Sonia Villapol, PhD, Assistant Professor of Neurosurgery, Scientist

Sonia Villapol, PhD, graduated from the University of Santiago of Compostela, Spain in 2003 with a bachelor’s degree in molecular biology and biotechnology. She received her master´s degree and PhD in neuroscience from the Autonomous University of Barcelona, Spain in 2007. She worked as a postdoctoral fellow at CNRS in the University Pierre and Marie Curie VI and at INSERM in Paris, France (2007-2010) and at the National Institutes of Health and Center for Neuroscience and Regenerative Medicine at Uniformed Services University (USUHS) in Bethesda, Maryland (2010-2014). Following her postdoctoral research work, Villapol joined the Department of Neuroscience at Georgetown University in Washington, DC as a Research Assistant Professor in May 2014. In July 2018, she started as an assistant professor at the Center for Neuroregeneration at Houston Methodist.

Villapol has received extramural research funding as a principal investigator from NIH, and she serves as an associate editor for Cellular and Molecular Neurobiology (Springer Journal) and review editor for Frontiers in Neurotrauma. She has published more than 40 articles in peer reviewed journals and book chapters. Her research interests have mainly focused on elucidating the mechanisms of neurodegeneration, neuroinflammation or neurogenesis via several models of brain injury (traumatic brain injury or cerebral ischemia) and how inflammatory mediators connect the brain with the periphery. The Villapol Lab mission is the pursuit of novel neurorestorative treatments for debilitating brain injuries to open the door to alternative therapies that repair and recover the damaged brain through the periphery.

Villapol Lab
Villapol Lab – Texas Medical Center, Houston, TX

Sirena Soriano, Ph.D.
Senior Postdoctoral Fellow

Sirena Soriano, PhD, obtained her doctorate degree from the University of Valencia, Spain in 2016 under the mentorship of Drs. Moltó and Martínez. As part of her doctoral training, she joined the laboratory of Juan Botas, PhD, at Baylor College of Medicine as a visiting fellow to perform a genetic interaction screening in a fly model of Friedreich ataxia. She later joined Rodney Cavero Samaco, PhD’s, laboratory as a postdoctoral associate where she participated in the molecular and behavioral characterization of rodent models of autism spectrum disorders. In 2019, she joined the Villapol Lab as the next step in her pursuit of a career in academia, with the goal of investigating the link between brain injuries and Alzheimer’s disease

Saeed Sadrameli, M.D.
Neurosurgery Resident

Dr. Saeed Sadrameli received his Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in Electrical Engineering from the University of Florida. He then joined Texas Instruments Inc. in Dallas as a product and test engineer before he returned to Gainesville where he was elected as the president of the Alpha Omega Alpha honor society and subsequently received his M.D. from the University of Florida College of Medicine in May 2015. Despite being a Gator fan, he joined the Houston Methodist Department of Neurosurgery in July 2015 and is currently involved in multiple research projects involving concussion in animal models as well as collegiate athletes. His clinical areas of interest are minimally invasive approaches to the spine and spinal reconstruction for treatment of adult scoliosis. He has published several clinical manuscripts and book chapters in the area of spine surgery.

Jane Fitzgerald, B.S.
Research Assistant I

Jane Fitzgerald joined the Villapol Lab to investigate the occurrence of auto-antibodies targeting neural receptors, resulting in symptoms mirroring schizophrenia and depression. She originally intended to pursue a degree in fine arts but completed her bachelor’s in biology with a minor in chemistry from Suffolk University in Boston.

Kiana Banafshay
Undergraduate Student

Kiana Banafshay is a junior at the University of Texas at Austin (UT) majoring in biology with a minor in business. She was recognized as a Distinguished College Scholar and is a mentor in the Accelerated Research Initiative at UT. A native of Houston, Texas, Kiana is excited to be at Houston Methodist and learn more about neurorestoration through this lab, broadening her research experience as a result. She will also be applying to medical school this upcoming summer to further her dreams of becoming a medical doctor

Current Visiting and Rotating Researchers at Houston Methodist Research Institute

Kristen Curry – Ph.D. student, Rice University

Maria “Qi” Wang Ph.D. student, Rice University

Former Lab Members at Houston Methodist Research Institute

Shashi Krishnamurthy, M.S. – Senior Research Assistant III (November 2018 to December 2020)

Kiana Banafshay – Summer intern, from the University of Texas, Austin (Summer, 2019)       

Omkar Borikar – Volunter Student,  (2019).

Jane Fitzgerald, Research Assistant I,  (2019).

Hina Aslam, M.D., Neurology Resident,  (2019).  

Manoj Dandekar,D. Research Associate I, Villapol Lab at HMRI, (March 2019- January 2020).


Former Lab Alunmi


  1. Lucas Djavaherian (Georgetown University, 2017-2018).
  2. William Mualem (Georgetown University, 2016-2018).
  3. Jeevan Nijhar (Georgetown University, 2015-2016).
  4. Kyle Jenkins (Georgetown University, 2015-2016).
  5. France Prioul (Paris Diderot University, Paris, France, 2009-2010).
  6. Isabel Beltran (Pierre and Marie Curie University, Paris, France, 2008-2009).


  1. Addison Jacobs (Georgetown University, 2016-2017).
  2. Maria Spiegler (Pierre and Marie Curie Université, Paris, France, 2008-2009).


  1. Hina Aslam, M.D. (Neurology Resident, HMRI, Houston, 2019).
  2. Saeed Sadrameli, (Neurosurgery Resisent, HMRI, 2019/2020).


  1. Evan Wicker (Rotating Ph.D. student, Georgetown University, 2016-2018).
  2. Holly Korthas (Rotating Ph.D. student, Georgetown University, 2017).
  3. Laya Rajan (Rotating Ph.D./M.D. student, Georgetown University, 2017).
  4. Seham Alaiyed (Rotating Ph.D. student, Georgetown University, 2016/2017).
  5. Trevor Logan (Ph.D. student, Uniformed Services University, 2010-2014).
  6. Kwame Affram (Ph.D. student, Uniformed Services University, 2010-2014).


  1. MariaFe LanFranco,D. (Post-doctoral fellow, Georgetown University, 2016-2017).
  2. Manoj Dandekar,D. (Research Associate I, Villapol Lab at HMRI, March 2019- January 2020).


  1. Alexandra Yaszemski, (Research Assistant, Uniformed Services University, Symes Lab, 2010-2012)
  2. Maria Balarezo, (Research Assistant, Uniformed Services University, Symes Lab, 2012-2014).
  3. Jane Fitzgerald, (Research Assistant I, Villapol Lab at HMRI, 2019).


  1. Eduardo Flores (Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Georgetown University, 2018).
  2. Alex Harvey (Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Georgetown University, 2018).
  3. Aishu Nambiar (Physiology and Biophysics, Georgetown University, 2018).
  4. Bridge Moffet (Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Georgetown University, 2017).
  5. Leah Benton (Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Georgetown University, 2017).
  6. William Furlow (Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Georgetown University, 2017).
  7. Kershina George (Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Georgetown University, 2017).
  8. Stephen Pupkin (Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Georgetown University, 2015).