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Sara Dunlop

Staff Research Associate

Sara received a bachelor's degree in physiology from San Francisco State University in 2013. As an undergraduate, Sara worked as a lab assistant in the university’s human anatomy lab, assisting in curriculum development and developing a standard protocol for rehydrating embalmed specimens in order to preserve dissections for future teaching.

Sara joined the Grinberg Lab in 2013 with a passion to pursue neurodegenerative research. Her work investigates the susceptibility of specific brainstem nuclei affected in Alzheimer's disease using a combination of immunohistochemistry, histology and unbiased stereological techniques. She plans to pursue a medical career with a focus in neuropathology.

Matt O’Brien

Programmer/Analyst

Matt O’Brien manages the data for the Memory and Aging Center. He works to maintain the integrity of the research data generated through the Center, by collecting, cleaning, maintaining and visualizing it. He works in R, Python and SQL.

His professional background includes experience in biomechanics, mathematics, and data science. He received his undergraduate degree in Kinesiology from San Francisco State University and completed his graduate work at University of San Francisco in Analytics in 2014.

Maryana Alegro, PhD

Postdoctoral Fellow

Dr. Alegro joined the Grinberg Lab in 2015, aiming to research and develop advanced image processing techniques to improve the understanding of neurodegenerative diseases. She received her master of science degree in electrical engineering from the University of São Paulo Polytechnic School in 2009, where she focused on MRI brain tumor segmentation using machine learning. In 2014, she completed her doctorate degree at the University of São Paulo Polytechnic School, where her research focused on MRI and histology image registration. Dr. Alegro's research interests include color representation, for better segmentation and registration, and the use of advanced machine learning for image analysis.

Maria Mejia, HT (ASCP)

Staff Research Associate

Maria’s histology professional career illustrates a panorama of various neurology research experiences. Prior to joining UCSF, Maria obtained her bachelor's degree from Saint Mary's College (Kansas) and then worked for 18 years at a private institute performing a wide range of histology techniques on the visual system of the brain and the retina to increase the understanding of normal vision and eye disorders.

In 2006, Maria was recruited as the histology supervisor to work with Dr. Krystof Bankiewicz at UCSF to support the translational efforts of the laboratory. Maria’s part played an important role in performing the work necessary to initiate the clinical trials for Parkinson’s disease (PD). She came to the Grinberg Lab in 2013 where she manages the lab's histology protocols.

Natasha Z. Rabinowitz Steele, MPH

Program Manager

Natasha Rabinowitz Steele joined the MAC team in 2014 as the program manager of the Dementia Care Pathway program, led by Dr. Bruce Miller and Dr. Kate Rankin. This Quest Diagnostics-supported initiative translates best practices in screening, evaluating, and managing dementia and neurodegenerative disease into tools for primary care practitioners and their patients. As program manager, Natasha coordinates and integrates the ongoing diagnostic tool development and research of many different investigator led teams, including neuroimaging, neurobehavioral screening, genetics, economics, and rapidly progressive dementia.

Natasha earned her bachelor’s degree from Mount Holyoke College in Biology and a Master of Public Health degree in Epidemiology and Biostatistics from the George Washington University. She’s particularly interested in working with patients and exploring how medicine and translational research can act synergistically to improve clinical outcomes, particularly in low-resource settings.

Outside of her academic interests, Natasha spends her free time painting or exploring the mountain ranges of the West Coast.

Kristi Lui

Clinical Research Coordinator

Kristi graduated from Northwestern University with a degree in biological sciences. During her time at Northwestern, Kristi volunteered at a local nursing home, Symphony of Evanston, with a focus on providing long term care in specialized memory care units.

After working with numerous patients in memory loss and dementia care, Kristi shifted her studies to a concentration of neurobiology and pursued research in the Laboratory of Human Neuroscience at the Northwestern Feinberg School of Medicine. Her research focused on the long term neurological effects in acute ischemic stroke patients from Northwestern Memorial Hospital.

As of September 2015, Kristi joined the Memory and Aging Center as a research coordinator for the Care Ecosystem study. The study aims to learn more about the needs of both patients with dementia and their family, while improving the care of these patients and reducing health care costs in the future.

In her spare time, Kristi enjoys playing basketball, finding remote coffee shop corners in the Bay Area and hiking.

Kelly Gola

Lab Specialist

Kelly joined Dr. Rankin’s lab in 2014. She is completing her doctorate degree in developmental psychology at UC Santa Cruz where she has studied dyadic personality dynamics and the cognitive, socio-emotional, and neural underpinnings of everyday storytelling. While working with Dr. Rankin, she has examined intrinsic connectivity networks involvement in social cognition, emotional self-expression in neurodegenerative disease, and neuropsychiatric symptoms in neurodegenerative disease. Her current work aims to understand cerebellar involvement in social functioning and neuropsychiatric symptoms in neurodegenerative disease populations.

Kamalini Ranasinghe, MD, PhD

Postdoctoral Fellow

Dr. Kamalini Ranasinghe received her medical degree from the University of Peradeniya, Sri Lanka and completed her internship training in general medicine and general surgery. She earned her doctorate degree in Cognition and Neuroscience from the University of Texas at Dallas, under the mentorship of Dr. Michael Kilgard.

Dr. Ranasinghe is currently a Postdoctoral Fellow in the research group of Dr. Keith Vossel at the Memory and Aging Center. Her research centers on the network dysfunction of neurodegenerative diseases including Alzheimer’s disease and frontotemporal lobar degeneration. Much of her work has been devoted to identifying the spatial and temporal characteristics network dysfunction using MEG-imaging of the brain.

Jessica Foley, PhD, ABPP-CN

Clinical Neuropsychologist

Dr. Jessica M. Foley is a board-certified clinical neuropsychologist and Assistant Clinical Professor of Neurology who has served within the Memory and Aging Center of the UCSF Department of Neurology since 2014. Dr. Foley was awarded a bachelor’s degree from Harvard University in 2002, followed by PhD and PsyD degrees from Nova Southeastern University (2007) with a specialization in clinical neuropsychology. She completed predoctoral internship training specializing in neuropsychology at Brown Medical School Department of Psychiatry and postdoctoral fellowship training in neuropsychology at the UCLA Semel Institute for Neurosciences and Human Behavior. She previously (2009–2014) served as Neuropsychologist and Instructor of Psychiatry within the Harvard Medical School Department of Psychiatry and the Boston VA Medical Center, where she functioned as the senior neuropsychologist within the Brockton division (specialized in the assessment of medically complex older adults). She also served as faculty within the Boston Consortium in Clinical Psychology and Training Leader for neuropsychology training within the geropsychology internship and fellowship programs.

Dr. Foley currently functions as an attending neuropsychologist within the Memory and Aging Center, in which capacity she serves a multidisciplinary team and performs neuropsychological evaluations for patients presenting with suspicion of neurodegenerative illness. She also performs comprehensive neuropsychological evaluations of adults with a variety of known or suspected neurologic illnesses through the Department of Neurology Adult Outpatient Neuropsychology Clinic. Dr. Foley also serves as a faculty mentor for neuropsychology students in training, supporting clinical and research skills among developing scientist-practitioners in clinical neuropsychology.

Dr. Foley’s primary research interest concerns preclinical detection of Alzheimer’s disease and other neurodegenerative conditions by exploring genetic, metabolic, and cognitive factors that predict brain white matter deterioration. An additional interest entails understanding factors that moderate cognitive and white matter changes in older adults with HIV-infection.

Erik Johnson, MD, PhD

Clinical Instructor/Behavioral Neurology Fellow

Dr. Johnson is a Behavioral Neurology Fellow and a Scientist at the Gladstone Institute of Neurological Disease.

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