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Neuroscience Research Team

The Cook Children's Neurosciences Research team is made up of some of brightest minds in the world. Led by Dr. Christos Papedelis, our team is intent on leading the way in neurological breakthroughs to improve the lives of every child cared for at Cook Children's, and beyond.


Director

Christos Papadelis, PhD

Director of Research: Christos Papadelis, PhD

Director of Research, Jane and John Justin Neurosciences Center,
Cook Children's Health Care System
Professor of Pediatrics, TCU & UNTHSC School of Medicine
Assistant Professor of Pediatrics, Harvard Medical School
Adjunct Associate Professor of Bioengineering, University of Texas at Arlington

I was born in Athens, Greece, and raised in Thessaloniki, the city of Alexander the Great. I graduated from the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki in 1998 with the Diploma in Electrical Engineering and received my MSc and PhD in Medical Informatics in 2001 and 2005 respectively from the same institution. After my PhD graduation, I worked as Research Scientist at the Brain Science Institute of RIKEN, Japan, from 2005 to 2008, and as Post-Doctoral Research Fellow in the Center for Mind/Brain Sciences at University of Trento, Italy, from 2008 to 2011.

Back in 2011, I received my first faculty appointment as Instructor in Neurology at Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA, and joined Boston Children's Hospital in order to set up and develop the BabyMEG facility as its manager, one of the very few magnetoencephalography (MEG) laboratories in the world fully dedicated to pediatric research. In 2015, I was promoted to Assistant Professor of Pediatrics and initiated the Laboratory of Children's Brain Dynamics. Later, I became the founding Director of the Clinical MEG Program at Boston Children's Hospital, the only MEG program in the USA for children up to 4 years of age. In 2019, I moved from Boston to Fort Worth/Dallas metroplex to join Cook Children's Health Care System as founding Director of Research at the Jane and John Justin Neurosciences Center. I also joined the School of Medicine of Texas Christian University (TCU) and University of North Texas Health Science Center (UNTHSC) as Professor of Pediatrics, and the University of Texas at Arlington (UTA) as Adjunct Associate Professor of Bioengineering.

My research covers a broad range of studies in neuroscience, clinical neurophysiology, and biomedical engineering. My main goal is to develop a novel epilepsy biomarker that will help children with drug resistant epilepsy to become seizure free after resective neurosurgery. I also work with children who have cerebral palsy to identify plasticity changes in their brain as a result of robotic rehabilitation.

I have more than 60 peer-reviewed research investigation articles and numerous articles in conference proceedings. I am an Academic Editor in PLoS One, ad-hoc reviewer in more than 50 journals, as well as guest editor in special issues in my field. Figures of my work have been selected as covers for scientific journals. I have received funding from the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, the American Epilepsy Society, the European Union, the Harvard Medical School, the Boston Children's Hospital, and the Cook Children's Health Foundation.

Principal Investigators


Georgios Alexandrakis, PhD

Principal Investigator: Georgios Alexandrakis, PhD

Associate Professor of Bioengineering, University of Texas at Arlington

I grew up in Athens, Greece, and had my primary and secondary educations at Athens College. Subsequently I attended Oxford University in the UK where I completed a BSc degree in Physics in 1992. Following an obligatory stint in the Greek military service, I moved to Canada, where I pursued MSc and PhD degrees in Medical Physics at McMaster University. During my graduate studies I learned a lot about light-tissue interactions that formed a solid basis for a future career in optical medical technologies, although I did not know that at the time. A chance encounter with a friend led me to apply for a green card and get it at first try, which brought me to the US in 2000.

I was a Post-Doctoral Research Fellow at Massachusetts General Hospital / Harvard Medical School where I worked on quantitative intravital two-photon microscopy techniques for the analysis of barriers to drug delivery in tumor-bearing mice. I then pursued further Post-Doctoral work at UCLA where I contributed to the development of a combined optical/PET mouse imaging system.

I have been a faculty member of the Bioengineering Department at University of Texas at Arlington since 2006, where I am currently an Associate Professor. In my initial years as faculty I collaborated with scientists at UT Southwestern to investigate the dynamics of proteins involved in cancer pathways by use of quantitative confocal and two-photon cellular microscopy. In the last decade, I have been actively pursuing projects involving the technological development and clinical dissemination of functional Near-Infrared Spectroscopy (fNIRS). This work involved the application of fNIRS for guiding rehabilitation in children with cerebral palsy and personalized neurostimulation of patients with stroke.

I have published many peer-reviewed research articles and numerous articles in conference proceedings. I am reviewer for several biomedical optics journals, and a frequent grant reviewer in the US and Europe. My work has been supported by the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Center of Child Health and Human Development, The National Cancer Institute, The Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas, the National Science Foundation, the Cerebral Palsy Foundation, and Texas Health Resources.


Crystal M. Cooper, PhD

Principal Investigator: Crystal M. Cooper, PhD

Principal Investigator, Jane and John Justin Neurosciences Center,
Cook Children's Health Care System
Adjunct Assistant Professor of Psychiatry, UT Southwestern

Originally from San Diego, California, I moved to Texas and pursued higher education in the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex. I received my BS (2007) in Psychology, with a minor in Biology, from UT Arlington. I then received my MSc (2009) and PhD (2012) in Experimental Psychology with an emphasis in Health Psychology and Neuroscience, also from UT Arlington. During my graduate training, my research was two-fold: (i) developing tasks to objectively measure specific cognitive processes (i.e., memory deficits and editing mechanisms), in special populations across the lifespan; and (ii) objectively measuring brain and behavioral dysfunction in veterans with Gulf War Illness using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).

Following graduate training, I took a Post-Doctoral Research Fellowship in Psychiatry at UT Southwestern Medical Center. My work focused on overseeing a nationwide, multisite, clinical trial to identify early predictors of treatment response in major depressive disorders. This included implementing novel neuroimaging methods. In 2016, I was appointed Assistant Professor of Psychiatry at UT Southwestern. As a cognitive neuroscientist and investigator in the Center for Depression Research and Clinical Care, I served as the head of Brain and Behavior Research. My work focused on identifying biosignatures of disease-risk, disease-state, and treatment prediction in psychopathology across the lifespan. In this work, I implemented staple and novel functional neuroimaging and behavioral phenotyping methods in clinical trial, cross-sectional, and longitudinal studies alike.

In 2020, I joined the Jane and John Justin Neurosciences Center at Cook Children’s Health Care System as a Principal Investigator. I also remain an adjunct Assistant Professor of Psychiatry at UT Southwestern Medical Center. My work is two-fold: (i) augmenting the current research in neurological pediatric populations (e.g., epilepsy and cerebral palsy) with MRI and behavioral phenotyping; and (ii) extend the center’s work into pediatric psychopathology (e.g., mood and anxiety disorders).

I have 40 peer-reviewed articles and a book chapter published as well as numerous conference articles. I have received awards for my work, which include: the Verne Cox Outstanding Research Award (UT Arlington), Best in Translational Research (National Network of Depression Centers), New Investigator Award (American Society for Clinical Psychopharmacology), and Rising Star (Society of Biological Psychiatry). I am an ad-hoc reviewer for several journals and member in national and international scientific societies, where I serve actively on committees. I have received seed/pilot funding from UT Southwestern.


Post-Doctoral Research Fellows

Yanlong Song, PhD

Post-Doctoral Research Fellow: Yanlong Song, PhD

Postdoctoral Research Fellow I

I graduated from Yanshan University, China, in 2005 with a BSc in Applied Mathematics. I received my MSc in Experimental Psychology from East China Normal University in 2008. From 2009 to 2013, I worked in industry on information consulting in Shanghai, China. I came to the US in the fall of 2013. I obtained my PhD in Kinesiology with a primary focus on motor control and learning from Iowa State University in 2017. I did my first Post-Doctoral Research Fellowship at University of Virginia, where I learned brain stimulation with TMS. After that, I joined Cook Children’s and University of Texas at Arlington as a Post-Doctoral Research Fellow in January 2020. At Cook Children’s, my research focuses on studying brain information processing in children with cerebral palsy with MEG, high-density EEG, and TMS. I have received funding as a PI from the American Academy of Cerebral Palsy & Developmental Medicine. I hope my research will foster the understanding of brain information processing and brain development in healthy children and children with movement disorders and provide insights to the development of neurorehabilitation interventions for children with motor functioning deficits such as cerebral palsy.


Rupesh Kumar Chikara, Ph.D

Post-Doctoral Research Fellow: Rupesh Kumar Chikara, PhD

Post-Doctoral Research Fellow I

I was born in Saharanpur, Uttar Pradesh, India. I received my BSc in Biology (2005) and MSc in Botany (2007) from Maharaj Singh College, Saharanpur, Ch. Charan Singh University, Meerut, India. I received my Master of Technology in Biotechnology (2011) from Meerut Institute of Engineering and Technology (MIET), Gautum Buddh Technical University, Lucknow, India. I received my PhD in Cognitive Neuroscience, Department of Biological Science and Technology, National Chiao Tung University (NCTU), Hsinchu, Taiwan, 2013-2019. My PhD thesis was on neural mechanisms and classification in human inhibition. I was actively involved in three research projects that included human response inhibition with a simultaneous fMRI-EEG study, Parkinson's disease patients with repetitive TMS and EEG, vestibular dysfunction patients with tDCS and EEG study. I have 8 peer-reviewed research investigation articles, one book chapter, and 10 papers in conference proceedings. I have received the “Reward for Outstanding Student Research Results” in 2019, “Academic Excellence Achievement Award” in 2020, and the Phi Tau Phi Scholastic Honor Society of the Republic of China by National Chiao Tung University, Taiwan. I am ad-hoc reviewer in IEEE Access, IEEE TNSRE, and Neural Plasticity journals.

I joined Cook Children’s and University of Texas at Arlington as a Post-Doctoral Research Fellow I in December 2020. My research at Cook Children’s focuses on the development of an epilepsy biomarker for the delineation of the epileptogenic zone using Independent Component Analysis (ICA) on EEG and MEG recordings, as well as functional connectivity and machine learning techniques.


Manager

Sabrina Shandley, PhD

Manager: Sabrina Shandley, PhD

Research Project Manager

I was born in Colorado, but my parents brought me to Texas as a toddler, and I have not left so I consider myself a naturalized Texan. I graduated with my BSc in Biology in 2002, my Master’s in Agriculture in 2003 and my PhD in Immunology in 2008. I have 10+ years of experience in human and animal research. My training included a Post-Doctoral Research Fellowship at Hyperion Biotechnology in San Antonio working on a variety of projects in both human trials and animal models for the United States government. I went on to UT Southwestern and, for a brief time, worked in the animal welfare Institute of Animal Care and Use Committee. I came to Cook Children’s in 2017 and began working on neurology research projects, specifically in epilepsy and movement disorders, in the Research Administration Office before moving over to the research center upon its founding in 2019. My research interests include infant feeding and its relationship to brain injury.


Research Assistants

Shannon E Conrad

Shannon E Conrad

Research Assistant

After growing up in rural southeastern Ohio, I moved to Cleveland where I earned my BS in Psychology with a minor in Neuroscience from Baldwin Wallace University. While working toward my degree, I got an introduction to research by volunteering in a lab that utilized principles of Pavlovian conditioning to study recovery from phobias in a rodent model. I eventually escaped the cold, snowy winters of Ohio and moved to Texas to begin graduate school at Texas Christian University, where I earned my MS in Experimental Psychology. My graduate research sought a better understanding of the neural circuitry underlying habit development and incentive learning, specifically coping with unexpected loss, in rodents. I joined Dr. Papadelis at Cook Children’s in 2020, and it has been incredibly rewarding to utilize my background in neuroscience while shifting my research focus to help children who have epilepsy and cerebral palsy. It is a pleasure to work with such a diverse, talented team while making a difference in the lives of children in our community.


Elisa Acosta

Elisa Acosta

Research Assistant

I was born and raised in Tucson, Arizona where I earned my BS in Physiology from the University of Arizona in December of 2020. During that time I worked for a pediatric surgeon and found a passion for pediatrics. After graduating I took a chance and moved to Texas for post-graduate job opportunities and have been lucky enough to become an employee of Cook Children's. I am very excited to be a part of a team that has a centralized goal of improving the surgical outcomes of children with epilepsy and cerebral palsy. In my free time, I love to hike, run half-marathons, and explore Texas.

PhD Students

Ludovica Corona

Ludovica Corona

PhD Student
University of Texas at Arlington

I was born in Rome, Lazio, Italy. I obtained a BS in Industrial Engineering in 2017 at Università Campus Bio-Medico di Roma acquiring a basic engineering training focused on a biomedical path. In 2020, I obtained my MSc in Biomedical Engineering, with a specialization on Biorobotics and Bionics. In September 2020, I began my PhD on Biomedical Engineering at the University of Texas at Arlington under the supervision of Dr. Papadelis who offered me the extraordinary opportunity to continue doing research on pediatric epilepsy. My project thesis was developed during my internship at Boston Children's Hospital / Harvard Medical School. The project is based on functional connectivity, i.e. the level of synchronous neural activity between different brain areas, in order to better identify the brain regions (called epileptogenic zones) which cause seizures in children with drug-resistant epilepsy who undergo presurgical evaluation. During my free time, I like to travel and enjoy the time with my friends. I also like to read a good book, listen to music or walk with my dog on the beach at sunset. My motto is to always believe in yourself.


Lorenzo Fabbri

Lorenzo Fabbri

PhD Student
University of Texas at Arlington

I was born in Cesena, Emilia-Romagna, Italy. After graduating from high school in 2014, I moved to Borger, Texas, where I attended the Frank Phillips College and received my Associate Degree in Science in 2016. In 2018, I transferred to the University of Texas at Arlington where I obtained my BSc in Biomedical Engineering. I am currently a PhD student at the University of Texas at Arlington under the supervision of Dr. Papadelis conducting research on pediatric epilepsy. The main goal of my research is to develop an epilepsy biomarker which is based on high frequency oscillations in order to help children with drug resistant epilepsy to become seizure free after neurosurgery. In my free time, I love cooking, travelling, doing sports, and spending time with my dog.


Saeed Jahromi

Saeed Jahromi

PhD Student
University of Texas at Arlington

I was born and raised in Shiraz, Iran, the city of poets and love. Having been raised in a full-of-engineers family, I was always obsessed with various interesting matters regarding pumps and engines. I was exhorted to join the Mechanical Engineering program of University of Tehran. After my graduation, I got accepted to the Mechanical Engineering program of Amirkabir University of Technology. Fascinated by the devices physicians use to work with, I decided to focus my studies on bioengineering technologies, especially in the fields of drug delivery and microfluidics. In 2019, I joined the PhD program of the Department of Bioengineering at University of Texas at Arlington. Soon after starting rotations in medical imaging labs, I settled with Dr. Papadelis and his neuroscience center, not only because the lab’s research is in line with my passion, but also because it promotes the wellness of children. My research goal is to develop algorithms that will help us map the propagating epileptiform activity in the brains of children with epilepsy.


Kathryn King

Kathryn King

PhD Student
University of Texas at Arlington

I was born in Fort Worth, Texas. While attending a Biomedical Academy in high school, I developed a passion for neuroscience. After graduation, I moved to Dallas, Texas to attend the University of Texas at Dallas. I volunteered in a neuroscience research lab for two years and went on to receive my BSc in Psychology, with a minor in Neuroscience, in 2018. I continued my education at the same university, working in a psychology research lab for two years, and earning my MSc in Psychological Sciences, with a Neuroscience focus, in 2020. I am passionate about neuroscience research and was excited to join the PhD program in Bioengineering at the University of Texas at Arlington in the Fall of 2020. In my free time, I enjoy playing video games, cooking, and spending time with my friends and my cats.


Margherita A. G. Matarreset

Margherita A. G. Matarrese

PhD Student
University Campus Bio-Medico of Rome

I was born in Stigliano, Basilicata, Italy. After completion of high school in my born place in 2014, I moved to Rome, Lazio, Italy, where I attended the Campus Bio-Medico University of Rome and received firstly my BSc in Industrial Engineering in 2017 and also my MSc in Biomedical Engineering, with Biorobotic and Bionic curriculum, in 2020. In 2019, I spent three months at Boston Children's Hospital to work at my Master thesis under the supervision of Drs. Tamilia and Papadelis. This extremely educational experience made me understand that I want to continue researching in the field of neuroscience to try to improve children's health. Since November 2020 I have been a PhD student at Campus Bio-Medico University of Rome in cooperation with the Jane and John Justin Neurosciences Center of Cook Children’s Hospital under the supervision of Prof. Filippi and Dr. Papadelis conducting research on pediatric epilepsy. The main purpose of my research is to investigate how to make high frequency oscillations and their propagation on cortex a relevant epilepsy biomarker in order to improve the localization of the epileptogenic zone localization in children with drug-resistant epilepsy. In my free time, I like to cook, spend time with my dogs and cats, read a good book and try new electronic devices because technology is the future.


Sakar Rijal

Sakar Rijal

PhD Student
University of Texas at Arlington

I was born in Laps of Himalayas, Kathmandu, Nepal. After completion of my high school education I moved to Chennai, India, where I got my BSc in Biomedical Engineering from Satyabama University. After my graduation in 2017, I worked as an Application Engineer for Leica Microsystems and Karl Storz in Nepal. At this time, I developed interest towards neuroscience and neurosurgeries. I joined University of Texas at Arlington in 2019 as a PhD student in the Department of Bioengineering, under the mentorship of Drs. Alexandrakis and Papadelis, where I received the Dr. Franklyn Alexander Outstanding Bioengineering PhD Student Scholarship Award. My research project is on the development of functional connectivity tools for the delineation of the epileptogenic zone in children with medically refractory epilepsy. I like to travel, hike, and listen to music. I am a soccer enthusiast; I spend my free time playing soccer and I’m avid supporter of Liverpool Football club.


Graduate and Undergraduate Students

Sameer Allahabadi

Sameer Allahabadi, MS2

Empathetic Scholar
TCU & UNTHSC School of Medicine

I was born in Glendora, CA. After graduating high school, I decided to move to Houston, TX to attend Rice University. There, I received my BA in Kinesiology with a focus in Sports Medicine. After graduating in 2018, I spent one full year working as a Research Interviewer at MD Anderson in the Thoracic/Head/Neck and Lung Cancer department. My role was to explain and enroll patients into various clinical protocols. Currently, I am a second year medical student as well as a member of thei class at TCU & UNTHSC School of Medicine. The main goals of my research with Dr. Papadelis are to better understand the plasticity and functionality changes as well as advance rehabilitation methods for those with Hemiplegic Cerebral Palsy. In my free time, I enjoy playing basketball, hiking, cooking and trying new foods.


Nasheha Baset

Nasheha Baset

Graduate Student
University of Texas at Arlington

I am a native Texan, raised by a family full of scientists and engineers. Growing up, math and biology were my two favorite subjects, which was reflective in my grade school activities, as well as working, building, and creating things on my family farm out in east Texas. In 2013, I began my BSc at University of Texas at Arlington. I had the privilege of working in the Group Creativity and Intergroup Relations lab. I was also involved in herpetology and clinical psychology research. In 2017, I graduated with my BSc in Biology and BSc in Psychology, and my interests and passions began to align with the field of bioengineering. Since beginning my volunteer work in the neurology department of Children's Health Dallas in 2015, this interest continued to grow. In January 2020, I began my MSc degree in Bioengineering at University of Texas at Arlington. My current research project is to gain a greater understanding of functional connectivity in children with drug resistant epilepsy for optimal surgical outcome. In my free time, I enjoy helping on the farm, swimming, and volunteering with disadvantaged and underprivileged children.


Mustafa Aliasgar Khokhar

Mustafa Aliasgar Khokhar

Undergraduate Student
University of Texas at Arlington

I was born in Kuwait and spent my childhood years there. I moved to India and attended SIES College of Science, Arts, and Commerce in Mumbai. Upon completion, I enrolled at The University of Texas at Arlington in 2018. Currently, I am a junior in the Department of Bioengineering, Medical Imaging tract at UTA. I developed an interest in neuroscience and neuroimaging while preparing myself for medical school in India during my high school. X-rays and MRIs fascinated me, and I wanted to study the science behind it. I help the research center by analyzing data from epilepsy patients using different computational analysis techniques. My hobbies include reading, hiking, traveling, and gaming.


Grace Newell

Grace Newell, MS2

Empathetic Scholar
TCU & UNTHSC School of Medicine

I was born and raised in the beautiful state of Colorado. After high school I moved to Texas to attend Texas Christian University (TCU). During college I was a Division I diver on the TCU Swim and Dive Team and I did undergraduate research in the biochemistry department. While at TCU, I received a BS in Neuroscience with a minor in Cultural Awareness in Health and Healthcare. After graduation I went straight to medical school and I am now a second-year medical student at TCU & UNTHSC School of Medicine. I have always had a fascination for the brain and knew I wanted to do research in neurology. My research goals with Dr. Papadelis are to define characteristics in children with drug resistant epilepsy that make good neurosurgical candidates and to determine the value of combined MEG and HD-EEG in the localization of the epileptogenic zone. When I am not studying I enjoy hiking, camping, skiing, photography, and traveling.


Elizabeth Rhodes

Elizabeth Rhodes

Undergraduate Student
University of Texas at Arlington

I was born and raised in Fort Worth, Texas and am currently a sophomore at the University of Texas at Arlington. I am studying biomedical engineering in the bioengineering department of UTA and am eager to be a part of the research taking place. My original interest in bioengineering was to help people with medical needs, more specifically kids, to live easier lives by making innovations in medical technology that lead to better medical treatment. My interest lays more specifically in medical imaging because of its importance in producing diagnoses, but also the mechanics of how imaging devices collect their data. I assist the research center by using a variety of data analysis techniques on data from epilepsy patients.


Alumni

Emmanuelle Renoul

Emmanuelle Renoul

Intern graduate student

I grew up in the West part of France, in a numerous family where almost each branch of medical science has a representative. Because I was passionate about physics and mechanics, I naturally moved to Paris to study physical therapy at the Public Hospitals of Paris and I graduated in 2014. Since then, I have worked in several practices and completed various clinical trainings, principally in rheumatology, neurology and neuropediatrics. Far from educational deadlines, I used these years to travel, discover other cultures and languages through several months of volunteering as a PT in Argentina in 2015, and Jerusalem in 2018. Although I love working close to patients, I also want to combine it with research, therefore I went back to University in 2019 when I integrated the Biomedical Engineering Master’s program at Université de Paris. I am interested in the relationships between neurological disorders and biomechanics of growth, aging and movement, especially in patients with cerebral palsy. After reading Dr. Papadelis’ publications on the topic, I participated in research at Cook Children’s as an intern for 6 months where I worked on somatosensory processing of children with cerebral palsy. Thanks to what I have learned at Cook, I hope to eventually integrate neuroimaging as a tool to treat patients with cerebral palsy.


Omer Tanritanir

Omer Tanritanir

Intern undergraduate student

I was born in Gaziantep, a.k.a the food capital, in Turkey. In 2015, I came to Boston, the United States to continue my education. After graduating from high school in 2017, I moved to State College, Pennsylvania to attend the Pennsylvania State University College of Engineering. I am currently a senior, studying to obtain a Bachelor’s degree in Computer Engineering, but I grew up looking up to my dad, who is a Pediatrician, so the love for Medical Science has always been in me. In the summer of 2020, I joined Dr. Papadelis’ team as a student intern, and was delighted to be part of the group. The main goal of my research was to analyze high-frequency oscillations with phase-amplitude coupling to come up with an epilepsy biomarker. Additionally, I wrote a software program to synchronize MEG and HD-EEG to improve the overall analysis of epilepsy patients. In my free time, I love playing soccer, working out, and spending time with my family and friends.