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Neuroscience (NEUS) Students

Drexel neuroscience program students.

1st Year

Miguel Emiliano Ablaza

MS Student
ma374@drexel.edu

Sierra Coleman

PhD Student
sc4262@drexel.edu

Wenqiang Huang

PhD Student
wh395@drexel.edu

Jenna Hunt

PhD Student
jnh96@drexel.edu

Maurice Lindner-Jackson

PhD Student
mkl99@drexel.edu

Corinne Marble

PhD Student
cm3965@drexel.edu

Joseph Mazzerina

MS Student
jm5267@drexel.edu

Destinee Monasterio

MS Student
dlm398@drexel.edu

Jacob Nelson

MS Student
jkn33@drexel.edu

Dayani Pillai

PhD Student
dp3284@drexel.edu

Laura Schoenhals

PhD Student
las578@drexel.edu

Akshaya Sridharan

PhD Student
as5875@drexel.edu

Mason Weinstock

MS Student
mcw383@drexel.edu

2nd Year

Cameron Anderson

PhD Student
coa38@drexel.edu

Alison Bashford

Alison Bashford

PhD Student
arb442@drexel.edu

Alexander Benson

MS Student
ab4728@drexel.edu

Leigh (Taylor) Flynn

Taylor Flynn

MD/PhD Student, Gao Lab
ltf28@drexel.edu

(she/her/hers)
Hometown: Richmond, Virginia
Undergraduate: BS, Neuroscience, BS, Biology, BS, Psychology, Virginia Tech
Matriculation Year: 2021
Research Lab: Gao Lab
Project: Investigating the Neuronal, Electrophysiological and Epigenetic Changes Associated with Psychedelics
Email: ltf28@drexel.edu

Taylor is an MD/PhD student interested in Psychiatry. She has recently completed the first two years of medical school and transitioned into the PhD portion of the program. In her free time, she enjoys reading and crocheting!

Why do you think Drexel stands out over other graduate programs?

Drexel places an emphasis on the intersection of research and patient care, and they encourage students to consider their research through translational lenses.

What advice would you give a future student?

There are going to be some tough days, but you’re never alone in your experience! Talk to your lab members, classmates, and more senior students, and I promise you’ll find someone who knows what you’re going through. Hearing about their experiences and how they handled them is absolutely invaluable, so make sure you reach out!

John Gibbons

MS Student
jg3877@drexel.edu

Grace Giddings

Grace Giddings

PhD Student, Detloff Lab
gag52@drexel.edu

Education:
Grace graduated as a research scholar with a Bachelor of Science in Biology from Texas A&M University in the spring of 2022 with a major in biology and minors in psychology and neuroscience. Prior to joining the Detloff lab, Grace trained with Dr. Jim Grau at Texas A&M University where she investigated pain after traumatic brain injury. Grace joined the Drexel University Neuroscience Graduate Program in fall 2022 and joined the lab of Dr. Megan Detloff, where she is completing her thesis work.

Current research:
Individuals with spinal cord injury (SCI) experience a variety of motor, sensory, and neuroimmune challenges after injury, with 65-85% of individuals reporting chronic pain. Currently, there are no effective FDA approved treatments for the treatment of neuropathic pain after SCI. However, a growing body of literature implicates neuroimmune interactions in the initiation and maintenance of chronic pain after SCI. Because pain is a multifaceted experience, involving both sensory discriminative and affective aspects, the Detloff lab addresses these neuroimmune interactions along the sensory neuroaxis, with a particular interest in the dorsal root ganglia. Grace hopes to bridge the gap between behavior, nociceptor, and immune cell activity to better understand the various aspects of chronic pain and harness the potential of neuroimmune modulation in order to ameliorate chronic pain after SCI.

Research interests:
Neurotrauma, spinal cord injury, pain, neuroplasticity and neuroimmune modulation.

Tyler Gray

PhD Student
tg846@drexel.edu

Patrick McGinnis

MS Student
pm934@drexel.edu

Volodar Migovich

Volodar Migovich

PhD Student
vmm74@drexel.edu

Victor Ogbolu

Victor Ogbolu

MS Student
vco28@drexel.edu

(he/him/his)
Hometown: Lagos, Nigeria
Undergraduate: BS, Anatomy, Babcock University, Ilishan-Remo, Ogun Nigeria
Matriculation Year: 2022
Research Lab: Qiang Lab
Project: Bioengineered Spinal Cord Organoids: A Novel Approach for Cell Therapy in Spinal Cord Injuries
Email: vco28@drexel.edu

Victor aspires to pioneer breakthroughs in cell therapies for neurological diseases and injuries. Victor also values diversity and inclusion and envisions a future where scientific advancements benefit all.

What is your favorite part about Drexel?

I would say the people. Sure, every program is probably doing amazing research but it’s important to be in a healthy environment that nurtures collaboration during your training.

What advice would you give a future student?

Prioritize your passion and the rest will follow.

Phuong Tran

Phuong Tran

PhD Student
ptt35@drexel.edu

3rd Year

Jacob Clarin

 

Sophie Cohen

 

Bridie Eckel

 

Cydney Martin

 

Anthony Moreno Sanchez

 

Shanna Samels

Shanna Samels

(she/her/hers)
Hometown: Fair Lawn, New Jersey
Undergraduate: BS, Neurobiology & Physiology and Psychology, University of Connecticut
Matriculation Year: 2021
Research Lab: España Lab
Project: Investigating the Role of Hypocretins in the Modulation of Dopamine and Motivation for Cocaine.
Email: ss5422@drexel.edu

Shanna is dedicated to her research, contributing to science outreach events, and mentoring high school students in the lab. Outside of the lab, she likes to powerlift, binge watch TV shows, and spend time with her dog.

Why did you come to Drexel?

I came to Drexel because during recruitment there was a friendly community between students and faculty. Everyone genuinely cared about helping you find the right fit.

What advice would you give a future student?

The best advice I can give a future student is to have a hobby or passion outside the lab to rely on when experiments or classes are tough.

Nishell Savory

 

Julie Schaub

Julie Schaub

(she/her/hers)
Hometown: Mount Laurel, New Jersey
Undergraduate: BS, Biology, Gettysburg College
Masters: MS, Biotechnology, Johns Hopkins University
Research Lab: Baas Lab
Project: Investigating the Role of oMAP4 in the Dendritic Microtubule Array
Email: js5228@drexel.edu

Julie is the serving as the president of Biomedical Graduate Students for Diversity (BGSD), which aims to increase diversity and foster a welcoming and safe environment. Outside of Drexel, Julie enjoys hanging out with friends around Philly, traveling and chilling with her cat.

What is your relationship like with other students?

I wouldn’t know how to do this without my classmates. There are many obstacles in graduate school and just research in general so having people going through the same experience as a support system has been critical for me.

What advice would you give a future student?

Work as a research technician in a lab for a year or two out of undergraduate for great research experience and hopefully a better idea of whether a graduate program is the right fit for you.

Jana Smuts

 

Christopher West

 

Jason Wheeler, MS

Jason Wheeler, MS

PhD Candidate, Detloff Lab
jw3775@drexel.edu

Education:
Jason graduated cum laude with a Bachelor of Arts from Alfred University in spring 2019 with a major in clinical psychology and minors in biology and chemistry. He entered the Drexel University Neuroscience graduate program in fall 2021 and joined the lab of Dr. Megan Detloff, where he completed his MS in neuroscience in 2023, before transitioning into the PhD program.

Current research:
Chronic neuropathic pain is a debilitating secondary complication that develops following a spinal cord injury (SCI). This pain serves as a significant determinant to the quality of life in individuals living with SCI, and many of the therapies used clinically are ineffective at managing their pain. The inflammatory response driven by cells such as infiltrating macrophages after SCI has been tightly connected to both the development and resolution of neuropathic pain, and the role of small extracellular vesicles (sEVs) secreted by these cells in neuroinflammation has become an area of increasing interest in recent years. In a rodent model of SCI-induced neuropathic pain, Jason is investigating the therapeutic potential of macrophage-derived sEVs, as well how these vesicles contribute to inflammation and the plasticity of nociceptive afferents after injury.

Research interests:
Neurotrauma, chronic pain, neuroinflammation, and neuroplasticity

Nichole Yakas

Nichole Yakas

(she/her/hers)
Hometown: Glen Mills, Pennsylvania
Undergraduate: BS, Neuroscience, University of Pittsburgh
Masters: MS, Neuroscience, Drexel University
Matriculation Year: 2021
Research Lab: Côté Lab
Project: Evaluate the Impact of Transcutaneous Spinal Cord Stimulation on Spasticity After Spinal Cord Injury.
Email: nay33@drexel.edu

Nichole is one of the T32 training grant appointees for the spinal cord injury program and serves as the master’s student representative on the steering committee. In her free time, she likes to travel and try new foods.

Why did you come to Drexel?

I came to Drexel because of the Marion Murray Spinal Cord Research Center and the welcoming and supportive environment that I experienced during the interview process.

How do you manage a healthy work-life balance as a graduate student?

I have found organization and scheduling to be integral to my ability to keep a healthy work-life balance.

Kendra Case

 

Christina Curran-Alfaro

 

Adam Hall, BS

Adam Hall: Department of Neurobiology & Anatomy

PhD Student
aah347@drexel.edu

Education:
Adam holds a BS in neuroscience and psychology. He is a first-year student on a PhD track.

Research:
Adam is interested in the factors that contribute to regeneration and functional recovery in the spinal cord after injury.

Arron Hall

 

4th Year

Andrew Lockhart

Andrew Lockhardt

(he/him/his)
Hometown: Chickamauga, Georgia
Undergraduate: BS, Mechanical Engineering, Georgia Institute of Technology and BS, Applied Physics, Berry College
Matriculation Year: 2020
Research Lab: Danner Lab
Project: Investigating locomotor circuits through robotics.
Email: abl73@drexel.edu

Andrew serves as VP of event management for BSGSA which aims to foster community between the programs. In his free time, he enjoys exploring the Philadelphia food and nightlife scene, playing video games and reading.

What is your relationship like with faculty?

I have a healthy relationship with many of the faculty and know that no matter the problem that I am facing I can go to any of them for help. Within my own lab, I have a close mentor-mentee relationship thanks to the smaller lab environments that Drexel provides.

What advice would you give a future student?

In research discussions or planning committees, you should always express and stand by your thoughts, valuing your perspective and input regardless of the audience.

Jenna McGrath, BS

Jenna McGrath: Department of Neurobiology & Anatomy

PhD Student
jrm472@drexel.edu

Education:
I have a bachelor of science in behavioral neuroscience with a minor in psychology from Lehigh University. I am a first-year PhD Student.

Research interests:
I am most interested in neurodegenerative diseases but have interests in addiction and the reward pathway as well.

(she/her/hers)
Hometown: Brewerton, New York
Undergraduate: BS, Behavioral Neuroscience, Lehigh University
Matriculation Year: 2020
Research Lab: Dougherty Lab
Project: Investigating the Role of Spinal Glycinergic Interneurons that Inhibit Locomotor Circuits.
Email: jrm472@drexel.edu

Jenna is a PhD student in the Neuroscience program and is also one of the students funded on the T32 grant that was awarded to the Marion Murray Spinal Cord Research Center. In her free time, she likes to cook, travel and paint.

What is your relationship like with faculty?

A number of the faculty members have become amazing mentors and are always available for advice. They are truly rooting for your success as a graduate student.

How do you manage a healthy work-life balance as a graduate student?

I actively treat it as a priority and keep open communication with my mentor. I make sure to plan ahead so that my work is done, but I can also have fun in my free time.

Brody Carpenter

 

Mariah Wulf, BS

Mariah Wulf: Department of Neurobiology & Anatomy

MS Student
mjw458@drexel.edu

Education:
I graduated with from the University of Nebraska at Omaha with a BS in psychology and a concentration in behavioral neuroscience along with a BS in Neuroscience. I am currently a first-year student on the MS tract at Drexel University.

Research interests:
I am interested in examining the regenerative capabilities in the motor centers of the brain and the spinal cord in order to produce motor behavior after injury..

5th Year

Marissa Cusimano

 

Ashraful Islam

Ash Islam

(he/him/his)
Hometown: Brooklyn, New York
Undergraduate: BS, Biology, St. John’s University
Matriculation Year: 2019
Research Lab: Tom Lab
Project: Investigate the Mechanism Behind Axon Regeneration After DREADD Activation of DRG Neurons
Email: ai384@drexel.edu

Ash is a PhD student in the Tom Lab and serves as the VP of Finance on the Drexel Biomedical Sciences Graduate Student Association (BSGSA). In his free time, he enjoys photography and attending motorsports events.

Why do you think Drexel stands out over other graduate programs?

I think Drexel stands out because students play such a big role in all the departments. Their voice is not diluted by a large number of post-docs and research associates, allowing them to grow as scientists.

How do you manage a healthy work-life balance as a graduate student?

That is something that I had to work on, and I am sure most new graduate students will also have to do the same. But I learned how to get my work done but also isolate myself and do my own thing when I am not in the lab and not working on anything from the lab.

Ashley Opalka, BS

Ashley Opalka

PhD Student, Wang Lab
ano43@drexel.edu

Education:
Ashley graduated with a BS and honors from the University of Scranton in 2017 with a double major in neuroscience and biology and a minor in biochemistry. She joined the department in fall 2017 as a research assistant in the Wang Lab and began the graduate program in fall 2019, remaining in the Wang Lab to pursue a PhD in neuroscience.

Research:
Ashley is interested in how brain oscillations and unique patterns of neural ensemble activity can initiate and influence the process of memory consolidation in mice, which occurs during sleep. She utilizes extracellular electrophysiology and optogenetics in freely behaving mice to determine the neural mechanisms that store our long-lasting memories. She hopes to expand our understanding of how the brain integrates experiences to properly respond to our environment, which can have a wide impact on amnestic, psychiatric, pathological and addiction disorders.

Research interests:
Learning, memory, memory consolidation, sleep neurobiology, systems neurobiology, information processing.

Jennifer Pastorino

 

Shayna Singh

 

Xiaohaun Sun

 

Jeremy Weinbeger

 

6th Year

Andrey Borisyuk, BS, BA

Andrey Borisyuk, BS, BA

MS Student, Giszter Lab
apb323@drexel.edu

Education:
Andrey graduated magna cum laude with a bachelor of science and bachelor of arts from Belmont University in 2013 with majors in neuroscience and German. He entered into the Drexel University graduate program in fall 2017 pursing an MS in neuroscience.

Current research:
Investigating neurorobotic rehabilitation strategies to promote motor function recovery and to access spinal cord reorganization after spinal cord injury with Dr. Simon Giszter and his lab team.

Research interests:
Spinal cord injury, neuroengineering, neuroprosthetics, neurorobotics, brain machine interface, neuromechanics, neurorehabilitation.

Shrobona Guha, MS

Shrobona Guha: Department of Neurobiology & Anatomy

PhD Candidate, Baas Lab
sg3536@drexel.edu

Education:
Shrobona is currently a PhD Candidate in the Neuroscience program working in Dr. Peter Baas’s Lab at Drexel University. She earned an MS in biotechnology from St. Xavier’s College, Kolkata. in India and she worked on the neuronal circuit development of zebrafish for a year at IISER Pune.

Research:
In the Baas Lab, Shrobona's primary research focus is on understanding establishment and preservation of neuronal microtubule array all throughout development. Her project will focus on the role of mitotic motor proteins in the regulation of the dynamic behaviors of the microtubule cytoskeleton. Microtubule dynamics are involved in neuronal processes like growth cone turning, axon guidance, neuronal migration and maturation.

Research interests:
Microtubule, motor proteins, neurodevelopment, neurogenesis.

Breanne Pirino, MS

Breanne Pirino: Department of Neurobiology & Anatomy

PhD Student, Barson Lab
bep46@drexel.edu

Education:
Breanne earned her BS in neuroscience and Spanish from Moravian College in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, in 2013 and her MS in neuroscience from Drexel University in 2020, before transitioning to the PhD program.

Research:
Breanne’s research focuses on the role of the kappa-opioid receptor system in voluntary alcohol drinking and its subregional differences within the nucleus accumbens of rats. Classically, this receptor system and its ligand, dynorphin, have been understood to have dysphoric effects and enhance alcohol drinking; however, this project explores how, in the rostral subregion, activation of these receptors can suppress alcohol drinking. Future projects will explore how this effect may change with the development of dependence.

Research interests:
Ethanol use, nucleus accumbens subregions, kappa-opioid receptors, microinjections .

Jonathan Richards

 

Candace Rizzi-Wise

Graduate Student Association board member Candace Rizzi-Wise

"In addition to my graduate research I am on the board of the Biomedical Sciences Graduate Student Association (BSGSA) and a member of Biomedical Graduate Students for Diversity (BGSD). BSGSA has been great because I get to interact with students from different programs and advocate for graduate student needs to try to make academic experience the best it can be." Read more.

Trevor Smith, BS

Trevor Smith

PhD Student, Giszter Lab
tss72@drexel.edu

Education:
Trevor received his BS in biology from Northwest Nazarene University in 2015. Before coming to Drexel to pursue his PhD, he worked for two years as an intramural research trainee fellow at the NIH. He is a graduate student in the laboratory of Dr. Simon Giszter.

Current research:
Trevor's research focuses on the spinal cord's intrinsic capacity to structure and pattern movement. Owing to their unique physiology, frogs can chronically survive spinalization while retaining a repertoire of reflexes. Motor control within this model appears to be simplified to the activation of a handful of independent elements, motor modules, which recruit the appropriate muscle synergies. The mechanisms of module recruitment and the neurobiological basis for modules remains largely unknown. Understanding these mechanisms will clarify the role of supraspinal centers in motor control and may guide rehabilitation for motor deficits after disease or injury.

Research interests:
Spinal cord injury, neuroengineering, sensorineural integration, comparative motor control.

Nicholas Stachowski, MS

Nicholas Stachowski: Department of Neurobiology & Anatomy

PhD Student, Detloff Lab
njs83@drexel.edu

Education:
I earned a BS in neuroscience and a BA history from the University of Delaware. I started in the MS program in Neuroscience at Drexel in 2016 with Dr. Dougherty and graduated in 2018. After a year as a technician with Dr. Dougherty, I entered the PhD program with advanced standing as a third-year candidate. I will complete my thesis project under Dr. Dougherty's mentorship.

Current research:
Accessing spinal central pattern generator circuitry to restore hindlimb motor function after complete spinal cord injury (SCI) in mouse. I am implementing epidural stimulation with viral therapy to promote post-SCI recovery and investigating the role of an identified population of inhibitory interneurons in the recovery process.

Research interests:
Electrophysiology, spinal reflexes and motor control.

John Walker, MS

John Walker: Department of Neurobiology & Anatomy

PhD Candidate, Detloff Lab
jw3646@drexel.edu

Education:
John graduated magna cum laude with a bachelor of science from The Catholic University of America in spring 2018 with a major in biomedical engineering and a minor in neuroscience. He entered in the Drexel University Neuroscience graduate program in fall 2018 and joined the lab of Dr. Megan Detloff, where he completed his MS in neuroscience in 2020, before transitioning into the PhD program.

Current research:
Individuals with spinal cord injury (SCI) suffer a loss of motor and sensory function. The current standard of care to recover fine motor control is rehabilitation focused on a combination of range of motion, aerobic, and strength training (ST). However, limited research has been conducted to determine the role of nociceptive afferent inputs from muscle on spinal plasticity and/or recovery of function. Using a rodent model of SCI with ST rehabilitation, the Detloff Lab determined that motor training not only improves forelimb strength and fine motor function but also can modulate the development of neuropathic pain. John is investigating whether these improvements in reaching and grasping may be due, in part, to the plasticity of nociceptive afferents.

Research interests:
Neurotrauma, spinal cord injury, rehabilitation, neuroplasticity and motor control.

Alumni