eBRAIN Team

Who We Are

Meet our faculty, collaborators, post-docs, staff, and students.

Faculty

Caterina Rosano, MD, PhD

Tenured Professor, Epidemiology

I am a physician-scientist specializing in Population Neuroscience of Aging. I am especially interested in the neurobiological drivers of successful aging.

Although older age is typically associated with a seemingly inevitable performance decline, we have evidence that some older adults appear resistant and resilient to the effect of aging. Based on our discoveries, we believe that there are distinct neurobiological characteristics that can explain why some people age better than others and why some people respond to treatment better than others. We also believe that enhancing these neurobiological drivers of resilience can enhance function. 

Andrea Rosso, MPH, PhD

Assistant Professor, Epidemiology, Clinical and Translational Science Institute

Assistant Professor in the Department of Epidemiology and the Clinical and Translational Science Institute. Dr. Rosso is Director of the BEAM (Brain, Environment, Aging, and Mobility) lab, with expertise analyzing functional near infrared spectroscopy during dual task conditions, and assessing the ecological validity of laboratory-based dual tasks. Dr. Rosso was awarded the CTSI KL2, a NIA K01 award, and a R21 to advance her work on overcoming environmental challenges to moving in older adults.

Collaborators

Post-Docs

Pamela Dunlap, PhD

Post-Doctoral Associate, Epidemiology

dunlappm@pitt.edu

My clinical background is in physical therapy, with a specific interest in persons with balance and vestibular disorders…”

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I am a postdoctoral associate under the mentorship of Dr. Andrea Rosso. My clinical background is in physical therapy, with a specific interest in persons with balance and vestibular disorders. I am currently interested in the measurement of community mobility in older adults using novel technologies. In my future research, I hope to utilize these technologies to improve the quality of health care for persons with dizziness and balance dysfunction. My free time is spent outdoors with my husband and two wonderful children, Adeline and Xan!

Cynthia Felix, MD, MPH

Post-Doctoral Associate, Epidemiology

cyf7@pitt.edu

“Dr. Felix is a geriatrician interested in preventing and delaying dementias…”

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Post-Doctoral Associate
Department of Epidemiology
University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health

Dr. Felix is a geriatrician interested in preventing and delaying dementias. Her work has used information gained from stroke-related neuroplasticity to understand ways to enhance brain and/or cognitive reserve. Dr. Felix’s research interests also include neuroimaging studies and the impact of vascular risk factors and vascular aging on the brain.
She is a passionate advocate for older adults. She relishes movies and children’s books from the ‘Silent’ and the ‘Baby boomers’ generations, which takes her to a different era. She also enjoys writing poems, and admiring nature.

Jim Hengenius, PhD

Postdoctoral Associate

james.hengenius@pitt.edu

“Jim is interested in developing novel multimodal neuroimaging methods…”

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Jim Hengenius is a postdoctoral associate performing neuroimaging analysis on the MOVE-MYHAT study. He obtained his PhD in computational biology from Purdue University and previously trained as a postdoc with the Ermentrout group in the Pitt Department of Mathematics. Jim is interested in developing novel multimodal neuroimaging methods and using these methods to inform dynamical systems modeling. In his free time, he enjoys reading speculative fiction, playing the saxophone (poorly), and spending time with his two cats, Mae Borowski and Mehitabel.

Beth Shaaban, PhD, MPH

Postdoctoral Fellow, Epidemiology

beth.shaaban@pitt.edu

“I use advanced neuroimaging and epidemiologic methods to research vascular contributions…”

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I am a population neuroscience postdoctoral fellow with Bill Klunk and Ann Cohen in the Department of Epidemiology at the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health and an Alzheimer Disease Research Center REC Scholar. I use advanced neuroimaging and epidemiologic methods to research vascular contributions to cognitive impairment and dementia. I have discovered that physical activity, growth factors, and vascular and cardiometabolic risk factor reduction can promote cerebral small vessel integrity, an important factor for Alzheimer’s disease and related disorders (ADRD) prevention. In my future work, I aim to discover whether sex and gender-based differences in cerebral small vessel integrity partially explain sex and gender differences in ADRD. Fun fact: Outside of work, I am a beginning salsa dancer, and I love to learn languages and travel with my husband.

Briana N. Sprague, PhD

Postdoctoral Fellow, Epidemiology

bns53@pitt.edu

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Human Development and Family Studies,
The Pennsylvania State University

I am interested in how measures of central nervous system integrity and function, such as cognition, energy, and dopaminergic signaling, are related to mobility in older adults. Ultimately, I want to leverage what we learn from observational studies to help design effective interventions to maintain older adult mobility and everyday function. Outside of work, I have a passion for baking and am slowly working my way through the 1,001 Movies You Must See Before You Die list.

“Ultimately, I want to leverage what we learn from observational studies…”

Staff

Becky Meehan

Project Coordinator

meehanb@pitt.edu

“During my years in the department of Epidemiology I’ve worked as a research dietitian on several grants including…”

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I’m the Project Coordinator for the T32 Training Grant in Population Neuroscience of AD and Aging-related Dementias (PNA) and also work on other eBRAIN projects. During my years in the department of Epidemiology I’ve worked as a research dietitian on several grants including the Modification of Renal Disease, Women’s Health Initiative, HEALTHY Study, and was the lead interventionist for both the Group Lifestyle Balance Moves Study and Healthy Lifestyle Intervention Study. I enjoy staying active, working on home projects, and game nights with my family.

Rafael Migoyo

rvm14@pitt.edu

“Topics that interest me include mobility/accessibility in older adults, educating communities about aging issues…”

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Hello, my name is Rafael Migoyo and I’m a staff member working with Dr. Andrea Rosso. My primary responsibilities include Data entry and data management. I hold a bachelor’s degree in Aging Sciences (Gerontology) and topics that interest me include mobility/accessibility in older adults, educating communities about aging issues, and socioeconomic factors in aging populations. A fun fact about myself is that one of my hobbies is collecting art.

Marshall W. Ritchey

Research Assistant

marshallritchey@gmail.com

“I’m Marshall W. Ritchey, staff member and Research Assistant for the Move MyHat Study…”

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I’m Marshall W. Ritchey, staff member and Research Assistant for the Move MyHat Study. I played basketball for Pitt for two years and then was the Mascot – the Pitt Panther for the last two years!

Shala Ward, BS

Project Director

stc15@pitt.edu

“Shala works directly with Dr. Caterina Rosano and Dr. Andrea Rosso to manage a number of research projects…”

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Shala works directly with Dr. Caterina Rosano and Dr. Andrea Rosso to manage a number of research projects measuring brain and mobility in older adults. In her spare time, she enjoys coaching track, spending time with her family and working with children to be a positive influence in their lives.

Xiaonan Zhu, PhD

Senior Statistician

xiz97@pitt.edu

“My research interests include high-dimensional inference, longitudinal analysis and clinical trials…”

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I collaborate with the researchers to manage and analyze health care datasets, present results and prepare manuscripts for publication. I also provide statistical advice and support to the eBrain team. My research interests include high-dimensional inference, longitudinal analysis and clinical trials. 

Students

Nemin Chen

PhD Student, Epidemiology

nec58@pitt.edu

“My work is to look at the association of central nervous system with mobility and cognition among older adults…”

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I’m Nemin Chen, a PhD student in Epidemiology department at University of Pittsburgh. I joined the ebrain group at the beginning of 2019. My work is to look at the association of central nervous system with mobility and cognition among older adults. I’m particular interested in adapting the function near infrared spectroscopy, which is a relatively new optical imaging method, into this field. Out of work I like traveling, sleeping, watching anime (animations from Japan) and petting my cat!

Rebecca Ehrenkranz

PhD Student, Epidemiology

ree24@pitt.edu

“My current research focuses on exploring energy in aging populations…”

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I am a PhD student in the Epidemiology Department at the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health. My current research focuses on exploring energy in aging populations across the following domains: cognition, mood, physical function, and physical activity. I have a bachelors degree from Brandeis University and an MPH from Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. In my spare time, I enjoy rock climbing (both indoor and outdoor).

Erica Fan

MPH Student, Epidemiology

ekf13@pitt.edu

“Focused on understanding both environmental risk factors for falls and subsequent risk factors…”

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Erica is an MPH student in Epidemiology. Her current research interests are focused on understanding both environmental risk factors for falls and subsequent risk factors for post-fall complications related to inflammation. She has a B.A. in philosophy and a B.S. in statistics and biology from the University of Pittsburgh. In her free time, she loves reading, cooking, taking care of her plants, and listening to music/going to shows! 

Sara Godina

PhD Student, Epidemiology

sag189@pitt.edu

“Interests include environmental risk factors for healthy brain aging…”

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Sara is working on her PhD in Epidemiology, her interests include environmental risk factors for healthy brain aging. In her (limited) spare time outside of academia she enjoys live music, being in the sun, and reminiscing about the time she hugged Jeff Goldblum.

Sarah Kolibash-Royse

MPH Student, Epidemiology

sak225@pitt.edu

“My master’s work explores the relationship between accelerated brain aging and…”

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My name is Sarah Kolibash Royse and I’m a graduate student currently pursuing an MPH in Epidemiology. My master’s work explores the relationship between accelerated brain aging and gait speed in Type 1 diabetes populations. Broadly, I’m interested in using PET and MRI to investigate aging and Alzheimer’s Disease. Outside of research, I enjoy board games, Stephen King novels, and improv comedy podcasts.

Alina Lesnovskaya

PhD Student, Epidemiology

lesnovskaya@pitt.edu

My research focuses on the etiology of healthy cognitive aging…”

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I am currently a Ph.D student in the Clinical/Health Psychology Program at the University of Pittsburgh and a member of the Center for the Neural Basis of Cognition, a joint program with Carnegie Mellon University. My research focuses on the etiology of healthy cognitive aging and the early identification of neurodegenerative diseases. In addition, I am interested in aerobic exercise as an accessible intervention for brain health. In my spare time, I enjoy live music, failed attempts at learning how to paint, and hiking up mountains.

Kailyn Witonsky

MD/PhD Student, Epidemiology

witonsky.kailynfaye@medstudent.pitt.edu

“I am interested in working on interdisciplinary teams applying data analytics…”

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I am a current MD/PhD (Epidemiology) student. I am interested in working on interdisciplinary teams applying data analytics to identify and understand modifiable factors in healthy aging that can eventually lead to clinical interventions for vulnerable populations. I love hiking, sunflowers, reading, and questions that keep me up at night.