Program Personnel

Faculty Research Mentors

Joel Blankson, MD, PhD

Professor of Medicine and Molecular & Comparative Pathobiology

Dr. Blankson’s laboratory has focused on the mechanism of control of HIV-1 replication in a cohort of patients known as elite controllers or elite suppressors. These patients are HIV-1 seropositive, but maintain levels of viremia that are below the limit of detection of standard clinical assays. Dr. Blankson and his team feel that elite suppressors represent a potential model for a therapeutic HIV vaccine. Their central hypothesis is that many of these patients are infected with fully replication-competent HIV-1 isolates that are held in check by the immune system. To test this hypothesis, they are studying many different host and viral factors in these patients.

They have shown that CD4+ T cells from these patients are not intrinsically resistant to HIV-1 infection and that elite control is probably not due to HIV-specific neutralizing antibody or NK cell responses. While HIV-specific CTL responses are known to be important in controlling viral replication, they have shown that virus amplified from these patients have developed escape mutations in immunodominant epitopes. They are thus trying to determine how control of viral replication is maintained in the presence of immunologic escape.

Amanda Brown, PhD

Program Director
Associate Professor of Neurology and Neuroscience

Dr. Amanda Brown joined Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine (JHUSOM) in 2004 and moved up the faculty ranks, achieving to date the level of Associate Professor in December 2016. She has made major contributions to the identification and understanding of cellular pathways involved in primary human macrophages that are required for HIV-1 replication and which promote a proinflammatory environment in the brain. The goal of research in her laboratory is to identify and understand the molecular mechanisms leading to HIV-mediated inflammation in the brain and its impact on neuronal function, learning, and memory. The product encoded by the SPP1 gene is a unique multifunctional protein that is elevated in the central nervous system in HIV-related neuronal damage and other well-known neurodegenerative disorders. Her lab is using several experimental paradigms to test hypotheses, including humanized mice, which can be productively infected with HIV and subjected to neuroimaging and behavioral testing, as well as in vitro human myeloid, and neuronal culture models to dissect and understand molecular mechanisms. With these approaches, the ultimate aim is to apply the knowledge gained to develop new and better treatments to ameliorate HIV-associated cognitive comorbidities. Her research has been funded with support from the National Institutes of Mental Health, the National Institutes of Neurological Disorders and Stroke and the Landenberger Research Foundation.

Dr. Brown was selected as a Keystone Symposia on Molecular and Cell Biology Fellow for 2014, the AAMC Mid-Career Minority Faculty Leadership Seminar and for her work in helping to diversify the training pipeline, in 2014 she received the Johns Hopkins Diversity Leadership Award. Most recently she was nominated for the Provost Prize for Faculty Excellence in Diversity, nominated for the Inaugural NINDS Story Landis Mentoring Award and in 2018, received the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine Living the Hopkins Mission Honor.

Carlo Colantuoni, PhD

Assistant Professor of Neurology and Neuroscience

Dr. Colantuoni is an assistant professor in the departments of Neurology and Neuroscience. He earned his A.B. from Princeton University in 1996 and his Ph.D. from Johns Hopkins School of Medicine in 2002. Dr. Colantuoni and his colleagues elucidate fundamental mechanisms in human brain development that impact risk for complex brain disease using human brain tissue and human pluripotent cell resources.

To elucidate fundamental mechanisms in human brain development, his work leverages diverse multi-omic data resources from postmortem human brain tissue, animal models, and human pluripotent stem cell systems.

Defining common transcriptional elements across these systems will enable his lab to develop meaningful, mechanistic connections between the in vivo observations and the in vitro experimental systems.

The eventual goal is to design experiments in the precisely controlled in vitro differentiation systems which will, in effect, allow probing of the in vivo systems of human brain development and elucidate mechanisms of risk for complex brain disease.

Kate Fitzgerald, ScD

Assistant Professor of Neurology

Kathryn Fitzgerald, Sc.D., is an assistant professor of neurology at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. Her research focuses on identifying diagnostic and prognostic factors related to multiple sclerosis (MS) and other neurologic diseases. She performs epidemiologic research integrating patient- and population-level data from people with MS.

Dr. Fitzgerald earned her Doctor of Science in epidemiology at Harvard University, followed by a postdoctoral research fellowship in neuroimmunology and neurological infections at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. Her research interests include how genetics, metabolic changes, hormones, diet, environmental factors and comorbid conditions affect the severity of MS symptoms.

Norman Haughey, PhD

Professor of Neurology and Psychiatry & Behavioral Sciences
Vice Chair for Research, Department of Neurology

Dr. Norman Haughey received his Ph.D. in Pharmacology from the University of Manitoba in 1998. He then completed one year of postdoctoral training at the University of Kentucky’s Center on Aging before moving to the National Institute on Aging, Gerontology Research Center for an additional two years of postdoctoral training. Dr. Haughey joined the faculty of Johns Hopkins in 2002 where he is now a Professor and Vice Chair for Research in the Department of Neurology.

Dr. Haughey directs a disease-oriented research program that address questions in basic neurobiology, and clinical neurology. The primary research interests of the laboratory are:

1) To identify biomarkers markers for neurodegenerative diseases including HIV-Associated Neurocognitive Disorders, Multiple Sclerosis, and Alzheimer’s disease. In these studies, blood and cerebral spinal fluid samples obtained from ongoing clinical studies are analyzed for metabolic profiles through a variety of biochemical, mass spectrometry and bioinformatic techniques. These biomarkers can then be used in the diagnosis of disease, as prognostic indicators to predict disease trajectory, or as surrogate markers to track the effectiveness of disease modifying interventions.

2) To better understand how the lipid components of neuronal, and glial membranes interact with proteins to regulate signal transduction associated with differentiation, motility, inflammatory signaling, survival, and neuronal excitability.

3) To understand how extracellular vesicles (exosomes) released from brain resident cells regulate neuronal excitability, neural network activity, and peripheral immune responses to central nervous system damage and infections.

4) To develop small molecule therapeutics that regulate lipid metabolism as a neuroprotective and restorative strategy for neurodegenerative conditions.

Andrew Huhn, PhD

Associate Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences

Dr. Andrew Huhn’s research is focused on understanding the human experience of opioid use and opioid use disorder (OUD). The majority of his lab’s work has been in human laboratory studies and clinical trials, and he leverages his background in psychology, neuroscience, and behavioral pharmacology to identify risk factors for illicit drug relapse and medication strategies to improve OUD treatment outcomes. These studies cover the continuum of care, including supervised opioid withdrawal and sustained recovery using medications for OUD. Topics of interest include sleep disturbance, drug craving, and diurnal measures of stress and mood.

In addition, his work in OUD patients has naturally led him to investigate the tradeoffs between the abuse liability and analgesic efficacy of opioid medications, including research on persons with chronic and/or acute pain. His lab employs diverse methodological approaches to better understand opioid use and OUD, including neuroimaging, ecological momentary assessments, wearable technologies, human laboratory studies, and survey research. Taken together, this research is aimed at improving treatment outcomes directly and evaluating and strategizing macro-level changes to improve healthcare for substance use and related disorders.

Amanda Lauer, PhD

Associate Professor of Otolaryngology – Head and Neck Surgery

Amanda Lauer, Ph.D., focuses her research on the perceptual and central nervous system consequences of hearing loss. The overall goal of her research program is to investigate how hearing loss changes synaptic organization of brain pathways and how those changes are reflected in behavior and auditory processing. Understanding the interplay between the effects of peripheral auditory damage and higher order function is of particular importance given our increasing exposure to noisy environments and the increased prevalence of hearing disorders in our aging population. Recent studies have focused on animal models of tinnitus, hyperacusis and temporal processing abnormalities.

Cherie Marvel, PhD

Associate Professor of Neurology

Dr. Cherie Marvel received her PhD in Neuroscience from Georgetown University in Washington, DC in 2002. Her dissertation research examined cerebellar-related cognitive and motor deficits in schizophrenia. She completed her first post-doctoral fellowship in Clinical Neuroscience at the University of Iowa, where she furthered her training in cerebellar cognitive function in psychiatric disorders. She completed her second post-doctoral fellowship in Cognitive Neuroscience at Johns Hopkins University, where she learned to use brain imaging methods (such as functional MRI) to examine cognition.

Now an Associate Professor of Neurology and Psychiatry & Behavioral Sciences at Johns Hopkins, Dr. Marvel’s research focuses on the interaction of cognitive and motor systems, with special emphasis on the cerebellum, in healthy and clinical populations.

Dr. Marvel’s research with clinical populations includes those with cerebellar ataxia, HIV, substance dependence, and Lyme disease. Her primary research methods include brain imaging (e.g., fMRI) and brain stimulation (e.g., Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation) and experimental cognitive paradigms to study learning, memory, and behavior.

Brett Morrison, MD-PhD

Associate Professor of Neurology

Dr. Brett Morrison specializes in neuromuscular disorders in adults including amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, motor neuropathies, myasthenia gravis and muscle diseases including myopathy and muscular dystrophy.

Dr. Morrison’s research interests include investigations into the basic mechanisms of acute denervation and the development of treatments for chronic denervating diseases such amyotrophic lateral sclerosis or motor neuropathies. Current research focuses on treatments designed to reduce muscle loss and atrophy, and thus preserve function, following denervation.

Dr. Brett Morrison received his M.D. and Ph.D. from Mount Sinai Medical School in New York City. He completed his medical internship at the University of Maryland and residency in neurology at The Johns Hopkins Hospital. He then completed a fellowship in Clinical Neurophysiology at The Johns Hopkins Hospital.

Dr. Morrison’s research interests include investigations into the basic mechanisms of cellular metabolism in the nervous system and of neurodegeneration in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS).  Current research focuses on developing novel treatments for ALS and peripheral neuropathies based on augmenting the supply of the energy metabolite, lactate.

Leah Rubin, PhD, MPH

Professor of Neurology, Epidemiology and Psychiatry & Behavioral Sciences
Center Co-Director: JHU NIMH Center for Novel Therapeutics for HIV-associated Cognitive Disorders

Dr. Leah Rubin is a Professor of Neurology, Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, and Epidemiology at the Johns Hopkins University. Dr. Rubin received her BA from Franklin and Marshall University, a MA in Clinical Psychology from Loyola University Maryland, and a Ph.D. and M.P.H. from the University of Illinois at Chicago.

Dr. Rubin’s work is dedicated to improving the cognitive and mental health of several vulnerable populations, including women and men living with HIV (both nationally and, more recently, internationally), individuals with serious mental illness, dementia, and traumatic brain injury. Her broad training background allows her to use an interdisciplinary approach in her research program that incorporates epidemiological, mechanistic (e.g., structural and functional neuroimaging) and intervention science (e.g., pharmacologic challenge studies).

Ethel Ngen, PhD

Assistant Professor of Radiology and Radiological Science

Dr. Ethel Joso Ngen is an Assistant Professor of Radiology and Radiological Science at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. She completed her post-doctoral fellowship in cellular and molecular imaging at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Department of Radiology and Radiological Science.

Prior to this, she received her Ph.D. in organic (medicinal) chemistry from the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry at South Dakota State University. Her doctoral research focused on the development and evaluation of targeted drug delivery systems to enhance therapeutic indices in photodynamic therapy. Dr. Ngen also holds a Master of Science (Honors) in inorganic chemistry and a Bachelor of Science (Honors) in general chemistry with a minor in material science technology.

Eileen Scully, MD-PhD

Assistant Professor of Medicine

Dr. Eileen Scully’s lab is interested in the immunopathogenesis of viral infections with a focus on how the innate immune system is disrupted by infection and may potentially be directed to enhance immune responses. Active projects are investigating the impact of HIV viremia on epigenetic profile of innate immune cells from people living with HIV with the goal of identifying features relevant to immune dysregulation that may be therapeutic targets. The lab also has a specific focus on the impact of biological sex on immune responses to HIV and other viral infections including SARS-CoV-2. Prior work has identified a role for estrogen in regulation of HIV latency and ongoing projects are seeking to define the molecular mechanisms for this sex-differential impact of estrogen on the HIV reservoir. With access to the clinical data and samples from the COVID-19 cohorts at Johns Hopkins, we have been exploring sex specific immune reponses with transcriptomics to identify host features that may be associated with severe outcomes from SARS-CoV-2 infection.

Emily Severance, PhD

Associate Professor of Pediatrics

Dr. Emily Graves Severance is an assistant professor of pediatrics at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. She serves as a co-investigator at the Silvio O. Conte Center for Schizophrenia Research at Johns Hopkins.

As part of her ongoing research program, Dr. Severance focuses on the major gateway of the immune system, the gastrointestinal mucosa, where inflammation, food hypersensitivities, barrier defects and immune dysregulation can cause downstream brain dysfunction in people with psychiatric disorders. She is also currently part of a research team studying a newly-discovered algae virus in the throats of healthy people that may subtly alter a range of cognitive functions including visual processing and spatial orientation in those who harbor it.

In 2011, she was awarded a Young Investigator fellowship by NARSAD: The Brain and Behavior Research Fund for her research testing whether a breached gastrointestinal barrier contributes to symptoms of psychiatric disorders.

Dr. Severance earned her B.S. from the University of Maryland and her Ph.D. from the University of South Florida.

Glenn Treisman, MD, PhD

Program Co-Director
Professor of Medicine and Psychiatry & Behavioral Sciences
Director, AIDS Psychiatry Service
Director of the Pain Treatment Program
Co-Director of the Amos Food, Body, and Mind Center

Glenn Jordan Treisman is the Eugene Meyer III Professor of Psychiatry and Medicine at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. He is Director of the AIDS Psychiatry Service, The Pain Treatment Program, and his most-recent effort as co-director of the Amos Center, a program that studies atypical GI disorders and the relationship between food, the nervous system of the GI tract, the microbiome, and disease. The Pain treatment Program provides care for chronic pain syndromes and is a national referral resource for patients with intractable pain.

Dr. Treisman is internationally known for his engaging presentations, his efforts to promote the integration of psychiatry and medicine, and his vigorous commitment to the betterment of patient care for underserved populations.  He is best known for his groundbreaking work in the field of HIV, where he has been described as “the father of AIDS psychiatry.”  He is involved in the care of psychiatrically ill HIV infected patients and has been since early in the epidemic.  He described and has raised awareness of the role of mental illness as a driving force in the HIV epidemic as well as a barrier to effective care.  He is the author of The Psychiatry of AIDS, the first comprehensive textbook on the subject, as well as numerous articles on the issues of mental health in the HIV clinic.

As part of a lifelong commitment to education, Dr. Treisman directed the residency program in Psychiatry for nine years, and has delivered lectures at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine in courses on Neuroscience, Psychiatry, Pharmacology Clinical Skills, and the Physician in Society course, as well as lectures in the School of Public Heath, the School of Nursing, and in numerous departments.  He is considered to be an outstanding teacher and has received the Chairman’s Award for Teaching from the Department of Medicine. His lectures on psychiatry and medical ethics have earned him international invitations and eponymous lectures including the prestigious Mapother Lecture in London and Findling Lecture at the Mayo Clinic.  Dr. John G Bartlett has referred to his lecture on DNR orders and medical ethics as “the Gettysburg Address of medicine,” and The American College of Physicians recognized his work with the presentation of the William C. Menninger Memorial Award for Distinguished Contribution to the Science of Mental Health.

Rebecca Veenhuis, PhD

Assistant Professor of Molecular and Comparative Pathobiology

Dr. Rebecca Veenhuis is an Assistant Professor of Molecular and Comparative Pathobiology (MCP), and Neurology, at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine with expertise in immunology and HIV latent reservoirs.

Her research interests include understanding how the immune system regulates chronic viral infections and in turn how these diseases can regulate the immune response. Her areas of specific focus include understanding inflammasome activation in the CNS during SIV infection, as well as elucidating the role myeloid reservoirs play in ART treated HIV/SIV infection. She has recently received support from NIMH to study sex-based differences in the myeloid reservoirs of people with HIV and SIV-infected ART-suppressed macaques.

Dionna Williams, PhD

Assistant Professor of Molecular & Comparative Pathobiology and Medicine

Dr. Dionna Williams has expertise in neuroscience, immunology, and pharmacology. Her research interests are in the neuropathogenesis of HIV, regulatory mechanisms of neuroimmune signaling, drug delivery to the central nervous system, and immunologic and pharmacologic contributors to health disparities.

She received her undergraduate degree cum laude from Hofstra University, where she studied biochemistry. She earned a master’s degree with distinction and a doctorate in biomedical science from the Albert Einstein College of Medicine. As a doctoral candidate, she received the UNCF/Merck Graduate Science Research Dissertation Fellowship and support from the Mount Sinai Institute for NeuroAIDS Disparities. Dr. Williams pursed her postdoctoral fellowship at Johns Hopkins to perform immunology, pharmacology, and health disparities research. While a postdoctoral fellow, Dr. Williams earned a certificate in health disparities and health inequalities from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. During the tenure of her postdoctoral fellowship, Dr. Williams was awarded the K99/R00 Pathway to Independence Award from the National Institutes of Health and the Johns Hopkins Provost’s Postdoctoral Fellowship. Additionally, she received support from the Translational Research in NeuroAIDS and Mental Health Center and the National Institutes of Health Loan Repayment Program.

Xiaolei Zhu, MD-PhD

Assistant Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences

Dr. Xiaolei Zhu is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Johns Hopkins and a member of Johns Hopkins Drug Discovery. His research focuses on understanding the molecular mechanisms underlying the pathophysiology of neuropsychiatric and neurocognitive disorders, including HIV-associated neurocognitive dysfunction, depressive symptoms, and major depressive disorder. His ultimate goal is to develop novel therapeutic strategies to improve patient outcomes.

In Memoriam: Ned Sacktor, MD

Neurologist Ned C. Sacktor (faculty, neurology, 1994–2020), whose pioneering research on HIV/AIDS-associated cognitive dysfunction made him an international leader in the field, died November 11, 2020, of pancreatic cancer. He was 57.

Beginning in the early 1990s, Sacktor’s studies of the link between HIV/AIDS and dementia had a profound impact. His research in sub-Saharan Africa represented some of the first AIDS-related neurological studies there. He conducted the first clinical trial of a potentially cognitive-enhancing agent, minocycline, in Uganda. In collaboration with Makerere University, he also performed one of the first comprehensive studies of the clinical characterization of HIV dementia in Kampala, Uganda. In addition, he examined the impact of HIV subtypes on cognitive performance in Uganda.

In the United States, Sacktor played a leading role in the NeuroAIDS research community, establishing groundbreaking clinical research within the large Multicenter AIDS Cohort Study (MACS) established in 1982 and the AIDS Clinical Trials Group established by the NIH in 1987, playing a leadership role in both.

He was instrumental in developing the HIV dementia program at Johns Hopkins in collaboration with Justin C. McArthur, director of the Department of Neurology, and Richard T. Johnson (1931–2015), McArthur’s predecessor. Sacktor’s program became the leader and driver of studies relating to cognitive disorders in HIV/AIDS.

Because of his impact in global neurology, Sacktor served as president of the World Neurology Foundation in 2016.

Program Administration

Asante Kamkwalala, PhD

Dr. Asante Kamkwalala is a Research Associate in the Department of Neurology, Division of Neuroimmunology and Neurological Infections. A Maryland native, she trained as a cognitive and behavioral neuroscientist and received her Bachelors of Science (B.S.) in Neuroscience and Behavioral Biology from Emory University in 2009, and her Doctorate (Ph.D.) from Vanderbilt University in Cognitive and Systems Neuroscience in 2019.

Dr. Kamkwalala returned to Maryland as a Post-Doctoral Fellow in the Johns Hopkins Department from 2019-2022. Her research experience in the past has focused on the effects of chronic stress and disease on neurocognitive functioning and mental health symptoms. Her previous work has investigated neurophysiological biomarkers of stress, the effects of age and HIV on cognitive function, and determining biological, medical, and epidemiological factors that contribute to improved neurobehavioral outcomes in people with HIV.

Former Program Manager, Heather Thomas, M.B.A.

Heather served as the Education Programs Manager from 2017-2023, providing guidance, administrative support, and mentorship training (CIMER) to the students and faculty who are part of these research training programs. Heather aims to help students and new investigators grow as scientists by developing their skills in the health sciences through education and hands-on training. She does this by organizing science conferences, retreats, courses in grantsmanship, mentorship, professional development, and lab experiences for program trainees. ​

Prior to joining Johns Hopkins, Heather proudly served in the United States Army as a Combat Medic. After being honorably discharged, Heather pursued her bachelor’s and master’s degrees while working full time in various education and research-related positions to include: Neurosurgery Residency Program Coordinator, Neurology Fellowship Coordinator, Clinical Research Assistant for multiple brain and spinal cord injury studies, and Investigational Drug Technician. By 2010, Heather graduated with a Masters of Business Administration (M.B.A.) degree from University of Maryland Global Campus, a Masters Certificate in Clinical Investigation, and a Bachelor of Science (B.S.) degree in Health Systems Management from the University of Baltimore. She is an active volunteer in programs within the University such as the annual C.A.R.E.S Symposium and the Johns Hopkins Commencement Ceremony, as well as other social and spiritual community programs such as Moveable Feast, United Way and Bible Study Fellowship (BSF).

Professional Development Specialists

Clara Giles Carter, Ed.D.

Dr. Clara Giles Carter is known across the country for her knowledge, skills, expertise and commitment to youth mentoring. As a former Director of the Maryland Mentoring Resource Center, she contributed to the successful efforts in making mentoring an integral part of Maryland’s social fabric.

Cathleen Hanson, Director, International School of Protocol

Ms. Hanson provides training for business executives, corporations, politicians, groups, schools and colleges and has appeared on radio and television talk shows. Prior to founding The International School of Protocol, Cathleen Hanson was a university professor of communication and nationally recognized speech and debate coach. In addition to coaching national champions in speech and debate, she taught courses in the area of public speaking, business communication, group communication, and nonverbal communication. She is an award winning speaker and writer whose syndicated columns appeared in over 30 publications nationwide. As a fully engaging top-notch teacher, her emphasis is on teaching adults, teens and children what she considers to be skills for life. Ms. Hanson holds a Masters in Communication Theory and Research and is also a founding partner of Road to Success: Career Development Program.