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.

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."

Casey Rudzinski, Ph.D.

Casey Rudzinski, Ph.D. Postdoctoral Fellow, Scientific Communications and Community Engagement
Bio: Casey Rudzinski is a Postdoctoral Fellow at the Stiles-Nicholson Brain Institute, where he assists the program director with community outreach efforts as well as neuroscience education and programming efforts. Rudzinski completed his Ph.D. in Education and researched social-emotional wellness in education-based athletics, assessing areas such as mental health literacy and community resources for overall student success. He values increasing STEM education both in the classroom and in the community.

Talks and Tours

Paula Kurdziel, Ph.D

Paula Kurdziel 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.

Claudia Alvarez

David Cinalli, Ph.D. GNTP Affiliate Program: Neuroscience Graduate Program (NGP) Mentor: Henriette van Praag, Ph.D. Bio: The role of diet and exercise in modulation of adult neurogenesis, neuroinflammation and amyloid-beta pathology in a mouse model of Alzheimer’s Disease

Media Mavens

Daniel Nemeth, Ph.D.

Daniel Nemeth Postdoctoral Fellow
Mentor: Ning Quan, Ph.D.
Thesis topic: Immune- to Neuro-Memory
Bio: Daniel Nemeth, Ph.D. Postdoctoral Fellow, Dr. Ning Quan. Bio: I am working with Dr. Ning Quan to dissect the functional mechanisms of cell type specific Interleukin-1 Receptor 1 (IL-1R1) in the central nervous system (CNS). My primary focus is determining if neurons can encode an immunological signal into changes in neuronal connectivity via IL-1R1, which we term as "Immune to Neural Memory". My line of research will dissect how neural encoding of immune signals can lead to the manifestation of either aberrant or beneficial behaviors. Ultimately, I aim to unveil neuro-immune related mechanisms of affective disorders and cognitive decline. Additionally, I am working with a model of sub-chronic peripheral inflammation that dynamically alters microglia, the resident tissues macrophages of the CNS.

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.

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.

Jessica Frank

Jessica Frank Department of Chemistry & Biochemistry, Charles E. Schmidt College of Science
Mentor: Gregg Fields, Ph.D., FNAI
Thesis Topic: "The Synthesis of MT1-MMP Chemical Probes for Druggable Target Deconvolution in Metastatic Cancer Models."

Chandani Singh

Chandani Singh Department of Chemistry & Biochemistry, Charles E. Schmidt College of Science
Mentor: Gregg Fields, Ph.D., FNAI
Thesis Topic: “Synthesis and characterization of peptides and enzymes inhibitors, as well as to evaluate the activity of peptide probes and inhibitors towards enzymes, specifically members of the matrix metalloproteinase (MMP) family.”


Kori Citrin

Kori Citrin

Bio: NGP/ MPFI Integrative Biology with a Concentration in Neuroscience
Lillian Onwuha-Ekpete

Lillian Onwuha-Ekpete

Bio: Lillian is an I-HEALTH postdoctoral fellow under the mentorship of Dr. Gregg Fields. She earned her doctorate in Integrative Biology with a focus on biomedical sciences in 2020 working on the matrix metalloproteinase family of enzymes. Her work highlighted the role of specific members of the family of enzymes, gelatinases, in the immune response associated with autoimmune disease, such as multiple sclerosis. For her postdoctoral research, she is continuing to work with Dr. Fields to elucidate further the role of these enzymes in various diseases. The scope of diseases includes (1) autoimmunity such as multiple sclerosis and rheumatoid arthritis, (2) cancer, and (3) inflammation. She enjoys teaching and exposing science to the students she mentors in class, research settings or through the ASCEND outreach programs.


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