MRRI is delighted to have a diverse staff of scientists, clinicians, trainees, and research support personnel. This month, the Brain Injury Neuropsychology Laboratory, directed by Amanda Rabinowitz, PhD, welcomed three new research assistants, McKenzie Buszkiewic, Dennis Tirri, and Julia Witkowski, who will work on a variety of projects in the lab.
McKenzie Buszkiewic graduated with honors from the University of California San Diego (UCSD) where she majored in cognitive and behavioral neuroscience and minored in human developmental sciences. As an undergraduate student, Ms. Buszkiewic worked as a research intern in the Neural Engineering and Translation Lab at UCSD. Her research there examined the relationships between neurocognition and mental health using electroencephalography (EEG). At MRRI, Ms. Buszkiewic will be working with Dr. Rabinowitz on a project for the Moss Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) Model System as well as with Umesh Venkatesan, PhD, Director of the Brain Trauma and Behavior Laboratory.
Dennis Tirri received his B.S. degree in neuroscience from Bucknell University, and he subsequently worked on TBI research at the Kessler Foundation as part of The Northern New Jersey Traumatic Brain Injury Model System. Next, he enrolled in graduate school at the University of Mississppi where he earned his M.A. degree in psychology, focusing on clinical psychology. Prior to coming to MRRI, Mr. Tirri worked as a graduate student clinician in Mississippi. In his new role, he will assist with inpatient recruitment and contribute to multiple research projects, including the Moss TBI Model Systems projects, the Reactions Events Appraisals and Context in TBI (REACT) study examining how people with TBI experience anger and aggression following their injury, and also the BeHealthy: Chronic Disease Management for TBI study, which aims to examine TBI as a chronic health condition and works to optimize a person’s health, function, and community integration following brain injury.
Julia Witkowski was awarded her B.S. in biology degree from Juniata College and her MPH degree from Thomas Jefferson University. During her undergraduate studies, Ms. Witkowski conducted research on the effects of stress on aging in the model organism C.elegans as a biology student researcher. For her MPH capstone project, Ms. Witkowski completed a project assessing the quality of gender-affirming care at Jefferson by conducting environmental scans. As a research assistant at MRRI, Ms. Witkowski will focus on understanding the long-term trajectories of cognition and psychological health and how they impact suicide ideations in TBI patients, as well as how mobile health interventions impact rates of physical activity in patients who have had a moderate-to-severe TBI. This month, she will be presenting a poster on how gamification can be used to teach sexual orientation and gender identity in undergraduate medical education settings at her third national conference.
The team at MRRI looks forward to working with these talented individuals and is dedicated to providing outstanding mentorship and training during their time at the Institute.