polytechnic Institute (Mexico)
Postdoctoral fellow in Kimberly Dougherty’s Lab in the Department of Neurobiology and Anatomy at Drexel University College of Medicine

Research interests:
Plasticity of the spinal locomotor circuitry after spinal cord injury and rehabilitation therapies.

Research overview:
My current research in Kimberly Dougherty Lab is focusing in the plasticity of rhythm generating interneurons after spinal cord injury and after therapies including treadmill training and epidural stimulation. My particular interest is to understand the serotonergic modulation and sensory afferent inputs to rhythm generating interneurons, the plastic changes following spinal cord injury and therapies to enhance locomotor. My research involves electrophysiological and behavioral techniques to determine plastic changes after spinal cord injury and rehabilitation therapies.

Marisa Jeffries , PhD

Marisa Jeffries: Department of Neurobiology & Anatomy

maj359@drexel.edu

Education:
BA in studio art, University of Virginia
BS in biology, University of Virginia
MS in neurobiology, University of Pittsburgh
PhD in biomedical sciences, subprogram in cell biology, neuroscience, and physiology, Rutgers University

Research overview:
I have been interested in spinal cord injury research since high school, when I attended a seminar series presented by The Miami Project. As a PhD student, I studied ERK1/2 and mTOR signaling in oligodendrocytes during myelin maintenance and remyelination of the adult brain and spinal cord. For my postdoctoral training in Dr. Veronica Tom’s lab, I am particularly interested in the neuroimmune component of autonomic dysreflexia after spinal cord injury.

Taegyo Kim, PhD

Tae Gyo Kim, PhD

tk67@drexel.edu

Tae Gyo is a postdoctoral fellow in Dr. Giszter's lab.

Koray Kirimtay, PhD

Koray Kirimtay, Postdoc, Baas Lab Member

kk3482@drexel.edu

Koray earned his PhD degree in molecular biology, genetics and biotechnology at Istanbul Technical University in 2021. At the beginning of his PhD, he studied transcriptional regulation of Spastin and Katanin. Additionally, during his PhD, besides generating induced pluripotent stem cell lines of rare neurodegenerative diseases, he also conducted genetic research to identify disease associated mutations and studied their functional relevance with the diseases. He joined the Baas Lab as a postdoc in September 2021, where he will investigate the role of tau in Gulf War Illness, as well as the molecular basis of tau’s role in regulating microtubule stability in neurons.

Jun Liu, PhD

Jun Liu, PhD

jl3933@drexel.edu

Jun Liu, PhD, is a postdoctoral researcher in the Department of Neurobiology & Anatomy at Drexel University College of Medicine. He has worked in the lab of Dong Wang, PhD, since October 2017.

Research interests:
Neural ensemble dynamics underlying learning and memory; fear and anxiety; optogenetics; imaging.

Research overview:
The hippocampal/parahippocampal region and the amygdala nuclei play a pivotal role in emotion, learning and memory. These related brain circuits are also involved in mnemonic dysfunctions associated with neuropsychiatric and neurological diseases, such as posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and excessive anxiety. Dr. Liu is interested in understanding the underlying neural ensemble dynamics at circuit level by using multidisciplinary and integrated experimental approach in mice, including in vivo electrophysiology, optogenetics, imaging, physiological markers, and behavioral techniques.

Alessia Niceforo, PhD

Alessia Niceforo, PhD

an675@drexel.edu

Education: 
Alessia graduated with her BSc in biological sciences from Sapienza University of Rome (Italy) in 2013. She received her master’s in biology for molecular, cellular and pathophysiological research summa cum laude from Roma Tre University of Rome (Italy) in 2016 and her PhD in molecular and cellular biology in January 2020, also at Roma Tre University of Rome. Alessia joined the Lane Lab as a postdoc in March 2020.

Research interests:
Spinal cord injury, induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs), embryonic stem cells (ESCs), reprogramming, cell transplantation, neurons, neuroplasticity

Research overview:
Building on her experience in human stem cells culture and cellular engineering, Alessia is now studying cellular therapies for repair following spinal cord injury (SCI). After traumatic SCI, gliosis and tissue scarring contribute to the accumulation of reactive astrocytes at the injury that prevent significant endogenous repair. Using a rat model of cervical SCI, she is developing reprogramming methods to convert the astrocytes into neurons in an effort to promote repair.

Ankita Patil, PhD

Ankita Patil: Department of Neurobiology & Anatomy

ap3326@drexel.edu

Education:
Ankita graduated with her BSc in life sciences from the University of Mumbai, India, in 2014. She received her master’s in neuroscience from Drexel University in 2017 and her PhD in neuroscience in 2021, also at Drexel University, in the laboratory of Dr. Peter W. Baas.

Research interests:
Cytoskeleton, microtubules, neuronal cell biology, microscopy.

Research overview:
Ankita’s PhD dissertation project focused on microtubule organization in the neuronal axon. Axons have a particularly uniform organization of their microtubules, but how the neuron is able to orchestrate and maintain this is an open question. She is investigating two molecular interactions – motor proteins and cross-linking proteins – and how these interactions influence microtubule orientation and sliding. The overarching goal of the project is to contribute toward a model of the regulation of microtubule organization in the axon. A better understanding of this mechanism could further research in disease states where axonal microtubules are perturbed.

Emanuela Piermarini, PhD

Emanuela Piermarini, PhD

ep477@drexel.edu

Emanuela earned her PhD in biochemistry and molecular biology at University of Rome “Tor Vergata” in November 2016. During her PhD training she studied the role of oxidative stress in neurodegeneration, focusing her attention on the role of glutathione in the pathogenesis of Friedreich’s ataxia. She joined the Baas Lab as a postdoc in December 2016, where she is involved in the project of characterizing a new mouse model of hereditary spastic paraplegia.

Margo Randelman, PhD

Margo Randelman, BS

mlr357@drexel.edu

Education:
Margo graduated summa cum laude with a bachelor of science from Ursinus College in spring 2015 with a double major in neuroscience and biology. She entered into the Drexel University graduate program in fall 2015 and joined the lab of Dr. Michael Lane, earning a PhD in neuroscience in 2021.

Research interests:
Neurotrauma, spinal cord injury, rehabilitation, biomaterial engineering, neuroplasticity and respiration.

Research overview:
Enhancing intrinsic neuroplasticity through respiratory rehabilitation to improve breathing following cervical spinal cord injury (SCI). After cervical spinal cord injury there is damage to the phrenic circuit, which impairs diaphragm function and therefore respiration. Daily acute hypercapnia training (dAIHc) is the respiratory rehabilitation technique used to drive intrinsic plasticity and strengthen the phrenic circuit for improved respiratory function following injury.

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