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Student Highlights: Nick Kaliss (COL. '21)


Nick Kaliss is a senior at Georgetown University majoring in Neurobiology and on the pre-med track. Outside of neurobiology, Nick has enjoyed learning about psychology through his elective coursework.

Involvement in Research:

Nick has always been fascinated with the human brain and always enjoyed learning about the brain in a classroom setting, but he wanted to apply his knowledge to actual scientific progress to impact people. To begin his journey in research, he emailed around 20 principal investigators at Georgetown, on both the main campus and the Medical School Campus, and five responded to him. He met with three of them, and chose to work in the Cognitive Neuroimaging Lab, led by Xiong Jiang, because he wanted to learn how to run an fMRI analysis.

In the Cognitive Neuroimaging Lab, Nick and his colleagues used behavioral tests in conjunction with structural and functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) in order to investigate several neurodegenerative diseases. His lab is currently working on multiple large-scale projects, one of which focuses on brain atrophy and cognitive switching impairment in patients at risk of Alzheimer's Disease (AD) and in patients with HIV-associated neurocognitive disorder (HAND). Within the lab, he uses SPM-12 and CAT-12 programs to process raw fMRI data and convert it into a format that is more accessible and easy to analyze. He then runs correlational analyses to find if cognitive impairment in certain domains, as determined by our behavioral tests, is correlated with atrophy in certain brain regions. He also works to enter their behavioral data from participant visits into Excel sheets, which he can then analyze.


Nick has found his experience in the lab to be very valuable to him. It has provided him with a significant amount of independence and confidence when it comes to working with scientific data and existing in scientific spaces. He has also had the opportunity to read countless research articles in conjunction with his research, which has improved his ability to digest research articles efficiently. He feels humbled to know that his research may contribute to more effective and targeted treatments for patients with AD and HAND. This notion keeps him motivated to be persistent regarding his work. During his time in the lab, he has built solid relationships with many of the postdocs and professors working in his lab--the community that exists within his lab makes him excited to work. Their mentorship has taught Nick many valuable skills and information, and he finds it very comforting to know that he can rely on them for support going forward.


Written by Danya Adams, Orion Gangopadhyay, and Nesreen Shahrour