BrainWaves: The Neuroscience Graduate Program Newsletter

Bright MiNDS of Tomorrow: Welcoming our New Students!

AUTHOR: Kathryn Reynolds

This September, we are pleased to welcome 19 new students to the Neuroscience Graduate Program!

Get acquaintedwith the exceptional individuals that make up this new graduate cohort by learning about their diverse research interests and hobbies. We’re looking forward to watching their research progress as the year unfolds!

Emma Tolsdorf

My name is Emma Tolsdorf. I recently graduated from the University of Calgary in the Bachelor of Science in Psychology program. I have been working in the healthcare industry for just over five years now, starting as the Red Deer hospital candy cart girl and moving through the ranks to become a research volunteer and later research assistant. I have experience working in labs investigating topics in psychosocial oncology, neurocognitive disorders, and clinical neuroscience. In the fall, I will be attending the Neuroscience Graduate Program at McMaster to continue my journey studying the gut-brain axis and immunology with Dr. Jane Foster. Outside of my academic pursuits, I enjoy entrepreneurship, the stock market, and Greek yogurt.





Flavia Spiroiu

Flavia Spiroiu obtained her Bachelor of Arts in Psychology at Ryerson University. Her undergraduate thesis examined the impact of beliefs concerning deception on perceptions of nonverbal behavior and the implications of such perceptions for neuro-linguistic programming-based lie detection. Ms. Spiroiu subsequently earned her Master of Arts in Clinical Psychology from Lakehead University. Her Master’s thesis investigated the relationship between intolerance of uncertainty and social anxiety severity, as well as the mediating effects of fear of negative evaluation and negative interpretations of ambiguous social information on the association between intolerance of uncertainty and social anxiety subtypes (i.e. social interaction anxiety and performance anxiety). Ms. Spiroiu is commencing her PhD in the Neuroscience Graduate Program under the supervision of Dr. Noam Soreni. Her thesis will examine the cognitive and behavioral mechanisms of transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) in the context of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) for obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). 




Mario Simjanoski

I'm Mario Simjanoski, another student excited to start grad school at McMaster! I will be starting my project under the supervision of Dr. Kapczinski at St. Joseph's Healthcare. I did my undergrad at McMaster in the Honours Life Sciences program, with a specialization in Psychology, Neuroscience & Behavior. I'm originally from Toronto, so I'm glad it's not a long trip back home. I'm a huge sports fan, especially soccer and basketball, and I always find myself in heated sports discussions. I love the beach - you can find me sitting out in the sun by the water all day (open to suggestions for new vacation places!). Other than that, I would say I'm outgoing, chill, and always down for an adventure (but it might take some convincing!). 




Divya Prasad

Hi everyone, my name is Divya and I am so excited to be joining the Neuroscience Graduate Program this fall. I will be working under the supervision of Dr. Benicio Frey to study perinatal mental health disorders. I recently graduated from the Arts and Sciences program at McMaster and finished with a minor in Psychology. I love dogs, listening to John Mayer, and drinking bubble tea. I can’t wait to meet everyone!



Balpreet Panesar

I have recently graduated from the Honours Biology program at McMaster University and I am excited to be continuing my graduate journey here at McMaster! I have the fortunate opportunity to be working with Dr. Zena Samaan whose research interests are centred around addiction and suicide risk factors. I will be focusing on the investigation of suicide risk factors and social support. When not in the lab, my spare time is usually spent watching anything related to comedy. I have recently discovered the show “Derry Girls”, and recommend it to anyone looking to have a good laugh.



Ada Nexha

My name is Adile (Ada) Nexha and I completed my undergraduate studies at the University of Toronto, where I graduated with a specialist degree in Neuroscience and a minor in Psychology. My graduate studies will be under the supervision of Dr. Benicio Frey, where I will be investigating the role of biological rhythms in Major Depressive Disorder. In my free time, I like to relax my mind by painting, watching shows, or spending a lot of time outside.

Taylor Nelles-McGee

My name is Taylor Nelles-McGee. I am an incoming Neuroscience MSc student, and very much looking forward to working with supervisor Dr. Andrea Gonzalez. I come from a somewhat non-traditional educational background, having completed my first undergraduate degree in classical violin performance at the Glenn Gould School at the Royal Conservatory of Music in Toronto, and more recently a BSc in Psychology at York University. I am currently working as a professional violinist and as a teacher with Sistema Toronto, a program delivering music education and a comprehensive social curriculum to children in vulnerable communities. Other interests include organizing community initiatives around issues of social justice, and arts-based bereavement programming for children and families experiencing grief and loss. In my spare time I like to make things, cook things, be outside, read, and do crosswords, to name a few. Looking forward to meeting everybody!

Jennifer Mepham

My name is Jennifer Mepham. I completed my undergraduate degree in Psychology and Master’s degree in Neuroscience, both at Western University. I will now be beginning my PhD under the supervision of Dr. Andrea Gonzalez. After completing my Master’s degree, I took some time off to start a family. I have two beautiful kiddos who love to keep me on my toes! I am very excited to get back into research, and thrilled to be studying in the Neuroscience Graduate Program at McMaster!

Elvira Meleca

Hello! My name is Elvira Meleca and I am a new MSc student in the Neuroscience program. I come from an unconventional program here at McMaster in the Faculty of Engineering called Bachelor of Technology, where I specialized in Biotechnology for my undergrad. For my Master’s, I will be working in Dr. Ram Mishra’s neuropharmacology lab. Neuroscience has always interested me ever since I was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (you would never know from meeting me!). Outside of neuroscience, I love to read a good book, play video games, and cook great food. My favourite thing to nerd out over is Harry Potter, and my Hogwarts house is Ravenclaw. Glad to meet you!

Carly McIntyre-Wood

Carly completed her BSc Health Sciences with Honours at Wilfrid Laurier University where she specialized in Biology and Psychology. For her graduate studies her supervisor will be Dr. James MacKillop and she will be focusing on addiction. Growing up in the Yukon, she continues to be passionate about the outdoors and in her spare time can be found hiking around the escarpment with her pup. Other passions include attending concerts, practicing yoga, and travelling!

Kiersten Mangold

I'm from Peterborough, ON and attended Mount Allison University for my undergrad, where I completed an Honours BA in psychology. I was also on the varsity basketball team at Mount Allison. Here at McMaster, my graduate supervisor will be Dr. John Connolly, and broadly speaking I'm interested in research surrounding concussion.

Erika Kropf

I completed my undergraduate degree at McMaster University, where I majored in Biology and Psychology, Neuroscience & Behaviour. I am excited to study Alzheimer’s Disease under the supervision of Dr. Margaret Fahnestock as I complete my Master’s degree. Many years ago, I discovered that I love spending time with seniors, which led to my interest in the neuroscience of aging and dementia. Outside of academics, I love traveling, hiking, volunteering with my church, softball, volleyball, and pretty much any card, board, or lawn game! Can’t wait to meet everyone!

Tarin Karunagoda

I'm a first year Master’s student in the Neuroscience Graduate Program under Dr. Ryan Van Lieshout's supervision. I completed my undergraduate degree at the University of Guelph in Bio-Medical Science with a minor in Neuroscience. I am also an artist who enjoys drawing people and anatomical structures. When I'm not studying or drawing, I enjoy art museums, hiking, and petting animals.

Heather Dwyer

Hello, I am new to the McMaster community and I’m very excited about starting this new chapter in my career. My undergraduate degree is in Microbiology/Molecular Biology/Biochemistry from Florida Atlantic University and I completed my MSc is in Clinical Research Administration with Walden University (Minnesota). I have 16 years of industry experience that includes 10 years in Pharmaceutical Microbiology and 6 years in Clinical Research.

In my spare time I enjoy karate, Latin dancing, mixed media art, science fiction, comedy, dining, and mountain bike riding. I will be studying Clinical & Health Neuroscience under the supervision of Dr. Michael Van Ameringen and I look forward to eventually initiating my own research projects.

Sarah Brassard

Hi everyone! My name is Sarah Brassard, and I am very excited about starting my Master’s degree in Neuroscience at McMaster! Here, I will get to work under the supervision of Dr. Iris Balodis. I completed my undergraduate degree in Psychology at McGill University in Montreal, QC; however, I’m originally from Gatineau, QC. When I have free time, I love to travel, bake, practice yoga, and crossfit. Watching Netflix and spending time with my cat and dog are up there on my top things to do as well! I’m also a HUGE coffee fanatic, so you’ll always see me with my mason jar full of caffeine goodness!

Pedro Ballester

I attended a federal university in Pelotas, Brazil and received an undergraduate degree in Computer Science. Most recently, I've finished my Master's degree, also in Computer Science, focused on artificial intelligence (deep learning) for neuroimaging. My dissertation aimed to address some of the issues of deep learning for healthcare, such as lack of standardized data acquisition and limited data. I will join the Neuroscience Graduate Program to study personalized psychiatry in mood disorders, advised by Dr. Benicio Frey. The idea of using artificial intelligence to improve diagnoses and provide tailored treatment fascinates me. On a less serious note, I am a big fan of “How I Met Your Mother” (watched it three times!) and mind-bending movies like “Inception” and “Memento”. I also play football at every chance I get and sometimes run during mornings to start off the day.

Mohammad Ali

Hey there! My name is Mohammad and I am a new graduate student in the Neuroscience Graduate Program. I originally did my BSc at the University of Toronto. I will be supervised by Dr. Benicio Frey and co-supervised by Dr. Nicholas Bock this fall. I will be studying intercortical myelin in Bipolar Disorder patients and will also investigate telomeres and their relationship to dementia. Asides from academics, I’m a huge fan of “The Office” and “Friends”. I also used to do Muay Thai but have stopped since getting injured. I look forward to meeting everyone this fall and can’t wait to start the program!

Fahed Abu-Hijleh

I did my undergrad at Wilfrid Laurier University in Psychology and Neuroscience. My graduate supervisor is Dr. Ram Mishra.