Our International group encompasses a wide range of backgrounds and expertise, ranging from multi-omics of psychiatric disorders, to the fundamentals of immune system regulation in mice.
We combine state-of-the art statistical and bioinformatic approaches with strong clinical and basic research programs to fully explore our target questions and deliver meaningful, translational progress.
Officers of Instruction
Weil-Granat Professor of Neurology
Director, Center for Translational and Computational Neuroimmunology
Director, Multiple Sclerosis Clinical Care and Research Center
The goal of Dr. De Jager’s work as a clinician-scientist is to apply modern methods of neuroimmunology, epigenomics, statistical genetics and systems biology to the understanding of common neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease, multiple sclerosis, and Parkinson’s disease. He has applied his discoveries from basic research to develop novel tools to enhance clinical decision-making, identify new therapeutic targets and test lead compounds to perturb the sequence of events leading from health to neurodegenerative diseases. His efforts are leading to new therapeutic targets in Alzheimer’s disease and cognitive aging as well as the development of primary prevention strategies for multiple sclerosis.
Hans is a computational scientist interested in genetic and epigenetic mechanisms involved in neurodegenerative diseases and aging. His research focuses on the interaction between the epigenome, transcriptome and neuropathologies in different cell types of the central nervous system, with the aim of understanding the pathogenesis of neurological diseases. Hans obtained his PhD in Bioinformatics from the University of Münster. Before he joined Dr. De Jager's group in 2014, he developed models and algorithms to analyze and integrate epigenomic and transcriptomic data.
Dr. Olah obtained her masters degree in Neurosciences from Eotvos Lorand University in Budapest, Hungary. For her PhD she joined the Boddeke lab at the University of Groningen, The Netherlands, where she studied the microglia phenotypes associated with brain plasticity and regeneration, in particularly in the context of multiple sclerosis. After receiving her PhD in 2011, she joined the Khoury/Elyaman lab at the Center for Neurologic Diseases at Brigham and Women’s Hospital/Harvard Medical School as postdoctoral research fellow, where she investigated multiple sclerosis associated pathways in peripheral immune cells, microglia and neural stem cells. In 2014 she was recruited to the De Jager/Bradshaw lab at Harvard as a postdoctoral fellow to study the involvement of microglia and monocytes in the pathogenesis of Alzheimer's disease and Parkinson's disease. Following in the footsteps of her mentors, in 2017 she joined the CTCN at Columbia as an Instructor in Neurology. Her current research focuses on exploring the extrinsic and cell autonomous factors that shape microglia function and phenotype and how the resulting changes in the population structure of microglia contribute to the pathogenesis and progression of neurological diseases. She is a recent recipient of the Alzheimer’s Association Research Fellowship.
Vilas Menon is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Neurology, specializing in computational biology and systems neuroscience. After obtaining his PhD in Applied Mathematics from Northwestern University, he conducted research in large-scale genomics data analysis at the Allen Institute and as a Fellow at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) Janelia Research Campus. His research focuses on characterizing cell type diversity in the brain and generating predictive models to investigate the dysregulation of these cell types in brain disease.
Dr. Sher trained in the laboratory of Dr. Daniel E Bauer (Children's Hospital Boston/Dana-Farber Cancer Institute/Harvard Medical School) where he studied gene regulatory mechanisms by applying genome editing techniques based on the CRISPR-Cas9 system. Prior, he conducted a post-doctoral fellowship in the laboratory of Prof. Gabriel Corfas at the F.M. Kirby Neurobiology Center of Boston Children’s Hospital/Harvard medical School. He received his PhD (epigenetic regulation of neural stem cell differentiation into oligodendrocytes) in Biomedical Sciences from the University of Groningen (RUG), The Netherlands, in the laboratory of Prof. Erik Boddeke, where he earned Best Dissertation Award in 2011. Currently Dr. Sher uses CRISPR-Cas9 based approaches and protein engineering to dissect the Alzheimer's disease associated genes/variants and related protein complexes in microglia to identify the potential interfaces which could serve as possible molecular targets for pharmacotherapy for Alzheimer's disease. Dr. Sher intends to extend this approach to other cell types (e.g. oligodendrocytes) and neurodegenerative diseases, such as multiple sclerosis, Parkinson's disease and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.
Dr. Mariko Taga
Mariko obtained her PhD degree from Southampton University and her research to date has focused on several aspects of Alzheimer’s disease. During her graduate studies, she examined the potential link between metabolic disorders and the chronic inflammation present in Alzheimer's disease, as a potential key contributor to dementia. Since joining the CTCN, her research has focused on the implications of genetic variants in Alzheimer's disease, specifically genes related to the innate immune system, identified by genome-wide association studies as risk factors.
Officers of Research
Dr. Charles White
Charles received his MPH in 2003 and his PhD in Biostatistics in 2013, both from Boston University. In 2013, he began working as a biostatistician with Dr. Philip De Jager at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital. While working with Dr. De Jager, he has focused on the the genetic and epigenetic underpinnings of neurodegenerative disease and neuroprotection.
Katie graduated from Virginia Tech in 2017, earning a B.S. in Neuroscience. During her time at Virginia Tech she conducted research on both photomodification of DNA for application in cancer therapeutics, and on astrocyte behavior and the progression of neurological injury. Before working at Columbia University Medical Center, she worked as an administrator for Stanford University’s Graduate School of Education, with the Center to Support Excellence in Teaching. She supports the Chief of Neuroimmunology, and directly coordinates administrative projects and operations. Katie plans to pursue a Master’s degree in Healthcare Administration, with the ultimate goal of working in healthcare administration.
Dr. Pallavi Gaur
Postdoctoral Research Scientist
Pallavi received her PhD degree in Bioinformatics from Center of Bioinformatics, University of Allahabad, India in 2017. During her PhD, she studied the NGS transcriptomic data of exosomes extracted from T. cruzi infected kissing bug which causes Chagas disease. She started her post-doctoral training at Department of Ob/Gyn, Columbia University, NY in 2017 where she focused on analyzing the Third- Generation Sequencing data and as a visiting fellow at Thomas Tuschl lab, Rockefeller University, NY where she was involved in studying IsomiRs in humans. In order to broaden the horizon of the potential application of her computational skills in other clinical areas and learn about new biological and computational techniques, she joined Dr. Vilas Menon and Dr. De Jager's group at CTCN in 2019. Her research now focuses on studying Single-cell and Single-nucleus transcriptomes of different regions of brains in order to investigate the different brain diseases
Dr. Claudiu Diaconu
Claudiu is a neuroimmunology fellow who recently completed his neurology residency here at Columbia University Medical Center and his medicine internship year at Yale New Haven Hospital. His admiration for science emerged during his undergraduate program at Washington University in St. Louis, from where he graduated with a degree in Biomedical Engineering. The field of neurology, with all of its unknowns, satisfied Claudiu’s passion for engineering, discovery, and medicine. He thus began training as a clinician scientist at the Cleveland Clinic Lerner College of Medicine, graduating with an M.D. with Special Qualifications in Biomedical Research. His research has focused on Alzheimer’s disease and multiple sclerosis. Claudiu is a recipient of the R25 NINDS grant. Thus, in addition to evaluating patients in clinic, Claudiu has protected time to work and train in our lab. His current research involves investigating the function of T-cell genes that are hypothesized by our group to be associated with an increase risk for multiple sclerosis. In addition to working with the experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis (EAE) mouse model for multiple sclerosis, Claudiu will also perform CRISPR knockdown of genes in both mouse and human T cells.
Tina received her MD from Tehran University of Medical Sciences, where her research was mainly focused on multiple sclerosis. She then completed her postdoctoral training in imaging-genetics at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, University of Toronto, before joining the lab in 2017 in order to gain experience in functional genomics. One of her research focuses is on the integration of genomics with other layers of molecular data in order to advance our understanding of the pathophysiology of brain inflammatory and degenerative disorders in order to find targets for their treatment and prevention.
Yiyi has research experience in the fields of gene-by-environment interactions, epigenetics, genetic epidemiology, nutritional genetics & genomics, biostatistics/statistics, and public health. In particular, she is interested in the interactions between genetics, epigenetics, and environmental factors. Her researches suggests that DNA methylation contributes partially to important gene-by-environment interactions; e.g. she has found that a promoter gene variant interacts with age to modulate APOE gene methylation. She has also shown that DNA methylation mechanisms may help explain the observed interactions between omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids and the genome to modulate blood lipids and inflammation. Currently, Yiyi is testing the interaction of genetic and epigenetic factors in risk for Alzheimer disease.
Dr. Hanane Touil
Postdoctoral Research Scientist
Dr. Verena Haage
Anthony obtained his B.S. in Behavioral Neuroscience at Northeastern University. After graduating, he joined the CTCN where he assisted in developing various cohorts for the center’s biobank. Additionally, he works on processing post-mortem and biopsied brain samples to investigate the role of T-cell infiltration in Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease, epilepsy, and other neurological diseases. Anthony is determined to further his education in the field of Neuroscience, and is fascinated about the field of induced pluripotent stem cell (iPSC) research and its potential applications.
Christina received her Bachelor of Science in Biology from Northeastern University in 2016. Early in her undergraduate program, Christina obtained experience in basic science research working with stem cells as applied to fertility. Following graduation, she worked at Brigham and Women’s Hospital validating drug discoveries and their implications on the Alzheimer’s disease susceptibility locus CD33. Christina joined our laboratory to further her interests in neurology and the immune system. She is involved with projects that explore the function of T cells, receptors, and various genes in association with both multiple sclerosis and Alzheimer’s disease. Christina aspires to attend medical school and continue to pursue her passion for basic science as a clinician.
Nadiya received her B. A. in Neuroscience from Drew University in 2019 and soon after, joined the CTCN. At Drew, she investigated the ability of novel synthetic compounds to act as allosteric modulators of mGluR4 glutamate receptors, a class of receptors that pathologically cause excitotoxicity in neurons of Alzheimer’s Disease patients. Also, during her time at Johns Hopkins, Nadiya worked to discern the mechanism of novel neuronal membrane proteasomes to affect neighboring cells. Currently, she is currently working under Dr. Sher in using gene editing modules to identify potential therapeutic targets to Alzheimer’s. Nadiya’s ultimate goal is to continue her passion in neuroscience and pursue a PhD in the future.
Alex continued her undergraduate work in our laboratory after graduating from Northeastern University with a BS in Behavioral Neuroscience in 2017. She currently works on understanding the pathophysiology of several genes that were identified as having risk alleles for multiple sclerosis by our computational group. She also contributes to processing donor human specimens for our various biobanks. Additionally, Alex is involved with training and providing support to other members of the lab who are learning our techniques for analyzing T-cells. Alex is planning to apply to graduate programs to obtain a doctoral degree to further advance the fields of neuroscience and immunology.
Julie joined the CTCN after graduating from Vassar College with a BA in Neuroscience and Behavior in 2019. At Vassar she enjoyed coursework in molecular genetics and protein chemisty and created and led a senior thesis project investigating the interaction of the sex hormone 17-β estradiol with astrocyte-mediated water and glutamate homeostasis, and the effect on cognition in female rats. She is especially proud of winning an award for best protein chemistry project and presentation on the structure and pharmacology of the GABAA receptor. At Syracuse University, she investigated epileptogenesis through the role of an mRNA binding protein, TIA-1, on regulating measures of astrocyte reactivity in vitro. She will be working with Dr. Sher, Dr. De Jager, and Nadiya on a joint project looking at therapeutic targets in Alzheimer’s disease. Julie hopes to go on to become a physician-scientist and continue to merge basic science and translational research with compassionate clinical practice, especially in the flourishing fields of immunotherapy and CRISPR-Cas9 therapies.
Zoë graduated from Virginia Tech in 2019 where she earned her B.S in Biochemistry. During her time at Virginia Tech she conducted research in the field of plant pathology and food security. She worked to characterize plant’s responses to pathogens and investigate important nutrient transport genes. Zoë is thrilled to transition to neuroimmunology research here at CTCN. She currently works under Dr. Sher on an integrated epigenetics project. She relishes the challenge of learning new things, and hopes to contribute to the prodigious work done at CTCN. Although she is still figuring out her future, she aspires to take on a leadership role to empower more young woman to get involved in research.
Clinical Research Coordinators
Research Project Manager
Kaho graduated from Colby-Sawyer College in 2013 and earned a Master's degree in Clinical Research from MCPHS University in 2016. She serves as the primary liaison and mentors junior research coordinators to help facilitate study visits and meet project goals.
Collin Tanchanco Ocampo
Collin graduated from Virginia Tech with degrees in Biological Sciences and Clinical Neuroscience in May 2019. During his time in undergrad, Collin conducted neuroimmunology and regenerative medicine research in a lab that studied Traumatic Brain Injury, Stroke, and Epilepsy in mice models. Upon graduation, Collin began working as a clinical coordinator at Columbia University to lead and assist on several research studies including MS Genetics, PhenoGenetics, TREAT-MS, Prebiotic vs. Probiotic Treatment Trial in MS, AAMS, and CIRCLES. Collin hopes to continue his studies and pursue a career in medicine in the future.
Katie graduated from Wake Forest University with degrees Psychology, Neuroscience, and Health & Human Services in May 2018. Upon completion of her undergraduate career, she began working as a clinical coordinator in the Multiple Sclerosis Center and the De Jager Lab at the Columbia University Medical Center. She leads and assists on a number of clinical and cognitive research studies, including MS DATABASE, Snapshot, BIOTIN, CIRCLES, and ENSEMBLE. She aspires to become a pediatric neuropsychologist.
Ines graduated from Tulane University with degrees in Neuroscience and Sociology in May 2019. During her undergraduate career, she conducted public health research in Peru as well as studying hormonal effects on hypertension in New Orleans. Upon graduating, she began working at CUIMC as a Clinical Research Coordinator. She will lead and assist on varied research studies, including ENSEMBLE, ARISE, GEMS, and TREAT-MS. Eventually, Ines hopes to pursue a career in medicine.