Ignacio Fernandez Mata, PhD
Ignacio Fernandez “Nacho” Mata, PhD is the principal investigator of the Mata Lab. He studied biology at the Universidad de Oviedo in Spain, where he later obtained a PhD in neurogenetics. He has been researching the genetics of neurological disorders, especially Parkinson’s Disease, since 2001. He has been very fortunate to have trained with some of the best in the field at the Mayo Clinic, the University of Washington, and the VA Puget Sound. In 2006, Nacho was invited to a meeting by SOLAMA, the Latin American movement disorder society, in Lima, Peru. There he had the opportunity to meet some incredible movement disorder specialists from several Latin American countries who were very eager to have access to genetic testing for their patients. Nacho offered to help, and LARGE-PD was born. He began working at the Cleveland Clinic in September of 2018. Nacho hopes to do everything possible to advance the field of Parkinson’s disease, which will help to provide better care for patients and hopefully be able to slow or stop the disease all together someday soon. In LARGE-PD, his motivation is to ensure that these advances apply to everyone, regardless of their ethnicity or country of origin. He wants to assist in building the necessary resources, both physical and in terms of personnel, to allow scientists in Latin America to perform high-quality research locally. Finally, Nacho would like to educate clinicians, researchers, and most importantly patients about genetics research and the importance of their participation, ensuring that these populations are not left behind. Outside the lab, Nacho enjoys traveling, biking, hiking, camping, and spending time with family.
Miguel Inca Martinez
Miguel Inca Martinez is the lab manager of the Mata Lab. He studied biology at Universidad Nacional Mayor de San Marcos and obtained his master’s degree in human genetics at Universidad Peruana Cayetano Heredia in Peru. He has been working with neurogenetic diseases such as Huntington’s disease, spinocerebellar ataxia, Parkinson’s Diseases, and others since 2012. Miguel began his training at the Neurogenetics Research Center in Lima, Peru. In 2012, he began collaborating on the recruitment process of the LARGE-PD project in Peru, and by 2014, under the supervision of Nacho, he made a rotation at the University of Washington and the VA Puget Sound. Having the chance to learn about the clinic and the individuals affected by neurogenetic diseases, including Parkinson’s, linked a history to the samples with which he had always worked. This experience helped Miguel to understand how important this work can be for every affected person. His personal motivation behind his work with LARGE-PD is knowing that all the information that they produce as scientists will be used in favor of an individual and their family, regardless of their ethnicity or region of origin. In his free time, Miguel enjoys cooking Peruvian food and traveling.
Emily Mason is a Research Technician in the Mata Lab. In this role, she helps to run experiments to support ongoing research projects, using techniques like PCR amplification and gel-electrophoresis. Emily recently completed an undergraduate degree in biology from Denison University in Granville, Ohio. She previously spent a summer performing research at the Ohio State University’s Comprehensive Cancer Center. The group studied breast cancer and more specifically, several factors that influenced metastatic progression to the brain. Emily currently helps to generate data and process the samples sent from various patients and controls involved with the LARGE-PD cohort. LARGE-PD’s focus on inclusivity is very important to her. More diverse representation is desperately needed in scientific research, and she believes it is the key to making immense progress in genomic medicine. Scientific innovation has the power to vastly improve an individual’s life, and she is excited to contribute to the effort to make such advances more accessible to the previously underrepresented groups. In her free time, Emily loves to try out new recipes, listen to podcasts, and go running.
Shilpa Rao is a Molecular Medicine PhD student at the Cleveland Clinic. She has a degree in molecular biology from Loyola University Chicago and became involved with LARGE-PD after listening to a presentation from the Mata Lab for her PhD program. She was immediately intrigued and wanted to become involved in the initiative. Shilpa strongly believes that diversity is a necessity. In society, the need to accept and represent all people is acknowledged, but it can be overlooked in the science community. With the growth of genetic research, it is astonishing that so much of the representation has been from people of European ancestry. Therefore, she believes LARGE-PD is one of the strong drivers in today’s research that focuses on inclusivity, an initiative that will inspire more minority genetic consortiums to be made. In her free time, Shilpa enjoys being outdoors with her pup Elsie, going to local pizzerias and breweries, and watching horror movies.
Nicolas Gutierrez is a Research Coordinator II for the Mata Lab. He received a bachelor’s degree from Johns Hopkins University, where he studied neuroscience and psychology. Nicolas has worked in several research laboratories prior to arriving in the Mata lab, with a focus on neuroscience-oriented labs. He started working at the Cleveland Clinic in 2019 as a research coordinator in the department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation. He joined the Mata team in order to further pursue research on Parkinson’s disease, and to contribute to LARGE-PD’s mission to work with Hispanic communities. Nicolas is incredibly interested in neurodegenerative diseases and their pathophysiology, genetics, and treatment. A family history of different neurological and psychological disorders sparked his interested in understanding how neurological disorders can affect people. As a member of the Mata Lab, Nicolas is excited to work with Hispanic populations in order to advance science that may be beneficial to them. As a Colombian born citizen, he values diversity and representation in science. He believes that promoting diversity in science is an incredibly important step in helping bridge trust with communities that have been marginalized and who have grown uncomfortable with the medical system. Nicolas enjoys reading, hiking, cooking, dancing and DJ’ing in his free time!
Thiago Peixoto began working as a postdoctoral researcher at the Mata Lab in April of 2021. He has a bachelor's degree in computer science from the Universidade Federal de São João Del Rey and a master's and PhD in Bioinformatics from the Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais, both of which are in Brazil. He previously spent nearly ten years working at the Human Genetic Diversity Laboratory with one of the greatest population geneticists in Brazil. They made many great achievements in the studies of Latin Americans, including mapping the admixture of Brazilian populations and inferring their admixture dynamics. They also investigated Native American populations in Peru, as well as how different African groups contributed to the formation of American populations during the African Diaspora. Thiago’s personal motivation for his work with LARGE-PD is to help improve the quality of life of many people, especially those who live in countries that do not have access to the best medical treatments and personalized medicine. As a Brazilian himself, a person whose genetic material, culture, and customs are the result of the interaction of diverse populations over time, he feels that diversity is a part of his DNA. In his free time, Thiago enjoys spending time with family, watching movies and television shows, playing games, and travelling.
Sekinat Mumuney is a medical student at the Cleveland Clinic Lerner College of Medicine (CCLCM) whorotated through the Mata lab in the summer of 2020. She is currently working on a project that seeks to validate PD variants in multiplex families from LARGE-PD. Sekinat has an undergraduate degree in biomedical engineering from Mercer University and now attends the Cleveland Clinic Lerner College of Medicine. Prior to joining the Mata Lab, she was a Postbaccalaureate Research Fellow at the National Institute of Mental Health at the NIH, where she worked on developing genetic tools for neuromodulation in non-human primates. Sekinat is interested in both health disparities and research, and she feels that the work of LARGE-PD is right at the intersection of the two. As an aspiring physician-scientist, Sekinat would like to pursue this same type of work in the future, and she is excited to learn and develop as a scientist through this experience. Sekinat also loves travelling, trying new foods and restaurants, and spending time with friends and family, as well as music, books, and film.
Samantha Stalkamp is a medical student at the Cleveland Clinic Lerner College of Medicine (CCLCM) who rotated through the Mata Lab in the summer of 2019. She completed her undergraduate degree in neuroscience at The Ohio State University in 2019 and is currently a medical student at CCLCM. At Ohio State, she studied a forgetting paradigm called recognition-induced forgetting in the lab of Dr. Ashleigh Maxcey. Samantha has been honored to have several publications on the subject. Her medical school is dedicated to training physician-scientists, and in the first semester, the students were randomly assigned to work in various labs at the Lerner Research Institute. Samantha was lucky enough to be placed with Dr. Mata. Although she came into the Mata Lab by chance, she has stayed involved after the program ended because of how important she considers this research. She believes the lack of Latin American representation in genetics research to be unacceptable, and she hopes that her work here can lessen this inequality so that all people can benefit from scientific innovation in the age of personalized medicine. She currently spends the majority of her time studying, but she enjoys eating and sleeping as well!
Madeleine Williams is a high school junior who recently began working as a research intern in the Mata Lab. She was placed there in the winter of 2020 through a science research program at her school. She has always loved the subject of science, and she is so grateful for this incredible opportunity to learn in a professional setting. Madeleine is very excited to be a part of LARGE-PD and this meaningful project with the ability to help better the lives of so many affected by Parkinson’s in Latino populations. She believes it is extremely important that all people are equally represented in this time of tremendous growth in genetics research, and LARGE-PD plays a significant part in helping to bridge this gap. In her free time, Madeleine enjoys golfing, baking, and spending time with friends and family.
Elif Irem Sarihan, MD
Elif Irem Sarihan, MD was a postdoctoral fellow in the Mata lab from the summers of 2019 to 2020. She completed medical school and internal medicine residency in Istanbul, Turkey, and she has been working full time in genetics and genomics research for the past three years. Irem’s main project in the lab was investigating copy number variants in the LARGE-PD cohort. The Mata Lab has won two awards with this project and is currently preparing several manuscripts to publish their findings. To Irem, LARGE-PD represents inclusion in health and medicine. No matter their background, she believes each life and patient matters and should be included in biomedical research. LARGE-PD is a critical effort to accomplish this goal in genomic studies, and she is very proud to be a part of it. She has truly enjoyed her time in the Mata Lab, especially the supportive environment. She recently matched to the Bridgeport/Yale Hospital internal medicine program and began working there as a physician in July 2020. In her free time, she enjoys running, swimming, and biking, and she plans to train for a triathlon in the near future.
Laura Jiménez, MD
Laura Jiménez, MD worked as an intern and completed a rotation of one month helping with LARGE-PD in February 2020. She recently graduated from medical school from Javeriana University in Bogota, Colombia. During her time in the lab, she helped to organize DNA samples for LARGE-PD and learned about lab procedures. Laura has a strong interest in neurology, especially in the area of dementia, and felt that learning and assisting with this project helped her to gain valuable experience for her future career. She still keeps in contact with the Mata Lab and hopes to continue to be involved more profoundly with LARGE-PD in future years. Some of her favorite memories from her time in the lab include all the people she met and things she was able to learn. Laura also enjoys participating in sports, such as running, dancing, and gym work, as well as reading.