Investigator-Initiated Research

Research Team

At the Aurora Research Institute, IIR members conduct research and provide support to investigators who intend to undertake diverse scientific studies within Aurora. Representing a range of disciplines and holding a variety of research interests, IIR members are a resource for helping investigators design projects, gain required administrative approvals and conduct research.

Vani NilakantanVani Nilakantan, PhD

Director, Investigator-Initiated Sponsored Research

Dr. Vani Nilakantan is the director of Investigator-Initiated Sponsored Research (IISR). She is responsible for setting research priorities in alignment with Aurora’s strategic vision and has oversight of Investigator-Initiated Research and the Sponsored Programs Office at Aurora. Her current research interests are studying racial disparities in organ transplantation, and the identification of novel serum diagnostic and prognostic biomarkers in cardiac and renal ischemic injury.

Prior to joining Aurora Health Care, Dr. Nilakantan was an assistant professor of surgery at the Medical College of Wisconsin (MCW), where she led a research program in ischemic acute kidney injury and renal protection in kidney transplantation. Her work has been supported by intramural and extramural funding from American Heart Association and National Institutes of Health (NIH). Her collaborations with other investigators have led to three grants, 29 peer-reviewed publications and numerous presentations at national conferences.

Dr. Nilakantan is an ad-hoc reviewer/editorial board member for several journals, and has held leadership roles in local and national committees. This includes the Aurora University of Wisconsin Medical Group Research Committee, Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee, Aurora Conflict of Interest Taskforce, Aurora Cardiovascular Services – Research Committee, Cancer Clinical Leadership – Research Subcommittee, MCW Admissions Committee, MCW Program Committee Women’s Faculty Council Co-Chair, and International Society of Heart and Lung Transplantation – Quality of Life Scientific Council. Vani Nilakantan NIH Bio (PDF, 39 KB)

Lisa KlementLisa Klement

Administrative Assistant Senior

Lisa Klement provides administrative support to the directors of Investigator-Initiated Sponsored Research and Clinical Trials. She has been an administrative professional for 12 years with Aurora Health Care in a variety of roles, including positions in the departments of Human Resources, Quality Management and Nursing Administration.   

Research Scientists

Ahmed DalmarAhmed Dalmar, MD

Research Scientist Senior

Dr. Ahmed Dalmar is an MD-epidemiologist, senior research scientist at Aurora Health Care and clinical assistant professor at the University of Wisconsin Medical School and Public Health. His major research is related to the epidemiologic studies in general and particularly in cardiovascular diseases, hypertension, obesity and health disparity.

Dr. Dalmar received his medical degree in St. Petersburg, Russia and conducted his residency in urology from University of Pisa, Italy. He completed a preventive medicine course at Academy of Health Sciences in Fort Sam Houston in Texas and a postdoctoral fellowship in cardiovascular medicine/hypertension at MCW on a NIH fellowship grant from 1996 to 1999. He received his Master of Science in epidemiology form MCW. His current research is focused on outcomes associated with aortic valve replacement, bariatric surgery and hypertensive disorders of pregnancy. He is collaborating with Dr. Vani Nilakantan on Determinants of Disparities in Outcomes in Kidney Transplantation and Dr. Arshad Jahangir with his research projects in cardiovascular aging.

Prior to joining Aurora Health Care, Dr. Dalmar worked as a physician (surgeon-urologist) in Somalia, and a fellow and senior research associate at MCW. There he participated in the conduct of coronary artery disease in blacks (supported by an NIH grant as a sub-investigator) and in the training of medical students on physical examination and accurate blood pressure measurement.

Dr. Dalmar is a member of the Association of Clinical Research Professionals and a certified clinical trials investigator (CCTI). He speaks fluent Somali, Italian, Russian and Arabic. Ahmed Dalmar NIH Bio (PDF, 41 KB)


Sanjay KansraSanjay Kansra, PhD

Research Scientist Senior

Dr. Sanjay Kansra is a senior research scientist whose major research interests are in cancer biology and therapeutics. He received his bachelor’s degree from the University of Mumbai, India, and his doctorate in Pharmacology from University of Missouri-Columbia. Dr. Kansra’s current research efforts are aimed at identifying novel biomarkers that could predict risk stratification in breast cancer, and identification of novel therapies for breast cancer. These studies are being conducted in collaboration with Dr. Judy Tjoe, who is the medical director at the Comprehensive Breast Care Center at Aurora Sinai Medical Center.

Prior to joining Aurora, Dr. Kansra was an assistant professor of Pediatrics at the Medical College of Wisconsin in Milwaukee. His laboratory investigated the molecular mechanism(s) of cell death and proliferation regulated by estrogen receptor. In addition, Dr. Kansra’s laboratory examined the mechanism by which dietary polyphenols exert their anti-tumor effect. His research has been supported by grants from the Advancing a Healthier Wisconsin endowment fund and the American Cancer Society. His work has culminated in more than 20 peer-reviewed publications, and presentations at several national and international meetings.


Michael MichalkiewiczMichael Michalkiewicz, PhD

Research Scientist Senior

Michael Michalkiewicz has graduate degrees in veterinary medicine (DVM) and physiology (PhD) from Warsaw University, Poland. He has extensive research and teaching experience in regulation of cardiovascular functions, pathophysiology of cardiovascular disease and genomic medicine. He has collaborated with a number of international and national academic centers, including Gunma University (Japan), Free University of Brussels (Belgium), Karolinska Institute (Sweden), University of Milan (Italy), University of Wisconsin (UW) – Madison, Harvard University and Washington University (Seattle). He was associate professor at West Virginia University and the Medical College of Wisconsin. In 2011, he joined Aurora as a senior research scientist.

In his research, he has used various genome-wide approaches including microarrays, epigenetic, bioinformatics, signaling pathway analysis and in vivo gene manipulation in the rat (transgenic rat generation). His research has contributed significantly to the development of a multifaceted genome wide strategy for a candidate disease gene discovery and for understanding the physiological function of novel genes. He reported his work at a number of international forums and in renowned scientific journals, including Science, PNAS, American Journal of Physiology and Hypertension.

His current research program is focused on developing a platform that enablesthe use of the current genomic discoveries, Aurora’s large electronic health records, Aurora's DNA biorepository (ORBIT) and the Perinatal Data System for comprehensive patient-centered research programs. Actively collaborating with the Aurora’s health providers and scientists from UW – Milwaukee, Harvard Medical School, Vanderbilt University, and Marshfield and Mayo Clinics, he is introducing to Aurora’s electronic health records information and algorithms that support health providers in personalized treatment decisions for warfarin and clopidogrel prescriptions as well as for anti-melanoma and anti-lung cancer drugs. Michael Michalkiewicz NIH Bio (PDF, 41 KB)


Yang ShiYang Shi, PhD

Research Scientist Senior

Dr. Scarlet (Yang) Shi is a Senior Research Scientist at Aurora whose major research is related to cardiovascular disease. She received her bachelor’s and master’s degree from Fudan University and her PhD in cardiovascular physiology from Hunan University in 1997. She completed her postdoctoral training at MCW on an American Heart Association (AHA) fellowship grant from 1997 to 2002. Dr. Shi’s current research focuses on mechanisms by which chemotherapy drugs induce cardiotoxicity. She is also collaborating with Drs. Arshad Jahangir and George Bobustuc at Aurora and Drs. Krikwood Pritchard and Re-Jeng Teng at MCW with their research projects in cardiovascular, lung and cancer diseases.

Prior to joining Aurora Health Care, Dr. Shi was an assistant professor of surgery at MCW, where her laboratory investigated molecular and cellular mechanisms of cardioprotection against ischemia reperfusion injury. Her research has been supported by grants from NIH (R01), AHA and other local agencies. She was also a co-investigator on four other NIH grants. So far, she has published more than 40 peer-reviewed journal articles with seven papers as first author and 13 papers as the corresponding author.

Dr. Shi reviews for many journals such as Circulation Research and the American Journal of Physiology, as well as funding agencies such as AHA and the MCW Research Committee. She is on the editorial boards of Frontiers in Oxidant Physiology and the International Journal of Biomedical Science. Yang Shi NIH Bio (PDF, 71 KB)


Maharaj SinghMaharaj Singh, PhD

Senior Biostatistician 

Dr. Maharaj Singh is senior biostatistician and an adjunct professor at Marquette University. Dr. Singh has graduate degrees in Physics (MS) and Psychology (PhD) from Chaudhary Charan Singh (CCS) University, Meerut, India, and in Statistics and Computer Science (MS) from Marquette University, Milwaukee. Dr. Singh has done extensive research in the area of biopsychology and neuropsychology and published papers in the journals such as Cortex, Brain and Cognition, International Journal of Neuroscience, and Neuropsychologia. He also coauthored a chapter in the book entitled Context and Learning.

Dr. Singh also received several national and international awards including University Grants Commission (UGC) Scientists Award in India, a U.S. Fulbright Fellowship at Texas A & M University, a Canadian international fellowship at University of Waterloo, a French exchange fellowship at Lumière University Lyon, and a British Royal Society fellowship at University College London from 1990 through 2000.

Prior to joining Aurora, Dr. Singh worked as an associate professor in Psychology at CCS University, a biostatistician at Wellpoint, and a biostatistician (bio-scientist ) at 59 Medical Wing, Wilford Hall Medical Center (Lackland Air Force Base, San Antonio, Texas).

Dr. Singh is a member of American Statistical Association. His native language is Hindi. Maharaj Singh NIH Bio (PDF, 24 KB)

Chris ChoChi Cho (Chris), MS

Senior Biostatistician

Chris Cho is a senior biostatistician at Aurora Health Care for the Investigator-Initiated Research area and Department of Cardiology. Mr. Cho received his bachelor’s degree in Business and Society (specialties in Economics and Statistics) from the York University (Toronto, Canada) and his master’s degree in Biostatistics from the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC). He is also currently pursuing his PhD in Biostatistics at UIC on the topic of the development and use of advanced statistical methods for clustered and longitudinal data, with particular emphasis on mixed-effects models.

Prior to joining Aurora, Mr. Cho was a research assistant at UIC, where he was part of a research team that worked with older adults with multiple sclerosis (MS). The research focused on the unmet service needs of people with MS and also prevention programs for common MS symptoms, such as falling and fatigue. Mr. Cho also has research experience working in the fields of nursing, breast cancer, behavioral health, education and criminology. His collaboration has led to 17 peer-reviewed publications. Chi Cho NIH Bio (PDF, 59 KB)


Research Associate

Ruth PerezRuth M. Perez, BA, CCRC

Ruth received her Bachelor of Arts in Psychology in 2005 from UW - Milwaukee and has been certified through the Association of Clinical Research Professionals (ACRP) since 2010. She has more than 10 years of research experience spanning from assistant to coordinator with several organizations.



Aurora Cardiac Services

David KrumDavid Krum

Manager of Cardiology Research at Aurora Health Care

David Krum is the manager of Cardiology Research and oversees the operation of the Electrophysiology Basic Research Laboratory at Aurora Sinai Medical Center. Mr. Krum earned his master’s degree in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science with an emphasis in Biomedical Engineering at Marquette University, where he did research into biphasic waveforms for implantable cardioverter/defibrillators. He has worked extensively in the area of cardiac electrophysiology research for approximately 24 years and is author or coauthor on more than 110 peer-reviewed articles, abstracts and book chapters.

His current areas of interest include cardiac mapping, which involves correlation of electrical activation information from within the heart with three-dimensional (3D) catheter location, cardiac imaging, and 3D image integration for navigation of catheters in the heart to assist in the diagnosis and treatment of cardiac arrhythmias.