Investigator-Initiated Research

Vani NilakantanVani Nilakantan, PhD

Director, Investigator-Initiated Research

Dr. Vani Nilakantan 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.

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 multiple grants, peer-reviewed publications and 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 Research, Sponsored Programs Office, 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 the Medical College of Wisconsin(MCW) on a NIH fellowship grant from 1996 to 1999. He received his Master of Science in epidemiology from MCW.

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 Research Scientist Senior 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 the University of Missouri-Columbia.

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 multiple peer-reviewed publications, and presentations at several national and international meetings.


Michael MichalkiewiczMichael Michalkiewicz, PhD

Research Scientist Senior

Dr. 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 Research Scientist Senior.

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. Michael Michalkiewicz NIH Bio (PDF, 41 KB)


Yang ShiYang (Scarlet) Shi, PhD

Research Scientist Senior

Dr. Scarlet Shi is a Research Scientist Senior 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. She completed her postdoctoral training at the Medical College of Wisconsin(MCW) on an American Heart Association (AHA) fellowship grant.

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. She has published many peer-reviewed journal articles, with several papers as first author and server others as 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 the AHA and MCW Research Committees. 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

Biostatistician Senior

Dr. Maharaj Singh is Biostatistician Senior at Aurora Research Institute 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 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. His most recfent publications as co-author include articles in Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, Endocrine, and in Journal of PAtient-Centered Research and Reviews.

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 Exchange Fellowship at University of Waterloo, a French Exchange Fellowship at Lumière University Lyon, and a British Royal Society Fellowship at University College London from year 1990 through year 2000.

Prior to joining Aurora, Dr. Singh worked as an Associate Professor in Psychology at CCS University, as a Biostatistician at WellPoint, and as 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 and a member of Aurora Institutional Review Board. His native language is Hindi. Maharaj Singh NIH Bio (PDF, 24 KB)

Research Regulatory Specialist

Jackie BlundonJackie Blundon, MS, CIP

In her role as Research Regulatory Specialist, Jackie provides regulatory guidance and support to investigators conducting investigator-initiated research throughout the system. Jackie received her MS in cell biology form the Medical College of Wisconsin (MCW) and has an extensive background in human subject protections, with over 10 years of experience in the conduct and administration of research. Prior to joining Aurora Research Institute, Jackie worked as a human subject compliance reviewer and educator at MCW as well as IRB Administrator at Wheaton Franciscan Healthcare. Jackie is a member of the Public Responsibility in Medicine and Research and a certified IRB professional (CIP).

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, MS

Manager of Cardiology Research at Aurora Health Care

David Krum is 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 over 20 years and is author or coauthor on numerous peer-reviewed articles, abstracts and book chapters.