Lab Members


Michael D. Burton

Principal Investigator and Founding Member: Center for Advanced Pain Studies (CAPS)

Neuroscience, Center for Vital Longevity (CVL)

Dr. Burton is the Principal Investigator of the Neuroimmunology and Behavior (NIB) Lab. He is a tenure-track Assistant Professor in the Neuroscience Program at The University of Texas at Dallas, and opened his lab in the fall of 2017. His research focuses on how the immune system modulates peripheral sensory neurons to regulate pain and energy homeostasis. Dr. Burton received his BS and PhD at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He then moved to Dallas, TX to begin his postdoctoral fellowship at UT Southwestern Medical Center and UT Dallas. He has been recognized as an early career award winner by the Endocrine Society, the American Pain Society, the American Society for Cell Biology, the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS) (Mitchell Max Award), and the Rita Allen Foundation.  He believes in order to traverse the gap between basic research and clinical application to patients, we must realize and appreciate pre-clinical research. He is excited at the notion to play a role in this process and help humankind through his research in pain development, obesity, and metabolic disorders that we deal with every day. His long-term goal is to develop a leading research program and dedicate his career to studying neuroimmune interactions, as well as mentor highly motivated undergraduate, graduate, and postdoctoral trainees.

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Luz Barron

Research Assistant

Luz earned her Bachelor’s degree in Neuroscience from the University of Texas at Dallas. Her interests in neuroscience focus on therapies that improve recovery and pain after injury as well as immunology and its role in neuropathy. In her leisure time, she enjoys dancing and karaoke.

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Jessica Tierney

Research Assistant

Jessica Tierney received her joint BS/MS in Applied Cognition and Neuroscience from UTD. She has worked with Dr. Burton for 5 years. Jessica researches the role dietary components in the western diet play in pain and diabetic peripheral neuropathy. She is interested in whether the interactions of free fatty acids sensitize or directly activate nociceptors. She is on her way to a MD/PhD program in the fall of 2021.

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Prapti Mody

Postdoctoral Researcher

Dr. Mody is a postdoctoral research associate at the Neuroimmunology lab in the School of Behavioral and Brain Sciences at UTD. She completed her doctorate in Molecular Biology from Texas Woman’s University in Denton, TX. Her focus in the lab is the role of aging on neuroinflammation and behavior. Outside of the lab, she loves reading crime thrillers, nature and night sky photography, and travel.

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Natalia Lucia dos Santos

PhD Candidate

Natalia joined the Burton Lab in the Summer of 2018. Natalia is a trained biologist from Brazil who has broad interest in biodiversity and animal behavior. She’s worked with bacteria and rats in the lab and frogs and bats in the Atlantic Rain Forest in Brazil! In the lab, Natalia’s project focuses on how Age and Sex are important factors to an organism’s response to acute pain from surgery and the transition to chronic pain states. Outside of the lab Natalia enjoys traveling, any outdoor activity, and working out.

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Thomas Szabo-Pardi

PhD Candidate

Thomas Szabo-Pardi graduated from The University of Texas at Dallas in 2017 with a bachelor’s in Neuroscience. His research involves the sexually dimorphic role of Toll-Like Receptor-4  in various cell types on the development and maintenance of chronic pain states. His interests lie primarily in the realm of neuroimmunology and the interactions between immune cells with central and peripheral neurons and their importance in various pain states. Outside of the lab, his hobbies include: exercise, video games, and playing with his two cats; Charlie and Marie.

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Katherine Garner

PhD Graduate Student

Kathy Garner was born and raised in Dallas, Texas.  She came to UT Dallas to study neuroscience as a freshman in Fall 2013, and started as a PhD student in Fall 2017. She became interested in pursuing a career in research when she learned that although females are more likely to have a chronic pain condition, they have historically been excluded from pre-clinical research. She chose to pursue the study of sex differences in development, maintenance, and treatment of chronic pain the when she learned of the rich discussion regarding relevant studies.


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Melissa Lenert

PhD Graduate Student

Melissa is currently a 2nd year Systems Neuroscience PhD student at UTD and started working in the Burton lab in the summer of 2018 as a Master’s student. She graduated from Stephen F. Austin State University in 2017 with a Bachelor’s in Biology and Psychology.  Her current projects include studying the effect of estrogen and the estrous cycle on aging, the role of atypical cells in inflammation, and the role of neuronal and nonneuronal cells in the development of chronic musculoskeletal pain. Outside of the lab, Melissa enjoys spending time with her dogs, Oscar and Luna, cooking, and reading.

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Caeley Bryan

PhD Graduate Student

Caeley is a first year PhD-track Graduate Student who is interested in sickness and depression behavior, as well as the realm of neuroimmunology. She came to UT Dallas from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where she got her Bachelor’s in Natural Resources and Environmental Sciences. Outside the lab, she loves hiking, kayaking, drinking coffee and spending time with her cat.

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Micaela Chaparro

Undergraduate Research Intern

Micaela Chaparro is a third year Neuroscience undergraduate student. Micaela assists on projects investigating the disruption of the estrous cycle and experimentally induced colitis. She is a Cultural Scholar and a member of the Honors College. In her free time, she likes to write short stories, read, and play volleyball.


Micaela’s published contributions to the lab: 

Lenert, ME, Chaparro, MM, Burton, MD. Homeostatic Regulation of Estrus Cycle of Young Female Mice on Western Diet. Journal of the Endocrine Society (JES) (ENDO) online ahead of print February 2021

Calvin Uong

Undergraduate Research Intern

Calvin Uong is a 2ndyear undergraduate student who is currently studying Biochemistry at UT Dallas. He is an aspiring pre-health student who participates in several club activities on campus, and is keen on expanding his knowledge in the medical field. Outside the lab, Calvin enjoys reading, watching shows on Netflix, and playing with his cat, Watson.

Michelle Hagenimana

Undergraduate Research Intern

Michelle is a second year undergraduate student who was our Clark Scholar last summer and works on a project observing sex differences in diabetic neuropathy. She is on the pre-med path. Outside of research her interests include reading, violin, and photography.

Anna Cho

Undergraduate Research Intern

Anna is a fourth year undergraduate student studying Neuroscience with a pre-med emphasis at UT Dallas. She works on Sickness Behavior and Depression projects. Once she graduates, she hopes to study medicine and work with the underserved communities in the United States and South Korea as a doctor. During her leisure time, Anna likes to exercise, cook, and watch Netflix.



Zachary Castillo

Undergraduate Research Scholar

Zach worked in the  lab from 2019-2021 on projects revolved around macrophage and microglia imaging. He hopes to further his education in pursuit of a PhD and a career of research.


Zachary’s published contributions to the lab: 


Szabo-Pardi, TA*, Syed, U*, Castillo, ZW, Burton MD. Use of Integrated Optical Clearing and 2-Photon Imaging to Investigate Sex Differences in Neuroimmune Interactions after Peripheral Nerve Injury.  Frontiers Cell and Developmental Biology, online ahead of Print Jan 2021. *co-first authors

Bethany Nottingham

Undergraduate Intern & Research Assistant

Bethany Nottingham was an undergraduate intern for over 2 years. She earned B.S. in Biology. She currently plans to go into psychiatry or clinical psychology to assist those with mental disorders, which correlated to the projects she worked on in the lab.


Bethany’s published contributions to the lab: 

Mody PH*, Dos Santos NL*, Lenert ME, Barron LR, Nottingham BA, Burton MD. The role of cap-dependent translation in aged-related changes in neuroimmunity and affective behaviors. Neurobiology of Aging. 2020. online Volume 98, February 2021, Pages 173-184*co-first authors

Ashley Andrew

Undergraduate Research Intern

Ashley was an undergraduate intern in the Burton lab from 2017-2019. She is currently on her way to medical school at UTMB Galveston.


Ashley’s published contribution to the lab:


Szabo-Pardi TA, Agalave NM, Andrew AT, Burton MD. In Vivo Two-Color 2-Photon Imaging of Genetically-Tagged Reporter Cells in the Skin. J Vis Exp. 2019 Jul 11;(149). doi: 10.3791/59647. PubMed PMID: 31355792.

Han Saim Jeong

Research Assistant

Han Saim Jeong was a research assistant in the lab from 2017 until 2020.


Han’s published contributions to the lab!

Agalave, N.M.*, Mody, P.H.*, Szabo-Pardi, T.A., Jeong, H.S.+, Burton, M.D. Neuroimmune consequences of eIF4E phosphorylation on chemotherapy-induced peripheral neuropathy. Frontiers in Immunology (accepted, in press) (March 2021) Front. Immunol. | doi: 10.3389/fimmu.2021.642420. * co-first authors.

Ruchira Gundlapally

Undergraduate Research Intern

Ruchira was an undergraduate intern in the lab for 2 years and has her degree in Biochemistry.  Her projects revolved around ex-vivo macrophage culturing and imaging. She is currently headed to UT Health School of Dentistry in Houston!

Nilesh Agalave

Postdoctoral Researcher

Dr. Agalave worked with the Neuroimmunology and Behavior lab from 2016-2020.  As a postdoctoral research associate, his projects focused on sex differences in neuroimmune pathways and the inflammatory role of fibroblasts in peripheral nerve tissue.

Nilesh has contributed to 9 manuscripts in the NIB Lab!

Vivien Lai

Master's Research Intern and Undergraduate Research Scholar

Vivien worked in the NIBlab for 2 years as an undergrad and masters research intern. She conducted behavior experiments and was interested in researching the cellular role of TLR4 in response to sickness and depression.



Umar Syed

Undergraduate Research Intern

Umar worked as a research assistant under Dr. Burton on projects aimed at understanding the role of aging, sex, and neuroimmune interaction in the development of neuropathic pain. He also worked on projects using methods to optically clear tissues. Umar is currently a DO candidate at KCUMB.


Umar’s published contributions to the lab: 


Szabo-Pardi, TA*, Syed, U*, Castillo, ZW, Burton MD. Use of Integrated Optical Clearing and 2-Photon Imaging to Investigate Sex Differences in Neuroimmune Interactions after Peripheral Nerve Injury.  Frontiers Cell and Developmental Biology, online ahead of Print Jan 2021. *co-first authors

Emma Wentworth

Undergraduate/Graduate Research Scholar

Emma worked on the Burton Team in its early days. Currently, Emma is attending the University of Connecticut where she is pursuing her DMD/PhD.


Emma’s published contributions to the lab: 


Inyang KE, Szabo-Pardi T, Wentworth E, McDougal TA, Dussor G, Burton MD, Price TJ. The antidiabetic drug metformin prevents and reverses neuropathic pain and spinal cord microglial activation in male but not female mice. Pharmacol Res. 2019 Jan;139:1-16. doi: 10.1016/j.phrs.2018.10.027.


Inyang KE, Burton MD, Szabo-Pardi T, Wentworth E, McDougal TA, Ramirez ED, Pradhan G, Dussor G, Price TJ. Indirect AMP-Activated Protein Kinase Activators Prevent Incision-Induced Hyperalgesia and Block Hyperalgesic Priming, Whereas Positive Allosteric Modulators Block Only Priming in Mice. J Pharmacol Exp Ther. 2019 Oct;371(1):138-150. doi: 10.1124/jpet.119.258400.

Mariam Astarabadi

Graduate Research Intern

Mariam was an early member of the Burton Team and worked on our Aging and Pain project.  She has finished her M.D. at the University of Arizona College of Medicine – Tucson and hopes to pursue a career in orthopedic surgery.

Warona Mathuba

Undergraduate Research Intern

Warona interned in Dr. Burton’s Lab from 2017-2019. Her project studied inflammation and sensitization related to high fat diet and pain. She is currently in medical school at UTMB.

Marisa Williams

Research Intern

Marisa worked as an undergraduate and master’s intern for 2 years. She was a Terry scholar and neuroscience major with a minor in Criminology and an ACN masters.


Marisa’s published contributions to the lab: 


Inyang KE, McDougal TA, Ramirez ED, Williams M, Laumet G, Kavelaars A, Heijnen

CJ, Burton MD, Dussor G, Price TJ. Alleviation of paclitaxel-induced mechanical

hypersensitivity and hyperalgesic priming with AMPK activators in male and female

mice. Neurobiol Pain. 2019 Sep 27;6:100037. doi: 10.1016/j.ynpai.2019.100037.


Isaiah Swann

Undergraduate Research Intern

Isaiah spent time in the Burton lab during the 2017-2018 school year. He is currently a Research Assistant at the Warren Center for Neuroscience Drug Discovery.

Dana Jenkins

Undergraduate Research Scholar

Dana was on the Burton Team from 2016-2018. She worked on the multiple projects exploring the physiology of macrophages. She is currently a PhD student at UT- Austin.

Kortne Banks

Undergraduate Research Intern

Kortne was an undergraduate intern in the lab for a year. She studied the regulatory role of TLR4 receptors in  neuropathic pain. Kortne is currently a Middle School Science Teacher!