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Vanya Bhat

December 30, 2020

Vanya is a second-year undergraduate student at UNC Chapel Hill. She is double majoring in Neuroscience and Medical Anthropology in hopes of practicing medicine and studying neurodegenerative disease in the future. Currently, she is examining corpora amylacea in the hippocampus with her mentor Connor. Outside of lab, Vanya enjoys taking hikes and baking.

Giulia Fragola

September 14, 2020
After graduating with a M.S. in Molecular Biology from Università degli Studi di Milano-Bicocca in Milan I joined the European School of Molecular Medicine where I obtained my Ph.D degree. For my graduate work, I studied the role of Polycomb proteins in transcription factor-induced somatic reprogramming under the supervision of Dr. Stefano Casola and Dr. Giuseppe Testa. I then moved to Dr. Zylka’s lab at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill to study the role of Topoisomerase 1 in the maintenance of genomic stability in the central nervous system. More recently I joined Dr. Cohen’s research group where I am extending my interest on the role of DNA damage in neurodegeneration. Outside the lab, I spend my time with my husband, mostly running behind our lovely little daughter, but when I have a chance, I love to go out for a beer, hike, climb or visit new places.

Spencer Maranto

August 28, 2020
Spencer is a fourth year undergraduate student at UNC Chapel Hill. He is double majoring in Biology and Neuroscience with a minor in Chemistry in the hopes of studying neurodegenerative disease in the future. Outside of the lab, Spencer enjoys playing guitar, baseball, and golf.

Tejaz Ajit

August 27, 2020

Tejaz is a third-year undergraduate student at UNC Chapel Hill. He is double majoring in Biology and Political Science with a minor in Chemistry. He is interested in learning about neurodegenerative diseases. Outside of lab, he enjoys playing and watching soccer.

Julie Necarsulmer

August 27, 2020

Julie is an MD/PhD student who completed the first two years of the UNC School of Medicine curriculum and then joined the Cohen Lab and the Cell Biology and Physiology Department full-time in 2019. She graduated from Pomona College in 2015, where she studied the neuroelectrophysiology and the molecular mechanisms of memory impairment in Alzheimer’s Disease. After graduating and before moving to North Carolina, Julie spent two years in Baltimore’s Biomedical Research Center working as an IRTA Fellow at the NIH’s National Institute on Drug Abuse. While there, she worked to develop and characterize novel genome engineering tools, such as CRISPR/Cas9 and AAV vector technology, to manipulate the rodent central nervous system with regional and cell-type specificity. She also worked on developing models of Parkinson’s Disease and HIV-associated Neurocognitive disorders. In the Cohen lab, Julie is researching the role of aberrant TDP-43 species in proteostasis impairment in ALS, FTLD, and other age-related TDP-43 proteinopathies using in vivo and in vitro approaches based on a novel mouse model of disease. She is also investigating the interactions of ALS/FTLD-associated mutations in non-TDP-43 genes on TDP-43 aggregation. When not in the lab or clinic, Julie likes to spend her time outside walking, running, hiking, and biking. She is also a big fan of wine and cheese boards, and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.

Miles Bryan

August 27, 2020

Miles graduated from the University of North Carolina at Wilmington with a B.S. in Marine Biology. Soon after, he worked as a research technician in the lab of Dr. Nancy Andrews at Duke University where he focused on characterizing in vivo models of iron dyshomeostasis. For his graduate work, Miles joined the lab of Dr. Aaron Bowman at Vanderbilt University where he investigated the role of manganese homeostasis on neuroprotective pathways (autophagy, IGF/AKT signaling) in Huntington’s disease. After his PhD, he joined the lab of Dr. Cohen at UNC in 2020 where he is investigating key pathological mechanisms of tau in Alzheimer’s disease and how to target these therapeutically. I love cruising to warm locales with my wife (COVID, please stop…), hanging with our three cats, fishing, gardening, gaming, and a good IPA.

Shannon Rhoads

August 27, 2020

Shannon is a second-year graduate student in the Neuroscience Curriculum. She graduated from University of Maryland in 2016 with a degree in Microbiology. She worked as a Lab Manager in Dr. Frank Shewmaker’s Lab at Uniformed Services University where she examined the biophysical characteristics of the Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS)-associated protein FUS in cell culture. She is continuing her research in ALS through a co-mentorship with Sarah Cohen and Todd Cohen studying the impact of ALS pathology on organelle contacts and dynamics.

Suvleen Singh

August 27, 2020

Suvleen is a fourth year undergraduate student at UNC Chapel Hill. She is majoring in biology and minoring in neuroscience and chemistry with the intent to attend medical school. Under the guidance of her mentor Carli, she has been studying the interactions of certain proteins at the neuronal synapse in hopes of helping to illuminate the mechanism behind caspase-mediated early tau cleavage.

Carli Opland – Neuroscience

November 7, 2018

Carli is a fourth-year Ph.D. candidate in the Neuroscience curriculum. Before coming to UNC for graduate studies, Carli received a B.S. in Cellular and Molecular Biology at California State University, Northridge. She worked with Dr. Randy Cohen studying the neurodegeneration of Purkinje cells from excitotoxicity by GABA receptor activation in an ataxic rat model. After graduating in May 2015, Carli joined Dr. Daniel Geschwind’s lab at UCLA as a staff research associate where she investigated the effects of overexpression of specific genes known to be involved in neurogenesis such as NGN2, FGFR2, and SOX5 in primary human neural progenitor cells. Now in Todd Cohen’s lab at UNC Chapel Hill, Carli is evaluating the role of a particular post translational modification, tau cleavage by caspases, and its implications to Alzheimer’s disease. Outside of the lab, she enjoys baking, hanging out with her cat, running, eating cheese and making craft cocktails.

Todd Cohen

July 24, 2017


Since 2014, I’ve been privileged to be an Assistant Professor in the Department of Neurology at UNC-Chapel Hill.  Prior to that, I attended Duke University as a graduate student and became enamored with North Carolina. Now, we seek to fully understand two devastating diseases that affect humans: ALS, or Lou Gehrig’s disease, and Alzheimer’s disease.  Our unique approaches and relentless optimism, grit, and determination will help us, as a group, achieve our goals and make progress against these diseases.  In my spare time, I enjoy disc golf, the gym, a captivating movie, a novel about meaning in life, a cappuccino, a smooth red wine, and telling horrible dad jokes to adorable 3 and 7 yr old girls.