Our Scholars

2023 Cohort

Arish Mudra Rakshasa-Loots

Arish Mudra Rakshasa-LootsArish (he/him) is a neuroscientist, liberal arts scholar, and EDI consultant. He was born and raised in Ghaziabad, India, but has since spent many years drifting across the continents. 

Arish is currently completing a PhD in Translational Neuroscience at the University of Edinburgh, where his work is funded by the Wellcome Trust, the South African MRC Unit on Genomics of Brain Disorders, and the Harold Hyam Wingate Foundation. Arish’s research focuses on the neurobiological mechanisms underlying the high prevalence of depression amongst people living with HIV. This work is driven by Arish’s passion for HIV healthcare and interest in neuropsychiatric disorders. Leveraging HIV participant cohorts in the UK, the Netherlands, and South Africa, Arish is working to determine whether neuroinflammation can explain why people living with HIV face a significantly higher risk of depression. 

Arish has also worked in partnership with collaborators, mental health professionals, and people with lived experience of depression to develop a transcultural translation in isiXhosa of a widely-used depression screening tool. In addition, as a liberal arts scholar and EDI consultant, Arish researches and writes on issues ranging from neocolonialism in education to equity and inclusion in philanthropy and non-profits.

Dipa Begum

Dipa BegumDipa is a PhD student in a Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council doctoral programme at University College London. Dipa has joined the Perinatal Brain Repair Group and her PhD is looking at formulating novel nanocarrier treatments for treating neonatal neurodegeneration. Dipa’s research utilises molecular and behavioural techniques to investigate the application of novel therapies in neonatal hypoxia-ischemia to determine successful delivery to areas of neurodegeneration in the brain. This interdisciplinary research bridges aspects of pharmaceutics and fundamental neuroscience by providing a translational approach to neonatal neurodegeneration therapeutics.

Before her PhD, Dipa worked as a Research Scientist with a Cancer Research Group at the Royal Marsden Hospital with an honorary appointment with the Institute of Cancer Research. Now, at UCL, Dipa is the Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Representative for her Institute.

Faissal Sharif

Faissal SharifFaissal Sharif obtained a BSc in Biomedical Sciences at Maastricht University in the Netherlands with a semester abroad at the Chinese University of Hong Kong. As a visiting scholar at the University of California, Irvine, he investigated novel biomarkers for Alzheimer’s Disease. He then completed his MSc in Translational Neuroscience at Imperial College London while researching the effect of psilocybin on EEG power, signal diversity (i.e. entropy)  as well as psychological outcomes at the Centre for Psychedelic Research. As part of the R&D team of a neurotechnology startup and life science consultant, he has worked at the intersection between neuroscience, technology and consumer health.

In 2022, he joined the Tan Lab at the MRC BNDU to investigate novel non-invasive brain stimulation (NIBS) applications targeting psychiatric symptoms present in a variety of affective and neurological disorders. Beyond potential new transdiagnostic treatments using neurotechnology, Faissal is interested in neuronal underpinnings of affective processing, anhedonia and apathy.

Faissal has received numerous fellowships, from the Medical Research Council (MRC), the Foundation of German Economy (SDW), the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD), Deutschlandstiftung Integration (DSI) and others. He is co-founder of Corpus Curiosum, an initiative for early-career researchers to promote critical thinking in Neuroscience.

Jess Down

Jess DownJess is currently a final year undergraduate student studying for her BSc in Biological Sciences at the Open University. She has recently accepted an offer from the University of Oxford to complete an MSc in Pharmacology, where she’ll focus particularly on neuropharmacology. 

Her research interests include investigating the effects of drugs on neural circuits and their use in treating mental illnesses. Jess is also interested in the prevention of Alzheimer's disease, having volunteered in a dementia care home. Through her undergraduate studies and neuroscience seminars, she has developed a further interest in understanding the association between amyloid plaques and Alzheimer's. She looks forward to developing these interests through her master’s degree and further studies.

Jess intends to pursue a PhD after her MSc, where she will further explore neuropharmacological drug developments. She is keen to continue her outreach, leveraging the opportunities provided by being a 2023 BNA Scholar.

Kavishini Apasamy

Kavishini ApasamyKavishini is a first-year PhD student in Psychology at Royal Holloway, University of London, supervised by Dr Carl Hodgetts and Professor Narender Ramnani. Prior to this, she completed her BSc in Psychology at Royal Holloway, University of London. During this undergraduate degree, she was awarded the Outstanding Student Research Bursary to pursue a six-week research placement investigating memory, which reinforced her interest in scientific research and led her to apply and get accepted for a PhD programme.

Her research interests focus on understanding how the brain might be interconnected and how these brain connections might be impacted during normal ageing or pathology. Her PhD explores this area closely, investigating how the hippocampus and the cerebellum interact, specifically in the context of spatial navigation. Her studies aim to characterise the structural and the functional connectivity between these two areas using a mixture of fMRI, diffusion MRI and brain stimulation methods (e.g. TMS). 

Beyond uncovering more about the interconnected nature of the brain, Kavishini hopes to extend this research into clinical settings by applying her research to clinical populations such as Alzheimer’s Disease patients, and deepening her study in neurodegenerative disorders.

Laura Odemwingie

Laura OdemwingieLaura is an MRC DTP PhD Student in Basic & Clinical Neuroscience at King’s College London. She joined King’s after completing her MSci in Medical Biochemistry at the University of Bristol. Her interest in neuroscience first sparked when she completed a summer scholarship placement with the North Bristol NHS Trust Research Foundation on ‘Biomarkers for brain tumours’ with consultant Prof. Kathreena Kurian. She then went on to do her MSci project on synaptic plasticity and spine morphogenesis in Alzheimer’s disease with Dr Jonathan Hanley. Currently, Laura works on mapping the RNA and protein expression patterns of FET proteins at single cell resolution throughout the mouse Central Nervous System and ageing. This will be followed by a comparison in healthy human, FUS-ALS and FET-FTD vulnerable tissue to uncover the contribution of dysfunctional protein homeostasis to disease. This project is co-supervised by Dr Marc-David Ruepp and Dr Caroline Vance in the Maurice Wohl Clinical Neuroscience Institute at King’s and Dr Claire Troakes at the London Neurodegenerative Diseases Brain Bank.

Morgan Mitchell

Morgan MitchellMorgan studied an undergraduate degree in Neuroscience at University of Nottingham and then undertook an MRes degree at the School of Sport, Exercise and Rehabilitation Sciences at University of Birmingham based in their Motor Control and Rehabilitation group. Her MRes project focused on the use of non invasive brain stimulation techniques (Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation/Transcranial Direct Current Stimulation), mental imagery and their interaction with motor learning and associated corticomotor plasticity. After having worked as a Research Assistant here at Oxford, she is now in her first year as a PhD student as part of Prof. Heidi Johansen-Berg's Plasticity Lab based at Wellcome Centre for Integrative Neuroimaging, working on a collaborative project with Dr Melanie Fleming and Prof. Tim Denison from the Institute of Biomedical Engineering investigating the use of Targeted Memory Reactivation (TMR) during sleep as an intervention to boost the memory consolidation processes underlying motor learning for stroke rehabilitation patients.

Morgan is also enthusiastic about Public Engagement - she has been involved in the Wellcome Centre for Integrative Neuroimaging’s play for KS3 pupils as part of the Outreach to schools via the Brains in Banbury 2022 initiative. She will also take part in a Wellcome funded 5-year enrichment project "Football OnThe Brain" in which she will deliver workshops that explore how the brain learns and the relevance this has for football skill development.




2022 Cohort

Cal Shearer

Cal ShearerCal completed their BA in Psychology and Linguistics at the University of Oxford where they used electroencephalography to investigate the neural signatures of flexible categorisation in humans. During this time, Cal was also awarded a Wellcome Trust Biomedical Vacation Scholarship to study the interactions between working memory and attention.

Cal was then accepted onto the 1+3 MSc and DPhil in Neuroscience Programme, funded by the Department of Experimental Psychology at the University of Oxford. During their MSc, Cal worked on modelling the geometry of neural network representations formed during a multi-context categorisation task. For their second project, they investigated hippocampal-cortical interactions during inference using a combination of multichannel extracellular recordings and calcium imaging.

Cal is now working towards their DPhil, continuing work on this area, and combining it with behavioural analyses of human behaviour. This project is co-supervised by Professor Jill O'Reilly, Department of Experimental Psychology, and Professor David Dupret and Dr Helen Barron in the MRC Brain Network Dynamics Unit at the University of Oxford.

Gargi Mandal

Gargi MandalGargi is a research assistant in the Stress, Psychiatry and Immunology lab at King’s College London, where she studies the role of inflammation in affective disorders. Her current study involves understanding the role of omega-3-derieved endocannabinoids on neurogenesis and cell apoptosis. Parallelly, she is also conducting analysis on clinical datasets to understand the association between childhood trauma and inflammation in depression. Gargi completed her undergraduate degree in Biomedical Science at King’s College London (KCL) in 2021, and she is currently undertaking a Master’s in Neuroscience course at the same University. Away from academia, she is as writer and an editor for an online science magazine, Inspire the Mind. She is passionate about understanding and developing better treatment strategies for psychiatric conditions, scientific outreach, and learning more about the public policy landscape regarding mental health support.

IfeOluwa Taiwo

IfeOluwa completed her undergraduate degree in Neuroscience at the University of Edinburgh. While studying at the University of Edinburgh, she contributed to ongoing research in characterising potential genes involved in ciliary motility in a Drosophila model at the Jarman Lab, and also developed a keen interest for statistical modelling and research reproducibility.

Ife recently worked with Elsevier as a Managing Editor Intern and is currently pursuing work experience in data science. Ife is passionate about early outreach and is thrilled to be a part of the 2022 BNA scholars' cohort.

Iqra Arshad

Iqra Arshad

Iqra is a third-year PhD student based at Royal Holloway, University of London (RHUL). Supervised by Prof Narender Ramnani (RHUL) and Dr Elisa Ferre (Birkbeck, University of London), her PhD explores how information from the vestibular system is processed in the human and non-human primate brain, and she is also interested in the contributions of the vestibular system to human behaviour and cognition. Methods used to explore this area range from behavioural psychophysics to computational approaches and functional-MRI. She holds it personally important to lead efforts that promote and increase the representation of people from Black and Global Majority (BGM) backgrounds.


Iman Muktar 

Iman MuktarIman undertook her MBiol in Biosciences at Durham University, working on bumblebee brains and investigating the dimorphism of the olfactory organ that processes odours and conspecific pheromones between the different species of Bombus around Durham, UK. Following this degree, she continued to develop her experimental neuroscience skills, securing a 4-month research assistant position to work on a project investigating olfactory coding in Anopheles gambiae mosquitoes at the Insect Neuro lab in Durham. She used transgenic mosquitoes to conduct live calcium imaging on olfactory receptor neurons, investigating how they respond to behaviourally repellent compounds. The skills she gained in this role also prepared her for starting her  BBSRC NLD DTP PhD studentship, in October 2022. To continue her work on the olfactory coding of larval and adult mosquitoes. This project aims to identify the olfactory receptors and cells that sense pheromone candidates. Anopheles gambiae is malaria-vector that requires pheromone production to reproduce. Understanding the olfaction system in mosquitoes in extremely important to potentially identify novel strategies for vector control. 

Haady Brendan Hajar

Haady Brendan Hajar

Brendan is a recent Neuroscience MSci graduate from the University of Manchester now currently working as a research technician at UCL. Under the supervision of Dr John Gigg, his master's research project investigated pattern separation deficits in the 3xTgAD mouse model of Alzheimer’s disease, and whether these deficits were correlated to reduced granule cell neurogenesis in the dentate gyrus. He is currently involved in the breeding and maintenance of large Alzheimer's disease knock-in model colonies, whilst also contributing to running various behavioural tests in aged cohorts of these mice.

Brendan's primary research interest is the pathological role and therapeutic potential of neuroinflammation in Alzheimer's disease-related cognitive decline. He intends to pursue a PhD that allows him to learn essential neuroimmunology research techniques, whilst reinforcing his pre-existing skills in rodent behavioural research.

Naana Owusu-Amoah

Naana Owusu-Amoah

Naana is a research technician at the University of Nottingham, researching diabetes-induced kidney failure and Alport Syndrome at the Biodiscovery Institute. She obtained her MSc in Neuroscience at the University of Nottingham in 2021. As part of her Master’s, she did a yearlong placement at the Queensland Brain Institute studying mild traumatic brain injury and functional recovery using fMRI, DTI and T2 structural imaging. Naana’s research interests include the neurobiology of addiction and trauma, as well as psychiatric disorders such as bipolar disorder and anxiety. She is generally passionate about behavioural neuroscience. As a BNA Scholar, Naana is very excited about the opportunity to inspire more people from underrepresented demographics to pursue a career in neuroscience. and has had the opportunity to attend conferences such as FENS and present a poster.




2021 Cohort

Aisha Islam

AishaAisha is currently a Senior Researcher working for Age UK with a focus on influencing UK policy on health and social care inequalities experienced across the ageing population. Aisha completed her PhD at Newcastle University which focused on neuromuscular changes across ageing and PD and completed her undergraduate degree in Neuroscience at the University of Leeds. Her doctoral work has been published in Nature PD and Frontiers in Ageing. Aisha is also interested in science communication and has worked as a Sub Editor and writer for the BNA Bulletin and Bright Brains Newsletter, published blogs for her research team ‘Brain and Movement’ and Newcastle University EDI, as well as leading Neuroscience public engagement events for Stemettes, the National Media Museum and the Great Yorkshire Show. Her research has also been featured in British Science Week 2021 STEM outreach packs and by the Brilliant Club on International Women’s Day.

As a BNA Scholar, Aisha is particularly interested in addressing socioeconomic inequalities and keen to explore how this can be applied to the teaching and conductance of neuroscientific research. For the BNA Festival 2021, Aisha was an invited panellist to ‘Steps towards decolonising teaching and learning in neuroscience’ and is working on incorporating this at a national level with the BNA. She proposed ideas to enhance the current narrative of advancements within neuroscience in the UK by acknowledging present and historically significant contributions from researchers in geographical locations beyond the West.

Ethlyn (Evie) Lloyd-Morris

EvieEthlyn, also known as Evie, is currently a second-year PhD student on the Medical Research Council's MRes-PhD programme at King's College London. Before starting her PhD, she obtained a BA in Experimental Psychology from the University of Oxford and an MSc in Neuroscience from King’s College London. She also spent nearly 2 years working as a Research Assistant at the Oxford Drug Discovery Institute, developing assays for Parkinson’s disease drug discovery. Evie’s PhD project investigates the links between mitochondrial transport, synaptic cargo trafficking, and synaptic integrity during ageing. Key methods she uses in this project include live-cell imaging using confocal microscopy and behavioural assays. She enjoys studying the cellular and molecular underpinnings of brain dysfunction and hopes to develop this passion beyond her PhD. 

Margret (Maggie) Kadembo 

MaggieMargret is currently a MRes student at the University of Bristol, studying the effects of a new ketamine derivative on the N-methyl D-aspartate (NMDA) receptor. Margret completed her undergraduate studies at the University of Bristol in 2020. She is the recipient of the Opportunity Bristol Scholarship programme which has funded her master’s degree research. Furthermore, she worked as an on-campus processing operative to assist the students and staff with COVID-19 testing. During her master’s degree, she was active as a Widening participation tutor which aims to make higher education accessible to students from widening participation backgrounds.

As a recipient of the BNA Scholar title, Margret has participated in the BNA Festival of Neuroscience 2021 where she presented a pre-registration poster based on her master’s degree research. In the future, Margret hopes to have a role in making Science accessible to all people regardless of background. Margret is passionate about raising awareness of Neuroscience research, particularly across the African continent.

Oluwaseyi (Seyi) Jesusanmi

SeyiOluwaseyi (also known as Seyi) is a 2nd year Neuroscience PhD student at University of Sussex. His family is from Nigeria, he was born and raised in the North of England and has always had a deep interest in science, technology and animals. His current research focuses on investigating the neural basis of ant navigation using spiking neural network simulations. This includes making spiking models of ant brain regions and measuring their navigation capabilities within simulated environments, along with behavioural experiments with ants in the real world. His previous research at the University of Dundee focused around using machine learning to automate experimental processes in behavioural neuroscience; the aim being to make experiments less time-consuming and more reproducible. Seyi has a range of interests including sensory perception/ecology, machine learning, animal behaviour, computational modelling and game engine rendering. Something he greatly enjoys about neuroscience is the interaction between various disciplines and how they can come together to answer important questions. In the future he hopes to gain varied local and international connections, as he finds learning about other people and cultures very inspiring in the context of research.

Rana Fetit

RanaRana completed her PhD in Translational Neuroscience at the University of Edinburgh in 2022. Rana is interested in modelling human diseases using stem cells and 3D-organoid models. To date, her research work investigated the how large genetic deletions contribute to neurodevelopmental disorders, such as Autism Spectrum Disorders using cerebral organoids as a tool to recapitulate and study the early stages of brain development. In her post-doc, Rana used 3D-organoids to model human cancers and their interactions with immune cells. Her publications include case studies on patients diagnosed with such deletion syndromes, work with patient-derived induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) and a review on the potential of cerebral organoids to model human brain development.

As part of her PhD programme, Rana also took part in pre-arranged NHS clinic visits to hospitals and psychiatric wards to gain a better understanding of conditions and disorders. Based on these visits, she has produced a series of artwork which were exhibited in the Brain Awareness week: Mad Hatter Grey Matter Festival, 2018 and Fusion: Art-neuroscience show and tell at the university of Edinburgh. Rana is also keen on promoting science to young children. She volunteered in several public engagement events and workshops, and published her own scientific children's book. In addition to her College of Medicine & Veterinary Medicine Neuroscience studentship, Rana has also received the Edinburgh Global Research Scholarship awarded to overseas PhD students covering differences between EU and international tuition fees.

Rayyan Zafar

RayyanRayyan is currently undertaking his Ph.D. at Imperial College after being awarded the Medical Research Council Doctoral Training 3.5 year fellowship (MRC DTP).

As a member of the Centre for Psychedelic Research and Neuropsychopharmacology group, he is working to complete a series of multimodal neuroimaging investigations in addicted populations;

- Exploring mesolimbic reward system deficits in Gambling Disorder as assessed with Functional Magnetic resonance Imaging (fMRI)
- Investigating the role of the dopamine D3 receptor in alcohol addiction with a pharmacological intervention using D3 receptor antagonism as assessed with PET and MRI
- Investigating the potential of psychedelic serotonergic agonists in the treatment of addiction

Rayyan also works as an Honorary Research Assistant for Drug Science (formally the Independent Scientific Committee on Drugs) where he publishes scientific reports as a member of the Medical Cannabis Working Group and the Medical Psychedelic working group.

Tamara Tasnim Wahid

TamaraTamara is a Trainee Clinical Scientist on the NHS Scientist Training Programme, based at Birmingham Children's Hospital (specialising in Neurophysiology). She is being trained to independently perform different types of EEGs (Electroencephalograms), NCS (Nerve Conduction Studies), and EP (Evoked Potential) tests in a variety of patient settings, such as neonatal care, paediatrics, and intensive care. Simultaneously, she is studying an MSc in Clinical Science at Aston University and conducting an NHS Clinical Research Project. Her project is investigating the utility of qEEG in assisting EEG interpretation in patients with Epileptic-Encephalopathy with Spike-Wave Activation in Sleep. Before joining the STP, she completed a BSc in Neuroscience and took out a year in industry where she had the opportunity to work as a Research Assistant in fascinating fields such as Parkinson’s Disease and Anti NMDA-R Encephalitis. Away from Neuroscience, she enjoys wildlife gardening and baking.