Neurosurgery

Laboratories

Research Team

Douglas Smith, MD
Douglas Smith, MD

Robert A. Groff Professor of Neurosurgery
Vice Chairman for Research and Education, Dept. of Neurosurgery
Director, Penn's Center for Brain Injury and Repair (CBIR)
smithdou@mail.med.upenn.edu

Douglas H. Smith serves as Director of the Center for Brain Injury and Repair (CBIR) and is the Robert A. Groff Endowed Professor and Vice Chairman for Research and Education in Neurosurgery at the University of Pennsylvania. Penn's multidisciplined CBIR includes over 25 principal investigators and their laboratory staff collectively studying mechanisms, diagnosis and potential treatments of traumatic brain injury.

Dr. Smith is also director of a multi-center U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH) program grant on mild traumatic brain injury and oversees an NIH brain injury training grant. Over the last 20 years, Dr. Smith has devoted his full-time efforts to neurotrauma research following completion of fellowships in both molecular biology and neurotrauma at the University of Connecticut. His laboratory investigates the effects of mechanical stretch of axons that results in either damage or growth. He has found that rapid stretch during brain trauma selectively injures axons in the white matter. In turn, aberrant accumulation of proteins in the damaged axons can lead to pathologic changes similar to those found in Alzheimer's disease. In addition, Dr. Smith's laboratory has also recently discovered that slow continuous stretching of axon tracts in culture can stimulate enormous growth, creating transplantable living nervous tissue constructs. These tissue engineered constructs have shown promise for repairing large lesions in the nervous system. These collective efforts have resulted in over 150 published reports.

Zarina Ali, MD, MS
Zarina Ali, MD, MS

Neurosurgery Resident
zarina.ali@uphs.upenn.edu

Dr. Ali is a fourth year Penn neurosurgery resident interested in peripheral nerve injury and regeneration. Zarina is a graduate of the University of Rochester's Early Medical Scholars B.S./M.D. combined degree program in 2009. She also earned a Masters of Science degree in Neurobiology and Anatomy from Rochester during her medical school training. Zarina is currently investigating strategies to repair nerve root avulsion injuries using axonal stretch-growth technology.

Ariana Barkley, MD Candidate
Ariana Barkley, MD Candidate

Ariana Barkley, MD Candidate
arianabarkley@gmail.com

Ariana Barkley is a fourth year medical student at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine. Her primary interest is in facilitating functional central nervous system repair through cellular based approaches. She earned her B.S. and B.A. at The Johns Hopkins University in 2008 in Molecular and Cellular Biology and Psychology. Her work in the lab focuses on examining changes in functional activity after traumatic brain injury in vitro and integrating stretch growth technology to ameliorate these effects in vivo.

Kevin Browne, BA
Kevin Browne, MD

Research Specialist/Senior Technician
kbrowne@mail.med.upenn.edu

Kevin is a biology graduate from Rutgers University and has been involved in neuroscience research at Penn for the past twelve years. His primary interest is understanding the changes that occur in the brain following mild traumatic brain injury (concussion) as well as determining the mechanisms that may be responsible for the brain's lowered tolerance to repeat concussions. He is also interested in exploring the neurochemical changes associated with trauma, especially the relationship between axonal injury and amyloid beta production and buildup.

His current research is directed at using advanced neuroimaging techniques to detect diffuse axonal injury. He is also part of the team developing tissue engineered nerve grafts to remedy extensive damage in peripheral as well as central nervous system tissue. As co-founder of the CBIR's scientific outreach program, he is deeply committed to bringing neuroscience research and brain injury prevention to children and adults within the community.

Isaac Chen, MD
Isaac Chen, MD

Neurosurgery Resident
isaac.chen@uphs.upenn.edu

Isaac is a fifth year neurosurgery resident interested in nervous system repair and functional restoration using both cellular and device-based approaches. He obtained his MD from the University of Pennsylvania in 2007 and graduated from Harvard University in 2002 with an AB in biochemical sciences. His work in the lab focuses on applying stretch-growth technology to the brain and advancing prior work on neural-electric interfaces.

Jean-Pierre Dollé, PhD
Jean-Pierre Dollé, PhD

Post-doctoral Researcher
dollej@mail.med.upenn.edu

Jean-Pierre received his PhD in Biomedical Engineering from Rutgers University, his MS in Biomedical Engineering from Drexel University and his BSc in Aeronautical Engineering from the University of Witwatersrand in South Africa. His research interests involve investigating the increased risk of dementia following traumatic brain injury events.

John L. Dutton, B.A.
John L. Dutton, B.A.

Research Specialist B
duttonj@mail.med.upenn.edu

John Dutton graduated from Franklin and Marshall College with a degree in Biological Foundations of Behavior. After college, John worked as a research technician for the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia before joining the Smith lab team in May of 2012. John's primary efforts in the lab include large animal peripheral nerve surgery, electrophysiological assessment of peripheral nerves post injury, and in-vitro work involving stretch growth of tissue engineered nerve grafts. John is also interested in investigating the idea of nerves having a certain "immunoprivilege" in the body and discovering how xenograft nerve transplants could be used in the future to repair peripheral nerve injuries.

Mindy Ezra, PhD, MS
Mindy Ezra, PhD, MS

Post-doctoral Researcher
mezra@mail.med.upenn.edu

Dr. Ezra is a postdoctoral researcher interested in nerve repair and regeneration. She received her PhD in Biomedical Engineering from Rutgers University in 2011 and her MS degree in Biomedical Engineering from Columbia University in 2006. Her work in the lab focuses on engineering living tissue engineered nerve grafts for use in a porcine peripheral nerve model and in a rodent spinal cord injury model using a process of extreme stretch growth. Additionally, she is interested in investigating signals and mechanisms that promote the myelination and fasciculation of long axons.

Andrew Jaye, BS
Andrew Jaye, BS

Research Specialist
ajaye@mail.med.upenn.edu

Andrew is a graduate of The Pennsylvania State University with a BS in Biology. His interests are primarily looking at the biomechanical and neurochemical changes that occur immediately following cortical axon deformation to gain insight in to axonal pathology. Through in vitro and in vivo models, he is also excited to work with others on other research focused on the relationship between head injuries and neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer's. In future studies, Andrew hopes to investigate brain repair and neuroregeneration.

Victoria E. Johnson, MD
Victoria E. Johnson, MD

Post-doctoral Researcher
vje@mail.med.upenn.edu

Dr. Johnson is a visiting scholar from the UK. She graduated from The University of Glasgow medical school in 2005, during which time she also completed an intercalated degree with honors in clinical neuroscience. Victoria is interested in neurodegeneration following head trauma and in understanding the links between head trauma and dementing disorders such as Alzheimer's disease. She also has a number of projects exploring various potential genetic influences on the pathological response to trauma.

Dev G. Patel, MA Candidate
Dev G. Patel, MA Candidate

Graduate Researcher
pateldev@seas.upenn.edu

Dev Patel is a student in the Smith Lab working to towards a Master's thesis. He received his Bachelor of Science in Biomedical Engineering at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in 2012. His research in the lab is focused on constructing a novel method for transferring mechanically elongated axons safely. He is also interested in how myelination is triggered.

Amanda Rabinowitz, PhD
Amanda Rabinowitz, PhD

Postdoctoral Research Fellow
arabinow@mail.med.upenn.edu

Dr. Rabinowitz is a postdoctoral researcher interested in neurocognitive correlates of diffuse axonal injury in mild traumatic brain injury (mTBI) patients. She received her PhD in Clinical Psychology at The Pennsylvania State University after completing her internship in Clinical Neuropsychology at Brown's Alpert School of Medicine in 2012. Her work in the lab examines the relationship between clinical outcomes and markers of brain dysfunction, such as novel neuroimaging measures and neurodegenerative proteins in blood serum. She is also interested in predictors of prolonged disability in mTBI patients.

Andrew G. Voyiadjis, PhD
Andrew G. Voyiadjis, PhD

NIH Postdoctoral Training Fellow
avoy@mail.med.upenn.edu

Dr. Voyiadjis is a postdoctoral researcher interested in understanding the mechanisms of axonal injury following traumatic brain injury. He received his BS and Masters in Biomedical Engineering from Tulane University, and his PhD in Biomedical Engineering with a focus on neuroengineering and axon guidance from Rutgers University. By combining his expertise in engineering and neuroscience, he hopes to address many unknown biophysical questions about early brain fold development and novel ways that neurons may communicate using both computational modeling and in vitro platforms.

Theresa Williamson, MD Candidate
Theresa Williamson, MD Candidate

Predoctoral Fellow
theresa.williamson@yale.edu

Theresa Williamson is a pre-doctoral fellow in the Smith Lab for Neurotrauma. The primary focus of her work is understanding the role of external markers of brain network injury in predicting underlying neuropathology of connecting axons after mild traumatic brain injury. Techniques involved in the research include scalp EEG, neuroimaging, and histopathology. Theresa is a candidate for an MD degree at the Yale School of Medicine (2014) and intends to pursue a career in neurosurgery.