Epilepsy Genetics Program Meet Our Team

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Contact Epilepsy Genetics Program

  • 1-617-355-8656
  • International: +1-617-355-5209

Annapurna Poduri, MD, MPH

Dr. Poduri directs the Epilepsy Genetics Program as a clinician-scientist, with one hand in the clinic as a pediatric epileptologist and the other hand in the laboratory on a mission to identify the genetic underpinnings of epilepsy.  Here at Boston Children's, she is also the Co-Director of the Neurology Department's Program in Neurogenetics and serves on the BEST Committee for standardizing laboratory practices.

Dr. Poduri is a key participant in epilepsy genetics research at the local and national levels. She is the Epilepsy Genetics Benchmark Steward to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS) and the Boston Children's Principal Investigator for the NIH-funded Epilepsy Phenome/Genome Project (EPGP), a national, multi-centered research study. She has been actively involved in data quality review and publications from the phenotyping phase of that project, and is now involved in the genotyping phase. In addition, Dr. Poduri is part of an international effort to understand the genetics of severe early-onset epilepsies.

Heather Olson, MD
Attending Neurologist

Dr. Olson is a neurologist and epileptologist at Boston Children’s Hospital with board certification in neurology and special qualification in child neurology.  She has fellowship training in epilepsy and clinical neurophysiology, as well as in neurogenetics, with a focus on epilepsy genetics.  She also has experience and interest in neonatal neurology.  She is an attending physician in the Epilepsy Genetics Program, through which she sees patients for consultations and management of epilepsy.  She sees additional patients for consultation as part of the Brain Development and Genetics Program, and she is an attending physician in the Neonatal Neurology Follow-up Program with a focus on epilepsy and neurogenetics.  Dr. Olson is also Co-director of the CDKL5 Center of Excellence.

Dr. Olson has ongoing related research projects that focus on understanding and determining the underlying genetic causes of epilepsy, including the overlap of inflammatory and genetic mechanisms of epilepsy. She has expertise in both phenotypic and genotypic analysis. She is the local contact for the Rasmussen Encephalitis Research Consortium and neurologist for The Angelman Natural History Study. In 2013, Dr. Olson was selected as the recipient of the Logan Infantile Spasms Award and Research Grant by the Child Neurology Foundation.

Beth Rosen Sheidley, MS, CGC
Licensed Genetic Counselor/Program Manager

Beth Rosen Sheidley is a licensed genetic counselor with 20 years of experience in clinical genetic counseling, research and teaching. Her areas of expertise include epilepsy, autism, psychiatric illness and both prenatal and pediatric genetic counseling.

Beth provides genetic counseling to families seen in our Epilepsy Genetics Clinical Consultation Program, oversees the implementation of our research efforts, and serves on the Boston Children’s Hospital BEST committee, which reviews the use of genetic tests by physicians at Boston Children's Hospital.

Beth received her BS degree from Cornell University in 1990 and her MS in Genetic Counseling from Brandeis University in 1994.  She joined the Department of Neurology at Boston Children’s Hospital in 2010.  In addition to her role in the Epilepsy Genetics Program, Beth is a member of the Advisory Board for the Brandeis University Genetic Counseling Graduate Program, where she served as Professor of the Practice/Co-Director of Research and Professional Development from 2005 through June of 2014.

Lacey Smith, MS, CGC
Licensed Genetic Counselor

Lacey Smith joined the Epilepsy Genetics Program in May of 2014. She provides genetic counseling to families seen in our Epilepsy Genetics Clinical Consultation Program. In addition to her clinical work, Lacey also coordinates our PCDH19 Epilepsy Patient Registry and assists in our ongoing research efforts.

Lacey received her BS in Biological Science from the University of Vermont in 2009 and her MS in Genetic Counseling from Brandeis University in 2014.

Tsega Mekonnen Meshesha
Clinical Program Coordinator

Tsega Mekonnen Meshesha joined the Epilepsy Genetics Program in July 2015 as our first program coordinator. She manages the clinical program and is the primary point person, both for referrals and for communicating with families about scheduling and providing intake information.

Tsega graduated from Bryn Mawr College in 2013 with a BA in Sociology and is a qualitative researcher by training. Prior to joining our team she worked with The Wellesley Centers for Women at Wellesley College and the University of Gonder on a project in Gonder, Ethiopia that looked at the mental health needs of rural Ethiopian women affected by obstetric fistula. Tsega’s goal is to be a researcher that bridges the gap between access to health services and care while creating culturally sensitive interventions that addresses mental health needs among vulnerable populations.

Gessica Truglio, PhD
Research Fellow
Gessica Truglio joined the Epilepsy Genetics Program in January of 2014.  She is working to develop zebrafish models of PCDH19-related epilepsy. Gessica’s goals are to create a knockout of pcdh19  and also to introduce specific mutations in zebrafish to better understand the genotype-phenotype correlations in our PCDH19 patient population. She is also conducting behavioral assays and drug screening in zebrafish.

Gessica received her BS in Biological Science in 2007 and her MS in Biology Applied to Biomedical Research from La Sapienza University of Rome in 2010. She received her PhD in Biotechnology in Clinical Medicine from La Sapienza University of Rome in 2013. 

Alexander Jaksic
Research Assistant

Alexander Jaksic joined the Epilepsy Genetics Program in July 2015 as a Research Assistant. He conducts genetic, biochemical and molecular biology experiments in an effort to investigate the genetic underpinnings of epilepsy. Alex graduated from Union College, Schenectady, NY in 2015 with a BS in Biochemistry. After spending a year pursuing this research, Alex aims to attend medical school and purse his clinical interest in pediatrics.

McKenna Kelly
Research Assistant

McKenna Kelly joined the Epilepsy Genetics Program as a Research Assistant in June of 2015.  She is responsible for recruiting and enrolling families to participate in research studies aiming to investigate and better understand genetic factors of epilepsy.  McKenna graduated from Hamilton College in Clinton, NY in 2015 earning a BA in Biology and being elected to Phi Beta Kappa.  In the coming years, she plans to pursue a medical degree. 

Mark Lacoursiere
Research Assistant

Mark Lacoursiere is a research assistant for the Epilepsy Genetics Program. He is responsible for conducting biochemical experiments to find novel genetic etiologies of epilepsy.  Mark joined the Epilepsy genetics program in 2012 after graduating with a Wildlife Biology degree from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst.  He plans to attend graduate school for environmental biology with a focus on population genetics.

Rebecca Pinsky
Research Assistant

Rebecca Pinsky joined the Epilepsy Genetics Program in May of 2013. Her responsibilities include recruiting and enrolling families to participate in research studies.

Rebecca earned her BS in Kinesiology and Psychology from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst in 2013 where she was a Peer Health Educator for exercise and nutrition for the school of Public Health and Health Sciences. She is a member of Psi Chi, the International Psychology Honors Society. Rebecca plans to become a neonatal or pediatric nurse practitioner and pursue neurology and research.

Past Members

Gabriel Dabscheck, MBBS (Hons), MClinEpi, FRACP

Gabriel Dabscheck is an Australian trained neurologist who completed his Epilepsy training at Boston Children’s Hospital. He developed an interest in the etiology of Rasmussen Encephalitis while working with Dr. Poduri. Together with Dr. Olson, Gabriel is leading a project investigating potential genetic causes of Rasmussen Encephalitis. In addition to his collaborations through Boston Children’s Hospital, Gabriel is also completing a pediatric neuro-oncology fellow at the Dana Faber Cancer Institute.

Madelen Diaz

Madelen Diaz is a former summer fellow. Prior to joining the Epilepsy Genetics Program in 2012, Madelen spent three years improving the localization of the epileptic region in patients undergoing surgery at Miami Children's Hospital. Madelen earned her BS in neuroscience with departmental honors from the University of Miami in 2013.  She is currently pursuing a PhD in neuroscience at Brandeis University with hopes of continuing epilepsy research.

Emilie Martin

Emilie Martin is a former student intern and trainee from France. She received her BS in biology in 2012. Emilie is currently in her first year of a master’s program in biology at the Ecole Normale Superieure in Lyon, France.

Sriram Ramgopal, MD

Sriram Ramgopal is a former research assistant in the Epilepsy Genetics Program. During his time in the program, he recruited and consent families for research studies and assisted in analysis of brain malformation data derived from the Epilepsy Phenome/Genome Project. His professional area of interest is in pediatric neurology. Sriram is a medical graduate from Sri Ramachandra Medical University and is currently completing his medical residency in Pediatrics at Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh.

Catherine Shain, MPH

Catherine Shain served as our dedicated Research Program Manager from 2009 through March of 2014. Catherine received her BS in Public Health from Clemson University's Honors College and her MPH in Epidemiology from Boston University.

Dimira Tambunan

Dimira Tambunan is a former research assistant in the Epilepsy Genetics Program. From 2013 to 2015, Dimira was responsible for carrying out a variety of genetic, biochemistry, and molecular biology assays in the lab. Dimira graduated from Northeastern University in 2013 with a BS degree in Behavioral Neuroscience and is currently a medical student at Boston University. She hopes to focus on pediatric or neonatal neurology.

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