Research Trainees


Masters Students  

 Ali Imami
Ali Imami
Masters Candidate 
Project: Modelling Differential Causal Kinase Interaction Networks in Schizophrenia
Advisor: Dr. Robert Smith
Hometown: Multan, Pakistan
Undergraduate University: Nishtar Medical College, University of Health Science
Lahore, Pakistan 

I received my Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery (MBBS) from Nishtar Medical College, Multan. I then did postgraduate training in psychiatry for two years in Multan as well. I have now joined the Masters Program in Bioinformatics at the University of Toledo, as a Fulbright Scholar. I am currently part of the Cognitive Disorders Research Laboratory (CDRL). Currently, I'm responsible of the maintaining the current RNA Editing Pipeline and developing newer and better ways to call RNA Editing sites. 

 Hunter Eby
Hunter Eby
Masters Candidate 
Project: Using Text-Mining to enhance ontological analysis
Advisor: Dr. Robert Smith, Dr. Rammohan Shukla
Hometown: Columbus, Ohio
Undergraduate University: The University of Toledo 

I received my BS in Biology with a minor in Chemistry in 2019 from The University of Toledo. During which time I worked under Dr. Conti studying the effects of cancer treatment and the effects it had on the progression of oral candidiasis. I then started my Master program in Bioinformatics at The University of Toledo where I quickly joined the Cognitive Disorder Research Laboratory (CDRL). My main focus has been looking at the transcriptional profile of patients with schizophrenia and performing large scale data analysis. I am also developing software in which I hope to help researchers find new and unique gene sets with the help of Gene Set Enrichment analysis and Text mining for hypothesis driving experimentation. 

Scott Miruzzi
Scott Miruzzi

Masters of Bioinformatics Student
Project: Nuclear Hormone Receptor/RNA-Seq Integration Illustrating Bilirubin as an Endogenous Hormone
Advisor: Dr. Robert Smith
Hometown: Rochester, MI
Undergraduate University: Michigan State University 

I received my BS in Neuroscience in 2016 from Michigan State University. Following, I did a post-bachelors at Oakland University. I then was accepted into the Neuroscience PhD program at The University of Toledo. After my first year in the program, I switched tracked to a Masters in Bioinformatics in The Cognitive Disorders Research Laboratory (CDRL). I'm currently responsible for integrating a nuclear hormone receptor chip assessing coregulator recruitment with RNA-Sequencing data in order to provide further evidence for bilirubin functioning as an endogenous hormone.


Graduate Students, PH.d.

Khaled Alganem
Ph.D. Candidate
Project:  TBD
Advisor:  Dr. Robert Smith
Undergraduate University: University of Findlay

I received my BS in Biology with a minor in Chemistry in 2017 from The University of Findlay. I then started the Master's Program in Bioinformatics at The University of Toledo where I worked on analyzing SNPs distribution across the human genome. In 2018, I switched to The PhD Program in Neuroscience and joined The Cognitive Disorders Research Laboratory (CDRL). Currently, I'm responsible of the kinome data analysis as well as developing software to streamline the lab's workflows.

Abdul Hamoud
Abdul-rizaq Hamoud
Ph.D. Candidate
Project: Repurposing Antipsychotics
Advisor: Dr. Robert Smith
Hometown: Columbus, OH
Undergraduate University: The Ohio State University 

I received my BS in Biology in 2016 from The Ohio State University. I then started the Master's Program in Biomedical Sciences at The University of Toledo where I worked on Bilirubin derivatives in enterohepatic circulation and its role in regulating the gut microbiota. In 2018, I began my Doctoral studies in Neuroscience and Neurological Disorders and joined The Cognitive Disorders Research Laboratory (CDRL) with Dr. McCullumsmith. Currently I am working on a project utilizing bioinformatics databases to determine antipsychotics that can be repurposed to treat other diseases. Additionally, I'm working on examining the role of various nutrient sensing Kinases in postmortem tissue of patients with schizophrenia.

Nick Henkel 
Nicholas D. Henkel 
M.D.-Ph.D Candidate
Project: TBD
Advisor: Dr. Robert Smith
Hometown: Cincinnati, Ohio
Undergraduate University: Miami University

Nicholas graduate from Miami University in 2016 with a degree in Zoology and Neuroscience. He worked under Dr. Lori Isaacson, Ph.D. as an Undergraduate Student and A Laboratory Technician. There, he studied glial plasticity in the intermediolateral cell column of spinal cord after sympathetic axotomy. He worked specifically on oligodendrocyte-astrocyte communication and glial proliferation. Likewise, he studied the impact of attenuating microglial activation on long-term plasticity after injury.

He is a first-year Graduate Student in the MD-PhD Program at The University of Toledo College of Medicine and Life Sciences. In the Cognitive Disorders Research Laboratory, he is currently studying alterations in nutrient sensing by AMPK and AKT in Alzheimer's Dementia and Schizophrenia.

Rawan Alnafisah 
Ph.D. Candidate
Project: The Role of Nitric Oxide in Schizophrenia
Advisor: Dr. Robert Smith
Hometown: Riyadh, Saudi Arabia
Undergraduate University: King Saud University.

I received my BS in Pharmaceutical Sciences in 2014 from King Saud University. In 2018, I earned my Master's in Pharmacology and Toxicology at The University of Toledo where I studied the involvement of cytoskeletal protein drebrin in microglial activation and inflammation. In 2018, I started my doctoral studies in Neurosciences and Neurological Disorders and joined the Cognitive Disorders Research Laboratory (CDRL). Currently, I'm studying the effect of nitric oxide overexpression on synaptic proteome in schizophrenia pathophysiology. 

Nicole Bell
Nicole A. Bell

Predoctoral Graduate Assistant
Project: TBD
Advisor: Dr. Giovannucci
Hometown: Montague, NJ
Undergraduate University: Wagner College 

I received my BS in Microbiology with a minor in Chemistry in 2017 from Wagner College. I then graduate with my Master's Degree in Microbiology from Wagner College in 2019, where I worked on establishing a tissue culture model for studying traumatic brain injury. In the fall of 2019, I began a PhD Program in Neuroscience and currently I am working on academics as a first year PhD student.

Justin Creeden
Justin Creeden
MD-PhD Candidate
Project: The mechanism by which cardiac glycosides, HMG-CoA reductase inhibitors, and antihyperglycemic drung combinations act as anticancer therapeutics
Advisor: Dr. Robert Smith
Hometown: Middleboro, MA
Undergraduate University: University of Michigan, Ann Arbor

As an undergraduate, I attended the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. There, i received a Bachelor of Science degree with distinction from the College of Literature, Science & the Arts, High Honors in Anthropology (major), Biochemistry (minor), and two years of classical training in Acting at the School of Music, Theatre & Dance. Additionally, I completed an interdisciplinary research fellowship sponsored by the University of Michigan Honors Program. After graduating, I performed neuropsychiatric research in the Morrow lab at UM before serving as the Clinical Research Manager at a spine and brain surgery practice in the greater Detroit area. I am a dual degree student at the University of Toledo College of Medicine and Life Sciences and I am currently in my 4th year of MD-PhD training (2nd year of PhD training). I perform clinical trial research and basic science research in collaboration with the Department of Internal Medicine, the Department of Cell and Cancer Biology, and the Department of Neurosciences with Dr. Robert Smith serving as my primary mentor and chief advisor.



Recent Graduates

Amanda Blaker
Ph.D. candidate
Project: Neurochemical Consequences of Alcohol and Methamphetamine
Advisor: Dr. Bryan Yamamoto
Hometown: Farmington, Michigan
Undergraduate University: Albion College, Albion MI

I received my BA in Psychology from Albion College in 2012, with a minor in Cellular & Molecular Biology and a concentration in Neuroscience. My dissertation research currently focuses on the neurochemical consequences of co-morbid drug abuse, specifically methamphetamine and alcohol. I am interested in identifying a role for inflammation in mediating adverse effects in the brain after exposure to these drugs. Outside of the lab, I enjoy cooking, hiking, and music. 


Joseph Lee
M.D., Ph.D. candidate​
Project: Role of peripheral GABA receptors in the regulation of parotid secretory activity
Advisor: Dr. David Giovannucci
Hometown: Cincinnati, OH
Undergraduate University: University of California - Berkeley, Berkeley, CA

 I received my BS in Bioengineering from UC Berkeley in 2013 with a concentration in biomedical devices. I am interested in diseases of the head and neck, including persistent dry mouth. Currently, I am investigating how peripheral GABA receptors affect salivation and their potential role in benzodiazepine-induced dry mouth.

Kelsey Murphy
Ph.D. candidate
Project: Identification of the Neurotrophic and Antioxidant Effects of Midi-GAGR
Advisor: Dr. Joshua Park
Hometown: Shelton, CT
Undergraduate: Fairfield University, Fairfield CT

I received my B.S. in Biology from Fairfield University in 2015 with a concentration in Molecular Biology and a minor in Psychology. I am currently interested in investigating the antioxidant and neurotrophic effects of a novel polysaccharide by the name of Midi-GAGR. Early experiments involving this novel polysaccharide have demonstrated its ability to combat some notable pathogenic hallmarks of neurodegenerative disease, specifically Alzheimer’s Disease.


Mackenzie Abel
Masters Student
Undergraduate University:  Wittenberg University

I am interested in neurodegenerative diseases and what they can tell us about the brain.  My senior thesis at Wittenberg focused on Parkinson's Disease and a novel neuroprotectant.  I'm excited to expand my knowledge at UT with the various professors and labs.  Outside of school I enjoy baking, swimming, yoga and reading.

Darren Gordon
Darren Gordon
MD/Ph.D. Candidate
Project: The Role of Bilirubin in Lipid Regulation via the Niclear Receptor PPARa
Advisor: Dr. Terry Hinds, Jr.
Hometown: Detroit, MI
Undergraduate University: University of Michigan - Ann Armor


                                                               banner   homedirectoryresearcheducationNND 



Last Updated: 8/31/22