Our Mentors


Jason Newbern Ph.D

Assistant Professor
ASU School of Life Sciences

Jason Newbern's research is centered on developmental neuroscience. His laboratory studies the biochemical mechanisms that direct the formation of the brain and spinal cord. He uses genetic, cellular, and molecular techniques to investigate the development of neurons and glia in the nervous system.



Heather Bimonte-Nelson, Ph.D

Behavioral Neuroscience Program Professor
ASU School of Life Sciences

For over two decades Dr. Bimonte-Nelson has been conducting preclinical evaluations of multiple domains of cognitive function as related to aging, with a special focus on transitional and surgical menopause, and exogenous and endogenous hormone exposures across the lifespan. She has published over 70 peer reviewed manuscripts evaluating hormone effects on the brain and behavior from early development until old age, with her earlier work showing that female brain organization is actively feminized by estrogens, and that estrogen exposures across the lifespan impact the female phenotype. She has expertise in behavioral measurements and related neurobiological assays, especially as associated with aging and hormone milieu.



Gene Brewer, Ph.D.

Psychology, Associate Professor
College of Liberal Arts and Sciences

Dr. Brewer’s interests include behavioral and electrophysiological recording of memory processes, prospective memory, source memory, recognition memory, individual differences in working memory, and emotional effects on memory. Additionally, he is interested in statistical models of memory and other statistical applications within psychology.



Brent Vernon, Ph.D

Associate Professor
School Biological & Health Systems Engineering

Brent Vernon is an Associate Professor of Biomedical Engineering in the School of Biological and Health Systems Engineering. He has a general background in bioengineering, with specific training and expertise in biomaterials and polymeric science. As a PhD student at the University of Utah, he pursued development of novel temperature responsive polymer systems for islet encapsulation for insulin drug delivery. As a postdoc at the University of Zurich and the ETH in Zurich Switzerland, he expanded his research to include organic chemistry of Poly(ethylene glycol) and poly(propylene glycol) for development of in situ gelling materials for tissue bulking. Since joining Arizona State University in 2000, he has continued the development of injectable, in situ forming biomaterials for drug delivery and tissue reconstruction.



Geidy Serrano, Ph.D.

Brain and Body Donation Program
Banner Sun Health Research Institute

In 2000 Dr. Serrano graduated with honors from the University of Puerto Rico, Cayey Campus, and worked for a year in a biochemistry laboratory at the University of Florida. In 2006 she completed her doctoral degree in Anatomy at the University of Puerto Rico, Medical Science Campus, where she developed scientific skills, not only technical but also analytical. While pursuing her doctoral degree, she received the Minority in Neuroscience Fellowship from the Society of Neuroscience and had the honor to do an Internship at the Marine Biological Laboratory at Woods Whole, MA. In 2007 she started a postdoctoral appointment at Emory University’s School of Medicine and received a National Research Service Award Training Grant (F32-NINDS). After three years of postdoctoral training, she joined the Brain and Body Donation program at Banner Sun Health Research, Sun City, Arizona. Her work allows her to contribute to brain and biospecimen research that pursues the understanding of neurological disorders around the world.

Dr. Serrano’s most recent research contributions are in neurodegeneration of aging in humans and gender differences. Her most recent publication suggests that, when affected by Alzheimer’s Disease, females progress more often to severe cognitive dysfunction, due to more severe neurofibrillary degeneration and greater loss of brain parenchyma. Other relevant work involved the search for a peripheral biopsy for Parkinson Disease and a feasibility study of frontal cortex needle core biopsy for detection of characteristic proteinopathies of neurodegenerative diseases.



Mike Malek-Ahmadi, PhD, GStat

Bioinformatics Research Analyst
Banner Alzheimer's Institute

Dr. Malek-Ahmadi earned a BS in Psychology from the University of Arizona, a MS in Epidemiology from the University of South Florida, and a PhD in Psychology from the University of Westminster. He has worked in the field of Alzheimer’s disease research since 2003 and is an author on over 50 peer-reviewed journal articles in the areas of Alzheimer’s disease, mild cognitive impairment, and normal aging. Dr. Malek-Ahmadi’s current work at the Banner Alzheimer’s Institute involves the analysis of clinical, neuropsychological, and neuropathological data used toward identifying and characterizing pre-clinical Alzheimer’s disease.



Kathy O’Connor, MS

Outreach Program Manager
Banner Sun Health Research Institute

Kathy O’Connor manages several programs including the Longevity Project, Learning from our Elders research project and Community Outreach for the Center for Healthy Aging at Banner Sun Health Research Institute in Sun City, Arizona.


Adjunct Faculty, College of Humanities and Social Sciences, Mental Health and Wellness/Gerontology curriculum, Grand Canyon University, Phoenix, AZ
Bachelors of Science, Business Management, Arizona State University
Post Graduate Certificate in Gerontology, Arizona State University
Masters in Professional Counseling, Ottawa University