Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania

Center for Sleep and Circadian Neurobiology

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Trainee Research

The Center for Sleep & Circadian Neurobiology (CSCN) prides itself on its faculty's longstanding commitment to mentor the next generation of sleep medicine and circadian investigators in basic science, translational, and clinical research.

Clinical Sleep Medicine Fellows

Ilia Kritikou, MD

"My research has focused on sleep disorders, mainly OSA, and their association with cardiometabolic morbidity. I have co-authored 13 original peer-reviewed papers (4 as a first author), and several other manuscripts, currently under preparation or review. My research has also resulted in several posters and oral presentations in national and international conferences. Finally I am one of the authors of an electronic book chapter, on Hypothalamic-Pituitary-Adrenal Axis (HPA axis) and Sleep."

Yoon Hee Chang, MD

"Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is a condition that is associated with increased risk of cardiovascular and cerebrovascular diseases.  Positive airway pressure (PAP) has been shown to effectively treat sleep apnea in clinical trials but its real world effectiveness has been limited due to various reasons, including poor adherence to PAP therapy. My research interest is in developing implementation strategies to increase awareness about OSA and improve adherence to PAP therapy utilizing telemedicine platforms."  


Post-Doctoral Research Fellows

Glenna Brewster, PhD, RN, CRNP

"I am interested in identifying how factors such as sleep disturbances, stress, and depression interact to increase the risk of cognitive decline in caregivers of persons with dementia. I am also interested in providing interventions that would decrease the incidence of sleep disturbances in caregiver of persons with dementia caregivers." 

Janeese Brownlow, PhD

"I am a National Research Service Award (NRSA) Fellow at the Center for Sleep and Circadian Neurobiology at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania. I am also a member of the AASM-accredited Behavioral Sleep Medicine Program at Penn. I completed my graduate training in Neuropsychology at Howard University. My research focuses on the application neurofunctional probes in the pathophysiology and treatment of insomnia in relation to posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Specifically, my research (1) addresses the role of insomnia in the functional consequences (i.e. cognitive systems, neural circuitry) of PTSD; (2) integrates novel behavioral interventions for insomnia and PTSD in order to improve health outcomes."

Jennifer Goldschmied, Ph.D

"My research explores the relationship between sleep and emotional processing, including mood disturbance, emotional reactivity, and responsiveness to both reward and frustration. My research utilizes sleep manipulation paradigms, including sleep delay, slow wave deprivation, and napping to examine the effects on emotional outcomes." ResearchGate

Ilya Khaytin, MD, PhD

"I am doing research into sleep problems in children with Autistic Spectrum Disorders. Autistic spectrum disorders (ASD) encompass wide array of cognitive problems, ranging from devastating to almost normal functioning.  The pathorphysiology of the ASD is still not fully understood.  Importantly, cognitive impairments are not the only manifestation of ASD.  The children and adults with ASD has multiple other comorbidities, such as epilepsy, headaches, GI problems and sleep problems. Sleep disorders are a profound part of ASD and better understanding sleep in ASD will shed light on pathophysiology and management of the ASDs.  There is evidence that some of the genes linked to sleep problems, such as SHANK2 and HOMER1A, are also linked to ASD.  Several studies estimate prevalence of sleep problems in ASD children between 50-80%.  A recent study of children 4-10 years of age registered in Autism Treatment Network Registry showed that 71% of children had evidence of sleep disorders.  Unfortunately, parental reporting is not very reliable way to determine extent of the sleep problems in the children with ASD.  I am interested in developing a reliable way to diagnose types of sleep disorders in the children with ASD, which will allow development of evidence based treatments."

Junxin Li, PhD

"My research focuses on understanding how physical activity and sleep in relation to cognitive function in the geriatric population. I have a strong interest in examining the short term and long term impacts of daytime napping on cognitive functions in older adults. My current work includes a randomized controlled trial to test the effectiveness of a personalized exercise and napping intervention implementing smartwatch technology on sleep and cognition in sedentary older adults."

Rachel Mak-McCully, PhD

"I completed my PhD in Neurosciences at UCSD under the direction of Dr. Eric Halgren and in collaboration with Dr. Patrick Chauvel at Aix-Marseille University.  My research focused on the thalamocortical mechanisms underlying NREM human sleep using intracranial recordings and computational modeling. My current research project focuses on the dynamic fluctuations occurring in the EEG of healthy controls under stable anesthetic state and the prediction of return of consciousness.  The project collaborates between the labs of Drs. Max Kelz, Alex Proekt, and Brian Litt."

Susan Malone, PhD

"The overarching goal of my research is to promote health and prevent cardio-metabolic disease across the lifespan by bridging research in circadian rhythms and metabolism to chrono-therapeutic interventions that mitigate type 2 diabetes (T2D) risk. My research interests include 1) the effects of behavioral, biological, and environmental rhythms on metabolic health, 2) individual differences in resiliency against or vulnerability to circadian disruption and 3) the design of personalized, preventative chrono-therapeutic interventions to optimize cardio-metabolic health across communities and across the lifespan." LinkedIn

Richard McCloskey, PhD

"My broad interest in sleep revolves around the evolutionarily conserved functions of sleep, and how sleep seems to be regulated by common genetic and molecular pathways many animals. To learn about sleep I use behavioral monitoring, genetics, and optogenetics, imaging, etc. as tools in the experimental model organism Caenorhabditis elegans. I also have an interest in how personal wearables can be used to monitor sleep and other behavioral states as a tool for learning about sleep in an ethological context."

Emilia Moscato, PhD

Since joining the Kayser lab in January 2015, I have been using Drosophila to study the intersection of sleep and neurodevelopmental diseases.

Anjum Parkar, PhD

My name is Anjum Parkar and I am a second year Postdoctoral Researcher in the lab of Dr.Leszek Kubin. I have a Master’s degree in Biomedical Engineering from Drexel University, Philadelphia and I received my PhD in Bioengineering in August 2015 from Pennsylvania State University, University Park. My doctoral dissertation focused on using neuro-stimulation approaches to control seizures in rat model of Epilepsy. Currently, I am interested in the role of the noradrenergic system in the motor control of upper airway during sleep in obstructive sleep apnea. I am using neuroanatomical and optogenic approaches in TH-Cre rats to study this role.

Rosalia Paterno, PhD

"I am a postdoctoral fellow with Akiva Cohen in the Department of Anesthesia at the University of Pennsylvania and CHOP. My research is focused on the neural mechanisms underlying endogenous rhythms important in sleep and encoding and retrieval phases of memory after traumatic brain injury."

Ivan Vargas, PhD

"My research broadly focuses on advancing our understanding of the role stress and sleep have in psychopathology." Website

Olivia Veatch, PhD

"My research focuses on uniting molecular and computational genetics to inform translational medicine for neurological conditions. I combine cutting edge computational techniques for gene discovery and characterization, with the functional follow-up studies necessary for translation of genetic findings to humans. I am particularly interested in understanding how pleiotropic genetic effects influence the relationship between neurological disorders and comorbid sleep disturbances." LinkedIn

Ariel Williamson, PhD

"My research is focused on the identification and treatment of sleep disorders and related behavioral problems among socio-demographically diverse young children in underserved community settings. I am currently collecting data on children ages 2-5 years recruited from the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia urban and suburban primary care sites to examine the impact of sleep problems on behavioral functioning, and how this association varies by socioeconomic background. I aim to use these data to inform a project on the development and evaluation of a brief, primary-care based pediatric sleep screening and behavioral intervention program." LinkedIn // Research Gate // Pediatric Sleep Institute

Shirly Zhang, PhD

"I am interested in understanding clock control of functions of the blood-brain barrier (BBB). Understanding periphery to brain communication has important implications for the prevention and treatment of many acute and chronic diseases. Elucidating the rhythmicity of BBB transport permeability may improve clinical treatments."


PhD Students

Salika Dunatunga — PhD Candidate, Genomics and Computational Biology

"My research focuses on developing algorithms, software, and methods for assessing sleep (REM and non-REM) and wake states in mice using non-invasive techniques. In particular, I work with mini computers and cameras to record video data from mice and then use common image processing algorithms to extract visible, physical features of the mouse. These features are then separated into REM, non-REM and wake using machine learned classifiers trained on paired EEG and video data. The goal is to increase call accuracy such that video systems provide enough information for thorough sleep studies and perhaps allow sleep study designs that may have been limited by EEG surgery."  

Sarah Ly — PhD Candidate, Neuroscience

"I am interested in the cellular and molecular mechanisms that underlie sleep regulation in the brain. Specifically, I want to understand how molecules that modulate protein homeostasis and synaptic plasticity can determine an animal's behavioral state. I employ a combination of pharmacological, genetic, and behavioral techniques using the Drosophila animal model in order to address these issues." LinkedIn

Isaac Perron — PhD Candidate, Neuroscience

"Previous research has shown eating unhealthy, fatty foods and gaining weight can increase daytime sleepiness. My research focuses on neural mechanisms that may underly these wake impairments." LinkedIn