Team Bios

Merve Atik, M.D.

  • Research Fellow

In 2020, Dr. Atik graduated from Istanbul University-Cerrahpasa, Faculty of Medical in Turkey. At that time, she worked as a medical doctor in the COVID-19 unit during the pandemic.

Before receiving her medical degree, Dr. Atik gained research experience in 2016 working in the Multiple Sclerosis Lab headed by Moses Rodriguez, M.D., at Mayo Clinic's campus in Rochester, Minnesota. Then in 2017, she was a research trainee in the Genetics of Alzheimer's Disease and Endophenotypes Lab led by Nilüfer Ertekin-Taner, M.D., Ph.D., at Mayo Clinic's campus in Jacksonville, Florida.

Currently, Dr. Atik is pursuing a research fellowship with Dr. Ross' lab as a Nedim Ertekin Scholarship in Neuroscience Research scholar. Interested in the multiomics approach to neurodegenerative diseases, her main passion is to understand the molecular story behind neurodegenerative diseases and the application of multiomics to identify biomarkers.

Alexandra I. Beasley, M.S.

  • Principal Research Technologist

In 2006, Alexandra Beasley graduated from the University of North Florida with a Bachelor of Science followed by a Master of Science in biomedical diagnostics in 2017. She joined Mayo Clinic's Department of Neuroscience in 2006, focusing on Parkinson's disease research. In 2010, Alexandra became the manager of Dr. Ross' lab, where she consistently oversees projects and assumes responsibility for the day-to-day operation of laboratory activities, including the design of research studies and experiments.

Over the years, Alexandra has continued to learn and develop new techniques and data analysis skills in order to advance in the rapidly evolving field of genetics. She has mentored many visiting clinical research fellows, summer undergraduate research fellows through the SURF program, undergraduate students and various research volunteers.

Naveen Chandra Kondru, D.V.M., Ph.D.

  • Senior Research Fellow

Dr. Kondru earned his Ph.D. in biomedical sciences from Iowa State University (ISU) and worked as a postdoctoral research associate at ISU before joining Mayo Clinic in 2020. Currently a research fellow in the Department of Neuroscience, Dr. Kondru is the primary researcher for the functional genomics program in Dr. Ross' laboratory. He has extensive experience in Parkinson's disease, prion diseases and biomarkers. His current work involves developing new strategies for the diagnosis and treatment of dementia-related neurodegeneration.

Before pursuing a research career, Dr. Kondru also earned his doctorate in veterinary medicine and practiced as a veterinarian. His research work has implications in advancing both animal and human health.

Yingxue Ren, Ph.D.

  • Research Associate

Dr. Ren received a Bachelor of Science degree in bioinformatics from Soochow University in China in 2007, a Master of Science degree in genetics from the University of Nebraska at Omaha in 2009, and a Ph.D. degree in genetics and genomics from Florida State University in 2015. She joined the Department of Health Sciences Research at Mayo Clinic in 2015 as a bioinformatician. Her research interests center on method development for the analysis of complex diseases.

Nikoleta (Nicole) Tamvaka

  • Graduate Student

In 2020, Nicole received her Bachelor of Science degree in neuroscience and mathematics from Dickinson College, Carlisle, Pennsylvania. While there, she studied the behavioral implications of methamphetamine addiction. During her undergraduate studies, she also interned in Dr. Ross' lab through the Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship (SURF) studying mitochondrial genetic variation and investigating the presence of nonhuman genetic material in different neurodegenerative disorders.

Following graduation, Nicole joined the Mayo Clinic Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences as a Neuroscience Track Ph.D. student in Dr. Ross' lab. Her current research interests involve investigating the genomic and transcriptomic features of rare movement disorders.

Rebecca R. Valentino, Ph.D.

  • Visiting Scientist

Dr. Valentino is a senior research fellow in neurogenetics in the Department of Neuroscience at Mayo Clinic's Florida campus. In early 2018, Dr. Valentino joined Dr. Ross' group after obtaining a Ph.D. in genetics from the University of Newcastle in the U.K. Dr. Valentino is primarily interested in identifying genetic factors influencing disease risk, disease onset and disease progression, and she has a particular focus on the genetic variables influencing metabolic changes, which ultimately influence disease pathology.

Dr. Valentino has previous experience investigating the roles common, genome-wide, single-nucleotide variants, as well as haplotype variation, have on disease risk. She believes mitochondrial genetics modify disease pathology severity and progression, and are, therefore, important to study further.

With significance to patient care, Dr. Valentino believes that no individual is genetically the same and that personalized treatments are the future to improve medical care and prevent disease. In order to achieve that, medical research needs to better assess all the genetic variables in each individual to identify disease markers earlier in life and enable the introduction of preventive measures before diseases develop. By assessing individuals' genetics, pharmaceutical companies also can develop therapies that are unique to each patient, which will provide a more effective level of long-term care.

Ronald L. Walton, B.Sc.

  • Research Technologist

Ronald Walton graduated from the University of North Florida in 2013 earning a Bachelor of Science degree with a major in biology. Following graduation, Ronald joined Dr. Ross' laboratory where he plays a critical role in overseeing and managing the sample collection. He is responsible for processing, storing and screening each of the specimens received from Mayo Clinic clinicians, as well as outside collaborators. Ronald performs fingerprint genotyping and sequencing upon intake to genetically characterize samples for use in further studies. In addition, Ronald also helps train and mentor visiting research fellows, volunteers and students at both the undergraduate and graduate levels.

Ronald is on the frontline of the lab's work in identifying key genetic determinants in patients to understand how each genetic mutation influences clinical features. He pinpoints those who carry specific mutations for targeted clinical drug trials, and more importantly, identifies those with no known genetic mutation to future studies to investigate novel genes involved in their diseases.