Celebrating NGG Graduates
Please join us in our celebration as we highlight our NGG graduates.
The profiles are sectioned by degree type:
Doctor of Philosophy
Thesis Title: Development of Human Brain Network Architecture Underlying Executive Function
Post PhD Plans: Postdoctoral Fellow at Harvard University
Mentor Comment: After undergraduate work at Cornell and a two year stint as an NIMH IRTA, Graham completed his PhD through the Neuroscience Graduate Group. Co-mentored by Ted Satterthwaite & Dani Bassett, Graham's work sought to use techniques from network science to understand the developing brain. During his PhD, he wrote three first author papers. He demonstrated that during development structural brain networks become increasingly segregated (Baum et al., Current Biology 2017). Furthermore, in a methodological paper, he showed that motion artifact can systematically bias estimates of structural brain network connectivity (Baum et al., Neuoimage 2018). Finally, he delineated that coupling between structural and functional brain networks remodels in a hierarchy-dependent manner throughout adolescence (Baum et al., PNAS 2019). In addition to these important papers, he contributed to 12 other papers in the lab, and received an NIMH F31 award. He is now a post-doctoral fellow at Harvard University in the lab of Leah Somerville.
Thesis Title: The Neural Computations in the Caudate Nucleus for Reward-Biased Perceptual Decision Making
Research and Lab Description: Using computational modeling and electrophysiology to understand how the Caudate Nucleus in the Basal Ganglia helps combine external evidence and internal preferences during decision-making. The lab has been the place that I feel like home ever since I rotated there. It's full of people willing to support each other through ups and downs, hardworking and motivated by their passions for learning and discovery, and it is a great place that allowed me and many other people learn new skills from scratch.
Post PhD Plans: Postdoctoral training with Dr. David Borton at the Brown University investigating the neural mechanisms underlying mental illnesses and developing a close-loop adaptive deep-brain stimulation treatment that incorporates behavioral and electrophysiological assessment of symptom fluctuations.
Mentor Comment: Don't be fooled by her gentle demeanor. There is a glorious mind and brave soul underneath.
Thesis Title: More Than Words: Extra-Sylvian Networks Support Pragmatic Language Processing in Focal Dementia
Research and Lab Description: In her thesis research, Meghan used neuroimaging techniques and novel experimental paradigms to examine language impairment in patients with focal dementia. Her lab, the Penn Frontotemporal Degeneration Center directed by Dr. Murray Grossman, investigates the progression and treatment of neurodegenerative diseases using a combination of methods, including predictive genetics, structural neuroimaging, cognitive testing, and the collection of blood and cerebrospinal fluid.
Post PhD Plans: Following completion of her degree, Meghan began a new career as a Medical Writer at Oxford Pharmagenesis in Newtown, PA, where she specializes in neurology and psychiatry account support and the development of patient education materials.
Mentor Comment: Meghan is a passionate investigator who deeply cares about her research project and its important topic - the neurobiology of conversational discourse. While conversational speech is overwhelmingly the most common way we communicate daily, this is woefully understudied. The reason why is because it is such a difficult and challenging topic. Meghan performed an insightful analysis of key elements contributing to conversation, and built a large-scale neuroanatomic model to underpin her approach. Then she developed elegantly-crafted studies to investigate these neurocognitive elements in patients with an uncommon neurodegenerative condition - frontotemporal degeneration. Her studies are pathbreaking and at the cutting edge of her area of investigation. Moreover, her work is so very important for the real-world healthcare and quality of life for the patients that she studied. It’s been such a pleasure to work with Meghan for the past few years. I wish her the best of luck in her future endeavors, and I’m totally confident that she will be fabulously successful.
Thesis Title: The Role of the Central GLP-1 System in Cocaine-Seeking Behavior
Research and Lab Description: I studied the hormone GLP-1 as a potential therapeutic for cocaine use disorder. The lab is a wonderful close-knit group run by the great Dr. Heath Schmidt that uses animal models of drug taking and seeking to investigate neurobiological mechanisms that regulate addiction-like behaviors.
Post PhD Plans: Science Policy Fellowship
Mentor Comment: Nicole is a gifted scientist with a bright future. Her discoveries in the lab significantly advance our understanding of the neurobiological mechanisms underlying cocaine use disorder. The potential clinical impact of Nicole’s studies is profound in that they may lead to new pharmacotherapies to treat cocaine craving-induced relapse. Nicole is also a born leader and mentor. She inspires others through her outreach and she serves as a model for underrepresented minorities in the sciences. While we will miss Nicole dearly, we are excited to follow her future endeavors to influence national policy as an advocate for science and technology.
Thesis Title: Circuit-Based Therapies Rescue Cognitive Dysfunction in Neurological and Psychiatric Diseases
Research and Lab Description: My dissertation work used circuit-based therapies, retuning disease-altered circuit dysregulation in the hippocampus, to rescue cognitive performance across mouse models of neurological and psychiatric diseases. The Coulter lab explores hippocampal circuit function and how diseases alter circuit function, seeking to understand and correct the mechanisms that generate disease-related symptoms.
Post PhD Plans: Academic Post-doc
Thesis Title: The Role of Midbrain Chloride Ion Dysregulation in Escalated Alcohol Consumption
Research and Lab Description: My thesis research combined ex vivo electrophysiology and in vivo behavioral analyses to discover inhibitory plasticity in the ventral tegmental area, a brain region critical for reward processing, that arises from drug or stress experience and contributes to further drug abuse. I conducted my thesis research in the laboratory of Dr. John Dani in the Department of Neuroscience, which takes a multi-disciplinary approach to investigating neural circuit mechanisms of mood disorders and drug addiction.
Post PhD Plans: In February 2020 I began a postdoctoral fellowship in the laboratory of Dr. Gregory Corder in the Departments of Psychiatry and Neuroscience at the University of Pennsylvania. With Dr. Corder’s lab I will identify prediction codes in midbrain endogenous opioid circuits that contribute to affective pain relief. My long-term goal is to lead a research group as an independent investigator studying neural circuit adaptations that contribute to chronic pain and drug addiction.
Thesis Title: Measuring Behavioral Phenotypes from Complex Social Interactions in Non-Human Primates
Mentor Comment: For his PhD thesis in Neuroscience, Seth developed new machine learning methods to develop data-driven behavioral phenotypes in a population of free-ranging monkeys on an island off the coast of Puerto Rico. Doing so required all the considerable math in Seth's toolkit. Importantly, he showed that it is the patterning of behavior, not just how often the behavior occurs, that matters most. We're now using Seth's model and phenotypes as targets of gene sequencing and gene expression analyses in a long-term NIH-funded project. His work was indispensable to the success of our research.
Thesis Title: The IPN Regulates Anxiety Independently of Drug Addiction
Post PhD Plans: Freelance Journalism
Combined Degree, MD-PhD
Thesis Title: A Drosophila Model of Sleep Restriction Therapy for Insomnia and Neurodegenerative Disease
Research and Lab Description: My thesis work developed a paradigm for use of human Sleep Restriction Therapy for Insomnia in the fruit fly, demonstrating that improving sleep improves behavioral deficits associated with neurodegenerative disease, while identifying novel molecular modifiers of these disease processes. Sleep abnormalities are pervasive across nearly all psychiatric disorders, and disrupted sleep early in life has been linked to mental illness in adulthood. Work in the Kayser Lab stands to connect this fundamental behavior – sleep – to both pathogenesis and novel treatment of neuropsychiatric disease.
Post PhD Plans: Complete medical school training, residency in Pediatric Neurology, and begin a career as a physician-scientist.
Mentor Comment: I feel extremely fortunate that Samy pursed his PhD work in my laboratory. He played a crucial role in paving the way for the success of the lab and many projects. He is a very hard worker, setting a tone that others have followed, but also brings a positive attitude to work every day that I will likely never come across again. It is easy to be cynical and frustrated about science, but Samy is incredibly upbeat and resilient, always looking towards solutions. At a personal and lab-wide level, this is perhaps his most important attribute and contribution.
Thesis Title: Structure and Function of a Disease Associated Tau Disaggregase
Research and Lab Description: I studied the structure and function of a disease associated tau disaggregase. I worked in Eddie Lee’s lab which focuses on using molecular and biochemical techniques to answer questions derived from human neuropathology.
Post PhD Plans: Will return to medical school and apply to ENT residency.
Mentor Comment: Nabil Darwich has shown remarkable breadth and depth in his studies which has culminated into a study that defines a novel type of dementia, demonstrating that abnormal proteostasis contributes to neurodegeneration. His work spans neuropathology, genetics, biochemistry, and animal modeling, and his diligence has proven and will continue to have a deep impact on the patients and families we serve.
Thesis Title: Genetic Control of Enteric Nervous System Development and Subtype Specification
Research and Lab Description: My thesis research explored the role of transcription factors in enteric nervous system (ENS) development. Specific projects included characterizing the role of transcription factors Dlx1 and Dlx2 in enteric neuron development and subtype specification, single-nucleus sequencing of mouse and human ENS to identify novel genetic regulators, and exploring ENS defects in mouse models of Down Syndrome. My lab studies how the bowel nervous system develops, and how this development is perturbed in diseases like Hirschsprung disease.
Post PhD Plans: Returning to medical school.
Thesis Title: Linking Functional Brain Networks to Psychopathology and Beyond
Research and Lab Description: Cedric mapped large-scale brain connectivity to diverse range of psychopathology in youth. Penn Lifespan Informatics and NeuroImaging Lab (LINC), led by Dr. Ted Satterthwaite, is focused on innovation in data science and translational neuroscience to understand brain development and mental illness.
Post PhD Plans: Finishing last year of medical school before embarking on psychiatry research track residency training.
Mentor Comment: Cedric was co-advised by Drs. Ted Satterthwaite of Psychiatry and Danielle Bassett of Bioengineering. During his thesis work, he focused efforts to parse heterogeneity in psychiatric illness using machine learning and functional networks. Specifically, Cedric developed novel machine learning tools for linking brain networks and behavior (multi-scale network regression; Xia et al., Human Brain Mapping 2020). Furthermore, he used multi-view learning tools to find linked dimensions of psychopathology and dysconnectivity in functional brain networks (Xia et al., Nature Communications 2018); this paper received the Robert M. Toll Prize for an Outstanding Paper. In addition to this important work, he contributed to 14 other papers from the lab. During his graduate work, he received many awards, including the Blavatnik Fellowship in Biomedical Research, the Jameson-Hurvich Award in Behavioral Neuroscience, the Organization of Human Brain Mapping Merit Abstract Award, the Society of Biological Psychiatry (SOBP) Predoctoral Scholars Travel Fellowship Award, and was named the Interurban Clinical Club Jon Epstein Scholar.