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Research Ambassador Profiles

Syed Adil, Co-Chair

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Major: Neuroscience

Email: Syed.Adil@duke.edu

Bio: Adil (yes, he goes by his last name) is a proud Tennesseean who ventured from Knoxville to this side of the Appalachian Mountains to attend his favorite school in the world, where he is on the pre-med track majoring in Neuroscience with minors in Chemistry and Biology. He is thrilled to be serving as DURS Co-Chair this year, and he is also always willing to talk to budding new researchers. Adil first began research during his sophomore year, in the lab of pediatric neurologist Dr. Mohamad Mikati, where for two years he studied a mouse model of a rare brain disease involving seizures and paralysis using methods such as EEG recording, kindling, behavioral assessment, immunohistochemistry, and more. Now, he is working with Dr. Nandan Lad and Dr. Allan Johnson to develop a high resolution atlas of the human brainstem for clinical and scientific use. In addition, Adil also performs clinical research with a thoracic surgery group in the lab of Dr. David Harpole, where his work is currently focused on optimizing treatment strategies for stage IIIA lung cancer. Beyond academics, Adil is also one of the biggest Duke Basketball fans you’ll ever find — he loves serving as a Line Monitor and representing the Blue Devils at every single home basketball game there is.

John Bernabei,  Co-Chair

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Major: Neuroscience

Email: John.bernabei@duke.edu

Bio: John is a biomedical engineering major from Detroit, Michigan. He works in the Brain Stimulation Engineering Laboratory where he analyzes non-invasive approaches to neuromodulation through computational methods, and hopes to develop therapies for neuropsychiatric disorders. He also is part of a student-run venture in the DuHatch business incubator which develops devices for individuals with diabetes. Outside of the lab, you can find John playing Chess or Go, or running the trails in the Duke forest.


DURS research amb. photoDanielle Scarano
Email: dls52@duke.edu
Major(s): Neuroscience, Biology and Psychology Minors
Bio: Danielle is a junior pursuing a major in Neuroscience, and minors in biology and psychology  She has interests in both research and medicine, and ultimately hopes to pursue a M.D. She has formerly worked as a research intern in several laboratories, specifically the NYU- Polytechnic Laboratory for Biocatalysis and Bioprocessing, the Hollingsworth Lab at Stony Brook University, and the Silver Lab at Duke University. She began her work in the Hollingsworth Lab as a Simons Research Fellow and in Debra Silver’s lab as a Howard Hughes Research Fellow.  Danielle currently works in the lab of Dr. Erich Jarvis at the Duke Institute for Brain Sciences  The Jarvis lab uses avian models to study the evolution of brain structures for vocal learning. Danielle is interested in brain evolution and development. Danielle has also studied mandarin Chinese and Neuroanatomy at the University of Sydney. Apart from her time as a researcher and student, Danielle is an award-winning realism artist, managing editor of Neurogenesis: Duke’s Undergraduate Journal of Neuroscience, a member of the Duke Debate team and volunteers for Adopt-a-Grandparent.


Duke Ryu

Brendan Ryu

Email: Brendan.ryu@duke.edu

Major: Neuroscience

Bio:Brendan is a Neuroscience major along with a Chemistry and Psychology minor from Pittsburgh, PA. He has been a research assistant in the Franks Neurobiology Lab since the second semester of freshman year and has been enjoying every second of it. He is currently conducting research on epilepsy with mice utilizing optogenetics– his specialty is inducing seizures on mice. When he is not immersing himself with the smell of mice, Brendan trains Taekwondo with his fellow teammates and travels along the East coast for tournaments. He is also a Rainbow Volunteer in the Pediatric Bone Marrow Transplant unit, where he gets to hang out and spend quality time with awesome people. On the weekends, you can find Brendan watching sports with his brothers in Sigma Phi Epsilon. ​

 unnamedBrittany Wenger
Email: brittanyw510@gmail.com
Major(s): Biology
Bio: Brittany Wenger is a sophomore from Bradenton, Florida majoring in biology with a genomics concentration and minoring in computer science with the Genome, Science, and Policy Certificate. She is currently working with Dr. Ginsburg on computational biology research related to pre-symptomatic disease prediction. She also has a strong interest in applying artificial neural networks to cancer diagnostics, and thus created cloud4cancer. She is excited to be part of this program!


Lefko Charalambous
Email: lefko.charalambous@duke.edu
Major(s): Neuroscience
Bio: Lefko is a Junior from Long Island, New York, majoring in Neuroscience with a minor in Chemistry. He currently works in a biochemistry lab studying the mitochondrial energetics of Alzheimer’s Disease. He has previously worked in labs at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota, the Institute for Neurology and Genetics on the beautiful island of Cyprus, and at Farmingdale State College in New York. With a growing interest in biochemistry and neurodegenerative disease, he is excited with recent advances in the neurobiology of disease and enthusiastic for the future of neuroscience research!

Adam Kiridly
Email: ahk13@duke.edu
Bio: Adam is a Biology major with an interest in developmental biology. He is currently working with Dr. Kiehart studying molecular mechanisms of cell sheet movements and actin appendage formation in morphogenesis and the cytoskeleton. In his free time, he enjoys reading and playing tennis.

Obia Muoneke
Email: okm3@duke.edu
Major(s): Neuroscience
Bio: My name is Obia Muoneke and I’m a junior from Seattle majoring in Neuroscience and minoring in Economics. I’m currently working in Scott Huettel’s lab assisting with behavioral economics studies. The purpose of the study is to determine the role peer pressure plays in risky decision making in adolescents. I developed my love for neuroscience my junior year of high school, and doing research at Duke has fostered this love and taught me so much. I’m fascinated with the unconscious heuristics humans apply while making decisions and hope to use my understanding of the brain’s role in behavior in a marketing career after college. In my free time I like to attend concerts and watch football, GO SEAHAWKS!

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Michael Hu
Email: michael.hu@duke.edu
Major(s): Biology, Global Health
Bio: My name is Michael, and I am a junior at Duke, double-majoring in Biology and Global Health. I’m broadly interested in infectious diseases, both from a biomedical and a sociological/epidemiological perspective, and so I’m involved in both traditional lab research and field research. On the lab side I am in the lab of Dr. Vance Fowler, Division of Infectious Diseases, Department of Medicine, Duke University Medical Center; my research is on Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus (MRSA) and the genes that can enhance its virulence in certain clinical conditions. In the field I did research on water, sanitary conditions, and the spread of malaria and diarrheal diseases in rural Ugandan village, through the Global Health Institute. If you’re interested in Global Health or in how to balance lab and field research, I’m happy to talk to you.

Shaina Gong
Email: shaina.gong@duke.edu
Major(s): Neuroscience
Bio: Shaina Gong is a current junior at Duke University, majoring in Neuroscience and minoring in Visual Arts. She is the president of the service group ArtsConnect and the Director of Creative Services on the DUU VisArts Committee. She currently volunteers at the Ronald McDonald House of Durham and works in the Mouse Behavioral and Neuroendocrine Core Facility of the Psychiatry Department with Dr. William Wetsel and Dr. Ramona Rodriguez doing research on schizophrenia. She previously did research on strokes and ran an independent project that studied the microglia/macrophage response during the acute phase of ischemic strokes in mice.


Katie Shpanskaya
Email: yss4@duke.edu
Major(s): Neuroscience
Bio: My foreign roots and southern breeding have led me to my home at Duke three years ago. Here, countless doors have opened to lead me through my path to becoming a physician. Inspired by people and our interaction with the world, I fell in love with neuroscience. I’ve worked to study our minds from the basic science to the clinical and data analytics levels. Currently, I’m continuing a two year project under Dr. Ute Hochgeschwender on developing a method to functional map neural networks. Further, I’m collaborating with a Brain & Society Bass Connections team spearheaded by Dr. Nina Sherwood and Dr. Mark Olsen to build a website aimed at disseminating basic neuroscience research to the greater public. Between projects, I curl into a booth at Panera and read a good book or write some poetry before heading off to a dance class.
Federica Brecha
Email: federica.brecha@duke.edu
Major(s): Neuroscience
Bio: My name is Federica Brecha, and I am a junior studying Neuroscience, and minoring in global health. I am interested in both the humanities and biomedical science and plan to go to medical school and be involved with research and global health studies. I have done independent research over the summer after my first-year funded by Duke on an endangered language in Italy called Romagnolo. I continued working on this through an independent study under Professor Liliana Paredes mentorship through the Romance Studies Department. I am currently focusing on gender differences in the approach to Romagnolo. I am also currently working in Dr. Jeremy Kay’s lab in the Neuroscience department, which focuses on cell-cell interaction and cell circuitry in the retina. I am using different methods to study the retina and brain. I plan to continue with an independent study in his lab over the next two years.
Arielle Shkedi
Email: ars58@duke.edu
Major(s): Biology and Chemistry
Bio: Hi! My name is Arielle Shkedi, I am a junior from New Jersey, and I am double majoring in Biology and Chemistry. I was involved in biology research in high school, and I decided to continue my interests in college. I have been working in the Nicchitta Lab in the Department of Cell Biology since my freshman year, and my research focuses on understanding the trafficking of newly exported ribosomes in the cell. Doing research has been a great way for me to learn more about science, such as specific techniques and methods, and it has taught me how to approach and solve big questions. I have loved my research experience at Duke thus far, and I hope I can help you do the same!

Kathryn Henschel
Email: keh49@duke.edu
Major(s): Psychology and Global Health
Bio: My name is Kathryn Henschel and I grew up in rural Wisconsin and pride myself in being the stereotypical Wisconsin girl – Packers and Badgers fan, live on a dairy farm, and cheese is one of my favorite foods. I am a junior and a Psychology and Global Health double major, and have been involved in research projects in both fields. My sophomore year I completed a practicum and independent study in an autobiographical memory lab, and ended the year presenting the research I assisted with at an annual poster session. Additionally, this past summer I went to India to conduct research with three other Duke students regarding mental and physical health of orphans and vulnerable children through the Duke Global Health Institute.
Patricia Shi
Email: ps154@duke.edu
Major(s): Biology
Bio: Hello! My name is Patricia Shi, and I am a Junior hailing from Vancouver, Canada who is majoring in Biology. I have had previous experience working in the Brannon Lab, where we explored how numbers and visual figures were processed and understood by the brain through EEG studies. However, my current passions lie in Dr. Michael D. Gunn’s Lab in the Department of Cardiology and Immunology, where I focus on discovering and developing recombinant single chain antibodies for various infectious diseases using phage display technology. This semester, I am working on discovering an antibody that could specifically bind to the fungus Aspergillus. Apart from spending time in lab, I love to sing and jam, I’m a member of the Duke Chinese Dance Troupe on campus, and I enjoy spending quality time with those around me.