Research Team

Melissa E. Murray, Ph.D.

  • Principal Investigator

As principal investigator in the Translational Neuropathology Lab, Dr. Melissa Murray leads a team that is advancing research in brain aging and neurodegenerative disorders, especially focusing on the vulnerability or resilience of affected individuals with Alzheimer's disease. Read Dr. Murray's research bio.

Baayla D. Boon, M.D.

  • Research Fellow

Dr. Boon is a Ph.D. candidate at both Mayo Clinic's Department of Pathology as well as the Alzheimer Center Amsterdam at the Amsterdam University Medical Center in the Netherlands, under the supervision of Jeroen Hoozemans, Ph.D., and Femke Bouwman, M.D. While completing the final year of her Ph.D. program, she aims to understand the neuropathologic heterogeneity in Alzheimer's disease (AD) subtypes.

During her Ph.D. studies, Dr. Boon set up a cohort of patients with AD who underwent in-situ brain 3 Tesla (3T) MRI after death with the aim of translating the neuropathologic findings to the clinic via MRI. While doing so, she and the team observed an underrecognized type of amyloid-beta (Aβ) deposit that seemed to have a different pathophysiology when compared with other aggregates. She worked on other projects involving the analysis of various deposits using different imaging techniques, including state-of-the-art 3D confocal laser scanning microscopy and label-free spectroscopy techniques such as Fourier-transform infrared spectroscopy (FTIR) and Raman combined with laser-capture-microdissection-assisted proteomics. Using these techniques, Dr. Boon is gaining a deeper understanding of what is happening on a cellular level.

The Dutch Alzheimer Association awarded a two-year fellowship to Dr. Boon to begin a collaboration with Dr. Melissa Murray's Translational Neuropathology Lab at Mayo Clinic's Florida campus. The next question she hopes to answer is the clinical relevance of deposits by examining which types of patients with AD have certain specific deposits. Dr. Murray's lab is well suited for answering this question due to its expertise in the study of AD neuropathologic subtypes.

Sarah J. Lincoln

  • Principal Research Technologist

Sarah Lincoln has extensive research experience in genetics, animal modeling, and cell and molecular biology. Her work currently focuses on investigating possible interactors of the Alzheimer's disease protein tau in neurodegenerative diseases. Using next-generation sequencing and expression data, she models genetic variants and differential gene expression that could affect tau aggregation and pathogenesis of the disease. Lincoln enjoys sharing her knowledge and experience with students, and with visiting postdoctoral fellows, neurologists and medical interns, teaching them the key aspects of molecular genetics and cell biology in a laboratory setting.

Lincoln received her Bachelor of Science from the University of East Anglia and a postgraduate certificate in education from the University of Roehampton, both in the U.K. She moved to the U.S. in 1994 to work in the laboratory of Professor Karen E. Duff, Ph.D., at the University of South Florida, where she engineered the presenilin 2 (PSEN2) knockout mouse model. Then, in 1996, she began her career at Mayo Clinic, continuing her work on the genetics of Alzheimer's and Parkinson's diseases in the laboratories of Dr. Karen Duff and John A. Hardy, Ph.D. She joined the laboratory of Professor Matthew J. Farrer, Ph.D., in 2000 and became part of the team that discovered mutations in familial Parkinson's disease gene leucine-rich repeat kinase 2 (LRRK2) and alpha synuclein (SNCA) genetic multiplications. Lincoln went on to model these genetic discoveries in mouse models of parkinsonism. In 2010, she joined the Genetics of Alzheimer's Disease and Endophenotypes Laboratory of Nilufer Ertekin-Taner, M.D., Ph.D. In 2020, Lincoln transitioned to work under Dr. Murray in the Translational Neuropathology Lab.

Christina M. Moloney, Ph.D.

  • Research Fellow

Dr. Moloney is focusing her research on tau tangle maturity in Alzheimer's disease. Dr. Moloney received her Bachelor of Science in biotechnology with a minor in chemistry from Florida Gulf Coast University, Fort Myers, Florida, in 2014. In 2018, she received her Ph.D. in biomedical sciences, concentrating in neuroscience, from University of Florida, Gainesville, Florida. Dr. Moloney joined the Translational Neuropathology Lab at Mayo Clinic in 2019.

Kelly M. Ross, M.S.

  • Senior Research Technologist

Kelly Ross has research expertise in cell biology and molecular genetics, with a focus on neurodegenerative disorders including Alzheimer's disease, related dementias and Parkinson's disease. She performs studies using human brain tissues donated by patients and their families to the Mayo Clinic brain bank. Her goal is to elucidate what goes wrong with specific genes and proteins involved in the disease process and identify clinicopathological subtypes of disease that may improve therapeutic strategies for individuals in a targeted way. Ross extracts DNA and RNA from brain tissues to run on expression arrays, generating large data sets to identify novel genes that may modulate disease progression. These approaches also provide data that can be shared with colleagues and collaborators around the world with the common mission of halting, and even preventing, the progression of these devastating disorders.

Ross received her Bachelor of Science in 2002 from the University of North Florida, Jacksonville, Florida. She joined Mayo Clinic in August 2005. Her research focus was on characterizing the most clinically relevant Parkinson's disease gene-protein leucine-rich repeat kinase 2 (LRRK2) using cell culture model systems and developing novel antibodies. As her research progressed, Kelly performed behavioral studies on various LRRK2 mouse models (developed by Heather L. Melrose, Ph.D., at Mayo Clinic's campus in Florida). In 2011, she received a master's degree in biomedical sciences from the Mayo Clinic Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences. Her thesis is titled "Characterization of Leucine-Rich Repeat Kinase 2-Associated Parkinson's Disease Using In Vivo Models."

Ross joined the Neuropathology and Microscopy Lab, led by Dennis W. Dickson, M.D., to study how neuropathological changes in the microtubule-associated protein tau (MAPT) lead to Alzheimer's disease. In 2017, she began investigating the heterogeneity of Alzheimer's disease with Dr. Murray to understand the molecular mechanisms that cause selective hippocampal vulnerability.

Darren Rothberg

  • Special Project Associate II

As a Special Project Associate II in Dr. Murray’s lab, Darren Rothberg helps support the team effort to research the causes and symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease. He graduated from Clark University in 2010 with a Bachelor of Science degree in Conservation Biology. He aimed to find a career in which he could help make a difference in the world. He joined Dr. Murray’s lab at Mayo Clinic in July 2021.

Sabrina B. Rothberg, M.P.H.

  • Research Program Coordinator

As a Research Program Coordinator in Dr. Murray's lab, Sabrina Rothberg is responsible for logistics of project flow and coordinating research administrative functions within the department. Rothberg received her Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Maryland, College Park in 2007. Following this, she completed a postbaccalaureate in the Mammary Biology and Tumorigenesis Laboratory at the National Cancer Institute. Her research focused on murine mammary tumorigenesis. She then completed her Master of Public Health from the Tulane University School of Public Health in New Orleans, LA. Most recently, Rothberg served as a Research Project Coordinator in the Department of Regenerative Medicine at the Naval Medical Research Center in Silver Spring, Maryland. She joined the Mayo team in March 2021.

Tiffany N. Sirmans

  • Ph.D. Student

Tiffany Sirmans is a graduate student in the Biochemistry and Molecular Biology track in the Mayo Clinic Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences. Sirmans will focus on studying tau binding proteins (such as SERPINA5) and their role in Alzheimer's disease and other neurodegenerative disorders. In 2020, Sirmans received her Bachelor of Science degree in biochemistry and molecular biology with a minor in pharmaceutical sciences from the University of Georgia. Sirmans researched the allosteric nature of UDP-glucose dehydrogenase (UGDH). Specifically, her studies on UGDH focused on the thermodynamic coupling between the allosteric and orthosteric sites. While studying UGDH, Sirmans learned techniques such as protein crystallization, x-ray diffraction, steady state kinetics, and protein purification.

Jessica F. Tranovich

  • Senior Program Coordinator

As a program coordinator in Dr. Murray's lab, Jessica Tranovich has supported all aspects of the lab including providing neuropathological documentation for the research team. Currently her focus is on understanding neurodegenerative diseases by using the Aperio digital analysis program. She also extracts patient clinical and neuropathology data to understand trends within the patient population. She has a significant role in Dr. Murray's National Institutes of Health (NIH)-funded research grant titled Clinicopathologic and Neuroimaging Differences in Alzheimer's Disease Variants.

In 2016, Tranovich started her career at Mayo Clinic helping families navigate the donation process for the Mayo Clinic brain bank. She earned a bachelor's degree in business administration in 2017.

Ashley Wood

  • Special Project Associate I

As a Special Project Associate in Dr. Murray’s lab, Ashley Wood helps the team conduct research by completing tasks involved in the study of Alzheimer’s disease. Wood is a certified phlebotomist. She has worked at a plasma center and physician's office, drawing blood samples, analyzing data, and conducting tests. During an internship at the Naval Air Station in Jacksonville, Florida, Wood prepared tissue specimens for microscopic diagnosis of disease. In 2018, Wood received an Associate of Science degree in Histologic Technology at Florida State College in Jacksonville, Florida. She joined the Mayo team in August 2021.