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Using brain imaging, genomics, and clinical phenomics to understand developmental psychopathology
Led by Aaron Alexander-Bloch, the Brain-Gene-Development Lab integrates multimodal neuroimaging and genomics data with deep phenotyping of individuals within the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia and University of Pennsylvania systems. Our goal is to translate the highly polygenic risk for psychosis and other neurovelopmental psychiatric disorders into pathophysiologic mechanisms, to inform the development of new treatments for individuals with mental illness. We believe in a team science approach with strong national and international collaborations.
AARON ALEXANDER-BLOCH MD, PHD, MPHIL
JAKOB SEIDLITZ, PHD
Hello and welcome to the Brain-Gene-Development Lab! I’m Aaron and as the director of the BGD Lab, I work with an incredible group of students, trainees, and scientists. Our shared goal is to understand variability among people in human brain development and to characterize the altered neurogenomic pathways that lead to mental illness. Prior to starting the lab, I trained in philosophy, computational biology, brain MRI, genetics, and clinical psychiatry. I love West Philadelphia, where I live with my family including two young children. Please get in touch (aaron [dot] alexander-bloch [at] pennmedicine [dot] upenn [dot] edu)!
Hi! My name is Jakob and I’m currently a research scientist in the Lifespan Brain Institute at CHOP/UPenn. I am originally from the Washington, DC area and I received my BS in Brain and Cognitive Sciences from the University of Rochester. I completed a joint PhD program as an NIH OxCam Scholar in the Section on Neurogenomics at the NIH and the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Cambridge. In the BGD lab, I am working on a range of projects spanning genetics and transcriptomics to multimodal imaging and clinical phenomics. Outside the lab, I enjoy exploring new spots in DC/Philly with my family, staying active, and wrangling my dogs and cats. Feel free to reach out to me at seidlitzj [at] chop [dot] edu!
My name is Jenna and I am a research scientist in the BGD Lab. I have a B. S. and a M. S. in Electrical Engineering from Drexel University and a Ph. D. in Biomedical Informatics from the University of Pittsburgh. I joined the BGD Lab in November 2020 and currently focus on developing scalable, sustainable pipelines for applying different image processing
pipelines to neurological MRIs as well as curating a set of typical clinical patients with
limited imaging pathology as a set of “clinical controls”. I live happily in the Philadelphia suburbs with my husband and enjoy rock climbing, crocheting, and volunteering for both the local disc golf club and Extra Life in my spare time. You can contact me via email at youngjm [at] chop [dot] edu.
JENNA SCHABDACH, PHD
AYAN MANDAL, PHD
Hey! I’m Alfredo (like the sauce), I am from Dorado Puerto Rico and currently an undergraduate student at Haverford College studying math. I have been at BGD since August 2021 and have been able to work on a lot of awesome projects. I am interested in leveraging data to find biological insights, especially in the context of neuroimaging and statistics. I am currently working on my thesis. Outside of the lab I’m an EMT, I love surfing, reading Borges, raising australian shepherds and Generalized Additive Models.
SMRITHI PREM, MD, PhD
Hi! I’m Sreya and I’m currently a pre-health post-bac student at Penn. I am originally from Southern California and got my bachelors in Computer Science and Mathematics from Pepperdine University. I started working in the lab recently and mainly work with brain images, radiology reports, and 22q deletion syndrome. In my free time I love trying new restaurants in Philly’s very underrated food scene and going on weekend trips around the east coast.
Reach out to me at subramans3 [at] chop [dot] edu!
ROTATIONS FOR GRADUATE STUDENTS
Students in the UPenn Neuroscience Graduate Group or the MD/PhD program can rotate in the lab. Contact Aaron to set up a rotation.
This statement on Justice, Equity, Diversity and Inclusion is shared by consensus from BGD lab members:
We are guided by a core set of values that we promote within CHOP and Penn, in our work with study participants and their data, and in the dissemination of our results. Our lab is open to people of every race, ethnicity, religion, income, gender, and sexual orientation. We promote dignity for all persons regardless of their physical and mental health status or cognitive abilities. We view community participants as partners to improve our understanding of and treatments for mental illness. We aim to remove historical and contemporary barriers to opportunity for diverse scientists at all levels of training. We will provide training and leadership opportunities for a diverse group of scientists and clinicians across levels of training and professional development.
We recognize longstanding inequities in academia, medicine, and health outcomes. Traumatic life experiences are more common, and access to mental health services is lower, in racially minoritized groups in the United States. We need to do more as a society, and it often feels like our ability to make impactful change is limited. But as scientists and clinicians, we can reach out to our local representatives and give them data to support policy changes; in disseminating our research, we can avoid contributing to misperceptions or negative stereotypes; we can challenge our universities and hospital systems to prioritize Justice, Equity, Diversity and Inclusion as part of their core missions.
Hello! My name is Ayan (pronounced OY-in) and I’m currently a medical student at UPenn. I’m from Long Island, New York, and I went to college at Georgetown University where I majored in Neurobiology and Physics. Prior to medical school, I did a PhD at the University of Cambridge on applying network neuroscience for pre-surgical planning of brain tumor resection. In the lab, I am working on developing brain charts for neuroimaging phenotypes of clinical interest. Outside of the lab, I enjoy writing, lifting heavy(ish) weights, trying new recipes, and curating fun playlists on Spotify. You can contact me at Ayan [dot] Mandal [at] pennmedicine [dot] upenn [dot] edu or check out my website if you’d like to know more!
Hi! I’m Harshini and I’m from Bala Cynwyd, PA. I graduated Wellesley College with a BA in Neuroscience in May 2022. I have been in the BGD Lab since Nov 2020, and completed my senior thesis in the lab. For my thesis, I use data science to analyze the electronic health records of individuals with 22q11.2 gene deletion syndrome to understand risk factors for psychosis-spectrum disorders. Currently I am continuing to refine and expand my analyses from my thesis. In my free time I love dancing, choreography, listening to music, and trying new restaurants in Philly.
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