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Meet the Team

  • Kritika Bhalla, PhD

    Kritika Bhalla, PhD

    Postdoctoral Researcher

    Kritika Bhalla, PhD, aims to uncover novel therapeutic targets for the treatment of pediatric brain defective neurocognition and to improve patient outcomes. She is passionate about unraveling the mysteries of the developing brain. Bhalla previously focused on exploring metabolic signaling pathways affected by rare congenital neurodevelopmental disorders. In the Gallo Lab, she investigates the mechanisms underlying defective dysmaturation of oligodendrocyte development and demyelination resulting in the altered motor and cognitive function in Down syndrome. She also explores defects in cerebellar development at cellular, molecular, and anatomical levels during trisomy. With expertise in molecular biology and neuroscience, Bhalla employs cutting-edge techniques to identify molecular pathways implicated in intellectual disability observed in patients with Down syndrome.

  • Dylan Crawford, PhD

    Dylan Crawford, PhD

    Postdoctoral Researcher

    Dylan Crawford, PhD, holds a doctorate in psychology from Rutgers University, specializing in behavioral and systems neuroscience. His research expertise lies in investigating gene-environment interactions impacting cognitive abilities alongside a focus on anxiety-like behaviors in a small-animal model. His postdoctoral work at Rowan University explored cognitive flexibility in Alzheimer’s disease and repeated TBI. His current research has pivoted to the bioinformatic and behavioral assessment of sepsis treatment in small-animal models, as well as developing innovative cognitive paradigms and learning multi-omics analytic techniques. Crawford is affiliated with professional societies like IBNS, Psi Chi and the National Postdoctoral Association. Driven by a passion for science communication, he wants to scientific knowledge accessible through teaching, outreach and diverse communication channels.

  • Julian Naizaque

    Julian Naizaque

    Research Scientist III

    Julian Naizaque has long been captivated by the brain’s complexity and how neurological diseases can alter not only its function, but also who we are as human beings. He joined Dr. Orlando Torres-Fernandez’s group at the Instituto Nacional de Salud in Bogota, Colombia, to study neurological vulnerabilities induced by neurotropic viruses. During his undergraduate biology and graduate neuroscience studies, he researched the effect of rabies virus on the expression of calbindin and parvalbumin in the cerebellum. He also contributed to studying the Zika virus’ effects on the development of the cerebral cortex and cerebellum. He’s currently focused on the pathological mechanisms involved in neonatal brain injury in the cerebellum, studying how white matter injury could alter Purkinje cell morphology and its effects on oligodendrocyte lineage progression.

  • Alejandro Parga-Becerra, MD, PhD

    Alejandro Parga-Becerra, MD, PhD

    Scientific Group Leader

    Alejandro Parga-Becerra, MD, PhD, is an experienced neurophysiologist with a background in trauma medicine and advanced proficiency in clinical and experimental methodologies, including vector interventions and opto/chemogenetics. He is a leader in the orchestration of complex research initiatives aimed at the evaluation and modulating of brain function. Skilled in integrating neuroanatomical, electrophysiological, and multiomics approaches to decipher neuronal circuits, he is proficient in guiding multidisciplinary teams in academia and industry, with a focus on platform/technology development. His overarching objective is to elucidate the mechanisms of neuronal ensembles crucial to cognitive processes and to leverage this knowledge to drive technological innovations for enhancing cognition.

  • Emma Parkins, PhD

    Emma Parkins, PhD

    Postdoctoral Researcher

    Emma Parkins, PhD, studies white matter development and injury in a small-animal model of preterm birth. She is building on previous work to identify the intrinsic and extrinsic mechanisms that underlie protracted white matter immaturity observed in neonatal hypoxia, including the role of synaptic dysfunction in delayed oligodendrocyte progenitor cell proliferation and maturation. She received her doctorate from the University of Cincinnati Neuroscience Graduate Program, where she worked in the lab of Dr. Christina Gross at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital to study the role of microRNAs in sculpting excitatory postsynapses in the hippocampus. Before that, she studied neuroscience and gender, sexuality and feminist studies at Oberlin College, where she researched multisensory integration in autism spectrum disorder.

  • Olivia Santiago

    Olivia Santiago

    Research Scientist I

    After earning her bachelor’s degree in biology at Lewis & Clark College in 2020, Olivia Santiago was a research assistant in a diabetes and obesity lab at the University of Washington, where she helped manage the small-animal models and collaborate on various projects using transgenic small-animal models to investigate the molecular mechanisms of the brain that control feeding, weight gain and blood glucose homeostasis. She is excited to develop her research skills in the Gallo Lab and expand her neuroscience knowledge into perinatal brain injury and repair.