Research Coordinator

Alice La

Clinical Research Coordinator

Alice graduated from UC Berkeley in 2016 with a bachelor’s degree in molecular and cell biology with emphasis in neurobiology. As an undergraduate, she worked as a research technician in the Barton Lab, managing their mouse colony to study innate immunity and pathogen recognition. She also volunteered as a research assistant in the Lammel Lab, investigating midbrain dopaminergic networks of reward and addiction by performing in vivo mouse surgery and optogenetics behavioral assays. On the side, she volunteered at the University Health Services Pharmacy, studied ancient history as a minor, and attended an archaeological field school program excavating Mycenaean chamber tombs.

Alice joined the Memory and Aging Center in December 2015 as a research coordinator for Dr. Elissaios Karageorgiou on MEG neuroimaging to visualize sleep patterns in dementia patients and at-risk healthy controls. She also coordinates a phase II clinical trial run by Dr. Keith Vossel on investigating the potential role of anti-epileptic medication in neurodegenerative diseases.

In her spare time, you might find Alice watching historical fiction dramas, spending time with her cat, and practicing archery. She also enjoys horseback riding whenever she gets the chance and dreams of adopting her own horse in the future.

Ali Zahir

Research Coordinator

Ali Zahir is a research coordinator working with Dr. Winston Chiong on decision-making and how it is affected by aging and neurodegenerative disease. He attended University of California, Berkeley, where he received a degree in nutritional sciences and toxicology.

Outside of work, Ali volunteers at the Berkeley Free Clinic as a community health worker, and in his spare time, he enjoys training in Muay Thai and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, hiking, and telling jokes with friends.

Karen Dorsman

Research Coordinator

Karen was born and raised in Nicaragua, where her interest in neuropsychology and community health began. Her passion for travel took her to Uruguay, where she graduated with a bachelor’s degree in psychology. While working on her honors thesis, she trained in clinical neuropsychology with mentors Sergio Dansilio, MD; Luis Fontan, MD; and Jorge Lorenzo, MD. During that time, she developed a strong interest toward healthy aging.

Since moving to the US, she served as a volunteer research assistant in the Life-Span Development Lab and the Psychophysiology Lab at Stanford University. Karen also worked as Program Coordinator at There With Care, a non-profit that supports families with critically ill children, as well as a Caregiver Resource Specialist at Family Caregiver Alliance. Karen is interested in working with underserved populations and joined the Memory and Aging Center in 2016 to coordinate and assess Latino participants who join MAC studies. In order to increase diversity in the MAC research programs, she also does community outreach.

Her research interests include healthy aging and underrepresented populations, particularly how culture and coping strategies influence the way we embrace changes as we become older adults. She also has a passion for clinical neuropsychology and in the next few years, she plans to pursue a graduate degree in neuroscience or clinical psychology.

In her spare time, Karen enjoys cooking, trying new culinary spots, and reading. She also loves volunteering and supports her local library and businesses.

Ariane Welch

Clinical Research Coordinator

Ariane is a speech language pathologist from Australia. She graduated from the University of Sydney, Australia with a bachelor of arts degree (Hons) in English, Linguistics and Semiotics and has a masters degree in speech language pathology, also from the University of Sydney. During her undergraduate degree, she researched multi-modal discourse analysis, creating a system network for the illustration of facial affect in children’s literature and completing a research project on embodied semiosis in political photography. She will be working with Drs. Maria Luisa Gorno Tempini on primary progressive aphasia, Zachary Miller on dyslexia and Kevin Shapiro on pediatric stroke.

Jeff Choi

Clinical Research Coordinator

Jeff graduated from University of California, Berkeley with a degree in human biology. During his time at UC Berkeley, Jeff was active in volunteering abroad in mobile clinics in the Dominican Republic and South Africa. He also worked as a Cantonese health interpreter for different hospitals and clinics.

During his college career, Jeff was involved in the Golden Bear Sleep and Mood Clinic to conduct clinical trials for patients with insomnia and other sleep disturbances. In 2013, he started working as a research intern in the Seeley Lab, where he mainly assisted with brain banking and brain blocking procedures to generate histology information.

Jeff joined the Memory and Aging Center in September 2015 as a Clinical 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 his spare time, Jeff enjoys traveling to interesting countries, camping, running and exploring new spots in the city.

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.

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.

Cristina Armas

Lab Technician

Cristina came to the Grinberg Lab in the fall of 2014 from the City College of San Francisco Bridge to Biosciences Internship Program. She is an undergraduate with a minor background in psychology. She is currently pursuing a degree in neuroscience that accompanies a tremendous interest in neuropathology, genetics, and holistic research. In the Grinberg Lab she assists with carrying out the histology protocols.

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