Brent Soloka, Grad Student


Brent completed his Bachelors of Science from the University of Minnesota – Duluth in Cell and Molecular Biology in 2013. While at UMD, he worked in a research laboratory studying the blood brain barrier. He moved with this lab to the Sanders-Brown Center on Aging and then entered the Doctor of Pharmacy program at the University of Kentucky in 2014.

Felicia Marino,  Undergraduate Student

(since 2019)

Felicia is also a pretty cool person. She is from Cincinnati, OH and is a neuroscience major at UK. She is a member of the UK Dance Team and NeuroCATS! Next year she will be attending medical school at ATSU School of Osteopathic Medicine in Arizona. In her free time she enjoys hiking and eating all kinds of food. 

The Hall of Fame (Former Lab Members)

Jennifer Simkin, PhD Post Doctoral Fellow


Jennifer received her Ph.D. from Tulane University and has been known to slowly amble for a cause. She had a joint appointment in the laboratory ofDr. Ashley Seifert. Dr. Simkin started an independent Assistant Professor faculty position at Louisianna State University Health Sciences Centerin Oct. 2018 

Sabryn Kapp,  Undergraduate Researcher

(2019 - 2020)

Sabryn is from just outside of Louisville, Kentucky. She started her undergraduate degree at the University of Illinois where she played college soccer for U of I's women’s varsity team. After medical issues, she eventually decided to leave soccer to pursue a pre-med curriculum at the University of Kentucky. During her time at UK, she majored in psychology and got involved in biomedical research in Dr. Gensel’s lab as an undergraduate researcher! She now has graduated with a bachelor's in science and is pursuing medical school. When she has spare time she enjoys being outdoors, painting, and long-distance biking.

Neha Kadambi, Student

(High School Trainee 2014-2016; Technician 2016-17)

Neha started a student in the Math, Science, Technology program at Paul Laurence Dunbar High School and is naturally talented. She began her undergraduate education at Emory University in 2016 and works as a student technician in the lab when available.

Peter Rock 

Research Technician (2012-13)

Peter completed a Bachelor's of Science in Biology and a Master's of Public Health from the University of Kentucky. While completing these degrees, Mr. Rock spent several years working as a laboratory research technician focusing on traumatic brain and spinal cord injury research at both, the Sanders-Brown Center on Aging and the UK Spinal Cord & Brain Injury Research Center under doctors Stephen Scheff and John Gensel, respectively. Following a position as program analyst for the Louisville-Metro Public Health and Wellness Center for Health Equity, as of 2015, Mr. Rock is currently the epidemiologist for the Kentucky Department for Public Health Heart Disease and Stroke Prevention Program.


Katelyn McFarlane, masters student (2017) technician (2018-2019)

After completing her master's thesis focusing on a transgenic mouse model to study inflammation in spinal cord injury at the end of 2017, Katelyn joined the NERO lab in Jan. 2018. In 2019 she began medical school at Edward Via College of Osteopathic Medical, Auburn.

Kirsten Richards, student/technician (2017-2019)

Kirsten is majoring in Human Health Sciences and has horrible, but really, REALLY good jokes. Don't get it? See. Kristen graduates in 2020 and is planning to attend medical school at the University of Kentucky.

Ethan Glaser,  MD/PhD Student

(since 2020)

Ethan will write his own bio, but not on a Friday at 4:30

Timothy Kopper PhD,  Graduate Student

(since 2015)

Tim grew up outside of Denver, Colorado and completed his undergraduate degree from the University of Colorado at Boulder in Molecular/Cellular Biology and Integrative Physiology. He then entered the Integrated Biomedical Sciences PhD program at the University of Kentucky in 2014. When not in lab, Tim can usually be found wandering around remote forests or caring for his oddly large assortment of plants.

Lynnet Richey,  MD/PhD Student (since 2020)

Lynnet is a smart and hard working MD/PhD student.  She can often be found running PCR plates late into the evening.  Lynnet wears extra small gloves and has never been to Dairy Queen


 Reena Kumari PhD,  Research Scientist

(since 2021)

Reena grew up in India and completed her education in life Sciences, Ph.D in India. She came to USA, 2015 and joined UK as postdoctoral scholar and now she is working in the Gensel lab and seeking to progress further in research. She likes to spend time with family and friends and loves going on trips. She likes to make handicrafts and watch TV. 

Kaitlyn Braun Research Technician (2014)

Kaitlyn received her undergraduate degree from the University of Kentucky was a member of the physiology scholars program. After the summer of 2014 Kaitlyn started medical school at the University of Kentucky.

Taylor Otto, student (2015-2017)/technician (2017-2018)

Taylor Otto graduated in 2017 from the University of Kentucky with a major in Human Health Sciences. After working in the lab as an undergraduate researcher for a number of years, and hearing Dr. Gensel's well-timed jokes, Taylor joined the lab full-time as a technician after graduating. Taylor began medical school in 2018.

Andrew Stewart PhD,  Post-Doc (since 2018)

Despite being in the lab for several years, Andrew managed to fly under the radar without adding a picture of himself and a short bio. We decided to make a picture for him.  Andrew is a nice and smart guy and he has two cats.  

Kara Bethel, Undergrad (2018-2019)

Kara is from Lexington, KY and graduated from the University of Kentucky in 2020 with a BS in Neuroscience. She was then accepted into medical school at the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine and began in the fall of 2020. In her free time, she loves dabbling in the visual arts - oil painting and drawing - as well as long-distance running.

Caitlin (Seward) Mott, Master's student (2018-2019)

​                                      Lab technician (2019-2020)

Caitlin received her undergraduate degree from the University of Kentucky and joined the NERO lab as a master's student.  After completing her Masters in Science Medical Science Program, she became a lab technician in the lab.  She was later accepted into PA school at the University of Kentucky and began in 2020.

Steve MacLean,  Lab Technician

(2019-2021)since 2015)

Steve is from Beverly Hills, Michigan.  He completed his undergraduate degree at Central Michigan University majoring in Neuroscience and Psychology.  After deciding that Michigan was too cold, Steve came to Kentucky for the first time when he started in the lab as a technician in August of 2019. In 2021, he left the Gensel lab to start graduate school at UK

Kyeong (Rachel) Jang Undergraduate Research Scholar (2013-2014)

After working in the lab in 2013-2014, Rachel continued pursuing her biology degree through the honors program at the University of Kentucky and it a member in the physiology scholars program. After graduating in 2016 she worked in a research lab and started Graduate School at Emory University in Neuroscience in 2018.

Olivia Wireman,  Graduate Student

(since 2020)

Olivia is a very fun and friendly person who is always laughing and smiling.  One of her future goals is to come up with a few more sentences to add here including something funny.  

Michael Orr PhD, Research Technician (2014-15)

Graduate Student (since 2015)

Michael received his undergraduate degree from Centre College and is able to leap small buildings in a single bound.

Lauren Tranthem,  Undergraduate Researcher

(2018 - 2020)

From Owensboro, Kentucky -- the best city if you're looking for some good old barbeque! Graduating from the University of Kentucky in May 2021 with a BS in Biology and psychology minor. Future plans include attending medical school and hopefully returning to normal life after the COVID-19 pandemic.

Elizabeth Leach,  Graduate Student

(since 2020)

I grew up in Grayslake, Illinois, but whenever someone asks I say I grew up in Chicago. My family moved to Lexington in 2010 and I have been here since. I graduated from UK with a BS in neuroscience, BS in biology and a minor in philosophy in May 2020. I am now pursuing my master's degree in biology with the goal of one day attending medical school. When I am not studying, I love doing anything outside or watching reality TV with my cat, Lucy. 

Anna Leigh McVicar, Summer Student/Tech


Anna Leigh majored in Human Health Science at the University of Kentucky and in addition to being found among a cast of characters soaring through the air, and started attending Medical School at the University of Louisville in 2017.

John Lowe,  Undergraduate Researcher


John is a pretty cool dude from Corbin, Ky (home of the ORIGINAL KFC). He is doing research in the Gensel lab for the summer of 2020. He believes that snowboarding is a lot better than skiing for obvious reasons. 

Jessica Whelan,  Graduate Student

(since 2020)

Jessica is really cool and nice.  Her work will build on previous work in the lab on the African Spiny Mouse.  She is hardworking and has the supernatural ability to function on very little sleep.  Her future goals include going back to lab once the crisis of COVID-19 is over and taking a cool lab selfie.

William Bailey Research Scientist(2012-18)

Research Scientist (since 2018)

Will is a self-proclaimed superhero

(this claim has not been substantiated) 

John C. Gensel, PhD Principal Investigator

Associate Professor of Physiology
Primary Faculty, Spinal Cord and Brain Injury Research Center  

University of Kentucky, Lexington, KY

Spinal Cord and Brain Injury Research Center Endowed Chair #5

Dr. Gensel grew up in foothills of western Maine then attended the University of Pennsylvania as an undergraduate majoring in Biological Basis of Behavior. During his time at Penn he joined the laboratory of Dr. Tracy McIntosh where he studied the functional consequences of rodent traumatic brain injury. After finishing his degree in 2000, he joined the prestigious laboratory of Drs. Michael Beattie and Jacqueline Bresnahan to study the functional consequence of spinal cord injury and pursue his Ph.D. in Neuroscience at The Ohio State University (OSU) in Columbus, OH. After completing his dissertation in 2006, he became a postdoctoral fellow under the mentorship of Dr. Phillip Popovich at OSU. John joined the faculty of the University of Kentucky in 2012. In addition to his professional activities, John loves spending time with wife and three kids, plays ultimate frisbee whenever possible, and rarely wears hats. 

Holt Hammons,  Undergraduate Student

(since 2019)

I am a Neuroscience major from Frankfort, Kentucky and I am applying to medical school this summer. In my free time I enjoy playing golf (even though I am terrible) and hanging out with my dog Moose.

Bei Zhang, PhD Post Doctoral Scholar (2013-2015)/

Research Scientist  (2015-2018)

Bei received her graduate degree from the University of Kentucky and has been recognized for her super powers. She began an independent research program as a tenure-track Assistant Professor in Feb. 2018 at Shaanxi University of Chinese Medicine.