PhD Candidates

Meet the McPoppers

Principal Investigators

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Dana McTigue, PhD

Dana received a PhD in Physiology from OSU in 1995 and established the McTigue lab in 2003 to understand glial cell biology (particularly cells of oligodendrocyte lineage) and metabolic dysfunction after spinal cord injury. When not researching and mentoring, Dana enjoys walking and playing with her dogs Mazie and Rosie.


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Phil Popovich, PhD

Phil received a PhD in Physiology in 1995 from OSU and established the Popovich lab at OSU in 1999 to understand the implications of dysfunctional neuro-immune dialogue caused by spinal cord injury. When not contemplating neuroimmunology, Phil enjoys sports, playing guitar, and nice bourbon.


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Lab Manager


Lori Hudson, BS

Lori completed her Bachelor of Science at Mount Union College and became a research associate and lab manager for the Popovich and McTigue labs in 2009. As well as managing McPoppers, Lori manages up to 27 transgenic mouse colonies, as well as the new germ free mouse colony. In her free time, Lori enjoys hiking, practicing yoga, singing in her church choir, and being with her family.

Research Scientists

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Kristina (Krissy) Kigerl, PhD

Krissy received a PhD in 2006 from the Ohio State University in the Popovich lab, with funding from an NIH F31 fellowship. During her PhD, Krissy characterized the role of the innate immune response and toll-like receptors in experimental spinal cord injury. In 2007 she became a Craig H. Neilsen post-doctoral fellow in the Popovich lab, where she identified macrophages with distinct phenotypes in spinal lesions. Since 2011, Dr. Kigerl has been a research scientist in the Popovich lab investigating how gut dysbiosis impairs recovery from spinal cord injury. In her free time Krissy enjoys spending time with her family, reading, and being outdoors.  


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Jodie Hall, PhD

Jodie completed her PhD at Queen Mary University of London in England in 2010. She coordinates research at the Belford Center for Spinal Cord Injury. In collaboration with other Belford Center researchers, Jodie studies ways to prevent complications such as pneumonia and changes in gut bacteria after spinal cord injury. Jodie is also funded by the Ohio Third Frontier and Wings for Life Foundations to investigate ways to “train" immune cells to help fight infections after spinal cord injury. Jodie enjoys spending time with her young family and hopes to revive former hobbies of Capoeira, travel, and hiking.


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Faith Brennan, PhD

Faith completed her PhD in Physiology at the University of Queensland in Australia in 2015. She first joined the Popovich lab as a post-doctoral fellow in August 2016 and became a Research scientist in the summer of 2020. Her research, funded by fellowships from the Craig H. Neilsen and Wings for Life Foundations, explores how resident cells in the spinal cord called microglia can be harnessed to improve outcomes from traumatic spinal cord injury. Faith also received funding from the Neuroscience Research Institute and the Chronic Brain Injury Discovery Themes Initiative. Outside the lab, Faith enjoys drawing, graphic design, running, and eating cake.


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Zhen Guan

Zhen completed his Medical Diploma at Shanghai University of TCM in China and joined the Popovich lab as a research technician in 2000. Zhen is a master of rodent microsurgery. His research involves developing and performing spinal cord injury modeling and other complex procedures including intraspinal transplantation, intrathecal catheterization for drug infusion, microinjection, and radio-telemetry probe implantation. When not doing surgery or training McPop staff and students, Zhen enjoys gardening, fishing, photography, and traveling.

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Ping Wei

Ping completed her college degree in basic medical science in China and joined the McTigue lab as a research technical staff in 2000. Ping is an expert in histology, immunochemistry, confocal microscopy, and image analysis for spinal cord injury research. Many McPoppers have learned to cut and stain perfect sections under Ping’s guidance! Ping's interests include traveling, photography, and cooking.


Wenmin Lai

Wenmin is a research technician in the Popovich lab in charge of performing and training students in molecular biology techniques, and she also performs mouse microsurgery. When not in the lab, Wenmin enjoys Chinese folk dancing, hiking, running, and traveling.


Rochelle Diebert, BS

Rochelle has been a Research Associate in the McTigue Lab since 2013. She received a B.S. in biological sciences from Rio Grande College in Rio Grande, OH, an Associates in Veterinary Technology from Columbus State in Columbus, OH, and also has a registered nursing degree from Hondros College in Columbus, OH. Her hobbies include running, hiking, and skiing.

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Christina Lepak, MS

Christina completed her Master’s in Cognitive and Clinical Neuroscience at Goldsmiths University in London, UK. She joined the McTigue lab in 2019 as a research associate, where she assists grad students, post docs, and other lab members with various research projects. Her specializations include rodent surgery, dissection, behavior, histology, and imaging. When not in the lab, Christina enjoys being active and outdoors as much as possible.

Post-doctoral scholars


Manoj Gottipati, PhD

Manoj is a Research Associate at the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute working with Dr. Ryan Gilbert in the Department of Biomedical Engineering. To promote interdisciplinary collaborative efforts, he moved to OSU and joined the Popovich Lab in 2016 as a Visiting Scholar. Manoj received his PhD in Biomedical Engineering from the University of Alabama, Birmingham in 2015. His research designs and implements biomaterial therapies to target astrocyte reactivity in rodent models of spinal cord injury. He received postdoctoral fellowships from the Craig H. Neilsen foundation in 2017 and the Paralyzed Veterans of America Research Foundation in 2020. Outside the lab, Manoj enjoys hiking, playing tennis, and cooking multicultural cuisines with an Indian twist. 


Katherine Mifflin, PhD

Katherine completed her Ph.D. in Neuroscience at the University of Alberta in Edmonton, Canada in 2018. She joined the Popovich lab as a post-doctoral fellow in 2018 and named a President’s Postdoctoral Scholar in 2019. Her research, currently funded by a fellowship from the Craig H. Neilsen Foundation, investigates how changes in lung immunity after spinal cord injury leads infection susceptibility. Katherine's hobbies include hiking, biking, and baking. She is sometimes nicknamed ‘Poppins’ for her extraordinary ability to fit many items into small spaces.


Pilar Manrique, PhD

Pilar completed her PhD in Microbiology and Immunology at Montana State University in 2018. Specifically, she studied the role of gut bacteriophages in human health and disease. She joined the Popovich lab as a postdoctoral researcher in 2019 to study the influence of the gut microbiome in recovery following traumatic injury to the central nervous system. When she is not doing science, she loves to go hiking, kayaking, skiing, and climbing - basically anything outside in nature! 

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Christina Marion, PhD

Christina received her PhD in Neuroscience from Uniformed Services University in Bethesda, MD. She joined the McTigue lab as a postdoctoral fellow in 2019. Her research, funded by NIH/NINDS, seeks to better understand and promote naturally regenerative cells in the spinal cord after injury. In her spare time Christina likes to cook, brew beer, read horror novels, and travel.


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Damon DiSabato, PhD

Damon completed his PhD in Neuroscience at The Ohio State University in 2021 and joined McTigue lab as a post-doctoral scholar soon after. His research is focused on the role for IL-1, TNF, and NF-kB signaling in spinal cord injury-induced liver inflammation. Damon’s hobbies include playing volleyball and video games, reading, and collecting vinyl records.

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PhD Students

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Kathryn Madalena, BS

Kathryn graduated from Case Western Reserve University with a BS in Biology and minors in Math and Cognitive Science in 2014. Having gained experience working in spinal cord injury research while at CWRU, she entered the Neuroscience Graduate Program at OSU. Kathryn is currently a PhD candidate the Popovich lab exploring how glucocorticoid signaling influences inflammation and recovery after traumatic spinal cord injury and peripheral nerve injury. Kathryn also coordinates the McPop Twitter and Instagram feed. Outside the lab Kathryn enjoys fitness, cooking, hanging out with her cat, sci-fi movies, and a well-made cocktail.


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Kyleigh Rodgers

Kyleigh is currently a MD/PhD student in the Popovich lab. She completed her MS in Integrative Biology and Physiology at The University of California in 2017, with Dr. V. Reggie Edgerton. Her MS research focused on mechanisms underlying recovery of voluntary motor control after spinal cord injury. Kyleigh began her PhD in the Popovich lab in spring, 2020 and received an MS in neuroscience in 2022. Kyleigh's PhD research investigates mechanisms underlying immune deficiency after traumatic spinal cord injury with a specific focus on the bone marrow hematopoietic system. Outside the lab, Kyleigh enjoys gardening and watching TV series.


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Anthony Alfredo, BS

Anthony graduated from OSU in 2016 with a B.S. in Neuroscience and was an undergraduate researcher in the McTigue lab for 2 years before starting his graduate research in the McTigue lab. His PhD research focuses on metabolic dysfunction in the liver after spinal cord injury. In his free time, Anthony enjoys reading and cooking.


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Yonaida Valentine, BS

A native New Yorker, Yonaida received a B.S. in Integrative Neuroscience from Binghamton University in 2017. After college she explored her interest in neurotrauma research through the NIH PREP program at Baylor of Medicine. Yonaida is currently a Ph.D. student in the McTigue lab, and her graduate research explores how injury to the spinal cord can dysregulate liver metabolic function and how this might be treated. Yonaida is a fan of the great indoors but can usually be convinced to be in nature.

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Dorsin Chang, BS

Dorsin completed her B.S. in Molecular Biology (Biochemistry track) at University of Pittsburgh in 2018, then worked at Carnegie Mellon University developing molecular tools to label synapses. Her PhD research in the McTigue lab investigates the intersection between spinal cord injury, liver inflammation, and metabolic dysfunction. Outside the lab, Dorsin enjoys bubble tea, classical music, and attempting youtube home workouts.

Undergraduate students


Coming soon!


Nafisa Noor

Nafisa is a second year undergraduate student at The Ohio State University. She joined the McTigue lab April 2021 as a Student Research Assistant where she helps out in the lab and learns as much about neuroscience research as possible. Nafisa’s hobbies include reading, taking naps with her dog, and painting. 

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McPop Lab Mascots



The original McPop Mascot, Mazie enjoys hanging out with Phil and Dana and coaching her young apprentice Rosie in running around and general mischief.



The youngest member of the lab, Rosie likes treats, cuddles, walks with Dana and Phil, and playing with her buddy Mazie.