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Riverside Church

The Friedman Brain Institute, the Neuroscience Graduate Program, and the Charles Bronfman Institute for Personalized Medicine presents the 15th Annual Neuroscience Retreat: Translating Neuroscience Discoveries into Personalized Medicine at Mount Sinai

The Friedman Brain Institute hosts a Neuroscience Retreat held in the spring of each year. Neuroscience is multidisciplinary by nature and, reflecting this, the scientists and physicians that contribute to the neurosciences at Mount Sinai hail from a variety of departments and campuses. The Retreat provides an opportunity for everyone in the Neuroscience community at Mount Sinai – faculty, fellows, students, researchers and clinicians – to meet and discuss their work in order to increase awareness of ongoing research and approaches, to foster new interactions, and to generate novel ideas.

For additional information, please contact Vena Persaud at vena.persaud@mssm.edu or Veronica Szarejko at veronica.szarejko@mssm.edu

Retreat Organizers

Alexander Charney, MD, PhD
Associate Professor – Psychiatry / Genetics and Genomic Sciences

Niamh Mullins, PhD
Assistant Professor – Psychiatry / Genetics and Genomic Sciences

Opening Remarks

Eric J. Nestler, MD, PhD
Director, Friedman Brain Institute

Paul J. Kenny, PhD
Chairman, Nash Family Department of Neuroscience

George Huntley, PhD
Director, Neuroscience Graduate Program

Keynote Speaker

Eric Schadt, PhD
Dean for Precision Medicine
Professor of Genetics and Genomic Sciences
Mount Sinai Professor in Predictive Health and Computational Biology

Spotlight Talks

Noam Beckmann, PhD

Isotta Landi, PhD

Muhammad Parvaz, PhD

Nicole W. Simons
PhD Student

Martijn Figee, MD, PhD

Student Talks

Magdalena Janecka, PhD

Zach Zeisler
PhD Student

Michael B Fernando
PhD Student

Sarah Banker
PhD Student

Postdoc Talks

Michael S Breen, PhD

Francesca Garretti, PhD
Postdoctoral Fellow

Montserrat Puigdelloses Vallcorba, PhD
Postdoctoral Fellow

Teesta Naskar, PhD
Postdoctoral Fellow

Neuroscience Digest Talks

Paul O’Reilly, PhD

Scott J Russo, PhD

Nan Yang, PhD

James Murrough, MD, PhD

Priti Balchandani, PhD

Yizhou Dong, PhD

Digest Panel

Together with Neuroscience Digest speakers

Eric J. Nestler, MD, PhD
Director, Friedman Brain Institute

Paul J. Kenny, PhD
Chairman, Nash Family Department of Neuroscience

Dennis S. Charney, MD
Anne and Joel Ehrenkranz Dean,
Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai

Retreat Administrators

Veronica Szarejko
Project Manager

Nicole W. Simons
PhD Student

Danny Roldan
Web Content Specialist

Vena Persaud
Executive Assistant

Jenny Rivera
Administrative Director



Registration at South Hall Lobby, Coffee, tea, pastries, fruit


9:00 – 9:10am

Kick Off: Alex Charney, MD, PhD & Niamh Mullins, PhD


9:10 – 9:25am

Welcome 1: Eric J. Nestler, MD, PhD on Friedman Brain Institute


9:25 – 9:40am

Welcome 2: Paul J. Kenny, PhD on Nash Family Department of Neuroscience


9:40 – 9:55am

Welcome 3: George Huntley, PhD on Graduate Student Program


10:00 – 10:45am

Keynote Speaker: Eric Schadt, PhD


10:45 – 11:00am

BREAK – Coffee / Raffle in Assembly Hall


11:00 am – 12:00pm

Spotlight Talks:

Muhammad Parvaz, PhD –“Personalized neuroimaging”

Martijn Figee, MD, PhD“Personalized neurosurgery”

Nicole Simons, PhD Student“Personalized genomics”

Isotta Landi, PhD“Personalized analytics”


12:00 – 12:30pm

Student Talks

Zach Zeisler (PhD Student, Rudebeck Lab) – “A comparative analysis of amygdala neuron branching in macaques and mice”

Michael B. Fernando (PhD Student, Brennand / Slesinger Labs) – “Precise Therapeutic Targeting of Divergent Mechanisms from Rare NRXN1+/- Deletions”

Sarah Banker (PhD Student, Gu / Schiller / Foss-Feig Labs) – “Impaired Neural and Behavioral Navigation of Dynamic Social Relationships in Autism Spectrum Disorder”


12:30 – 1:30pm

LUNCH – Photo Booth


1:30 – 2:00pm

Postdoc Talks

Francesca Garretti, PhD (Goate Lab) – “A novel EIF2B3 variant as an APOE risk modifier in Alzheimer’s disease”

Montserrat Puigdelloses Vallcorba, PhD (Hambardzumyan Lab) – “Reduction or loss of Msh2 confers resistance to temozolomide in glioblastoma”

Teesta Naskar, PhD (Hurd Lab) – “Prenatal cannabis exposure affects placental immune system dysregulation: sex implications”


2:00 – 3:00pm

Neuroscience Digest Talks 

Paul O’Reilly, PhD: “Polygenic risk scoring”

Scott Russo, PhD: “Mouse modeling”

Nan Yang, PhD: “Cell modeling”

James Murrough, MD, PhD: Psychiatry clinical trials

Priti Balchandani, PhD: “Neuroimaging”

Yizhou Dong, PhD: “Gene therapy”


3:00 – 4:00 pm

Discussion Panel:“Translating Neuroscience Discoveries into Personalized Medicine at Mount Sinai”

Eric J. Nestler, MD, PhD • Paul J. Kenny, PhDDennis S. Charney, MD


4:00 – 4:45 pm

Poster Session – (All ODD numbers will present their posters from 4pm to 4:45pm) – Open Bar


4:45 – 5:00 pm

Swap + Storytelling

Storytellers: Tiffany Lin (Nestler Lab)

Emma Hays (Schaefer Lab)

Enna Selmanovic (Hof / Dams-O-Connor Labs)


5:00 – 5:45 pm

Poster Session – (All EVEN numbers will present from 4:45pm to 5:30pm)Open Bar


5:45 – 6:10 pm

Award Ceremony


Our awards ceremony is one of the highlights of the retreat. We are thrilled to honor the outstanding students, postdocs and faculty that make up the Friedman Brain Institute membership.

Morning raffle:
2 Amazon gift cards, 1 pair of Bose headphones
Afternoon raffle:
2 Amazon gift cards, 1 pair of Bose headphones

MiNDS Brain Fair Booth Competition: This award is given by the MiNDS leadership team to a laboratory that has demonstrated outstanding community outreach through their involvement in Mount Sinai’s annual Brain Fair. The laboratory selected developed and staffed a novel booth for the fair, and this award highlights their commitment to making neuroscience education exciting and accessible to students of all ages. 

Philip Hausfeld Memorial Scholarship Award ($5,000)

Brain Award ($2,000): The Brain Award is given to a student with the best record of achievement in neuroscience.

Postdoc Award ($2,000): PI, self- and peer- nominations are submitted to the Retreat Committee, a select committee from the Friedman Brain Institute leadership chooses the awardee.

Exemplary Citizenship Award – $1000

Neuroscience Mentorship Distinction Award (NMDA) ($500): The Neuroscience Mentorship Distinction Award (NMDA) is presented to a Neuroscience MTA faculty member that exemplifies exceptional mentorship, dedication to trainee well-being, and career development and commitment to the educational mission of Mount Sinai and the community.

DiverseBrains Award ($250) – The DiverseBrains Award is presented to a student, postdoc, faculty, or staff who has worked above and beyond to promote diversity, equity, inclusion, and good climate within the Friedman Brain Institute.

Best Poster
Postdocs – Two awardees – $200
Students – Two awardees – $200

Best Images  

  • FIRST PLACE – $200
  • SECOND PLACE –  $100
  • THIRD PLACE –  $50

Most “Liked” Social Media Image: Every image that is submitted is uploaded to all of the Friedman Brain Institute’s social media platforms – Facebook | Twitter | Instagram * The image that receives the most combined “likes” will win! *

  • FIRST PLACE – $200
  • SECOND PLACE –  $100
  • THIRD PLACE –  $50

Art of the Brain Scavenger Hunt – Match the images with the posters located in the South Hall. The first person to submit the correct answers wins a framed Art of the Brain image. Submit your answers here.



Tiffany Lin

Bio: I’m an undergraduate studying Creative Writing and Behavioral Neurobiology, volunteering in the Nestler Lab. I’m interested in circuit therapeutics like deep brain stimulation as well as the gut-brain and HPA axis in neuropsychiatric disorders like addiction and various eating disorders.

Tiffany’s story: Decision-making is an intricate balance of approach/avoidance behavior governed by reward, fear, memory, and so on. In this story, I look at a tumultuous time in my life with my grandfather’s Parkinson’s in parallel to a platform mediated avoidance task we use in the lab, as a mouse model of conflict decision making.

Emma Hays

Bio: Emma is a 3rd year PhD student in the lab of Dr. Anne Schaefer studying microglia-neuron dopamine signaling.

Emma’s story: While teaching her first neuroscience lesson to 7th graders with MiNDS, Emma has to answer a question she wasn’t prepared for.

Twitter: @emmahaysneuro

Enna Selmanovic

Bio: Enna is a 2nd year neuroscience PhD candidate investigating the chronic effects of traumatic brain injury and repetitive head trauma. Her mentors are Dr. Patrick Hof and Dr. Dams-O’Connor. Prior to graduate school, Enna was a Division 1 athlete and a mental health advocate for the NCAA.

Enna’s story: Enna Selmanovic was only a sophomore when her sport — and her identity — were unexpectedly ripped away. She had to choose: Wallow or find a new way to make waves.