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Meet the Team

Principal Investigators

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Dr. Erin Sundermann

Dr. Erin Sundermann is a cognitive neuroscientist with a broad research scope in Alzheimer's disease and cognitive aging. Within that scope, she focuses on sex differences and the discovery of sex-specific biomarkers and risk factors for AD as well as the manifestation of Alzheimer's disease in the context of HIV.

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Dr. Sarah Banks

Dr. Sarah Banks is the Director of the Neuropsychology Program, Center for Memory Disorders and Brain Health. Her research uses multimodal imaging, cognitive testing and genetics to better understand sex differences in Alzheimer’s disease.

Research Staff

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Melanie Dratva, BS 

Clinical Research Coordinator

Melanie Dratva graduated with a Bachelor's of Science in Cognitive and Behavioral Neuroscience and a minor in General Biology at University of California, San Diego. Her research interests include exploring neurobiological bases of affective and neurological disorders through neuroimaging. She aims to continue her education in a clinical psychology program.

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Nadine Heyworth, PhD 

Program Manager (WITS/BWITS)

Dr. Nadine Heyworth received her Ph.D. in Anatomy and Neurobiology at Boston University and completed post-doctoral fellowships at the Center for Translational Cognitive Neuroscience at the Boston VA Hospital, and in the Department of Psychiatry at UCSD. Her research interests focus on age-related cognitive function and the underlying neuronal processes involved in learning and memory in older adults and patients with Alzheimer's disease. She previously managed drug-intervention clinical trials at the UCSD ADRC and served as the liaison between the community, researchers, and sponsors interested in clinical research studies.

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Charlotte Rivera, BS 

Charlotte Rivera graduated from University of California, San Diego where she received her Bachelor of Science degree in Clinical Psychology. Since then, she worked in the Department of Psychiatry at UCSD coordinating projects investigating cognitive impairments in patients with hippocampal and larger medial temporal lobe damage. In 2021, she transferred to the Department of Neurosciences where she manages projects investigating cognitive and microstructural changes in preclinical Alzheimer's disease. 

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Ella Lifset, BS 

Ella Lifset graduated with a Bachelor’s of Science in Human Biology and Bachelor’s of Arts in Linguistics at the University of California, San Diego. She has been involved in research with the Division of Geriatrics, Gerontology, and Palliative Care at UCSD Health, as well as at Mirati Therapeutics, a cancer biotechnology company in La Jolla, California. Her research interests focus on investigating the biological bases of human diseases and applying these findings to clinical care. She plans to pursue medical school in the future.

Graduate Student and Postdoctoral Researchers

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Kitty Lui, BS

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Joy Stradford, MS

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Graduate Student Researcher

Graduate Student Researcher
(WITS/BWITS)

Kitty Lui graduated with a degree in Cognitive Sciences and Education Sciences at the University of California Irvine. She is now a doctoral student in the SDSU/UC San Diego Joint Doctoral Program in Clinical Psychology under the mentorship of Dr. Sarah Banks. She is interested in the influence of sleep on Alzheimer’s Disease and cognition. She is also interested in exploring subjective cognitive decline as a risk factor and early detection tool for Alzheimer’s Disease. 

Joy Stradford graduated with a B.S. in Psychology from Howard University and a M.S. in Neuroimaging and Informatics from the University of Southern California. Joy is now a doctoral student in the SDSU/ UC San Diego Joint Doctoral Program in Clinical Psychology under the mentorship of Dr. Erin Sundermann and Dr. Sarah Banks. Joy is interested in identifying race and sex disparities in Alzheimer’s Disease and Related Dementias (ADRD), and uncovering solutions to promote better health outcomes for minoritized communities. Joy also has a specific interest in the interaction between grief and health outcomes in older adults.

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Jordan Stiver, PhD

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Clinical Neuropsychology Fellow

Dr. Jordan Stiver graduated from Fordham University in 2023 with a PhD in Clinical Psychology, having completed his predoctoral internship in clinical neuropsychology at Long Island Jewish Medical Center - Zucker Hillside Hospital. Dr. Stiver joined the Banks lab in 2023 as a postdoctoral fellow in clinical neuropsychology. In addition to his research, he also conducts comprehensive neuropsychological evaluations for older adults through the UC San Diego Center for Brain Health and Memory Disorders. Dr. Stiver is interested in understanding the relationships between rest-activity patterns, sociocultural factors, and neuropsychological functioning in older adults with and without cognitive disorders.

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Emma Rice, BS

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Graduate Student Researcher

Emma Rice graduated with her Bachelors of Science in neuroscience from the University of Southern California and is currently a medical student at UC San Diego School of Medicine. She is interested in research regarding diseases of aging, especially neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s and her clinical interests include geriatrics and neurology

Undergraduate Students and Volunteers

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Nargis Ahmadi

MADURA Intern

Mentorship for Advancing Diversity in Undergraduate Research on Aging (MADURA) is a training opportunity funded by the NIH National Institute on Aging. More information can be found at there program website here: https://maduraprogram.ucsd.edu/

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Kayla T. Ponce

Student Intern

Kayla Ponce is graduating with a B.S. in Cognitive Science specializing in Neuroscience from UC San Diego. She is interested in the research and pathology of neurodegenerative diseases, specifically Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s Disease. She is planning on continuing her education in Cognitive Neuroscience.  

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