Cassandra Puccinelli

Cassandra Puccinelli, M.D.

2009 – 2011

Cassie, as her friends affectionately call her, began her association with NVCBR as a junior pre-med student in 2010 and soon became a research assistant working part time in the basic research laboratory. She was a quick study in laboratory methods, becoming an invaluable employee within weeks of on-the-job training. Her personal experiences while researching ME have given her a unique insight into the complexity of the illness and a compassion for patients who suffer from this complex disease.

Cassie graduated from the University of Nevada School of Medicine as the top student in her class. She earned the Dean’s Merck Manual Award for Outstanding Student in Medical Studies, the Outstanding Student in Surgery Award, and the American Medical Women’s Association of Commendation for Student Achievement Award. She was elected to the Alpha Omega Alpha Honor Society. She is currently in residency at the most prestigious medical organization in the U.S., the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. She is one of three new ENT surgery residents at the Mayo, having been chosen for one of the more rare medical residencies in the U.S.


Grady Berk

2012 – 2013

Grady Berk started at NVCBR in December 2012 as a volunteer while in his final semester at University of Nevada, Reno. In 2013, Grady was hired as a research assistant. Grady performed a variety of tasks under the direction of senior researchers and, in doing so, had the opportunity to utilize exciting new technology and equipment. He learned valuable skills such as how to prepare samples for flow cytometry, run the flow cytometry machine, perform ELISA assays, and prepare RNA samples for next generation sequencing on the ION Torrent Next Generation Sequencer.

Grady applied to NVCBR because, throughout his academic career, the most interesting and exciting courses he took were lab courses. He enjoyed the “hands on” aspect of working in the lab and seeing the work produce results. His experience at NVCBR strengthened his discipline, patience, and most importantly, lab skills. According to Grady, an added bonus of his employment was the opportunity to work alongside the friendly and genuinely nice staff as part of a team that can tackle any challenge.

Grady graduated with a bachelor’s of science in biology from University of Nevada, Reno in May 2013.


Henry Altick

2015 – 2016

Henry Altick is participating in NVCBR’s student researcher program as a senior at the University of Nevada, Reno. Henry is pursuing a double-major in neuroscience and biochemistry/molecular biology. Henry chose this career path because he was inspired by the study of the brain’s chemical processes and underlying dysfunction.

Henry is working with other student volunteers in the NVCBR’s basic research laboratory to determine the binding expression of the IL-7 receptor in lymphocytes of subject with Gulf War illness. His research covers a broad range of cell types within subjects in order to look at the disorder from different perspectives, ultimately supporting or refuting the current IL-7 receptor theory.

Henry’s future plans include Alzheimer’s and similar disease research. He hopes to play an important role in improving the lives of those with chronic neurological disorders.


Jhanh Rackley

2015 – 2016

Jhanh Rackley is participating in NVCBR’s student researcher program as a biochemistry and molecular biology major at the University of Nevada, Reno. Jhanh’s current project at NVCBR focuses on proving the specificity of a biological assay for the redox capacity of prion proteins. If proven specific, the project may progress to developing a connection between chronic fatigue syndrome patients who have dysfunctions controlling oxidative stress and prion proteins.

Jhanh enjoys both biology and chemistry and was inspired to choose biochemistry as a major because it seemed to be the best of both worlds. This major also provides a natural stepping stone into the world of pharmacology; Jhanh hopes to pursue a career at a research pharmacy facility developing new drugs and conducting clinical trials.


Kathryn Hagen, M.D.

2006 – 2011

Katy Hagen worked a year and a half in NVCBR’s research laboratories. After spending time with patients, she discovered her passion for medicine and helping those in need. As she began to appreciate the importance of translational research work, she also gained a deeper understanding of the mechanisms of disease and a desire to make a difference.

Katy graduated from the University of Nevada School of Medicine and is currently a medical resident in the Oregon Health Sciences University (OHSU) Department of Neurology, which is notably one of the nation’s leading neurologic research and training programs and provides the most comprehensive care of neurologic illnesses in the Pacific Northwest.

Katy feels that she was fortunate to have mentors at the center who were well-versed in immunology and virology because it provided her with an in-depth understanding of human health and disease before entering medical school. Her research experience created a desire to understand the underlying causes of disease, which is especially important when working with patients who suffer from complex illnesses. Working with ME/CFS patients convinced her that all patients are deserving of respect and empathetic care whether they suffer from poorly understood illnesses or more common diseases.

Neil Hundal


Neil was a 19-year-old biology student with a desire to learn more about disease from a research perspective. Although he had only finished one year of college, he had already chosen medicine as his ultimate goal, following in the footsteps of his older cousin Dr. Raj Hundal. Dr. Hundal, an outstanding cardiologist who graduated from University of Nevada School of Medicine, and later completed his residency in cardiology at California Pacific Medical Center, saw great promise in his cousin’s unusual work ethic and deep desire to help others who suffer from serious illnesses. With Dr. Hundal’s encouragement, Neil contacted NVCBR in search of an unpaid summer internship.

Dr. Lombardi agreed to mentor Neil as long as he understood the seriousness of the work and would accept the unusually long hours that working in a lab might entail. Neil was a quick learner and very responsible. Neil was able to complete a portion of an important project involving immune polymorphisms unique to those with ME. Sadly, Neil will not be able to see the results of his work on that revealing study of the immune system of patients with ME because he died in a tragic accident on March 13, 2015.

We will always be grateful for the opportunity to have known and worked with Neil. He will be remembered as a passionate, hardworking, kind individual who helped move the science of ME along the path toward a cure.


Ryan Wiltsie


Ryan Wilstie participated in NVCBR’s student researcher program while majoring in biochemistry at University of Nevada, Reno. His project with NVCBR focused on identifying model organisms for future research on dendritic cells.

Ryan’s experience at NVCBR was valuable because it helped him reach his graduation goals and deepened his understanding and knowledge of the human immune system and pathogens, which will be beneficial in his future career as a dentist.


Amanda McKenzie


While a biology student at University of Nevada, Reno, Amanda McKenzie participated in the student researcher program at NVCBR. Amanda was involved in a research project studying activity of natural killer (NK) cells in ME/CFS patients. NVCBR provided Amanda a platform to apply the knowledge she learned in the classroom in the laboratory. As a student researcher, Amanda learned, observed, discovered, and explored intrinsic processes that she might not otherwise have experienced as part of her undergraduate education.

Amanda recently graduated from nursing school at University of Nevada, Las Vegas, and returned to Reno to work as an intensive care nurse at Renown Regional Medical Center. Amanda plans on returning to school to obtain an advanced degree as a nurse practitioner.


Krishnamurthy Subramanian “Mani”


As a grad student (special) at UNR, Mani is participating in NVCBR’s student research program.  Mani’s studies include biomedics, genetics, molecular and cell biology, and molecular medicine.

Mani is driven by a deep desire to find genetic causes and cures for rare diseases.  His future goals include research and development in basic and applied science.

Mani moved to Reno to be with his daughter while she attends the prestigious Davidson Academy, and NVCBR is fortunate to have him as a volunteer while he is here.