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Nikos Tapinos, MD/PhD

Associate Professor

Director of Molecular Neuroscience & Neurooncology Research

I was born and raised in Athens, Greece. I received my MD/PhD degrees from the National University of Athens, Greece. My PhD dissertation was conducted in the Department of Pathophysiology with a focus on Molecular Immunology. This work culminated in cloning a strain of Coxsackie virus as the underlying trigger of an autoimmune syndrome in humans and earned several awards in international meetings.

A postdoctoral training at The Rockefeller University (New York, NY) introduced me to the field of Molecular Neuroscience where I studied how pathogenic Leprosy Bacteria invade and regulate the glial cells of the peripheral nervous system to produce peripheral neuropathy. This work revealed for the first time a mechanism for non-immune mediated demyelination and uncovered new signaling pathways that regulate glial cell functions. Following my postdoctoral training at Rockefeller, I joined the Faculty at Geisinger Clinic where I established the Molecular Neuroscience and Neuro-Oncology Laboratory and held the position of Director of Neurosurgery Research.

An opportunity to join the Faculty of the Department of Neurosurgery at Brown University prompted a departure from Geisinger Clinic in 2016. Currently, I am an Associate Professor at the Department of Neurosurgery and the Director of Molecular Neuroscience & Neuro-Oncology Research at Rhode Island Hospital.


Margot Martinez Moreno, PhD

Postdoctoral Fellow at the Molecular Neuroscience & Neurooncology Laboratory

I was born and raised in Girona, Spain. I received my Biochemistry degree, Masters in Advanced Microbiology, and PhD in Biomedicine from the University of Barcelona, Spain. My PhD dissertation was conducted at the Department of Physiology, Unit of Biochemistry, with a focus on neuroinflammation, neurogenesis, and the related regulation of microglial reactivity.

Now I am a postdoctoral fellow in the Molecular Neuroscience and Neurooncology Laboratory at Brown University. I am studying the molecular mechanisms involving a naturally occurring EGR2 antisense transcript that induces peripheral demyelination. I am also working in the field of brain cancer, studying the mechanisms of glioblastoma-derived stem cells migration, in order to create a therapeutic strategy to drive and target these cells with chemotherapeutic drugs.


Charlotte Guetta, PhD

Postdoctoral Associate at the Molecular Neuroscience & Neurooncology Laboratory


John P. Zepecki, MS

Senior Research Assistant at the Molecular Neuroscience & Neurooncology Laboratory

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I was born in Corning, Arkansas and raised in various cities in both Arkansas and Missouri before enrolling as an undergraduate at Tulane University in 2003. After graduating with a double major in neuroscience and psychology, a summer research internship at the Stanford Psychophysiology Laboratory sparked an interest in behavioral neuroscience which led to a master’s degree in neuroscience at Tulane University a few years later. A talk by neurosurgeon Dr. Atom Sarkar shifted my attention to the world of neurooncology and culminated in an exciting opportunity to work as a research technician in the Molecular Neuroscience & Neurooncology Laboratory. As a result of this ongoing experience, my focus is now firmly upon the field of cancer epigenetics, specifically those underlying the formation and migration of Glioblastoma Multiforme (GBM) stem cells, an area of study I now wish to pursue avidly at the graduate and post-graduate level. I am currently exploring the role of a naturally-occurring antisense RNA in glioma formation via the oncogenic transformation of human neural stem cells. I am currently studying the role of RNA methylation in GBM stem cell differentiation.


Sarah Fergione, BS

Graduate Student in Biotechnology at Brown University

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I was born and raised in East Lyme, Connecticut and have subsequently lived in 6 different states across the country until coming back to Connecticut to start my graduate degree at Brown University in Biotechnology. I received my undergraduate degree in Biochemistry & Molecular Biology from Missouri Western State University an hour outside of Kansas City. While at MWSU, I conducted undergraduate research in the fields of biochemistry, computational biology/chemistry, and microbiology.

I was selected for a NASA summer internship as a spaceflight microbiologist at the Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas during my time in undergrad. While there, I had the opportunity to bring together teams across the science and engineering fields to investigate problems relating to long-term spaceflight. This multi-disciplinary and collaborative environment is what guided me to the field of biotechnology, where I would be able to meld biology and engineering together.

I am currently a graduate student collaborating with the Molecular Neuroscience and Neurooncology Laboratory and the Morgan Lab at Brown University. I am currently developing a 3D human brain in vitro culture model using only human cells in order to explore the invasion of glioblastoma in an environment more closely reassembly the in vivo tumor microenvironment.


Oliver Tang

Undergraduate student in Neuroscience at Brown University

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I was born in Queens and raised in New Jersey before coming to Brown University as an undergraduate in 2015. My interest in neurooncology began as a middle-schooler when my father was diagnosed with an acoustic neuroma and has since remained my most passionate area of study. My first research experience involved studying how ATRX loss-of-function mutation contributed to gliomagenesis through chromatin dysregulation, under Dr. Jason Huse at the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center (now at MD Anderson). Later areas of study have included investigating pediatric midline gliomas using stem cell models under Dr. Viviane Tabar at Sloan Kettering and most recently branching out into clinical research, such as analyzing cost growth and disparities in access for cerebrovascular surgery, under Dr. Michael Lawton at the Barrow Neurological Institute.

I joined the Molecular Neuroscience and Neurooncology Laboratory shortly after it moved to Providence. I am currently involved in several projects in the molecular neurooncology realm of the lab, including Neuroscience Honors Thesis work on RNA epigenetics in human glioma stem cells, and am excited to continue researching these areas in the lab after I matriculate to the Warren Alpert Medical School in 2019.


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Blessing Akobundu, BS

Graduate Student in Molecular Pharmacology and Physiology at Brown University

I am originally from West Africa, Nigeria and I received my Bachelor of science degree in Biology from Morgan State University, Baltimore, MD.

My current project is focused on understanding the role(s) of special class of RNAs called enhancer RNAs (eRNAs) in the modulation of gene expression in stem and differentiated glioblastoma primary cells.


Maydelis Minaya, BS

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Graduate student in Pathobiology at Brown University

I am originally from the Dominican Republic and have lived in various parts of the U.S. over the past few years. I graduated college in 2016 with a Bachelor of Science in Biology from the State University of New York at Geneseo. Following graduation, I accepted a one-year post-baccalaureate fellowship sponsored by the NIH-NIGMS to conduct research at the University of South Carolina’s Center for Colon Cancer Research. My project focused on investigating the IL-33/ST2 signalizing axis in the tumor microenvironment of colorectal cancer (CRC). This research endeavor allowed me to collaborate in the development of orthotopic pre-clinical mouse models for CRC that better recapitulate tumorigenesis and metastasis. My research experience at U of SC strengthened my passion for research and ultimately, consolidated my decision to attend graduate school. Following my fellowship, I joined the Pathobiology Graduate Program at Brown University in the Fall of 2017 to pursue my Ph.D.

In the Molecular Neuroscience and Neurooncology Laboratory, I currently study YAP-mediated mechanisms of nuclear mechanogenomics in Schwann Cells and how they regulate the transcriptional control of myelination and peripheral nerve regeneration. 


David Karambizi, BS

Medical student at Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University