Spotlight on Research 2022


December 2022

Sean Piantadosi, PhD is a post-doctoral fellow in the laboratory of Dr. Michael Bruchas in the University of Washington Center of Excellence in Neurobiology of Addiction, Pain, and Emotion and a T32 research fellow in the Department of Anesthesiology and Pain Medicine. His work in the Bruchas lab seeks to understand how the amygdala encodes valence, anxiety, and avoidance, with an emphasis on the role of neuromodulators such as norepinephrine. He hopes to combine pharmacological and deep brain imaging approaches in mouse models to identify new and more efficacious treatments for psychiatric illnesses.

Dr. Piantadosi received his bachelor’s degree in Psychology with a minor in Neuroscience from Saint Mary’s College of Maryland, before spending two years as a research technician in the laboratory of Dr. Todd Gould at the University of Maryland, Baltimore. With Dr. Gould, he received his initial training in classic behavioral pharmacology, investigating how ketamine and ketamine-like compounds produced antidepressant effects. Dr. Piantadosi then moved on to graduate school at the University of Pittsburgh, conducting his dissertation research in the laboratory of Dr. Susanne Ahmari. With Dr. Ahmari, he used mouse models to investigate cortico-striatal neural activity dysfunction in compulsive behavior, and how the first line therapeutic fluoxetine normalized this dysfunction. He also conducted translational experiments in post-mortem tissue from human subjects with obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), identifying critical synaptic abnormalities in cortico-striatal brain regions.

Outside of the laboratory, Dr. Piantadosi enjoys playing guitar, video games, and various sports. He is trying to increase his exploration of the Pacific Northwest and could use recommendations for good outdoor activities and hikes!

November 2022

We are proud to shine this month’s spotlight on two CA3 residents participating in the APM Residency Research Track.


Research interests of Nancy Boulos, MD, MPH include epidemiology, critical care, and public health.  For the research track opportunity, Dr. Boulos chose to work with Dr. Vikas O’Reilly-Shah to examine the role anesthesiologists have in improving long-term patient outcomes. Her project focused on the potential racial and ethnic disparities in selection of anesthetic type (general anesthesia (GA) vs monitored anesthesia care (MAC)) and potential differences in 30-day outcomes for endovascular procedures. The first portion of this project was presented at the Western Anesthesia Resident’s Conference (WARC) 2021. Using the NSQIP database and collaborating with researchers from UCSD and UCLA, Dr. Boulos found a reduction in morbidity in patients who received MAC for endovascular angioplasty in aortoiliac disease compared to GA.

Dr. Boulos’ extracurricular interests include playing tennis, paddle boarding, and painting.



David Weiss, DO worked on two projects focused on pain.  Under the mentorship of Dr. Daniel Raftery, Dr. Weiss used nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectroscopy to study downstream biologic processes associated with chronic pain. Working with Dr. Michele Curatolo, Dr. Weiss studied the use of ketamine to prevent post operative chronic pain.  The unique opportunity to examine the biochemical pathways of chronic pain aligns with Dr. Weiss’ interest in academic anesthesia and pain medicine. Dr. Weiss also believes the development of metabolomics will be in be influential in the future study of chronic pain conditions.

Dr. Weiss appreciates the opportunities provided by the Resident Research Track to continue his interest in academic anesthesia research which began in medical school with projects in pediatric pain and the application of virtual reality technologies. Next year, he plans to continue conducting anesthesia research with a Pain Fellowship at Pennsylvania State University.

Outside of work Dr. Weiss enjoys traveling, trying new foods, and music.


October 2022

This month’s young investigator spotlight features 6 APM residents participating in the Bonica Scholars Research Program. The program is named for Dr. John Bonica, a pioneer in pain medicine and the first Chair of the Anesthesiology Department at UW. The multiyear training program fosters scientific discovery in anesthesiology and perioperative medicine and is designed for anesthesiology residents committed to a career in academic research. Candidates apply through the national residency match process and up to two residents a year are selected as Bonica Scholars. Additional information is available from program director, Dr. Margaret Sedensky, or from the Bonica Scholars website.

Philip Chung, MD, MS, CA3:  Philip’s research interests include medical informatics, natural language processing, and deep learning. He is presenting an oral and poster presentation at the 2022 ASA Conference entitled Comparison of Machine Learning Approaches for Predicting ASA Physical Status Classification from Pre-operative History of Present Illness Text.  In his free time, he enjoys hiking throughout the Cascade and Olympic mountains.

Miles Fontenot, MD, PhD, CA3: Miles is working with Dr. Michele Curatolo to conduct a clinical trial examining the use of virtual reality as a therapy for patients with chronic pain. In his free time, Miles enjoys hiking, rock climbing, and hanging out with his dog Teddy.

Ksenia Ershova, MD, MS, CA2:  Ksenia’s research goal is to improve quality of care by studying routinely collected critical care and anesthesiology data using high-throughput technologies and advanced mathematical modeling.  She is currently working with Dr. Nicholas Kassebaum on healthcare outcomes in patients with sickle cell disease.

Outside of clinical and research work, Ksenia enjoys skiing, hiking, and biking.

Hanan Baker, MD, PhD, CA1:  Hanan’s research with Drs. Garret Stuber and Michael Bruchas (NAPE Center) focuses on studying how psychedelics affect the brain in the hopes of better understanding consciousness and memory. She uses single cell RNA sequencing, 2-photon calcium imaging, and artificial intelligence-based behavioral analyses to learn about how psychedelics affect the mouse prefrontal cortex on molecular and network levels.  Hanan enjoys a variety of adventure sports, like surfing, snowboarding and ice skating. She was born and raised in Fresno, California with one older sister who is a plastic surgery resident. She visits her parents in Fresno often, to pick fresh fruits and veggies from the yard and cuddle with her three cats.

Maciej Czarnecki, MD, PhD, CA1:  With a background in virology, Maciej’s research interests lie in understanding the complex dance between host and pathogen. This fall he will be studying the molecular underpinnings of reactive airway disease with a specific focus on the interaction between type II inflammation and viral upper respiratory infections. By understanding the molecular changes effected by viral infection of the respiratory epithelium, he hopes to better understand potential pathways for therapeutic intervention in airway disease.

When not in the ORs or lab, Maciej likes to relax by cultivating his hobbies including gaming, sailing, and casual sports. This winter he looks forward to returning to the ski slopes and hopefully learning how to golf in the following months.

Ian Jones, MD, CBY:  Ian is interested in the treatment of chronic and post-surgical pain.  He recently started working with Dr. Jennifer Rabbitts on a project that will examine melatonin for post pain in children.  Additional interests include post-surgical outcomes, diagnostics, and resident/student education and wellness.  Ian enjoys being outdoors, playing guitar, gardening, hanggliding/paragliding, and spending time with friends and family.



September 2022


Nicholas J Kassebaum, MD is a WWAMI native originally from the Yakima Valley who spent autumn weekends of his childhood yelling his heart out at Huskies home football games on Saturdays. He decided to go away for college, but after graduating from Macalester College (St. Paul, MN) and medical school at Vanderbilt University (Nashville, TN), Nick came back to Seattle where he completed a transitional year internship at Virginia Mason followed by anesthesiology residency here at University of Washington, and pediatric anesthesiology fellowship at Seattle Children’s Hospital. He has been on the faculty since 2012. He attended in the operating rooms and on the pain service at SCH for six years then in 2018 transitioned to working clinically at Harborview Medical Center.

Dr. Kassebaum’s deep desire to help use his time, energy, and skills to improve global health and equity through research has informed many of his career choices, including a decision to become a doctor, an anesthesiologist, to study health metrics, and to pursue a career as a Clinician-Scientist. Nick’s involvement with the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) and Global Burden of Disease (GBD) project began when he was in residency on the Resident Research Track, an optional CA3 block where trainees can work to craft an application for a 6-month dedicated period of time to pursue a research project. And he never left. He is now Associate Professor in the Department of Anesthesiology and Pain Medicine, Adjunct Associate Professor in Health Metrics Sciences and Global Health at University of Washington. As Research Team Lead for Neonatal and Child Health (NCH) at the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME), a position he has held since 2016, Nick leads a team of dedicated researchers, managers, and data professionals who work together to analyze, using “big data” techniques, individual-level and population data to estimate levels, trends, and correlates of death and disability. “The guiding principle of my research is that by understanding the past, current, and future landscape of disease burden, we will be better positioned to identify effective preventive measures, combat structural and intersectional drivers of inequity, and appropriately target policies, treatments and system-level changes to provide health-giving or life-saving interventions,” says Nick.

The topic areas of Dr. Kassebaum’s research are related primarily to the field collectively known as RMNCAH/N (Reproductive, Maternal, Neonatal, Child and Adolescent Health and Nutrition), with completed and ongoing (and hopefully future) work in oral health, demographics of aging, burden of surgical disease, human resources for health, and adverse effects of medical treatment. He has published extensively on the findings of this research, presented at multiple national and international conferences, and been invited to serve on more than 15 international technical advisory groups through organizations including WHO, UNICEF, World Bank, and the MITS Surveillance Alliance. Current and past funding support for Dr. Kassebaum’s work have come from National Institutes of Health, the Patient Safety Movement Foundation, Smile Train International, and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

When not working, Nick likes to spend time outdoors, travel to new places, and meet new people. He and his wife also love to spend time gardening, completing home DIY projects, cooking many different types of delicious food, and sitting on their porch with their cats and chatting with folks wandering the neighborhood. (Are they chatting with the cats or the people? We don’t know. Maybe both.)


July/August 2022


Matthew Walker, PhD is an Acting Instructor at the Mitochondria and Metabolism Center (MMC) in South Lake Union.  As a member of the MMC, directed by Dr. Rong Tian, Matthew explores the translational potential of mitochondrial targeted therapies. Dr. Walker holds a PhD in cardiovascular pharmacology from the Medical College of Georgia.  His PhD work focused on the development of cell-permeable peptides that cross the cell membrane of cardiac myocytes and enter the mitochondrial membrane to enhance metabolic performance. Here at UW, he has been funded by the NIH National Research Service Award to study methods of increasing NAD+ synthesis in pre-clinical models of heart failure. In April, Dr. Walker received a 3-year career development grant from the American Heart Association to study mitochondrial biogenesis in heart failure.

Originally from the east coast, Dr. Walker earned his bachelor’s degree in biology from the University of Kentucky and did his post-bachelor work in the field of cardiovascular perfusion. After finishing his medical rotations at Yale Medical Center, he worked as a clinical perfusionist (operating the heart and lung machine) in a busy open-heart surgical department before transitioning to research full-time. Outside of work, Dr. Walker is an avid whitewater kayaker and competes occasionally in extreme whitewater races. He and his wife Taylor enjoy skiing, hiking, and fishing.

Dr. Walker believes the MMC is an excellent research environment for trainees and provides the necessary tools and collaborations to develop extramurally funded research programs. In addition, he was recently nominated to serve on the APM’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (EDI) Council. He is excited about this opportunity and looks forward to working with the current council members and the APM in this important endeavor.

June 2022

Left to right: Jennifer Rabbitts, Tonya Palermo, Emily Law

Dr. Tonya Palermo, PhD, is a Professor of Anesthesiology & Pain Medicine, Adjunct Professor of Pediatrics and Psychiatry, and holds the Hughes M. and Katherine Blake Endowed Professorship in Health Psychology. Dr. Palermo also serves as Associate Director of the Center for Child Health, Behavior and Development at Seattle Children’s Research Institute (SCRI).

Dr. Palermo was first introduced to pain research as an undergraduate at the University of California at Los Angeles where she worked with Lonnie Zeltzer, MD in the UCLA Pediatric Pain Program. This early experience sparked an enduring interest in childhood pain. As a doctoral student in clinical psychology at Case Western Reserve University, Dr. Palermo  focused on pain management in pediatric patients.  Dr. Palermo held faculty appointments at Rainbow Babies & Children’s Hospital in Cleveland and at Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU) in the Department of Anesthesiology and Perioperative Medicine before arriving at UW in 2010.

At UW Dr. Palermo developed the Pediatric Pain and Sleep Innovations Lab which has the overarching goal to improve the lives of children with pain and their families. Dr. Palermo’s research program has been funded continuously by NIH for the past 22 years and spans a wide breadth of clinical, translational, and epidemiological research in acute and chronic pain in children, adolescents, and young adults. Dr. Palermo is particularly interested in prevention and psychosocial treatment of pain in children and adolescents. She is well known for her pioneering work in developing and implementing low cost and accessible digital health interventions (Internet interventions and smartphone applications) for management of chronic pain in youth.

Dr. Palermo provides scientific direction and leadership in several areas in the department. About 10 years ago, she created a mentoring program for junior faculty in the division of pediatric anesthesia and since 2012, Dr. Palermo has directed the UW T32 postdoctoral training program in anesthesiology research. She has successfully renewed the T32 training grant twice and will be working on the third renewal later this year. Dr. Palermo also provides individual mentorship to numerous investigators who are engaged in pain and clinical research. As a mentor, she enjoys helping to build research careers and supporting the growth of junior investigators; Dr. Palermo reported that “mentoring is the best part of my job.”

As a recipient of the 2021 UW Medicine Award for Excellence in Mentoring Women Faculty, Dr. Palermo stated, “I was fortunate to have experiences early in my training with outstanding mentors. From them I learned valuable lessons about the importance of not only inspiring others to think creatively and ask innovative scientific questions but also the importance of building genuine relationships, learning, and laughing together. This award is special to me because it represents my commitment to the careers and lives of the women who I’ve had the privilege to support over my career.”


June 2022

14th Annual Academic Evening Awards

Judy Su, PhD Endowed Research Training Award for Basic Science, $1250

Rhiana Simon, BS, PhD Candidate; Madelyn Hjort, Graduate; Pranav Senthilkumar, Undergrad; Gabrielle Cooper, Undergrad; Garret Stuber, PhD; et al: Transcriptional and Functional Characterization of Septal Cell Types During Opioid Dependence and Withdrawal

 Judy Su, PhD Endowed Research Training Award for Clinical Research, $1250

Rui Li, PhD; Tonya Palermo, PhD; Jennifer Rabbitts, MD:  Quantitative Sensory Testing Predicts Postsurgical Acute and Chronic Pain among Youth after Spinal Fusion Surgery

 Excellence in Research Award, Second Place, $500 

Marian Giles, MBBS; Ronald Pauldine, MD; William Van Cleve, MD, MPH: Prior Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome is Associated With Perioperative Pulmonary Complications: A Retrospective Cohort Study

 Excellence in Research Award, Third Place, $250

Dennis Wang, MD, PhD; Rong Tian, MD, PhD; Isabella Tucker, Undergrad: Boosting NAD To Combat Heart Failure Sterile Inflammation

 Honorable Mention Awards:

Philip Chung, MD, MS; Meliha Yetisgen, PhD; Vikas O’Reilly-Shah, MD, PhD: Comparison of Machine Learning Approaches for Predicting ASA Physical Status Classification From Pre-operative History of Present Illness Text

David Marcus, PhD: Neuromodulatory Tuning of Behavioral Engagement Via a PVT-Nac Circuit


May 2022

Meet Toni Hsu, PhD, a Research Scientist and Lab Manager in the Tian Lab at the Mitochondria and Metabolism Center (MMC) at South Lake Union.  We asked her a few questions for this feature.

How did you get into this line of research?  My background is actually behavioral neuroscience so I am grateful that Dr. Tian took a chance and hired me as her lab manager.  I am learning about metabolism and cardiovascular diseases as I go, but fortunately a lot of techniques that I already know are useful to the lab.  Having been trained as a neuroscientist I’ve since learned to appreciate organs outside the head, such as the heart!

What does your typical workday look like?  My day starts with checking and responding to emails, and then it can go into different directions because I wear multiple hats in the lab.  My goal is to keep the lab operating smoothly and safely, so my day is split between lab management (safety regulations and personnel training, purchasing, equipment operation and maintenance), finance (grants and budgeting), animal maintenance, and periodically running pilot studies.  Oh and in between those trying to answer whatever questions lab members throw at me.

What has been your most significant accomplishment/finding?  I wouldn’t call this significant accomplishment, but I am very fortunate to have worked with multiple animal models and lots of people (including a Nobel Prize laureate).  Moving up the evolutionary ladder, I’ve worked with crustaceans, Drosophila, tilapia and rodents studying a wide range of topics from neuroendocrinology, biological rhythms/sleep, to behaviors such as depression and anxiety, and finally to metabolism and cardiovascular diseases.

Any advice for others looking to get into this field?  Research in general can be stressful and time-consuming, so you need to have a fairly high threshold for stress tolerance.  But it is very exciting and rewarding, which keeps you going.  In grad school I had to develop a fluorescent in situ protocol from scratch.  I will always remember turning on the microscope and seeing the fluorescent cells staring back at me, and I was like omg it actually worked!

What one thing would you like people to know about you?  I have been volunteering at the Seattle Aquarium since 2012, and it allows me to sort of return to the time when I worked with crustaceans during grad school at UW Biology.  Find me Saturday afternoons and I can give you a tour!


April 2022

Dustin Long, MD is an Assistant Professor in the Division of Critical Care Medicine.  In March, Dr. Long received a 5-year NIH Mentored Patient-Oriented Research Career Development Award (K23) in the amount of $831,000 from the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases (NIAMS)  for his proposal “Targeting the Patient Microbiome for the Prevention of Surgical Site Infection in Spine Surgery.” His mentors are Dr. Monica Vavilala, Dr. Stephen Salipante (UW Dept. Laboratory Medicine and Pathology), and Dr. John Alverdy (University of Chicago Dept. Surgery). Other advisors include Drs. John Lynch, Jeffrey Jarvik (CLEAR), Lucas Hoffman, and William Lack. The aims of the study are to define the origins of the bacteria causing wound infection in spine surgery and to identify clinical and genetic markers than can be used to implement tailored approaches to prevention, such as personalized surgical antibiotic prophylaxis based on the preoperative microbiome. Dr. Long  has ongoing collaborations with the Harborview Injury Prevention and Research Center, Department of Orthopaedics and Sports Medicine, and Division of Trauma, Burn and Critical Care Surgery, studying the role of the patient microbiome in outcomes of shoulder arthroplasty and major burn injury.

Dr. Long completed his MD and a NIH TL1 clinical translational research fellowship at the University of California, San Francisco, followed by anesthesiology residency in the research track at Massachusetts General Hospital. He then came to the University of Washington for fellowship training in critical care medicine.

Dr. Long’s clinical experiences caring for patients in the ICU with healthcare-associated infections and prior research experience in the human genetics of susceptibility to viral infection led him to pursue focused research training in microbiome sciences and bacterial epidemiology through the APM T32 research training program. As a T32 fellow in the Salipante Laboratory, he studied the genetics of Staphylococcus aureus respiratory infection, the epidemiology of surgical site infection in spine surgery, and the reproducibility of SARS-CoV2 RT-PRC test results during the early pandemic.

Clinically, Dr. Long enjoys caring for patients in the Harborview Trauma-Surgical Intensive Care Unit and operating room, as well as working with Infection Prevention and Control teams to advance the quality and safety of care across the UW enterprise. He and his family love exploring the Pacific Northwest and learning about the history of the area. They live in West Seattle and are counting down the days until the bridge reopens.



March 2022

Kira Spencer, PhD is a postdoctoral researcher in Dr. Simon Johnson’s lab in the Center for Integrative Brain Research at Seattle Children’s Research Institute and is currently a T32 research fellow with UW Anesthesiology and Pain Medicine. Her primary project is investigating the role of astrocytes in emergence from anesthesia. She has also contributed to projects examining anesthetic induced toxicity in a mouse model of mitochondrial disease as well as work with Dr. Margaret Sedensky and Dr. Phil Morgan studying the molecular mechanisms underlying anesthetic action in the spinal cord.

Originally from the Midwest, Dr. Spencer earned a bachelor’s degree in biology from Macalester College in St. Paul, MN. With an interest in neurodevelopment and a desire to escape to a warmer climate, she decided to pursue a PhD in neuroscience from the University of California, Davis. She completed her dissertation work with Dr. Laura Borodinsky, studying how environmental temperature influences spinal cord development in a frog model system at the Institute for Pediatric and Regenerative Medicine at Shriners Children’s Hospital in Sacramento, CA. As a result of her PhD work, Dr. Spencer developed a fascination with how changes in physiological or environmental factors challenge neuronal homeostasis and the subsequent pathologies that occur. As a postdoctoral fellow her work has focused on studies investigating how volatile anesthetics impact the nervous system, utilizing mouse models of mitochondrial disease which exhibit hypersensitivity to anesthetics.

Dr. Spencer enjoys hiking and birding in the PNW with her partner and their dog, Sheba because it affords her the opportunity to practice her (very) amateur photography skills. In addition, perhaps due to her Midwest roots, she loves visiting the various farms in western Washington, especially the lavender and tulips farms.


February 2022

Brandy Briones, PhD is a postdoctoral researcher in Dr. Garret Stuber’s lab (NAPE Center) investigating the molecular and genetic makeup and underlying circuitry of the paraventricular thalamus, a central node in the brain important for regulating emotion-driven and motivated behaviors. Her primary research focuses on how steroid hormones (i.e., estrogen and testosterone) interface with paraventricular thalamus-related behaviors and pathologies; she is also working on a collaborative project investigating spinohypothalamic pathways involved in the encoding and processing of pain.

Dr. Briones received her bachelor’s degree in Psychobiology at UCLA and her doctoral degree in Psychology and Neuroscience at Princeton University. In a culture where mental health stigma was high and access to mental health care was (and is still) low, she joined a non-profit mental health organization partnered with the UCLA Student Wellness Commission to teach mental health education programs to university community members and elementary schools in underrepresented communities. This work led to an interest in better understanding the biological basis of psychopathologies, where Dr. Briones then became an undergraduate CARE Research Fellow in Dr. Thomas R. Minor’s lab studying the role of adenosine in post-traumatic stress disorder. Never having considered graduate school (or really knowing anything about it), she was encouraged by Dr. Minor and the CARE Research Program to apply for PhD graduate research programs. In the Fall of 2014, she joined Princeton’s Psychology and Neuroscience joint degree PhD program with primary advisor Dr. Elizabeth Gould and secondary advisor Dr. Ilana Witten where she defended her thesis, “Investigating structural plasticity and perineuronal nets in the hippocampus and dorsal striatum”.

Dr. Briones and her two cats, Thorndike and Aster, love living in Seattle. She enjoys all of the nature activities the Pacific Northwest has to offer, with the hopes of summiting Mt. Rainier at some point during her postdoc (let her know if you have any pointers or backpacking recommendations). She also plays beach and indoor volleyball, basketball, and softball, and is always looking for more folks to play with!


January 2022

Fausto Carnevale Neto, PhD is an Acting Instructor in Dr. Daniel Raftery’s Lab at the Mitochondria and Metabolism Center (MMC) in South Lake Union.  As a member of the Northwest Metabolomics Research Center (NWMRC), directed by Daniel Raftery, Dr. Carnevale Neto employs analytical and computational solutions to expand metabolite annotation for the purposes of metabolic exploration and clinical diagnosis. In the field of metabolomics, metabolite identification or annotation is one of the major challenges currently faced by researchers.

At UW, he recently integrated complementary annotation tools into a mass spectral network to provide some of the most comprehensive metabolite identification in urine samples to date (>500 compounds in only 10 samples). The method represents a valuable resource to many clinical and biomedical studies interest in exploring the complex urine metabolome.

Currently, Dr. Carneval Neto extends this approach to capture the metabolic dynamics of isolated mitochondria in different cell cultures, including cancer stem cells and homogeneous populations of myoblasts. The goal is to increase knowledge about mitochondrial metabolite diversity and function in the regulation and maintenance of different biological states, such as cancer progression or muscle dystrophy.

He has a bachelor’s degree in Pharmacy-Biochemistry from the School of Pharmaceutical Sciences of Sao Paulo State University (UNESP), and a master’s degree and PhD in Chemistry from the Institute of Chemistry (UNESP).  He worked as a postdoc at the School of Pharmaceutical Sciences of Ribeirao Preto from University of Sao Paulo (USP), Brazil.  Dr. Carnevale Neto has been at UW since October 2018.

“Seattle has gorgeous outdoor surroundings, with mountains, forests, and lakes. Having a background on natural sciences, it is great to live and be connect to such a unique environment. The city is also tolerant, relaxed, and has amazing cafes where I can sip a cup of coffee, a beverage that is closely related to my Brazilian roots.”