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Student Spotlight

The Medical Neuroscience Graduate Program, part of Stark Neurosciences Research Institute, at Indiana University School of Medicine offers students broad, interdisciplinary training in neuroscience with a strong foundation in core concepts, skills, methodologies and advanced comprehension of the scientific literature.

Here, we feature a few students among the more than 40 in the graduate program.

Jinhyeong Bae

Admission Year: 2020

Advisor: Liana G. Apostolova, MD, MS

Current Project: My research is interdisciplinary research that bridges the predictive performance of the deep learning approach to the identification of Alzheimer’s disease (AD) genetic risk factors to develop clinical studies for personalized preventive medicine. I am currently developing a novel deep learning model to map the entire epistatic interactions of AD for an individual. One of the goals of our research lies in revealing the robust associations between the genetic dynamics of AD to its progression. These include the rate of cognitive decline and changes in cerebrospinal fluid protein levels. Furthermore, we aim to go beyond traditional research boundaries by conducting a computational CRISPR simulation. This simulation involves replacing an individual's genetic variant at a specific locus with a reference genome to predict the likelihood of AD occurrence if CRISPR technology were implemented. In essence, our research not only offers insights into the genetic dynamics of AD but also has the potential to revolutionize the development of personalized preventive medicine strategies.

Why IU School of Medicine and MedNeuro? IU School of Medicine, specifically its MedNeuro program, represents the ideal setting for interdisciplinary research, particularly in collaboration with the field of computer science. With the support of the interdisciplinary culture at IU School of Medicine, I will be able to create cutting-edge deep learning model for studying Alzheimer's Disease (AD).

What have you learned most from your MedNeuro professors and advisors? Comprehensive knowledge and unwavering research dedication. The research community of IU School of Medicine comprises diverse fields of experts enabling interdisciplinary research. However, they are not limited to their specialized area of expertise. For example, my advisor, Dr. Liana G. Apostolova, as well as my collaborators can skillfully go beyond the boundaries of their specialized domains, possessing integrative expertise across various areas, including neuroimaging, genomics, clinical practice, and more. In my view, they exemplify versatile researchers who are always motivated to improve their work, never settling for the status quo, and continuously striving to push the boundaries of knowledge and research excellence.


  • A simulative deep learning model of SNP interactions on chromosome 19 for predicting Alzheimer’s disease risk and rates of disease progression (Alzheimer’s & Dementia)
  • Transfer Learning for Predicting Conversion from Mild Cognitive Impairment to Dementia of Alzheimer’s Type based on 3D-Convolutional Neural Network (Neurobiology of Aging)
  • Grant Report on PREDICT-ADFTD: Multimodal Imaging Prediction of AD/FTD and Differential Diagnosis (Journal of Psychiatry and Brain science)

Awards: KASBP-MOGAM fellowship; AAIC 2023 travel awards; Center for Neuroimaging travel awards; Stark Neuroscience fellowship

Hobbies: Transcribing literature (scientific articles, non-fictions, novels, poems, etc.)

Sam Colin

Sam Colin

Admission Year: 2018

Advisor: Adrian Oblak, PhD

Current Project: The Effects of Binge and Chronic Alcohol Use Paradigms on Tauopathy and Neuroinflammation

Why IU School of Medicine and MedNeuro? I had used animal models from the MODEL-AD Consortium in my previous lab, so I had IU School of Medicine on my radar for applications. I knew I wanted to do neurodegeneration research, and when I began interviewing, I found that Stark was highly collaborative and had a really strong focus on neurodegeneration!

What have you learned most from your MedNeuro professors and advisors? I've learned that making mistakes is expected and no one will be mad at you for messing up sometimes; it's just part of becoming a scientist.

Service and Leadership: Medical Neuroscience Graduate Organization (MNGO) Student Development, University Teaching and Learning Community (UTLC), Preparing Future Faculty and Professionals (PFFP)

Hobbies: I like to lift weights, play video games and explore new restaurants.

Gabriella Hartman

Admission Year: 2020

Advisor: Dr. Tim Corson

Current Project: My research in Dr. Tim Corson’s lab is focused on finding out the underlying mechanisms that underlie retinal neovascularization, or the overgrowth of blood vessels, which can ultimately lead to blindness. The long-term goal of my research is to develop a new therapy and improve patient outcomes by targeting a protein called Ref-1. Ref-1 plays a big role in neovascularization and inflammation, giving the lab reason to think that it is a promising therapeutic target.

Why IU School of Medicine and MedNeuro? I love IU School of Medicine and MedNeuro for the collaborate environment and the comradery that I’ve felt. Everyone is very eager to help each other and share new ideas!

What have you learned most from your MedNeuro professors and advisors? The biggest thing I’ve learned from the professors and advisors at MedNeuro is to be curious and explore other areas that don’t directly relate to your work. This advice has allowed me to keep an open mind, and helps me try to think outside of the box!

Honors, Grants, Awards:
Grants: National Institute of Heath/National Eye Institute (F31), “Ref-1 in Retinal Neovascularization”, June 2023-June 2026, $99,972. (F31EY035171).

Awards: Society for Neuroscience Trainee Professional Development Award 2023; IUPUI Travel Fellowship Award Recipient for ARVO 2023; Saving Sight Indiana Travel Award Recipient for ARVO 2023; First Prize for 2022 Greater Indiana Society for Neuroscience Research Image Contest; Qais Farjo Travel Award Grant Recipient for ARVO 2022

Honors: Society for Neuroscience’s Neuroscience Scholars Program Associate; STEAMid Future Leader Feature – social media feature of inspiring individuals to motivate young scholars to follow in footsteps

Service and Leadership: Medical Neuroscience Graduate Organization Student Financial Advocacy/Treasurer 2023-2024; Stark Summer Symposium Organization Committee 2023; Diversity, Inclusion, and Awareness Committee – Women in Neuroscience Sub-committee member 2021-Present; 2023 State Science Fair volunteer judge.

Hobbies: Running, golf, cross-stitching, cooking/baking and reading.

Wes Stansberry

Wesley Stansberry

Admission Year: 2019

Advisor: Brian Pierchala, PhD

Current Project: Evaluating the effects of local translation on mechanisms of axon regeneration and muscle re-innervation in nerve injury ALS models.

Why IU School of Medicine and MedNeuro? From a young age, a high prevalence of Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s disease within my family inspired my interest in understanding the pathogenesis of neurodegeneration. IU School of Medicine's MedNeuro program had several labs researching all areas of neurodegeneration as well as the best facilities and program advisor support.

What have you learned most from your MedNeuro professors and advisors? The thing I have learned most so far is how to ask the right questions to explore my scientific interests as an independent researcher.

Honors, Grants, Awards: 2020-2021 Paul and Carole Stark Scholar

Service and Leadership: Graduate Student Peer Wellness Coach; Member, Indiana BioMedical Gateway Program (IBMG) Recruitment Committee; Member, IUPUI Graduate Student Library and Technology Resources Committee; Member, American Society for Clinical Pathology (ASCP); Member, Association for Molecular Pathology (AMP) - Genetics and Bioinformatics Subdivisions.

Hobbies:  Running outside, golfing, reading historical fiction, trying out new local breweries.