Nicole L. Baganz, Ph.D. Nicole L. Baganz, Ph.D.
Research Assistant Professor, Biomedical Science
Director of Community Engagement and Programming, FAU Brain Institute
Director, ASCEND
Bio: Nicole Baganz joined the FAU Brain Institute as its Director of Community Programming in 2016. Dr. Baganz has pursued research into the mechanisms by which chemical signaling in the brain can be impacted by the immune system, with a specific interest in alterations in the action of the chemical serotonin.


Chelsea Bennice, Ph.D. Chelsea Bennice, Ph.D. Assistant to the Director
Bio: Chelsea (aka Octo Girl) is currently finishing her PhD studying what resource partitioning mechanisms facilitate coexistence between two octopus species in a South Florida lagoon. Understanding octopus coexistence is important for biodiversity and because octopuses play an important role in many marine food webs. Chelsea enjoys using underwater photography and videography to explain her research, tell her underwater stories, and to show her passion for marine science- Check our her underwater stories on Facebook: OctoGirl & Instagram: TheOctoGirl.


David Cinalli, Ph.D. David Cinalli, Ph.D. Assistant to the Director and Assistant Director of MobileMinds
Bio: David Cinalli studies how the brain encodes, consolidates, and recalls different forms of memory in laboratory mice. "I learn about how memory system function can help us develop treatments for disorders like Alzheimer's disease. Now if only I could remember where I left my car keys."



Talks and Tours

Paula Kurdziel Paula Kurdziel, Ph.D
Postdoctoral Fellow, Dr. Randy Blakely
Bio: Paula Kurdziel is a postdoctoral fellow in the Biomedical Science Department at FAU's Brain Institute. She started in the Blakely Lab in 2017 to investigate the intricate connection between our brain and peripheral immune system. She completed her PhD in Genetics at Michigan State University where she studied the epigenetic control of drug-associated memories formed in addiction. There, she was introduced to neuroscience outreach and has found any opportunity to teach people about the brain and neuroscience research. Paula is passionate about instilling an appetite for science in everyone around her.


Sam McGovern, M.S. Sam McGovern, M.S.
Lab Manager, Dr. Ning Quan
Bio: Sam completed her M.S degree in 2019 in Neuroscience at FAU under the mentorship of Dr. Randy Blakely. She is a lab manager in Dr. Ning Quan’s lab her current research involves the functional study of the receptor (IL-1R1) for interleukin 1, a major inflammatory signaling molecule, in the context of central nervous system inflammation. Using highly advanced genetic mouse models, she has discovered novel functions of IL-1R1 on brain astrocytes following viral infection. She has also led several projects on neurodegenerative disease models including experimental multiple sclerosis, Huntington Disease and stress-mediated cognitive impairment. Sam enjoys teaching and communicating with the community about neuroscience research.



Media Mavens

Lorena Areal, Ph.D. Lorena Areal, Ph.D.
Postdoctoral Fellow, Randy Blakely, Ph.D.
Bio: Prior to joining the Blakely lab, I pursued Ph.D. studies in Neuroscience at the Federal University of Minas Gerais, Brazil, where I investigated behavioral and molecular aspects of crack-cocaine and cocaine addiction in mouse models. In addition to addiction, the dopamine system is involved in many neuropsychiatric diseases. Furthermore, the dopamine transporter (DAT), a protein critical for regulation of dopamine neurotransmission, is not only the site of action for cocaine but also is a target for medications that treat attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). As a postdoctoral fellow, I investigate mechanisms by which altered DAT function can drive risk for neuropsychiatric and neurodevelopmental disorders. My current research focuses on molecular, circuit, and behavioral alterations exhibited in the DAT Val559 mouse, where a DAT gene variant identified in patients diagnosed with ADHD, bipolar disorder and autism spectrum disorder is expressed, with the ultimate goal of identifying better ways to diagnose and treat these disorders.


Daniel Nemeth Daniel Nemeth
Ph.D. candidate
Mentor: Ning Quan, Ph.D.
Thesis topic: Immune- to Neuro-Memory



Matthew Pacheco Matthew Pacheco
Undergraduate Student, Wilkes Honors College



Virtual Voyagers

Jana Boerner, Ph.D. Jana Boerner, Ph.D.
Managing Director, Brain Institute Cell Imaging Core, Biological Sciences, College of Science
Bio: Jana Boerner manages the Imaging Core Manager that includes the Nikon Center of Excellence Core Facility.


Alexandra Paz Alexandra Paz
GNTP/Integrative Biology—Neuroscience
Mentors: Alex C. Keene, Ph. D. & Johanna Kowalko, Ph.D.
Thesis topic: The characterization of a simple startle circuit in Astyanax mexicanus.



If are you are interested in this program, please call us at 561.799.8559 or email us at and we will be happy to hear from you and assist you.