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Nainika R

- Research Program Mentor

PhD candidate at Columbia University


Alzheimer's disease, Neurodegenerative disease, Neuroimmunology, genetics, chronic pain,


Microglia, which are innate immune cells of the central nervous system, are a crucial and dynamic component of the brain's development, maintenance and defense. As a doctoral candidate in Neuroscience at Columbia University, I am investigating how variations in Alzheimer's disease (AD)-associated genes disrupt or enhance microglial function and how this contributes to disease pathogenesis. I am passionate about exploring the link between immune function and neurodegenerative disease and using CRISPR/Cas9-based technologies to dissect the precise role of genetic alterations on AD pathophysiology. Outside the lab, being in NYC is a great location for me to work towards my goal of trying cuisines from every country in the world! I've lived in three different continents and love travel and languages. I'm always keen to try new things - currently, I'm taking a summer pottery course!

Project ideas

Project ideas are meant to help inspire student thinking about their own project. Students are in the driver seat of their research and are free to use any or none of the ideas shared by their mentors.

Identifying Cellular Phenotypes Using CellProfiler

In this project, we will learn to process and analyze images from human brain tissue with fluorescent labeling of different cell type markers from different sets of patients that I have generated in my lab. You will learn to use the CellProfiler software to identify different cell types and capture various features (e.g. size, morphology, expression of different proteins). Next, you will compare these features across different datasets (e.g. control/healthy or male/female patients) to identify phenotypic differences. This project will provide you with valuable skills in image analysis and offer the opportunity to identify specific phenotypes in different patient populations.

Exploring different models of Alzheimer's disease

In order to understand the etiology of Alzheimer's disease and discover potential treatments, we need strong disease models in which we can test our hypotheses. There are a range of models in the field, such as mouse models or patient stem cell-based models, with a variety of environmental and genetic perturbations used. In this project, you will delve into the literature and explore the variety of models in use, and detail their benefits and drawbacks. This project will provide you with an in-depth understanding of how different models can capture different aspects of pathophysiology, and identify their strengths and weaknesses.

Teaching experience

I have a range of prior teaching experience, including neuroscience outreach work, direct mentorship of high school and undergraduate students interested in biomedical research careers, and classroom visits/tutoring.


Work experience

European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL) (2017 - 2018)
Research Intern


University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign (UIUC)
BS Bachelor of Science (2017)
Molecular and Cellular Biology
Columbia University
MPhil Master of Philosophy (2020)
Columbia University
PhD Doctor of Philosophy candidate

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