Post-Doctoral Associates

Sunday Francis, PhD
Post-Doctoral Associate

Sunday is a post-doctoral fellow in the Gillick and Jacob labs. She comes from a systems neuroscience background, earning her Ph.D. in Computational Neuroscience. Her past and current research interests have merged the two labs, with a background in neuroplasticity and electrophysiology in the motor system and present research interest in children with autism. Currently, Sunday’s research includes several projects related to autism genetics, cognitive function, neuromodulation, and clinical trials. In the Gillick lab she is being trained in techniques and experimental design around pediatric neuromodulation. She is current fellow in the “Computational Breakthroughs in Neuroscience” training program.

PhD Students

Ellen Sutter, BA

Ellen is a graduate student in the Doctor of Physical Therapy/Rehabilitation Science PhD joint degree program. She recently graduated from St. Olaf College with a degree in biology, and worked as a clinical research assistant at Washington University in St. Louis. Her research interests include brain plasticity and designing interventions to maximize movement potential following pediatric stroke. She is a recipient of the Dean’s Distinguished Graduate Fellowship.

Doctor of Physical Therapy Graduate Students

Laura Deng

Laura is a physical therapy student at the University of Minnesota. She developed an interest in pediatric neuromodulation and rehabilitation after working as a personal care attendant for individuals with cerebral palsy. 

Mitchel Fenrich

I am interested in rehabilitative interventions that increase a person's motor function, independence, and quality of life. Additionally, I am interested in the utilization of neuroplasticity in people with neurologic conditions, especially in the pediatric population, as positive changes in this age group can empower a child for life. Finally, I have special interest, developed through past experiences, in working with people with congenital and developmental disorders (e.g. cerebral palsy, Down syndrome, autism).

Chase Fisher

Hi, I’m Chase. I have worked in Acute Care Neuro Rehabilitation with adults for 5 years. During this time I was able to witness the significant impact that occupational and physical therapy can have on this patient population. I am excited to work with Dr. Gillick and her staff to learn more about their emerging technology and to help make an impact of my own in the setting of Neuro Rehabilitation. 

Alyssa Huch

Hi, my name is Alyssa. After I graduated with my undergraduate degree, I worked in an adult and pediatric outpatient physical therapy clinic. It was here that I was exposed to many neurological disorders and saw just how powerful physical therapy could be in teaching and restoring skills to all populations affected. I am interested in the Gillick Neuromodulation lab because of great possibilities that I see to help children develop skills and improve their daily lives.

Maddison Wright

Hi, I’m Maddison. For three summers I had the opportunity to work at a day camp for teenagers with Cerebral Palsy. During my time I was able to observe traditional physical therapy with these patients. I am interested in this lab because of the impact emerging technology including neuromodulation can have on these kids and their quality of life.

Undergraduate Students

Emma Simpson

Emma is an undergraduate volunteer in the Gillick Lab. She is a pre-med student studying Biology here at the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities. Her research interests include pediatric medical science and understanding interventions that may positively influence a child’s lifestyle.

Community Partner

Bernadette Gillick, PhD, MSPT, PT
Physical Therapy/ Rehabilitation Associate Professor


Combining my 25-year clinical career as a Pediatric Physical Therapist with a PhD in Rehabilitation Science and Neuroscience, I recognize the potential for new interventions to advance pediatric outcomes and the continued striking need for pediatric neurologic research at the highest level.

My exciting position as faculty allows me to continue my research development and combine my clinical experience with research collaborations. Since joining the faculty, we launched new research in pediatric neuroplasticity and neurorehabilitation interventions. Our research targets using non-invasive brain stimulation in combination with behavioral therapies in the hope of leading the field in a new direction and optimizing outcomes during childhood for function throughout the lifespan.

-Dr. Bernadette Gillick

Full bio

Madeline Evans, BS
Community Partner

Maddy facilitates public relations and community engagement efforts for the Gillick lab. She has a BS from The University of Minnesota in Mass Communications, Design, and Business Marketing. 

Former Members

Daniel Lench, PhD
Post-Doctoral Associate

Current Position: Post-Doctoral Fellow, Medical University of South Carolina
Dates of fellowship: 2019-2020

Daniel was a post-doctoral associate in the lab. Daniel came to us from the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC) where he earned his PhD in biomedical Neuroscience. Daniel’s graduate training focused on using neuroimaging techniques (fMRI and DTI) along with neuromodulation techniques (transcranial magnetic stimulation) to study individuals with chronic stroke, Parkinson’s Disease and addiction. He is expanding his expertise and training in the Gillick lab by applying advanced neuromodulation and neuroimaging to the pediatric population. His research interest is to understand neural plasticity across the human lifespan.

Samuel Nemanich, PhD, MSCI
Post-Doctoral Associate

Current Position: Assistant Professor, Marquette University
Dates of fellowship: 2017-2020

Sam was a post-doctoral associate in the lab. Sam's background is in biomedical engineering, and has been working in research labs for the last 7 years. He earned a PhD in Movement Science and an M.S. in Clinical Investigation, and has previous training in studying motor control in people with neurological disorders. Sam's research interests include the effects of neuromodulatory interventions on behavior and brain structure and function as measured with MRI and TMS. He was awarded a one-year MnDRIVE Post-doctoral Fellowship in Neuromodulation, and received a University of Minnesota Post-doctoral Association Career Development Award.

Chao-Ying Chen, PhD, MS, PT
Post-Doctoral Associate

Current position: Assistant Professor, Hong Kong Polytechnic University

Chao-Ying was post-doctoral associate in the lab from 2015-2017. She is a physical therapist in Taiwan and a certified General Movements Assessment investigator. During her training in our lab, Chao-Ying investigated early brain development and predication of future motor impairment in infants with perinatal brain hemorrhage. In addition, she was involved in the study to enhance motor outcomes in children with hemiparetic cerebral palsy. Chao-Ying received a MnDRIVE Brain Conditions Fellowship while working in our lab.

Chao-Ying’s research interest is in pediatric physical therapy, especially in infant development and early intervention. Her career goal is to continuously study to support and enhance the quality of life for infants who are at risk of developmental challenges.

Cecilia N. Prudente, PhD, PT
Post-Doctoral Associate

Current position: Clinical Research Specialist, Micro Transponder Inc 

Cecilia was a postdoctoral associate in the Brain Plasticity Lab. During her time in the Gillick Lab, she worked with neuroimaging to help determine the changes in the brain following perinatal stroke and after neuromodulation combined with upper extremity rehabilitation. Cecilia was awarded a MnDRIVE fellowship. She is currently working in the clinical trial industry exploring rehabilitation paired with brain stimulation in adults.

Prior to working in the Gillick Lab, Cecilia earned a Physical Therapy degree from Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais (Brazil) in 2005, a Master’s degree in Rehabilitation Science from Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais (Brazil) in 2007, and a PhD in Neuroscience from Emory University (USA) in 2015.

Tonya L. Rich, PhD, MA, OTR/L

Current position: Clinical Researcher, VA Health Care System, Minneapolis, MN

Tonya pursued her PhD in Rehabilitation Science in our lab (Completed in December 2017) and was a graduate research assistant in our lab with over 15 years of experience as a pediatric occupational therapist specializing in children who have had a stroke. She is certified in the Assisting Hand Assessment and has trained at the ACQUIREc Constraint Induced Movement Therapy (CIMT) program. 

Tonya enjoys working with families and children as she investigates how the brain reorganizes after a stroke and explores new interventions designed to help children and youth achieve their goals for daily living skills. In support of her research work, Tonya has been the recipient of several fellowships, among them the MnDRIVE Fellowship in Neuromodulation, the Marie Louise Wales Fellowship in Occupational Therapy, and the Leadership and Education in Neurodevelopmental Disabilities (LEND) Fellowship. 

Jesse Kowalski, PT, DPT
PhD student

Jesse Kowalski is a pediatric physical therapist and a PhD student within the Rehabilitation Science Division of the Rehabilitation Medicine Department. While in Dr. Gillick’s lab she was awarded a Foundation for Physical Therapy Florence Kendall Award, a Promotion of Doctoral Studies I Award and a MnDRIVE Fellowship in Neuromodulation.

Tanjila Nawshin
Master's Degree Student

Tanjila is a physician from Bangladesh and she has served as a clinician for about five years in her country. While working with the individuals having stroke and hemiparesis, she became fascinated with the complex neural mechanism of brain development and varied presentation of individuals with similar brain injuries. Her research interest focuses on developing potent and cost-effective interventions for worldwide pediatric population with brain injuries to improve their quality of life. Tanjila was instrumental in securing the Winona State University Award for a combined State Fair 2018 study regarding Parental Perceptions of Brain Research in Pediatric Populations.

Maíra Lixandrão, PhDs, PT
PhD Student

Maíra was a Physical Therapist specialized in adult neurorehabilitation. Currently she is a PhD student in the Physical Therapy Department at Federal University of Sao Carlos, Brazil. She worked in the Brain Plasticity Lab from November 2015 to October 2016 as a fellow researcher, supported by Sao Paulo Foundation.

Her research in Brazil investigates the upper limb movement kinematics, muscle activity, and their relation to upper limb functionality post-stroke. During her fellowship in our Lab she worked in determining the best location to provide the non-invasive brain stimulation for children with hemiparesis. Also, she was involved in studies investigating non-invasive brain stimulation to improve hand function in children with hemiparesis. Maíra received several fellowships during her academic life, including a Scientific Iniciation fellowship, a PhD fellowship and an International research fellowship (BEPE), all from Sao Paulo Foundation, which funded her opportunity to study in the Gillick Lab. 

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