Graduate Students

 Nole Hiebert: Congratulations to Nole for successfully defending his PhD on May 11, 2018. If that’s not enough, consider that Nole will be attending UWO medical school this September.

My PhD, currently being completed under Dr. Penny MacDonald (PI) and Dr. Adrian Owen, is centred on elucidating the cognitive profile of Parkinson’s disease by understanding functions performed by the ventral and dorsal striatum using behavioural and neuroimaging techniques.  My MSc, also completed in Dr. Penny MacDonald’s lab, investigated the neural correlates of stimulus-response learning using functional magnetic resonance imaging and Parkinson’s disease.  My research interests include the pathophysiology of brain diseases and mental illnesses and using neuroimaging techniques as a diagnostic aid. 

 Andrew Vo: I am currently completing my doctoral studies in Psychology (Behavioural and Cognitive Neuroscience) under the direction of Dr. Penny MacDonald at the Brain and Mind Institute, Department of Psychology, University of Western Ontario.  I am interested in the role of dopamine and the striatum in different aspects of cognition.  My dissertation explores how cognitive functions mediated by the ventral striatum evolve with the progression of Parkinson’s disease and how dopaminergic therapy might address these symptoms.  We use behavioural, psychopharmacological, and functional MRI in both patients with Parkinson’s disease and healthy volunteers to test our hypotheses.
4W9A0123_web2Shiny Yang: Congratulations to Shiny for defending her MSc on June 12, 2018.

I am currently working towards my MSc in Psychology (Behavioural and Cognitive Neuroscience) under the supervision of Dr. Penny MacDonald. My thesis project aims to elucidate the effects of Parkinson’s disease and dopaminergic medication on cognitive control and motor planning in reaching movements using a countermanding paradigm. I am also involved in a project investigating how dopaminergic medication affects different aspects of impulsivity in Parkinson’s disease. My research interests lie in understanding the involvement of dopamine in various cognitive functions. 

4W9A1280_webAbdullah Al-Jaja: My name is Abdullah Al Jaja. I am completing my PhD in neuroscience under the co-supervision of Dr. Penny MacDonald (PI) and Dr. Jessica Grahn. My research investigates several aspects of Parkinson’s disease (PD). From a molecular level, we are looking at the genetic polymorphisms that increase or decrease dopaminergic signaling in the striatum. In another study, I am examining the effect of cognitive training and anxiety reduction on freezing of gait in PD patients. And lastly my third project investigate the changes in brain EEG activity and neural connectivity following auditory and visual processing. Globally, my projects aim to increase and strengthen our understanding of the dorsal and ventral striatum in PD.  
4W9A0387_web2Nicholas Handfield-Jones: I am a Master’s of Neuroscience student completing my thesis under the co-supervision of Dr. Penny MacDonald (PI), Dr. Ali Khan, and Dr. Adrian Owen. My research focuses primarily on understanding the neuroanatomy and neurocircuitry of the substantia nigra pars compacta and the ventral tegmental area, two important midbrain nuclei involved in a wide range of behaviours and diseases. My thesis aims to distinguish them and to map their neural projections using magnetic resonance imaging. I am also conducting a study investigating cognitive assessment scores of Parkinson’s disease patients.  
4W9A0365_web2Erind Alushaj: I am completing my MSc in Neuroscience under the co-supervision of Dr. Penny MacDonald (PI), Dr. Ali Khan, and Dr. Adrian Owen. My research focuses on defining the effects of early-stage Parkinson’s disease on the substantia nigra pars compacta and ventral tegmental area. We are using magnetic resonance imaging to parcellate these nuclei into sub-regions and detect changes in their structure, projections, and iron susceptibility using various techniques. I am also conducting a study looking to uncover preclinical biomarkers of Parkinson’s disease in patients with REM Sleep Behaviour Disorder (RBD).  


4W9A0127_web2Yoshiko Yabe: To be completed  
Kasey Van Hedger: I am joining Dr. Penny MacDonald’s lab as a postdoc in the summer of 2018 to pursue my research interests in the neural, cognitive, and behavioral effects of psychiatric disorders. I began my research career as an undergraduate at Smith College where I worked on projects assessing hazardous alcohol use and drinking games participation among high school and college students with Byron Zamboanga. I completed my PhD in 2015 at the University of Chicago studying the psychophysiology of time perception with Greg Norman, and have spent the past three years as a postdoc in the Human Behavioral Pharmacology Lab working with Harriet de Wit. I am interested in psychophysiology, neuropsychopharmacology, and neuroimaging, particularly as each contributes to our understanding of substance use disorders.  


4W9A0350_web2Ozhand Ganjavi: To be completed  



  • Adrian Owen
  • Mel Goodale
  • Ali Khan
  • Tim Bussey
  • Lisa Saksida
  • Frank Prato
  • Lena Palaniyappan
  • Stefan Kohler
  • Brian Corneil
  • Richard Kim
  • Jessica Grahn
  • Mandar Jog: UWO – Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry
  • Mary Jenkins: UWO – Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry
  • Hooman Ganjavi: UWO – Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry
  • Daniel Mendonca
  • Jennifer Barr: UWO – Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry
  • Marcus Povitz: UWO – Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry
  • Alia Kashgari: UWO – Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry
  • Michael Mak: UWO – Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry


Trainees: Current & Past

Current Undergraduate Students

  • Lauren Chan

NSERC Summer Students

  • Kelvin Zhou (2018) (Class of 2021 @ Michael G. DeGroote School of Medicine, McMaster University)

Western Work-Study Program

  • Jessica Chuchin (2017-2018)

Former Graduate Students

  • Shiny Yang, MSc
  • Nole Hiebert, MSc, PhD (completed both degrees in the lab)
  • Daniel Glizer, MA
  • Kate Merritt, MSc (UOttawa Medical School, Class of 2022)
  • Brian Robertson, MSc (UWO Medical School)

Former Thesis Students

  • Rita Gustainis
  • Brian Lauzon (McMaster University, Michael G. DeGroote School of Medicine)
  • Lauren Chan
  • Collier Jiang (Medical School @ UofT)
  • Halley Gallant
  • Alyson Zwicker (Grad student, Pathology, Dalhousie University)
  • Jeffrey Lam
  • Omer Dost, MD (Resident Physician – Alberta Health Services)
  • Alexander Yan (MD/PhD student, UWO)
  • James Joon-Hyuck Im
  • Allyson Partridge
  • Brian Robertson
  • Andrew Vo

Former Summer Research Training Program Students

Schulich Medicine & Dentistry Office

  • Shreya Roy, MD (UWO, Class of 2016)
  • Cody Van Valkenburg, MD (UWO, Class of 2018)

PEL Co-op Placement

  • Jack Bai (2018, A.B. Lucas Secondary School)
  • Alice Sung (2018, A.B. Lucas Secondary School)

Former Research Assistants

  • Alex A. MacDonald (Medical School @ UofT, Class of 2018)
  • Ruzbeh Tamjeedi, LL.B
  • Stephanie Solcz, MD (UWO, Class of 2015)
  • Allison Berger

Note: Current status not available for all former students.