2020 Early Career Grants

Learn more about our past grantees by clicking here.

(June 2020) The American Epilepsy Society is proud to announce support of 25 early career scientists with $1.1 million in research grants and fellowships. Congratulations to the 2020 Early Career Awardees!

2020 AES Early Career Grantees

“As one of the largest non-governmental funders for those starting careers in epilepsy research, AES is committed to developing the next generation of epilepsy investigators. The collective talent and accomplishment represented by this year’s impressive awardees—combined with that of grantees from previous years—promises to fuel advances in epilepsy prevention, diagnosis, and treatment for years to come.”

William D. Gaillard, MD
American Epilepsy Society

AES research dollars support trainees, fellows, and newly independent investigators working across the full spectrum of epilepsy research, from basic science through translational and clinical research for all types of epilepsy, seizures, and related conditions.

Grants are supported in part by philanthropic gifts and bequests to the Lennox and Lombroso Fund for Research and Training and the Susan S. Spencer Fund for Clinical Research and Education. In addition, several nonprofit organizations and industry supporters provide full or partial funding of specific grants.

AES would like to thank the following organizations and companies for their support of epilepsy research:

    • Epilepsy Foundation
    • Pediatric Epilepsy Research Foundation
    • Citizens United for Research in Epilepsy
    • Wishes for Elliott
    • Epilepsy Study Consortium
    • American Brain Foundation, in collaboration with the American Academy of Neurology
    • LivaNova

Junior Investigator Awards

$50,000 for newly-independent investigators to support the direct costs of research, along with one year of AES membership.

Ukpong Eyo, PhD
Targeting microglial P2Y12R to ameliorate febrile status epilepticus
University of Virginia

Emily Johnson, MD
Late-onset epilepsy, cognition, and biomarkers
Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine

Vaishnav Krishnan, MD, PhD
Neurodevelopmental Consequences of Fetal Anticonvulsant Exposure
Baylor College of Medicine

Elliot Smith, PhD
Interictally derived probabilistic maps of seizure onset location
University of Utah

Fraser Sparks, PhD
Adult-born granule cell microcircuit reorganization in epilepsy
Columbia University Medical Center

AES/EF Junior Investigator Awards, Funded in Full by the Epilepsy Foundation

Leah Blank, MD
Determinants of guideline adherent therapy in newly diagnosed epilepsy
Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai 

David Klorig, PhD
Evaluating Gene Therapy Strategies to Treat Epilepsy Using a Novel Method
Wake Forest University

Research Training Fellowship for Clinicians

Mentored support for clinical fellows or junior clinical faculty with up to $50,000 for stipend and travel support, along with one year of AES membership.

Claire Jacobs, MD, PhD
Functional evaluation of STXBP1 variants in STXBP1-encephalopathy
Massachusetts General Hospital

Mentor: Stephen Haggarty, PhD

Jennifer Shum, MD
Functional Mapping of Language with High Gamma Electrocorticography
New York University School of Medicine

Mentor: Orrin Devinsky, MD

Steven Tobochnik, MD
Predicting epileptogenic zones by stimulation-induced seizure recruitment
Brigham and Women's Hospital, Harvard Medical School

Mentor: Page Pennell, MD

PERF/AES Research Training Fellowship for Clinicians, funded at 50% by PERF

Tayyba Anwar, MD
Multifactorial modeling of post-neonatal epilepsy following HIE
Children’s National Medical Center and Children’s Research Institute

Mentor: Tammy Tsuchida, MD, PhD

CURE/AES Research Training Fellowship for Clinicians, funded at 50% by CURE

James Gugger, MD, PharmD
Free-water imaging in post-traumatic epilepsy
University of Pennsylvania

Mentor: Ramon Diaz-Arrastia MD, PhD 

Postdoctoral Research Fellowships

Mentored research fellowships with up to $50,000 for stipend and travel support, along with one year of AES membership.

Aswathy AmmothumKandy, PhD
Adult new born glia in human epilepsy: friend or foe?
University of Southern California

Mentor: Michael Bonaguidi, PhD

Jessica Chancey, PhD
Mechanisms of enhanced excitabilty in a mouse model of GEFS/Dravet syndrome
University of Texas at Austin

Mentor: MacKenzie Howard, PhD
Supported by the Lennox and Lombroso Trust for Research and Training

Ping Dong, PhD
Targeting BK calcium-activated potassium channels in absence epilepsy
Duke University

Mentor: Huanghe Yang, PhD
Supported by the Lennox and Lombroso Trust for Research and Training

Hisako Fujiwara, PhD
Predicting epilepsy surgery outcome with MEG functional connectivity
Children’s Hospital Medical Center

Mentor: Jeffrey Tenney, MD, PhD

Kaoutsar Nasrallah, PhD
Role of a Hippocampal Associative Neuronal Circuit in Early Epilepsy
Albert Einstein College of Medicine

Mentor: Pablo Castillo, MD, PhD

Chelsea Pernici, PhD
Longitudinal, in vivo Ca2+ imaging during spontaneous seizure activity
University of Utah

Mentor: Karen Wilcox, PhD
Supported by the Lennox and Lombroso Trust for Research and Training

AES Predoctoral Research Fellowships

Mentored research fellowships with up to $30,000 for stipend and travel support, along with one year of AES membership.

Jennifer Cheng, BA
Pathogenic Mechanisms Associated with a CUX2 Missense Variant in Epilepsy
Northwestern University

Mentor: Gemma Carvill, PhD

Madelyn Haller, BA
Investigating Gliopathic Epilepsy in a Drosophila Model of PIGA Deficiency
University of Utah

Mentor: Clement Chow, PhD

Susan Nguyen, MSOT, BS
TLR4 Modulation of Dentate Inhibition and its Effect on Pattern Separation
University of California, Riverside

Mentor: Vijayalakshmi Santhakumar, PhD

 AES/Wishes for Elliott Predoctoral Research Fellowship, $10,000 funded by WFE

Letonia Copeland-Hardin, BS
Characterization of gene modifiers in a mouse model of epilepsy
Northwestern University

Mentor: Jennifer Kearney, PhD

Epilepsy Study Consortium (ESC) Mini-grant, Funded by ESC and Administered by AES

Taneeta Ganguly, MD
Perampanel in Glioma Associated Seizures - Efficacy and Safety
University of Pennsylvania

Mentor: Michael Gelfand, MD, PhD

Epilepsy Foundation Clinical Research Apprenticeship Award, funded by the Epilepsy Foundation and Administered by AES

Susanna O’Kula, MD
Healthcare Utilization and Workplace Productivity in Hispanic PWE
New York University School of Medicine

Mentors: Daniel Friedman, MD, and Tanya Spruill, PhD

Susan S. Spencer Clinical Research Training Fellowship, 2020-2021

Funded by the American Epilepsy Society, Epilepsy Foundation, and American Brain Foundation in collaboration with the American Academy of Neurology

Colin Ellis, MD
Polygenic Risk Transmission in Familial Epilepsy
University of Pennsylvania

Mentors: Samuel Berkovic, AC FAA FRACP FRS and Brian Litt, MD


Many Thanks to Our Reviewers and Volunteers

The AES early career grants program is overseen by the AES Research and Training Council. Funding recommendations are based upon a proposal review led by the AES Early Career Grant Review Committee. Basic and clinical co-chairs lead both the review committee and the Research and Training Council.

Members of the grant review committee were recruited to represent 15 critical fields of research expertise. Additional ad hoc reviewers are recruited annually to ensure that the expertise of the reviewers matches that of the proposals submitted.

All reviewers are volunteers who are AES members. We deeply appreciate their support of this important AES program.

Co-chairs, Early Career Grant Review Committee

Edward Cooper, MD, PhD
Associate Professor, Neurology, Neuroscience, and Molecular and Human Genetics
Baylor College of Medicine

Jenny Hsieh, PhD
Professor and Director of the Brain Health Consortium
The University of Texas at San Antonio


Christine Baca, MD
Associate Professor, Neurology
University of Colorado School of Medicine

Tim Benke, MD, PhD
University of Colorado, AMC and DC
Professor, Pediatrics- Neurology; Director of Research

Angelique Bordey, PhD
Professor of Neurosurgery and of Cellular and Molecular Physiology
Yale University

Gemma Carvill, PhD
Assistant Professor, Neurology, Pharmacology, Pediatrics
Northwestern University - Feinberg School of Medicine

Catherine Christian, PhD
Assistant Professor, Molecular and Integrative Physiology
The Board of Trustees of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Robert Hunt, PhD
Assistant Professor, Anatomy and Neurobiology
The Regents of the University of California at Irvine

Kimberle Jacobs, PhD
Associate Professor, Anatomy and Neurobiology
Virginia Commonwealth University

Anli Liu, MD
Assistant Professor, Neurology
NYU Langone Health

Kimford Meador, MD
Professor, Neurology
Stanford University

Geoffrey Murphy, PhD
Professor, Physiology
University of Michigan

Ivan Soltesz, PhD
Professor of Neurosurgery and Neurosciences
Stanford University

William Stacey, MD, PhD
Associate Professor, Neurology
University of Michigan

Anastasios Tzingounis, PhD
Associate Professor, Physiology and Neurobiology
University of Connecticut

Mingshan Xue, PhD
Assistant Professor, Neuroscience
Baylor College of Medicine

Janelle Wagner, PhD
Associate Professor, Nursing and Pediatrics
Medical University of South Carolina

 Ad Hoc Reviewers

Abbas Babajani-Feremi, PhD
Assistant Professor, Pediatrics, Anatomy and Neurobiology
The University of Tennessee Health Science Center

Melissa Barker-Haliski, PhD
Research Assistant Professor
University of Washington

Mark Beenhakker, PhD
Associate Professor, Pharmacology
University of Virginia

Laura Borodinsky, PhD
Professor, Physiology and Membrane Biology
University of California Davis School of Medicine

Krzysztof Bujarski, MD
Associate Professor of Neurology
Dartmouth Geisel School of Medicine

Kathryn Davis, MD, MSTR
Assistant Professor, Neurology
University of Pennsylvania Medical Center

Christina Gross, PhD
Assistant Professor, Pediatrics
Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center

Alicia Guemez Gamboa, PhD
Assistant Professor, Physiology
Northwestern University- Chicago Campus

John Hablitz, PhD
Professor, Neurobiology
The University of Alabama at Birmingham

Jennifer Kearney, PhD
Associate Professor, Pharmacology
Northwestern University - Chicago Campus

Heidi Kirsch, MD
Professor, Neurology
UCSF Weill Institute for Neurosciences

Beth Leeman-Markowski, MD
Assistant Professor, Neurology
NYU Langone Health

Alberto Musto, MD, PhD
Associate Professor, Pathology and Anatomy
Eastern Virginia Medical School

Christos Papadelis, PhD
Assistant Professor, Pediatrics
Harvard Medical School

Manoj Patel, PhD
Associate Professor of Anesthesiology
University of Virginia

Nicholas Poolos, MD, PhD
Professor, Neurology
University of Washington

Nathan Anthony Smith, PhD
Assistant Professor, Neuroscience
Children’s National Medical Center and Children’s Research Institute

Kevin Staley, MD
Professor, Neurology
Massachusetts General Hospital

Geoffrey Swanson, PhD
Professor of Pharmacology
Northwestern University- Chicago Campus

Lawrence Ver Hoef, MD
Associate Professor, Neurology
University of Alabama, Birmingham

AES Staff

Penny Dacks, PhD
Associate Executive Director, Programs
Jennifer Brummet, PhD
Program Coordinator, Research