Experimental Stroke Core Director

A photo of Xuefang Ren.
Xuefang "Sophie" Ren, MD/PhD
West Virginia University
Research Assistant Professor, Department of Neuroscience
Research Assistant Professor, Microbiology, Immunology & Cell Biology
Research Assistant Professor; Director, Experimental Stroke Core, Rockefeller Neuroscience Institute (SOM)

Xuefang (Sophie) Ren

Research Assistant Professor of Neuroscience

Dr. Ren is the founding Director of the ESC and oversees the conduct of stroke procedures at WVU. She has a decade of experience as a stroke expert and provides access to several stroke-related animal models. Dr. Ren’s independent stroke research programs include:

1. Immune responses shape outcomes from a stroke.

2. Mitochondria activity regulates blood-brain barrier permeability.

3. MicroRNAs regulates outcomes from a stroke.

4. Immune system and vascular dementia.

Nature Communications press released link below:


Rodent Behavioral Core Directors

Rodent Behavioral Core Director

A photo of James Walton.
James Walton
West Virginia University
Research Assistant Professor, Department of Neuroscience

Dr. Walton is trained as a behavioral neuroscientist, and has published studies on a wide range of species from fish to humans. His graduate work investigated the influence of environmental light on circadian rhythms, physiology, and behavior. His post-doctoral work expanded his expertise in this field through the study of circadian entrainment and function of the mammalian master clock, the suprachiasmatic nucleus. He now studies how exposure to extraneous light at night alters affective and cognitive behaviors, and compromised recovery from cerebral ischemia. Dr. Walton has extensive experience in behavioral phenotyping and behavior core management.

Rodent Behavioral Core Director

A photo of Randy Nelson.
Randy Nelson, PhD
West Virginia University
Professor & Chair, Department of Neuroscience
Hazel Ruby McQuain Chair for Neurological Research; Director, Basic Science Research, Rockefeller Neuroscience Institute (SOM)
Member, WVU Cancer Institute Research Programs

Randy Nelson 

Professor of Neuroscience

Hazel Ruby McQuain Chair for Neurological Research

Dr. Randy Nelson studies biological rhythms and the detrimental effects of disrupted circadian rhythms on several physiological and behavioral parameters, including immune function, neuroinflammation, sleep, affective responses, pain, and metabolism. He also is dedicated to teaching and mentoring of students and faculty. He has trained ~25 PhD students and 16 postdoctoral researchers, who have gone on to become faculty members at outstanding institutions, including Duke, Harvard, Chicago, Berkeley, UC Davis, Indiana, Emory, Johns Hopkins, Wisconsin, Georgia, Ohio State, Cal State, Cold Spring Harbor, and WVU. He has directed behavioral phenotyping cores at The Johns Hopkins University, Ohio State University, and WVU.

Administrative Core

The Administrative Core provides leadership and manages the development of a basic and translational stroke research at West Virginia University. Accomplishing this goal will position the WVU Stroke CoBRE to become a national center of excellence in stroke research, expanding our capacity to programmatically address important issues in stroke and enhance our vital research cores that serve the stroke, cardiovascular and neuroscience communities at WVU and across the state, while meeting the nation’s need for innovative approaches to this devastating disease.

Mentorship and Grantsmanship

A photo of Joan Lakoski.
Joan M. Lakoski, PhD
West Virginia University
Director of Investigator Development, West Virginia Clinical & Translational Science Institute

Joan Lakoski

Director of Proposal Development West Virginia Clinical & Translational Science Institute

Adjunct Professor, WVU School of Pharmacy

Dr. Lakoski joined the WVCTSI as Director of Proposal Development in 2017. She has actively supported the grant writing success of a variety of graduate students, postdoctoral fellows and junior faculty in the preparation and submission of grant applications, primarily to the NIH, for external funding support. At the WVU HSC she has established the use of a grant writing group process (where she serves as the organizer, instructor and facilitator) that is designed to enhance the success of mentored career development training applications (K awards) and R awards submitted by early career stage investigators. To date, several members of the WVU Stroke CoBRE have and are currently participating in this innovative and productive grant writing approach. Dr. Lakoski has a broad range of experience in leadership positions in academic medicine and research, enabling her to meet the challenge of preparing the next generation of biomedical investigators for success in establishing independent research programs. 


A photo of Christa Lilly.
Christa L Lilly, BS, MS, PhD
West Virginia University
Associate Professor, Biostatistics

Christa Lilly 

Associate Professor of Biostatistics

Dr. Lilly is an Associate Professor in Biostatistics in the School of Public Health, and serves as a biostatistics consultant with the West Virginia Clinical Translational Science Institute (WVCTSI) Clinical Research Design, Epidemiology, and Biostatistics (CRDEB) Program and the Stroke CoBRE. She has a strong record of scholarship in collaboration with colleagues in the School of Medicine, School of Public Health, and the School of Pharmacy, among other schools and programs. She is also the director of the Applied Biostatistics Certificate program and the graduate coordinator of the Master of Public Health degree in Biostatistics. Although her primary area of interest is in psychometrics and structural equation modeling, she also collaborates utilizing a wide variety of statistical techniques.

Grant Management

A photo of Matthew Scott.
Matthew Scott
West Virginia University
Financial Operations Specialist, Department of Neuroscience
Financial Operations Specialist, Rockefeller Neuroscience Institute (SOM)
Financial Operations Spec., Otolaryngology/Head & Neck Surgery

Matthew Scott

Finance Operations Specialist Neuroscience/Stroke CoBRE Administrator

Mr. Scott has served as the main administrator for the West Virginia Stroke CoBRE award since its inception. Duties include, but not limited to, organization of meeting of Stroke CoBRE investigators, core personnel, advisors, and mentors; establishment of budgets, set up project and core accounts, appointment of employees, reconciling accounts, reporting budgets to project/core leaders and senior leadership. He also works with the PI to make sure all NIH reporting is completed, and helps personnel submit extramural grants associated with their Stroke CoBRE project.

Internal Advisory Committee

A photo of Muhammad Alvi.
Muhammad M Alvi, MD
West Virginia University
Associate Professor, Neurology

Mohammed Alvi, MD

Director, WVU HealthCare Stroke Center, Department of Neurology

A photo of Sally Hodder.
Sally L. Hodder, MD
West Virginia University
Associate Vice President for Clinical and Translational Science and Director, West Virginia Clinical & Translational Science Institute
Professor of Medicine, Medicine

Sally Hodder, MD

Director, West Virginia Clinical and Translational Science Institute

Associate Vice President, Clinical and Translational Research

Professor of Medicine

A photo of Ali Rezai.
Ali Rezai, MD, FAANS
West Virginia University
Executive Chair, Vice President of Neuroscience, Associate Dean, Rockefeller Neuroscience Institute (SOM)
Director, Neurosurgery
John D. Rockefeller IV tenured professor in neuroscience, Department of Neuroscience

Ali Rezai, MD

Director of the Rockefeller Neuroscience Institute

John D. Rockefeller IV Professor of Neuroscience

Professor of Neurosurgery

A photo of John Hollander.
John M Hollander, PhD
West Virginia University
Professor, Assistant Dean for Professional Programs, Human Performance - Exercise Physiology

John M Hollander, PhD

Professor and Graduate Director, Exercise Physiology

Sr. Asst. Dean for Research and Graduate Education, Human Performance

Director, Mitochondria, Metabolism & Bioenergetics

External Advisory Committee

Meharvan Singh, PhD

Vice Dean of Research, Professor, Department of Cellular and Molecular

Physiology, Loyola University Chicago, Stritch School of Medicine (EAB Chair)

Louise McCullough, MD, PhD

Roy M. and Phyllis Gough Huffington Distinguished Chair of Neurology, Department of Neurology, University of Houston Heath Science Center

Gary Rankin, PhD

Professor and Vice Dean for Basic Sciences, Marshall University

Farida Sohrabji, PhD

Professor and Associate Chair, Department of Neuroscience and Experimental Therapeutics, Texas A & M University School of Medicine



Research Forrest