Brain Group

Sara CroftSara Croft, BA: Sara received her B.A. from University of Florida and currently serves as the lab manager and supervisor.


Sam Seungbum Kim, PhDSeungbum (Sam) Kim, PhD: Dr. Kim received his Ph.D. in Molecular Cell Biology at the University of Florida. The main research focus of Dr. Kim is to understand how bone marrow derived stem/progenitor cells contribute to neurogenic hypertension. He is investigating the roles of bone marrow derived microglial cells and inflammatory cells that are associated with development of hypertension.



Ashok Kumar, PhDAshok Kumar, PhD: Dr. Kumar received his Ph.D. in Pharmaceutical Sciences from the University of Delhi, India. He has previous experience in Drug Discovery and Development for diseases ranging from erectile dysfunction, diabetes, Alzheimer’s, and asthma to hypertension. Dr. Kumar focuses on the immune system’s involvement in hypertension and pulmonary hypertension.

Gilberto LobatonGilberto Lobaton: Gilberto is an undergraduate student majoring in Applied Physiology and Kinesiology at the University of Florida. He plans to pursue a career in medicine.


Carl J. Pepine, MDCarl J. Pepine, MD: Carl J. Pepine, MD, is Professor of Medicine, Division of Cardiovascular Medicine at the University of Florida College of Medicine in Gainesville, Florida. He is Division Director Emeritus and Eminent Scholar Emeritus. Dr. Pepine is an internationally recognized leader in both the clinical and scientific areas of cardiovascular medicine. His major interests focus on the pathophysiology of ischemic heart disease and coronary and systemic vascular hemodynamic mechanisms underlying the disease. He is principal investigator for the UF center for the NHLBI-funded Women’s Ischemia Syndrome Evaluation (WISE) and the UF center for the Cardiovascular Cell Therapy Research Network (CCTRN). He has been or is the PI for many investigator initiated clinical trials, as well as NHLBI trials. He is past president of the American College of Cardiology (ACC), the national professional organization for cardiovascular specialists. He currently serves on the Board of Trustees of the ACC and many committees and task forces and is the founder and overall Project Chair for the Vascular Biology Working Group (VBWG). Dr. Pepine’s clinical interests include Ischemic heart disease, heart disease in women, cardiovascular cell therapy, preventive cardiology, genetic cardiology, clinical trials in cardiovascular disease, and hypertension & lipid disorders.

Vermali Rodriguez, PhDVermali Rodriguez, PhD: Vermalí Rodríguez is a Postdoctoral Associate in Dr. Raizada’s lab and a member of the clinical research team with the University of Florida’s Division of Cardiovascular Medicine since September 2014. In 2014, she attained her Ph.D. degree (August, 2014) in Physiology and Pharmacology and completed her certificate in Clinical Translational Science through the Interdisciplinary Program (IDP) in Biomedical Sciences also at the University of Florida. Her doctoral work focused on the role of pro-renin induced astrocyte activation in the paraventricular nucleus of the hypothalamus (PVN) during neurogenic hypertension. Currently, Dr Rodriguez’s major research efforts are dedicated in understanding the role of neuroinflammation in blood pressure control, specifically during the development and maintenance of drug-resistant hypertension (DRH). Additionally, she in charge of coordinating two clinical trials that target: (i) the potential use of Minocycline, a small molecule antibiotic that crosses the blood brain barrier, for controlling blood pressure and neuroinflammation during DRH and (ii) investigate the link of gut microbial dysbiosis and hypertension.

Monica Santisteban, PhDMonica Santisteban, PhD: Dr. Santisteban received her Ph.D. from University of Florida in Physiology. Her research interests are directed toward understanding mechanisms involved in the initiation and maintenance of neurogenic hypertension and the development of translational applications. She also focuses on neuroinflammation and the activation of microglia in the hypothalamic paraventricular nucleus, where signals from the periphery are integrated to regulate hormonal and autonomic balance, as well as the use of oral minocycline, an inhibitor of microglial activation with anti-inflammatory properties, for neurogenic hypertension. Recent work has focused on the involvement of gut dysbiosis in hypertension.



American Heart Association Greater Southeast Affiliate, Predoctoral Fellowship 14PRE18590018

“The involvement of microglial cell activation in the development and establishment of hypertension”

01/2014 – 08/2015

Ravindra Sharma, PhDRavindra Sharma, PhD: Dr. Sharma received his Ph.D. from the University of Delhi, India in Physiology. He has previous experience in electrophysiological techniques to understand neuronal signaling and functions with respect to regulation of the respiratory and cardiovascular systems. Dr. Sharma focuses on exploring neuroinflammation in the progression of neurogenic hypertension, as well as the involvement of gut microbiota dysbiosis in the pathophysiology of hypertension.

Colin Sumners, PhDColin Sumners, PhD: Dr. Sumners received his Ph.D. from University of Southampton (UK) in Physiology. His research focuses on the role of angiotensin II in the brain in neural control of blood pressure and neurogenic hypertension, as well as cerebroprotective actions of components of the renin angiotensin system. Dr. Sumners also focuses on investigating the potential beneficial actions of angiotensin peptides in ischemic and hemorrhagic stroke, with a view to uncovering novel therapeutic avenues.