Pilot and Exploratory Studies Core (PESC)

The goal of the Pilot and Exploratory Studies Core is to provide support for studies that will develop and test new research ideas of high relevance to the Center's overall theme:

“To improve understanding of how metabolic factors and inflammation interact with age-related diseases and comorbidities to determine key health outcomes related to mobility and functional status.”

The PESC will thus fund pilot research studies over a wide range of disciplines, ranging from basic genetics and physiology through behavioral and health services research.


Lona Mody, MD, MSc

Core Director

Lona Mody, MD, MSc
Amanda Sanford Hickey Professor of Internal Medicine
Associate Division Chief, Geriatric & Palliative Care Medicine
Director, UM Pepper Center Pilot & Exploratory Studies Core
Associate Director, Clinical and Translational Research, Geriatrics Center


Donovan Maust
Donovan Maust, MD, MS

Core Co-Director

Donovan Maust, MD, MS
Associate Professor
Co-Core Director, U-M Pepper Center Pilot & Exploratory Studies Core
Associate Director, Geriatric Psychiatry Program
Research Scientist, Ann Arbor VA Center for Clinical Management Research

Pilot Grant Award Recipients


Grace Noppert PhD
Grace Noppert, PhD

Grace Noppert, PhD
Research Investigator
Survey Research Center
U-M Institute for Social Research

"Viral Infection Burden and Immunosenescence"

Anna Mathew MBBS
Anna Mathew, MBBS

Anna Mathew, MBBS
Assistant Professor
Internal Medicine, Nephrology
Michigan Medicine

"Aging and Tryptophan Immune Metabolism in CKD Associated Cardiovascular Disease"

Jennifer Schaub MD
Jennifer Schaub, MD

Jennifer Schaub, MD
Assistant Professor
Internal Medicine, Nephrology
Michigan Medicine

"Aging Associated Transcriptional Changes of Metabolic Pathways in the Kidney"

Alexandra Norcott MD MSc
Alexandra Norcott, MD MSc

Alexandra Norcott, MD, MSc
Clinical Lecturer
Internal Medicine, Geriatric Medicine
Michigan Medicine

"Supporting Older Adults with Cognitive Impairment Before Elective Surgery; Developing a Measure of Preoperative Preparedness of Patient-Caregiver Dyads"

Gideon Rothschild PhD
Gideon Rothschild, PhD

Gideon Rothschild, PhD
Assistant Professor, Department of Psychology
Adjunct Assistant Professor, Department of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery
Training Grant Mentor

“The Neural Mechanisms Linking Hearing Loss and Cognitive Decline in Aging”

Luyun Chen MS MA PhD
Luyun Chen, MS, MA, PhD

Luyun Chen, MS, MA, PhD
Associate Research Scientist
Obstetrics and Gynecology
Michigan Medicine

“Age-Specific Biomechanical Model of Pelvic Floor Support”

Matthew Pianko MD
Matthew Pianko, MD

Matthew Pianko, MD
Assistant Professor
Internal Medicine, Hematology/Oncology
Michigan Medicine

“The Impact of Frailty and Immunosenescence on SARS-CoV-2 Vaccination Outcomes in Older Adults with Plasma Cell Disorders”


  • Jaclyn Hawkins - Type 2 Diabetes Self-Management in Older African American Men: A Peer Leader Pilot Intervention
  • Jiha Lee - De-Escalation of bDMARDS in Rheumatoid Arthritis in Older Adults with RA
  • Elliot Tapper - Home-Delivered Meals to Prevent Recurrent Hepatic Encephalopathy in Older Adults
  • Valerie Vaughn - Pathway to De-Escalation: Characterizing Antibiotic Prescribing Cascades in Older Adults
  • Peter Todd - Age-Associated Alterations in Protein Translation Dynamics
  • Andrew Bender - White Matter Microstructure and Cognitive Plasticity: New Markers of Resilience in ADRD


  • Carlos Aguilar - Probing the Relationship of the Neuromuscular Junction on Muscle Stem Cells in Aging
  • Daniela Ponce-Balbuena - Exploring the Impact of Neuronal Vulnerability to Aging-Related Disorders on Spatial Learning in C. elegans Model Organism
  • Nadia Sutton - Ectonucleotidase Modulation of Age Determined Vascular Calcification and Fibrosis
  • Jun Wu - Diet-Induced Cellular Senescence and Thermogenic Fat Function
  • Eleni Gourgou - Exploring the Impact of Neuronal Vulnerability to Aging-Related Disorders on Spatial Learning in C. elegans Model Organism
  • Phillip Vlisides - Recommendations and Alerting for Delirium Alleviation in Real-Time (RADAR): Pilot Trial
  • Sheria Robinson-Lane - Towards a Culturally Responsive Intervention for Black Caregivers of Persons with Dementia
  • Matthias Truttmann - How Metabolic Profiles Change with Aging and Are Affected by Protein Aggregation


  • Laura Zahodne - Inflammation, Social Stress, and Racial Disparities in Cognitive Aging
  • Joshua Ehrlich - Vision Impairment and Mental Health Among Older Adults in Low and Middle Income Countries
  • Scott Soleimanpour - Mitophagy as a Regulator of Glucose Homeostasis in Aging and Obesity
  • Andre Monteiro da Rocha - Epigenetic Alterations Associated in Human Cardiomyocytes with a Lamin A Mutation Causative of Premature Aging and Proteasome Activation as a Potential Therapeutic Target
  • Geoffrey Hoffman - Exploring the Proportions of 30-Day Readmissions Associated with Fall-Related Injuries and Hospital-Acquired Infections
  • Shannon Moore - A Novel Discrimination Learning Paradigm to Longitudinally Assess Age-Related Cognitive Decline and Treatment Efficacy Over the Lifespan
  • Svetlana Stamatovic - Blood-Brain Barrier Dysfunction After Sepsis in Aging Mice: Role for Complement C5a and Histories
  • Maria Papaleontiou - Overtreatment with Thyroid Hormone and Its Effects on the Cardiovascular System in Older Adults
  • Navid Serajo-Bozogzad - Cortical Microstructural Changes in African-Americans with Alzheimer’s Disease