McDonald Fellowship recipients 2013-2016

Since the launch of the McDonald fellowships in 2007, we have awarded more than 30 fellowships to researchers from emerging countries such as Argentina, Bangladesh, Brazil, China, Hungary, India, Iran, Jordan, Mexico, Moldova, Romania, Turkey and Thailand, to spend 2 years training in a centre of excellence in MS research before taking their learnings back to their home country.

Below are some of our recent McDonald Fellowship recipients:


Ahmad Bijar from Iran was completing his PhD dissertation in engineering and medical image analysis at Universite Joseph Fourier in France when he received a McDonald fellowship to conduct postdoctoral research under the supervision of Prof. Daniel Reich and Prof. Dzung Pham in the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS) Translational Neuroradiology Section (TNS) which is a part of the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH). His project titled ‘Imaging Biomarker Discovery with Advanced Brain Segmentation Algorithms’ will build a publicly available software package that performs automated detection and characterization of MS lesions. Ahmad hopes one day to be able to establish a non-profit organization serving people with MS in Iran by supporting scientific research and promoting education.

Sowmya Sekizar is a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Edinburgh. She received the ECTRIMS-MSIF McDonald fellowship to continue her work in the laboratory of Dr Anna Williams at the Scottish Centre of Regenerative Medicine.  The title of her project is ‘Development of a focal model of demyelination in ex vivo mouse spinal cord slices’ and focuses on developing a new mouse model to better understand the process of remyelination. Sowmya hopes to return to India to continue her research in the field of myelin biology and MS research.


Cristina Marcoci is a neurologist from Moldova. She received a McDonald fellowship to spend two years working with Prof Kenneth Smith at the Institute of Neurology in London. Her project is titled ‘Overcoming tissue hypoxia – a new role for oxygen in the therapy of MS’. After completing her fellowship Cristina planned to do a PhD and continue her career in academic medicine with a focus on multiple sclerosis. Her ultimate aim is to create a Centre for Multiple Sclerosis Therapy in the Republic of Moldova, taking back with her the pioneering research and attitudes she learned from the Queen Square MS Centre in London.

Mahdieh Hadi is a PhD student in Molecular Biotechnology at the University of Tehran in Iran. She received a McDonald fellowship to travel to the University of Copenhagen in Denmark. Here, under the supervision of Prof Shohreh Issazadeh-Navikas she was investigating the genetic association and molecular mechanism of FoxA1 transcription factor action with the aim of designing a novel cell-based therapy for progressive MS.

Nakul Shah has a Master’s degree in Biotechnology from India and was working at the University of Roehampton when he received a McDonald fellowship. The fellowship enabled him to continue his studies towards a PhD under the supervision of Dr Robert Busch looking at the role of vitamin D in protecting people with a genetic risk of developing MS. The title of his project is ‘Regulation of expression of MS-associated HLA-DR tissue antigens’.


Arman Eshaghi has been working at the MS Research Center in Tehran, Iran, since 2007. In 2011 we awarded Arman a Du Pré grant, which allowed him to start working with the Queen Square MS group. His fellowship allowed him to spend time as a PhD student at University College London, under the mentorship of Dr Olga Cicarelli.

Jakir Hossain graduated from the University of Chittagong in Bangladesh and is now studying for his research Master’s degree at the Universite Pierre et Marie Curie in Paris. He is currently working on a research project, ‘Molecular analysis of the axon initial segment in a demyelination mouse model of MS’, under the supervision of Dr Marc Dayenne. His McDonald Fellowship (funded by the USA’s National MS Society) took him to the University of Nottingham in the UK, to work with Dr Bruno Gran on a project called ‘How do infections activate inflammation in MS? Role of toll-like receptor 2.’

Kiandokht Keyhanian graduated from the Isfahan University of Medical Sciences in Iran, a country where the incidence of MS seems to be increasing. Her work on pregnancy and MS was presented at the American Academy of Neurology Congress and then published in European Neurology. Thanks to a McDonald Fellowship, Kiandokht worked with Dr Tanuja Chitnis at Harvard University in the USA, studying adipokine effects on inflammatory cell gene expression in pediatric MS patients. She said: “I strongly believe that transferring the knowledge and research expertise to my country will be an important step in fighting MS in Iran.”

Miklos Palotai graduated in 2012 and then worked as a research fellow at the University of Szeged in Hungary. He currently holds a fellowship at Harvard Medical School, where he is studying neuroimaging of MS and neuromyelitis optica. The McDonald Fellowship (funded by the USA’s National MS Society) enabled him to continue this research, working with Dr Charles Guttman, looking at the role of different parts of the brain in fatigue. He plans to take his experiences and skills in advanced imaging techniques back to Hungary, to train others and continue working in research. He said: “As a prospective teacher of academic medicine, I will be enabled to teach my Hungarian colleagues how to use and implement the most advanced neuroimaging methods into their research.

Rumaiza Hussien Alyafeai from Yemen travelled to Spain, where she was hosted by Prof Xavier Montalban at Cemcat Barcelona. Her project was called ‘Measuring longitudinal cortical thickness changes in patients with clinically isolated syndromes’. After completing her fellowship in Spain, she planned to returning home to Yemen to continue care of MS patients, implementing a 2 week summer course in MS for interns and junior neurology residents.


Aysegul Dilsizoglu, a postdoctoral researcher from Turkey, spent two years in Pitié-Salpêtrière Hospital, Paris with Professor Catherine Lubetzki, investigating the role of the Axon Initial Segment (AIS) in MS.

Amir Malvandi, a postgraduate research assistant from Iran, is spending two years at San Raffaele Hospital, Milan under the supervision of Professor Gianvito Martino, investigating ‘In vivo reprogramming of somatic cells into oligodendrocytes as a way to promote tissue repair in a mouse model of multiple sclerosis’.

Runzhe Shu, a postdoctoral researcher from China, travelled to work in Monash University, Australia, with Prof Claude Bernard for two years investigating the use of Human induced pluripotent stem cell derived neural progenitor cells as an MS therapy.