News Release

Up-and-coming researchers vie in a 'Shark Tank'-inspired competition during the Ramona Jones Friends of BrainHealth Scientist Selection Luncheon

Grant and Award Announcement

Center for BrainHealth

2023 Ramona Jones Friends of BrainHealth Scientist Selection Luncheon


Zhengsi Chang, Carole Leung, Micaela Andreo, Ramona Jones, Adarsh Ramesh Kumar, Yile Wang, Jane Lung

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Credit: Jason Voinov

On October 2, 2023, Center for BrainHealth, part of The University of Texas at Dallas, held its annual Friends of BrainHealth Scientist Selection Luncheon at the Dallas Country Club. This year was a special one, with Ramona Jones, founding BrainHealth Advisory Board member, kicking off a five-year sponsorship of the luncheon. Her five children made this sponsorship gift in her honor and surprised her with the naming for her 95th birthday in August 2023.

The Friends of BrainHealth donor circle is dedicated to supporting emerging researchers with grants to fund innovative new studies. Since its inception, the group has raised more than $4.3 million and given more than 50 seedling grants to young brain health scientists.

At the crowd-favorite Scientist Selection Luncheon, the recipients of two previously-selected awards were first recognized:

Carole Leung, MSc, the 2023 Lyda Hill Philanthropies Visionary New Scientist Award for her project, The Impact of a Rigorous Music Engagement Program on Cognitive, Language, Socio-Emotional, and Brain Development in Underserved Children.

Yile Wang, MS, the 2023 Marlane Miller Visionary New Scientist for his project, Computational Markers for Early Detection of Alzheimer’s Disease.

Then four scientists competed for two additional funded awards by giving a live pitch about their research projects, moderated by Dr. Dan Krawczyk, BrainHealth Deputy Director of Research. The audience voted in real time to choose two Visionary New Scientist winners:

Zhengsi Chang, Ph.D., the 2023 Maisie Heiken Visionary New Scientist Award for her project, Organized Workspace, Sharper Mind? Using State-of-the-Art VR and Physiological Measures to Examine Optimum Task Performance in Healthy Adults.

Tzu-Chen (Jane) Lung, MS, the 2023 Jennifer and Peter Roberts Visionary New Scientist Award for her project, Does Blood Pressure Stability Slow Brain Aging? A Longitudinal White Matter Lesion Study Using MRI.

The two other competitors included:

Micaela Andreo, BS, for her project, Using 360° Virtual Reality and Computerized Cognitive Training to Enhance Brain Health and Cognition in Older Adults.

Adarsh Ramesh Kumar, BE, for his project, The Future of BrainHealth Coaching: An Investigation into the Effectiveness of an AI-Powered SMART Coach on User Engagement and BrainHealth Index Scores.

The 2023 Friends of BrainHealth members contributed more than $414,000 to the campaign chaired by Marena Gault and Ted Uzelac, setting a new record in annual giving for the donor circle. The 2024 campaign has launched and is chaired by Nikki Kapioltas and Chad Cook, Jolie and Bart Humphrey, Josey and Craig Kennington, and Sarah and Will Schoellkopf. To become a Friend, please visit Friends of BrainHealth.


Center for BrainHealth®, part of The University of Texas at Dallas, is a translational research institute committed to enhancing, preserving, and restoring brain health across the lifespan. Major research areas include the use of functional and structural neuroimaging techniques to better understand the neurobiology supporting cognition and emotion in health and disease. This leading-edge scientific exploration is translated quickly into practical innovations to improve how people think, work and live, empowering people of all ages to unlock their brain potential. Translational innovations build on Strategic Memory Advanced Reasoning Tactics (SMART™), a proprietary methodology developed and tested by BrainHealth researchers and other teams over three decades.

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