PIA Executive Committee:
PIA to Elevate Early Career Researchers (PEERs)
Chair: Adam Smith
Adam Smith is Programme Director for the National Institute for Hsearch National Director for Dementia Research, based within the NIHR Dementia Biomedical Research Centre at University College London. Adam has worked on a number of innovation programmes within the NHS, Department of Health, commercial sector and at University College London. He previously worked on healthcare associated infections, particularly MRSA, patient waiting times and healthcare reconfiguration and over the past few years has been entirely focused on dementia.
In addition to his own research, Adam has led various national programmes looking at improving study recruitment (leading on the development of Join Dementia Research), better supporting care homes and residents to engage with research (with the Enabling Research in Care Homes ENRICH), and most recently leading on the creation and delivery of Dementia Researcher, an international initiative to support early career dementia researchers.
Adam is also a member of the UK Health Research Authority National Research Ethics Panel, and a Research Associate at the University of Sydney. He also write blogs and hosts podcasts for Dementia Researcher.
Vice Chair: C. Elizabeth Shaaban
I am a population neuroscientist and postdoctoral fellow in the Department of Epidemiology at the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health working with mentors Drs. Bill Klunk and Ann Cohen. I am also a University of Pittsburgh Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center OSCAR Scholar working with the Outreach, Recruitment, and Engagement (ORE) Core. I completed my PhD in epidemiology in Dr. Caterina Rosano’s lab, where I trained in advanced neuroimaging of cerebral small vessel disease and population neuroscience of aging. I integrate the methods of epidemiology, data science, neuroscience, and psychology to study vascular contributions to cognitive impairment and dementia (VCID), including Alzheimer’s disease (AD), using a population neuroscience framework.
My current and future work involves applying a population neuroscience approach to evaluate whether there are gender / sex differences in the cerebral small vessel disease-to-AD pathophysiological cascade. My aim is to gain insight into gender/sex-based intervention targets to reduce AD and promote brain health equity.
I am excited to serve as the vice chair for PEERs. I have experience starting and running mentorship programs in STEM, membership in other ISTAART PIAs, and the knowledge of ECR needs from my own PhD and postdoctoral experiences. I look forward to better serving ECRs to keep us in dementia research! Fun fact: Outside of work, prior to COVID, I was a beginning salsa dancer, and I love to learn languages, cook, hike, and travel. My COVID hobbies have been exploring new local parks for weekend hikes and birding.
Programs Chair: James P. Quinn
I’m a neurology research fellow in the Alzheimer’s Clinical & Translational Research Unit at Massachusetts General Hospital under the supervision of Dr. Becky Carlyle and Dr. Steven Arnold. My research involves studying the neuronal signaling molecules, neuropeptides, in dementia pathogenesis to unravel disease mechanisms, identify new diagnostic biomarkers, and define novel therapeutic targets. My PhD research at the University of Manchester focused on the role of tau proteolysis in dementia pathogenesis, identifying granzyme A as a novel protease of tau and characterising cellular effects of tau fragments and their role in the brains of patients with dementia.
I am extremely excited to be the new programs chair for PEERs. I hope to use my experience of undergraduate, graduate and postgraduate research in dementia in the UK, Europe and the US, to help improve the early career research landscape around the world. When I’m not in the lab you can find me exploring the US and the world (when we are allowed), cycling, bouldering and listening to music.
Communications Chair: Naiara Demnitz
I’m a cognitive neuroscientist at the Danish Research Centre for Magnetic Resonance, working in the Healthy Ageing research group. Previously, I was an Atlantic Fellow for Equity in Brain Health at Trinity College Dublin and completed my PhD at the University of Oxford under the supervision of Klaus Ebmeier, Heidi Johansen-Berg and Claire Sexton. My research focuses on how modifiable lifestyle factors, such as physical activity, can benefit the structure and function of the ageing brain.
PEERs will provide a fantastic platform to amplify the voices of early career researchers (ECRs) around the world. In my role as communications chair, I am looking forward to engaging with other ECRs, and developing approaches to support incoming and existing young researchers.
Continent Lead - Africa: Royhaan Folarin
Royhaan heads the Neurophytotherapy research unit of his department (of Anatomy) at Olabisi Onabanjo University, where he specialises in experimental biopsychiatry and neuroregeneration using mice and Drosophila models. He also lectures anatomical sciences to medical and biomedical students as an early faculty. His research investigates the developmental mechanics of Alzheimer's disease and schizophrenia, in a bid to identify natural therapeutic alternatives to detrimental antipsychotics and neuro-palliatives currently available.
Royhaan is also a 3D printing expert and an advocate of Free and Open Science Hardwares (FOSH), skills harnessed by his research group to produce and distribute PPEs to neighbouring communities in the wake of COVID-19 as a contribution towards flattening the curve.
An alumnus of the University of Ilorin - Nigeria, Royhaan is a beneficiary of numerous grants from the Schizophrenia International Research Society (SIRS), International Brain Research Organization (IBRO), Teaching and Research in Natural Sciences for Development in Africa (TReND), and International Society for Neurochemistry (ISN). He is also a member of several international and local professional bodies.
For his commitment towards impactful communication of science to the Nigerian, African and international communities, Royhaan was inducted as a fellow of the African Science Literacy Network (ASLN) in October, 2019; while for his strong enthusiasm towards mentoring upcoming scientists, he currently serves as the mentorship coordinator at the Science Communication Hub Nigeria (Scicomm Nigeria).
Continent Lead - Asia: Tengfei Guo
Dr. Tengfei Guo completed his PhD study in Klinikum rechts der Isar, Technical University of Munich, and postdoc training in Dr. William Jagust’s group in University of California, Berkeley. Tengfei is currently an assistant professor in the Institute of Biomedical Engineering at Shenzhen Bay Laboratory/Peking University Shenzhen Graduate School. His lab focuses on how Aβ and tau affect brain structure and function in aging people and patients with Alzheimer’s disease (AD) using PET imaging of Aβ and tau and biofluid markers including plasma and cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) assays. He is co-leading the project “Greater-Bay-Area Aging Brain Health Initiative (GABHI)” in Guangdong, China. GABHI aims to study the risk factors of Aβ and tau aggregation in early stages of AD among China’s aging population, and identify novel approaches and techniques for early detection of AD and provide novel insights towards the early prevention. He is very excited to help develop resources and network to support early career researchers in China and around the world.
Continent Lead - Australia: Diana Karamacoska
Dr Diana Karamacoska is a cognitive neuroscientist and Postdoctoral Research Fellow at NICM Health Research Institute. She runs Australia’s largest clinical trial for vascular dementia and Alzheimer’s disease mixed with cerebrovascular disease, and is interested in understanding how lifestyle interventions, herbal medicines, and alternative therapies affect neurocognitive functioning. Her PhD research was conducted at the University of Wollongong and explored the neuronal mechanisms of executive control. After being awarded Examiners’ Commendation for Outstanding Thesis, she continues this work to identify the therapeutic potential of lifestyle medicines for cognitive decline and dementia. She is passionate about connecting people with research opportunities and raising awareness for dementia prevention, and strategies to improve quality of life and care.
Continent Lead - Europe: Sara Bartels
Dr Sara Laureen Bartels works as a postdoctoral researcher at Maastricht University (NL) as well as Karolinska Institutet (SE). Her work focuses on the development, evaluation, and implementation of psychosocial eHealth interventions for people with cognitive impairments, carers of people living with dementia, and individuals with chronic pain. Her PhD project was carried out within the European Union’s Horizon 2020, Marie Skłodowska Curie Actions – Innovative Training Network ‘INDUCT’ and included inter-sectorial secondments and collaborations across Europe. Sara’s special interest lies in the use of digital diaries, such as the Experience Sampling Method, to understand daily pattern and promote self-management of complex health issues.
Continent Lead - North America: Lindsay Welikovitch
I recently graduated from the Integrated Program in Neurosciences at McGill University. Under the mentorship of Dr. A. Claudio Cuello, my graduate research was focused on understanding how neuron-derived inflammatory factors influence the Alzheimer’s pathobiology. I’m currently transitioning into a new position as a Research Fellow at Massachusetts General Hospital, where I’ll be studying how microglia contribute to the development of tau pathology in the lab of Dr. Bradley Hyman. I’m thrilled to be serving as North American Lead for PEERs and am looking forward to working alongside such a wonderful team of scientists dedicated to supporting other ECRs. I’m excited to help develop resources and networks for ECRs engaged in dementia research at home and around the world.
Continent Lead - South America: Wagner Brum
I’m an MD-PhD student at Universidade Federal do Rio Grande do Sul (UFRGS), based in Porto Alegre, capital of the southernmost state of Brazil. Under the supervision of professor Eduardo Zimmer at UFRGS, my main research interest is in understanding how AD fluid biomarkers can be used in clinical settings to aid in prognosis, differential diagnosis and clinical decision making. I’m also studying the impact of Alzheimer’s disease pathology over the brain’s metabolic architecture. Being invited to serve as South America Continent Lead for PEERS is an honor and a big challenge. During conferences, we young researchers feel a sense of belonging to the research community - a feeling that sometimes fades until the next one. PEERS is about creating a hub to sustain this supporting and collaborative atmosphere for early career researchers during our entire journeys.