Lab Members

Principal Investigator

Monica Santisteban, PhD

Dr. Santisteban completed her Ph.D. under the mentorship of Dr. Mohan Raizada at the University of Florida working on the role of brain-mediated hypertension, focusing on the contribution of sympathetic activation to modulating bone marrow cells and the intestinal microbiota in the mechanisms of hypertension. The brain is not only critical in driving the development and maintenance of hypertension, but it is also negatively affected by the elevation of blood pressure. To expand her knowledge on the detrimental effects of hypertension on the brain, she joined Dr. Costantino Iadecola’s laboratory at Weill Cornell Medicine to pursue her postdoctoral training. Her postdoc research focused on the breakdown of the blood-brain barrier in hypertension, and the neurovascular bases for cognitive dysfunction in salt-sensitive hypertension. 

Monica was born and raised in San José, Costa Rica. When she is not in the lab, you can find her hanging out with her dog or running in the park. In addition to neuroscience research, she is also passionate about training the next generation of scientists, and promoting access, diversity, equity, and inclusion in science. 

Postdoctoral Fellow

Sara Zarate, PhD

Dr. Zarate completed her PhD at Texas A&M University School of Medicine under the mentorship of Dr. Rahul Srinivasan. Her project focuses on understanding the contribution of brain angiotensin II in promoting tau phosphorylation and neurovascular dysfunction. 

Sara is funded by T32-HL144446

Postdoctoral Fellow

Ismary Blanco, PhD

Dr. Blanco completed her PhD at Georgetown University under the mentorship of Dr. Katherine Conant. Her project investigates the role of MMP-9 in neurovascular and cognitive impairment in salt-sensitive hypertension. 

Ismary is a NIH Blueprint D-SPAN Fellow

Research Associate

Melissa Sobanko

Melissa graduated from Fordham University in 2021 where she majored in Integrative Neuroscience with a minor in Sociology. She is interested in pursuing graduate school with a focus on neuroscience. In her free time, Melissa enjoys video games and learning how to bake

Undergraduate Student

Sichu Chen

Sichu is a junior at Vanderbilt University, majoring in Biochemistry and Chemical Biology. She is interested in the clinical cardiovascular and anesthesiology fields. She aspires to pursue the medical clinical field in the future. During her free time, she practices playing the viola and joins the symphony orchestra, where she enjoys playing music to relax and express herself. 

Undergraduate Student

Ava Santner

Ava is a junior at Vanderbilt University majoring in Molecular & Cellular Biology and Psychology. She plans to pursue graduate school and continue researching cognitive impairment as a hallmark of Alzheimer's Disease. In her free time, Ava performs with a student-run dance company and gives weekly tours to prospective students for Vanderbilt Admissions.

Undergraduate Student

Erin Yeo

Erin is a sophomore at Vanderbilt University majoring in Cognitive Studies and Medicine, Health, and Society. She is interested in pursuing clinical medicine, particularly in the fields of neuroimmunology and anesthesiology. Aside from academics, she enjoys performing violin at local senior care facilities and the ICU as a volunteer.

Graduate Rotation Students

Fall 2023: Alec Kramer, Sarah Miller