Our Team

TIM VARTANIAN

Dr. Timothy Vartanian is a neurologist and neuroscientist focused on determining the fundamental mechanisms causing demyelination in multiple sclerosis (MS) and defining new strategies to promote myelin regeneration in MS.

He is a professor of Neurology and Neuroscience at in the Brain and Mind Research Institute at Weill Cornell Medical College of Cornell University in New York. From 1994-2009 he held faculty positions at Harvard Medical School in Neurology and Neuroscience, and led the MS Division at Beth Israel Hospital, Boston.

He was born in Detroit, studied chemistry at Oakland University, received his medical degree from the Pritzker School of Medicine at the University of Chicago, and his Ph.D. in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology from the University of Chicago.  Following an internship at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Dr. Vartanian completed his neurology residency at Massachusetts General Hospital.  He then completed post-doctoral fellowships at Harvard Medical School with Professor Kári Stefánsson, and Professor Gerald Fischbach.  

Dr. Vartanian is recognized as a leading figure in central nervous system myelin regeneration and mechanisms of oligodendrocyte/myelin injury in MS.  He has shaped his lab’s scientific approach to address the fundamental questions of cause and repair in MS.   

Jennifer Linden

Dr. Jennifer Linden is a postdoctoral fellow focused on identifying the mechanisms of the newly forming MS lesion. Her work specifically focuses on what causes new MS lesions to form and how this affects the blood-brain barrier.

She was born in Denver, CO but grew up near Seattle, WA. She attended Willamette University in Salem, OR where she earned her BA in biology in 2004. She spent several years in San Diego, CA working in Biotech before returning to graduate school. She received her PhD in Pathobiology from Brown University in 2012. Her graduate work focused on host-pathogen interactions. Her work helped elucidate why premature infants are particularly susceptible to specific types of fungal infections. Dr. Linden has been a postdoctoral fellow in the laboratory of Dr. Vartanian since 2012.

Dr. Linden’s work in the Vartanian lab now focuses on how a bacterial toxin could be responsible for initiating new MS lesions to form. She is also particularly interested in understanding the mechanisms of blood-brain barrier dysfunction in MS, an essential, but still poorly understood pathological process in MS. By identifying the cause of new MS lesions and blood-brain barrier dysfunction, her ultimate goal is to develop treatments that would target these causes and prevent new MS lesions from occurring or progressing. Restoring healthy blood-brain barrier function will repair normal brain homeostasis and my aid in myelin regeneration.

During her time as a graduate student and as a postdoctoral fellow, Dr. Linden has won several Student and Young Investigator Awards for her presentations and posters at various conferences.

Gian-Carlo Toriano Parel

Gian-Carlo Toriano Parel is a Research Technician in the Vartanian Laboratory focusing on rodent surgical models and analyses of MS. With the mentorship of Yinghua Ma, Gian uses rodent surgical models hand in hand with electron microscopy of cerebellar slice cultures and immunohistochemistry to gain a more comprehensive perspective of MS. Live models of demyelination and remyelination provide a powerful method to bring both patients and the academic discipline to a closer understanding of what drugs can effectively be used to treat MS.

From the Philippines by way of Louisville, Kentucky, Gian graduated with a BA from Oberlin College with a major in Neuroscience and double minors in Economics and Comparative American Studies. Gian will be pursuing a PhD in Neuroscience to become a researcher tackling neurodegeneration and their environmental factors.

Sylvia Valle Haigh

Sylvia is from Brookline, MA and attended Vassar College. She majored in Science, Technology and Society Studies and minored in Chinese. She has lived abroad in Qindgao, China and Geneva, Switzerland, where she studied global health and development policy and first became interested in epidemiology. Her research now focuses on detection of the Epsilon toxin from patient samples.

Claudia Ethel Flores

Claudia is from Laredo, TX and attended Barnard College at Columbia University. She majored in Neuroscience and Behavior. She attended the Travelers Summer Research Fellowship . Her research now focuses on the Blood Brain Barrier.

Aidan Thurian Charles

Aidan is from Trinidad and Tobago and attended Howard University. He majored in Biology and minored in Chemistry. He was accepted into the competitive BS/MD program at Howard and is now in his fourth year of medical school. He loves music and spends his extra time playing guitar and piano. His research focuses on demyelination caused by epsilon toxin in vivo.

Samantha Shetty

Samantha Shetty is from New York, NY. Samantha graduated from the Honors College at Stony Brook University where she double majored in Psychology and Biology. Samantha first developed an interest in neuroscience research during a Behavioral Research Advancements in Neuroscience (BRAIN) Fellowship awarded by the Center of Behavioral Neurosciences in Atlanta, Georgia. Since then, she has graduated from the Weill Cornell Graduate School of Medical Sciences with Master of Science degree in Health Policy and Economics. Her research efforts in the lab are directed towards the detection of Epsilon Toxin in patient samples.

Sebastian Senters Dobrow

Sebastian is from Brookline, MA and attended Vanderbilt University. He majored in Medicine, Health, and Society and minored in Chemistry and French. He has lived abroad in Montpellier, France where he studied French and interned at La Ligue Contre Le Cancer. His research focuses on the effects of epsilon toxin on the blood brain barrier, specifically its tight junctions and transcytotic properties.

Paige Winokur

Paige is currently a Rockefeller University graduate student pursuing her PhD. She received a B.S. in Biology with a concentration in neuroscience from Haverford College in Pennsylvania in 2013. After graduating from Haverford, Paige moved to Bethesda, Maryland where she spent two years gaining further laboratory experience as a Post-baccalaureate trainee at the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Her thesis work at Haverford was centered on neurodevelopment in Xenopus, and she has been involved in several additional neuroscience-based labs including the following: a glial pathology lab studying molecular mechanisms of globoid cell leukodystrophy, a clinical MS lab in the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS) of the NIH studying immunity-based biomarkers of MS, and a biochemistry lab in the National Eye Institute (NEI) of the NIH studying potential benefits of specific serpin family proteins in retinal degeneration.

Looking forward, Paige is eager to investigate potential blood- and/or CNS-derived factors that inhibit remyelination of MS lesions using human embryonic stem cell and rodent models. While Paige is not yet certain of her career trajectory, she is considering teaching and/or science communication in some capacity following graduate school.

Baohua Zhao

Baohua Zhao obtained her B.S. and M.S. degrees in Biology from Shanxi University, China. Before joining Dr. Timothy Vartanian’s lab, she worked as a Research Technician in the lab of Dr. Robert F. Margolskee at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai to explore the molecular mechanism of the human sweet taste receptor T1R1 and T1R3 upon different sweetener treatment. Later, in Dr. George Diaz’s lab at the Icahn School of Medicine, she participated in investigating the chemokine receptor CRCX4 gene mutations associated with WHIM syndrome. Currently, Baohua is working closely with Dr. Yinghua Ma and focusing on drug discovery targeting remyelination using organotypic cerebellar slice culture system.

Kiel Michael Telesford

I am a native of Trinidad and Tobago and New York City, I’m also a proud alumnus of Oberlin College and Dartmouth’s Geisel School of Medicine.

‘Science drives medicine’, my creed, is what ultimately drove me to pursue my PhD in Immunology, focusing on MS. Between 2009 and 2015 (during my graduate tenure), was a period of tremendous change in the MS therapeutic landscape.  Compared to 2009, today we have almost triple the number of disease modifying drug options for patients.  With each new drug launch came increased efficacy and hope for those with the condition.  Exciting times!  However, these drugs primarily target the relapsing phase of MS (often by impacting the immune system).  These drugs don’t specify the cause of MS (possibly allowing us to prevent new disease), nor do they clearly affect neurodegenerative aspects of disease (perhaps allowing us to limit progression and disability).  In short, there are a number of major questions that remain which are key to improving patient quality of life or stopping MS altogether.

Resolving these questions requires more than a fundamental understanding of the immunobiology of MS.  Being part of the Vartanian Lab and the larger MS center here at Weill-Cornell affords a unique, multidisciplinary collaboration of neuroscience, immunology and radio-imaging-minded researchers, clinical researchers and clinicians, all of whom are invested in directing their expertise towards the resolution of these very questions.  As I look forward to a career that bridges interdisciplinary work towards improving the lives of patients, I realize the need to be versed in how to engage each speciality.  To this end, I have recently embarked on additional training towards a Masters in Clinical and Scientific Investigation as a TL1 fellow at Weill-Cornell’s Clinical and Translational Science Center.  I consider it a blessing to be a part of the MS research group here and look forward to the advancements that our work will yield in the near future.

Yingua Ma, Ph.D.

Yinghua received his B.S. in biochemistry and biochemical engineering. As a graduate in Shanghai Institutes for Biological Sciences, Chinese Academy of Sciences, he trained extensively in fields of molecular cell biology and neurobiology and earned a Ph.D. for his work on the function and property of GABA transporter, a crucial regulator of GABAergic synaptic transmission. His postdoctoral work with Dr. Timothy Vartanian at Harvard Medical School and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center investigated innate immune regulation and novel signaling pathways of neurodegeneration. Specifically, Yinghua focused on how an evolutionarily conversed pattern recognition receptor family – Toll-like receptors is involved in shaping pathological processes of demyelination and remyelination. At Vartanian laboratory in Weill Medical College of Cornell University, Yinghua is particularly interested in understanding environmental triggers and underlying mechanisms of demyelinating diseases. His current work on modeling Multiple Sclerosis has the potential of discovering new targets for the treatment of this devastating disease.