Meet the Team

Within the Brain Tumor Stem Cell Research Laboratory at Mayo Clinic, a basic neurosurgery research team and a clinical neurosurgery team work in tandem to achieve Dr. Quinones-Hinojosa's research goals.

Team Bios

Paula Valentina (Paula) Schiapparelli, Ph.D.

  • Assistant Professor of Neurosurgery
  • Basic Neurosurgery Research Team

Dr. Schiapparelli's research is focused on understanding the mechanisms by which glioblastoma cells migrate and invade the human brain. Her main project is to describe the mechanisms by which NKCC1 modulates the actin cytoskeleton to regulate cell shape, spreading and migration in glioblastoma.

Dr. Schiapparelli received her Bachelor of Science in biology and biochemistry and her doctorate in cellular and molecular biology from the University of Navarra in Pamplona, Spain. Her doctoral research focused on the role of sonic hedgehog signaling alterations in pediatric tumors such as neuroblastoma and medulloblastoma.

After continuing her training as a postdoctoral research fellow in the Brain Tumor Stem Cell Research Laboratory at Johns Hopkins University under the mentorship of Dr. Quinones-Hinojosa, Dr. Schiapparelli joined Mayo Clinic in 2016.

Virgínea De Araujo Farias, Ph.D.

  • Postdoctoral Fellow
  • Basic Neurosurgery Research Team

In 2004, Dr. Farias graduated with a bachelor's degree in biology from the State University of Paraíba in her hometown in Brazil. In September 2006, she moved to Spain to complete her master's and Ph.D. in immunology at the University of Granada on molecular oncology research. Her dissertation was on the purification and characterization of the human umbilical cord stroma. Before joining Mayo Clinic, Dr. Farias worked at the Centre for Genomics and Oncological Research (GENyO) in Spain as a postdoctoral fellow, and as a postdoctoral researcher at the Biomedical Research Centre at the University of Granada. She owns several patents and has presented extensively at national and international meetings.

Dr. Farias has experience purifying and characterizing mesenchymal stem cell (MSC) populations from adult tissues and culturing and differentiating them on conventional and 3D scaffolds. During her postdoctoral training, she focused on the anti-cancer potential of umbilical cord MSCs in combination with radiotherapy in vitro and in vivo. She also studied the exosomal protein content of irradiated umbilical cord tissue-derived mesenchymal stem cells (UC-MSCs), trying to deepen understanding of the molecular mechanism underlying the anti-tumoral effect of radiation-activated UC-MSCs. Currently she participates in a project to explore the combination of UC-MSCs and radiotherapy to treat patients with rectal cancer.

Gaetano De Biase, M.D.

  • Research Fellow
  • Clinical Neurosurgery Team

Dr. De Biase graduated from medical school at Catholic University of the Sacred Heart in Rome summa cum laude with honorable mention as top of the class. He spent the summers of 2017 and 2018 as a research trainee at Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, Florida, shadowing Dr. Quinones-Hinojosa in the OR and doing research in his Brain Tumor Stem Cell Laboratory. Dr. De Biase led multiple projects on comparative effectiveness and outcomes in neuro-oncology and spine surgery that led to several first-author publications and oral presentations at national neurosurgical meetings.

After graduation, Dr. De Biase returned to Mayo to continue working as a research fellow with Dr. Quinones-Hinojosa and Kingsley O. Abode-Iyamah, M.D. His focus is on patient-centered outcomes in awake spine surgery under spinal anesthesia. Currently, he is applying for a neurosurgery residency in the U.S.

Also a concert pianist, Dr. De Biase received his music diploma from the St. Cecilia Conservatory in Rome and enjoys playing and performing.

Ricardo A. Domingo Cabreja, M.D.

  • Postdoctoral Fellow
  • Clinical Neurosurgery Team

Dr. Domingo obtained his medical degree from Iberoamerican University in 2018 at Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. During his medical career, he worked as a research trainee at the Dominican Gamma Knife Center and the Iberoamerican University Research Department.

Dr. Domingo first joined Dr. Quinones-Hinojosa's team in early 2019 as a visiting physician and is currently a member of the clinical neurosurgery research team. His research focuses on the identification of prognostic factors as well as treatment efficacy in brain tumors, especially atypical meningiomas and glioblastoma. As a member of the clinical research team, Dr. Domingo has contributed to several book chapters and peer-reviewed papers.

Beatriz I. Fernandez Gil, Ph.D.

  • Postdoctoral Fellow
  • Basic Neurosurgery Research Team

Dr. Fernandez Gil's research focuses on evaluating the effects of melatonin on glioblastoma cells and the implication of melatonin in mitochondrial metabolism as a synergetic drug to improve glioblastoma treatments.

Dr. Fernandez Gil is a biologist holding a master's degree in genetics and evolution. She completed her doctorate in biomedicine at the Biomedical Research Centre at the University of Granada in Spain under the direction of Germaine Escames, Ph.D. Her thesis is focused on the synergistic effects of high melatonin concentrations with radiotherapy and chemotherapy in head and neck cancer.

As part of her doctoral program, Dr. Fernandez Gil joined Dr. Quinones-Hinojosa's team in March 2017 as a three-month visiting graduate student. Since January 2018, she has continued with this work as a special project associate with the goal of eventually translating her findings into clinical approaches.

She is also a passionate student of forensic science and evolution.

Diogo P. Moniz Garcia, M.D.

  • Postdoctoral Fellow
  • Clinical Neurosurgery Team

Dr. Garcia earned his medical degree from Faculdade de Medicina at the University of Porto, Portugal. As a medical student in Portugal, Dr. Garcia was involved in basic research with a particular focus on cancer and immunology. His dissertation, written on the role of the immunological and genetic context of colorectal adenoma, was selected as one of the five best abstracts submitted to the 2019 European Congress of Pathology in the digestive pathology category.

While still a medical student, Dr. Garcia first joined Dr. Quinones-Hinojosa's team during his surgery clerkship for a one-month period. Since finishing his medical training in July 2019 and returning to the team, Dr. Garcia has focused his research primarily on awake craniotomies and pituitary tumor resections. He aspires to contribute to the advancement of medical knowledge in the field of neurosurgery and to one day become a neurosurgeon.

Carlos Perez Vega, M.D.

  • Postdoctoral Fellow
  • Clinical Neurosurgery Team

Dr. Perez Vega graduated with honorable mention from Tecnologico de Monterrey School of Medicine, in Guadalajara, Mexico. Currently, he is a postdoctoral research fellow in Mayo Clinic's Department of Neurologic Surgery under the mentorship of Dr. Alfredo Quinones-Hinojosa. While in medical school, Dr. Perez Vega worked as a research trainee in the research department with a focus in pediatric neurosurgery. He spent his last two years in medical school at multiple institutions including the National Institute of Medical Science and Nutrition Salvador Zubirán, and the National Institute of Cancer, both in Mexico City.

Dr. Perez Vega first had the opportunity to work in clinical research and shadow Dr. Quinones-Hinojosa in the Department of Neurologic Surgery as a visiting medical student for three months during the summer of 2019. Afterward, he completed subinternships through the University of California San Diego and Mayo Clinic's Minnesota campus.

Dr. Perez Vega's current research interests include brain and spinal cord tumors with a focus on prognostic factors and efficacy of treatment alternatives. He aspires to make a substantial contribution to medical literature and one day to achieve his dream of becoming a neurosurgeon.

Andrés Ramos Fresnedo, M.D.

  • Postdoctoral Fellow
  • Clinical Neurosurgery Team

Dr. Andrés Ramos Fresnedo received his medical degree from Universidad Anahuac in Mexico City, Mexico, in 2020. During his medical training, he completed several rotations in the United States including a research rotation as a trainee in the Department of Neurologic Surgery at Mayo Clinic in Florida.

Currently his research focus is studying translational and regenerative medicine in patients with brain malignancies, especially glioblastoma. With clinical trials using the therapies developed in the laboratory, Dr. Ramos seeks to improve patient care in patients with brain tumors. He is a co-investigator in multiple clinical trials evaluating the use of stem cell therapies to improve outcomes in patients with glioblastoma. Additionally, as a member of the clinical research team, he has contributed to several neurosurgical textbooks including the world renowned Schmidek and Sweet's "Operative Neurosurgical Techniques" and multiple peer-reviewed publications in neurosurgical and neuro-oncology journals.

Henry J. Ruiz Garcia, M.D.

  • Postdoctoral Fellow
  • Basic Neurosurgery Research Team

Dr. Ruiz Garcia's research focuses on the modulation of tumor microenvironment in glioblastoma aiming to improve cellular therapy using genetically engineered stem cells. Under the mentorship of Daniel M. Trifiletti, M.D., the project was awarded a competitive grant that allows for further study into the implications of tumor microenvironment interactions in glioblastoma multiforme (GBM) treatment. His clinical research interest centers around finding better ways to safely treat patients with brain tumors through brain mapping techniques, minimally invasive approaches and stereotactic radiosurgery.

Dr. Ruiz Garcia graduated from the oldest university in the Americas, National University of San Marcos (UNMSM). With an almost 500-year history, UNMSM has always led higher education in Peru. Graduating with the highest honors, he was awarded first place in the National Examination for Internship Qualification (EsSalud) and the National Examination for Medical Students. He is very motivated to learn from the experts and to understand the reality of different perspectives.

Dr. Ruiz Garcia truly believes in helping and empowering others. For example, he chose to spend his year of rural service in an underserved community in the middle of a jungle where he served as the only physician in charge. Currently, he coordinates the efforts of Mission:BRAIN for Peru.

In his free time, Dr. Ruiz Garcia enjoys running, playing the guitar and navigating 3D neuroanatomical relationships.

Paola Suarez Meade, M.D.

  • Research Fellow
  • Basic Neurosurgery Research Team

In June 2020, Dr. Suarez Meade earned her medical degree from Anahuac University in Mexico City, where she graduated with honors in research. She spent her two last years of medical training at Médica Sur Hospital, a Mayo Clinic Care Network-member hospital. She first joined Dr. Quinones-Hinojosa's team in 2016 and has made several research contributions to the field of neurosurgery.

Dr. Suarez Meade's previous work was focused on defining the immune response to spinal cord injury and treatment of stroke, traumatic brain injury and spinal cord injury with regenerative medicine. As a research trainee in the Brain Tumor Stem Cell Lab, Dr. Suarez Meade was involved in projects focused on the description of the pathophysiology and treatment of glioblastoma, as well as the development of in vivo animal models of breast, lung and melanoma metastases to the central nervous system. Her scientific merits include receiving the Trainee Professional Development Award from the Society for Neuroscience in 2018 and a research recognition from Anahuac University in 2019.

As a postdoctoral fellow, Dr. Suarez Meade's research is focused on preclinical studies leading to a better understanding of the mechanisms of glioblastoma invasiveness. She helps with the establishment of primary glioblastoma and chordoma cell cultures and cell line characterization in the laboratory. She is investigating the use of a microfluidic invasion network device to predict glioblastoma prognosis and response to treatment. Additionally, she is investigating the spatial migration characteristics of glioblastoma from patient-derived cell lines and is working on the establishment of a human-on-human glioblastoma organotypic invasion model.

In the clinical setting, Dr. Suarez Meade's research is focused on awake brain surgery and mapping. She is also an active volunteer of the nonprofit foundation Mission:BRAIN, where she has a fundamental role in building bridges with international partners, organizing outreach mission trips, fundraising events and international student chapters from more than 35 universities around the globe

Oluwaseun (Olu) O. Akinduro, M.D.

  • Neurosurgery Resident
  • Clinical Neurosurgery Team

Dr. Akinduro is a sixth-year neurosurgery resident training at Mayo Clinic in Florida. Born in Nigeria, Olu and his family immigrated to the United States when he was 6 years old. He completed his medical training in Atlanta at Morehouse School of Medicine and started his tenure as a neurosurgery resident in 2016. He also scored in the top 92nd percentile for all neurosurgery residents in the United States on his written board examination. He has published 41 peer-reviewed manuscripts, given over 20 oral presentations and written over 20 book chapters. And in 2021, two of Dr. Akinduro's publications were selected to appear on covers of high-impact neurosurgery journals.

Receiving funding awarded from the Neurosurgery Research and Education Fund has allowed Dr. Akinduro to spend time in Dr. Quinones-Hinojosa's laboratory completing his research on spinal metastasis and chordoma. His research is focused on developing targeted therapies for spinal tumors as well as the understanding the mechanisms of radiosensitization for tumors that are very resistant to radiation, such as chordoma.

Dr. Akinduro expects to finish his research year in June 2022 and then start his seventh and final year as the chief neurosurgery resident at Mayo Clinic in Florida. Afterward, he plans to complete a fellowship focused on complex spine and spine oncology and establish a practice that uses the laboratory as an extension of the operating room to find cures for patients with devastating spinal tumors.

Luisa F. Figueredo, M.D.

  • Research Trainee
  • Basic Neurosurgery Research Team

In 2020, Dr. Figueredo received her medical degree from Universidad de Los Andes in Bogota, Colombia. In medical school, she was involved in basic and clinical research focusing on aneurysms, histology in brain tissue and tractography. Dr. Figueredo's study, "Aneurysmal subarachnoid hemorrhage with small aneurysms in smokers and women: A retrospective analysis" was published in a leading peer-reviewed journal.

In 2018 while at university, Dr. Figueredo founded the Neurosurgery Interest Group, a multidisciplinary group focused on expanding neurosurgical knowledge between students and general practitioners. She acted as the president and grew the organization to 50 members. This allowed the group to host several top neurosurgeons in Colombia and the U.S. She cooperated with other universities and organized virtual events with almost 500 assistants, contributing to the first chapter of students in the Colombian Association of Neurosurgery.

In January 2022, Dr. Figueredo joined Dr. Quinones-Hinojosa's team under Dr. Suarez Meade's mentorship. Her current research goal is to interpret glioblastoma migration leading to a better understanding of its pathological mechanisms.

Michael W. Pullen

  • Graduate Research Education Program (GREP)

Mike graduated with a Bachelor of Science in biomedical engineering from the Georgia Institute of Technology with a pre-health concentration. While at Georgia Tech, Mike worked for Atlanta Falcons Sports Medicine and Johnson and Johnson (Ethicon). During this time, Mike received the Outstanding Entrepreneur Award from the Department of Biomedical Engineering. He was the Georgia Tech nominee for both the 2021 Forbes 30 under 30 list and the Atlantic Coast Conference InVenture prize, for which he was a finalist.

Mike serves as a research engineer in the Department of Neurologic Surgery at the Jacksonville campus of Mayo Clinic under the mentorship of Dr. Alfredo Quinones-Hinojosa and William (Chris) C. Fox, M.D. Mike is focusing his research on medical innovation but also participates in both basic and clinical projects. He plans to attend medical school after the completion of his time at Mayo Clinic. Mike also volunteers for the Mission:BRAIN foundation, a non-profit dedicated to expanding global neurosurgical health care.

Mieu M. Brooks

  • Research Technologist
  • Basic Neurosurgery Research Team

Mieu Brooks joined Dr. Quinones-Hinojosa's team in August 2019 as a lab manager and research technician. Her responsibilities as lab manager include lab upkeep, logistics, team management, harvest of intraoperative tissue samples and establishment of novel brain cancer cell lines. As a technician, she is involved in research characterizing primary brain tumor cells derived from patients with glioblastoma and studying how these cell lines can be used to create preclinical animal models. She is also studying how mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) can be used as treatment vehicles to combat brain cancer.

Mieu received her Bachelor of Science in biological sciences with a focus in microbiology and minor in chemistry in 2010. She received much of her training during her time at UT Southwestern Medical Center and the University of Florida under the direction of Hongtao Yu, Ph.D., and Benoit I. Giasson, Ph.D., respectively, learning how to handle, maintain and conduct investigations on mouse models for various neurodegenerative diseases. In the last three years, she has furthered her training at Mayo Clinic's Florida campus under the direction of Rosa Rademakers, Ph.D., where she contributed to the study of TMEM106B as a potential protective variant against frontotemporal lobar degeneration in progranulin mutation carriers.

Apart from science, Mieu enjoys rock climbing, running and cooking.

Aleeshba N. Basil

  • Senior Clinical Research Coordinator
  • Clinical Neurosurgery Team

Aleeshba joined Dr. Quinones-Hinojosa's team in the fall of 2020 as a clinical research coordinator. In this role, she manages the Human Tissue Bank, which serves to create a bridge between the OR and the basic research lab using valuable human tissue donations. Aleeshba also manages the neurology user seat for the Mayo Clinic Neuro Twitter account, creating new content and sharing the mission of Mayo Clinic's Department of Neurologic Surgery.

Aleeshba obtained her Bachelor of Science in biomedical sciences with honors from the University of South Florida (USF). During her time at USF, Aleeshba was a researcher in the biophysics department where, for her honors thesis, she explored the concept of protein aggregation in neurodegenerative diseases and cataracts using spectroscopy and imaging techniques. She also worked at the USF Health Morsani College of Medicine in association with the academic affairs and research departments to plan medical education events and coordinate the scholarly concentrations program.

Before joining Dr. Quinones-Hinojosa's team at Mayo Clinic, Aleeshba served on a project funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) at the University of Florida Health Jacksonville. Her role for the project, which was designed to increase access to telemedicine for persons living with HIV, involved assisting with inpatient and provider education and recruitment, medical marketing and outreach, and ensuring institutional and federal institutional review board compliance. Aleeshba is passionate about increasing the accessibility of medical care and support services for minority patients, and she hopes to continue to serve these vulnerable populations at the Mayo Clinic.

Hannah E. Stayer

  • Research Administrative Assistant

Hannah, a native of Jacksonville, Florida, has over eight years of experience in healthcare. She has been with Mayo Clinic for four years starting in family medicine followed by emergency medicine before transitioning to her role as administrative assistant for Dr. Quinones-Hinojosa and the Brain Tumor Stem Cell Research Lab. As the clinical research and laboratory administrative assistant, Hannah is responsible for handling all administrative aspects of the labs and other miscellaneous requests to keep the research lab running at its full potential.

Currently, Hannah is pursuing a bachelor's degree in psychology at the University of North Florida. Once completed, she plans on getting a doctorate degree in neuropsychology. In her free time, she enjoys spending time with her loved ones and pets. She and her boyfriend currently have two guinea pigs, Abu and Simba, and a dog, Casper, that they recently rescued.