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Team

Patrik Brundin Laboratory
Postdoctoral Fellow

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Dr. Miguel Aguileta earned his B.Sc. in biomedical research from the National Autonomous University of Mexico, his M.Sc. in neuroscience from McGill University in Montreal, Canada and his Ph.D. in biotechnology from Ghent University, Belgium. During his graduate studies, Dr. Aguileta conducted research in different fields, including amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), Parkinson’s disease (Parkin and PINK1) and cell death mechanisms (intrinsic and extrinsic pathways). Dr. Aguileta pursued a brief (two-year) postdoctoral fellowship in Cologne, Germany, where he uncovered an immune response triggered by Huntingtin aggregates. In addition to his passion for investigating neurodegenerative diseases, he has a particular interest in posttranslational modifications. In 2019, he joined the laboratory of Dr. Patrik Brundin at Van Andel Institute as a postdoctoral fellow.

Postdoctoral Fellow

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Dr. Ehraz Anis graduated from Aligarh Muslim University, India, with a bachelor’s degree in biochemistry. He then completed a master’s degree in biotechnology at Hamdard University, India. Dr. Anis worked on the 6-OHDA murine model of Parkinson’s disease (PD) and studied mitochondrial dysfunction and oxidative stress in PD for his Ph.D. dissertation at Aligarh Muslim University. He is currently studying the role vermiform appendix plays in PD pathology at Van Andel Institute.

Kim Cousineau, MPA
Executive Assistant
Senior Research Scientist

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Dr. Sonia George received her Ph.D. in neuroscience from the University of Melbourne, where she studied animal models of Parkinson’s disease, further characterizing and using the transgenic A53T alpha-synuclein mouse to model Parkinson’s disease. Sonia started her work focusing on previously undescribed behavioral abnormalities in these animals. In 2009, she began working with other transgenic models of Parkinson’s disease to further understand disease mechanisms while a postdoctoral researcher at Johns Hopkins University and University of Minnesota. Sonia then moved to Lund University to focus her research on Alzheimer’s disease, the leading cause of late-onset dementia. Using a transgenic mouse model of Alzheimer’s disease, she tested potential therapeutics and also studied the stereotypical spread of pathology over time in a mouse model of Alzheimer’s disease. Using a neurotoxin to chemically kill the brain cells in the brain structure where pathology first appears this model, Sonia prevented the further spread of pathology. In the Brundin Laboratory at Van Andel Institute, she continues using her skills to model Parkinson’s disease in mice to elucidate disease mechanisms, test potential therapeutics and investigate the role of inflammation in the spread of brain pathology in this disease.

Vanessa Howland
Van Andel Institute Graduate School Student

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Vanessa worked in the Smith Lab at UCSC investigating Mn-induced changes in gene transcript levels of key PFC catecholaminergic system proteins TH, D2 and DAT in an animal model.

Ella Kasanga, Ph.D.
Postdoctoral Fellow

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Dr. Ella Kasanga earned her Bachelor of Pharmacy and Master of Philosophy in Pharmacology degrees from the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science & Technology in Ghana. She graduated with a Ph.D. in Biomedical Sciences from the University of North Texas Health Science Center in Fort Worth. Her graduate work focused on investigating the strategies and mechanisms to reduce locomotor impairment in aging and Parkinson’s disease. Her work was supported by several awards including the Parkinson’s Foundation Visiting Scholar Award and the Society for Neuroscience Trainee Professional Development Award. Currently, Dr. Kasanga’s work is centered on investigating the possible role of viral infections as a trigger for Parkinson’s disease.

Emily Kuhn, B.S.
Senior Research Technician

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Emily graduated from Michigan Technological University with a bachelor’s degree in biology and mathematical sciences. She has been a part of Dr. Patrik Brundin’s lab since 2015, focusing on Parkinson’s disease research. Her current work includes optimizing lab workflow and experimental protocols, training new lab members, and supporting the members of the lab in their neurodegeneration research using skills and techniques such as immunohistochemistry, small rodent work and cell culture.

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Dr. Mohit Kwatra earned his Bachelor’s degree in Pharmacy from Poona College of Pharmacy at Bharati Vidyapeeth Deemed University (Pune), his Master’s in Pharmacy from the School of Pharmaceutical Education & Research of Jamia Hamdard Deemed University (New Delhi), and his Ph.D. in Pharmacology and Toxicology with a specialization in Neuroscience from the National Institute of Pharmaceutical Education and Research (NIPER) Guwahati, Assam, India. His thesis research explored the role of chronic restraint stress and MPTP in altering neuronal signaling pathways in Parkinson’s disease, with a focus on pharmacological interventions using natural compounds. He has received several awards for his scholarship, including Trainee Professional Development Award from the Society for Neuroscience (2021) and the best publication and performance award at NIPER, among others.

Allison Lindquist
Research Technician

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Alli graduated from Hope college in Holland, Michigan with a composite degree in neuroscience. She joined Dr. Brundin’s lab in 2019 and assists laboratory scientists in their Parkinson’s-focused research. Her current work includes optimizing laboratory workflow and training new lab members in experimental protocols.

Gabriela Mercado Guerra, Ph.D.
Research Scientist

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Dr. Gabriela Mercado graduated from the University of Chile, with a Ph.D. in biological sciences. In the past years, her research focus has been on investigated the role of protein homeostasis dysfunction in Parkinson´s disease. Currently, she studies the mechanism underlying the pathological propagation of protein misfolding leading to neuronal dysfunction in the olfactory system of PD animal models.

Postdoctoral Fellow

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Dr. Emmanuel Quansah is an expert in molecular biology. He earned his B.Sc. in molecular biology and biotechnology from University of Cape Coast in Ghana followed by an M.Sc. in pharmaceutical biotechnology and a Ph.D. in molecular neurobiology from De Montfort University in the United Kingdom. His graduate work focused on the effects of the medication Ritalin (methylphenidate) on the developing brain. As a postdoctoral fellow in the laboratory of Dr. Patrik Brundin at Van Andel Institute, his work has centered on misfolded protein propagation in Parkinson’s disease. Over his academic career, Dr. Quansah has received several awards for his work, including the High-Flyers Scholarship from De Montfort University.

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Dr. Estibaliz Santiago-Mujika graduated from University of Navarre, Pamplona, Spain with a bachelor’s degree in biochemistry and a master’s degree in biomedical research specialized in neuroscience. She completed her Ph.D. degree in neuroscience at University of Leicester, UK, studying tubulin and its posttranslational modifications in vascular dementia and Alzheimer’s disease patients. Her current project involves investigating pathogens that act as triggers of Parkinson’s disease and characterizing their mechanism of action.

Jennifer Steiner, Ph.D.
Senior Laboratory Manager

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Dr. Jennifer Steiner graduated from Vanderbilt University (Nashville, Tenn., USA) with a Ph.D. in neuroscience. After a postdoctoral fellowship with Dr. Patrik Brundin at Lund University (Sweden), where she focused on modeling parkinsonism in multiple models, she moved with Dr. Brundin to VAI and shifted to laboratory management. She has worked for Dr. Brundin for more than 10 years, and helps push everyone in the lab’s research on Parkinson’s disease forward.

Lucas Stetzik, Ph.D.
Research Scientist

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Dr. Lucas Stetzik graduated from the College of Wooster with a bachelor’s degree in biochemistry and molecular biology. He completed his Ph.D. in integrated biosciences with a focus on behavioral neuroendocrinology at the University of Akron. He went on to complete a postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Florida studying olfaction using in vivo calcium imaging. Currently, he is working to develop an engrailed1 synucleinopathy mouse model.

Carla Thomas, B.S.
Research Technician

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Carla graduated from Grand Valley State University with a bachelor’s degree in biology. She joined Dr. Brundin’s lab in early 2021 after working for Charles River Laboratories as a pathology lab technician, bringing with her multidisciplinary laboratory experience and enthusiasm for biomedical research. Her role in the lab is assisting laboratory scientists with their research on Parkinson’s disease and neurodegeneration.

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Dr. Saima Zameer earned her Master of Pharmacy (Pharmacology) and Ph.D. (Pharmaceutical Medicine) from Jamia Hamdard, New Delhi, India. During her M.Pharm., she investigated the effect of aromatase inhibitors on the cognitive functions of mice. Her graduate work focused on repurposing of bisphosphonate for Alzheimer’s-like pathological changes and development of its brain targeted nano formulation. She worked as a research associate in Center for Excellence in Vaccine Delivery in National Institute of Immunology, New Delhi, India. In Oct. 2021, she joined Dr. Patrik Brundin’s laboratory at Van Andel Institute as a postdoctoral fellow.