Brenner Research Group - People

Brenner research group



Sara Brenner, MD, MPH Associate Professor of Nanobioscience; Assistant Vice President for NanoHealth Initiatives; Nanomedicine Program Director — MD/PhD in Medicine & Nanoscale Science or Engineering

Sara Brenner

Dr. Brenner is a preventive medicine physician whose research focuses on the health and safety of individuals, workers, populations, and the environment as they relate to engineered nanomaterials. Through research projects across a broad portfolio, she serves as a link between basic life science research, occupational health, clinical translational research, direct patient care, and public health interventions aimed at improving population and individual health outcomes. Dr. Brenner’s academic research advances technology applications in the life sciences, including medicine and public health, as well as safeguards against unintended health effects of exposure to engineered nanoscale and advanced materials. She leads health initiatives related to emerging materials applications in medicine, as well as conducts research with diverse stakeholders to evaluate exposure in the workplace, consumer marketplace, and environment. She spear-headed the development and operation of the NanoHealth and Safety Center at CNSE, a $10M public-private partnership to address gaps in understanding of the safety and risk associated with the unique characteristics of nanoscale materials used in advanced manufacturing. Her research team incorporates theory from many disciplines including physics, engineering, biology, genetics, medicine, public health, epidemiology, industrial hygiene, and environmental science to advance risk assessment and reduction strategies for occupational exposures, monitor materials that may impact population health and public safety, and develop industrial practice standards for product safety. She oversees the Partnership to Advance Research and Guidance for Occupational Safety and Health in Nanotechnology between CNSE and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH). 

Her team's ongoing research portfolio includes field-based occupational exposure assessment with workers in semiconductor fabrication facilities as well as analytical methods development to transform outdated protocols to into higher throughput, nanomaterial-specific approaches. She is also working to develop new methods and applications for direct imaging of nanoscale materials in a variety of complex matrices, including biological and environmental samples, which will facilitate researchers ranging from medicine to toxicology to pharmacology to environmental health. One specific application of these techniques is being developed using an inhalation toxicology animal model, which was designed to mimic acute and subchronic real-world exposures to engineered metal oxide nanoparticles experienced in occupational settings.  Her team and collaborators are also working to develop and commercialize customized software that will expedite hyperspectral data acquisition and image analysis at the nanoscale for complex organic and inorganic samples.  Additionally, Dr. Brenner and her team have spent many years investigating the movement of industrial nanomaterials through wastewater treatment systems used in semiconductor manufacturing, and they are currently exploring methods for nanoparticle characterization, retention, and removal in order to prevent environmental release.

Dr. Brenner also serves as the CNSE Program Director for the MD/PhD Program in Medicine & Nanoscale Science or Engineering, a program that she helped co-found with SUNY Downstate Medical Center. It is the first dual-degree clinical training program in nanomedicine that aims to produce a new, hybrid generation of physician researchers poised to integrate technology and medicine from benchtop to bedside. 

Prior to joining the faculty, Dr. Brenner earned a Doctor of Medicine from the University of Iowa Carver College of Medicine, a Master of Public Health from SUNY UAlbany School of Public Health, and a Bachelor of Science in Genetics with a minor in Philosophy from Iowa State University. Her medical residencies included Internal Medicine at Evanston Northwestern and Preventive Medicine at the New York State Department of Health and UAlbany. Dr. Brenner has been professionally involved in national activities of the American College of Preventive Medicine (ACPM) and the American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine (ACOEM), including several stints of full-time engagement in Federal health policy initiatives in Washington, DC. She is both personally and professionally dedicated to health and wellness, participating in fitness events including road, trail, and snowshoe races ranging from 1 km sprints to 50 mile ultramarathons to 200 mile ultra relays. She recently received the 2018 University of Iowa Carver College of Medicine’s Distinguished Alumni Award (Early Career Achievement), was honored in the 2016 Albany Business Review’s 40 Under 40 (Innovator), received the Albany-Colonie Chamber of Commerce Women of Excellence Award in 2012 (Emerging Professional), the ACPM “Rising Star” Award, the American Cancer Society Physician Training Award (Preventive Medicine), the A. Zamin Rizavi, MD Award (Internal Medicine), the American Medical Association Legislative Awareness and Foundation Leadership awards (AMA), and the Hancher-Finkbine Medallion (University of Iowa).

Dr. Brenner is currently on sabbatical in Washington DC, serving as a Senior Policy Advisor in the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy with a broad portfolio in biomedical science and health technology arenas. Working in the Executive Office of the President, she provides expert advice, guidance, and direction on the nation’s highest scientific and technological priorities spanning biotechnology, medicine, health care, education, and the scientific enterprise at large. 

CNSE faculty profile: Sara Brenner


Nicole Neu-Baker, MPH, CPH Research Associate for NanoHealth Initiatives

Nicole Neu BakerNicole is interested in toxicology, public health, and occupational health and safety. As a Research Associate for NanoHealth Initiatives, she coordinates a research portfolio that focuses on occupational and environmental health and safety, and facilitates nanomedicine collaborations, programs and activities. Her work also includes conducting field and laboratory research in occupational health, exposure assessment, and nanotoxicology with regard to engineered nanomaterials currently used by the nanoelectronics industry. More recently, she has been working in collaboration with NIOSH to develop a rapid screening protocol for samples collected during occupational exposure assessments. Nicole routinely participates in educational outreach events focusing on applications of nanotechnology in medicine and healthcare, primarily targeting middle and high school aged students, to stimulate their interest in higher education and careers in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). She has a Bachelor of Arts in psychology and neuroscience from Ithaca College and a Master of Public Health, with a concentration in biomedical sciences, from the University at Albany School of Public Health. Prior to joining the Brenner Team, Nicole conducted environmental neurotoxicology research at the Wadsworth Center (NYS Department of Health), investigating the effects of environmental, occupational, and maternal exposure to PCBs and pesticides on brain development throughout the lifespan and risk for neurocognitive diseases, including Parkinson’s disease, ADHD, and autism spectrum disorder.

CNSE staff profile: Nicole Neu-Baker


María del Pilar Sosa Idelchik, MD Research Support Specialist

Maria del Pilar Sosa PenaPilar earned her MD from Universidad del Valle de México, campus Querétaro. Pilar joined the Brenner team in August 2014, during her final year of medical training. Her research focuses on nanotechnology in medicine and healthcare, assessing occupational exposure and nanotoxicology of engineered nanomaterials (ENMs) used in the semiconductor industry. Her focus is on the implementation of newer, faster and less expensive methods, such as hyperspectral imaging, to assess occupational exposure to ENMs that could have health related effects, in an effort to improve preventive medicine in the nanotechnology industry. Pilar is also an active participant in educational outreach events that focus on the applications of nanotechnology in modern medicine. She enjoys traveling, cooking, and sports.


James Dillon Graduate Student

James DillonJames's current research interests range from nanotoxicology to environmental and wastewater remediation utilizing nanotechnology. He earned a BS in Engineering Science with a concentration in Nanotechnology and minors in Bioengineering and Materials Science Engineering from the University of Pittsburgh's Swanson School of Engineering. He is currently the Secretary for the Nano Graduate Student Organization at CNSE. In his spare time, James enjoys reading science fiction novels, playing soccer, and spending time with friends and family.


Eunice Chou MD/PhD student

Eunice ChouEunice is in her third year of the combined MD/PhD program in nanomedicine, a joint dual-degree program between SUNY Poly CNSE and SUNY Downstate Medical College. Eunice graduated from Vassar College in 2014 with a BA in Neuroscience and Behavior. She began the MD/PhD nanomedicine program in summer 2014, when she completed a research rotation at CNSE, including several weeks with the Brenner Research Team, where she performed hyperspectral and darkfield imaging and analysis of histological samples. Her research at CNSE investigates the protective role of brain neuronal estrogen in environmental neurotoxicity, under the advisement of Dr. Xinxin Ding.


Marissa Guttenberg Undergraduate Intern (Summer 2013, Summer 2014, 2015-present)

Marissa GuttenbergMarissa is a rising CNSE senior nanoscience major, with minors in business and mathematics (at University at Albany). Marissa has been a member of the Brenner Research Team since 2013, where, as a high school student, she developed a protocol for TEM image analysis. She was first author in a research publication in the Journal of Biophotonics that investigated the utility of brightfield, darkfield, and hyperspectral imaging to assess the biodistribution of engineered nanoparticles in histological samples. She has also presented her research at several conferences. Marissa's current focus is on methods comparison and development for hyperspectral imaging. In her free time, Marissa enjoys cooking, spending time with her family, friends, and pets, and binge-watching TV series on Netflix.


Ana Segarceanu Undergraduate Intern (Spring 2017-present)

Ana SegarceanuAna is a rising junior at CNSE. As an intern with the Brenner Team, Ana has been developing methods for darkfield and hyperspectral imaging and analysis of aqueous nanoparticle suspensions.




Caroline Yao High School Intern (Summer 2017)

Caroline yaoCaroline is a rising senior at Niskayuna High School. She interned with the Brenner Team during the summer of 2017 through Girls, Inc., observing research and preparing public health presentation materials. Caroline plans on attending college for design, but is also interested in the STEM fields. In her free time, she enjoys painting, drawing, and spending time with friends and family.


Dana Peters High School Intern (Summer 2017)

Dana PetersDana is a rising senior at Schenectady High School. She interned with the Brenner Team during the summer of 2017 through Girls, Inc., observing research and preparing public health presentation materials. At Schenectady HS, Dana is part of the National Honors Society and Student Ambassadors. She has interned at a veterinary hospital and a non-profit organization that provides crisis intervention services to children and families in need. Dana wants to attend college to study chemical engineering with a focus on polymers or clinical applications. In her free time, she enjoys spending time with friends and family, playing and/or watching sports, traveling, and writing.


Previous Staff and Students

Devina Puri Undergraduate Intern (Spring 2016-Spring 2017)

Devina PuriDevina graduated from CNSE in May 2017 with a BS in nanoscale engineering. She is interested in the application of nanotechnology in medicine. She was an intern with Brenner Research Group since spring 2016, performing darkfield and hyperspectral imaging to investigate the biodistribution of metal oxide nanoparticles in tissues. She also likes reading and enjoys playing piano. Devina will be entering the PhD program in Biomedical Engineering at Georgia Tech in Fall 2017.


Laura Abariute, MSc. Visiting PhD Student (Spring 2017)

Laura AbariuteLaura is a third year PhD student in Physics at Lund University in Sweden. She is a member of Assoc. Prof. Christelle Prinz's lab group and one of 12 graduate students in the European Union funded by the PhD4Energy project. Laura is interested in the potential for nanoparticle exposure in industry, especially regarding human cell-nanoparticle interactions and nanotoxicology. She obtained her BSc. in Bioengineering and MSc. in Biochemistry in Lithuania. In Sweden, she is involved in outreach activities with high school students promoting science education.


Amirreza Samarbakhsh Undergraduate Intern (Summer 2016)

Amirreza SamarbakhshAmirreza attended The College of Saint Rose, where he majored in Biochemistry and minoring in Mathematics. As an intern with the Brenner Team, Amirreza has performed brightfield, darkfield, and hyperspectral imaging to analyze nanoparticle biodistribution in an inhalation exposure model. In his free time, he likes going out with friends, watching sports, and playing volleyball. Amirreza will be entering the PhD program in Chemistry at Wayne State University in Fall 2017.


Danis'Hanabri Fort

Undergraduate Intern (Summer 2016)

Danis'Hanabri FortDanish is an undergraduate at the University at Albany. With the Brenner Team, he was involved with programming, analysis, and data interpretation for ongoing and future projects involving hyperspectral imaging.



Leonardo Bezerra Undergraduate Intern (2014-2016)

Leonardo BezerraLeo is from Fortaleza, Brazil and spent much of his life living in various states along the East Coast. Leo is interested in the applications, development, and testing of nanotechnology within modern medicine. He was an intern on the Brenner team from 2014-2016 and performed hyperspectral and darkfield imaging and analysis of various histological samples. In his free time, Leo loves cooking and playing games. Leo graduated in May 2016 with a BS in nanoscale science and a mathematics minor. He began graduate studies at Wake Forest University in Fall 2016 where he is pursuing a PhD in Biomedical Engineering with a focus in Biomedical Imaging.


Bushra Alam, PhD, MS Graduate (May 2016)

Bushra AlamBushra's research interest lies in metrology applications in the semiconductor, health and environmental areas. She earned an MS in Nanoscale Engineering from the CNSE and graduated Magna Cum Laude from Lake Forest College, IL with a BA in Physics and Economics. Her dissertation research focused on devising methods to characterize, detect, and quantify, engineered nanomaterials in semiconductor, environmental/insulating, and biological samples. Her work involved extensive electron microscopy imaging (SEM and TEM) and X-ray microanalysis (EDS) of commercial CMP slurries, cutaneously-exposed animal tissue, and personal protective equipment. Bushra held numerous student leadership roles at CNSE, including serving as the president of the Nano Graduate Student Organization. Apart from research, Bushra enjoys traveling, the outdoors and ice skating. Bushra earned her PhD in May 2016 and is currently a Nanofabrication Scientist for Aerospace Applications at Aero Shade Technologies, Inc.


Sahil Tahiliani, MS Graduate Student

Sahil TahilianiSahil has varied interests ranging from environmental remediation using magnetic nanoparticles to nano-imaging techniques. His current research interests are in laboratory research in occupational health, nano-imaging techniques, and nanotoxicology with regard to engineered nanomaterials currently used by the nanoelectronics industry. He has a BS in N-B-I-C Converging technologies and MS in Nanoscience & Nanotechnology from Centre for Converging Technologies, University of Rajasthan, Jaipur, India. He also has a diploma in science journalism. He has two publications in peer-reviewed journals. Additionally, Sahil is the Vice-President of the Indian Student Organization at the State University of New York at Albany. He is a passionate part-time photographer and continues to apply his passion for imaging into his research. He loves traveling and badminton. Sahil is currently a graduate student at the Joint School of Nanoscience & Nanoengineering (JSNN) at North Carolina Agriculture & Technical University.


Julia Martinez Undergraduate Summer Intern (2015)

Julia MartinezJulia is in her final year of undergraduate studies at UCLA, where she is completing a BA in Human Biology and Society. She is interested in medicine and public health, specifically the convergence point of culture and health. As an undergraduate intern on the Brenner team, she employed hyperspectral microscopy to the analysis of tissue samples to determine if and how nanoparticles biodistribute. In her free time, Julia loves to be outside, be it running, backpacking, canoeing, or napping.


Danielle Attanasio Undergraduate Summer Intern (2015)

Danielle AttanasioDanielle is a senior at SUNY Plattsburgh where she is double-majoring in Biology and Physics. She interned with the Brenner research team for Summer 2015 and worked on darkfield and hyperspectral imaging of histological samples. At SUNY Plattsburgh, Danielle is a Resident Assistant, a member of an a cappella group, and the Vice President of the University's Physics Club.


Arun Nallainathan Undergraduate Summer Intern (2015)

Arun NallainathanArun is a sophomore at Stony Brook University. As an undergraduate intern on the Brenner team, Arun used darkfield and hyperspectral imaging to analyze wastewater samples. In his free time, he likes playing basketball at the park.



Zain-ul Sulehri Undergraduate Summer Intern (2015)

Zain ul SulehriZain is in his sophomore year at the College of Saint Rose, where he is majoring in Biochemistry. He hopes to attend medical school after he completes his undergraduate studies. As an undergraduate intern on the Brenner team, Zain conducted darkfield and hyperspectral microscopy analysis of histological samples.


Sara Wong Undergraduate Summer Intern (2014, 2015)

Sara WongSara attends Cooper Union. She first interned with the Brenner team in Summer 2014, performing hyperspectral and darkfield imaging and analysis of histological samples. Currently, Sara is conducting electron microscopy analysis of occupational exposure assessment samples, co-mentored by Dr. Sara Brenner and Dr. Kathy Dunn.


Gary Roth, PhD, MS Graduate (May 2015)

Gary RothGary is keenly interested in the environmental distribution of anthropogenic chemicals. He earned an MS in Environmental Health and Toxicology and a BS in Environmental Science from the University at Albany. He has experience in developing analytical methods for assessing materials of interest in food and water supplies in conjunction with the NYS Department of Health. The research he conducted as a graduate student on the Brenner team focused on advanced characterization methods for mixed-material nanoparticles in complexwater systems as well as detection and characterization of nanomaterials in vivo. He is also very interested in educational and scientific policymaking and commercialization of emergent technologies. Gary represented the University’s graduate students on the University Council and is the Chief Operating Officer of Dental Defense, LLC, a corporation founded to develop and sell nanotechnology-based dental-hygienic products. Gary earned his PhD from CNSE in May 2015 and is currently a Senior Research Fellow at CDC-NIOSH.


Sam Rosis Undergraduate Intern (Fall 2014 - Spring 2015)

Sam RosisSam graduated from the University at Albany in May 2015 where he double majored in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology and minored in Mathematics. He interned with the Brenner Team for the Fall 2014 and Spring 2015 semesters. With his background in nano starting at the University of Delaware, Sam plans on completing an MBA in International Business in London after his graduation from Albany to better bridge the gap between the scientific and business communities by being at the forefront of directing investor relations to the rapidly growing nano-industry.


Ahlam Abuawad Undergraduate Intern (Summer 2014 - Spring 2015)

Ahlam AbuawadAhlam interned with the Brenner team performing hyperspectral and darkfield imaging and analysis of histological samples. Her research was focused on the biodistribution of nanoparticles following inhalation exposure in rat models. She graduated from the University at Albany in May 2015 with a BS in Biology and a BA in Chemistry. In fall 2015, Ahlam will attend the University at Albany School of Public Health, where she will earn a Master of Public Health in Environmental Health.


Michele Shepard, PhD, MS, CIH Graduate (December 2014)

Michele ShepardMichele is interested in risk assessment and management practices for engineered nanomaterials, applying a lifecycle framework. Her current research involves investigating occupational exposures and assessment methods for metal oxide nanoparticles used in a semiconductor process, and approaches for risk management. She has a BS in Industrial Hygiene/Environmental Toxicology from Clarkson University and an MS in Environmental Studies from the University of Oregon. Michele is a Certified Industrial Hygienist (CIH) and has 20 years of environmental health and safety experience in industry, academia, and consulting. Michele earned her PhD from CNSE in December 2014 and is currently the Vice President for EHS Management Systems and Auditing at Colden Corporation.


Hallie Morgan, MA, MPH Research Coordinator (2009-2012)

Hallie Morgan





Pascale Houanche Undergraduate Intern, UAlbany (Summer - Fall 2010)

 Pascale Houancheweb               





Stephanie Collins-Finn Dental Student Intern, Tufts University School of Dental Medicine (Fall 2009)

Stephanie Collins Finn                   





Molly Goodman Undergraduate Summer Intern (2013)

Molly GoodmanMolly is from Schenectady, NY and graduated from Emma Willard High School in Troy, NY. At Emma Willard, she was on the varsity track and tennis teams, and did extracurricular volunteer work with underprivileged children in Troy. Molly is currently studying at the University of Rochester on the pre-med track, majoring in Genetics with a minor in History. She plays varsity tennis for the University of Rochester, volunteers at Strong Memorial Hospital, is on the Varsity Student Athlete Advisory Committee and is a member of the Delta Gamma Sorority. Molly assisted in the development of material for Dr. Brenner’s undergraduate nanomedicine course during an internship at CNSE in Summer 2013. She enjoys working out, playing tennis, and spending time with her family and friends.


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