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Founding Story & Leadership

As the nation’s oldest organization dedicated to brain research, BRF has a rich history rooted in scientific discovery, donor support, and widespread impact.

Our Story

Brain Research Foundation was founded and incorporated as a not-for-profit organization in 1953 by three neurologists: Dr. Frederic A. Gibbs, Dr. Ladislas J. Meduna, and Dr. Carl C. Pfeiffer, who was widely known as “the father of electro-encephalography.” 

In 1964, BRF joined The University of Chicago to establish the Brain Research Institute. For the next 40 years, the Foundation supported basic neuroscientists and promising younger investigators at The University of Chicago in search of the keys to unlock the mysteries of the human brain. To honor one of the founders, BRF now has the Frederic A. Gibbs Award, honoring an individual or company, who has excelled in philanthropic leadership, community service, and scientific achievement.

The Future of Brain Research Starts Today

At Brain Research Foundation, we are united by our shared passion for a deeper understanding of the brain. We are researchers, donors, families and individuals committed to furthering the treatment and management of all brain disorders. 

Our work lays the building blocks for scientific breakthroughs—now and into the future. Our distinct funding process prioritizes innovative, high-impact research and fosters promising research careers. Through thoughtful investments and strategic grants, BRF strives to make the largest possible impact and to provide hope to those affected.

Board of Trustees

With a long history of leadership, Brain Research Foundation’s Board of Trustees provides oversight and governance to the Foundation’s activities.

Peter B. Pond
Board Chair
Mr. Pond has a particular interest in the neurological aspects of aging and assists the Brain Research Foundation with a wide range of financial matters. This interest developed as a result of his mother’s Parkinson’s disease. 

Mr. Pond has a particular interest in the neurological aspects of aging and assists the Brain Research Foundation with a wide range of financial matters. This interest developed as a result of his mother’s Parkinson’s disease. 

Peter is the Chairman of the NYSE traded public company, Maximus, Inc. He also serves on the Board of Trustees for The Field Museum, WTTW and as an investment committee member for The Night Ministry. Mr. Pond graduated from Williams College with a BA in Economics and from the University of Chicago with an MBA in Finance.

Diane B. Jastromb
Outreach and Development Committee Member
A Lake Forest resident, Mrs. Jastromb has been active in Chicago’s philanthropic community for more than 35 years with schools in her community, SHALVA and the Jewish Women’s Foundation of Chicago. She is a recipient of the Community Service award from the Chicago Lighthouse for People Who are Blind or Visually impaired where she has served on the Board. Mrs. Jastromb now serves on the BRF’s Outreach and Development Committee.

A Lake Forest resident, Mrs. Jastromb has been active in Chicago’s philanthropic community for more than 35 years with schools in her community, SHALVA and the Jewish Women’s Foundation of Chicago. She is a recipient of the Community Service award from the Chicago Lighthouse for People Who are Blind or Visually impaired where she has served on the Board. Mrs. Jastromb now serves on the BRF’s Outreach and Development Committee.

She is very interested in furthering research on how our brains and one’s personal environment shapes emotional and chemical balances, as well as alternative therapies to treat current illnesses. The death of her daughter who suffered from Bipolar Disorder, PTSD and chemical dependence has intensified her belief that innovative research is paramount to discovering new knowledge and treatments for brain disorders.

 

Norman R. Bobins
Board Vice Chair, Outreach and Development Vice President and Co-Chair

Mr. Bobins serves as Vice President and Co-Chair of Outreach and Development. As one of the founding members of the Children’s Brain Research Foundation prior to its merger with the Brain Research Foundation, Mr. Bobins is particularly interested in the study of neurological diseases and disorders that affect children. Mr. Bobins is vice chairman, CIBC US Region. He is founder and chief executive of Norman Bobins Consulting LLC. In addition, Mr. Bobins serves on a wide array of boards and charitable organizations.

Richard A. Chaifetz, Psy.D.
Board Member

Dr. Richard A. Chaifetz is the Founder, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of ComPsych Corporation, the world’s largest provider of employee assistance programs and the pioneer and leading provider of fully integrated employee assistance, behavioral health, wellness, work-life and human resource administration services. ComPsych provides services to more than 118 million individuals and 53,000 organizations, ranging from the Fortune 500 to smaller public and private companies and government entities throughout the U.S. and more than 170 countries.

Dr. Chaifetz is also the Founder and Chairman of Chaifetz Group, a private advisory and investment firm.

Dr. Chaifetz has served on the board of directors, as well as an advisor, to several public and private corporations which currently include Pixel Press, Save Wave Energy, Kennet Partners, Vistria Group and MedAware. He is on the board of trustees of The Field Museum of Natural History, Saint Louis University, TCS Education System, the Miami University Foundation Board, the Brain Research Foundation, and the Illinois Holocaust Museum and Education Center. In 2007, he was named Saint Louis University’s Alumni of the Year and was inducted into the University’s Entrepreneurial Hall of Fame. He was awarded The Brain Research Foundation’s 2014 Frederic A. Gibbs Discovery Award in Philanthropy. In 2017, he also received the Illinois Holocaust Museum’s Humanitarian Award.

Dr. Chaifetz and his wife Jill are active philanthropists with notable gifts to St. Louis University including Chaifetz Arena, the Richard A. Chaifetz School of Business, and the Chaifetz Center for Entrepreneurship. Additional philanthropic gifts include the Chaifetz Trading Center at Miami University Farmer School of Business, the Richard and Jill Chaifetz Curator of Zoology at the Field Museum, and the Survivor Stories Theater at the Illinois Holocaust Museum and Education Center.

Dr. Chaifetz, a licensed neuropsychologist, is a magna cum laude graduate of Saint Louis University and received his Psy.D. from the Illinois School of Professional Psychology.

Gail M. Elden
Board Member

Gail M. Elden is a seasoned clinical psychiatric social worker/therapist with over 25 years of practice. She was a clinical social work fellow in the Department of Psychiatry at Michael Reese Hospital, received her master’s degree in Social Services from the University of Chicago. Gail is currently in private practice. Her areas of treatment include trauma and crisis intervention. She offers aid in divorce, depression, vocational choices, grief counseling, and coping with stress and anxiety. Gail studied with Heinz Kohut in Self Psychology.

Her father, a physician, sowed the seeds of Gail’s interest in the medical field. Interest in the mind was the foundation of Gail’s career. Her passion for brain research grew when doctors diagnosed her late husband, Dick, with melanoma, which later spread to the brain.

Gary Fencik
Honorary Board Member

As Head of Business Development at Adams Street Partners, Gary focuses on the development of institutional client and consultant relationships, working with other members of the Client Service team to serve the needs of their clients. As a member of the Executive Committee, he is also involved in prioritizing the strategic initiatives of the firm.

David H. Fishburn
Board Treasurer, Finance and Investment Committee Chair, Executive Committee Member

Mr. Fishburn serves as Chair of the Finance and Investment Committee, as well as a member of the Executive Committee. He is a retired partner of Accenture where he specialized in consulting on business strategy, acquisitions and marketing strategy. He joined the Board nearly 30 years ago.

Dave’s family has been touched by several neurological diseases and he felt that he could help fund and provide professional support to the many worthy research projects which the BRF funds annually.

In 2018 Dave was incapacitated by Guillain-Barre syndrome (a rare neurological disorder). He was able to fully recover thanks to the protocol developed by someone’s research. He is pleased to serve a charitable organization that is positioned to contribute 100% of its annual donations to innovative neurological research projects.

 

Marshall B. Front
Board Member

Marshall Front is Chairman and the Chief Investment Officer of Front Barnett Associates LLC, a Chicago-Based investment counseling firm he co-founded in 1994 after serving for nearly thirty years at Stein Roe & Farnham Inc. as an adviser to high net worth individuals and institutions. At Stein Roe, Mr. Front was also President of the firm’s Family of no-load mutual funds as well as President of its Investment Counseling Division and a director of the Stein Roe & Farnham Foundation.

Mr. Front serves as a member of the Board of Trustees of several Chicago area institutions including The Field Museum, The Latin School where he was Board President from 1992-1998, WTTW/WFMW and The Museum of Contemporary Art. He also advises Columbia College Chicago and the Renaissance Society at the University of Chicago on the investment of their Endowments. Previously, Mr. Front was a member of the Board of Visitors of Columbia College (New York) President of the No-Load Mutual Fund Association, a Trustee of Illinois Institute of Technology and General Chairman of the Columbia College Fund.

Marshall Front received an AB degree in history from Columbia College in 1958 and an MBA from the Columbia Graduate School of Business in 1961. He is the recipient of an honorary PhD from St. Xavier University (Chicago) for Distinguished Public Service and was awarded the John Jay Award for professional accomplishment and The Alumni Gold Medal from Columbia University.

Wilbur H. Gantz
Board Member

Bill Gantz is the President and CEO of PathoCapital, LLC. an investor in healthcare companies. He has three companies that have successfully developed drugs approved by the FDA. He was President of Baxter International and held a number of senior leadership positions during his 25-year career.

Bill Gantz has been impressed by the commitment of researchers and their willingness to propose inventive new projects that would be funded by the Brain Research Foundation. They have presented a wide variety of important issues for the foundation to select the very best to work on. These are important steps in research and allow these top researchers to gain the experience and know how to make progress in this field.

Nathan Hansen
Outreach and Development Committee Chair

Mr. Hansen is a Managing Director with PwC, one of the world’s largest professional services firms. He focuses his work on helping to improve the operations of pharmaceutical and medical products companies. Having a long-standing commitment to the Chicago community, Mr. Hansen has been looking to channel energies back to the local community in order to make a difference.

Mr. Hansen’s family, like many others, has been touched by brain-related illness, including severe chronic depression, autism, and Alzheimer’s disease. These personal connections, combined with a professional passion for the life sciences, made Brain Research Foundation a natural place for Mr. Hansen to get involved. He has served on our Board of Trustees since 2005 and is currently serving as the Chair of the Outreach and Development Committee.

Richard M. Kohn
Board Member

Mr. Kohn is the Founder and Senior Partner of the Chicago law firm Goldberg Kohn, specializing in commercial finance. He joined the Brain Research Foundation during the merger with the Children’s Brain Research Foundation.

Mr. Kohn also serves on the Board of CJE SeniorLife, and previously served as Chairman of the Chicago Shakespeare Theater, and President of Anshe Emet Synagogue.

Bennett L. Leventhal, M.D.
Research Committee Chair

Dr. Leventhal serves as the Chair of the Research Committee for Brain Research Foundation. As one of the founding members of the Children’s Brain Research Foundation prior to its merger with the Brain Research Foundation, Dr. Leventhal is an accomplished clinician, educator and investigator who has a particular interest in neurodevelopmental disorders, including Autism Spectrum Disorder. Dr. Leventhal is an internationally renowned psychiatrist who has held academic appointments at the several leading medical schools and leadership positions in State, National and International professional societies and agencies.

Dr. Leventhal is currently Professor of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of California San Francisco. He is also the Irving B. Harris Professor of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, Emeritus, at the University of Chicago.

 

 

John D. Mabie
Honorary Board Chair

As a young man, John Mabie, decided that he should “give back” through some type of charity work. At that time, he was working for his father, William Mabie. William Mabie had recently received a letter that he forwarded to John. It was the Brain Research Foundation’s annual appeal letter, the Fay/Frank Year-End Letter. 

 The letter told of the family’s similar tragedies – daughters that were afflicted with epilepsy. The letter was very personal and had such great impact on John that he asked his father to contact Bill Fay on his behalf. 

John met with Bill Fay to express his willingness to help but explained his lack of financial capability. John joined the BRF Board in 1960 and has been active ever since, donating time and financial support. 

In the 60s, the BRF adopted the phrase, “No family left untouched.” Now this phrase is so appropriate, with studies showing that approximately 1 out of 5 Americans suffer from a neurological disorder. When John became involved with the BRF his family was “untouched,” but in July 1984, his involvement took a personal turn. His father died of Parkinson’s disease at the age of 82.

Robert C. Malenka, M.D., Ph.D.
Board Member

Dr. Robert C. Malenka is the Pritzker Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Director of the Nancy Pritzker Laboratory at Stanford University and Deputy Director of the Stanford Neurosciences Institute. Dr. Malenka received his M.D. and Ph.D. degrees from Stanford University and then completed a residency in psychiatry at Stanford. He has been a world leader in elucidating the mechanisms underlying the action of neurotransmitters in the mammalian brain and the molecular mechanisms by which neural circuits are reorganized by experience.

His many contributions over the last 25 years have laid the groundwork for a much more sophisticated understanding of the mechanisms by which neurons communicate and the adaptations in synaptic communication which underlie all forms of normal and pathological behavior. Because of his training as both a clinical psychiatrist and cellular neurobiologist, he has been at the forefront of helping to apply the knowledge gained from basic neuroscience research to the treatment and prevention of major neuropsychiatric disorders.

David D. Olson
Board Secretary

David Olson is the Chairman and CEO of Wind River Capital LLC (Jackson, WY), a boutique merchant bank serving financial institutions. Previously, he was the Vice Chairman of the Financial Institutions Group (FIG) at Piper Jaffray & Co. (PJC). Olson has extensive experience in investment banking and private equity.

Olson came to PJC with over 25 years of experience on Wall Street in management positions. He was Credit Suisse First Boston’s Chairman of Investment Banking for the Asia-Pacific region. Prior to CSFB’s merger with Donaldson, Lufkin & Jenrette, he held a number of senior executive positions at DLJ, most recently serving as Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of the firm’s Asia-Pacific region. During the 1990s, he was co-head of DLJ’s financial institutions group and the firm’s Chicago investment banking office.

Olson holds a JD from Northwestern University School of Law, where he is a Life Trustee, and a BA degree from Wesleyan University, where he is a Trustee Emeritus. Additionally, Olson was a long-serving board member for the Shirley Ryan AbilityLab (the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago). 

Olson’s interests in brain research stems from family experience with dementia and stroke. He believes supporting scientific research is a primary means to advancing breakthroughs that will transform lives.

David P. Purcell
Board Member

Mr. David P. Purcell is the founder and the Managing Partner of Continental Advisors LLC.

Dave got involved with the BRF because his extended family has one of just about every “brain challenge” the BRF funds research toward. He believes in the concept of providing venture capital seed grants to young neuroscientists in the hope they can leverage their initial findings into major grants from larger organizations. Dave hopes better understanding of the brain will facilitate new treatments and cures for a host of brain-related illnesses. He believes innovation often begins at the front-end of the research process, which is the BRF’s focus. He also believes there can be benefits to collaboration and cross-pollination along the brain research pipeline that can be facilitated by an organization with a broader brain mandate, like the BRF.

Thomas A. Reynolds III
Finance Committee Member

Mr. Reynolds is a member of the Finance Committee. He is an attorney with Winston & Strawn, LLP. He is Vice Chair of the Georgetown University Board of Directors and Vice Chair of the Shirley Ryan Ability Lab Board of Directors.

Scott P. Serota
Board Member

Scott Serota is President and Chief Executive Officer of the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association (BCBSA), a national federation of 36 independent, community-based and locally operated Blue Cross and Blue Shield companies. The Blue Cross and Blue Shield System is the nation’s largest health insurer, covering one-in-three of all Americans. Led by a guiding principle to pave the way for better healthcare—and better health—for America, Scott understands that healthcare innovation can start from one bold idea. 

Scott is proud to support BRF and its commitment to advance understanding of brain function in children and adults. In 2020, the CDC reported that approximately 1 in 54 children in the U.S. is diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder. Scott’s grandson Ethan is one of those kids. Driven by the hope of a bright future for Ethan, and for all children diagnosed with a neurological condition, Scott is passionate about advancing innovative brain research. He values BRF’s vision to accomplish this by supporting scientists who aim to bring the healthcare industry one step closer to life-changing neurological breakthroughs. 

As a champion for change in healthcare, Scott is confident that research supported by BRF can fundamentally improve the lives of those suffering from neurological disorders. He is excited to see BRF-funded scientists’ bold ideas come to fruition as transformational treatments and cures. 

Scott P. Serota was named BCBSA president and CEO in 2000, after serving four years as a senior executive, including two years as chief operating officer. He will retire from BCBSA at the end of 2020. Until that time, Serota will continue to focus on the business and policy priorities of the BCBS System, working to ensure that healthcare is available to, and affordable for, everyone.

Daniel P. Shapiro
Board Member

Dan Shapiro has successfully represented clients across the country in complex business litigation at Katten Muchin Rosenman LLP. He focuses his practice on commercial disputes, litigating and trying significant cases including disputes arising out of the purchase and sale of businesses and securities, business valuations, contracts, products liability claims and complex class actions.

Mr. Shapiro is an adjunct faculty member of the Round Table Group, a consortium of university and industry experts who provide consulting, expert witness and legal support services for a variety of businesses. Mr. Shapiro has a particular interest in research relating to the impact of brain hemorrhage on behavior and personality. His family, like many others, has been touched by brain injury. Because of this, he is committed to supporting the scientific community as they advance understanding of how the injured brain functions.

Mary H. Smart
Honorary Board Member

Mrs. Smart has a specific interest in dementia, schizophrenia, and Lewy Body disease which have afflicted some family members. In addition to her work for the Brain Research Foundation, Mrs. Smart is also a past President and current member of the Woman’s Board of Rush University Medical Center as well as a past President and sustaining member of the Junior League of Chicago.

Rudolph Tanzi, Ph.D
Honorary Board Member

Dr. Rudolph Tanzi is the Director of the Genetics and Aging Research Unit, Co-Director of the McCance Center for Brain Health, Co-Director of the MassGeneral Institute for Neurodegenerative Disease, and Vice-Chair of Neurology (Research), at Massachusetts General Hospital. He is also the Joseph P. and Rose F. Kennedy Professor of Neurology at Harvard Medical School. 

Dr. Tanzi discovered several Alzheimer’s disease genes, including all three early-onset familial Alzheimer’s genes, and serves as director of the Alzheimer’s Genome Project, which identified the first innate immune AD gene, CD33. He is also developing therapies for treating and preventing AD using human brain organoid models of the disease. More recently, Dr. Tanzi introduced the “anti-microbial protection” hypothesis of AD implicating infection in the disease process. 

Dr. Tanzi has published roughly 600 papers, has received numerous awards including the Metropolitan Life Award, Potamkin Prize, Smithsonian American Ingenuity Award, and was on the 2015 TIME100 Most Influential People in the World list. Dr. Tanzi is a New York Times bestselling author, who has co-authored “Decoding Darkness” and three bestsellers with Deepak Chopra: “Super Brain”, “Super Genes”, and “The Healing Self”. He has hosted his three Public Television shows, appeared on numerous TV news shows, and in his spare time, plays keyboards for Joe Perry, Aerosmith and other musicians.

Doug Walter
Board Member

Doug specializes in corporate and investment structuring and tax law, with a current emphasis on the health care sector. He obtained a Bachelor of Arts degree from Harvard University in 1963 and a JD from the Harvard Law School in 1966. He also attended London School of Economics in 1967.

From 1967 to 1988 Doug was an Associate and then a Partner at Bell, Boyd & Lloyd in Chicago. He then became a Partner at Jones Day in Chicago from 1988 to 1999, and later a Consultant in 2000 and 2001. While in active legal practice, he was a member of the University of Chicago Tax Conference Planning Committee for many years and wrote numerous articles in the area of tax law and corporate structuring. Currently, Doug is very active with a private pharmaceutical company, Housey Pharmaceuticals, with responsibilities for law and strategy. 

Doug and his wife, Pam, have been involved with numerous charitable activities. These include serving on the Steering Committee of Founders’ Council of the Field Museum of Natural History; Former co-President of Founders’ Council and ex-officio member of Board of Field Museum and a long-time board member of Chicago Community in Schools.

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Young Leadership Board

BRF’s Young Leadership Board works to reach a new generation of passionate donors, while raising funds and fighting to end the stigmas surrounding neurological diseases.

Josh Feiger
Young Leadership Board Member

Josh Feiger is an enthusiastic member of the Young Leadership Board. Josh’s mother died of a brain aneurysm rupture at the age of 50. Since then, Josh has taken an active role in several brain awareness and research organizations in an effort to further brain injury and disease-related science and education.

Josh is an attorney, practicing in Katten’s corporate group. He advises public and private companies, including private equity funds, family offices, and independent sponsors, with respect to mergers, acquisitions, divestitures and other general corporate matters. Josh graduated from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 2010 and from the University of Chicago Law School in 2013.

Alyssa Friedberg
Young Leadership Board Member

Alyssa Friedberg is excited to be part of the Young Leadership Board. Alyssa graduated from Indiana University and continued on to attend graduate school at University of Illinois at Chicago, earning a degree in Youth Development. She works as a Child Life Specialist and is particularly interested in non-pharmacological pain management. Alyssa is inspired by the work BRF is doing and is looking forward to helping this incredible cause.

Emily Golin
Young Leadership Board Member

 Emily Golin is a certified health & transformational life coach and founder of Live.Your.Best.Life – Health, Wellness, and Lifestyle Coaching. She specializes in helping women unlock their personal power, gain energy, and transform their bodies – without dieting, deprivation, or extreme exercise – so you can finally start waking up feeling strong and confident in your own skin. 

Emily graduated from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign with a Master in Accounting Science and a concentration in Information Technology and Control. She is a licensed CPA and has a professional background in mergers & acquisitions advisory services. She is originally from Highland Park, IL, and currently lives in Chicago.

Emily is proud to serve on the Young Leadership Board. When Emily was 8 years old, her aunt suffered a traumatic brain injury, leading to many questions about “how the brain works.” Currently, Emily is specifically interested in BRF’s initiative to explore how mental health and the nervous system are interrelated.

 

Emily Jastromb
Young Leadership Board Member

Emily Jastromb is proud to serve on the Brain Research Foundation Young Leadership Board. She is excited to advance cutting-edge research to better prevent, detect, and treat neurological conditions and disorders.

Emily is an attorney in the Labor and Employment practice group at Morgan, Lewis & Bockius LLP in Chicago, where she counsels and represents employers with respect to a wide variety of workplace matters. Emily graduated from Emory University in 2011 and from Northwestern University Pritzker School of Law in 2016.

Myles Kaluzna
Young Leadership Board Treasurer

Myles Kaluzna is a Manager at Davis & Hosfield Consulting LLC. He has provided dispute resolution services for engagements involving breach of contract, breach of fiduciary duties, fraud, patent infringement, environmental damages, and other business disputes. Myles has analyzed business issues and developed financial models involving investment performance, business valuation, lost sales, lost profits, incremental profits, reasonable royalties, business valuations, and prejudgment interest. He has assisted in preparation for discovery, depositions, expert reports, arbitration, and trial.

Myles graduated with honors from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign earning a double major in Accounting and Finance with a minor in Environmental Economics and Law. He is originally from Highland Park, ll. and currently lives in Chicago.

Ali Lerner
Young Leadership Board Member

Ali Lerner works as a full-time real estate broker with @properties, specializing in the City and Chicago North Shore residential markets. She received her BS in Consumer Journalism from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and attended the University of Chicago for Masters certification in Digital Marketing & Social Media.

Ali has lost a handful of very special people in her life due to different brain disorders. Over 3 years ago, her father had a close brush with death leading to the discovery of a massive brain tumor (benign meningioma), believed to have been building for several years. Luckily, Ali’s dad survived an emergency craniotomy near his frontal lobe, but the side effects & difficult recovery are constant reminders of the need for more brain research.

Ali is thrilled to be part of the Young Leadership Board for the Brain Research Foundation and she’s determined to help make a difference in the advancement of neuroscience.

Ali currently resides in Deerfield, IL with her loving husband, daughter, son, 2 dogs and an amazing au pair. Ali LOVES being a mom and feels beyond blessed to have a family who supports her passions and active approach to many facets of life.

 

Gloria Maciorowski
Young Leadership Board Member

Gloria is proud to be a member of the Brain Research Foundation Young Leadership Board. Her previous work in academic research studying the neurocognitive effects of cancer and chemotherapy on the brain sparked her interest in neural dysfunction. This experience has allowed her to see the tremendous value of funding life-changing brain research and advocating brain education and mental health awareness.

Gloria is a Senior Consultant at GE Healthcare Partners, managing strategic and analytic engagements for healthcare provider organizations nationwide. 

Gloria attended the University of Notre Dame, where she helped to develop the inaugural Neuroscience & Behavior program of study. She holds a Masters degree in Healthcare Management from Brown University. She is originally from St. Louis, MO, and currently splits her residence between Chicago and Los Angeles.

 

 

Jordan Mandel
Young Leadership Board Member

Jordan Mandel is excited to serve on the Brain Research Foundation Young Leadership Board. Over the past few years, Jordan has seen first-hand the work the Brain Research Foundation is doing to support neuroscience research, and he is thrilled to help advance their mission.

Jordan works in strategy and business development at JPMorgan Chase & Co. He graduated from University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign with a bachelor’s degree in Finance. He is originally from Deerfield, Ill., and currently lives in Chicago.

Lauren Mandel
Young Leadership Board Co-Chair

Lauren Mandel is proud to serve as co-chair of the Brain Research Foundation Young Leadership Board. Lauren’s mother suffered a traumatic brain injury in 2000 and passed away from complications in 2020. Lauren knows firsthand how devastating neurological disorders can be not only for patients, but for their families and caretakers, as well. She supports all types of brain research with the understanding that the brain is extremely interconnected, so a discovery in one area of the brain can lead to breakthroughs in many more.  

Lauren is the Senior Director of Marketing at PartySlate, an event marketing platform based in Chicago. She specializes in content strategy, content creation, and digital marketing. In addition to her full-time role, Lauren works as a freelance writer and marketing consultant for various brands and publications, including The Everygirl, Refinery29, and HGTV.

Lauren graduated from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign with a bachelor’s degree in journalism. She is originally from Highland Park, Ill., and currently lives in Chicago.

Samuel Marder
Young Leadership Board Member

Sam is proud to serve on the Brain Research Foundation Young Leadership Board. Sam is eager to fundraise for the research of neurological diseases in hopes that the scientific community will better understand the factors contributing to these diseases so that we can better prevent, detect, and cure these diseases.

Sam works as an Assistant Vice President at Gibraltar Business Capital, an asset-based finance company. In his role at Gibraltar, Sam underwrites prospective loans and monitors a portfolio of loans in the companies’ existing portfolio. Sam graduated from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 2010 with a bachelor’s degree in Accountancy. He is originally from Deerfield. IL, and currently lives in Chicago.

Jessica Mathias
Young Leadership Board Member

Jessica Mathias is excited to be a member of the Young Leadership Board. Jessica works as an attorney and guardian ad litem for the Office of the Cook County Public Guardian providing legal representation to abused and neglected children around Cook County. She has specific interests on how childhood trauma and stress impact brain development and mental illness in children. From her work in foster care and within the Cook County community, Jessica understands the importance and need for more brain research regarding both children and adults.  

Jessica graduated from the University of Texas at Austin in 2010 with a Bachelor of Science in Communication Studies. She received her law degree from DePaul University College of Law in 2014. She currently lives in Wicker Park with her husband and new baby.    

 

 

Diana Gore Robinson
Young Leadership Board Member

Diana Gore Robinson works within the Business Advisory Services practice of Slalom Consulting where she focuses on change management, training, and project and program management. 

Previously, she worked as a Big Data Technical Project Manager at Conversant Media and as an Implementation Project Manager at Backstop Solutions Group, a company that provides CRM, investor relations, and portfolio management cloud-based software for the alternative investment industry.

Diana graduated cum laude from The George Washington University School of Media and Public Affairs with a B.A. in Political Communication. She also minored in Spanish Language and Literature and had the opportunity to spend a semester studying in Madrid. During college, Diana held a variety of research and public relations internships in the not-for-profit sector. She also interned with the public affairs office of the U.S. Department of the Treasury and with NBC News during her last year at GW.

Diana is very honored to be serving on the Brain Research Foundation’s Young Leadership Board.

 

Hilary Shapiro
Young Leadership Board Member

Hilary Shapiro got involved in the Brain Research Foundation after her family was personally affected by Alzheimer’s. She is inspired by the neuroscience research that Brain Research Foundation funds and is thrilled to help further the organization’s mission as a member of the Brain Research Foundation Young Leadership Board.

Hilary most recently served as a Development Manager at the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF). In this role, she managed the Fund A Cure program for JDRF’s annual One Dream Gala and worked closely with JDRF donors and volunteers. 

Hilary graduated from Brandeis University with a bachelor’s degree in Political Science. She is originally from Concord, MA, and currently lives in Chicago with her husband Joe and their dog Murphy.

Joe Shapiro
Young Leadership Board Co-Chair

Joe Shapiro proudly serves as the Co-Chair of the Brain Research Foundation Young Leadership Board. In 2000 Joe’s mother suffered a traumatic brain injury and passed away from complications in 2020. Having first hand experience with neurological disorders has given Joe an appreciation for their impacts not just for the individual but for the families of victims as well. Joe supports BRF’s mission as the venture capital firm of brain research because he knows how important neurological research is and how the findings can have far reaching effects beyond even their intended target. 

Joe is a Vice President of Cyber Underwriting with Corvus Insurance. He focuses on the developing areas of Cyber Security and Technology and how to make the technological world a safer place. 

Joe graduated from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign with a Political Science degree and obtained a Post-Baccalaureate Certificate in Finance from Northwestern University. He lives in Chicago with his wife Hilary and their dog Murphy.

Jon Shapiro
Young Leadership Board Vice Chair

Jon Shapiro serves as Vice Chair for the Brain Research Foundation Young Leadership Board. Jon’s interest in brain research stems from his family’s experience with neurological disorders, specifically the devastating effects of a cavernous angioma. Jon continues to learn from Brain Research Foundation and its pursuit to better understand the brain and its far-reaching implications.

Jon currently works in Deloitte’s Chicago office as a Transfer Pricing Senior Consultant, specializing in US Treasury regulations interpretation, economic modeling, and client relations. 

Jon graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison with a bachelor’s degree in economics. He is originally from Highland Park, Ill., and currently lives in Chicago.

Samantha Siegel
Young Leadership Board Secretary

Samantha Siegel is excited to serve as secretary for the Brain Research Foundation Young Leadership Board. Samantha has a background in finance and started her career at KPMG. She now works on brand partnerships at Snapchat. 

Like so many others, Samantha’s family has been directly impacted by various neurological diseases, and she has a specific interest in nerve pain management. 

Samantha graduated from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign with a dual degree in finance and accounting. She is originally from Highland Park, Ill., and currently lives in Chicago.

Alexandra Stewart
Young Leadership Board Member

Alexandra Stewart is a Customer Success Executive at 4th Down Solutions, a full-service technology agency, working with clients to bring their engagement & learning ideas come to life. She is also the owner and face of the body-positive Chicago-based blog Sassy Confetti.

She joined the Brain Research Foundation Youth Leadership Board because of her mother who passed away from a brain tumor in 2004. Since her death, she has been looking to help progress brain research in any way she can. There has been little progress made towards any sort of life-prolonging treatment for glioblastomas and many of the other brain-related diseases and injuries that affect people worldwide and Alex knows that research is the greatest way to make progress towards the goal of eradicating brain cancer.

Alex graduated from Fairfield University in Connecticut and attended Woodlands Academy in Lake Forest, IL for high school. She currently resides in Chicago, IL.

Ben Usem
Young Leadership Board Member

Ben is proud to serve on the Brain Research Foundation Young Leadership Board. When Ben was 12 years old, his mom was diagnosed with a benign meningioma brain tumor, which she had surgery to remove. Unrelated, nearly five years ago, his mom was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease, after a persistent essential tremor began to affect her everyday life. Ben’s interest in brain research stems from these experiences in his family life, and he is eager to fundraise for BRF so researchers are able to learn more about neurological diseases and disorders.

Ben found the Brain Research Foundation after graduating college and moving to Chicago, and he continues to stay involved with the BRF from New York City where he moved last year. Ben works as a CPA at PwC in M&A consulting. Ben attended the University of Wisconsin-Madison for his undergrad and graduate degrees, and is originally from Minneapolis, MN.

Carrie Walters
Young Leadership Board Member

Carrie Walters is a proud member of the Brain Research Foundation Young Leadership Board, and is excited to support and further the Foundation’s mission. With her lifelong interest in brain research and psychology, she is thrilled to take on a leadership role with BRF.

Carrie graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison with a bachelor’s degree in Psychology and a certificate in French, and was involved in Dr. Vanessa Simmering’s SPACE research lab. As a student lab assistant she worked with Dr. Simmering on a number of studies, all aiming to further the understanding of cognitive development in children and their processing of visuo-spatial information. Carrie was particularly inspired by her studies, and is looking forward to getting involved with such a cutting-edge organization.

Carrie works in private wealth management as a Senior Managing Director Assistant at Alliance Bernstein. She is originally from the San Francisco Bay Area, and lives in Chicago.

Scientific Review Committee

BRF’s Scientific Review Committee was established to review and evaluate the many research grant applications we receive each year. Comprising researchers from prestigious institutions throughout the country, the committee’s scientific expertise is invaluable when reviewing research grant proposals.

Tracy L. Bale, Ph.D.
University of Maryland

Tracy L. Bale, Ph.D. is a Professor of Pharmacology and Psychiatry, and Director of the Center for Epigenetic Research in Child Health and Brain Development in the University of Maryland School of Medicine. She is a member of the Society for Neuroscience and the American College of Neuropsychopharmacology. Dr. Bale completed her Ph.D. at the University of Washington and her postdoctoral work at the Salk Institute with Dr. Wylie Vale. She was previously a Professor of Neuroscience at the University of Pennsylvania for 15 years. Dr. Bale was recruited to the University of Maryland School of Medicine as a STRAP recruit and the Director of the Center for Epigenetic Research in Child Health and Brain Development.  

Dr. Bale’s research focuses on understanding the role of stress dysregulation in neurodevelopmental and neuropsychiatric diseases, and the sex differences that underlie disease vulnerability. Her groundbreaking work has uncovered the molecular mechanisms by which the environment influences parental germ cell signals and placental trophoblast development, altering fetal brain development and maturation. Her lab is particularly interested in developing models of parental stress and the germ cell involvement in intergenerational epigenetic programming of neurodevelopment.

Her research also has a significant translational component, focusing on identifying biomarkers of disease risk and stress experience in semen, placental tissue, microbiome samples and plasma. In addition to building translational research across the campus, her Center has an extensive outreach component to facilitate building relationships in the Baltimore community and promoting a greater appreciation for the impact of the environment on child health and brain development. She serves on many advisory committees, panels, and boards, including the Scientific Advisory Board for the Max Planck Institute of Psychiatry in Munich, the Congressional Committee on Gulf War and Health for the National Academy of Sciences, and the Strategic Planning Committee for the National Institute of Child Health and Development.

She recently served as Chair of the NNRS CSR study section and was a Reviewing Editor at the Journal of Neuroscience. She is currently serving on the Press Committee for the Society for Neuroscience and the Education Committee for the American College of Neuropsychopharmacology. She has been the recipient of numerous awards for her research including the Richard E. Weitzman Memorial Award by the Endocrine Society, the Medtronic Award from the Society for Women’s Health Research, the Daniel H. Efron award from the American College of Neuropsychopharmacology, the NIH Award from the International Federation of Placenta Associations, and the Joseph Erlanger Distinguished Lecturer Award from the American Physiological Society.

Scott T. Brady, Ph.D.
Chair, University of Illinois Chicago

Scott Brady was born in San Antonio, TX and lived in various cities from Heidelberg to Honolulu as he was growing up. He attended MIT as an undergraduate, receiving bachelor’s degrees in both Physics and Biology. He received his PhD in 1978 from the University of Southern California in Cell and Molecular Biology for work on the role of the cytoskeleton in axonal transport. From there, he joined the laboratory of Raymond Lasek at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, OH to continue his studies on both fast and slow axonal transport. In 1985, he became an assistant professor at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas, TX where he remained until 2001.

At that time, he became Professor and Head of Anatomy and Cell Biology at the University of Illinois at Chicago College of Medicine. During his time at CWRU, he began the practice of spending several months each summer doing research at the Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole, MA where he has been a summer investigator every year, since 1982.

In the mid-1980’s, he worked with Dr Lasek and Dr. Robert D. Allen to develop the isolated axoplasm preparation for study of fast axonal transport. This led to his discovery in 1985 of a new family of molecular motors that was found to mediate anterograde fast axonal transport, the kinesins. These discoveries were recently recognized as milestones in the study of the cytoskeleton by Nature. He has continued his studies on the molecular mechanisms of axonal transport, including a strong interest in its regulation. These studies led to the demonstration that axonal transport plays a critical role in the pathogenesis of Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and Huntington’s disease as well as Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis.

He has also studied other aspects of the cellular and molecular biology of the axon, including specializations of the axonal cytoskeleton, myelin-axon interactions and the effects of chronic stress on neuronal function as part of an overall interest in how a neuron is built and maintained for decades. He was named a UIC Distinguished Professor in 2017 and is a fellow of the AAAS. a member of various editorial boards and the Editor in Chief of the Basic Neurochemistry textbook.

Monica J. Carson, Ph.D.
University of California, Riverside

Monica J Carson is the S. Sue Johnson Presidential Endowed Chair in Glial-Neuronal Interactions and serves as Professor and Chair of the Division of Biomedical Sciences at the University of California Riverside School of Medicine. She additionally serves as Director of the Center for Glial-Interactions and Editor-in-Chief for the Journal of Neuroinflammation.

She has been an active member of both the American and International Neurochemistry Societies since graduate school, serving in multiple roles including President of each society. She received her AB degree from Bryn Mawr College and her PhD from University of Pennsylvania. Her research focuses on identifying CNS-Immune System interactions with a specific focus on the role of microglia in supporting lifelong brain health and how genetics, inflammation and environmental insults trigger and/or exacerbate neurodegenerative disorders. Dr. Carson’s choice of research focus was strongly influenced by her early interactions as a student with the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, and by individuals affected by Multiple Sclerosis.

Yamuna Krishnan, Ph.D.
The University of Chicago

Yamuna Krishnan is Professor of Chemistry at the University of Chicago since 2014. She received a Ph.D. in Organic Chemistry from the Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore and was an 1851 Research Fellow at the University of Cambridge. Yamuna uses DNA nanodevices as reporters of ions, small molecules and enzyme activity to study organelle function and cell physiology. She pioneered the use of DNA-nanotechnology to study living systems and its use in precision medicine. Selected honors include the Infosys Prize for Physical Sciences in 2017 and Bhatnagar Award among others. She was featured in Cell’s 40 Under 40 of scientists who are shaping current and future trends in Biology.

Daniel A. Peterson, Ph.D.
Rosalind Franklin University

Daniel A. Peterson, Ph.D. is Professor and Vice-Chairman in the Department of Neuroscience at the Chicago Medical School at Rosalind Franklin University of Medicine and Science. He also serves as Director of the Center for Stem Cell and Regenerative Medicine and is a member of the Center for Neurodegenerative Diseases and Therapeutics. Disruption of our normal neurological function can have a very significant impact on our identity and ability to function in the world.

As the brain shows so little ability to repair itself, Dr. Peterson is committed to developing new therapies to repair the brain. His research focuses on understanding the regulation of neurogenesis in the adult and aging brain. In particular, elucidating the key factors specifying progenitor cell fate and exploring ways to directly reprogram in vivo the fate of endogenous neural progenitor cells.

Dr. Peterson is an Editorial Board member for seven scientific journals, a member of the American Federation for Aging Research National Scientific Advisory Council, and the External Commissioner for the Abilitazione Scientifica Nazionale Italia (Concorsuale 06/D6-Neurologia). He is also Past-Chairman of the NIH Study Section NCF (Neurogenesis and Cell Fate) and Past-President of the American Society for Neural Therapy and Repair.

Kerry J. Ressler, M.D., Ph.D.
Harvard Medical School

Kerry J. Ressler, MD, PhD, is the James and Patricia Poitras Chair in Psychiatry, and Chief of the Division of Depression and Anxiety Disorders at McLean Hospital, affiliate of the Harvard Medical School. He received his Bachelor of Science degree in molecular biology from M.I.T., and his M.D./Ph.D. from Harvard Medical School. In 1992 at Harvard, he was the first student of Dr. Linda Buck (Nobel Prize, 2004), helping to identify the molecular organization of the olfactory receptor system, and he has spent his career using molecular tools to understand systems neuroscience approaches to emotion and behavior. 

Prior to moving to McLean in 2015, he spent 18 years at Emory University and Grady Memorial Hospital in Atlanta, where he founded the Grady Trauma Project, a study focused on understanding the Psychology, Biology, and Trauma-Related factors contributing to intergenerational cycles of trauma exposure and Posttraumatic Stress Disorder, Substance Abuse and Violence in over 12,000 participants from urban Atlanta. He continues to be active in this work as a visiting professor at Emory and through national leadership roles in understanding the biology and genetics of PTSD through large multisite consortia.

Dr. Ressler is a previous Investigator of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute and a current member of the National Academy of Medicine. He was also the 2017 President of the US Society for Biological Psychiatry, and currently serves on the Councils for the Society of Biological Psychiatry and the American College of Neuropsychopharmacology. His work focuses on translational research bridging molecular neurobiology in animal models with human genetic and epigenetic research on emotion, particularly fear and anxiety disorders.  He has published over 300 manuscripts ranging from genetic basic molecular mechanisms of fear processing to understanding how emotion is encoded in the brain across animal models and human patients.

Nenad Sestan, M.D., Ph.D.
Yale University

Nenad Sestan is a Professor of Neurobiology at the Yale School of Medicine and a member of the Kavli Institute for Neuroscience. He obtained his M.D. from the University of Zagreb and his Ph.D. in neurobiology from Yale University. Nenad Sestan’s research has been concerned with molecular mechanisms involved in the formation of neural circuits in the cerebral cortex, a part of the brain that is critical for cognition, perception and behavior.

His laboratory has also studied how these developmental mechanisms have evolved and become compromised in human disorders. He is the recipient of several international awards and honors, including the Krieg Cortical Discoverer Award, NARSAD Distinguished Investigator Award, and McDonnell Scholar Award, as well as Research Awards from the Simons Foundation, the March of Dimes Foundation, the Whitehall Foundation, the Brain and Behavior Research Foundation, and the Tourette Syndrome Association. He has also served as a key Principal Investigator for the BrainSpan and PsychENCODE consortia

Gordon M. G. Shepherd, M.D., Ph.D.
Northwestern University

Gordon M. G. Shepherd is an Associate Professor in Physiology at the Feinberg School of Medicine, Northwestern University, Chicago. His research interests are in understanding the functional organization of cortical circuits mediating volitional movements.

Dr. Shepherd studied biology at Vassar, received M.D. and Ph.D. degrees from Harvard, trained in internal medicine and neurology at Massachusetts General Hospital, and undertook post-doctoral studies at the University of Oslo and Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory. He has also been a visiting scientist at the Marine Biological Laboratory and Janelia Farm Research Campus. At Northwestern, his laboratory focuses on dissecting cortical and other circuits, for example by using lasers and single-cell recordings to measure connections.

Get Involved

The full reach of BRF’s impact depends on you. Make a donation or get involved to help spread hope for the treatment and eventual cure of neurological diseases.